6 Must See Movies From 1980

November 26, 2010

by Joel G. Robertson

UPDATE: And the winners of this week’s Insanely Difficult, Damn-Near-Impossible Movie Trivia Challenge are…

Trivia (Beast) Master: Peter (who managed to win this “coveted” role every week since this game started on Forgotten Flix!)

Trivia Warriors:  Maggie, Kylie, and Leon!

And the answers to this week’s game are:

F  = Inferno

L  = Something Wild

A  = After Hours

S  = Radio Days

H =  C. H. U. D.

This week’s winners will have their names submitted in the prize drawing. If anyone has won from previous weeks (Peter, Kylie and Leon!), then they’ll have their name submitted into the drawing for each win. I’ll announce the winner of the prize drawing on Tuesday, November 30, so stay tuned…


Ah, here we are at last… 1980.

And as we creep our way through the 80s it’s gonna get a helluva lot harder for me to pick “one” flick for each category. Nay, it will be next to impossible with the horror films… but since I’ve forced myself to stick with this arbitrary (and ridiculously restrictive) rule, I’m going to do my best.

Just like last week, I’m going to keep these suckers (relatively) short and sweet. I want to hear from you. Tell me your six “must sees” in the comments section below!


The Shining

A man slowly goes mad while he and his family spend the winter in an isolated and haunted hotel. Based on the novel by Stephen King, this Stanley Kubrick-directed picture is like so many other Kubrick pictures–cold and emotionally distant. However, Kubrick’s distaste for capturing spontaneous, “natural” moments (he was notorious for getting dozens of takes for even the most mundane shots) really works in The Shining’s favor. It’s creepy, atmospheric and, like all Kubrick films, beautifully shot and edited.

But if you’re a fan of King’s book, you should check out Mick Garris’s television adaptation too. While not as chilling, it gets the source material way better than the theatrical version.



Classic comedy spoof of disaster movies. This was the Zucker Bros. follow up to the Kentucky Fried Movie (which they co-wrote and starred in with Jim Abrahams– I mentioned it here). If you’ve never seen this movie, you owe it to your funny bone.

And if your only exposure to movie spoofs is the recent onslaught of the Date Movie, Epic Movie-variety, please, for the love of all that is good and funny, don’t use those as a measuring stick of what makes a good movie spoof. Airplane! has better jokes in its first five minutes than all the recent “spoof” movies have in their entire running times–combined!

Poster of "The Final Countdown" (1980)


The Final Countdown

While out at sea, the U.S.S. Nimitz, a nuclear-armed aircraft carrier, passes through a time vortex and finds itself shifted back to 1941. Specifically, December 7, 1941, the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. With an opportunity to end World War II before it starts, the crew must decide whether they will alter history.

The Final Countdown isn’t just a kick-ass power rock song from Swedish rockers Europe. No, it’s also a kick-ass time travel movie starring Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen. It’s been years since I watched this one, but I recall it being quite tense. Personally, I love “what if” sci-fi stories with that “Twilight Zone“-feel to them and The Final Countdown certainly fits that description.

Somewhere In Time PosterDrama:

Somewhere in Time

A playwright wills his consciousness back to 1910 where he falls in love with a beautiful theater star. You could argue this one is sci-fi due to the time travel angle, but the conceit of moving through time is more metaphysical that science based.

Based on the novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Duel), who is one of my favorite authors, Somewhere in Time has a great high-concept story and “twist” ending, both trademarks of many great Matheson works. The film stars Christopher Reeve (he made this movie after starring in Superman), Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer with one of the first on-screen appearances from future great William H. Macy!

The Blues Brothers PosterAction:

The Blues Brothers

Jake and Elwood Blues are on a mission from God. They set out to put together their old band and raise the money needed to save their childhood home. So, why have I listed this as an action movie and not a comedy? While it’s funny and light hearted, this thing is action packed. From the great car chases, to Carrie Fisher toting heavy artillery.

It’s the follow-up for both director John Landis (and it’s the movie he made just before An American Werewolf in London) and John Belushi to the iconic Animal House. It also features an all-star cast: Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, the aforementioned Carrie Fisher, and music legends like Cab Calloway, James Brown, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin!

The Watcher In The Woods PosterFamily:

The Watcher In the Woods

A mysterious disappearance in the English countryside years earlier, leads a teenage girl to suspect that something supernatural is going on in the woods near the home her family’s rental home. Okay, let me just say up front that the acting in this movie is pretty bad, in some moments VERY bad. And the final reveal of “The Watcher” is a special effects let down, even by the standards of the day, but there’s an atmospheric charm about the film that makes it appealing. This is Disney, but it’s a bit darker than you’d expect, and like most classic Disney movies, there’s a legitimate sense of danger for the main characters.

So, those are my picks for the 6 movies from 1980. Do you agree with my choices? Hell, I”m not even sure I do (especially the family pick)! So, if you have a favorite from 1980 you think everyone should see at least once, please tell us about it in the comments section.

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

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24 comments on “6 Must See Movies From 1980

  1. I know it is hard to define what category some films belong in, let alone pick only one from each category.

    Whatever category it should be in, I think Empire Strikes Back has to be on your list somewhere. If you consider it Sci-Fi, it has no problem taking that spot away from The Final Countdown.

    I love Airplane! but one of my favorite comedies of all time is Caddyshack, so I would have to put that on my list.

    I love The Blues Brothers, but I consider that more of a comedy than action. You could even consider it a musical. Definitely belongs on the list somewhere.

    I have always liked Superman II and Stir Crazy, but not sure they belong on a must-see list. And I would think many people would argue that Raging Bull should be included on your list, but I am not as big of a fan as many of that one.

    The Watcher in the Woods is a borderline Family film. Also, it was pulled from theatres after its initial release in 1980. It was re-released in 1981 after being re-edited and a revised ending added.

    Those are my comments off the top of my head. Fun topic to discuss though.

    • Hi Old School, Great points all! Honestly, I had more trouble with this year than any thus far. I almost went with “Caddyshack” thinking it may be a little less remembered by some than “Airplane!”. I didn’t go with “The Empire Strikes Back” because the idea that it might be forgotten by anyone makes me want to cry. However, I’m sure there are plenty of younger folks who, gulp, grew up with the prequels that may not have seen it. : ( Superman 2 is WAAAAAAAAY better than “The Watcher in the Woods” and I can’t believe I forgot about it! In fact, your comment is going to cause me to update this post! Thanks! 🙂

      UPDATE: I just checked a few resources and all showed Superman 2’s release date as June 1981 (I’m basing these on the U.S. release dates). However, it’ll definitely be showing up on a must see list (can you guess which one?). Thanks again!

  2. Chris Nov 26, 2010

    Let’s not forget the goofy little nugget called “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” So incredibly weird and unique but also simplistic and sweet too. Never saw the sequels because that seemed even more weird to repeat that again. This is one we stumbled across in the old VHS rental days and loved it.

    • Hi Chris, “The Gods Must Be Crazy” is also a must see. I actually remember seeing part 2 in the actual Mall Twin in my small town growing up. I also remember it was awful and nowhere near as enjoyable as the original. Thanks for adding it to the list!

  3. Tim Buchanan Nov 26, 2010

    Saturn 3 is rightly left out of these classics, but the camp in me must bump it. Not to mention Farrah’s wardrobe malfunction.

    • Full disclosure: I’ve never seen it, but if it has a Farrah “wardrobe malfunction” I’ll be adding it to the queue pronto!

  4. I had occasion to rewatch The Final Countdown a few years ago in honor of its 30th(!) anniversary. Still an enjoyable flick, even after all these years.

    Revisiting The Final Countdown.

    As for Caddyshack vs. Airplane!, the former seems better and more fondly remembered in the circles I travel, though that’s certainly not a strike against the other movie. And don’t call me Shirley.

    • That should say “few months ago.” Ack.

    • Hey Dayton, I suppose it comes down to a “style” choice. I think it might be a bit like comparing “The Naked Gun” to “Coming to America.” Both are hilarious, but stylistically they are so different that it depends on my “mood” as to which one I’d rather watch. That said, I came thatclose to choosing “Caddyshack”.

  5. Peter Nielsen Nov 26, 2010

    “Caddyshack” or “Airplane”?? Now there’s a tough choice! Very funny movies and they both had me crying with laughter, but as you say, they are two different types of comedy and as such depends on the mood.
    “The Shining”… Well, what can I say? A classic!! (…Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in…) Ya gotta love Jack!!
    “The Final Countdown” is still, as Mr Ward pointed out, an enjoyable flick.
    “The Blues Brothers”..? ’nuff said Love it!

    I’ll have to add two more that also belongs in the forgotten category I think:
    “Flash Gordon” and “Altered States”
    Yes, I know what you’re gonna say, but for the mainstream movie-goers “Flash Gordon” may not be so well-known. Only us nerds remember it fondly and applaud it for it’s greatness!
    “Altered States”? Well… I like it anyway!

    BTW? I’ve also seen “Saturn 3” and any movie starring the stunningly beautiful Farrah Fawcett is a winner…

    • Peter, I like both of your additions and I’d say other than with tried-and-true movie geeks, they’re both more “forgotten” than anything on my list!

  6. Tim Buchanan Nov 26, 2010

    Flash Gordon is possibly a movie that should not be forgotten. However very few remember it with any fond feelings.

    • Tim, I think lovers of camp and cheeseball fun remember it fondly. 🙂

      • Tim Buchanan Nov 27, 2010

        Understood and appreciated. Maybe I’ll give it another shot and add it to the queue. Peter did use the word “greatness”.:)

        • Peter Nielsen Nov 29, 2010

          Yeah, I DID use the word “greatness”, didn’t I? And I’ll stick to it too. I love that movie and you can’t get much more camp than Flash Gordon!

    • I remember Flash Gordon, cheese and all. Besides, it also has a kickin’ Queen soundtrack!

  7. I linked into this from the Friday the 13th post – at first blush 1980 is not a great year in film. For starters, it is why the Oscars are a silly exercise – although I find as I get older they do give me a list of movies to see for the year. Ordinary People over Raging Bull? While Ordinary People is a good movie, it is not one that every film geek must see – Raging Bull, of course, is.

    On to your list – Who would argue with Airplane – but Caddyshack, flaws and all, is a close second – – just for what it did for Rodney’s career alone. For Action or Sci-Fi — obviously you won’t say Empire, but I may say Superman II. Yes, most have seen it, but most have seen Airplane and the shining too. It’s also the best version of Superman filmed so far. I may even go with the Rankin/Bass Return of the King. Altered States deserves some honorable mention because it really doesnt make any sense.

    1980 also holds the distinction of traumatizing me when The Strand theater put on the wrong reel and instead of showing The Phantom Tollbooth, I got the trailer for Christopher Walken in Dogs of War.

    Final two thoughts or else I’ll go on all night:

    ’80 is not complete without mention of the Jazz Singer – great songs, and Olivier as the old cantor – and this was the Jewish Elvis’s only acting gig.

    ’80 also includes two movies on my never seen, but dying to list: Inside Moves and The Stuntman.

    Enough babbling

  8. Dumbricht– Good points and movie suggestions! But I’ll tell you, this post brings up painful memories for me. Why? Because like a COMPLETE DOLT I had forgotten all about SUPERMAN 2 when I wrote it and in some sort of lame-o attempt to seem “controversial” I went with BLUES BROTHERS for actions. WTF?!? Believe you me, if I had it to do over, or if I ever decide to expand this concept, SUPERMAN 2 would definitely be on the list as it’s without a doubt the best one of the series and one of the best superhero movies ever! 🙂

  9. Just read some of the comments above – Superman II counts in ’81 – you’re right have to go by US release.

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