Top 20 of 1987


The series continues. As we head toward the late-eighties, there seems to be a lull. There are some international titles that made the cut, and a lot of the American titles range from somewhat artsy (Raising Arizona, to mainstream Princess Bride, to guilty pleasure (Spaceballs). Okay, maybe two guilty pleasures with Eddie Murphy Raw, but I still say that is one of the best standup comedy films ever.

There are only two that I would call American indies, Matewan and Housekeeping. Okay, three if you count Les Blank’s Gap-Teethed Women, but he almost defies categorization. There will be more of those to come as the indie revolution was soon underway. As I scoured my list, I found a lot of John Hughes wannabe films at the bottom of the pile. That cycle was beginning to run its course and American cinema was in a transitional period.

Even though I consider this to be a weaker year than most, the top five can stand next to any year. It is no surprise that none of them are American films. There are a handful of international films that I have yet to see, and really want to. Pialat’s Under the Sun of Satan is supposed to get a release sometime soon, but not in time for this poll. I had one Rohmer film on the poll, but I have a feeling it would be two if I had seen Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle. Either way, I think it is safe to say that 1987 was a decent year for international film.

1. Au Revoir Les Enfants
2. The Last Emperor
3. Withnail & I
4. Where is My Friend’s Home?
5. Wings of Desire
6. Eddie Murphy Raw
7. The Man Who Planted Trees
8. Boyfriends and Girlfriends
9. Princess Bride
10. Spaceballs
11. Broadcast News
12. Matewan
13. Raising Arizona
14. Red Sorghum
15. Less than Zero
16. Wall Street
17. Full Metal Jacket
18. Gap-Toothed Women
19. Radio Days
20. Housekeeping

My last cuts were many this year. It was tough to find a film for the last spot. I considered all of these:

Angel Heart
The Believers
House of Games
The Untouchables
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Cobra Verde
The Dead
Dear America

Maybe the year wasn’t so bad after all.


Posted on September 24, 2015, in Film, Lists. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. As incredible as it is , my #1 film of this year, and one of my favorite films of the entire decade did not make your list nor the second one where you ponder – John Boorman’s HOPE AND GLORY.

    Also, Spielberg’s EMPIRE OF THE SUN, one of my top films of the year and my favorite by the director is also absent.

    My favorite Top 20 films of the year in order of presentation:

    The 1987 Hall of Fame: Hope and Glory; Au Revoir Les Enfants; Empire of the Sun; The Dead; Maurice; The Last Emperor; Full Metal Jacket; Babette’s Feast; Pelle the Conqueror; Prick Up Your Ears; The Pathfinder; Camp de Thiaroye; Yeelen; The Year My Voice Broke; Housekeeping; Rouge; House of Games Wings of Desire; The Untouchables; The Man Who Planted Tress.

    Anyway great job here Aaron!!! I am not a fan of that Eddie Murphy film, Spaceballs, Wall Street and especially Broadcast News, but no biggie, we can’t agree on everything. 🙂

    • Funny you mention those two. I saw them when they came out and haven’t seen them since. Maybe it is time to revisit. Also that Frears just came out and I am tempted to blind buy it. Your list is pretty terrific, even if different. And there are a couple on there I’m not crazy about, but if we agreed on everything, it wouldn’t be any fun.

  2. Glad to see Sam mentioned ROUGE (Hong Kong). That would be in my list also.

    Here’s my top seven of 1987 (alphabetical order):

    A CHINESE GHOST STORY (Ching Siu-Tung, HK)
    EXTREME PREJUDICE (Walter Hill, U.S.)
    LETHAL WEAPON (Richard Donner, U.S.)
    PROJECT A, PART II (Jackie Chan, HK)
    ROBOCOP (Paul Verhoeven, U.S.)
    ROUGE (Stanley Kwan, HK)
    THE TALE OF GENJI (Gisaburo Sugii, Japan)

    And if I had to make it an even ten, I’ll add three critical favorites from that year:

    FULL METAL JACKET (Stanley Kubrick, U.S.)
    THE LAST EMPEROR (Bernardo Bertolucci, China-Italy-U.K.-France)
    WALL STREET (Oliver Stone, U.S.)

    I’ve seen each of the top seven multiple times, but the other three only once or twice each. THE TALE OF GENJI is the only one I never saw in a theater.

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