Greed and glitter: a journey through 1980s cinema, in 25 films. (Part V)

Our final foray into the cinema of the 1980s shows us both how long ago the decade was, and how little things have changed since then.

Greed and glitter: a journey through 1980s cinema, in 25 films. (Part V)

This is the fifth and final installment in my blog series, which began in December, analyzing the unique cinematic style of the 1980s. The ’80s get a bad rap, in my opinion, because of the obsession with pop culture fads–think acid-washed jeans or Depeche Mode–which bleeds over into any discussion of its cinema. But the movies of the ’80s do have a unique voice and style which can’t be seen in any other cinematic decade. This is not a “best of the 80s” list, nor even “my favorite 80s” list. Instead, I’ve chosen films that I think are relevant to, and express, the gestalt of the decade in more literal terms than others you could see. As a result, you might find some of my choices to be surprising.

Part I of the series (1980 and 1981) is herePart II (1982 and 1983) is herePart III (1984 and 1985) is herePart IV (1986 and 1987) is here. In this installment, we finish out the decade with films from 1988 and 1989.

They Live (1988; John Carpenter, Director)

If subsequent events can infuse old movies with new relevance, then John Carpenter’s bizarre science fiction satire They Live became nothing less than the new harbinger of our times with the 2016 election of Donald Trump as President. The film, always a bit of a cult classic, received a burst of renewed interest in early 2017 when Trump was inaugurated, and the new relevance–and warnings unheeded–that people saw in it then are no less compelling now, as Trump tries to return to power in 2024. Nada (Roddy Piper) is the nihilistic, down-on-his-luck hero of They Live, who finds a pair of magic sunglasses that decipher modern urban society’s messages to their core (CONSUME! OBEY!) and disclose who among us are actually hideous skull-faced aliens who secretly control everything. The only question is, how do you fight an invader that seems to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time?