published Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

From 'Ghostbusters' to 'The Terminator,' more than a dozen noteworthy films turn 30 this year

In 1949, George Orwell’s novel “1984” predicted a future society that was under constant government surveillance and engaged in a never-ending war. But 35 years later, most people were too busy adding catchphrases like “Wax on, wax off” and “Don’t cross the streams,” to their lexicon to be on the lookout for Big Brother.

To film buffs, many of the films released in 1984 represent some of cinema’s most enduring touchstones, from cult classics such as “Sixteen Candles,” “Red Dawn” and “The Last Starfighter” to blockbusters such as “Beverly Hill Cop” and “Ghostbusters.”

Two of 1984’s releases — “The Terminator” and “This Is Spinal Tap” — were even added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry for the preservation of “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films.”

Even three decades after these movies hit theaters, local cinephiles say they have maintained their appeal and influence on the American pop culture psyche.

“There’s not a bad one on this list,” says Chattanoogan Dan Baker, a graphic designer and hobbyist prop maker.

“From science fiction to coming-of-age stories, this is probably the quintessential list of films that influenced an entire generation. That true fans can carry on a 15-minute conversation using nothing but quotes from these movies is pretty rad, too.”

The following is a run-down of more than a dozen films from 1984 that made waves in American cinema. Not all of them were critically acclaimed, but fans say they still remember them fondly.

[Note: Critical scores are based on review aggregator RottenTomatoes.com. Box office sales are domestic-only and are based on BoxOfficeMojo.com and are adjusted for inflation.]

‘FOOTLOOSE’

• Release date: Feb. 17, 1984

• Starring: Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest

• Director: Herbert Ross

• Box office take: $182.5 million

• Critical score: 56 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “If the movie had only relaxed and allowed itself to admit how silly the situation is, it could have been more fun.” — 1 1/2 stars

• Trivia: The title track to “Footloose” was composed by singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins, who also has credits on ’80s films such as “Caddyshack,” “Top Gun” and “Rocky IV.” These earned him the unofficial title as “King of the Movie Soundtrack.”

  • photo
    “This Is Spinal Tap” is now on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

‘THIS IS SPINAL TAP’

• Release date: March 2, 1984

• Starring: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer

• Director: Rob Reiner

• Box office take: $10.7 million

• Critical score: 95 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “‘This Is Spinal Tap,’ one of the funniest movies ever made, is about a lot of things, but one of them is the way the real story is not in the questions or the answers, but at the edge of the frame.” — 4 stars

• Trivia: In reference to a scene about guitarist Nigel Tufnel’s amplifier, which can be “put … up to 11” instead of the usual 10 — for “that extra push over the cliff,” he says — this film is the only entry on the Internet Movie Database that can be rated out of 11 stars instead of the traditional 10.

‘SPLASH’

• Release date: March 9, 1984

• Starring: Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy and John Candy

• Director: Ron Howard

• Box office take: $159.3 million

• Critical score: 92 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “It’s too bad the relentlessly conventional minds that made this movie couldn’t have made the leap from sitcom to comedy.” — 1 1/2 stars

• Trivia: “Splash” was the first film to be released by Touchstone Films, a brand created by Disney as way to release mature movies that might sully the company’s family friendly reputation. “Splash” was rated PG.

‘POLICE ACADEMY’

• Release date: March 23, 1984

• Starring: Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall and G.W. Bailey

• Director: Hugh Wilson

• Box office take: $185.3 million

• Critical score: 41 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “Now comes without any doubt the absolute pits of this genre, the least funny movie that could possibly have been inspired by ‘Airplane!’ or any other movie” — no stars

• Trivia: There have been seven “Police Academy” films, the most recent of which, “Police Academy: Mission to Moscow,” was released in 1994.

‘ROMANCING THE STONE’

• Release date: March 30, 1984

• Starring: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito

• Director: Robert Zemeckis

• Box office take: $174.5 million

• Critical score: 87 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “After all the ‘Raiders [of the Lost Ark]’ rip-offs, it’s fun to find an adventure film that deserves the comparison, that has the same spirit and sense of humor.” — 3 stars

• Trivia: Before Michael Douglas was cast as leading man Jack T. Colton, the role was turned down by Sylvester Stallone and Christopher Reeve.

‘SIXTEEN CANDLES’

• Release date: May 4, 1984

• Starring: Molly Ringwald, Michael Schoeffling and Anthony Michael Hall

• Director: John Hughes

• Box office take: $54.1 million

• Critical score: 86 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “This is a fresh and cheerful movie with a goofy sense of humor and a good ear for how teenagers talk. … It goes for human comedy and finds it in the everyday lives of the kids in its story.” — 3 stars

• Trivia: The party scene at Jake Ryan’s house was filmed at 1407 Waverly Road, Highland Park, Ill., a 12,500-square-foot mansion that is now a private residence.

  • photo
    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was the second film in the adventure series released in 1984.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

‘INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM’

• Release date: May 23, 1984

• Starring: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw and Jonathan Ke Quan

• Director: Steven Spielberg

• Box office take: $410.5 million

• Critical score: 84 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “This is the most cheerfully exciting, bizarre, goofy, romantic adventure movie since ‘Raiders [of the Lost Ark],’ and it is high praise to say that it’s not so much a sequel as an equal.” — 4 stars

• Trivia: Director Steven Spielberg said the development of the PG-13 rating was a direct result of parents’ vehement reaction to the graphic violence in “The Temple of Doom” and “Gremlins,” which also was released in 1984 and which Spielberg produced.

‘GHOSTBUSTERS’

• Release date: June 8, 1984

• Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver

• Director: Ivan Reitman

• Box office take: $563 million

• Critical score: 97 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “This movie is an exception to the general rule that big special effects can wreck a comedy … one of those rare movies where the original, fragile comic vision has survived a multimillion-dollar production.” — 3 1/2 stars

• Trivia: A fake commercial for the supernatural pest controllers, released after the film’s premiere, listed a 1-800 number that, if called, played a pre-recorded message from Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd saying they were “catching ghosts right now.” It received 1,000 calls an hour for six weeks straight.

‘GREMLINS’

• Release date: June 8, 1984

• Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Hoyt Axton

• Director: Chris Columbus

• Box office take: $349.3 million

• Critical score: 84 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “‘Gremlins’ is a confrontation between Norman Rockwell’s vision of Christmas and Hollywood’s vision of the blood-sucking monkeys of voodoo island. It’s fun.” — 3 stars

• Trivia: The back lot set at Universal Studio that served as the town of Kingston Falls in “Gremlins” was used the next year for the pivotal clock tower scene in “Back to the Future.” It previously had served as the courthouse in 1962’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

‘THE KARATE KID’

• Release date: June 22, 1984

• Starring: Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita

• Director: John G. Avildsen

• Box office take: $207.2 million

• Critical score: 90 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “One of the nice surprises of 1984 — an exciting, sweet-tempered, heart-warming story with one of the most interesting friendships in a long time.” — 4 stars

• Trivia: For his performance as karate master Kesuke Miyagi, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita won both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for best actor in a supporting role.

‘THE LAST STARFIGHTER’

• Release date: July 13, 1984

• Starring: Lance Guest, Robert Preston and Dan O’Herlihy

• Director: Nick Castle Jr.

• Box office take: $65.5 million

• Critical score: 75 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “‘The Last Starfighter’ is a well-made movie. The special effects are competent. The acting is good. … But the final spark was missing, the final burst of inspiration that might have pulled all these concepts and inspirations and retreads together into a good movie.” — 2 1/2 stars

• Trivia: The special effects used in “The Last Starfighter” were among the first to be created and animated strictly by computer.

‘REVENGE OF THE NERDS’

• Release date: July 20, 1984

• Starring: Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards, Timothy Busfield and Curtis Armstrong

• Director: Jeff Kanew

• Box office take: $93.3 million

• Critical score: 76 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “Two belches do not a belching contest make, and with that thought I think we have wasted enough time and space on this movie.” — 1 1/2 stars

• Trivia: There are three sequels to “Revenge of the Nerds.” Robert Carradine (Lewis Skolnick), James Cromwell (Mr. Skolnick), Larry B. Scott (Lamar Latrell) and Curtis Armstrong (Dudley “Booger” Dawson) have appeared in all of them.

‘PURPLE RAIN’

• Release date: July 27, 1984

• Starring: Prince, Apollonia Kotero and Morris Day

• Director: Albert Magnoli

• Box office take: $156.1 million

• Critical score: 74 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “I thought it was the best rock film since Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall.’” — Thumbs up from “At the Movies”

• Trivia: A simplified version of “Love Symbol,” the unpronounceable glyph Prince changed his name to in 1993, is emblazoned on his motorcycle in “Purple Rain.”

‘RED DAWN’

• Release date: Aug. 10, 1984

• Starring: Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson and Charlie Sheen

• Director: John Milius

• Box office take: $87.6 million

• Critical score: 56 percent

• Roger Ebert said: No review.

• Trivia: At the time of its release, “Red Dawn” earned the distinction as the Guinness Book of World Records’ most violent film. The record keepers tallied 134 acts of violence, more than two per minute.

‘THE TERMINATOR’

• Release date: Oct. 26, 1984

• Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield and Lance Henriksen

• Director: James Cameron

• Box office take: $87.6 million

• Critical score: 100 percent

• Roger Ebert said: Nothing. He publicly admitted to never seeing “The Terminator” in a 2009 review of “Terminator Salvation.”

• Trivia: While waiting for Arnold Schwarzenegger to fulfill his contract to film “Conan the Destroyer” before photography could begin on “The Terminator,” director James Cameron busied himself with writing another project that later became “Aliens.”

‘A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’

• Release date: Nov. 9, 1984.

• Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Robert Englund and Johnny Depp

• Director: Wes Craven

• Box office take: $58 million

• Critical score: 96 percent

• Roger Ebert said: No review.

• Trivia: “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was Johnny Depp’s film debut; he was cast for the role after Wes Craven asked him to read at the audition, which he attended in the company of a friend, Jackie Earle Haley. Haley wasn’t cast in “Nightmare,” but he did portray Freddy Krueger in the 2010 reboot of the series.

‘BEVERLY HILLS COP’

• Release date: Dec. 5, 1984

• Starring: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold and John Ashton

• Director: Martin Brest

• Box office take: $535.8 million

• Critical score: 83 percent

• Roger Ebert said: “‘It’s like they had a story conference that boiled down to: ‘Hey gang! Here’s a great idea! Let’s turn it into a standard idea and fill it with clichés, and take out the satire and put in a lot of machine guns!’”— 2 1/2 stars

• Trivia: Although the movie is now indelibly linked to Eddie Murphy, “Beverly Hills Cop” was written with Sylvester Stallone in mind. Stallone dropped out of the role just before filming started, however, and replacing him with Murphy led to massive rewrites of the script.

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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