As fresh-feeling as a movie about the rot that festers below white-picket suburbia could ever be, David Lynch’s opus offered the Reagan era an American nightmare to chew on. Kyle MacLachlan is the Alice in this dark wonderland, as he’d be again in TV landmark Twin Peaks, encountering a villain for the ages in Dennis Hopper’s nitrous-chugging Frank Booth. Its success enabled the most daring director of his generation to pursue his wildest dreams.
One of the words most commonly associated with the popular culture of the 1980s is ‘plastic’ – and for a long time, that phrase extended to the movies. Coming out of the ’70s, which introduced a new level of realism and gritty authenticity to mainstream Hollywood, filmmaking in the ‘80s got bigger, louder and, some might say, superficial.
But time has been kind to the era. Looking back now, it’s easier to see how influential and important the period was to filmmaking. Yes, it represented the birth of the mega blockbuster, but it was also a time when the most popular movies were also among the best and most groundbreaking. It was also the era that loosened the jar, so to speak, on the indie explosion of the ’90s and when international cinema began to reach more eyes than ever before. In retrospect, if it wasn’t the absolutely greatest movie decade, the ‘80s may have been the most unique, and these 50 films represent the best of the era. These are the movies any cineaste worth their salted popcorn must see – ideally on a VHS tape with tracking issues, but streaming is fine, too.
Written by Joshua Rothkopf, Tom Huddleston, Dave Calhoun, Andy Kryza, Cath Clarke, Matthew Singer & Phil de Semlyen