5 Phenomenal Movies from 1988

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

As I’ve made this journey through the movie landscape of the 1980s, no year has had quite the variety of 1988. That made selecting just five phenomenal movies from 1988 pretty difficult. In some ways this list reflects the weirdness of that year which I guess is a good thing. There were several great films and several not so great but guilty pleasure movies. Considering that, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there is no denying that these five films from 1988 are simply phenomenal!

#5 – “Beetlejuice”


When Tim Burton was on his game he could make some crazy and entertaining movies. And that is coming from someone who isn’t his biggest fan. “Beetlejuice” is one of those films. You could call the movie fantasy, horror, or comedy and all accurately fit. The wacky effects and the great cast make the film so insanely unique. But it’s Michael Keeton who makes the movie an 80’s classic. Keeton lets loose with an assortment of verbal and physical comedy that still cracks me up today. I’ve always been a fan of his and often point back to this movie to show why. “Beetlejuice” is a hoot.

#4 – “Coming to America”


Remember back when Eddie Murphy was funny. After Saturday Night Live Murphy made his name in movies like “48 HRS” and “Beverly Hills Cop”. But one of my favorites from Eddie Murphy was “Coming to America”. It’s the story of a wealthy African prince who comes to America to find his true love. And where would a prince go to find his soulmate? Well Queens, New York of course. Murphy and co-star Arsenio Hall play a number of different characters in the film, all of them hilarious. There are so many funny moments and hysterical bits of satire. If only he still made movies like this.

#3 – “Rain Man”


Talk about a movie that hit the world by storm. “Rain Main” was a huge box office success featuring two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. But it didn’t just rake in a ton of cash in movie theaters around the globe. Critics universally loved it and it would go on to win four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor for Hoffman. The story of a self-absorbed yuppie (Cruise) who discovers he has an autistic brother (Hoffman) really connected. The two polar opposites clash but the story unfolds in a way that is both heartwarming and also informative.

#2 – “The Naked Gun”


Please don’t totally dismiss this list after seeing this selection, but I wouldn’t be an honest blogger if I didn’t include what I think is one of the funniest movies of the 1980s. “The Naked Gun” was based on the short-lived television series “Police Squad”. In both Leslie Nielsen plays Police Squad Lieutenant Frank Drebin, a moron with a heart of gold. This is close to the top of absurd comedies with more jokes and gags than serious lines. A great supporting cast including George Kennedy, Ricardo Montalban, Priscilla Presley, and O.J. Simpson all jump headfirst into this pond of hilarious nonsense. I love it.

#1 – “Die Hard”

Die Hard

As I look back over all of my Phenomenal 5 lists I’m surprised at how many times “Die Hard” has made its way onto them. Well here it is again and deservedly so. “Die Hard” came out during what could be called the action movie era. Bigger than life characters were everywhere in the movies of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Then along comes Bruce Willis playing John McClane, an imperfect cop who felt refreshingly different than the Rambos of cinema. The film also created one of the most exciting scenarios, a terrorist overtaking of a skyscraper. Such a great movie filled with great action and great characters. It had to be tops on this list.

There are my picks. See something I got wrong? There are so many other deserving movies from 1988. Which ones would make your list? Please take time to let me know in the comments section below.

49 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Movies from 1988

  1. No need to dismiss this list, at all. Naked Gun is one of the funniest movies ever, as far as I’m concerned. Actually, I love all five of these movies. Glad to see Coming to America wasn’t forgotten. Another phenomenal five from ’88:

    Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
    Bull Durham
    Young Guns
    Child’s Play

  2. I’d definitely have numbers one and two on my list as well – brilliant films. I’ve done a quick search on IMDB and I’d probably go for the following: 5. Mississippi Burning, 4. The Naked Gun, 3. Heathers, 2. The Big Blue and 1. Die Hard. I agree it was a weird, diverse year for movies – I also like Big, Grave of the Fireflies, Eight Men Out and Midnight Run, but out of all of those I only saw Die Hard and The Naked Gun at the cinema.

    • Very good choices. I thought hard about Fireflies and Midnight. Its funny, the ’80s had several crazy years like this, but ’88 seemed the wackiest. Good year for comedies. Funny Farm is another that i always liked.

  3. I still laugh at The Naked Gun and Scrooged, Cinema Paradiso, Working Girl and a trio of Michelle Pfeiffer pfilms; (Dangerous Liaisons, Married to the Mob and Tequila Sunrise) would’ve all made my list.

  4. Great list, Keith! I would add Dangerous Liaisons and Earth Girls are Easy (now there’s stupid funny for you), and because my kids were little ones that year, I can’t tell you how many times I watched ‘Land before Time’.

    • Ooooh yes. I forgot about “Land Before Time”. That was a favorite of my little brother. Great one. I mentioned elsewhere “Young Guns”. It’s a bit corny but I had a lot of goofy fun with it.

  5. Hey I’ve actually seen all of these and liked them all! YES of course Die Hard has to be number one! You know how I feel about the villain 😉 If only Willis would’ve just stopped at 3 movies and left it there.

      • I love the first and third film! It’s no surprise that both villains are Grubers, ahah. Both Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons are superb Brits so that might’ve had something to do w/ that 😉 I also like the bromance between Willis and Sam Jackson.

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  7. Great picks and Coming to America is one of those movies I will watch every time I see it is playing on TV. It never gets old….taste the soup! AGHHAAAA 😉

    • Thanks for checking it out. The Naked Gun is a lot of fun. I’m glad to hear from those who appreciate Leslie Nielson. He was such a funny guy. Last Temptation wasnt my cup of tea but i was expecting someone to mention it.

  8. Ahh, I love that Coming to America and Beetlejuice made your list! I loved both of those growing up (I was actually born in 1988!). Ya know, I haven’t seen Die Hard (shame, shame), but no doubt my hubby is going to make me watch it any day now . . .

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  10. I’m probably alone on this, but I just don’t see why The Naked Gun is so hilarious. I’m all for ridiculous, over-the-top comedy, but once I latched on to the type of humor that film was going for (stupid, obvious puns and stupider, even more obvious slapstick), it just got really dull and repetitive really, really fast.

    • Absurdist humor definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s in the “Airplane!” vein and I’ve always found the stupidity pretty hilarious. There were several that came out the including the two “Hot Shots” movies and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”. I got a kick out of all of those.

      • The thing is, I actually love absurdist, unpredictable humor (esp. “Airplane”), but “The Naked Gun” didn’t come across as either of those to me because the jokes, when they weren’t overkilled to hell, just didn’t have that much variety to them. I’m a lot more likely to laugh at something that’s totally unexpected and random than something I already knew I was going to see before I even started the film in the first place.

        Plus, that “will-she-shoot-him-or-not?” scene at the very end was especially disappointing to me because it was a great opportunity to mock an incredibly stupid and annoying trope, but for some reason or another, the filmmakers just didn’t take it.

      • It’s funny, I didn’t mind that final scene. Nobody in the world thought she would shoot him. I felt they were trying to make it as cheesy as possible. And for me that scene was all about Frank’s utterly absurd speech to her. I thought it was a hilarious take on the rom-com “love always win” silliness.

  11. I’ll admit that I didn’t pick up on the absurdity of Frank’s speech, but still, if the film was really trying to be a ridiculous and subversive parody, it should have done something else clever with the typical “love wins” Hollywood shtick instead of unironically resorting to it for no reason.

    All right, this kind of “goofy, inane slapstick” movie just isn’t for me, but I’m really glad a lot of other people (you included) have enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll even watch it again at some point, though probably not.

    (Also, for some reason, I can’t make this comment a reply to the above thread, so I have to start an entirely new thread in order to post it. It’s annoying as hell, and hopefully just a mistake that can be easily fixed.)

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