6 Must See Movies from 1987

January 21, 2011

by Joel G. Robertson

1987. What a great year for movies!

Because I’ve been getting so much great feedback and movie recommendations in the comments section of these “6 Movies You Must See” posts, I’m going to keep the opening short and sweet. It’s enough to say that 1987 was another banner year that brought us some great movies.

It was also the year where movie going audiences were treated to not one, but two movies based on already existing properties that had an enormous impact on the popular culture at the time.

Do you know what those two movies were? If you do, be sure to tell us in the comments along with your picks for 1987 movies we must see!


HellraiserRated: R; Dir. Clive Barker; Starring Ashley Laurence, Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, and Doug Bradley .

After opening a mysterious box called the Lament Configuration, a man loses his body to demons called Cenobites. But when the man escapes from their hellish clutches, he hides out in the home of his brother and his sister-in-law, who is also his mistress. And when the man’s niece (Laurence) starts nosing around, it’s only a matter of time before the Cenobites (led by the amazing Doug Bradley as Pinhead) locate the box and

With its not-so-subtle S&M symbolism, unpredictable story, and deeply-flawed yet compelling characters, Hellraiser helped put Clive Barker on the cinematic map. Unfortunately, Barker has never had the same level of success with his other movies.

Despite containing interesting ideas and striking visuals, Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions just never came together for moviegoers. But Pinhead and the other cenobites will forever remain an iconic representation of one man’s unique vision of what a horror movie can truly be.

Hellraiser Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Hellraiser was writer/director Clive Barker’s first feature film.
  • Barker and actor Doug Bradley (Pinhead) have been friends since childhood.
  • Doug Bradley appeared in two of Clive Barker’s early short films: Salome (1973) and The Forbidden (1978). Both were projects Barker made while in art school.


Three O’Clock HighRated: PG-13; Dir. Phil Joanou; Starring Casey Siemaszko, Annie Ryan, Richard Tyson, Stacey Glick, Jeffrey Tambor, Phillip Baker Hall, and Mitch Pileggi.

When Jerry Mitchell (Siemaszko) gets assigned to write an article about the new kid in school, Buddy Revell (Tyson), he knows he’s in trouble. You see, Buddy has a reputation as a violent criminal. But when Jerry accidentally touches Buddy (who hates to be touched), the hulking bully challenges him to a fight after school… at 3 o’clock.

(For a lengthier review of Three O’Clock High, click here) Three O’Clock High plays like the daytime version of the darkly comic film that inspired it, After Hours. It features frenetic camera work, smart writing, and a breakneck pace toward an inevitable, and violent, climax. At times absurd, at others frightening, you’ll find yourself really pulling for this poor kid, praying he gets away before the fates finish carving his name into granite.

Three O’Clock High Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Director Phil Joanou said Three O’Clock High was heavily influenced by Martin Scorcese’s After Hours.
  • The score for Three O’Clock High was written by Tangerine Dream (Risky Business, Legend, Near Dark).
  • Three O’Clock High was written by Richard Christian Matheson, son of legendary writer Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Duel).


Cherry 2000 Rated: PG-13; Dir. Steve De Jarnatt; Starring David Andrews, Melanie Griffith, Laurence Fishburne, Pamela Gidley, Brion James, and Ben Johnson.

In the future, romance is dead. Sam Treadwell (Andrews) hires a tracker named E. Johnson (Griffith) to lead him across a dangerous wasteland to locate a Cherry 2000, a “human” robot woman he’s in love with.

Despite the fact that , at its core, Cherry 2000 is about a guy wanting to get his sex robot back, this oddball, mid-80s  cult movie has some interesting things to say about relationships. Remember, this movie was made in the mid-80s, a time when AIDS-related worry and paranoia was reaching its apex.

And although it may seem tailor-made for sexist, horndogs, you’ll find a strong feminist slant to Cherry 2000. Melanie Griffith as E. Johnson, the tracker hired by protagonist Sam (Andrews) to retrieve his beloved Cherry, is a pillar of no-nonsense strength.

Plus, she kicks all kinds of ass.

Cherry 2000 Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Director Steven De Jarnatt also directed the “What if?” thriller Miracle Mile (1988), starring Anthony Edwards.
  • Although filmed in 1985, Cherry 2000 was shelved and received a short, limited theatrical release before finally going to video in 1988.
  • Composer Basil Poledouris created the amazing film scores for Conan the Barbarian, Red Dawn, and Robocop (one of the best!).


The StepfatherRated: R; Dir. Joseph Ruben; Starring Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen, and Shelley Hack.

Jerry Blake (O’Quinn) just wants the perfect family. The only problem is: there’s no such thing. Of course, this won’t stop Jerry. And after he marries Susan (Hack), Jerry thinks he may have finally achieved his dream. But when Susan’s teenage daughter (Schoelen) becomes suspicious of her new stepfather, Jerry soon learns that it’s time to move on to a new family. After, of course, he punishes those who’ve disappointed him…

With implied simplicity, director Joseph Rueben opens The Stepfather with a horrifying scene that achieves an amazing feat– rather than distancing you from the film’s protagonist (a serial killer, who is searching for the perfect family) it draws you closer to him. He’s a fascinating character and you want to know, albeit reluctantly, what he’s going to do next.

As Jerry Blake (well, this time he is, but this killer takes on a new identity whenever he sets his sights on a new family), the mesmerizing Terry O’Quinn doesn’t portray this disturbed man as a maniacal, super-killing machine. This take on killers was quite common in the days of Jason and Freddy, but instead O’Quinn plays him as an affable, likable, All-American family man. This, of course, makes his actions all the more terrifying.

And actress Jill Schoelen is a worthy adversary as stepdaughter Stephanie, who suspects new dad Jerry isn’t at all what he seems.

The Stepfather Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • The Stepfather was written by legendary mystery/thriller writer Donald E. Westlake.
  • The Stepfather was inspired by the true story of John List, who murdered his family in 1971 and disappeared. He was finally arrested in 1989 after being profiled on the television show America’s Most Wanted.
  • Actor Terry O’Quinn most recently played John Locke in the television show LOST.


The PrincipalRated: R; Dir. Christopher Cain; Starring John Belushi, Louis Gossett, Jr., Rae Dawn Chong, and Esai Morales.

A trouble making teacher named Rick Latimer (Belushi) gets “promoted” to principal after a violent encounter. The promotion is actually more of a punishment since the school he’s the prinicipal of is one of the most violent, gang-riddled campuses in the city. But with the help of a custodian (Gossett, Jr.), Rick makes it his mission to clean up the school.

Yes, The Principal is an unusual choice for “Action,” especially when we’re talking about the heyday of Arnold and Sly. But The Principal is indeed a bare-knuckled punch to the bicuspids. Jim Belushi (pretty much playing the same role he always does–himself) plays a schoolteacher with a violent streak.

When he’s assigned as the principal of a high school rife with gang violence, that short fuse of his comes in handy. Louis Gossett, Jr. does what he does best, exuding a quiet cool that masks the reality he’s about to kick some ass. Definitely a “turn your brain off” at the door popcorn flick, but you’re sure to have a great time!

The Principal Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Actor Michael Wright also starred on the television movie, mini-series, and full-length series of V as Elias Taylor.
  • Director Christopher Cain also made That Was Then… This Is Now (1985) and Young Guns (1988).
  • Despite the fact that he’s supposed to be a high school student, actor Michael Wright is only two years younger than Jim Belushi.


The Monster SquadRated: PG-13; Dir. Fred Dekker; Starring Andre Gower,  Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht, Duncan Regehr, Tom Noonan, John Gries, Brent Chalem, Ryan Lambert, and Ashley Banks.

A group of friends who are obsessed with monsters make a surprising, and terrifying, discovery: Dracula (Regehr), Wolfman (Gries), The Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster have invaded their small town. Dracula is searching the town for a mystical medallion that will grant him absolute power and only The Monster Squad can stop him!

Few movies capture the truth of pre-teen boys as well as The Monster Squad. The boys curse, they love horror movies and monsters, they curse some more, and when presented with the opportunity to take on a deadly adventure, they’re all over it.

With a stellar supporting cast, including Regher, Gries, and Noonan as Dracula, Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s Monster respectively, director Fred Dekker’s vision of innocence confronting evil lacks any pretense or political correctness.

If you’re offended by kids spouting profanity or brandishing firearms, well, then The Monster Squad isn’t for you. Of course, whether you like it or not, there’s a lot of truth in how these boys act and talk, especially when you consider the time when this movie was made. And if you’re willing to let go, you’ll really enjoy this exciting ode to the Universal Monsters.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I think The Monster Squad is WAAAAAAY better than The Goonies, despite the fact that The Monster Squad “borrowed” from that much beloved 80’s adventure film.

Let the hate mail commence. 🙂

The Monster Squad Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • In 1986’s Night of the Creeps, also directed by Fred Dekker, there’s a brief shot of a bathroom wall where someone has written “The Monster Squad rules!”
  • Actor Ryan Lambert also starred in the 80’s kid show Kids, Incorporated.
  • Actor Tom Noonan, who played Frankie, stayed in character whenever he was around the child actors in the film.

Well, those are my 6 picks from 1987. I showed you mine, now it’s your turn to show me yours!

And until next time, remember, a flick is only forgotten if you’re not talking about it!


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13 comments on “6 Must See Movies from 1987

  1. 1. The fact that you chose to spotlight Cherry 2000 in this fashion makes me really really happy so, just know that.
    2. I am not the biggest fan of dark comedies so I didn’t enjoy “Three O’Clock High” as much as you did. I found it to be mostly terrifying so I felt a bit betrayed by the promotions for the film.
    3. My list includes more straight forward titles such as MANNEQUIN (the soundtrack always transports me back to the 80’s) and who didn’t contemplate getting a pet leopard after seeing WHO’s THAT GIRL?
    4. Seriously though, OVER THE TOP, RUNNING ON EMPTY, SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL, and THE GATE to name a few.

    • Hi RedKQueen! Those are great choices all! I love OVER THE TOP and THE GATE (with a very young Stephen Dorff) is a classic horror flick!

  2. RedKQueen Jan 21, 2011

    I realize now that “Running On Empty” wasn’t until ’88

  3. Good choices – ’87 was one of the first years I was allowed to walk to the movies by myself (at 14/15). So lot’s of nostalgia in that year for me. Limiting myself to three, here are ones that stuck with me back then:

    Summer School – Dave and Chainsaw spoke to every geek.

    The Hidden – Great Sci-Fi film I saw on HBO (no idea if it holds up).

    Predator – a classic from that year – few directors have had such a great one-two punch as John McTiernan with Predator/Die Hard (and nothing that followed lived up to that).

    (Ok I’ll cheat, three honorable mention comedies – Secret of My Success, Blind Date, Dragnet — 1st is great use of Michael J Fox, 2nd due to 80’s love of Bruce Willis and Moonlighting and the 3rd just because I still thought Dan Akyroyd was funny back then)

    • Hi Dumbricht! Great to hear from you! SUMMER SCHOOL has always been a favorite as is PREDATOR. And since you brought it up, I’ll admit that I too had a man crush on Bruce Willis back in the day, which led me to watch BLIND DATE several times. Plus, it has John Larroquette acting like a deranged Dan Fielding. Classic!

  4. I’ve been away from twitter/blogging for a bit, but checked on your site tonight. Here’s my frightening admission of the week – in 8th grade, actually filmed a Moonlighting parody as a class project (Nightlighting). Two sad facts about it, I named myself David Madison instead of David Addison and I made the blooper reel longer than the actual film – damn you Burt Reynolds.

    I’ll be checking in more often.

    • Dumbricht– No worries! Sometimes we all need a break. 🙂

      And as a former video productions teacher, I not only appreciate your 8th grade cinematic endeavors, but would LOVE to see it! That is of course if 1) a copy still exists and 2) you can bring yourself to show anyone. 🙂

      I look forward to hearing more from you!

  5. I would have happily showed it and would have agreed to be a guest on your podcast to recount the lively production stories, or at least do a shot by shot retrospective. Alas, I think the last remaining tape was misplaced in one of many moves. I believe I do have a copy of the script though. Just to whet the appetite, here are a few moments you can imagine, but probably won’t ever see:

    1. An 80’s dance sequence to Twist and Shout (inspired by both Moonlighting and Ferris Bueller)

    2. A location shoot at a McDonald’s which featured a parking lot food fight.

    3. A “rap” song (more appropriately defined as a chant) that was used as a commercial break — and the only part of the production that I disavow. I tried to have it scrubbed from the final production before it was aired on community TV.

    4. The blooper reel that I mentioned – where I faked a Dom Deluisesque laughing fit, because I thought it would make for a good blooper (who do I blame? Dick Clark, Ed McMahon?). The worst part was we had captured my co-star in a genuine laughing fit — where, as my back was to the camera, I kept making faces to keep her going — but our cameraman accidentally erased it.

    All we were missing was a good coke binge to round it out (I think that was happening on the other wing of the school in metal shop – although more likely it was weed rather than coke).

    • Dumbricht– Man, that’s a loss for sure! If by some miracle you’re able to dig that one up, please let me know and we’ll definitely feature it on the podcast! 🙂

  6. Missed this one last week. Here are my tops of 1987 that you did not mention:

    Planes, Trains & Automobiles
    Wall Street
    Beverly Hills Cop II
    The Princess Bride
    Can’t Buy Me Love
    The Secret of My Success
    Adventures in Babysitting
    Fatal Attraction
    Full Metal Jacket
    Good Morning, Vietnam
    The Lost Boys
    Raising Arizona
    Some Kind of Wonderful
    Summer School

    Hard to pick 6, but mine would definitely come from that grouping.

    • Old School– Again, great list! Although, Mannequin pains me to watch it and I haven’t been able to sit through it in years. We’re going to be discussing Adventures in Babysitting in next week’s (02/02) podcast episode #005. Hope you’ll tune in and maybe leave some feedback, letting us know your thoughts on the movie (the other one we’re focusing on is Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead). You can find the voice mail number here.

  7. Be sure to check out my interview with Keith Coogan who was in both of those films:


    Let me know what you think.

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