They don’t make cinematic summers like they used to.
When it comes to blockbuster movies, 2014 hasn’t exactly been the most memorable year on record. So far we’ve had a summer highlighted by a string of decent but predictable superhero sequels (Captain America, Spider-Man, the X-Men), a famous monster reboot (Godzilla), more Michael Bay (Transformers: Age of Extinction) and watchable if not groundbreaking comedies (Neighbors).
The Lego Movie – the second highest-grossing film of 2014 – and the surprisingly great Tom Cruise sci-fi flick Edge of Tomorrow are two of the only bright and original Hollywood flicks that have really stood out this year. And other than Guardians of the Galaxy, Gone Girl and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, there doesn’t seem to be much else of note on the horizon.
It was not always so. This year also marks two milestones: the 30th anniversary of the movies that were released in 1984, and the 25th birthday of the films that came out in 1989. It’s significant because these two years gave us a smorgasbord of pop-culture touchstones that are still treasured today. (Think anyone will be talking about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in five years, never mind 25? Unlikely.)
But that got us thinking... was 1984 the better year for blockbusters that we still quote today? Or does that distinction belong to 1989? Let’s break down the most memorable movies of each year and find out.
Why we remember it: It brought together an epic assemblage of comedic talent – including Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd and Rick Moranis – in a special effects-driven blend of comedy and scares that still holds up today.
Defining quote: “He slimed me!”
The Karate Kid
Why we remember it: It was a teen-friendly Rocky for the ’80s, a story about how an underdog can triumph if he embraces humility, believes in himself and works hard – with a little help from a wise master.
Defining quote: “Wax on, wax off.”
Why we remember it: Awww, look at the adorable Mogwai and his sweet little face and OH MY GOD THOSE GREMLIN THINGS ARE HORRIBLE. It was a comedy with some surprisingly dark overtones, in an age where puppets hadn’t yet been replaced with CGI.
Defining quote: “Never feed him after midnight.”
Why we remember it: While not quite as popular as The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, John Hughes’ directorial debut was one of his best mixes of juvenile comedy and teenage pathos.
Defining quote: “Can I borrow your underpants for 10 minutes?”
Why we remember it: It launched one of the most popular and lucrative comedy franchises of the 1980s, proving that lowbrow yuks could bring in mountains of cash at the box office. The Wayans owe a debt to these guys.
Defining quote: “Don’t move, dirtbag!”
Beverly Hills Cop
Why we remember it: It poured gasoline on Eddie Murphy’s already smouldering career, and made wisecracking Detroit police detective Axel Foley one of the most memorable characters of the decade. Hell, Foley might even be back in 2016 for Beverly Hills Cop 4.
Defining quote: “A heh-heh-heh-heh.”
Why we remember it: It cemented Arnold Schwarzenegger as the king of the action heroes, kicked off James Cameron’s career and started a franchise that’s still being revisited and rebooted to this day.
Defining quote: “I’ll be back.”
Honourable mentions: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Footloose, The Neverending Story, Dune, Romancing the Stone, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Why we remember it: While director Christopher Nolan has reinvented Batman in the past decade, Tim Burton’s darkly surreal take on the Caped Crusader – starring Michael Keaton, no less – is still fondly remembered for its vision and smarts.
Defining quote: “I’m Batman.”
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Why we remember it: Raiders of the Lost Ark started it all, Temple of Doom was a bit too silly and dark, but the third movie in the Indiana Jones series is arguably the best of the bunch, thanks in large part to Sean Connery as Indy’s dad.
Defining quote: “Don’t call me Junior!”
The Little Mermaid
Why we remember it: The story of Ariel and her friends under the sea marked the beginning of the so-called Disney Renaissance, when the Mouse House returned to its animated former glory.
Defining quote: “Someday I’ll be part of your world.”
Lethal Weapon 2
Why we remember it: After the surprise success of Lethal Weapon, Hollywood did something unusual: it made a sequel that was even better than the original. (And then more sequels that definitely were not.)
Defining quote: “It’s just been revoked!”
When Harry Met Sally
Why we remember it: Rob Reiner’s smart, bittersweet comedy examined what happens when friends cross over into sex and dating. It had a lot of laughs, but also a lot to say about modern relationships.
Defining quote: “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Why we remember it: After a decade of John Hughes scripts, director Cameron Crowe gave us a more grounded and dramatic – but still funny and wistful – look at the pitfalls of young romance, starring John Cusack as the unforgettable Lloyd Dobler.
Defining quote: The song In Your Eyes played over a boombox.
Dead Poet’s Society
Why we remember it: Coming off the success of Good Morning, Vietnam, Robin Williams again took a detour into drama with this heartbreaking story of a teacher at an elite prep school and the students he inspired.
Defining quote: “O captain! My captain!”
Honourable mentions: Field of Dreams, Do the Right Thing, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, The Abyss, sex, lies, and videotape, Back to the Future Part II.
It was a close contest, but 1984 edges out 1989 when it comes to iconic characters, original ideas and movies that we still talk about today. But unless we’re blessed with a string of amazing films over the next six months, it’s hard to imagine 2014 will come anywhere close to being as memorable as either of these years.
Maybe it’s time to take a trip back. Where did we park the DeLorean?