Best of the 1980s

With all the ‘best-of-the-’00s’ lists going around, I find myself woefully ill-equipped to compare recent favorites like Synecdoche, New York or Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans to what are to my mind well-established masterpieces such as Mulholland Dr. or Adaptation. Even the question which Tarantino film I would consider his best of the past decade seems to me all but unanswerable.

But since it’s fun to waste one’s time on the relative merits of individual films within fairly arbitrary limitations, I did put together a Top 50 for a decade that gets a bad rap, but that actually yielded a large number of fantastic films. So here’s my list for the decade that was the 80s, headed up by what I consider not only the sharpest, most brilliantly observed film of the decade, but also the one that seems to me the most enduringly relevant to us today.

1. The King of Comedy (Scorsese, 1983)
2. Crimes and Misdemeanors (Allen, 1989)
3. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (Kershner, 1980)
4. Back to the Future (Zemeckis, 1985)
5. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (Miller, 1981)
6. Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980)
7. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Spielberg, 1982)
8. My Dinner with André (Malle, 1981)
9. The Elephant Man (Lynch, 1980)
10. The Thing (Carpenter, 1982)
11. This Is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984)
12. RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987)
13. Fitzcarraldo (Herzog, 1982)
14. Fanny & Alexander (Bergman, 1982)
15. The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986)
16. Paris, Texas (Wenders, 1984)
17. The Verdict (Lumet, 1982)
18. The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)
19. Blade Runner (Scott, 1982)
20. Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986)
21. Videodrome (Cronenberg, 1983)
22. Hannah and Her Sisters (Allen, 1986)
23. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Spielberg, 1984)
24. Stranger Than Paradise (Jarmusch, 1984)
25. The Terminator (Cameron, 1984)
26. Do The Right Thing (Lee, 1989)
27. Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense (Demme, 1984)
28. Matewan (Sayles, 1987)
29. Day of the Dead (Romero, 1985)
30. After Hours (Scorsese, 1985)
31. Jean de Florette (Berri, 1987)
32. Brazil (Gilliam, 1985)
33. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (Burton, 1985)
34. The Purple Rose of Cairo (Allen, 1985)
35. Commando (Lester, 1985)
36. Runaway Train (Konchalovsky, 1986)
37. Aliens (Cameron, 1986)
38. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Hughes, 1986)
39. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981)
40. Little Shop of Horrors (Oz, 1986)
41. Big Trouble in Little China (Carpenter, 1986)
42. Tin Men (Levinson, 1987)
43. Cobra Verde (Herzog, 1987)
44. Repo Man (Cox, 1984)
45. Broadcast News (Brooks, 1987)
46. Evil Dead II (Raimi, 1987)
47. Full Metal Jacket (Kubrick, 1987)
48. Midnight Run (Brest, 1988)
49. When Harry Met Sally… (Reiner, 1989)
50. Road House (Herrington, 1989)

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