The year was 1982 and it didn't matter what else was going on in the world. The whole world could have been on fire, lit by the torches of a thousand angry mobs and it wouldn't have mattered. World events were irrelevant. Births. Deaths. Nothing else mattered. The year was 1982. And it was the single best geek year of all time.
Geek cinema was at its peak and there was no better time to be in love with the massive vistas of science fiction and fantasy than this one particular year. Star Wars had sparked a worldwide sensation that had given rebirth to Star Trek and encouraged producers to attempt films based both upon famous properties as well as newly minted ones. Some would work; others would not. But this one year, this one, beautiful year, a seven-year-old boy living in upstate New York would go to the movies and dream. These were movies that would forge him into the man he is today. Even the ones that didn't take would somehow embedded themselves in his DNA. From Swamp Thing to The BeastMaster to Zapped! to Q: The Winged Serpent to The Last Unicorn to The Sword and the Sorcerer to Megaforce. It was all genre all the time.
Sure, Hollywood turned out some great non-genre films: Gandhi, An Officer and a Gentlemen, Tootsie, The Verdict. Great films one and all, but not a one of them made a little boy want to grow up and do this for a living. The following films did:
10.) Rocky III
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Stars: Sylvester Stallone
Why a fave? Buh! Buh Buh Buh! Buh buh buh! Buh buh buuuuuuuh! It's the eye of the tiger, it's the cream of the fight! Risin' up to the challenge of our rival! And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night! And he's watchin' us all in the eye of the tiger!
Director: Steven Lisberger
Stars: Jeff "The Dude" Bridges, David Warner
Why a fave? Talk about one of the most inventive films ever made. First of all, it is one of the first films to focus on computer graphics ever. Secondly, it has the single greatest video game tie in of all time. And most importantly, no one has ever even dared to match the hand painted spectacle that is Tron. It looks like nothing ever seen before or since and set the bar for creating unique, never before seen worlds.
8.) First Blood
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Stars: Sylvester Stallone
Why a fave? This was a banner year for Styllone. Not only did he wow us with another great Rocky movie, but he introduced us to what would become his signature character. No longer would people look at him as Rocky. Now he was John Rambo, disturbed Vietnam vet. Unlike the subsequent films (with a fourth on its way) this wasn't a film about a soldier fighting the red menace. This was about the struggle of a vet who loses his mind and takes it out on a small, redneck town that picks a fight with him. A brilliantly different revenge tale with no real heroes, only victims.
Director: Tobe Hooper (Steven Spielberg)
Stars: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams
Why a fave? While there have long been rumors debating how much micromanaging Spielberg did on this, both he and the director swear it was Tobe (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Hooper that directed it. Either way, this was the movie that scared the crap out of every single kid in America and became the modern mold for big budget horror movies. There are set pieces here so good they can never be used again without being seen as a knock off of this 25-year-old film.
6.) The Dark Crystal
Directors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Gary Kurtz
Why a fave? Not only is this the single best film starring puppets ever made, it also ranks up there as one of the finest fantasy films ever made. Originally slated to be shot entirely in an alien tongue, this film, while ultimately conforming to some mainstream ideals, still maintains a remarkably original aesthetic. I once showed this to my nephews who screamed and cried and howled that they wanted Harry Potter instead, soon quieted down and later demanded that my sister buy it so they could watch it over and over, just as my sister and I did as children. Pure magic. The sequel, due out soon, can't come soon enough.
5.) The Thing
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Kurt Russell, Wilford "Diabeetis" Brimley
Why a fave? While the rest of the horror community was busy ripping him off, John Carpenter was blazing new trails with this paranoid, horror remake of the Howard Hawks classic The Thing From Another World. The Thing set the new standard for remakes and to this day stands as one of the best ever. Scary, thrilling and even after 25 years, still holds up.
Director: John Milius
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones
Why a fave? Are you kidding me? The film that gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger? Based upon the classic pulp era fantasy hero? This movie is a big bucket of awesome served up with a side of kickass, and just try to listen to that soundtrack without getting pumped.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore
Why a fave? Not since Star Wars had the lines around movie theaters been so long. This movie is hands down the single greatest a boy and his dog story ever told. And unless you're made of wood, there's no way to keep a dry eye at the end of this movie. Just don't watch the special edition, even Spielberg admitted it is crap.
2.) Blade Runner
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Harrison Ford
Why a fave? This was Star Wars for adults. Anyone who felt the science fiction glut was targeted at children could turn to this pulp detective story set in a bleak future for a taste of dark, classic science fiction. Adapted from a short story written by genius Phillip K. Dick, this is the very best anyone's ever done with his words. It's one of the few movies in existence with two functionally different versions floating around: the studio cut and the Director's cut. They're both VERY different movies.
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
Why a fave? No, I'm not a Trekkie or a Trekker or anything like that. In fact, this is the only Star Trek movie I even own. But this is probably the greatest science fiction revenge story ever told. Taking a character from an obscure episode of the television show, we are given the story of a man whose life Kirk ruined and then sets out to repay him in kind. When all is said and done, Kirk loses his ship, his rank, but most importantly, his closest friend. Spock dies in one of the most crushing blows us movie buffs suffered in childhood. It was the first death many of us ever knew. Our pointy-eared friend was gone. It doesn't matter that he came back eventually. Spock's funeral was the first my generation attended.
Think I missed a movie? Drop a comment below.
C. Robert Cargill - - - Email Me
Austin-based Cargill, who not only loves but owns The Cutting Edge, writes on movies and DVD five times a week.