By Stephen Aspeling30 May 2023
Blast from the past: 6 classic movies from the 80s, 90s and 2000s
Now that we’re almost a quarter of a century into the new millennium, it seems safe to say that anything made prior to 2000 easily qualifies as a blast from the past. Surprisingly, we’re still stuck on the big name stars from this era, who, bar Anthony Hopkins, all seem to be trying to reinvent themselves as action-heroes-in-later-life.
From a nostalgic, iconic and influential age for Hollywood, many of these films have an inherent timelessness that supersedes their status as time capsules. While too old-school to still be in school, it seems important to revisit or even watch them for the very first time, even if just to be in the know when they come up in conversation.
Based on the 1988 novel by Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs follows Clarice Starling, a young FBI agent who seeks advice from an inmate in her hunt for the serial killer named Buffalo Bill. The only horror film to ever win Best Picture, this influential and intricate psychological horror thriller switches cat and bird as Jodie Foster finds Anthony Hopkins in a cage.
Hopkins won Best Actor for Silence of the Lambs thanks to his iconic role as cannibal psychiatrist and serial killer Hannibal Lecter, with only 16 minutes of screen-time from this two-hour film. This is testament to the screen veteran’s presence, which seeps into every frame of Jonathan Demme’s dark, dank, haunting and award-winning film.
When Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius is betrayed, he’s sold into slavery and forced to rise through the ranks of the gladiator arena in a bid to avenge his family and slain emperor. This epic historical action drama from Ridley Scott recalls the scale and trials of Ben-Hur, famous for its tigers instead of chariot races at the Colosseum.
Instead of Charlton Heston, it’s Russell Crowe who leads the charge, first as a victorious general and then as a lowly gladiator in a career-defining performance. Starring opposite him as the detestable Commodus is Joaquin Phoenix in a memorable turn. Powered by sword-and-sandal action and true grit, it’s Hans Zimmer’s soul-stirring soundtrack that elevates this entertaining epic to capture the very essence of “what we do in life echoes in eternity”.
In spite of George Orwell’s cautionary tale, it seems as though 1984 was about as 80s as the decade got, whether you wore a mini skirt or parachute pants. Another prime piece of 80s memorabilia is Ghostbusters, a fantasy-comedy from Ivan Reitman about three eccentric parapsychologists who start a business to catch and torment evil ghosts in New York City.
Starring Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver, this delightfully silly, imaginative and zany supernatural movie spewed hilarious dialogue, cutting-edge visual effects and a catchy soundtrack. While it may be dated by its effects, style and puppetry, the novelty and pep of this classic still underscores the fun and energy of Ray Parker Jr’s hit lyrics “bustin’ makes me feel good”.
Accurate or ironic, Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt won Oscars for their co-starring lead roles in As Good As It Gets, a feat they haven’t managed to repeat. Directed by James L Brooks, this is the story of Melvin Udall, a cantankerous obsessive-compulsive writer, whose heart softens when he’s compelled against his “better” judgement to befriend his neighbour, a waitress and his neighbour’s dog.
A charming romantic comedy drama, what separates this feel-good movie from the rest is its immersive quality as brought forth by sparkling writing, good timing and pitch-perfect performances. Watching Nicholson in just about anything is a pleasure as the actor continually finds ways to amuse himself. Forming an unlikely pairing with Hunt, the two ultimately enjoy wonderful on-screen chemistry.
Steven Spielberg is a household name, cited by many budding film students as their inspiration. Having released both Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List in 1993, this must have been the much-loved and critically acclaimed director’s pinnacle, managing to unveil two distinctly different films to both commercial and critical success in the same year.
“Much more important than a movie”, it seems a bit strange that Schindler’s List is essentially about a Nazi’s change of heart. Initially hiring Jews as cheap labour, Oskar Schindler decided to protect them, saving 1 200 lives. The winner of seven Oscars, Schindler’s List is a beautifully framed historical docudrama starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley. The powerful, well-acted and haunting black-and-white holocaust film cemented Spielberg as one of Hollywood’s finest.
Who doesn’t like Jackie Chan? Compared with Fred Astaire and literally the star of Mr Nice Guy, the cheeky and lovable kung fu action star’s not afraid to poke fun at himself. He’s been in the movie business for more than half a century and in spite of numerous on-set injuries from doing his own stunts, there’s no sign of him slowing down. Rumble in the Bronx is the classic breakthrough that launched his Hollywood career, bringing Chan’s infectious brand of action comedy to North American audiences.
Often playing a police officer, Jackie finds himself in New York (actually Vancouver) for a wedding, where he’s forced to fight a gang and undermine an evil syndicate. High-flying, violent action sees him take it to the streets as confrontations escalate along with his entertaining and impressive daredevil action.
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