As a child, dad had the most extensive and adored collection of family movies. We had a huge bookshelf that was crammed full with hundreds of VCR tapes (remember those?!). Kids from today’s day and age wouldn’t even know what a tape looked like, but when I was growing up, we treasured them. Only our all time favourites would be added to this visual library in our living room.
We frequently enjoyed choosing out a great movie from our collection and watching it either together as a family, or after school while mum and dad were over at the dairy milking the cows. These tapes were watched over and over again by us kids and we had our obvious childhood favourites, where the actual tape was almost worn out and the cover almost broken beyond repair. I think I could still quote these movies line-for-line, even after twenty years.
The recent tragic loss of the great David Bowie initiated this post as it brought fond memories back to the surface of one particular favourite film of mine.
Here is a list of my top ten ultimate movies from the 1980’s (bearing in mind that I was a child).
The Labyrinth (1986)
Sarah, a teenager, is left home alone by her parents and she has to babysit her little baby brother Toby. But the baby wont stop crying, so Sarah tells him a bedtime story and in the story, she summons the goblins from her favorite book, the Labyrinth, to steal her baby brother. When in reality, they actually do, she must solve the Labyrinth of the Goblin King (Bowie) within 13 hours or else Toby will become a goblin. She meets some of the most amazing creatures, both friendly and not-so-friendly, along the way.
The Neverending Story (1984)
I’m pretty sure I watched this for the first time in the cinema, and I still remember how much of an impact this movie had on me. The film involved a troubled boy, Bastian, who dives into a wonderous fantasy world through the pages of a mysterious antique book after being tormented by school bullies. He reads of a beautiful, doomed land named Fantasia. A brave boy (Atreyu) is asked by the princess to stop it’s mysterious ongoing destruction. Drawn into young Atreyu’s quest with his horse (Artax), Bastian discovers that the characters in the magic book can actually hear and see him. Can Atreyu save Fantasia, or is the princess really summoning Bastian himself? After watching this movie, I had multiple dreams of flying Falkor, the white luck dragon…or was he a dog? I am still unable to watched the sinking swamp pit scene, with beautiful Artax the horse, without bursting into tears.
The Dark Crystal (1982)
I grew up loving the main characters from this movie, Jen and Kiera; I can remember stating that if I ever had a daughter, that I would name her Kiera. That didn’t eventuate, but this showed just how much I loved this film and it’s characters. This movie was quite sci-fi and the story behind it was that during the Great Conjunction of the three suns, the Crystal of Truth is split. Thus starting a war against two races – the hunchbacked, gentle beings known as Mystics and the vulture-like, cruel beings known as Skeksis. In that moment the Crystal became the Dark Crystal. There is a prophecy that only the elf-like Gelflings can restore the crystal. Therefore the cruel Skeksis are out to destroy all Gelflings because this will take away their current position of power. In addition, they also like to drain the essence of the Gelflings and drink it to restore their youth (yikes!) Jen and Kiera are the last two Gelflings to survive. Only they can restore the crystal and ultimately bring peace to the world. “When single shines the triple sun, What was sundered and undone Shall be whole, the two made one, By Gelfling hand, or else by none.”
Flight of the Navigator (1986)
David, a 12-year-old boy, chases his dog into the forest and goes missing in 1978, only to reappear once more in 1986. In the eight years that have passed, he hasn’t aged at all. He has no memory of the eight years he was gone, so scientists insist on studying him and imprison him in an institution. It is here that he discovers a UFO and realises that he has navigational powers that enable him to take this fantastic flying machine anywhere he desires.
The Boy Who Could Fly (1986)
This movie teaches you that if you believe in somthing hard enough, and keep trying, then anything is possible. Milly, her brother and their recently-widowed mum move to a new neighborhood. Once there, they all deal with a variety of personal problems and Milly finds a friend in her autistic next door neighbor, Eric. Eric does not speak and has a fascination with flying since his parents both died in a plane crash when he was young. Milly observes him constantly sitting on the windowsill of his bedroom with his arms outstretched, longing to fly. Millie begins to suspect that Eric actually can fly, especially when he appears to jump from her windowsill to his and when he saves her from falling off a bridge. Anything is possible, right?
This movie starred Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah, and was directed by Ron Howard…need I say more? Every young girl has fantasized about being a mermaid at some stage or another, right? In this film, Allen (Hanks) is reunited with a mermaid named Madison who saves him from drowning as a boy, and then falls in love with her not knowing who/what she is. She changes into a mermaid only when she comes in contact with water, so for most of the time, she has legs. Great ones at that. Such a wonderfully romantic movie. Both Hanks and Hannah are amazing together in this film and it taught me that love conquers all and can overcome any obstacle.
In the dungeons of the castle of the evil queen, a prisoner gives birth to a child who, according to an ancient prophecy, will put an end to the reign of the evil queen. A midwife saves the child from the wrath of the queen, but is forced to throw her cradle in a river in the moments before her capture. Willow, a dwarf, finds and adopts the baby girl, Elora Danan. He then begins a difficult journey to protect the baby so that she can fulfill the prophecy. Willow then meets a great swordsman (Kilmer), and together they journey through a war-torn land of magic and monsters, to save a baby princess. Another classic which was directed by Ron Howard.
Anne of Green Gables (1985)
This was a series of three movies, which we continued to enjoy over and over. Anne, affectionally known by her classmate Gilbert as ‘Carrots’ is feisty, smart and witty, but hates her red hair. Although she appears confident in the public eye, she is constantly working on feeling comfortable in her own skin throughout the series. As an orphan, she was adopted by an elderly brother and sister and, during the series, we watched her grow into a confident young woman. She really was a “true kindred spirit”.
Growing up in a family of six, five of whom were female, I guess we secretly felt empowered by this movie. It was the ultimate ‘girl power’ movie and so for us, we watched this so much more frequently than the Super Man movies which were released a few years earlier. The main character of this film is Kara, superman’s cousin from Krypton, who comes to earth to save her dying city.
Pretty In Pink (1986)
Andie (Ringwald) is one of the not-so-popular girls in high school. She usually hangs out with her friend Duckie, who has always had a crush on her. Then she meets the new guy at school, Blaine (McCarthy) who is rich and popular. He is interested in Andie, despite the social pressure from his friends. Blaine invites Andie to the prom, but backs out at the last minute due to the pressure from his friends, but she attends anyway in a pink dress she made herself (as she couldn’t afford to buy one).
Even though I have such fond memories of the above movies and watched them all multiple times before I had reached the age of ten, I am still hesitant to let my seven year old daughter watch them. Some of them would horrify her or make her way too emotional. Were we tougher in the 80’s? Or are the children of this decade just too protected?
Were any of the above movies your childhood favourites during the 1980’s, or did you have another favourite that you watched over and over again? I’d love to hear from you!