Maybe it's the end-of-summer/back-to-school chaos or perhaps the impending Venice and Toronto Film Festivals are to blame, but Hollywood seems to have sweet-eff-all in the way of new and exciting movies these days. So we're firing up our flux capacitors and going back to the decade of decadence to help educate the youth and re-remind the middle aged. It's classic '80s flicks: Part 2.
Pump Up The Volume (1990)
Christian Slater kind of ruled the '80s (see also: Gleaming the Cube, Heathers, The Legend of Billie Jean), so it's fitting he closed out the decade with this stick-it-to-the-man masterpiece about an outsider high school kid who starts a pirate FM radio station in his oppressively boring small town. Preaching rebellion and playing real music (including an ultra rare Beastie Boys outtake from License to Ill), Slater also uncovers a scandal at his high school and even gets the girl. This one was actually released in 1990 but at least they shot it in 1989 and it's a perfect gateway to the anti-establishment gangsta/grunge decade. Interesting fact: Whistler once had a pirate FM radio station that was one of the coolest things to ever happen here until some federal agency came in and shut it down. What's wrong with Eazy-E on public radio at 5 p.m.?
The Running Man (1987)
This one takes place in 2019 and is about a reality TV show where prisoners (and political dissidents) are put into an arena and forced to battle mercenaries for the entertainment of the masses (long before there were "Hunger Games"). Based on a Stephen King story, The Running Man is three decades old but not really that far off from where we are today — think Survivor in an era of fake news and heightened spectacle where the line between entertainment and propaganda is blurred. This flick predicted the internet, Siri, and a police-state future for anyone who disagrees with the powers-that-be. Plus, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars, at the height of his pun/one-liner era.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
War is idiotic, but it never seems to go out of style so it's good to stay informed on the wars, or at least the war movies, of the past. Directed by Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, The Shining), this one follows Private Joker from the first day of Marine boot camp all the way into battle in Vietnam. A powerhouse film about the horrors of war, the problem with militarized masculinity, the hive mind, and how easy it is to access the essence of human evil, this one also produced the classic 2 Live Crew sample for "Me So Horny." Even if a new civil war doesn't pop off in the U.S. and we somehow avoid WW3 with North Korea, it's probably still a good idea to be on the lookout for dudes with that "1000-yard stare."
The Abyss (1989)
Everyone knows about James Cameron's classic '80s flicks The Terminator and Aliens but this one is epic too. After a missile-laden U.S. submarine goes down in the Caribbean, a team of SEALS sent to recover it end up in the midst of a claustrophobic sci-fi thriller for the ages. It's like The Thing underwater with a better cast. Killer special effects, too.
Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
First of all, Elisabeth Shue stars so that should be all you need for this one. But it's also a kick-ass adventure about a babysitter who's been stood up by her boyfriend and somehow ends up taking the kids she is in charge of out into the Chicago underworld (the '80s were good for so-dumb-they're-awesome plots). While Shue's character's salvation too often comes from dudes she meets along the way, she still holds it down hard enough to be a kick-ass role model in an era where women didn't get many leading roles in adventure flicks.
Howard the Duck (1986)
Speaking of so dumb, it's awesome, this one is about a super horny anthropomorphized duck from an alien planet who also knows martial arts and accidentally ends up in Cleveland, falls in love, manages a punk band and saves the world from a Dark Overlord. This one is super out there and was panned by critics and audiences of the era, but it's also a Lucasfilm production and was the first theatrical film from the now-massive Marvel Studios. So, even with a joke about a tiny, duck-sized condom, this one shows that everyone started somewhere.