One thing we at Place to Be Nation like to celebrate is the subjectivity inherent in entertainment — be it in wrestling, comics, music, television or, indeed, film. With that in mind, ten members of the PTBN staff will be picking the movies of the PTB generation. In this series, panel members will collect their five favorite films of each year, beginning with the year in which the oldest writer was born — 1976. The only rule given to each contributor was to provide his or her own criteria. Some writers may go with the most artistic films, while others might side with the most iconic blockbusters. We welcome your lists on Facebook and Twitter. Each staff member has submitted a list of five movies from 1986 ranked 1 through 5. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote worth four points, and so on. Using that point system, we have identified the top 5 movies of 1986.
1986 had perhaps the greatest divide among the panel so far, resulting in six different films receiving number one votes and the overall winner receiving the fewest points of any year-end winner yet. But before we reveal the top 5, let’s see the movies that received votes, but fell short of making our final list.
Top Gun — 8 points
Blue Velvet — 8 points
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off — 8 points
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home — 8 points
Back to School — 7 points
Stand by Me— 6 points
Pretty in Pink — 5 points
Labyrinth — 5 points
The Great Mouse Detective — 4 points
Hoosiers — 4 points
Crocodile Dundee — 4 points
Little Shop of Horrors — 3 points
Flight of the Navigator — 2 points
Critters — 2 points
The Karate Kid Part II — 2 points
An American Tail — 1 point
Children of a Lesser God — 1 point
And now, let’s see the top 5 movies of 1986, as voted by the Place to Be Nation staff.
9 points, ranked by 3 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Greg Phillips at No. 2
Greg Phillips: Because of the cinema, I’ve always had a fascination with Scotland. I don’t, to me knowledge, have any family roots there. I’ve never even come close to visiting there. But something about it has always drawn me in. It’s probably the country I’d most like to visit, and one of the main reasons is the beautiful landscape in Highlander, one of my favorite sci-fi action films.
I love virtually everything about this movie — the casting, the cinematography, the plot, the script, the score, the Fabulous Freebirds, you name it. But most of all, I just love the beauty of Scotland in those flashback sequences to a young Connor MacLeod.
It’s a classic story of a man who has what many would call a gift but is actually a curse — immortality. Connor has loved and lost so many times that he’s afraid of losing anyone else. Connor and his fellow immortals are in a fatalistic survival game where the “prize” at the end is mortality. The nature and origin of this game and the “gift” are left intentionally vague, and that’s to the film’s credit. Too often, especially today, movies reveal so much that they leave no room for the audience’s imagination. In any event, Highlander works on numerous levels — as a classic swashbuckling action film, a buddy comedy between lead actors Christopher Lambert and the amazing Sean Connery, an epic revenge tale thanks to the villainous turn by Clancy Brown as the Kurgan, and a wonderful romance.
4. The Transformers: The Movie
10 points, ranked by 2 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Anthony Estrada and Aaron George at No. 1
Aaron George: It will take a tremendous amount of self-control to not write 2000 words about how much I love this movie. On top of it being great, it’s also the very first movie my dad took me to see in the theatre. Needless to say, it has a ton of sentimental value for me.
Right from the start I knew I was in for something special. The ominous music of Unicron blasted through the speakers and I was terrified. We had never seen a Transformer like Unicron, and we’d never seen a movie version of our favorite show like this. There are so many great moments in the movie, and they are almost all made better with an amazing soundtrack of fantastically cheesy rock songs and an amazingly cheesy score by Vince DiCola. Stan Bush gives us “Dare” and “The Touch” which would become integral parts of my young theatre school days as my buddies and I would recreate the race to lookout mountain as a vocal warm-up. Seeing Optimus Prime come and save the day and battle Megatron to “The Touch” still sends an embarrassing shiver up my spine and is one of the most epic battles in cartoon history.
Prime: “One shall stand, one shall fall.”
Megatron: “Why throw away your life so recklessly?”
Prime: “That’s a question you should ask yourself Megatron.”
Michael Bay wishes he had such awesome lines in his movies.
And the thing is, one DOES fall. They make the balls out choice to kill off their number one hero. Prime and a little part of all our childhoods died the day we realized our heroes could perish. Sure the reason they were killing so many of them off was so they could sell new and different toys, but all was forgiven because the new characters were awesome. Ultra Magnus (“Open Damnit”), Hot Rod, Blurr and even the cranky old man Kup were great additions to the cast. Admittedly the toys they produced were also fantastic too.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some great moments of comedy. The Decepticon fight for leadership after Starscream throws Megatron out of Astrotrain was not only fantastically petty but taught us the meaning of the word uncrazimatic. Starscream’s coronation slash destruction was also a great piece of business.
Robert Stack, Eric Idle and Leonard Nemoy lend their voices to the film and do a tremendous job, but it’s Orson Wells, in his final cinematic performance, who steals the show as the aforementioned Unicron. The man who gave us Citizen Kane capped off his career with this. I’m going to delude myself into thinking he’d be proud of this. The infusion of new talent with all the voices we’d come to recognize really gave the movie a big time feel.
Let’s face it. This is the best Transformers film ever made. Why? It’s a simple story about badass robots fighting one another set to some great music. You won’t see and robots sneaking around some kid’s backyard trying to avoid his parents. You won’t see a handful of marines holding their own against a giant scorpion robot. You know what would happen to those marines in this movie? They’d say “Shit what are we going to do now?” And then they’d be eaten by the giant planet eating robot. It’s a fun story that makes sense and doesn’t make you want to put a bullet in your brain because the dialogue and story are the stupidest things you’ve ever heard in your life. I know I’m unabashedly biased towards this movie, but I say without a trace of shame: see this movie, listen to the soundtrack and remember what it’s like to be a kid seeing something you love done the right way: with creativity, passion and love of the source material. If you like the Michael Bay movies more I will put on “The Touch” and fight you.
3. The Fly
12 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke and Anthony Estrada at No. 2
Anthony Estrada: Paranoid and aggressive. Narcissistic and self-destructive. These traits describe the title creature in The Fly. They also describe Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), an awkward genius whose hubris and misfortune cause him to transform into a monster. But how much transformation actually occurs?
Brundle has invented telepods, real-life teleportation devices. His life is his work – no friends, family or furniture to be found. But Brundle’s a resourceful guy. He meets beautiful journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) at a fancy scientist party, the kind one is always reading about, and entices her back his bohemian loft/laboratory with the promise of an invention which will change the world. Veronica is reluctant at first, but eventually succumbs to Brundle’s eager intensity and persistence. She becomes the first person with whom he shares his creation, which is very impressive but seriously flawed – it can only teleport inanimate objects. Nevertheless, she sleeps with him anyway and the two fall in love.
This would be sufficient for most, but not for Brundle. He’s obsessed with programming the telepods to teleport living flesh. Fortunately, he has a surprisingly deep stash of baboons to use as test subjects. Brundle eventually performs a successful teleportation on one, but becomes distressed when Veronica leaves him to confront an ex-boyfriend threatening to reveal his discovery. Brundle misinterprets her actions and drinks himself into a rage. Fifteen years prior to the advent of drunk texting, he performs the closest equivalent and orchestrates the instantaneous disintegration of his living matter. He’s reassembled across the room and the computer monitor indicates that his teleportation was a success. It fails to mention that a fly was present with him in the telepod. What follows is one of the most unsettling, visceral and tragic science fiction stories I’ve ever seen.
18 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Greg Phillips and Andrew Woltman at No. 1
Andrew Woltman: In recent years, Oliver Stone may have lost his touch, but the 80’s were his time to shine. Based on his own experiences in Vietnam, Platoon is a heart wrenchingly deep and human look at the soldiers on the ground. It’s not simply a war of nations, it’s also a war of ideals between Tom Berenger’s Sergeant Barnes and Willem Dafoe as Sergeant Elias. And caught somewhere in the middle is Charlie Sheen’s Private Taylor.
The sheer amount of talent in everyone involved threatens to overwhelm, but it’s all put into play so nicely when push comes to shove and young men put their lives on the line during the most controversial Pre-George W Bush war. You’ll feel like you’re down in the foxhole with the troops, and it’s a surreal and gritty feeling.
22 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke and Russell Sellers at No. 1
Nick Duke: As we’ll eventually discuss in more detail once we reach the early 90s, James Cameron is a bit of an expert when it comes to following up all-time classic sci-fi horror films with sequels that largely ditch the horror in favor of all-out action. Much like Cameron would later do with his own Terminator franchise, in 1986, Cameron’s Aliens was released as the follow-up to our No. 1 film of 1979, Alien.
While Ridley Scott’s film focused on just one titular creature and spent a large portion of the film building dread and anticipation, Aliens is more like a roller-coaster ride. Sure, it takes a little while to get up that first hill, but once you do, you’re in for the ride of a lifetime. Sigourney Weaver returns as Ripley, this time in a bit of a “Ripley Van Winkle” role as the woman out of time. Her transport from the previous film had drifted in space for decades, leaving her in suspended animation until being rescued by the Weyland-Yutani corporation. Once Ripley awakens, the plot is set in motion. Back on LV426 — the planetoid where the Alien eggs were discovered in the first film — a human colony has lost contact, and Ripley is tasked with accompanying a team of Colonial Marines to find out what happened.
While I prefer the first film, one area in which Cameron provides a clear upgrade is in Ripley herself. We find out much more about Ellen Ripley, and learn she has now lost a daughter she never got to see grow up. However, she forms a motherly bond with the colony’s sole survivor, a young girl nicknamed Newt. In addition to Newt, we also get great supporting performances from Paul Reiser as Burke, Michael Biehn as Hicks and Lance Henriksen as the android Bishop. I won’t go so far as to call Bill Paxton’s portrayal of Hudson a great performance, but it’s certainly memorable (Game over, man!)
In any event, the film unleashes a series of heart-pounding action scenes, all building to a final conclusion between Ripley and a new breed of Alien not seen in the first film. In the end, Aliens proved to be the franchise’s last great gasp, as future installments did nothing but underwhelm. Perhaps future sequels to Prometheus can return the sense of wonder and fun that Aliens captured so perfectly, but I’m not holding my breath.
That does it for 1986. To see the full breakdown of all 10 ballots, click here. Check back soon to see the staff’s top 5 movies of 1987!