Notable Films of 1980
The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars Episode V): The other films in the original trilogy are entertaining (Star Wars), or have some really exceptional stuff but are really uneven (Return of the Jedi), but Empire is the one that makes it a truly great franchise beyond just having revolutionary special effects. It really expands the universe in great ways by greatly expanding Darth Vader as a character, introducing Yoda and changing what we think of when we think of what the force is, and teasing the emperor. The whole conflict that we see glimpses of in the first film feel a lot more dire and our heroes have more going on and their characters in general are more interesting. In the National Film Registry.
The Shining: The last Stanley Kubrick movie that pretty much everybody, without reservation or qualification, loves (except for Stephen King I guess). Jack Nicholson’s descent into madness is amazing to watch and is one of his best performances, and it also spawned one of the best Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror segments.
Airplane!: This disaster-film parody is one of the best and most quotable comedies of all-time that is simply a relentless series of gags that consistently hit the mark. It turned Leslie Nielson from a decent dramatic actor in mostly schlocky movies to one of the best comedians of the 80s with Police Squad! and the follow-up Naked Gun films. In the National Film Registry.
The Blues Brothers: One of the all-time classic comedies starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as brothers who are on a “mission from god” to save the orphanage they grew up in. Personally, the movie never really connected with me when I watched it a while back and the frequent song breaks and cameos were more distracting than entertaining for me, although the more action-oriented scenes were still great.
Caddyshack: A great year for comedy (and SNL alums), as we also had the all-star cast of Rodney Dangerfield, Michael O’Keefe, Ted Knight, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray in Harold Ramis’ directorial debut. Upon its original release, critics found the movie’s humor overly crude and all over the place, but it’s now considered a classic and probably the most beloved golf movie of all-time.
Friday the 13th: By no means did it start the slasher genre, but this one of the defining films in the genre and definitely reflections where the genre went for the rest of the decade than say, Halloween did. With that said, the movie does have some unconventional elements in comparison to later entries (the identity killer being one of them), and is probably the best of the series in terms of being an objectively good movie.
1980 Nominees in Review
Ordinary People: A- (Won Best Picture)
Raging Bull: B+
The Elephant Man: B+
Coal Miner’s Daughter: B
Yup, one of my most unusual opinions is reflected here-that the Oscars (and most every other major award ceremony) was correct in giving Ordinary People the Oscar over Raging Bull. While Raging Bull at its best is better than anything in Ordinary People, the latter’s consistency made it a more enjoyable movie to watch on the whole. The Elephant Man was also a strong 3rd place in what was a very good year overall (with one exception) and feels like a proper send-off to the last Hollywood golden age.
Up next for 1981: One of only 8 movies to be nominated for all of the Big 5, but come away with no awards at all; This film’s theme was played during every medal ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics; a film that won Oscars for its 74 and 76 year-old leads; *Indiana Jones fist pump*; and the last movie to be nominated in all 4 acting categories until 2012.