Top 10 Movie Moments - George's 1980s

1) Forest Gump learns he has a child.    The movie that defied conventional wisdom succeeds on many levels, but none as wondrous and joyful as Tom Hanks’ face when Jenny tells him the little boy is his child.  In a career spanning decades that includes classic films, this may be Tom Hanks’ best 30 seconds of acting.

2) R2D2 Tosses Luke’s Lightsaber.   The franchise may be cliche now, but Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker was still a pop culture hero in 1983 when the long-awaited Return of the Jedi debuted.  The characters were iconic, not a punchline.   George Lucas had already bravely killed off characters, but audiences erupted in cheers both times I saw Jedi in the theaters and R2’s panel slid open to let the droid fire Luke’s lightsaber across the chasm.  That was a single moment when the early 1980s had a swashbuckling hero.  Then we returned to Family Ties and The A Team.

3) Private Winger Rallies His Platoon. Few comedians were as sharp and beloved as Bill Murray in the late 1970s and early 1980s.   His monologue rallying his misfit platoon so they can learn their drill for graduation in Stripes stands alongside John Belush’s similar pep talk to his Animal House frat brothers.  Both had one-liners quoted decades later, but only Murray pranced his mates out to the parade ground with choreography.

4) Sgt. Elias’ Murder.   Platoon was the reality to the Hogans Heroes-camp Stripes created several years earlier.  Oliver Stone, trading on Salvador’s critical acclaim, was given a big budget and told to make magic. The tension between men commanded by Sgts. Elias (Willem Dafoe) and Barnes (Tom Berenger) is intense to the point of emotional pain.  Throw in Charlie Sheen, Kevin Dillon and John McGinley as youngsters caught in the brutality of war, and the tension transcends war to become base human conflict.

5) Maverick and Goose Sing Great Balls of Fire.  Top Gun defined the jingoism enveloping America in the 1980s and 1990s, but had a rollicking moment when the two U.S. Navy aviators and their significant others sang “Great Balls of Fire” in a local bar.  Worth seeing if only for the star power of Tom Cruise, Meg Ryan, Anthony Edwards and Kelly McGillis around the piano.  What makes this scene special is that none of the stars tries to upstage the others.

6) Riggs Rescues Murtaugh From General McAllister.  This single moment from Lethal Weapon makes the list because it alone did more to accelerate the buddy film genre than any other.   As Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is beaten while being held captive by General McAllister (You thought Greg’s dad from Dharma and Greg, didn’t you?  That’s who it is!).  “There are no more heroes, son,” says McAllister to Glover’s glaring face.  A shirtless Riggs (Mel Gibson) kicks open the door at that moment, holding a henchman’s body.   The scene has more cheese than the Velveeta factory, but we got 20 years of television and film from it so the moment merits mention.

7)  Moonlight Graham Gives Up The Field of Dreams.  Many point to Burt Lancaster’s (cast as Dr. Moonlight Graham) last major film role as one of their favorites, but they most often cite his heartwarming talk with Ray Kinsella in 1972 Minnesota. The real magic happens when Graham steps off the magical baseball field to save Kinsella’s daughter Karin.  I still openly weep at Lancaster’s gentle admonishment, “Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes… now that would have been a tragedy.”  I’m tearing up typing it now.

8 ) Jack Napier Walks Behind the Wayne Family.  Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson The Joker into career-defining moments.   If you weren’t around for 1989’s Batman, you may not know the stir Nicholson caused with his Joker origin story.  As petty criminal Jack Napier robbing the Wayne Family, scarring Bruce Wayne and creating Batman, Tim Burton captures darkness on film.  Whether you prefer Ledger or Nicholson, it’s hard to go wrong with the line, “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?

9)  Officer Jim Malone Meets Cadet George Stone.   You know them as Sean Connery and 21 year old Andy Garcia in The Untouchables.  In a movie where A-listers collided in every scene, Garcia forever typecasts himself as Italian with his turn as a young police cadet recruited into the federal unit formed to stop Al Capone.  Sharp dialogue, deep stares and the flash of Garcia’s grin make this scene a pleasure.

10)  Abby Quinn Agrees To Die for Her Unborn Child.  Religious or not, Ashton Kutcher fan or not, no one can deny Demi Moore’s acting chops in The Seventh Sign.  In a horrifying montage while she is in labor, Abby agrees to a supernatural demand asking if she will die for her unborn child, saving the world in the process.  No longer reluctant, she screams, agrees and dies.

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