In today's fast-paced, content-heavy world it's easy to miss a lot of the new stuff. Maybe don't bother trying to keep up? Because the classics remain, always there, waiting like a good friend. The classics are all certified bangers, and (bonus!) none of them are about the same super heroes most movies today seem to be based on. These are movies that made an impact. They left an impression. And they continue to be a sure bet. There are quite a few classics on Netflix. To get you started or reacquainted, here are the best nine.
Trading Places (1983)
When Trading Places came out Eddie Murphy was riding a high note—he was the breakout star of Saturday Night Live and his big screen debut, 48 Hours with Nick Nolte, was an unqualified success. This film, with fellow SNL alumnus Dan Aykroyd, was also a big hit. A “screwball comedy,” Trading Places pits Akyroyd's uppity/educated twi against Murphy's street hustler until they realize they’re being manipulated by the nefarious and ultra-rich commodities trading firm-owning fat cat Duke Brothers, who place a bet about the two they believe will finally settle the age old debate about nature versus nurture. But the game of switch-a-roo ends up biting the Duke Brothers in the ass when Murphy and Akyroyd team up to take them down. Directed by Blues Brothers auteur John Landis, this movie is funny with the added bonus of some pretty spot-on social commentary along the way.
Eddie Murphy: Delirious (1983)
As you can imagine, Eddie Murphy was huge in the 1980s. Along with 48 Hours, Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop, Delirious came out and cemented Murphy as a superstar and certifiable funny ass motherfucker. Murphy seemed to be from another planet. The jokes he made and the ground he covered were wholly electrifying in the 80s— downright Pryor-esque. Following in the wake of that legend's Live in Concert success, Murphy filmed one of his standup routines and Delirious was the result. The material is homophobic and chauvinistic, and, as a result, a good indicator of how far American has come in the 35 years since it originally aired. Offensive material aside, Murphy's command of audience and mastery of voice is something to behold. In Delirious he's confidence personified, proof of which is written all over his red leather suit.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
It was the era of Vietnam movies. Platoon was out about the same time and Born on the Fourth of July was still to come. They were all attempting to recreate the magic of Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter, which brought the Vietnam saga home to Americans. Full Metal Jacket was Stanley Kubrick’s entry into the genre, a rip-roaring film that starred Matthew Modine, Lee Ermey, and Vincent "I am. In a world. Of shit." D’Onofrio. Largely panned by critics at the time of its release, the film is stunning visually in retrospect. A cinematic masterpiece. The storyline is made up of separate-but-connected short stories, and follows different characters through their lives in the Marine Corp. Ermey's drill instructor remains one of the most memorable characters ever captured on celluloid. To quote his character, you'll want to "Choke yourself!" for not watching it sooner. (Sorry.)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Kiefer Sutherland may best be known today for finding himself on the wrong side of the lens during copious drunken escapades, but back in the 80s he was an A-list Hollywood hunk without peer. His string of hits in the Reagan years started with Stand by Me (1986) and continued with The Lost Boys and Young Guns (1988). Lost Boys put a rock-n-roll twist on the classic vampire flick, and in it Sutherland epitomizes the young punk rock rebel who oozes California cool. His character, David, mesmerizes two brothers who just moved into the area—Michael (played with equal coolness by Jason Patric) and Sam (played by the now deceased tabloid legend and infamous child actor Corey Haim). Sutherland seduces the older brother Patric into the flock while Haim’s character tries to save his brother from becoming a vampire. The movie is heavy on rock vibes and Jim Morrison's presence looms throughout, both on the soundtrack with his band the Doors and in the form of a huge poster of his likeness in the vampire's cave. People are strange.
This movie was skewered by critics when it first came out, but Hellraiser has turned into a cult classic and is a must watch for horror fans or those dedicated to the bizarre. It's a surreal journey into worlds of the unknown where cult figure Pinhead, portrayed sublimely by Doug Bradley, defines evil. The film, created by Clive Barker—who Stephen King himself lauded as the next master in the horror genre—was the writer/director's debut and spawned many sequels with Bradley reprising his role as Pinhead. More so then even the movie itself—which featured a puzzle box of evil, similar to the Rubik’s Cube—Pinhead has become a pop culture icon. People dress as him at the various Comic Cons and for Halloween. He’s become a franchise in himself. Check out why.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Robin Williams was also a huge star in the 1980s. With Mork and Mindy, Good Morning Vietnam, and finally Dead Poets Society, Williams was right alongside Eddie Murphy vying for the title of biggest of the decade. A great movie about school, life, ideals, and hope, Dead Poets was set in Vermont in 1959 at an elite boys school. It explores Williams's role as teacher and mentor as he uses literature to open the minds of his students and show them the endless possibilities of life. A really inspirational story that pits obligation versus ideology in a test to see which wins out. It's a masterful performance by Williams, whose real-life empathy shines through.
Winona Ryder. Shannon Doherty. This film features both, two of the pre-imminent actresses of the 80s. Queens, both of them. And both put on dazzling performances in Heathers, making the movie an instant classic that really defined the era. Full of 1980s cliches, the film represents a different time and a different America than today. Christian Slater plays JD, the smirking bad boy with his manic Jack Nicholson grin. He seduces Winona’s character Veronica, who’s the lackey of the three Heathers—Doherty, Lisanne Falk, and Kim Walker. The three beautiful, bitchy girls make Winona’s life hell, but she falls for Slater’s rap and engages in diabolical deeds. Success breeds imitation for the pair until it all comes crashing down.
Menace II Society (1993)
Made for $2.5 million in 1993, Menace II Society was the feature debut of the Hughes brothers. And it was stunning to say the least. Coming hard on the heels of Colors (1988) and Boyz n the Hood (1991), Menace explored the same gang, violence, and drug issues that were ripping African-American communities apart during the crack era. But Menace put a focus on the senseless violence that still plagues urban America and the inner-cities today. Caine, played by Tyrin Turner in a raw portrayal, grows up in the ghettos of LA. When his best friend, O-Dog (Larenz Tate), shoots a Korean grocer down in cold-blood, the duo is forced to navigate a society that despises them. Jada Pinkett also stars, acting as a lifeline to Caine and trying to pull him back from the edge.
Interview With the Vampire (1994)
Based off Anne Rice’s book of the same name, Interview With the Vampire was a star studded affair. With Brad Pitt, Christian Slater, Thandie Newton, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, and Mr. Mission Impossible himself, Tom Cruise, as the vampire Lestat, the film was massively hyped. A period piece that swirls and whirls about in ways both spooky and majestic, its quite an aesthetic feat. Most fans of the books didn’t think a film could do Rice’s work justice, but director Neil Jordan crafted a masterpiece. The story focuses on Pitt’s Louis as he details his history for a writer played by Slater. Louis describes the vampire family unit he had with Lestat, his mentor, and their daughter Claudia, played by a then-only 11-year-old Dunst in a stunning performance that foreshadowed the star she'd become. This movie can be as shocking as it is entertaining—Oprah famously walked out of a screening, explaining later to Cruise she didn't want to invite "the force of darkness" into her life. But just seeing mega-stars Pitt and Cruise as blood sucking vampires is worth it.
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