I got into a hilarious conversation about the ’80s with two 19-year-olds from my class this morning. They say awesome things like, “I love old movies. Like Mean Girls.” Wait, what? Have they never actually seen any of the ’80s movies I grew up on? Turns out, they have. Sort of. They’ve seen E.T. and Dirty Dancing and they’ve been “meaning to watch The Breakfast Club.” Um, ok… But, what about all the awesomely cheesy ’80s movies they’ve probably never heard of?
So, in no particular order, here were my top 8 recommendations:
1) Mannequin – A decade before Kim Cattrall first donned Manolos as Samantha on Sex in City, she starred opposite ’80s all-star Andrew McCarthy in this outrageously ridiculous movie about a mannequin who comes to life just for her window-dresser. Shockingly, the sequel, “Mannequin Two: On the Move,” wasn’t nearly as successful as its predecessor. Nevertheless, Mannequin gets extra points for featuring a “young” Estelle Getty in the cast.
2) Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – When I was in high school, the VCR in our dorm common room always seemed to be playing some terrible ’80s or other. This one, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt and Shannen Doherty, was on heavy rotation. Like many of its contemporaries, it features a competition, because if the ’80s taught us anything it was that nothing infuses a movie with drama better than a dance off.
3) Sixteen Candles – Admittedly, anything from John Hughes could have shown up here, but with its unabashed sexism, classism and racism, Sixteen Candles wins it for me. Incidentally, the soundtrack is arguably the worst of all the Hughes’ movies, so that doesn’t help matters.
4) Labyrinth – I told a friend I was adding this one and I got a pretty impassioned blowback. The thing is, cheesy doesn’t necessarily mean bad, especially when you’re talking about the ’80s. Labyrinth is a great example. Directed by Jim Henson, produced by George Lucas and featuring an impressive cast, including David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie’s crotch, Labyrinth embodies the decade’s fascinating brand of sentimental weirdness. And don’t even get me started on the music….
5) Bloodsport – The action in this Van Damme “classic” isn’t bad. The acting, on the other hand, isn’t good.
6) Return to Oz – This movie scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. And I’m sure it still will if I ever get up the nerve to watch it again. It’s seriously dark, although much closer to the original L. Frank Baum books than the 1939 Judy Garland classic. But, between the Wheelers (humans w/wheels instead of hands and feet) and the villainess with the interchangeable heads, this is one seriously creepy film. (P.S. Forget Toto, Dorothy’s sidekick is now a chicken named Billina.)
7) Howard the Duck – Another perennial favorite in our dorm, as well as widely considered among the worst movies ever made, Howard the Duck is the tale of an alien duck-man who finds himself in Cleveland where he dresses like Michael J. Fox, falls in love with Lea Thompson and ultimately saves the Earth from The Dark Overlord. They just don’t make ’em like they used to, huh?
8) Over the Top – Sylvester Stallone competes in the World Arm Wrestling Championships. Need I say more?
(N.B. These were the ones that came to mind quickly – there are A TON more. The ’80s were hardly a golden age of cinema.)
I love me a good cover.