Retro Movie Mania: Volume II

My 80's Cult Classics
August 05, 2008
The 1980's

These films are not cult in the sense that they were critical and commercial failures only garnering success via small fanbases.

Quite the opposite.

These films are regarded by myself as cult classics due to the subculture they spawned and the relevance they have today. There are many missing on this list.......these are my favorite and most memorable.

Agree to disagree.

Evil Dead (1981)

Sam Raimi's masterpiece of cult horror starring Bruce Campbell is less cult now than it was originally. However, if you can look past the merchandise, video games, sequels and mainstream acceptance, it still is a gem of classic cinema.

The film depicts five college students on vacation in an isolated cabin in the woods, which turns into a disaster when they find an audiotape in the "Book of the Dead" that is the key to unlocking evil spirits. The film was extremely controversial for its graphic violence and gore, limiting its inital release. The character of "Ash" goes on in later sequels with so many catch phrases, one-liners and comedic charisma it's hard not to smile and laugh while watching a supposed horror movie.

Blade Runner (1982)

Based on the incredible novel, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick. "Blade Runner" is by far the quintesential movie portrayl of a dark, gritty, neo-cyber future that would make William Gibson proud.

Harrison Ford's replicant eliminating "Deckard" is a complex character in addition to Rutger Hauers haunting performance as "Roy Batty". Ridley Scott did an impressive job with the unforgettable feel and cinematography of the film. Even if you are not a fan, this movies impact and contribution to anime, comics, video games, television and all things science fiction can not be overlooked or denied.

The NeverEnding Story (1984)

Atreyu: "Who are you really?"

G'mork: "I am the servant of the power behind the "nothing". I was sent to kill the only one who could have stopped the "nothing". I lost him in the Swamps of Sadness. His name........was Atreyu."

Atreyu: "If we're about to die anyway, I'd rather die fighting! Come for me G'mork!

"Bastian", "Artax", "Falkor", "Fantasia".........ahhh, yes. I felt compelled to add this movie with the others because, still is cult in my eyes. Yes, it is a "family" and "kids" film but it is still very dark for it's time.

Even to this day, "G'mork" is pretty intense for children but that is besides the point. This movie is beyond debate......and although 99% percent have seen it......that just makes it the most cult fantasy film of them all. We all know it is a good story........and that is why it is here. I love the pop culture references to this movie. Especially an episode of "Family Guy" and "Falkor."

Return to Oz (1985)

The partial sequel to the 1939 classic, this films plot was a combination of two of L. Frank Baum's "Oz" novels. Another freaky kids movie with strange characters like the "Wheelers", "Mombi" and the "Nome King". Damn, those "Wheelers" creeped me out as a kid. I don't know why.

The kids movies in the 80's were very strange and twisted, and this movie is no exception. "Dorothy" has a whole new cast of friends on her adventure and it is actually not a bad story. If you have not seen this movie I highly suggest you try to locate a copy or view it online.

Return of the Living Dead (1985)

This is my kind of movie. Blood, violence, nudity, and humor all wrapped up in a nice zombie gift box, with a punk rock soundtrack as a bow.

The movie was supposed to be a bridge from the original "Night of the Living Dead." The film tells the story of how a group of teenage punks accidentally release a horde of blood thirsty zombies onto an unsuspecting town from a toxic gas leak. You gotta love the special effects in this sequel.

The Last Dragon (1985)

Now this movie is undeniably 80's. It tries so hard and takes itself so seriously that you can't help but like it for trying. "Berry Gordy's: The Last Dragon" is a martial-arts cult classic.

Set in New York City, the plot follows a black teenage martial arts student named "Leroy Green" (often referred to as "Bruce Leroy"). With dreams of becoming a great martial artist like his idol Bruce Lee, "Leroy" goes on a quest to achieve the highest level of martial arts accomplishment, known as "The Last Dragon". Martial artists who achieve the rank of "Last Dragon" possess "The Glow". As its name suggests it is a mystical energy that can be tapped into by a martial arts master. When a fighter's hands glow, he is one of the best in the world and when his entire body glows, he is the greatest fighter alive.

On his journey to becoming the "Last Dragon" and wielding the power of "The Glow," "Leroy" must confront villains such as a crooked arcade mogul "Eddie Arkadian" and the evil "Sho'nuff", "the Shogun of Harlem."

A plethora of pop culture references are mentioned in Hip-Hop videos and songs.

Legend (1985)

If you have read my article entitled "Behind the Masks" then you know "Legend" had an impact on my childhood growing up. Another Ridley Scott film, this time focusing on a fantasy story. Starring Tom Cruise, before he went crazy and Mia Sara, prior to "Ferris Bueller."

The story is set "once, long ago" in a world of unicorns, fairies, goblins and demons. Hidden in a dark lair, the antagonist, the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) instructs his goblin servant to locate the two unicorns that roam in the nearby forest and remove their horns. If the unicorns die and their horns are removed, the Lord of Darkness can ensure that dawn never again breaks, and sunshine never returns.

A killer movie that is still watchable to this day. I so rarely get the opportunity to view it and I doubt it ever comes on basic television.

Vampire Hunter D (1985)

This is one of my favorite animated films of all time. This ain't no Mickey Mouse shit!

"D" is a hitman esque vampire slayer for hire with an all black outift and ridiculous sword. His symbiotic left hand also talks to him and has special powers. "D" is a "dhampir" (which is a half vampire half human) who roams the lands extinguishing his own kind.
Based on the horror fiction novels of the same name, "Vampire Huter D" has spawned a sequel, merchandise, a devoted fanbase and a video game. "Final Fantasy" series designer Yoshitaka Amano is the artist, hence the familiar style of "Vampire Hunter D" to "Final Fantasy" character concepts.

Labyrinth (1986)

"Labyrinth" is a fantasy film, directed by the late Jim Henson and produced by George Lucas. The main actors are David Bowie as "Jareth the Goblin King", and the smoking hot Jennifer Connelly as "Sarah Williams."

The plot revolves around "Sarah's" quest to rescue her little brother from the "Goblin King" while trapped in a world that is a gigantic, disturbingly odd maze. Most of the other significant roles are played by puppets or by a combination of puppetry and human performance.

The creators must have been on drugs when they made this film. One scene has her troll friend peeing in public, while another has them going through a shit-stenched swamp accompanied by fart noises. It's all classy cinema to me! I'm sure you remember the ridiculous "cod piece" Bowie wore. Wow! What a great family movie!

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell, this movies cult status really took off after it's release on VHS. Russell plays truck driver "Jack Burton" who helps his friend "Wang Chi" rescue his green-eyed girlfriend from asian bandits in San Francisco's "Chinatown."

Eventually they go into the mysterious underworld beneath "Chinatown", where they face an ancient sorcerer named "Lo Pan" and a host of characters like a furry chewbacca type monster and a asian electric dude who looks like "Raiden" from "Mortal Kombat."

It is so over the top and cheesy that it actually makes the movie enjoyable. Anybody with retractable knives in their boots is cool in my book! "Jake Burton" is an icon of white trash cinema.

Cobra (1986)

The film, written by Stallone, was loosely based on a novel and was a modest hit at the box office as well as a cult favorite.

The movie is a cliche and predictable as well as the violence being unrealistic.......but hey.........that was the m.o. of action movies in the 80's. If you were expecting an Oscar worthy performance your a flipping moron. This is what it action thriller with a silent but deadly enforcer...........nuff said.

This is one of my favorite Stallone movies strictly because it is a concise story that does not have a lot off fluff and wasted the point and violent. As a cop, "Cobretti" kicks the "night slashers" ass in addition to wrecking house in the initial grocery store scene. Great cinematography really sells this movie, in my opinion.

Manhunter (1986)

Forget "Red Dragon", Anthony Hopkins and Ed Norton. "Manhunter" is the orginal. This was a great film that never gets the credit it deserves.

"Manhunter" is a thriller film based on Thomas Harris's novel "Red Dragon". Written and directed by Michael Mann, it features "X-Men II's" Brian Cox as the popular character "Hannibal Lecter" (Lecktor in this version), and "C.S.I.'s" William Petersen.

It's hard to describe a movie when it has probably been seen via its remakes and several sequels ......but just check it out anyway to witness how groundbreaking this 1986 film was.

Akira (1988)

"Akira" is a Japanese animated film based on a manga of the same name. The film is set in a neon-lit futuristic post-apocalyptic Tokyo in 2019. "Akira" is regarded by critics as one of the greatest animated films ever made.

The movie led the way for the growing popularity of anime in the West, with "Akira" considered a forerunner of the second wave of anime fandom that continued later with such titles as "Ninja Scroll" and "Ghost in the Shell".

The film explores a number of psychological and philosophical ideas, such as the growth, corruption, the will to power, and greed. Assuming you have never seen the movie, a brief, non-spoiler synopsis follows............

Biker gangs, friend gains telekinetic powers, resents other friend, chaotic jealousy, destruction via god like powers, explosive animation and intiguing story. It might be hard to follow after first viewing but this was way ahead of its time.


Tango & Cash (1989)

Ummmmmm......yeah. I am really not sure why this movie is here. It is late and I have been "tapping the rockies" (Coors reference) for a while and I think I have veered off course. This movie is not cult. But it is a favorite? Hmmmmmm.....

If you can prove to me that it deserves to be here via comments and make me feel better about making this mistake, you will win a shout out in my next article and something really cool that is yet to be determined.

Well the term "F.U.B.A.R." did come from this film. That's cult, right?

If you don't know what that means.........."Google" it.

Heathers (1989)

"I love my dead gay son!"

Hahahahaha! This is more like it!

"Heathers" is a dark comedy film starring Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, and Shannen Doherty. The film portrays four teens in a trend-setting clique at a suburban Midwestern high school. The girls (three of whom are named "Heather") rule the school through intimidation, contempt, and sex appeal.

Failing at the box office and only peaking via cult rental sales......."Heathers" was a hilariously wicked. Murder, jealousy, humor, and high school drama all in one smart film. "Veronica" and her "Heather's" will always hold fond memories in my mind.

Thanks for the read. This was Volume II of V.

Coming Soon............

Retro Movie Mania Volume III : My 90's Cult Classics
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