Top 10 Summer Of 1982 Movies

While we’re in the midst of this summer’s crop of movies, one thing to remember is that it’s the 30th anniversary of the summer of 1982 films. That summer saw the release of many genre classics that are still revered today.

10. Firefox: Clint Eastwood’s stars as an emotionally fragile fighter pilot who is assigned to steal a Soviet stealth fighter plane. The sci-fi twist? The plane’s weaponry operates on thought. This underrated Cold War thriller is tense and riveting with some slick visuals of the plane in action.

9. The Secret Of NIMH: Former Disney animator Don Bluth showed up his old studio with this visually stunning animated feature. Beautiful layouts and designs highlight this tale of a mother mouse seeking aid from a society of rats with artificially enhanced intelligence.

8. Tron: Admittedly, the then-groundbreaking computerized special effects don’t hold up today, but Tron laid the groundwork for future CG productions. This film’s production design is very distinct and otherworldly and Tron gave viewers a fascinating cyberworld to explore in future follow-ups.

7. Conan The Barbarian: Arnold Schwarzenegger was perfectly cast as the title hero in this violent sword-and-sorcery film. While The Terminator truly made him a star, this film put Schwarzenegger on the map as he flexed his mighty muscles and hacked away at his enemies.

6. Poltergeist: Despite the ongoing controversy of who really directed this horror classic (either producer Steven Spielberg or listed director Tobe Hooper), this movie about evil spirits haunting a typical suburban family is very frightening with jump-out-of-your-seat thrills and special effects. It made many wary about falling asleep in front of a TV!

5. The Road Warrior: Technically this movie was released overseas in 1981 but didn’t premiere in the U.S. until the summer of 1982, so that is why it’s on the list. This sequel to Mad Max (about a renegade ex-cop in a dystopian future fighting crazy thugs that rule the highways in their custom vehicles) is actually a thrilling, white-knuckle action flick with kinetic car chases and stunt work.

4. The Thing: John Carpenter helmed this remake of the Howard Hawkes 1950s classic that is actually superior to the original thanks to a moody, paranoid setting and disgustingly gory makeup effects. Unfortunately, this movie about a deadly shape-shifting alien in an Antarctic research base bombed in theaters in the summer of 1982 but has attained a classic status over the years.

3. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece about a lonely boy who befriends a stranded alien won near universal acclaim and was the biggest box office hit for many years. It’s quite a wonder that still holds up today and would rank higher if not for the fact that E.T. hasn’t persevered in the popular culture and geekdom circles as much as the next two movies. Nonetheless, it’s still a terrific film that must be watched by film lovers.

2. Blade Runner: Ridley Scott directed this eye-popping, futuristic, detective noir movie. Blade Runner happens to be one of the earliest and best cyberpunk presentations ever filmed. Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard, a specialized cop who is brought out of retirement to hunt down renegade Replicants (synthetic humans). Along with the striking visuals of a crowded, deteriorating Los Angeles, this movie brings up many philosophical questions about what it means to be human and the impact of emotions and memories on souls.

1. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan: As with The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek II set standards for movie sequels. Generally regarded as the best Trek film, many subsequent films in the franchise (and other movie franchises) tried to copy Star Trek II’s winning formula. The movie has great character development, nifty special effects and an engaging storyline about growing old and being obsessed with vengeance. While other movie in this list may be considered superior in terms of the filmmaking talent behind them, Star Trek II is still emulated to this day. How many times has anyone screamed out “Khaaaan!” or talked about the Kobayashi Maru scenario? Also Ricardo Montalban’s classic portrayal of the revenge-minded Khan elevated that character as not just Star Trek’s best villain but as one of the best ever seen on film.

Lewis T. Grove

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Summer Of 1982 Revisited

  

It’s strange to say but even back in the spring of 1982 many genre fans knew that summer would be special when it came to movies. Unlike previous summers, it seemed as if many film releases were catered to genre fans and that was a correct assumption.

Conventional wisdom has it that the summer season begins with the Memorial Day weekend. While that’s true for many aspects of summer, for the past few years it seemed as if the summer movie season didn’t begin with that holiday but on the first weekend of May. That reputation began with the release of several movies based on Marvel superheroes, which by the way, coincides with Free Comic Book Day. But even back in 1982, the summer movie season began in mid-May with the release of Conan The Barbarian, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first big hit.

While previous summer movie seasons boasted huge genre hits like The Empire Strikes Back and Alien, often there weren’t many genre films released in that time period. 1982 was the first year that the summer schedule was full of films that would appeal to fans of sci-fi, fantasy and horror. Since 1982, many summers featured a plethora of genre films; some were big hits, others didn’t do well and that continues to this day (case in point, the runaway success of The Avengers and the dismal box office performances of Battleship and Dark Shadows).

What makes the summer of 1982 so memorable for fans is that not only was it the first time there were many films to choose from but that so many of them are classics. For instance, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan is considered to be the best Star Trek film to this day, then there’s Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s masterpiece about a human hunting down rogue replicants in a decaying, future Los Angeles. Or there are the two opposing alien visitation films that are as different from each other as night and day, and are both classics, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and director John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing. The sad thing about these two films is the general audience’s reaction to them. While E.T. won universal acclaim and became the biggest box office hit until the mid-90s, The Thing was scorned by critics and audiences. In fact, it made its debut near the bottom of that week’s top ten and disappeared from theaters quickly. It’s unfortunate that people back then weren’t open to a dark and horrifying movie about an alien invader because of the happy feelings they were getting from a stranded, friendly alien and his buddy human boy.

Blade Runner suffered a similar fate, while its opening was better than The Thing’s, many viewers and critics didn’t take to Scott’s moody, future noir tale. With Harrison Ford as the lead, fresh off his breakthrough hit Raiders Of The Lost Ark, many expected a similar rousing adventure film. But both Blade Runner and The Thing had happy endings as many discovered the films on cable and home video, elevating their statures from cult hits to genuine masterpieces (Blade Runner actually made AFI’s list of 100 Years…100 Films, along with E.T.).

Of course, there were a few stinkers and some films that were generally good, but didn’t leave a lasting impression. The most infamous stinker is Megaforce, a poor man’s G.I. Joe directed by Hal Needham (who helmed those awful Burt Reynolds car chase films) and it is laughably bad. Then there’s this terrible Scott Baio comedy called Zapped about a student who gets psychic powers and the less said about it the better. Meanwhile, some underrated genre films worth looking out for are Clint Eastwood’s Firefox (about a fighter pilot who steals an advanced, thought-operated Soviet plane), and Don Bluth’s first animated film The Secret Of NIMH (astonishing, Disneyesque animation highlighted this tale about a wood mouse and rats with advanced intelligence).

While the rest of that year featured some great films like The Dark Crystal, the summer of 1982 will always be fondly remembered and the milestone to compare with other summer movie seasons. The following are some of the more noteworthy films that were released that summer and thrilled fans thirty years ago. If you haven’t seen any of them, check them out.

Conan The Barbarian, Poltergeist, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, The Thing, Blade Runner, Tron, The Road Warrior

José Soto

For Dakota