This is the second part of a 5-part series showcasing the cinema of the 1980s, which has been much understudied and underrated, in my view, as a coherent body of work. Historically, you can learn a lot about a period of time from the films that were made in it, especially those that embody its cultural gestalt in resonant ways. Fort his list I’ve chosen 25 films that I think embody the values, style and characteristics unique to 1980s cinema. Part I, the first five films (from 1980 and 1981), is here. This is not a “best-of” list, or a “my favorites” list. It’s thematic and analytical. Some of my choices may be unconventional. But here we go, inching our way through the early part of the decade, 1982 and 1983–which could be argued to be the nadir of ’80s cinema, but which still offers some interesting examples of the decade’s style.
Conan the Barbarian (1982; John Milius, Director)
Insipid. Ultra-violent. Irresponsible. Fascist. All of these words were used to describe John Milius’s fantasy adventure Conan the Barbarian, based on 1930s stories by pulp writer Robert E. Howard, which shocked many people upon its initial release in May 1982. Conan was the big break of Austrian bodybuilder and sometime actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which propelled him not only to a career of movie stardom, but also politics.