6 Must See Movies from 1986

January 14, 2011

by Joel G. Robertson

1986. This year was not nearly as difficult as the previous two when it came to making my selections. Not to say I didn’t have a wide variety to choose from, including barely remembered oddities and “once upon a time hits” that people struggle to remember.

Truth is, I wasn’t really sure what direction I wanted to go for horror, sci-fi, and action. For me, these have proven to be the most challenging categories. This is especially true for horror as it’s the one I grew up most slavishly devoted to. However, this list, while representing my personal taste (or lack thereof) is meant for you, the faithful film fan.

And as you’ll see from my choices below, all three picks from the aforementioned categories are almost interchangeable when it comes to genre definitions (okay, my action pick wouldn’t really fit in either sci-fi or horror, but it definitely falls under the larger horror/sci-fi umbrella of fantasy).

However, comedy proved the most difficult to decide on for this year. “Why?” you ask. It’s simple really. I asked myself, “Self, would the faithful film fans want to go high brow with picks like Paul Mazursky’s Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law, or Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters?”

Better yet (and certainly more my style), would you prefer low brow titles like John Landis’s Three Amigos, Allan Metter’s Back to School, or Harold Ramis’s Club Paradise?

Or should would you really want to go for the gold and champion some true (and unintentional) comedy classics like Shanghai Surprise starring then husband and wife Sean Penn and Madonna, King Kong Lives starring Linda Hamilton, or Under the Cherry Moon starring Prince?

The answer is: None of the above (although Back to School came in a close contender for the top spot mainly because it features William Zabka, an actor who perfectly embodied 1980s douchebaggery with virtually every character he played).

So instead, I decided you deserve the more unconventional and, hopefully, interesting pick for this category.

But these are only my picks and with all the great movies in ’86, I’m sure you have a few must sees to tell us about in the comments section!


The FlyRated: R; Dir. David Cronenberg; Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, and John Getz.

Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a scientist obsessed with his newest creation: a teleportation machine; however, when he tests the machine using himself as a subject, he doesn’t notice his fly companion and the DNA of Brundle and the fly are blended together.

The Fly Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Chris Walas, who worked on The Fly’s creature effects, also did the creature work for Gremlins and worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark, Enemy Mine, Arachnophobia, and Naked Lunch.
  • Stars Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis were married after making The Fly.
  • Director Cronenberg is rumored to be making a remake of The Fly. If he does, it would make him the first and only filmmaker to direct a remake of a remake that he originally directed (got that?).


Little Shop of HorrorsRated: PG-13; Dir. Frank Oz; Starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, and Steve Martin.

A remake/musical based on the 1960 Roger Corman movie of the same title. Seymour Krelborn (Moranis) works for a florist (Gardenia) whose shop is located in poverty row. When Seymour realizes that a talking Venus Flytrap has a taste for human blood, he becomes a reluctant accomplice in finding food for the carnivorous plant.

Little Shop of Horrors Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Director Frank Oz was a member of Jim Henson’s muppet troupe and was the voice of characters Miss Piggy, Grover, Bert, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Yoda.
  • Actress Ellen Greene (Audrey) was the only member of the original off-Broadway cast to appear in the film.
  • Jim Henson’s son Brian was one of the puppeteers that controlled Audrey II.


The Wraith Rated: PG-13; Dir. Mike Marvin; Starring Charlie Sheen, Nick Cassavettes, Sherilyn Fenn, and Randy Quaid.

After a young man is murdered by a vicious gang, a stranger (Charlie Sheen) shows up in town. Soon after his arrival, a mysterious car guided by an even more enigmatic driver begins taking out the gang members one by one.

The Wraith Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Actor Charlie Sheen appeared in the Academy Award winning Platoon the same year as The Wraith.
  • Actor Nick Cassavettes is the son of actor/director John Cassavettes and actress Gena Rowland. He went on to become a director of such films as Unhook the Stars (which starred his Rowlands) and Alpha Dog.
  • The car driven by the mysterious avenger is actually based on a prototype model, the Dodge M4S, that could go just a hair north of 194 mph and cost over $1 million smackers.


Stand By MeRated: R; Dir. Rob Reiner; Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell.

A writer (Richard Dreyfuss) remembers a pivotal moment in his young life: the summer of 1959 when he and three friends went in search of a missing kid who’s been hit and killed by a train. Based on the Stephen King novella “The Body”.

Stand By Me Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Stand By Me was Wil Wheaton’s first starring role in a theatrical feature film. Previously he had done television and had a small role in The Last Starfighter (1984).
  • Stand By Me was Jerry O’Connell’s feature acting debut.
  • Rob Reiner has directed one other Stephen King adaptation, 1991’s Misery.


Big Trouble in Little ChinaRated: PG-13; Dir. John Carpenter; Starring Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong.

Jack Burton’s (Kurt Russell) a truck driver who agrees to help an old friend (Dennis Dun) track down a missing woman. Soon after he agrees to help, however, Jack, a reluctant and smart-alecky action hero, finds himself facing down ancient Chinese supernatural forces.

Big Trouble in Little China Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • John Carpenter’s band, The Coupe DeVille’s performed the title song for the Big Trouble in Little China soundtrack.
  • Other members of the The Coupe DeVille’s are director Tommy Wallace (who directed Halloween 2) and director Nick Castle (who played Michael Myers in the original Halloween).
  • Star Kurt Russell has starred in 5 John Carpenter films including Big Trouble in Little China. The other four are Elvis (a 1979 T.V. movie), Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982), and Escape from L.A. (1996).


LabyrinthRated: PG; Dir. Jim Henson; Starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie.

When her baby stepbrother is kidnapped by The Goblin King (David Bowie), Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) must travel through a mystical labyrinth to get him back.

Labyrinth Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Labyrinth was director Jim Henson’s last theatrical feature film.
  • The baby who played Sarah’s stepbrother Toby was actually the son of Brian Froud, the conceptual designer behind Labyrinth and the Jim Henson-directed fantasy film The Dark Crystal (1982).
  • Actors Kenny Baker (R2-D2 in all six Star Wars movies) and Warwick Davis (Willow, Return of the Jedi, and Leprechaun) play members of the Goblin Corps.

Well, those are my 6 picks from ’86. I showed you mine, now it’s your turn to show me yours!

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

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