5 Phenomenal Movies From 1983


It’s been a few months since I did my last look at the movies of the 1980’s. I’ve been going year by year looking at the movies the made the 80’s such a phenomenal decade for motion pictures. Now its time to look at 1983. This was a year that offered a huge variety of great movies from stirring dramas to war-themed action pictures to classic sci-fi. With such a nice variety of movies to choose from it was pretty tough narrowing down this list. But after seeing this list I’m sure you’ll agree that these five movies from 1983 are absolutely phenomenal.

It was in 1983 that we were first introduced to the Griswold family. Clark, Ellen, Rusty, and Audrey have since become well known names in movie history. It all started with “Vacation”, a movie about the family’s cross-country trip to Walley World, America’s greatest theme park. They leave from their home in Chicago and make their way to Los Angeles experiencing one comic mishap after another. The lovable idiot Clark Griswold is still Chevy Chase’s funniest role and Beverly D’Angelo will always be recognized as Ellen Griswold, Clark’s high tolerance leveled wife. “Vacation” features so many memorable moments involving the beautiful Christie Brinkley, their cousin Eddie and his wacked out family, the Grand Canyon and more. This is an 80’s comedy classic.

I’ve had a real soft spot for “Uncommon Valor” since I first saw it back in the mid-1980’s. It’s certainly not what I would call a perfect film, but I’ve always loved the story and the great lead performance from Gene Hackman. He plays a retired Marine Colonel who believes his son may still be alive in a newly discovered POW camp in Vietnam. After being dissed by the government he assembles a team consisting of old military buddies and others connected to the war to go in and get our men (and hopefully his son) out. Solid performances from a fun cast of characters is a strength including an early screen role for Patrick Swayze. Obviously there are some conveniences needed to push the plot forward and sometimes you’ll have to suspend disbelief, but I’ve always loved “Uncommon Valor” even if several critics didn’t.

1983 was a good year for “Terms of Endearment”. It had a successful box office run and then went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The movie features a stellar cast including Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, and more. The story follows the life and relationship between a controlling mother (MacLaine) and her smothered but loving daughter (Winger). The film guides us through the biggest moments of their lives – relationships, poor decisions, consequences, and tragedies. The film is so well written and both its joys and sorrows feel deeply grounded in reality. I love that about the film. But it’s the superb performances which are the biggest key to its success. “Terms of Endearment” is a fine film.

I can’t imagine that director and co-writer Bob Clark had any idea that his 1983 Christmas movie would become such a holiday classic. But that’s certainly what has happened with “A Christmas Story”. This is the story about young Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and his quest to acquire the ultimate Christmas present – a Red Ryder BB Gun. The film is loaded with memorable moments and great supporting characters. But this is also a movie about family and Ralphie’s family is unforgettable. His patient mother, his annoying little brother, and his scene-stealing old man (Darren McGavin is fabulous) all help make this movie great. This is a must watch every holiday season. But “A Christmas Story” isn’t just a fun holiday feature. It’s a truly great movie.

JEDI#1 – “THE RETURN OF THE JEDI” – I’m a huge unapologetic “Star Wars” fan so naturally the final chapter in one of the greatest motion pictures trilogies of all time had to make this list. “The Return of the Jedi” had some weak points (yes I’m looking at you Ewoks) but it was still an incredible wrap up to an incredible series. The opening scenes spent freeing Han Solo remain some of my favorites in the entire franchise and the massive three-pronged battle at the end finishes things up with gusto. All of the characters end up in perfectly fitting places and the story finishes on the perfect note. Whether you love George Lucas or hate him (now I’m looking at you fanboys) you have to admit this was a brilliant finale. Well done Mr. Lucas. Well done!

So there they are – five phenomenal movies from 1983. Agree or disagree with my list? See any glaring omissions? Please let me know. Leave your comments below.

59 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Movies From 1983

    • Thanks! I like The Right Stuff and almost included it. But to be honest its been soooo long since I’ve seen it. It wasn’t striking me as a favorite. Scarface is one I’m really in the middle on. I know it has a huge following but I’m not its biggest fan.

  1. Wow! This is a first, Keith. I need help learning how to appreciate films from the 80s because I think they were few and far between as a decade (compared to the 90s or other decades). I thought Silkwood and The Right Stuff were okay. Supposed to like Scarface but don’t. Maybe it was a crappy year for me so it extended to the movies I watched….ha!

    • Always appreciate your comments! This was an easier year or me to do than the last two 1980’s Phenomenal 5 lists (check those out if interested). I really liked the 80’s in terms of movies but it also was a decade loaded with waste! Lots of really crappy movies found releases. But there are so many that I hold dear. But those were my teenage years so it makes sense, LOL.

  2. Ahah, that poster for National Lampoon is a hoot! I’ve only seen TERMS OF ENDEARMENT out of your list and parts of National Lampoon on TV. I’m sure my hubby would concur Return of The Jedi is worthy to be included 😀

  3. I have only seen three of the five films on your list.
    Lots of great films in 1983
    1.Evil Dead
    2.Valley Girl
    3. Flash Dance
    4. The Outsiders
    5. Trading Places

    I wish 2013 was shaping up as well as 30 years ago. So far I have seen 3 decent films and it is already April.

  4. Great Choices although I Prefer “The Right Stuff” as the Best film of the year over “Terms of Endearment”. Those who have not seen “Terms of Endearment” get a good supply of Kleenex, it is an ultimate tear jerker. I can’t disagree with any of the choices you list but I do notice that the film that launched the biggest movie star of the last thirty years is not on the list, and “Risky Business” tells you a lot about what is coming.”Valley Girl” and “The Right Stuff” are my wife’s two favorite films and they are both from this year.

    We went to a lot of movies that summer because we had no air conditioning and to escape the heat we’d find a double feature. “Superman III” was a terrible film but I saw it more than any other film that year because it was the second feature on maybe a half dozen of the bills we went to.

    “Jedi” was the biggest film of the year and I sat on Hollywood Blvd for 24 hours to get in on opening day at the first midnight show. No presales in those days, you lined up and waited at the box office. A frat guy saved space for his brothers and there was almost a riot. We got bumped to a 3 AM showing, but when we walked out there were only a couple hundred in line for the 6AM, so we got back in line and saw it again immediately. Then after a nap, we went and saw a 4PM matinee. “Jedi” three times on opening day, it was heaven. Hope you guys don’t mind the nostalgic ramblings. Thanks for the post.

    • Awesome thoughts! I didn’t get to see Jedi on opening weekend but I promise you, if I was with you I could have handled three viewing! Love that film!

      I mentioned to someone else that I liked “The Right Stuff” but it isn’t one that’s stuck with me. To be fair it’s probably one I really need to revisit. It’s been a long time since I last saw it.

      Risky Business was a movie I liked when I first saw it (a couple of years after it was released). Let me just say I liked it a lot better then than I do now. It still has a lot of nostalgic attraction for me but I just don’t have as much fun with it as I once did.

      By the way, no apologies for a longer comment. I love it.

  5. After a quick look at IMDB, it seems that 1983 is a year of film I’m not familiar with. It’s bizarre! Going through the list I’ve seen, maybe 3. Maybe. Return of the Jedi being one of them and The Man with Two Brains. But otherwise, nothing. Makes me go “huh”!

    • Hey Jaina! 1983 was an unusual year but some pretty good flicks came out of it. It’s interesting, you’re not the only one to tell me that 1983 didn’t impact them much either. Have you seen my Phenomenal 5’s on 1980 through 1982 yet?

  6. Pingback: Evil Dead, 500,000 hits and Jurassic Park 3D | filmhipster

  7. Wow, somehow I have only seen two of these — Vacation and Return of the Jedi. I’ll have to look into the others, especially A Christmas Story, which I am embarrassed I haven’t seen by now. The only other film that comes to mind that I would include is Scarface, but I haven’t seen that in years.

    • Oh you have to see A Christmas Story! It is so good. Terms is also a really good film. Uncommon Valor is probably more of a nostalgia pick for me (just to be honest)!

      • Yeah, I like the battle. The lead-up to it… not so much. It was better the second time around, but I didn’t like the glowing-red-eyed henchman, the monster, etc. The scene disturbed me a little bit. Probably just being over-sensitive, but that’s what my experience was.
        I LOVE the climatic battle, though (and probably every other SW battle).

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