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 1982 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 1982.
1982 had the most parity yet, as the No. 1 film finished with just 27 points and a new high of 22 movies received votes. But before we reveal the top 5, let’s see the movies that received votes, but fell short of making our final list.
First Blood — 9 points
Conan the Barbarian — 9 points
Poltergeist — 8 points
Annie — 7 points
The Secret of NIMH — 6 points
Airplane II: The Sequel — 4 points
Creepshow — 3 points
Silent Rage — 3 points
Blade Runner — 2 points
Ghandi — 2 points
Night Shift — 2 points
48 Hrs. — 1 point
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas — 1 point
Diner — 1 point
Porky’s — 1 point
Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip — 1 point
The Toy — 1 point
And now, let’s see the top 5 movies of 1982, as voted by the Place to Be Nation staff.
5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
11 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Steve Wille at No. 1
Steve Wille: Whenever I hear something described as a “coming-of-age story,” my eyebrows raise in excited anticipation. And Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the seminal (ahem) early 80s teen classic, was my first. At times touching, at times raunchy, mixed in with more than a dash of pathetic teenage ignorance, director Amy Heckerling’s movie explores high school student’s forays into love, lust, and exploration.
The cast of young future stars shines, specifically Jennifer Jason Leigh as the lead character whose sexual experimentation threatens to completely change her personality. Sean Penn’s stoner Jeff Spicoli (I almost typed Louie) essentially creates an archetypical character, and Phoebe Cates appears in one of the most iconic scenes of the 1980s. And, wait, was that Nicholas Cage and Anthony Edwards?
Although it was originally released to mixed reviews, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, based off the novel by another future star, Cameron Crowe, continues to live on as a much beloved cult classic.
13 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler and Anthony Estrada at No. 2
Anthony Estrada: Before Mrs. Doubtfire, there was Tootsie – a struggling male who disguises and presents himself as a woman in order to gain personal/professional advantage and, in the process, grows as a person (Note: Before Tootsie there was Some Like It Hot, but that movie predates the Place to Be generation and, for the purposes of this review, doesn’t exist. Sorry Jack Lemon).
Tootsie is the story of Michael Dorsey, an unemployed actor whose big mouth and inability to take direction keep him from landing roles. Well, that and the fact he’s only 5’5’’, incidentally the same height as Dustin Hoffman, the actor portraying him. Hoffman is in his prime here. He infuses Dorsey with passion and talent; Dorsey deserves to succeed. Hoffman also saddles him with impatience and hostility, so we understand why he doesn’t.
Frustrated by his failures, Dorsey auditions for a role in a daytime soap opera. A female role. Surprisingly, he kills it at the audition and gets the part. Even more surprisingly, he becomes a huge success and achieves national notoriety under the guise of his alternate identity. The movie follows Dorsey as he navigates fame, professional conflict and burgeoning relationships, all while trying to maintain his secret.
There are solid supporting performances throughout the film, especially by the actors playing actors. These include Jessica Lange, Teri Garr and Bill Murray, who steals each of his few scenes. The tone is satirical without compromising the reality of the characters. The humor comes from their believable reactions to absurd circumstances. It has interesting, thoughtful things to say about gender, friendship and the television industry without becoming preachy or sacrificing entertainment. Whatever cross-dressing vehicles the future may bring (Kevin Hart + gray wig/glasses = $$$?), Tootsie set the bar pretty high.
3. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
18 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler and Greg Phillips at No. 1
Glenn Butler: The first Star Trek movie was a commercial success but a production mess, with a budget that had to absorb the cost of every attempt to resurrect the TV show throughout the 70s and a visual effects team that, while they produced fantastic visuals, came so close to the release deadline that some sequences were dropped into the film unedited. While Paramount knew they’d be making a sequel, the powers that be decided that it would be made on a much tighter budget and that it wouldn’t be made by the same people — Gene Roddenberry, Great Bird of the Galaxy though he may be, was all but completely out of the picture, and new producer Harve Bennett brought in Nick Meyer to both direct the new movie and create a coherent script from a pile of jumbled drafts. Doug Trumbull’s VFX team was out, replaced by Industrial Light & Magic. Jerry Goldsmith was replaced as composer by James Horner, in the assignment that defined the early part of his storied career. The result is in many people’s minds the best Star Trek feature film, and certainly the one that’s penetrated the mainstream culture the most: countless people can peel off a good KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN, for instance, and many of them probably even know where it came from.
Themes of age, nostalgia, and regret run through the movie. The Enterprise is being used as a training ship for raw cadets, while Admiral Kirk grumbles and frets — “I don’t think any of these kids can steer.” Kirk treats his birthday like a funeral, and that’s before he runs into the son he never met. There’s a world-weariness here that Kirk, and Bill Shatner, have never shown before; De Kelley as Dr. McCoy has always filled the “older friend” role, but his age always seemed to make him passionate and irascible, while Admiral Kirk is slowing down in his desk job, and raging against the dying of the light. He finds something to rekindle that light in the form of the Genesis Device, which can create the wondrous Strange New Worlds of Star Trek‘s mandate on demand. The only price for this, ultimately, is Spock’s life — and before the title of Star Trek III was announced, this was a significant thing indeed.
Of course, one of the truly iconic parts of this movie is Ricardo Montalban’s appearance as Khan. Montalban packs his scenes with all the charisma he can muster, gleefully chewing the scenery and making what might otherwise be a slight, stereotypical role into something truly memorable. This was for better and for worse: for all that the “big epic villain” structure became the prototype for nine of the ten Star Trek movies that followed this one, making it often imitated but never duplicated, it sure does make for a classic entry here.
2. Rocky III
20 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke, Anthony Estrada and Aaron George at No. 1
Aaron George: Rocky III has without a doubt the single greatest opening to any film, television show or anything of all time. If the combination of fireworks, Rocky’s first title win and Eye of The Tiger doesn’t get you pumped up then you’re just fucking dead inside. Survivor’s iconic song sets a charged up pace that never lets up for the next 99 minutes. I cannot stress enough how important Eye of The Tiger is to the film, sports culture in general and my love life.
While the first two films focused on Rocky the underdog, this one gives us a Rocky who has let his fame and success go to his head. He’s walloped by a young challenger who’s been rising up the ranks and has to work hard to come back and reclaim what is his. Simple right? Relatable right? How many of us have forgotten what it’s like to be hungry in our lives? We get complacent, we trade our passion for glory and we lose our edge. When Rocky comes face to face with Clubber Lang he does what we all do: he forgets that that was once him, and that he was once as ferocious. He is challenged, they stack the odds and he gets better. It’ll never stop being a great story. (One I’m surprised a certain “Entertainment” company has never stolen.)
Stallone is great, Weathers is great, Meredith is his usual cranky wonderful self. When people ask me what I like most about this film I straight up tell them: “It has Hulk Hogan and Mr. T in it.” Without fail the person nods their head and we have a genuine moment of understanding between us. What those men lack in acting talent they more than make up for in badassery. I feel they’d make any movie better. I’m sure Cast Away would be a much better film if Hogan and T were lost on the island. I’d be they’d get off a lot faster too. (Full disclosure — I have never seen Cast Away.)
If the music, the fighting, the hulking men, the drama and the spectacle of this wonderful movie aren’t enough to sway you, feast your eyes (of the tiger) on the greatest running on a beach scene in cinematic history. Sure it ends with the most awkward jump and hug combo in cinematic history but what beach run doesn’t? And if they can give Chariots of Fire an Academy Award for running on a beach where’s the damn Oscar for Rocky III?
1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
27 points, ranked by 7 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Andrew Riche and Andrew Woltman at No. 1
Andrew Riche: In his previous efforts on his way to becoming the directorial King of Hollywood, Steven Spielberg loved to explore the concept of meeting with the unknown and keeping it that way most of the time. The shark in Jaws is not revealed until a good hour into the film while we do not see the music-playing mother ship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind until the last act. Heck, we never got to see the face of the man who drove that stalking 18-wheeler in Duel, Spielberg’s first-ever film. But in his 1982 film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, we get a good, long look at a short, stumpy, long-necked alien who winds up stranded on Earth looking for his mother ship in the very first scene.
The story of E.T. originally came from an alien-themed horror film titled Night Skies that Spielberg wanted to develop with Columbia Pictures as a follow-up to Close Encounters. The project was ultimately abandoned, but many aspects of this film reemerged in other Spielberg ventures like Poltergeist and Gremlins. But in the original story, one of the subplots of Night Skies was a gentle and lonely alien marooned by his not-so-kind species. When Spielberg read it to Melissa Mathison, a screenwriter who was visiting her boyfriend Harrison Ford on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark, she was inspired by the concept of an alien looking for his home and wrote the screenplay for E.T.
What was labeled by movie executives at that time as a lame attempt at Disney fare by Spielberg turned out to be not only one of the most heartfelt films of our time but also one of the most successful. It debuted at $11 million for its opening weekend in June of 1982 and stayed in the top two all the way until December. After a 1985 re-release, it had made nearly $340 million, which made it the highest grossing film of all-time for 15 years. There are so many scenes to cherish in the film, from E.T.’s beaming finger touching the young boy Elliot’s forehead to Elliot discovering E.T. thanks to the use of Reese’s Pieces to the levitated bike ride in the moonlit sky that became the film’s lasting image. The lovable alien may have ultimately returned to his home and left the Earth in the final scene, but for movie fans of all kinds, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial will stay with us forever.
That does it for 1982. To see the full breakdown of all 10 ballots, click here. Check back soon to see the staff’s top 5 movies of 1983!