With a lineup of buddy cop films, charming baby comedies and a groundbreaking piece of Canuxploitation, it’s easy to see why 1987 is simply the best.
Welcome to Debate Week, the first of what we hope to be many weeks in which we open up a topic of a discussion to our entire team. This week: What was the best year in movies, ever? Throughout the week, our team will each make the case for their chosen year. Follow us on Twitter to place your votes on Saturday, April 7.
The best year in movies was 1987. That isn’t a question or an opinion, but rather a factual statement that is undeniably true. Some of my cohorts here at Film School Rejects will try and argue otherwise, but they’re wrong. Honestly, is anyone really going to trust the opinion of someone like Brad Gullickson? I’m not and I wouldn’t expect you to either. I know what you’re thinking, “If I can’t trust Brad, who can I trust?” Me. You can trust me and I say 1987 was the best year in movies.
Box Office Gold
While the highest grossing films in 1987 didn’t bring in quite as much money as previous years, the top 10 box office money makers did carry some significance. Three Men and a Baby took home the box office crown as it pulled in more than $160 million. This charming comedy about three of the studliest studs to ever stud setting aside their studliness to raise a small baby became the first Disney movie to cross the $100 million threshold domestically. The film spent 15 consecutive weeks in the top 5, the ninth longest streak of all time.
1987 also gave us the highest grossing erotic thriller of all time with Fatal Attraction. The film scored major points with the critics as well and racked up 6 Oscar nods, including a Best Picture nomination. The performance of Glenn Close as the psychotic Alex Forrest still ranks highly as one of the greatest onscreen portrayals of someone suffering from borderline personality disorder. And the film scores bonus points for introducing the term bunny-boiler into society’s lexicon.
The year also served as a bit of a launching pad for a number of the stars that would rule the 90’s. Before 1987, Robin Williams was a star on the rise with a handful of well-received films under his belt. But it was the release of Good Morning, Vietnam that saw him break through at the box office and cross the $100 million barrier. The film also earned Williams his first of 4 Oscar nominations. Likewise, Kevin Costner began his ascent into critical and box office stardom with the release of The Untouchables. This was Costner’s first film to make the top 10 for the year, something he would do three times in the decade to follow.
Oh yeah, and that Nic Cage guy cracked the box office top 10 for the first time with the perfect holiday movie, Moonstruck.
Awesome Action Arrives
Prior to 1987 there were plenty of great action movies and there have been plenty of great action movies since, but no year has had a higher number of great action movies than 1987. What makes this year so special is the variety of action films to hit theaters. Lethal Weapon, RoboCop, and Predator were all released in 1987 and they are arguably 3 of the 10 greatest action movies of all time. You can make a real strong case for Lethal Weapon being the best action movie ever. The chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover is unmatched and the Shane Black script is perfection.
While I love all three of those films dearly, it’s the lesser loved and more unknown action titles that make my heart sing. The Burt Reynolds vehicle Malone is a must-watch for action fans everywhere. Trying to escape his violent past, Reynolds ends up in a small town overrun by thugs which leaves him with one choice — destroy everything. This film is filled to the brink with shootouts and even has a very odd Mad Magazine reference. If old dudes blowing shit up is your jam then Assassination is another gem for you. Charles Bronson stars as a member of the Secret Service tasked with protecting the First Lady, played by Bronson’s wife Jill Ireland. In this one, Bronson’s character is named Killian and he delivers the line, “I don’t want to die from terminal orgasm.” Pretty hard to top that.
If you prefer your action to be sleazy, 1987 has you covered there as well. Andy Sidaris, the king of g-strings and guns, delivered his most famous piece of action trash in ’87 with the glorious Hard Ticket to Hawaii. If you haven’t seen this movie, you haven’t lived. Other notable sleazy action entries from the year include Cyclone and Commando Squad, both from B-movie wizard Fred Olen Ray.
What’s that? You enjoy sleazy action but also would appreciate some motorcycle ninjas and an 80’s rock band made up of members that are all proficient in taekwondo? Sounds like you need some Miami Connection in your life! This film may not have gained cult status until 25 years after its release, but it was birthed in 1987 making it another contributing factor to the greatest year in film.
City of Crime
1987 was the year that Jack Webb’s serious crime drama, Dragnet, was morphed into a buddy cop comedy starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks. The film performed well at the box office and was reviewed favorably by most critics and rightfully so. It’s a highly entertaining and very funny buddy cop picture with Aykroyd doing a great Webb impression, but what makes this a key cog in the greatest year in film is the original song “City of Crime.” The rap performed by Aykroyd and Hanks played over the film’s closing credits. It also received this magical music video.
Vampires and Demons and Slashers, Oh My!
By the late 80’s horror was rolling and when 1987 rolled around, the genre really hit its stride. The year saw two very different, but very cool takes on vampires with The Lost Boys and Near Dark. These two films took a classic horror villain and completely reimaged it into something hip and modern. Both films rank amongst the best vampire films of all time.
The year spawned a number of great contributions to the slasher sub-genre, and that’s without even counting any of the year’s sequels. Movies like Slaughterhouse, Blood Harvest, The Stepfather and Terror Night sliced and diced their way into the hearts of horror aficionados everywhere. The two slashers that rise above the rest are Blood Rage and Jack’s Back.
Blood Rage is one of my all-time favorite slashers and part of what I lovingly refer to as the Holy Trinity of 80’s Slasher Trash. This is a film that knows what a slasher should be. From the opening scene of a young boy brutally murdering a teenager with a hatchet at the drive-in to the film’s final frame this one never lets up. It’s a gory good time and the best Thanksgiving movie there is. Jack’s Back is on the other side of the spectrum. It plays more like a crime thriller, but at its core, it’s still a slasher. This modern take on Jack the Ripper features a young James Spader in dual roles.
Sequels had a big year in 1987 with a number of franchises seeing new entries. Evil Dead II, A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors and Slumber Party Massacre II all saw releases in ’87 with each being the best installment of its respective franchise. This year also brought us the end of the Jaws franchise with Jaws: The Revenge. While this movie hardly qualifies as “good,” it is unforgettable and sometimes that’s better than good. Plus it introduced the world to the tagline, “This time it’s personal,” and that is invaluable.
While other franchises added to their legacies, a new horror icon was born and a franchise launched with Hellraiser. Clive Barker’s directorial debut cemented his place in the hall of horror masters and Pinhead quickly became the stuff of nightmares. The movie was crushed by critics in the US with Roger Ebert claiming the film lacks “wit, style or reason,” but 30 years later and the Hellraiser films keep coming.
Sexy Sax Man
Did you really think I’d fail to mention the hottest part of The Lost Boys? If so, how dare you! I’m no monster!
Comedy is King
For those in need of a good laugh look no further than 1987. Broadcast News, The Princess Bride and Planes, Trains and Automobiles all bring the laughs in abundance. FSR’s very own Rob Hunter has declared on many occasions that Broadcast News is the greatest film ever made. Rob is right to an extent, Broadcast News is damn good and in any other year would likely be the best comedy, but in 1987, the greatest year in film, it’s mixed in the shuffle with a number of other great films.
If you want the best comedy from ’87, and therefore the best comedy of all time, that would be Raising Arizona. The Coen Brothers made their first foray into comedy and the results could not have been better. This screwball comedy features a zany Nic Cage giving a cartoonish performance that is arguably his best. At the very least it has the greatest foot chase ever committed to film. This also marked the first time the Coens teamed up with John Goodman, which is sort of a big deal. If you don’t like Raising Arizona, I don’t like you.
Beyond the 7th Door
I’ve already listed a magnitude of reasons as to why 1987 rules, but the number one reason is Beyond the 7th Door, a film I have written about before. It’s likely that you’re currently puzzled, unsure as to what Beyond the 7th Door is, and that’s ok. It takes time for a film this great to properly reach the masses. Fortunately, that time is now.
Beyond the 7th Door is an ultra-low budget Canadian film about a down on his luck thief trying to capture a big score by robbing the mansion of his ex-girlfriend’s new boss. That plan is thwarted when he discovers the mansion is littered with deadly traps. The film is carried by Serbian actor Lazar Rockwood and he’s easily the most fascinating leading man to ever step foot in front of a camera. It’s impossible to watch this film and not be completely mesmerized by both the existence of the film and Lazar.
Just this past weekend I shared this landmark film with Phoenix-based noise punk band American Standards. Now the members of the band can constantly be heard quoting the film. “Tell me about the holes” is a text message I’ve received from lead singer Brandon Kellum on 6 separate occasions since our viewing. I’m fairly certain their next album will be a concept album about Beyond the 7th Door.
I’ve given you a laundry list of reasons as to why 1987 was the best and that’s with leaving a number of films out. I didn’t get around to talking about Adventures in Babysitting, Summer School, Empire of the Sun, the Brave Little Toaster, and Opera, just to name a few. This one year contains too much good stuff. If you’re still not convinced and my words were not enough to sell you, then watch Beyond the 7th Door. Once you see that film there will be no denying that 1987 was the greatest.