Oh, the 80s. Oh, childhood. I watched a lot of TV. A LOT. Also, video games. Also, movies. Boy did I love movies. Anyone that remembers the 80s will remember that watching a movie at home was kind of a big deal. It took years for theatrical releases to make it home video, and took even longer to show up on TV. So when you had your hands on a copy of something back then, you watched the shit out of it. And that’s what I did with some of the films below!
These films kind of encapsulate the 1980s as I remember them. I was rarely a fan of live-action films, which changed once superhero became I thing I suppose. Also, they had awesome soundtracks.
6. The Land Before Time
7-year-old me was a dinosaur freak. I was dead-set on becoming a paleontologist. The Dinosaur Encyclopedia was an every day carry item for me. So, when I heard about The Land Before Time, I’m pretty sure it was the first time in my life that I ever fan-squeed. Then I watched the movie and was completely ensaddened when the whole Sharptooth and Littlefoot’s mom thing happened. See, I can’t even write about it, and it’s been over 20 years. This… this was *my* Bambi’s mother moment – except it played out on screen.
That, “If We Hold On Together” by Diana Ross just bring out feelings. Feelings, everywhere.
5. The Neverending Story
My love for this movie comes from a few aspects of the movie: Firstly, it takes place in an awesome fantasy world full of whimsy and danger. Secondly, Falkor the luck dragon is what I would wish for if I had phenomenal cosmic power. Lastly, I rather identify with the main character, Bastian Bux. He’s a kid with a tendency toward daydreaming, posessing of a huge imagination, that would rather spend his days indoors with a good book. Also, bowl cut. I used to have one of those. But seriously, there are some fantastic creatures in the film: from the Rockbiter, to the racing snail, to Morla, to the Southern Oracle, to Gmork. Plus, the idea of the Nothing just plain creeped me out as a kid, the idea of non-existence. It was the first time I was really introduced to meta-storytelling, and boy, after that film I enjoyed me a good mindfuck. Also, kid-Earl totally had a crush on the Childlike Empress. I later read the source material, a novel by Michael Ende, and that took my appreciation of the story to a whole other level. And that Georgio Moroder/Klaus Doldinger score – it’s so synthy!
Also, this song. It’s epicness is undeniable. Hair.
4. An American Tail
I know right?! Another Don Bluth film. What is it with this guy? Again, as with the previous Bluth film mentioned, this one starts off pretty heavy. Fievel and his family flee their home in Russia after cats destroy their village. On the transatlantic voyage, he is separated from his family when they think he drowned during a storm. Fievel’s family goes on to New York City without him. Fievel survived and makes land, after which he tasks himself with reuniting himself with his family. This film solidified what being lonely meant to me in the musical centerpiece of the film, where Fievel and his sister Tanya share a duet across the distance. The song, “Somewhere Out There,” later became the first song I ever learned on Karaoke. It’s all your fault, Fievel.
3. Transformers the Movie
Sentient alien robots. Not much else needs to be said, really. The takeway from this film, really, besides this anthem by Stan Bush –
is the lesson that “Holy shit, emotional pain hurts like physical pain!” Anyone who saw this as a child knows the scene I’m talking about: Optimus Prime’s death. The leader of the Autobots, probably the coolest/badassest robot in animation history, dies on the operating room table, accompanied by a rather emotionally wrenching score by Vince DiCola. Oh man, when Optimus Prime turned grey, I just lost it as a kid. Here. Check out the scene for yourself.
2. The Secret of NIMH
Oh look, another Don Bluth film. How sad and dark can we get this time? Loosely based on the novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, this film tells the story of Mrs. Brisby, a widowed field mouse and quest to save both her familial home and her ill son. I hear the book is much less fantastical than the film version, and even mentions the fact that the NIMH referred to in the title is the National Institute of Mental Health, an agency devoted to the study of mental illness. Good, good. That’s totally something a 5 year old should be watching. /s But really, I was drawn to the rather dark imagery and magical elements of the story, like that one time when Mrs. Brisby looked into the Time Vortex or something.
That, and the film’s main song is pretty great.
1. Conan the Barbarian (1982)
“Conan, what is best in life?”
“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women.”
Not exactly the best attitude to have… but he is Conan! He is destined to wear the crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow! This movie is awesome. If there’s one film I have to recommend you go back and watch, it’s this one. Really, it stands the test of time, I swear. After all, director John Milius co-wrote the screenplay with Oliver Stone. That’s got to count for something, right? And the Basil Poleduris score, it’s amazing. Really, it’s on par with (or better than) some of the more famous Horner and Williams scores from the same period.
Besides all the stuff current me likes, here are many things pre-pubescent me loved about the movie. Barbarian with a sword: Awesome. More swords: Awesome. Giant snake: Awesome. James Earl Jones with bangs: Awesome. Conan’s prayer to the Crom at the Battle of the Mounds, awesome.
I suppose all the stuff I remember the most is because of the strong musical choices. Whatever happened to that? I miss the use of strong, memorable melodies/leitmotifs in scoring. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen still, because it does every so often, but it seems that most of the scoring these days feels almost compulsory, like it’s just there to drive the action. Ah, what do I know?