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.
#5 – “NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION” –
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.
#4 – “UNCOMMON VALOR” –
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.
#3 – “TERMS OF ENDEARMENT” –
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.
#2 – “A CHRISTMAS STORY” –
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.
#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.