5 Phenomenal Movies from 1984

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

It’s been waaay too long since I last did a Phenomenal 5 from my year-by-year series. It’s time to correct that. Several months ago I started at 1980 and now we have reached 1984. Talk about a HUGE year for movies! 1984 featured so many films that became pop culture classics. In fact, the strength of the year’s movies will best be realized by looking at the great flicks that didn’t make it on this list: “Ghostbusters”, “Sixteen Candles”, “The Terminator”, “Romancing the Stone”, “The Killing Fields”, “Beverly Hills Cop”, and “Top Secret!” just to name a few. Like I said, talk about a HUGE year for movies. So considering that, it would be foolish to call this the definitive list. But I have no problem calling these five movies from 1984 absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “GREMLINS”

Gremlins

Was it a comedy? Was it a family film? Was it a horror picture? Well I guess you could call “Gremlins” a little of all. Regardless of what category you put it in one thing is for certain – it was a huge success and a fun, fun movie. Directed by Joe Dante and with Steven Spielberg serving as Executive Producer, “Gremlins” was a unique mix of several genres. It starred Zach Galligan as a young man who is given a strange pet from Chinatown called a Mogwai. The cute little creature is named Gizmo but he comes with three very, very important rules. Of course every rule is broken and soon the small town of Kingston Falls is overran with the vicious and violent offspring of the cute little Gizmo. The movie received a lot of criticism for its violence and it was a key reason for the PG-13 rating being implemented. But I loved it as a kid and I can easily say I still love it today.

#4 – “RED DAWN”

Red Dawn

Look, I know some will immediately start rolling their eyes at this pick and I fully admit that nostalgia may play a huge role in its inclusion. But I love “Red Dawn” and I still think it holds up today. Many people dismiss it but I still remember how well it worked back in 1984. Today the political landscape has changed therefore many younger viewers may not have the same attachment. But I still find it a compelling story that does a good job of creating characters you care about and putting them into an impossible situation. Unlike the horrible remake, the original did a much better job developing the emotions and relationships between the kids as they hide in the mountains after an invasion of their home town. They aren’t military savvy or skilled at weaponry. They just want to live. And that’s a key dynamic that worked so well for me. A great movie from 1984.

#3 – “INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM”

INDY

I realize that a large number of people had problems with this movie. I’ll also give you that this is the weakest film of the original three. But I still really, really love “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”. It has been criticized for numerous things most notably its violence and its attempts to gross out the audience. These things (along with Gremlins) were used to lobby for the PG-13 rating that we have today. But there are so many great moments and memorable scenes. I absolutely love the opening in Shanghai and the bridge scene close to the end is one everybody knows. I could go on and on. The mine car chase sequence. The room full of spikes. Harrison Ford is a blast as Indy and his sidekick Short Round actually manages to be funny but not annoying. Lucas’ story and Speilberg’s direction gel nicely and even though there are a couple of speed bumps, overall it’s an unforgettable movie.

#2 – “THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY”

GODS

If you have not taken the time to see “The Gods Must Be Crazy” you are missing out on what I think is one of the funniest movies ever made. Yes that’s high praise but I think it’s well deserved. This South African comedy written and directed by Jamie Uys is guaranteed to be unlike anything you’ve ever watched before. The story is actually composed of three stories that all come together in the end. Xi is a Bushman from an isolated tribe on a journey to throw an evil “thing” off the end of the Earth (it’s a coke bottle). Andrew is a bumbling scientist studying animal behavior near the Kalahari Desert. Sam Boga leads a band of incompetent bandits who are on the run. But the real star is the sharp script from Uys as well as his quirky style of direction. It all works perfectly to form an insanely funny film that shouldn’t be missed.

#1 – “BLOOD SIMPLE”

Blood SImple

The 1984 movie year is known for a lot of things. For me it will probably be most remembered as the year Joel and Ethan Coen made their directorial debut. The Coen brothers are two of my favorite directors and “Blood Simple” certainly launched them on the right foot. In fact, it’s impossible to watch “Blood Simple” and not recognize the familiar traits and undeniable style that would go on to be signatures of the brothers in their movies that followed. This twisting neo-noir tale changes direction on numerous occasions and it keeps you glued to the screen. A brilliant script (written by the brothers) anchors the film and some fine performances from Frances McDormand, Ray Getz, M. Emmet Walsh, and Dan Hedaya just make it better. There are lots of great movies from 1984. For me “Blood SImple” is the cake topper.

So there are my 5 Phenomenal Movies from 1984. I know many will have their own personal favorites. Please take time to share them in the comments below. If you agree or disagree with my choices, I would love to hear from you.

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40 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Movies from 1984

  1. Some interesting and actually quite inspired choices Keith! I agree with you on ‘Red Dawn’, which I actually only saw for the first time a couple of years ago (I have no desire to watch the remake).

    I actually had no idea that ‘Temple of Doom’ was that divisive but to be honest (don’t hurt me) I’m just not that ‘in to’ the Indiana Jones films!

    Oh and it’s obviously a matter of personal taste but I would have included ‘Star Trek III: The Search for Spock’ in the list!

    • GREAT to hear you really like Red Dawn! I thought I might get some ribbing for that one. 😉

      Search for Spock is very, very good. Just another testament to the greatness of that movie year.

    • That’s cool. I still remember the first time I saw it. It’s opening had us wondering what on earth we were watching. But then it subtly began to inject its peculiar sense of humor and before long we were laughing out loud.

  2. Keith, you have some great picks here. I just want to alert you to a project on this same subject that I will be starting in January. 1984 was a great movie year and I saw a ton of films that I still watch on a regular basis from that year. I will be doing a year long recap on a blog I am creating for that purpose, a thirtieth anniversary blog so to speak . I plan on doing a short post with some historical and personal references on each film I saw based on the U.S. release date. I hate that I don’t get to include your top two but I did not catch up with them until video releases later. (Blood Simple is wonderful) I only have an announcement and a quick poll up on the site now, but I will post the link here only if you are OK with that.

  3. YAY!!! I love that you included THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that movie! It’s a childhood favorite as I saw it w/ my family as a kid but when I watch it later it still holds up. Definitely one of the funniest but also heart-warming comedies ever. Xi the Bushman is adorable!!

    • Isn’t it just a wonderful movie? I still remember the first time I saw it. My uncle brought it to our house with a rented VCR. I remember watching it and not knowing what it was at first. Then that quirky sense of humor kicked kicked in and we were rolling in the floor laughing. So good.

  4. Nice list. Glad to see some love for Indy 2. I don’t really understand why so many people dislike it, not as good as the predecessor but a lot of fun. I haven’t seen Blood Simple, one of the few Coen brothers movies I haven’t watched. I’d only add Amadeus.

  5. I used to devour movies as a teenager in the 80s, so I’m quite surprised I’ve only seen 1 of your 5 selections, and that was Indy 2.
    As a reflection of my own taste I’d offer honourable mentions to Paris Texas, Repo Man and Once Upon a Time in America from the class of 84.

  6. Nice subject. For me, my Phenomenal Five would be

    1. Once Upon a Time in America
    2. The Terminator
    3. A Soldier’s Story
    4. Ghostbusters
    5. A Nightmare on Elm Street

    Honorables to Purple Rain, Gremlins, Police Academy, Revenge of the Nerds, Beverly Hills Cop, Sixteen Candles. What a great year for movies!

    And since you expected to get some ribbing for it, I’d have to list at least another 20 movies before I considered Red Dawn, lol.

    Thanks for reminding me I need to see Blood Simple!

  7. Great list, although I must admit I have not seen the original Red Dawn (I did see the remake) and Blood Simple! Will be adding these to my “to watch” list.

  8. Well, you’ve certainly made some interesting choices. I agree that The Gods Must Be Crazy is one that must be checked out, but I don’t know that I’d call it a top five film. And I do think Ghostbusters would be a top five film, especially over Temple of Doom, which — though I enjoyed it — isn’t strong enough to rank that high.

    • Oh I definitely like Temple of Doom more than Ghostbusters. It’s just a personal thing though. For me Ghostbusters is a fun movie but it never reaches that heralded status that many people elevate it to. Temple is still a really fun ride for me. Even with its flaws it has so many memorable movie moments that I can’t dismiss it. Regardless one thing is for sure, 1984 was a great movie year.

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