Wednesday, June 28, 2017

1987 - The Movies

This Friday on the Needless Things Podcast I’ll be talking with Beth, Rad Ranger, and Chris DePetrillo about the pop culture of 1987. We recorded a similar episode last year about 1986 (and will do another one next year about 1988 – see the pattern?) and I accompanied it with posts about the toys, music, television, and movies of the year.

It all started out as one post, but as I poked around my memory (and the internet) I realized that there was simply too much great stuff to include it all in one post. At first glance 1987 seems a bit leaner in terms of pop culture awesomeness, so I’m going to start this post with the same intent that I did the first one last year – to write a single post.

We’ll see how it goes.

This time around I am going to start with the most robust category, the one that gave me so much trouble making my selections for Friday’s episode because there were so damn many remarkable releases:

The movies of 1987.

Seven of my all-time favorite movies came out in 1987. That is bonkers. And I’m talking probably Top Twenty material. At least two are Top Five. This list obviously isn’t every film that was released back then, but it’s every one that has any sort of pop culture significance to me.

Side Note: I used Wikipedia for this, so it’s possible there are omissions or even inaccuracies. Just as an example of how Wikipedia can be a know-nothing bowl of turds, The Garbage Pail Kids movie wasn’t even on the list. Chris will be outraged.

Three Men and a Baby – I loved this movie back in the day and watched it plenty of times. Then, the whole thing with the dead kid in the window came out and I watched it more. I don’t care how debunked the dead kid is or how many members of the cast and crew explain it away, every time I see it, it freaks me out. Dead Kid is the star of the movie now.

Beverly Hills Cop II – I love this sequel as much as the original. Not everyone does, but to me they doubled down on everything in just the right way. Is the premise ridiculous? Sure. But who cares? Eddie Murphy was a juggernaut back then, and deservedly so.

Lethal Weapon – Speaking of juggernauts, Mel Gibson had been around for a decade at this point, but his career was about to explode (in a good way, as opposed to nineteen years later). Written by Shane Black and directed by Richard Donner, this is still one of the great action/comedy/buddy cop movies. There’s definitely some nostalgia attached, but I still think it has held up remarkably well.

Side Note: If you haven’t checked out the current Lethal Weapon TV series, you should. It’s far better than I expected.

Amazon Women on the Moon – You would not even believe how notorious this movie was back in the day. In the schoolyard it was spoken of in the same hushed tones normally reserved for discussions of Playboy and curse words. While it earned its “R” rating, once I finally saw the movie it wasn’t nearly as shocking as I was expecting. In hindsight it’s funny, but Kentucky Fried Movie is far superior.

Back to the Beach – I didn’t really have any knowledge of what this movie was parodying the first time I saw it. I just thought it was a fun, goofy movie. Highlights include Pee-Wee Herman’s performance of “Surfin’ Bird”, Fishbone and Annette Funicello’s “Jamaican Ska”, Bob Denver, and Frankie Avalon’s hilarious delivery of the line, “Why-o, why-o, why-o did I ever leave Ohio?”

I really want to watch this movie now.

Blind Date – While Bruce Willis hadn’t yet played his career-defining character, Eddie “Hudson Hawk” Hawkins, but he was definitely on the rise in 1987. I’ve seen this a couple of times and gotten some laughs out of it. Phil Hartman and John Larroquette also appear, so I’d give it another watch if it hit Netflix.

Body Slam – Despite starring Dirk Benedict and Rowdy Roddy Piper and being directed by Hal Needham (Cannonball Run, Stroker Ace, Smokey and the Bandit), this is a terrible, terrible movie. Like, probably not even worth a Needless Commentary terrible. And that’s saying something.

The Chipmunk Adventure – I saw this in a theater and I loved it. The animation is beautiful and it’s a classic globetrotting adventure story. Hugely underrated.

Creepshow 2 – “The one with The Raft”. Aside from the middle chapter, this sequel did nothing for me. The other two stories just don’t feel big enough.

Disorderlies – Yes, back in 1987 it totally made sense that The Fat Boys got a movie. I thought it was hilarious at the time, but I bet I haven’t seen it since it first hit HBO or whatever movie channel carried it back then. I’d give it another shot.

Dragnet – I only recently found out that people don’t like this movie, some going so far as to consider it the beginning of the “remake old dramas as comedies” thing that Hollywood does now. I suppose I can’t argue the latter, but I watched this a few times in the decade following its release. Maybe not since then, though. Another one that I’d watch on Netflix.

Side Note: It’s shocking how few 80s movies are actually on the streaming services I have – Amazon Prime and Netflix. I often have the urge to watch films from the era and there’s rarely anything available.

Eddie Murphy: Raw – I didn’t see this until later in life because obviously Eddie Murphy’s stand-up is not appropriate for an eleven-year-old. It remains an excellent example of a feature-length special, but I prefer Delirious (though that wasn’t a theatrical release).

Ernest Goes to Camp – One of the most endearing and hilarious family comedies of all time. I can’t honestly say that it’s still a favorite, but I look on it with great fondness. I wonder how it holds up to those that didn’t live through the magical era of Ernest P. Worrell. My son enjoyed Ernest Scared Stupid, but didn’t quite seem to get Jim Varney’s shtick.

Evil Dead II – And now we have come to one of the films that made my decision so tough. For years I claimed this as my favorite movie, to the point where some friends tacked “Evil Dead” onto my name. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many times I have watched this one. It literally changed my life as far as my views of entertainment, filmmaking, and acting. I have tattoos because of this franchise and this movie, specifically. Tune in to the Needless Things Podcast on Friday to see if this was one of my picks!

Full Metal Jacket – I find Kubrick’s Vietnam-era masterpiece equal parts fascinating and hard to watch. Every scene that Vincent D’Onofrio is in makes my stomach churn because they all hit a little too close to home. My dad was in the military and as much as I loved GI Joe, I grew up terrified at the idea of being enlisted. His stories combined with the media of the day made service seem like indentured servitude in Hell. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’d be Private Lawrence.

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie – I saw this in a theater with my mom. She aksed if we could please leave. I sort of wanted to because quite frankly the characters were horrifying to look at, but there was no way I was missing a movie about the freaking Garbage Pail Kids. I’m honestly not sure if I’ve seen it since. Mrs. Troublemaker claims to love it. I just ordered a copy from Amazon to put that to the test:

The Gate – This was one of those sort-of-off-the-grid horror flicks that wasn’t so much scary as just overwhelmingly weird. I’ve got a copy on the shelf, but I’m not sure I’ve watched it in the last decade. It might be worth bringing it out for a Needless Commentary.

Good Morning Vietnam – Robin Williams’ “Gooooooood Morning Vietnam!” was inescapable for years. My dad adopted it as a morning greeting, radio stations used variations of it for their morning shows, heck, even Wu-Tang opened one of their tracks with it years later. It’s a good movie, but not one I necessarily need to see again. I much preferred 1990’s Air America.

Hard Ticket to Hawaii – Granted, I only recently discovered this gem thanks to Attack of the Show and Ryan Cadaver, but it is one of the greatest action movies of all time.

Hell Comes to Frogtown – A fixture of USA Up All Night, I watched this movie a ton back in the day. It’s not the best and I wouldn’t buy it, but it might be time to watch it again.

Hellraiser – One of my top five favorite horror movies. It remains, in my mind, one of the scariest movies ever made.

Innerspace – This is one of those movies that I loved at the time and watched over and over again on cable, but had completely forgotten existed. Martin Short and Dennis Quaid are both fantastic in it, but something about it just doesn’t stick. I think it had a shitty poster. I’d watch this on Netflix right now, though.

The Lost Boys – I get that it’s a legendary vampire movie and I don’t dispute its place in pop culture history, but I just never loved The Lost Boys. At the time it just seemed like kind of a pussy movie to me. I keep telling myself I need to revisit it to see if maybe I’ve softened in my old age, but I haven’t yet.

The Monster Squad – This, on the other hand, is exactly what I wanted the Lost Boys to be. At first glance it looks like it might be Nickelodeon material, but in reality The Monster Squad is much harder and edgier than things like The Goonies or Gremlins.

Near Dark – I didn’t see this movie until years later. This, too, is far superior to the Lost Boys. It’s still about love and vampires, but it’s hardcore as fuck. Huge thanks to my pal Richard Davis for turning me on to this one when the Anchor Bay DVD came put. I expect a Scream Factory Blu-ray treatment sooner than later.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors – Another movie that contributed to an extremely frustrating selection process. This is my favorite Freddy movie and one of my favorite movies overall.

Overboard – Is it okay that I love this movie? I mean, the premise is completely deranged and would never fly in today’s climate – Goldie Hawn’s snobby rich lady character gets hit on the head and loses her memory and Kurt Russell’s working class, overwhelmed widower basically kidnaps her and forces her into slavery. But it is HI-LAR-I-OUS. Slightly shady Kurt Russell is the best Kurt Russell.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – I was going to talk about how much I love this movie and how incredible Steve Martin and John Candy are as an onscreen duo, but I just noticed they left out the Oxford comma, so never mind.

Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol – I think I liked this one a lot. By this time the raunch had been toned down and they were much goofier, broader movies. I’m pretty sure this is the one where Bobcat Goldthwait becomes a cop.

Predator – Yet another addition to my tough decision! This classic is on my list of nearly perfect movies. Every performance is awesome and the testosterone levels are through the roof. Even though we all know every beat of this thing, it still delivers every single time. Like a goshdarn sexual Tyrannosaurus.

Prince of Darkness – Not my favorite of Carpenter’s films, but still very, very good. I like it more now than I did back when I first saw it.

The Princess Bride – While this is on my short list of “perfect” movies, I don’t honestly know that it’s even my top twenty favorites. It’s phenomenal, but maybe I’ve seen it too many times now. I still love it, but there’s something slightly stale about it now. Probably everyone quotes it too damn much.

Raising Arizona – I didn’t see this until after I discovered who the Coen brothers were because prior to that I didn’t want to watch some movie about white trash. I live in Georgia. I get enough of that. It’s clever and funny and one of Nicolas Cage’s best roles that isn’t Terence McDonagh or John Milton, but it’s not my favorite work from the Coens.

Redneck Zombies – Absolute drek. I never saw the appeal, not even from a camp or schlock standpoint.

Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise – I prefer this to the original. Or at least I did the last time I saw it, which might have been fifteen years ago. Maybe it’s time for a Nerds marathon. The first two, anyway. I have no idea how many more they made, but I think this was the last to feature most of the original cast.

RoboCop – This is the other big one. RoboCop is a HUGE movie for me and one that’s on my “perfect” list. Everything about it is outstanding. Tune in Friday to see if this is my pick!

Roxanne – I’m not generally a fan of romantic comedies, but I’ll watch just about anything with Steve Martin in it. I even love the Father of the Bride remakes. This one is fun and also stars Daryl Hannah, who is Top Ten 80s Ladies material for sure. As a matter of fact, I liked this so much that I tried other versions of Cyrano de Bergerac, but none had the charm of this modern day retelling.

The scene with Martin rolling off nose insults is one of the greatest ever.

The Running Man – “Who loves you and who do you love?” While plenty of people acknowledge this movie, I think it was slightly hurt by coming out in the shadow of Predator. 1987 was different from now – Predator preceded The Running Man by five months, which meant that not only was it still perceived as a new release when this one hit, it was still in some theaters. People were still marveling over Arnie’s bombastic jungle adventure when this slightly (very slightly) headier sci-fi dystopia pic came out.

The Secret of My Success – I don’t even remember this movie all that well, but I know I loved everything with Michael J. Fox in it. We all did. He’s great. Whatever this was about, it’s worth noting that it made more money than Predator, Lethal Weapon, and RoboCop! And Dirty Dancing, which I haven’t mentioned because it’s a stupid old people movie.

Some Kind of Wonderful – I was in love with Mary Stuart Masterson in this movie. She and Elias Koteas should have been the stars as far as I was concerned. Yeah, I know it’s another rom-com, I said I didn’t generally like them, not that I didn’t watch them. Sparingly.

Side Note: I hate the song that shares the film’s name.

Other Side Note: Boone from Nightbreed is also in this.

Spaceballs – Man, apparently talking shit about Spaceballs has become a thing. Fuck that noise – this movie is fantastic. It was on my long list of possible picks for Friday, but didn’t quite make the cut thanks to the tough competition.

Stakeout – This might have been the movie where I decided I was a fan of Emilio Estevez. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that Rosie O’Donnell ruined the sequel. And everything she was ever in.

Okay, no – she was pretty funny in Exit to Eden. But nobody but me likes that movie.

Steel Dawn – As far as I am concerned this is the sequel to Red Dawn and Nomad is Jed Eckert. Don’t try to tell me different.

The Stepfather – A truly creepy and possibly underrated thriller starring future LOST weirdo Terry O’Quinn. I like both of the sequels, too, but the 2009 remake was shit.

Summer School – Dave and Chainsaw 4 life. This movie deserves an entire post. I watched it every single time it was on cable back in the day and still do. Oddly enough I have never owned it.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace – Even when I was a kid and still fairly accepting of crap I hated this movie. I hadn’t recognized that Superman III was bad, but I knew this one stank on ice.

Throw Momma from the Train – When I was younger the bulk of this movie was a little too mean-spirited for me, despite the happy ending. Now I like it a lot more. Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito are amazing together.

The Untouchables – I mention this only because of Sean Connery, who was the only reason I watched it. Otherwise I would have avoided that stale loaf of bread masquerading as a human, Kevin Costner, like the plague.

If you enjoy movies, the 80s, or Needless Things, you might enjoy Huge thanks to our killer Patrons Zack, Gary, Lucas, and Beau!


  1. Wow, this is a comprehensive list. I have seen most of these films and love them all to varying degrees. I must have watched Summer School at least a hundred times when it aired on HBO or The Movie Channel. This makes me want to see it again. ("It's just like you said, Gills. We're psychopaths!") Some Kind of Wonderful is a great reversal of Pretty in Pink with the proper ending. Good stuff as always, Phantom.

    1. Thanks, man - I had a lot of fun doing this one. Tune in tomorrow for 1987 - The TV!