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.
For a long time, the 1980s were considered a bad time for movies. Coming out of the ’70s New Hollywood revolution, mainstream films got bigger, louder and more violent, and the entire vibe of the era felt superficial and plastic. Looking back now, though, it’s easier to see how important and influential the period was. It was a time when the most popular movies were also among the best, and when the celebrated auteurs of the previous decade – your David Lynches, your Martin Scorseses - refined their approaches and did some of their most iconic work. The independent scene that exploded in the ’90s began to rumble, as did international cinema. 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