It was the '80s, so the films of 1987 naturally had big stars, big hair and big soundtracks.
The year’s most popular movie, however improbably, was a remake of a French comedy, “Three Men and a Baby,” starring Steve Guttenberg, Tom Selleck and Ted Danson, and directed by
Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor” took home the best picture Oscar over the
Other films made a lot of noise, as the soundtracks for “Dirty Dancing” and “La Bamba” topped the album charts, while “The Princess Bride” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” remain audience favorites 30 years later.
But the year might be best remembered for a lot of films that quietly made an impact and still resonate three decades later. From Oscar contenders that failed to rock the vote to smaller movies that we may have forgotten, here is a look at some of the year's gems.
Game of scribes
It was a fine year for writer-directors.
After establishing himself as one of America's best playwrights with "American Buffalo" and "Glengarry Glen Ross," and writing the screenplays for "The Verdict" and "The Untouchables," David Mamet made his film directing debut with the carefully constructed crime thriller "House of Games." Starring Joe Mantegna as a slick Seattle con man and Lindsay Crouse as an anxious therapist eager to learn the rules of the trade, the film featured the writer's trademark staccato dialogue delivered with deadpan aplomb by a slew of Mamet regulars such as Mike Nussbaum, J.T. Walsh, Ricky Jay and William H. Macy in a small role.
With “Matewan,” John Sayles moved from the more intimate scale of his earlier films “The Return of the Secaucus 7,” “Lianna,” “Baby It’s You” and “The Brother From Another Planet” to a sweeping historical tale set against a 1920s West Virginia labor dispute. Starring
Following his breakout 1982 film, “Diner,” Barry Levinson made a string of larger-scales hits, including “The Natural,” “Good Morning, Vietnam” and the Oscar-winning “Rain Man.” In the midst of all that, he found time to return to his native Baltimore for the character-driven “Tin Men,” a loose follow-up to “Diner.”
In "Hollywood Shuffle," director Robert Townsend and co-writer Keenen Ivory Wayans satirized an industry that hasn't changed much in the interim with regard to race. Based on his own experience of being deemed "not black enough," Townsend played a struggling actor who dreams of great roles, only to be offered nothing but slaves, butlers and jive-talking hoodlums.
World War II through the eyes of children
Legendary directors told the story of the war from kids' point of view.
It’s hard to think of any
Similarly, “Radio Days” is often left out of appraisals of
Louis Malle drew upon his own experience at a Catholic boarding school in occupied France during the Second World War for "Au Revoir les Enfants," a beautiful and tragic tribute to friendship and bravery in the face of evil. One day, the school's headmaster, a priest, introduces three new students, Jewish boys he has pledged to hide from the Gestapo. The film's protagonist, Julien, learns the boys' secret and bonds with one of them. As the war closes in, the life the boys knew gradually fades, leaving emotional scars that will never heal.
Another autobiographical film about the war, John Boorman's "Hope and Glory," detailed the experience of his family in suburban London during the Blitz and garnered five Academy Award nominations, including best picture. Like Allen, Boorman remembers the wonder and excitement of wartime, especially for children, even as German bombs rained down. "Hope and Glory" combined British resolve with sheer lunacy.
Year of the Rourke
It's hard to accurately describe the heat actor Mickey Rourke generated in the mid-'80s.
After roles in "Heaven's Gate," "Body Heat," "Diner" and "Rumble Fish," Rourke was in high demand, and he stepped up to leading man status with "Year of the Dragon" and "9½ Weeks." He was on magazine covers and cultivated an image as a bad boy and seemed on the brink of real stardom. He even opened a newsstand/soda fountain/biker hangout in Beverly Hills called Mickey and Joey's.
Ruggedly handsome before boxing and surgery took their toll, Rourke had a trio of movies in 1987 that represent the crest of his movie stardom. Seen in order of their release, they're a kind of Rorschach test on the essence of Rourke. You either see the same stringy haired guy growling his way through the three roles, or you appreciate the full spectrum of Mickeyness on display.
The voodoo noir of “Angel Heart” should have been a great showcase for Rourke allowing him to square off against
“A Prayer for the Dying” features Rourke as a broguing IRA assassin trying to get out. It’s a murky thriller that director Mike Hodges tried to get his name removed from, but it’s a kick watching a ginger-dyed Rourke tangle with British pros
"Barfly" is peak Rourke, with the actor playing alcoholic writer Henry Chinaski, an alter ego for the film's screenwriter, Charles Bukowski. Directed by Barbet Schroeder, the film follows Chinaski as he drinks his way across East Hollywood's seamier bars, matched glass for glass by fellow lush Faye Dunaway until a sexy literary patron played by Alice Krige takes an interest in Henry. Rourke fully inhabits the character and the demimonde, bringing a brio and authenticity usually lacking in most cinematic drunks.
Some other memorable moments that emerged while compiling this: