Films of the ’80s

At TIFF 2007, I caught Les Bons Debarras (Francis Mankiewicz, 1980), which screened in the Canadian Open Vault program. Regularly included on short lists of the greatest Canadian films, it’s about a precocious adolescent girl and her single mother surviving in a small town in Quebec. Steve Gravestock has written about the film in Cinema Scope, and Girish mentioned it in his post on Quebecois Cinema.

While watching Les Bons Debarras, I was struck by how familiar it felt. I was eight when the film was released — near enough to the age of Manon (Charlotte Laurier) that I was able immediately to recognize that particular era of childhood, even if her experience of it is so much different from my own. Much of the credit for the film goes to its cinematographer, Michel Brault, who is best remembered for being a father of cinema verite and for his collaborations with Jean Rouch. We often associate naturalistic styles of narrative filmmaking with the ’60s and ’70s, and it’s obviously experienced a great revival in the last decade-and-a-half, but in the ’80s a film like Les Bons Debarras was something of an anomaly. I remember thinking at the time that I wanted to find others like it. I was reminded of that again last week while browsing through this “Best Films of the 80s” discussion at The Auteurs.

Thanks to the fine folks at They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?, I was able to pull out the most critically acclaimed films of the decade and order them by overall rank (download pdf). Not too many surprises near the top. A lot of Scorsese, Kubrick, Lynch, and Spielberg. Among the films I’m eager to revisit or, in most cases, to see for the first time:

  • Once Upon a Time in America
  • Local Hero
  • The King of Comedy
  • The Dead
  • Love Streams
  • Reds
  • The Verdict
  • American Gigolo
  • Bad Timing

Any other gems hidden among the wreckage of so many blockbusters? What are the other great, lost films of the ’80s?