From 1982 on out I’ll have a few honorable mentions that, for whatever reason, just didn’t make the cut. For 1984 I’ve got Starman, Buckaroo Bonzai, Firestarter, Romancing the Stone, 2010, The Last Starfighter, Conan the Destroyer, Police Academy, Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that didn’t make my cut. Some of these I really love still, like Romancing the Stone, Police Academy and The Last Starfighter, but I do think what I’ve got for my top ten are better. Without further ado, here’s my top ten from 1984.
10. Naussicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki)
I actually didn’t get to watch this until four or five years ago when I got on a Miyazaki kick. This is, of course, after being into anime for a number of years before that and only going for action titles, and not really delving further into it. Some amazing animation, a great storyline and some really well done characters and world-building lead to one amazing film, animated or otherwise. This is one of those films that really gets to you while you watch it, and I love it for that.
9. Dune (David Lynch)
While I did end up enjoying both of the sci-fi mini-series adaptations of the first three books better than Lynch’s big screen adaptation of the first book, there were some really neat ideas in what was an otherwise messy production and slightly uneven film. The effects have not aged well, the acting is all right, the music is fantastic, and, while not the perfect adaptation of the book, they get more right with the feel of what I pictured Dune while reading it than anything else. While definitely worth a look in either version, I do prefer the unofficial extended version over the theatrical cut.
8. Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (Hugh Hudson)
This is my only exposure to Tarzan. I’ve never read the books, never really seen the original films other than clips with the ridiculous yodeling, so when I think of Tarzan, this is my version. Well, until the Disney film came along, but even then, this one came first. The production on this film is amazing, and the world really feels alive. The make-up and visual effects used are excellent and still hold up today. The scenes are well thought out and paced for more of a drama film. This is definitely not the family friendly version of Tarzan we’ve seen before. Christopher Lambert, Andie MacDowell, and Ian Holm deliver some amazing roles, especially Ian Holm which would get re-enacted in my household for years after we’d seen the film.
7. The Neverending Story (Wolfgang Peterson)
A staple growing up, I still love this movie even if some of the acting hasn’t really held up all that well over the years. I really loved the story of the film though and the effects were really well done and for the most part hold up pretty well. I’ve never gotten around to reading the book, but after watching the second film, it kind of killed my interest in it as I love the way the film wrapped things up. Some great characters, an interesting fantasy setting and one of those ‘book comes to life’ films that actually manages to work just right. I’m still mad I don’t have my own luck dragon.
6. Amadeus (Milos Forman)
While I can’t attest to the overall accuracy of the film, much of that can be forgiven as the story is told through the eyes of one of the main characters in the film, and, as humans, we have a tendency to embellish. This film still gets to me, and the genius portrayals of the leads by Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham still hits it home every time. Some really powerful acting and a well done script can work wonders for a film and this has both in spades. There’s a reason it won so many accolades: it deserved them.
5. The Terminator (James Cameron)
I prefer the second Terminator film over the first. You can skin me alive later. This film does quite a bit to build up the world and establishes the cyborg killers really well with some great sequences, but the effects can be a bit wonky and it just doesn’t flow as well as Terminator 2 does. This is still an amazing film, don’t get me wrong. Some really great moments are in here, and you really get the feeling that Reese isn’t lying when he says the machine won’t stop until Sarah is dead. I do love the music to this one as well but it’s not one of Cameron’s best outings. That would come in a few years.
4. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (Leonard Nimoy)
One of the first times, but nowhere near the last time, one of the cast would get behind the camera to direct a Star Trek film. The third film was a bit divisive among fans. There’s a rule about the original series films and that’s “even numbered Trek films don’t suck” and I hate to say it but III isn’t half bad either. Yes, Klingons are portrayed a bit off. Part of that has to do with a swap between the Romulans and the Klingons in late pre-production due to the studio wanting the Klingons instead. But there’s a lot of really great and powerful moments in the film. Each of the main cast get something to do and each of them really have a moment to shine for the most part. This is also the second film in a sort of pseudo trilogy in the original films. Personally I think for what they had to work with due to the studio getting too involved, they did an amazing job and while it could have been a little better, that original series charm is definitely still here and working well.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven)
New Line is known as the ‘House that Freddy Built,’ and with good reason. Freddy Krueger made the studio a ton of money over the years and it all started with a rather excellent outing with Wes Craven behind the helm. Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund do an excellent job in their respective roles, and while Freddy would get a little bit more light-hearted later on and be a little less sinister after this, he’s all in on this film, and out for revenge. Freddy was my favorite slasher and will probably forever remain so. Scenes from this movie still get to me even with all the other movies I’ve seen, and as many times as I’ve seen this one. Sometimes you do get it right on the first try, and this one definitely seems so.
2. Gremlins (Joe Dante)
The director of The Howling, one of my previous picks for the top ten, makes a return with a slightly more family friendly horror film about the critters that you wouldn’t normally notice. They start off cute and cuddly and get mean when you’re not looking. While the sequel definitely takes this concept far less so, the first film is more of a serious film with some comedy elements thrown in. Some great effects that still work for the most part today, Gremlins is one of those movies I still love to pop in on occasion and probably should get added to my Christmas rotation. You can definitely see some of Speilberg’s influence here. Just like the Transformers films, this easily became one of my favorites the first time I ever sat down to watch it.
1. Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman)
One of those timeless comedies that I never grow tired of watching, Ghostbusters meshes genres I love like no one else, throwing comedy, horror, a bit of sci-fi and a good old fashioned ensemble film together that just works from the opening scene all the way through. I do have to admit that the film was actually a bit too scary my first go around in the theater, when I conned my dad into taking my sister and I at ages 7 and 4, but when it hit home video I couldn’t get enough of it, and still love this film. This is one of those classics where it all managed to just gel perfectly into that great movie experience that almost anyone can sit and watch and love. I’m just glad I got to experience it when it first came out on the big screen.