Monday, May 16, 2011

1984: Film’s Best Year Ever

Okay, maybe that’s claiming a bit much- I mean, for every awesome movie that came out in 1984 there was a real stinker to balance it out. Even so, the number of awesomely great and awesomely bad movies in 1984 was extraordinary- at least from the point of view of a child of the 80’s. Just compiling the information for this post, I was amazed at how many movies came out in this year, let alone the fact that so many of them struck my fancy. In fact, quite a few of these helped shape my ‘psyche’ (for good or ill) and had a huge impact on my imagination.

In 1984 I was thirteen years old and living in my home town of Eagle Butte in the midst of South Dakota. Considering how remote the town was, movies always arrived there months after their release elsewhere. So it was that I mostly went to movies when we traveled to one of the bigger towns (Pierre- 1.5 hours away or Rapid City, 3.5 hours away) or went away (to Michigan) on Summer break. Truth be told, however, I probably saw most of the movies on this list the following year, after they came out on video and HBO. In 1984, both cable TV and VHS were VERY new to Eagle Butte- but both became wildly popular (especially with me). This is all just so you can see that movies were a ‘big deal’ with me, even after the introduction of HBO (or perhaps even moreso because of it).

So, without further ado, I’ll delve into the movies and maybe comment here or there about them- especially about how they affected my imagination (and through that, my gaming in general and my Star Wars gaming in particular).


Beverly Hills Cop
This was the epitome of cool in its day and helped define a ‘buddy’ cop movie for me (even if it was three cops instead of the usual two). It also showed me that action movies could have comic elements in them without defusing the adrenaline burst. In fact, for me, they enhanced it. I mean, one minute you’re laughing, the next you’re in a gunfight. Each seems to play off the others and I always like to include comedy in my own adventures, especially during action scenes.

City Heat
Maybe not the best movie, but at the time I loved the whole ‘Gangbusters’ 1920’s feel- plus, I like Clint Eastwood (even if I don’t much care for Burt Reynolds).

Cloak & Dagger
Of course I loved this movie. I mean, the hero was a kid close to my own age who was into playing video games and roleplaying games. In fact, they even opened the movie with a ‘table-top’ session complete with miniatures. I do remember being a bit confused by this movie, though. On the one hand, the premise seemed pretty light-hearted (a kid and his wacky spy imaginary friend). But on the other, people were actually getting killed in the movie and there were insinuations that the kid was actually mentally disturbed. So, yeah…weird.

This movie was a lot weirder and grosser than it had to be. And for some reason, they added a bunch of non-canon material to an already complex story. Even so, the whole concept of noble houses vying for control within a galaxy spanning empire has stuck with me. In fact, I would credit this movie with giving me a basis for my concept of the BattleTech universe (with its warring noble houses). And this in turn is great for running ‘noble’ adventures in a Star Wars universe (say the Tapani sector, for instance). Great imagery and fodder for adventures.

Kind of creepy, but perhaps one of the better Stephen King movies out there. A great exploration into the whole idea of fugitive ‘mutant/mentalists’ hunted by the government. This is one of those movies I refer back to mentally when I play games like ‘Dark Conspiracy’ or any other dark future/supernatural game.

For its time, it had some great visuals and makeup work for the apes. But overall, this movie was just too ‘moody’ for me. I wanted more adventure and less dreariness. Apart from Disney, I have yet to see a really good Tarzan movie.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Pure awesome. What more needs to be said? Pulp adventure that could EASILY be translated into a sci-fi/Star Wars genre.

The Karate Kid
“Sweep the Leg”. Heh. This actually inspired a friend of mine (Sharon) to get into Martial Arts. She became a nationally ranked fighter who made it to the Olympic tryouts. How’s THAT for inspirational.

Missing In Action
About as cheesy as you can get. But what do you expect from Chuck Norris. Even so, not a bad idea for the basis of a Star Wars adventure about ‘going behind enemy lines’ to rescue POWs.

Red Dawn
My older sister was seriously scared by this movie. I was skeptical that ANYTHING like this could really happen. But even so, the IDEA was a powerful one, especially to people who were the age of the people in the movie. What would YOU do? Become a ‘Wolverine’?

Romancing the Stone
This movie surprised me. A great mix of action and comedy (and of course romance). Would be a great adventure to game, too.

Ahem. Yes. Well. I was 13. So of course I remember this movie. Zebra-horses and all.

Streets of Fire
Talk about an oddball movie. This one looked like it was set in the 50’s, but had modern musical elements and an almost ‘Roadwarrior’ vibe at times (biker gangs, etc.). Yeah. Weird, but I have to admit liking some of the songs from it.

Sword of the Valiant
The only reason I remember this movie at all is because of how incredibly dorky the leading man’s haircut was. Seriously. Look it up sometime.

I like James Garner. I like Tanks. This movie had both. It also had the old “good guy takes on the corrupt sheriff” plot. Only this time, he did it in a Tank.


I enjoyed this a LOT more than 2001. It had great special effects, a much more comprehensible story and characters I actually got to know/like. I actually felt sorry for HAL at the end of the film. They released an adventure module based on this movie (and for 2001) for the Star Frontiers game. It didn’t seem like a great fit for the system but it was neat to see all the background information on the ships and people.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
I didn’t know whether to put this under comedy or Sci-Fi because it was both- but even more than that, it was just plain weird. But weird in a way I loved (and continue to love). A true ‘cult classic’, Buckaroo Banzai introduced me to the idea of a ‘super-scientist/adventurer’ team before I’d even heard of ‘Doc Savage’. I LOVED the (copyright infringing) inclusion of Banzai in the BattlTech universe and I could easily see a team of oddball geniuses like this making an appearance in a Star Wars setting, too.

I’m ashamed to say this movie actually scared me. Ashamed because looking back on it the ‘snake man’ that terrorized me was really cheesy. It has a GREAT concept, however- the idea of an assassin working through dreams and people working to stop him. I have yet to use this idea, but I’d love to work it in somehow.

The Last Starfighter
I just got the anniversary edition of this a while ago. In fact, it is what inspired me to make this post. This was the first movie to include really ground-breaking computer visual effects (blowing Tron away in my opinion).

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds
I don’t like most anime. And looking back I’m not sure I can say I really ‘liked’ this one either. But like a lot of anime films, this one had some really impressive and memorable visions. The aerial dogfights and flying scenes were awesome and the image of swarms of gigantic insects plowing over a radioactive plain is a memorable one.

The Philadelphia Experiment
A bit of a throw-away movie, but I like the time travel concepts involved.

Repo Man
This was a weird one alright. A car with an alien artifact in the trunk that disintegrated anyone who disturbed it. That plus Emilio Estevez. Weird.

Future-cop Tom Sellek vs. Killer robots- including a ‘robot bullet’ that chased down its target. Unfortunately, the bullets were incredibly slow. Even so, I still like the concept and the little “bug-like” robot assassins are a great idea for any sci-fi game.

Not much to say on this. Was interesting enough, but not one of my favorites

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Following on the heels of Star Trek II, this movie had a LOT to live up to. It didn’t. I personally didn’t like the fact the killed off Kirk’s son. The death of the Enterprise was memorable, but not nearly as heart-wrenching as the death of Spock in the previous film.

Wow. What a complete stinker. Bad acting. Incomprehensible script. Just. Wow.

The Terminator
I was blown away by this movie. It was action-packed and frightening (especially in the world of the 80’s, with nuclear Armageddon seeming so close). The ending was melancholy, what with the heroine not preventing doomsday, but simply running to survive it. Kind of bleak. But I loved it anyway. James Cameron is the man.

The Warrior and the Sorceress
This movie is probably only memorable to anyone because the scantily clad barbarian woman on the cover of the VHS box had four breasts. Truth be told, I don’t remember much about this movie, or if it even HAD the aforementioned woman in it.It did have David Caradine, but seriously, that isn’t much of a draw for me.


All of Me
What can you say. Steve Martin is a funny guy. He was funny in this.

Bachelor Party
This is what I’d call a ‘typical’ 80’s comedy. Raunchy with lots of nudity (i.e. boobs). Even so, this one had a little more going for it than the average movie of its type- i.e. it was actually funny in some parts. Who’d have though Tom Hanks would turn into a big, serious actor though, huh?

Cannonball Run II
The original Cannonball Run was pretty terrible. But at least it had the benefit of being (somewhat) original. This? This was just terrible. The idea, however, could be fun. Imagine a ralley race of misfit spacer/smugglers running a gauntlet of Imperial patrols and space pirates in order to win a prize sponsored by an eccentric crimelord (to say nothing of the bragging rights). Could be fun.

Electric Dreams
A charming little movie with a classic 80’s soundtrack. I like it for sentimental reasons.

One of THE defining movies of my life. Ghostbusters was an AWESOME blend of comedy and scares. I don’t think a week of my life goes by without me using some kind of quote from or reference to this film. Oh, and it was with the official game adaptation of Ghostbusters that my beloved D6 system first appeared in a recognizable form. Sweet.

Another mix of laughs and frights. It was entertaining and at the time, I liked Phoebe Cates. This would make a fun adventure for a ‘horror’ RPG.

Johnny Dangerously
I liked this movie. Funny and quotable. VERY quotable (“The .88 magnum. It shoots through schools.”)

The Muppets Take Manhattan
Truth be told, I don’t remember this movie much. But I DO love the muppets.

Police Academy
Yes. It was terrible. Yes. I hated Steve Gutenberg and his smarmy smirk. No. I didn’t really like this movie. But there were a few laughs to be found.

Revenge of the Nerds
Another exemplar of the 80’s comedy movie- i.e. lots of gratuitous nudity. But like Bachelor Party, this was probably one of the better films of the genre (which isn’t saying much, I know).

Sixteen Candles
Another defining movie of my life- and probably the lives of every other kid around my age in the 80’s. I must have seen this film about a hundred times.

A charming and fun little movie. Who’d have though Tom Hanks would turn into a big, serious actor though, huh?

This is Spinal Tap
It goes to 11. It really does. This quirky ‘mockumentary’ was like nothing I’d ever seen. Original and hilarious.

Top Secret!
I loved, loved, loved this movie. Completely silly. I mean, it had an old-time western saloon brawl.. only underwater. And that was one of the more realistic scenes.


Overall, I am not much for ‘dramatic’ movies. I mean, I will occasionally find one I like, but if I had my ‘druthers’, almost any other genre would do. So I probably won’t have much to say about most of the following films. But that doesn’t stop me from marveling at how many acclaimed films of this type came out within the span of one year.

Against All Odds
I thought actress Rachel Ward was gorgeous. She is in this movie.

Funny and tragic. Actually saw this in the theatre and liked it.

The Bounty

The Cotton Club
Heard it was great. Never really saw the whole thing in one sitting.

Critically acclaimed. Never saw it all.

The Killing Fields
Critically acclaimed. Never saw it all.

The Natural
Critically acclaimed. Never saw it all.

Once Upon a Time in America
Critically acclaimed. Never saw it all.

Places in the Heart
Critically acclaimed. Never saw it all.

The River
Critically acclaimed. Never saw it all.

Actually saw this one. Liked it at the time- probably moreso for the music than the actual story.


Okay, it’s a dance film, not a ‘musical’, but close enough. I remember how wildly possibly break dancing was at this time. I also remember how BAD these kind of exploitation movies were. Even so, this one is just a pale shadow of its successor- a true 80’s classic: Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Again, its more of a dance film, but what I remember most about footloose are the songs it popularized and the videos of those songs. One of the most listened to albums of that year by me.

Purple Rain
Wow. I hate Prince- or the artist formerly known as him. This movie was ridiculous and pretentious to the extreme. Thus it was perfect for Prince. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this movie in one sitting. I couldn’t stomach it (or the music), but whether I liked him or not, he was a HUGE star at the time.

Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stalone sing. Painful. Just painful.


Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. I’ve never seen this movie in its entirety, but the name stuck with me. Seriously, it is so ridiculous- but evidently it is very memorable.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
SPOILER: No, it wasn’t.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
This scared the absolute crap out of me. I don’t much care for horror movies, but this one stood apart from the others due to the particularly horrific way in which the bad guy killed you- where you could do NOTHING to protect yourself. Yeeesh. Would be a good mash-up with a “Dreamscape” style adventure- a psychopathic killer on the loose in people’s subconscious.

Night of the Comet
An odd mixup of 80’s teen music and zombie apocalypse. Strangely enough, this was probably the first zombie movie I’d actually seen. Wasn’t until later that I delved into the whole ‘Night of the Living Dead’ thing.

And this isn’t even ALL the movies that came out that year, just the ones I remember most keenly (even if for some it was just the title I remembered). So yeah, I have yet to see a year like 1984 and I doubt I ever will. Was fun to think back on it, though I didn’t realize just what an exceptional (and often goofy) time it was.


  1. A good review of the movies that came out that year. 1984 was a pretty good sports year as well, plus I graduated from high school that year. A golden time in my life.

  2. "Sheena" had Tanya Roberts, and "Supergirl" had Helen Slater. It's too bad these movies were awful, for the leading ladies were gorgeous. "Night of the Comet" I remember well, though the concept of what happened to the people (and how some people were not affected) was silly in a way, it was a good "zombie" film.