Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) | Steven Spielberg



The year is 1936, just before the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime.  Hitler has been seeking the long-lost Ark of the Covenant, the container for the original tablets containing the Ten Commandments, reportedly used by God’s people in the days of old to crush their enemies using its vast powers.  For over 2,000 years, the Ark has been completely hidden somewhere, and the Nazis are digging in one of the sites reported to be a resting place for it.  The American government seeks fame and fortune hunter, Dr. Henry Jones, to find the Ark before it ends up in the wrong hands, but it’s easier said than done, as he must not only face peril at every turn, he must bring along an old flame who no longer has much tolerance for the likes of Indiana Jones.

Harrison Ford would catapult to super-stardom after this one, with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas solidifying their place as they greatest blockbuster filmmakers of their generation. Can’t forget that amazing John Williams score, either.


The Goonies (1985) | Richard Donner



Sean Astin stars as Mikey, the youngest of two brothers who are about to move from their home in Astoria, Oregon because their family lacks the funds to stop a developer from taking over the area to expand a lush country club.  This would end many friendships with the other children in the area, which they’ve dubbed “the Goondocks”, and their crew call themselves The Goonies, who are united in their quest for adventure and shenanigans.  Things take an interesting turn when a map is discovered in Mikey’s father’s collection of antiques in their attic, which promises to lead to the secret fortune of the infamous One-Eyed Willy, whose cache of jewels promises to make them rich beyond imagination, once they get though all the pirate booty-traps (er, I mean, booby-traps).  The gang end up finding the entrance to the caves where the loot is hidden, but a rival group of thieves threatens to get there first, and to kill anyone who gets in their way. Steven Spielberg produces, Chris Columbus scripts, and Richard Donner directs.  Also features Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Jonathan Ke Quan, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Anne Ramsey, John Matuszak, Robert Davi, and Joe Pantoliano.


Batteries Not Included (1987) | Matthew Robbins



Real-life married couple Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy star as Frank and Faye Riley, the owners of a small diner in a dilapidated building that also houses their apartment in the slums of Manhattan.  The rest of the tenants of the building are being paid off to evacuate ASAP, so that greedy land developers can take over and demolish the building in order to erect some high-rise corporate edifices.  Those that refuse are being threatened with injury “or worse” by some local thugs that are also on the corporate payroll to scare the bejesus out of the remaining tenants.  Without anyone to turn to, a desperate plea may have saved the day, as a couple of miniature flying saucers arrive, consuming metal materials and then fixing up damaged parts of the building.  The saucers befriend the remaining tenants, although the thugs and land developers are determined to put an end to this new development even if it costs lives in the process.  Steven Spielberg produced this quaint sci-fi fairy tale.


The Blues Brothers (1980) | John Landis



The film starts out with Jake Blues (John Belushi) being released from prison, picked up by his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) in a used cop car turned “Blues Mobile”.  They make good on a promise to visit the orphanage they grew up in, only to find it is in danger of being shut down, due needing $5,000 in tax money owed.  With only days to go before it is too late, the Blues Brothers are inspired by a vision from God to save the orphanage, which they plan to do by reuniting the band they played in.  This proves to be a tough task, as all of the members have moved on to other occupations.  Not only this, but along the way, they manage to piss off the police, the Illinois Nazi Party, and just about everyone else they come across in their bid to make enough money to deliver by the deadline without getting caught, or worse.


Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984) | Sam Firstenberg



Somewhere underneath the never-ending music and dance numbers is a story about keeping Shabba-Doo’s community center for inner city youth (named “Miracles”) from falling into the hands of a slimy developer who wants to bulldoze it to erect a shopping center in the middle of the community.  This would leave the kids nowhere else to go, so obviously they choose to fight the city council’s decision to shut it down, but a window of opportunity exists, which calls for $200,000 in necessary repairs.


Breakin’ (1984) | Joel Silberg



Former “Solid Gold” dancer Lucinda Dickey stars as Kelly, a waitress by day, aspiring jazz dancer in her spare time.  She has the looks and talent to go far, at least according to her dance instructor, but this move seems to come at a price, as he wants a little action on the side to help her career.  She makes friends with a couple of local street dancers, aka break-dancers, Ozone and Turbo, and she becomes enamored of the mannerisms and moves of the street dancers.  They agree to teach her some steps in order to gain street rep, while she has a crazy idea to make break-dancing more mainstream in the form of a staged musical about it.  Alas, the conservative art crowd scoffs at the idea, as do the rival street-dancing crews who want to be prove they are the best of the bunch.


Style Wars (1983) | Tony Silver



Style Wars is a documentary look at the street art among the youth of New York in the early 1980s, especially in the South Bronx, particularly in graffiti art and break-dancing.  The film takes a balanced look at the youth culture, showing the artistry and thought involved in young people trying to make a name and impact by creating art for people all over the city to see on the side (or the interior) of a subway train, but also shows the frustration on the part of then-mayor Ed Koch, as well as law enforcement, in trying to keep the city from the blight of illegal art that often looks like gibberish to most people.


Beat Street (1984) | Stan Lathan



Producer and activist Harry Belafonte’s commercialized slice-of-life drama stars Guy Davis as Kenny ‘Double K’ Kirkland, a South Bronx hip-hop DJ with big dreams, and Jon Chardiet as Ramon, a Puerto Rican graffiti artist who would rather tag trains than get a real job.  Rae Dawn Chong is Tracy, an upper-class music student from  a college in Manhattan who sees something in Kenny’s proficiency with turntablism to want him to assist with her presentation on break-dancing. 


Wild Style (1983) | Charlie Ahearn



The seminal hip-hop film looks at underground Bronx art culture, including rap, graffiti art, break-dancing (aka b-boying) and DJing (aka turntablism), as we follow the exploits of a graffiti artist named Zoro and his quest to take his art and make it a living.  Charlie Ahearn and Fab 5 Freddy created this film to expose to the world the genuine artistry and talent going on in the South Bronx, with lost of scenes of the authentic underground artists and their phenomenal talents.  Imitated, but never duplicated, WILD STYLE is the grand daddy of all films covering hip-hop.


Krush Groove (1985) | Michael Schultz



The loose story of how Def Jam came to be, featuring the hottest hip-hop artists of the mid-1980s, Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys, and many more.  Blair Underwood plays Russell, whose management company is coming up with some hot musical acts, including Run-DMC, featuring his brother Joe, who he ends up losing to some rivals offering more money.  He gets into a financial pickle, while also romancing a hot funk-pop talent named Sheila, whom Joe also has a thing for. Michael Schultz directs this fan-favorite kitsch on hip-hop’s early days.


Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon (1985) | Michael Schultz



Taimak stars as a young African-American Harlemite who is a devout student of martial arts.  He lives kung fu, breathes kung fu and is so entrenched in the ways of the kung fu warrior, he stands out in his predominantly Black community for his lack of hipness and Asian-tinged wardrobe (he even eats his movie popcorn with chopsticks).  He is sent out into the world from his master teacher to reach the final level of his training to become a true kung fu master, involving a golden amulet and a master named Som Dom Goy.  Meanwhile, his quest is detoured by constant disruptions by a neighborhood bully, Sho’Nuff. who, along with his gang of thugs, are terrorizing the neighborhood.  Leroy also gets embroiled with an even bigger bad guy, amoral record producer Eddie Arkadian, whose quest to get his girlfriend’s video played on the hottest music show on TV hosted by singer/VJ Laura Charles causes them to get physical.  Leroy becomes Laura’s reluctant bodyguards, and the sparks between them suggest that they might have something more going on.


Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985) | Alan Metter



Sarah Jessica Parker stars as a Chicago teenager who works her tail off for a spot as a dance on her favorite dance show on television, but spats with her dance partner and a potentially rigged contest makes for a great challenge to success, not to mention her father will not approve if he finds out about her pursuit.  Helen Hunt, Shannon Doherty, Jonathan Silverman, and Lee Montgomery get supporting roles in this film that takes its title from the Cyndi Lauper song.


Hairspray (1988) | John Waters



John Waters writes and directs this most accessible of his films, his only one to be rated PG, with HAIRSPRAY, the film that made Ricki Lake a prominent star to be.  Set in 1962, HAIRSPRAY explores race and class in a mostly divided Baltimore, where teens of different races weren’t allowed to dance on the same show at the same time. Tracy Turnblad doesn’t see why they can’t all be one happy group, vowing to turn the local variety show to reflect the diversity of the town itself.  Debbie Harry, Sonny Bono, and Divine also appear.

 


Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) | Robert Englund



The sixth and final in the original Freddy Krueger arc finds us ten years in the future, where the psycho demon has killed off all but one of the original Elm Street children.  Needing new souls to maintain his power, Freddy plans to use the last teen to get him out of Springwood to new towns and new teens to murder.  However, his past comes back to haunt him in a big way, leading Freddy to have to battle for his life beyond the dream realm.  Rachel Talalay takes over the directorial chores in this lighter entry in the series.


A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) | Robert Englund



The fifth entry in the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series sees the return of Lisa Wilcox as the heroine, Alice, taking on Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) yet again, who has come back to haunt her nightmares through her unborn child. Freddy wants to be reincarnated by feeding the fetus the soul of Alice’s friends, and with the baby asleep most of the time, the terrifying dreams seem non-stop.  Stephen Hopkins directs this darker and gloomier installment.