10 Movies That Prove Why 1987 Was a Special Year For Cinema

The 1980s were a borderline awful decade for Hollywood. Under the presidency of Ronald Reagan and in the dying embers of the new wave of American filmmakers, as outlined by Vox, the chances taken by studio executives appeared to lessons. Opting for conservative world views, the serialization of films as blockbusters dominated, and sequels became fashionable. The 80s were not exactly known for taking risks, but, in 1987, in the shadows of Reagan’s presidency, the Iran-Contra fallout, Oliver North, and Black Monday, the American psyche saw a slight shift.

1987 is such a tremendous and productive year for films that the industry appeared to shift for a few months, too. Movies like Fatal Attraction,RoboCopand Lethal Weapon dominated the box office. A cynical edge started to rub off on the people, and they appeared to show up in waves to see films that reflected that. There was still the gleeful hope of romantic tales (moonstruck, Dirty Dancing) even as something darker started to permeate. A movie like Wall Street won Michael Douglas an Oscar. However, the films mentioned below barely touch the surface of what was a fun year for any audience member going to the theaters in 1987.


10 Wings of Desire

The poetry of Wim Wenders is often rendered to the open road and the surreal possibilities of living the life of a romantic. Wings of Desire centers around the physical nature of love and the longing of a lonely angel (Bruno Ganz), who comes down to earth to pursue the beauty of a woman (Solveig Dommartin) in the streets of Berlin. Altering from black and white to gorgeous color palettes when the angel comes down to earth, Wenders’ film is an elegiac mood piece about the transformational nature of finding love in other people.

9 Wall Street

“Greed is good.” The much-paraphrased quote from Wall Street antagonist Gordon Gekko, played with unbridled financial sleaze by Michael Douglas (his only Oscar), is only part of the story. Oliver Stone’s film details how low financial sector gurus will stoop for their portfolios’ stake and how dangerous unbridled ambition can be. Shot in the classic 80s sheen with the veneer of capitalist excess, Wall Street critiques America handing the economy to a group of New York insiders.

8 The Princess Bride

Rob Reiner’s successive run in the 1980s, which started with This is Spinal Tap and ended with When Harry Met Sally, would be enough for most directors. But in between, he also made Stand By Meand in 1987, he would go on to direct legendary screenwriter William Goldman’s script The Princess Bride. A rousing adventure flick that could have fun for the whole family, but is elevated because of Goldman’s prowess as a writer creating pockets for children and the adult imagination too. Fantasy-filled but heartfelt as well, with plenty of clever moments that include one memorable drink change, Reiner’s film remains part of the American entertainment canon.

Related: Rob Reiner’s Best Movies, Ranked

7 RoboCop

Paul Verhoeven was an expert at crafting satirical and provocative blockbusters that critiqued American institutions, showing where they were fallible. Robocop, his hit 1987 film, was a vision of a desolate Detroit falling under the guise of evil corporate structures and the dangers of privatized military men becoming a city or state police force. Through the violent and bloody romp of one cop’s (Peter Weller) metamorphosis to mechanized vigilante, Verhoeven punctured the Reagan-era economics that Hollywood would then try turning into a franchise — moving counter to the film’s thesis. While also creating the iconic mishap in the offices when a new military product was meant to be revered.

6 moonstruck

The fleeting nature of love in a moonlit New York City and the chaotic dissonance of Italian households were front and center in Norman Jewison’s moonstruck. Cher won the Oscar for her charismatic and loving turn as a woman caught up in the wrong marriage. Opposite Nicolas Cage, the pair’s over-the-top energy was the perfect fit to match that classic Italian New York attitude. The film flirts with becoming a triptych as Cher’s parents battle their infidelities and the limits of monogamy.

5 predator

Arnold Schwarzenegger rose to action hero fame during the 1980s and continued a legendary run of smash hit films like a seasoned MVP well into the 1990s. One of the first films you’d have to consider on his Mount Rushmore is predator. A carnage-induced shootout in the jungles as an intergalactic predator whose sole purpose on the planet is to kill. Teamed with Die Hard director John McTernan, who brings his rugged craftsmanship to a nasty body count and one legendary handshake, predator is an action movie gem.

Related: These Are the Best Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies, Ranked

4 Broadcast News

James L. Brooks manufactured some of the greatest romance stories of the 80s and 90s, a Hollywood machine that would produce easily digestible stories, crafted with artistic merit. Likely his best movie, Broadcast News took the hilarious chaotic nature of the TV newsroom while underscoring how essential it is to have people who can report on the news within the current and historical-political context. It’s a rich text showing the unfortunate degradation within current corporate structures. Within all of that are three incredible lead performances from Albert Brooks, William Hurt, and the scene-stealing Holly Hunter as the three emerge as central figures in their news station. Brooks perfectly contextualizes the different kinds of news anchors necessary to share the news but creates a heartfelt romance that derails because love makes a mess of everything.

3 Evil Dead 2

After announcing himself as a DIY filmmaker of pure movie magic with Evil Deadcrafting an artful but playful camera style for the exploitative horror genre, director Sam Raimi one-upped his original accomplishment with Evil Dead 2. With his leading man muse Bruce Campbell, the two resembled their success to create one comically horror set piece after another. With a fistful of laughs scares and incredible practical effects that turn people into ghouls, Evil Dead 2 will stand the test of time as one of the great sequels ever made and a treasure in a decade full of horror excess.

2 Raising Arizona

The first of many looney tune, goofball adventures, Raising Arizona is in part a Road Warrior parody and a movie about parental anxiety. Featuring a near, outer-worldly motorcycle mercenary on par with the devil and a finely tuned southern performance from Nicolas Cage, the Coens’ first foray into their moral parables is a classic. Not only showcasing the sly philosophical whips they would later be known for, but their fine eye for random characters that punctuate a seemingly surreal world.

Stanley Kubrick’s nihilistic and dark humor-infused look at the perversion of America’s military as a system of degradation is not often considered his best work but, Full Metal Jacket packs a harrowing punch. Starring the quotable, live-wire, spit-in-your-face performance of real-life drill instructor R. Lee Emery (who improvised much of his dialogue) as the man tasked with ripping apart men to make them soldiers before entering the war , the film sets its tone early and should be in consideration as some of Stanley Kubrick’s best work. However, the second Vietnam-led part of the film is a horror film too, as a platoon of soldiers learns the cost of war.

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