• ERIC BUTLER

1985 15 non-horror movies that have influenced or entertained me throughout the years

So usually I include a gallery of films that I love at the end of each year I've focused on horror movies. This will be the 2nd time when the number and importance of the movies will force me to move from a gallery to a full post. That said, I am limiting the number of films I highlight in this post. No movie from the Box-Office top ten is here, those are a given. Many of these movies are classics now, but at the time many were bombs and didn't find their audience until cable or home-video. So in no particular order let's begin ...



There was a period in the 80s were Spielberg's name was used to promote a film even when he wasn't directing. Young Sherlock Holmes is one of those films - he is an executive producer - but it allowed Chris Columbus(Harry Potter) to have his 3rd script in 2 years filmed and released (Gremlins & Goonies are the other 2). The Director chair was manned by Barry Levinson, a huge director of the '80s and 90's - he was coming off of Diner & The Natural. With this kind of firepower, you would expect this to be a big hit, but it barely made back its $18 million budget.


In 1985 and throughout the rest of the decade, I watched this movie a ton. I loved the Egyptian mythology tie-in, the amazing special effects, and I found the 2 unknowns they selected for Holmes & Watson to be engaging and well done especially when you factor in their ages. Now, when I see the movie, it is with a sense of nostalgia and a fondness that overlooks the flaws of the film.


I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan, but I am not a purist and will many times search out books and movies that add a twist to the character, not in the original works. However, that can't be said for many of the detective's fans. While the movie is based on the characters, the very nature of them being children at school changes so many essential truths of the Holmes-mythos.


This includes the family structure of Holmes, the introduction of a love interest for Holmes, and the complete loss of Watson's military essence as the so-called sidekick. The stiff upper lip attitude and doggedness of the character are replaced with a boy whose weakness for sweets almost proves his undoing. And yet, even with such obvious miscues, the movie is fun - including a number of Easter eggs for fans of the stories.


It's beautifully shot, taking the viewer to Victorian England - all-be-it a less dirty one than we may get in today's renditions of the time. The performances are well done and include an impressive lineup throughout the film. The special effects are great from stop motion to the fact this is the first movie to have a completely CGI-created character on screen (the glass knight).


While it might not be the best Sherlock alternate story ever done on film. It has a special place in my heart. You can stream it on Paramount+.


Blurb - When assorted people start having inexplicable delusions that lead to their deaths, a teenage Sherlock Holmes decides to investigate.



One of my favorite animated movies, The Black Cauldron, almost bankrupted the studio as they mismanaged the project after a change in leadership at the house of the mouse. In an attempt to capture the attention of teenage fantasy readers and expand their regular animated movie fan base, they worked on this adaptation of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain series. The resulting animation was so dark the movie was delayed almost 8 months to try and rework some of the footage and make it more appealing to a wider audience.


They went from potentially being the first movie ever released by Disney to get a PG-13 rating to the first animated movie they'd ever released to get a PG rating. It lost over $20 million and received the tag, "The film that almost killed Disney". They were so upset with the film, they refused to release it until 1998. Interesting side note - Tim Burton worked on the film just before going out and directing his own films.


As an adaptation, it fails, but as a singular movie, I think it's one of the best ones they did - especially pre-Little Mermaid. As an added bonus, if you hate all the singing in Disney animated films, you're in luck. There isn't any in this film. I'm pretty sure you can stream it with Disney +


Blurb - A young boy and a group of misfit friends embark on a quest to find a dark magic item of ultimate power before a diabolical tyrant can.



Before doing My Cousin Vinny & The Whole Nine Yards, Johnathan Lynn directed Clue. I love this movie. It's darn near perfect and Tim Curry leads an impressive collection of talent in this whodunit based on the board game. One of the cool things about the movie, when it came out, was the fact there were multiple endings. Depending on where you saw it, you would get ending A, B, or C. Now when it came out on VHS, they included all 3 endings with the clever line "or it could have happened like this." Stream it on Paramount+.


Blurb - Six guests are anonymously invited to a strange mansion for dinner, but after their host is killed, they must cooperate with the staff to identify the murderer as the bodies pile up.



I love Chevy Chase, especially 80's Chevy because of movies like Fletch. He gets to show off all his talents, and the attitude that made him so hated behind the scenes, helps him shine on camera. The studio wanted Mick Jagger or Burt Reynolds, but the author of the book series had final say and selected Chevy. Showing once again, the big wigs rarely know what they are doing.


It's a must-see funny movie, and probably the reason I was such a sarcastic ass as a teenager. Stream it on Starz.


Blurb - Irwin M. "Fletch" Fletcher is a newspaper reporter being offered a large sum to off a cancerous millionaire, but is on the run, risking his job and finding clues when it's clear the man is healthy.



As much of a fan of horror as I am, I am just as big a fan of any film that incorporates sword and/or sorcery. Richard Donner (Superman, Lethal Weapon, Goonies) gives us just that in the movie Ladyhawke. Add in my first real movie crush, Michelle Pfeiffer (Don't forget Grease 2 made my list in 1982), and funny-man Matthew Broderick really how could anyone resist?


The idea is simple but well-executed, Broderick is a thief who escapes from a castle and is being forced to help a man sneak back in. The movie is really a love story hidden in an old fashion Knight's tale, but there's a fantastic mix of action, adventure, comedy, and fantasy. With the lovers cursed to never see one another again, we get to witness Broderick's interaction with both a wolf and a hawk which adds to the mystic element throughout the picture. It's a rent/buy to stream. I wish I could recommend the blu-ray, but the only one I've found has no extras.


Blurb - The thief Gaston escapes the dungeon of medieval Aquila through the latrine. Soldiers are about to kill him when Navarre saves him. Navarre, traveling with his spirited hawk, plans to kill the bishop of Aquila with help from Gaston.



Another big-time director dipping his toe into the world of fantasy was Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) with Legend. Tom Cruise versus the Devil, or at least a devil/demon for the hand of Mia Sara. But wait, you're telling me Tim Curry is the demon and he has 3-foot horns on his head(remember this is before CGI could have been used to just digitally put them in) and goes around terrorizing Cruise and some unicorns ...


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Unfortunately, the US release isn't really a good representation of what Scott originally intended. He let doubt creep in and trimmed his movie from 2.5 hours to just over 1.5 hours. The movie bombed and Cruise refused to speak about the movie for years. It wouldn't be until 2002 before fans were given the opportunity to see the original movie in a DVD director's cut release. You have to buy/rent to stream this one. 11-year-old me was okay with the shorter one, but it really isn't very good so look for the uncut version if you do.


Blurb - A young man must stop the Lord of Darkness from destroying daylight and marrying the woman he loves.



Before we shift back to more of the comedies that shaped my sense of humor, I have to throw in this curveball. 9 years after his last western, Clint Eastwood starred in and directed Pale Rider. What is so unusual and unique about this movie? I hated westerns, did for years after this movie, but something about Pale Rider transcended the genre for me. Could be the fact TMC played this movie 24-7 once they got the rights, but this became one of those movies that no matter where it was when I ran across it, I watched it until the end.


It was the only western he made in the 80s, and it was the highest-earning western of the decade as well. It wouldn't be until Unforgiven and Tombstone before I turned my back on my dislike for the genre, but that's for another blog post. You'll have to rent/buy, but on occasion it will pop up on Prime.


Blurb - A mysterious preacher (Clint Eastwood) protects a humble prospector village from a greedy mining company trying to encroach on their land.



Animator Savage Steve Holland started as a director in Hollywood. His first picture starred John Cusack trying to kill himself in Better Off Dead. The 2 would pair up again the next year for one of my all-time favorite movies, One Crazy Summer, even though Cusack hated this movie once he saw the finished product. Blows my mind as I think this is one of his most heartfelt roles and a very funny movie. He did come around later, and I get the feeling he's a bit of a drama queen. I can't find it anywhere to stream, but I'm sure it will pop up soon.


Blurb - After his girlfriend ditches him for a boorish ski jock, Lane decides that suicide is the only answer. However, his increasingly inept attempts bring him only more agony and embarrassment. Filled with the wildest teen nightmares.



John Hughes had 2 movies come out in 1985 and both are on this list. First up Weird Science. After 1983's Wargames showed us the dangers of computers, Hughes gave us a peek at the computer's role in online dating mixed with a dash of Bride of Frankenstein. This movie has Robert Downy Jr in a small role before he hit it big, and the Hughes's staple of Anthony Michael Hall. Bill Paxton plays a sadistic older brother, and Road Warrior's Vernon Wells has a cameo as an evil biker.

It's the kind of movie every young man needs in his rotation as he tries to figure out the opposite sex. You can stream it on Cinemax, so maybe HBOMax as well.


Blurb - Two high school nerds use a computer program to literally create the perfect woman, but she turns their lives upside down.



The other Hughes masterpiece is The Breakfast Club. An intimate look at 5 high school students in detention, this film shows that no matter the background or social status, these students were more alike than not. It's a well-written and performed film, and one of my favorite movies. You can stream it on amc+ and peacock premium.


Blurb - Five high school students meet in Saturday detention and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought.



While the movie poster is screaming "For small children", Starchaser The Legend of Orin in 3-D was a sophisticated science fiction animated adventure. It was the first animated movie to be released in 3-D(this isn't like the cool 3-D we got in the 2000s, this is like ancient 3-D technology). It says in the tradition of Snow White and Dark Crystal, but it's more like here's all the stuff we borrowed from Star Wars and Star Trek. I've watched it recently, and it still holds up: Great animation, talented voice work, and a solid scy-fy story. It's been on Prime but right now it is rent/buy only.


Blurb - Set on the subterranean Mine-World, a band of human worker are treated like slaves under the power of the evil overlord Zygon until one, Orin, unearths the hilt of a mythical sword that only he can master. Escaping the planet, he runs into the rogue smuggler Dagg and a pair of helpful droids and the princess, who all team up to return to the Mine-World with a plan to defeat Zygon and free Orin's enslaved people.



Keeping with the science fiction genre is one of my favorite movies of the 80s. Wolfgang Petersen, coming off The NeverEnding Story, gave us a look at overcoming your prejudices and seeing your enemy as more than that with Enemy Mine. It's a beautiful film about tolerance, and in the end, the love true friendship can produce.


Of course, it's wrapped up in a kick-ass space movie with aliens and spaceships and everything a fan of the genre could ever want. Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr are fantastic in this movie and I don't think either gets enough praise for their work here. It's a rent/buy to stream for now.


Blurb - During a long space war, the lives of two wounded enemies become dependent on their ability to forgive and to trust.



The Road Warrior is a top 5 movie to me. In 1985 we are given the final part of the Mel Gibson trilogy with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Originally not a part of the series, it was supposed to be an apocalyptic Lord of the Flies, which explains the different feel this movie has with its predecessors.


"2 men enter, 1 man leaves." The most mind-boggling thing to me is the director of all the Mad Max movies is the same guy who did Happy Feet. Stream it with HBOMax.


Blurb - After being exiled from the most advanced town in post apocalyptic Australia, a drifter travels with a group of abandoned children to rebel against the town's queen.



The director of 1984's Firestarter returned to give us one of Schwarzenegger's greatest roles in Commando. I had to watch this as many times as Predator if not more. This is one of those over the top action movies that defined the decade. There's a kill count of 109 in this movie, with Arnold responsible for like 102 of them. That's Jason level of commitment. This movie also co-starred Vernon Wells in a much larger role than he got in Weird Science. It's rent/buy to stream for now.


Blurb - A retired Special Forces colonel tries to save his daughter, who was abducted by his former subordinate.



Is Gymkata a good movie? No. Should you pay to rent/buy to stream? Also no. However, it was a mainstay on HBO for a few years after coming out and I've seen this gem more than a few times. What happens when you combine the non-existent acting skills of a gymnast with the director of martial arts movies like Enter the Dragon & Game of Death? Pure terrible movie gold. Wait for it to stream, and then bask in the glory of ...


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Gymkata!


Blurb - An American gymnast travels to a foreign country to compete in a deadly game not won by anyone other than a native in more than 900 years.



So there you have it, 15 movies from 1985 that helped shape the movie-loving idiot I am today. See you Monday with the top Horror movies of 1987.

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