1983 Ten Best Movies

localhero3Recently I was on KUOW radio for one of my (once weekly, now intermittent) appearances, and I talked at some length about Local Hero, Bill Forsyth’s enchanted Scottish fable. (That show is archived here.) About the very earned magic of that film, and how it once led me on a detour in Scotland to find the seaside town where much of the movie was shot. I got a bunch of emails after the show aired, from people whose imaginations had been similarly fired by this beautiful film, a response that should not have surprised me at all. It’s that kind of movie: funny without being cute, sweet without being cloying, in touch with something authentic about (to borrow the title of a subsequent Bill Forsyth movie) being human. Watch it on a double bill with I Know Where I’m Going! and you may find yourself checking the train schedules for the Highlands.

What happened to Bill Forsyth? Evidently he became disenchanted with moviemaking, though rumors exist about a return. Let us hope. Local Hero, meanwhile, is the best movie of 1983, the year I began reviewing films regularly for a daily newspaper. Had a good debut week: The Right Stuff and Under Fire (a now forgotten, but rather potent movie) opened the same October day. Here are the ten best of 1983:

1. Local Hero (Bill Forsyth)

2. L’Argent (Robert Bresson)

3. Pauline at the Beach (Eric Rohmer)

4. The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese)

5. The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman)

6. Man of Flowers (Paul Cox)

7. Videodrome (David Cronenberg)

8. Tender Mercies (Bruce Beresford)

9. Valley Girl (Martha Coolidge)

10. Entre Nous (Diane Kurys)

King of Comedy is maybe one of Scorsese’s three best movies, and possibly the last time De Niro pushed himself into something truly adventurous and energetic. Some of those other movies seem neglected now, which is a shame: Man of Flowers is a superb meditation on Art ‘n Life from a director whose interesting career is generally underappreciated, Tender Mercies (which gets half its rating from Robert Duvall’s performance) was highly regarded at the time, and Kurys seems to have fallen off the international map.

Just missing the list, some big-time directors with not-quite-their-best movies (Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia and Imamura’s Ballad of Narayama), plus Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, a wonderful film I’m afraid I haven’t seen since 1983. Next in line: one of Mike Nichols’ earthiest pictures, Silkwood, and the ingenious Harold Pinter backward-melodrama, Betrayal. I also really like some messed-up movies, especially Jim McBride’s often exhilarating Breathless and Francis Coppola’s Rumble Fish; and as official success stories go, you could do worse than Terms of Endearment and The Big Chill as your representatives. Squeeze in a nod for Woody Allen’s Zelig and the peppy conclusion to the Star Wars trilogy, and you’ve got yourself a decent little year. Especially for the Eighties.

Addendum: I can’t believe I posted this without mentioning Strange Brew, that landmark of Canadian cinema – nay, of Canadian culture. Beauty, eh?

One Response

  1. Good list.
    But I would have liked to have seen A Christmas Story on there, one of the very best comedies of the 1980s, in my book.

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