Last week, I posted some classics from the 1970s currently available on Amazon Prime for those of you wanting to sample delights from American cinema's most groundbreaking decade. Today's blog features a sample from the following decade. Like I said last week, the '80s are often maligned due to the plethora of "cheesy '80s movies" but still produced plenty of timeless gems.
So here are some '80s movies on Netflix to either revisit or discover on Netflix. But there's really no excuse for anybody not to have seen the first movie on the list.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981). Seriously. It's the best action/adventure movie ever made. And I don't mean 'ever!' in that clickbait headline way but as in Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Larry Kasdan teamed up to create something that still stands as the best in its category nearly 40 years later. Harrison Ford, in the midst of becoming the biggest movie star in the world, plays the handome and rakish archaeology professor Indiana Jones. When he's not in the classroom being hit on by his students during lectures, Indy's traveling the globe on artifcact-seeking adventures. And his latest quest is the mother of them all: the government wants him to track down the Ark of the Covenant, which was believed to contain the actual Ten Commandments stone tablets, before the scumbag Nazis get to it. Ford made Jones iconic, Spielberg created some of the most memorable set pieces ever put to film, and RAIDERS... took the world by storm. Go see why if you somehow haven't yet.
TOOTSIE (1982). Coming off his Best Actor Oscar for the divorce drama KRAMER VS. KRAMER (aka the movie that made a generation of divorced dads hate Meryl Streep), Dustin Hoffman earned another nomination playing a persnickety, unemployed actor who disguises himself as a woman in order to get work on a daytime soap in this hit comedy. While juggling two identities on a near-daily basis, he eventually turns his own life into a soap opera. Featuring an all-star cast (including WWII hero Charles Durning), directed by Sydney Pollack, and nominated for 10 Oscars (Jessica Lange won Best Supporting), TOOTSIE was 1982's second-biggest moneymaker and a critical darling.
THE NAKED GUN (1988). Eight years after creating one of the funniest movies ever with their disaster movie parody AIRPLANE!, the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio returned to bring us this brilliantly hilarious spoof of police movies and procedurals (first seen in TV's "Police Squad!"). Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielson) is a dim bulb detective in charge of preventing the assassination of the Queen on her visit to a baseball game in California. With a non-stop run of sight gags, Borscht Belt jokes, and slapstick, THE NAKED GUN's belly laughs start in the pre-credits scene featuring a pre-murder O.J. Simpson and don't stop until the joke-littered credits end. George Kennedy was aces as Drebin's partner Ed Hocken. Keep an eye out for Livia Soprano (Nancy Marchand) as the Mayor.
LA BAMBA (1987). This underrated biopic stars Lou Diamond Phillips as Chicano rock star Ritchie Valens and chronicles his early life of struggle, unlikely rise to stardom, and (spoiler alert) his tragic death in a plane crash with three others at just 17 years old (two of those three were Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper*; The Big Bopper is the only one to not have a biopic). The future Chavez y Chavez turns in some of the best work of his career potraying the young rocker who produced a hit record in Spanish in the late '50s U.S.. (That's when you know you have a banger; Los Lobos provided the soundtrack and took the song to #1 on Billboard.) A youthful-looking Esai Morales turns in good work as his brother Bob. This is good flick about a R&R groundbreaker whose life was cut way too short.
RAGING BULL (1980). Martin Scorsese's black-and-white work of art about abusive, self-destructive boxer Jake LaMotta and the havoc he wreaks throughout his life. Noted for it brutal yet beautifully shot boxing scenes and star Robert DeNiro's performance, in which he put on 60 pounds to play the older LaMotta. DeNiro won his second/most recent Oscar playing LaMotta, Thelma Schoonmaker won her first of three for editing, and the film was nominated for six others. There is scuttlebutt that it lost Best Picture to the inferior ORDINARY PEOPLE because Scorsese wasn't well-liked by many in the industry and pissed people off with his then coke-fueled assholery. Also, the Academy was at the height of its old, white, and stuffy powers at this time. Look at this run of Best Pictures sandwiched between two Vietnam War movies: KRAMER VS. KRAMER, ORDINARY PEOPLE, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, GHANDI, TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, AMADEUS, OUT OF AFRICA. Yikes. Either way, this is one where you sit back and just watch DeNiro do his thing.
FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (1986). John Hughes is the Patron Saint of '80s movies and this was one of his biggest crowd-pleasers. A charismatic Matthew Broderick plays the titular HS senior who decides to play hooky with his girlfriend Sloane Peterson and morose best friend Cameron Frye and make a day of it in Chicago. Meanwhile, his principal just knows he's full of shit and tries to catch him in the act. Ferris and crew go through a veritable checklist of landmarks and events to make FBDO a solid candidate for the quintessential Chicago film. A fun watch and that ending is still a nailbiter even if you know how it plays out. The only downside of watching it now (along with "Deadwood")? We know Principal Rooney is a piece of shit in real life.
NIGHTHAWKS (1981). This under-the-radar terrorist thriller starring Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams, and Rutger Hauer isn't one of Sly's best-known films but was a nice change of pace when it came out between ROCKY II and ROCKY III. Stallone and Williams play a pair of NYPD detectives chasing down a sadistic international terrorist played by Hauer; Hauer turns in stellar work as a creepy and memorable baddie. Set mainly in NYC, NIGHTHAWKS takes advantage of the many locales for some pretty awesome stuntwork, with the best coming on the Roosevelt Island Tramway. Another movie that captures the pre-Giuliani griminess of Manhattan that somehow always looked good in movies.