6 Must See Movies From 1983

by Joel G. Robertson

1983. The year of the Jedi…

As the always insightful @OldSchool80s pointed out in his comment on last Friday’s post, as we wade our way deeper into that decade of decadence it’s going to get harder and harder to narrow down this list of must sees to only 6 movies per year. So, I’m thinking of some ways to change this list up. One idea I had was to include movie trailers, which I have as you’ll see below.

And don’t forget to check the end of the post for the winners of this week’s Insanely Difficult, Damn-Near-Impossible Movie Trivia Challenge top winners!

I also thought about including honorable mentions, but then I came across this simple, yet cool montage video that displays the posters of many of the major releases from ’83. Check it out:

Horror:

Of Unknown Origin – Dir. George P. Cosmatos; Starring Peter Weller, Shannon Tweed, and . A man must defend his family’s home from an intelligent, mutant rat. Was this actually the best horror flick from a year that also gave us The Dead Zone and The Keep. Nope. But it’s a helluva lot of fun, and you can’t go wrong with Peter Weller as the lead. Oh, and did I mention that Shannon Tweed has a shower scene? Wait, she’s in the movie, so of course she does!

Of Unknown Origin Trailer

Comedy:

National Lampoon’s Vacation – Dir. Harold Ramis; Starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron, and Randy Quaid.

National Lampoon’s Vacation Trailer

Written by the late, great John Hughes (based on an article he’d written for National Lampoon Magazine called “Vacation ’58″). This movie has more quotable lines and memorable scenes than you can shake a map of Wally World at. And to think this was only Harold Ramis’ second film as a director following Caddyshack… so much for the sophomore slump! Of course, he went on to make Club Paradise with Robin Williams a few years later, so… to quote the great Meatloaf “Two outta three ain’t bad”!

Sci-Fi:

Videodrome – Dir. David Cronenberg; Starring James Woods and Deborah Harry. After watching a twisted underground television show called Videodrome, Max Renn (James Woods) finds himself caught in a web of increasingly surreal, hallucinatory experiences.

Videodrome Trailer

Honestly, I could have included this movie in the horror category. Weird, disturbing, and full of psycho-sexual imagery, this is Cronenberg at his most brilliant and strangest (pretty much synonyms when talking about Cronenberg). Oh, and before I forget… LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!

Drama:

Risky Business – Dir: Paul Brickman; Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano, Bronson Pinchot, Curtis Armstrong, and Richard Masur. A Harvard-bound college student named Joel (Tom Cruise) must find a creative way to raise the funds to replace his father’s Porsche after trashing it.

Risky Business Trailer

It’s fashionable to hate Tom Cruise these days, and while I understand being put off by some of his public displays of weirdness, his star power and amazing charisma can’t be denied. And Risky Business isn’t just the movie that put him on the map, it (along with this same year’s The Outsiders and All the Right Moves) is what began his launch into the stratosphere.

With a fantastic supporting cast and an amazing, hypnotic score by Tangerine Dream, this movie has a mesmerizing quality that simmers with the sexual heat of an adolescent’s late-night fever dream. I suppose you could argue it’s as much a dark comedy as it is a straight up drama, but one thing you can’t call it is boring!

Of course, this really made my list because when watching it I get to hear Ms. De Mornay say my name over and over again… :)

Action:

WarGames – Dir. John Badham; Starring: Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, and Dabney Coleman. A teenage computer whiz (Matthew Broderick) hacks into a government computer system and “accidentally” causes the computer, named Joshua, to engage in a very real game of Thermonuclear war.

WarGames Trailer

Personally, I think Broderick’s character David was the inspiration for Ferris Bueller. From his cocky, but likeable whiz-kid swagger, to hacking his way into government systems, there’s just something so wonderfully anti-authoritarian and “Bueller”-like about him.

War Games is tense and believable despite its outlandish premise. It’s no “bang-bang, shoot-em-up” actioner, but it will keep you on the edge of your seat. Call me old fashioned, but I think the prospect of global thermonuclear war almost as frightening as a Spice World sequel.

Slight digression: I find it interesting that the “Action” category has been one of the most difficult to pick a title for. Movies that pre-date the Schwarzenegger-Stallone-Norris-Willis-Van Damme-Seagal action-movie era don’t follow an easy-to-identify formula like so many action vehicles from the mid-80s through today do.

Family:

A Christmas Story – Dir. Bob Clark; Starring Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, and Darren McGavin. A coming of age story set during Christmas time in 1940′s Ohio.

A Christmas Story Trailer

Okay, okay, I know, this is far from a “forgotten” flick. Hell, TBS won’t let us forget with their 24-hour A Christmas Story marathons every year. But I never said that the films on this list had to be obscure or not remembered. And since this list is entirely subjective, I’m including the story of Ralphie, his deep-rooted, Fruedian-level desire for a Red Rider BB Gun, his wacky family, and the allure of “electric sex” in the window of his childhood home.

A Christmas Story is a classic no matter what time of year it is, so if you have never seen it, or haven’t seen it since last year’s TBS marathon, I say check it out!

Well, those are my 6 picks for the must-see movies from 1983. What are your must see movies from 1983?

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

And the winners of this week’s Movie Trivia Challenge are:

W = @Peter_Nielsen

O = Jamie

P = Dr Walpurgis

R = @Peter_Nielsen

Congatulations!

Until next time remember, a flick is only forgotten if you’re not talking about it!

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About Joel Robertson

I'm the father of three boys and married to my high school sweetheart. I'm a former public school teacher (and still recovering from PTSD), reformed filmmaker, podcaster, writer, and fan of all things movie related.

10 comments to 6 Must See Movies From 1983

  • Hey, thanks for the shout out at the start.

    I love most of your 1983 picks. I am assuming that Return of the Jedi was left off since it is too obvious.

    I have always liked Risky Business, but my pick for Drama would have to be The Outsiders for sure. One of my very favorites. Another favorite worth mentioning is Valley Girl. The Big Chill is a solid here.

    I can’t argue with Vacation because I love that film. A couple honorable mentions there have to be Trading Places and Mr. Mom.

    I also certainly can’t argue with A Christmas Story for Family which I love especially this time of year. Another much less remembered (dare I say forgotten) flick would be Disney’s Never Cry Wolf.

    1984 and 1985 become nearly impossible to narrow down! Look forward to those.

    • No problem! Your comments are always insightful and welcome. Yep, I left Jedi off, not because it was obvious, but rather because I can’t except the idea that anyone hasn’t seen it! Of course, I can promise you that there will be some pretty obvious titles as we move deeper into the decade. And you are absolutely correct that 84 and 85 are going to be damn near impossible (but so are 86 – 90 as far as I’m concerned). :)

      Your picks are all good ones. It’s funny, I almost went with Trading Places and Mr. Mom was on my short list. Also, it’s awesome that you brought up Never Cry Wolf, which is a great film that had it been a different time of year, I most likely would have chosen. Thanks!

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mint, Joel G. Robertson. Joel G. Robertson said: Trying out a new format with the "6 Movies You Must See" posts. 1983 is ready for your viewing pleasure here http://bit.ly/fGh3YV [...]

  • “Who’s the U-boat commander?”

    And nice shout-out for Videodrome!

  • ANNA TO THE INFINITE POWER (1983) I remember, albeit very vaguely, watching this on TV back in the day. Probably my first sci-fi movie, not sure.

  • Darn you Joel Robertson and your 1983 lists. Last night, had some time to watch a movie by myself and was ready to knock off something from my must see list — would this be the week I get closer to becoming a Bergman completist? No, because I read this column and two words stuck in my head: “The Keep”. Some nice ideas and could tell it’s made by a real filmmaker. However, it’s oh so wrong – liked that Scott Glenn looked exactly like David Carridine, but that score by Tangerine Dream was in the wrong movie and was my biggest problem with it.

    I should have watched VIDEODROME (also on my list).

  • Dumbricht– Never seen THE KEEP, but will add it to the Q. And yes, you should watch VIDEODROME, just prepare yourself… it’s a (here comes the understatement of the millenia) little different.

    And how, pray tell, does one become a Bergman completist. Does it involve midnight visits to the boneyard, pilfering a certain beloved Swedish filmmaker’s tomb, and assembling his skeleton in your living room… oh wait a sec…

    You just meant watching all his movies, right?

    Nevermind.

  • Watch the keep only if you want to indulge in the following – a good cast gone wrong (Gabriel Byrne’s worst performance? Ian McKellan – probably under 40, with a 20something daughter, no attempt at accents). It’s a flawed 80′s movie, but no good.

    Watched first half of Videodrome last night (during halftime and time outs during Knicks/Heat game — says more about the length of a game than anything else).

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