Thursday, 24 April 2014 | MYT 6:55 PM

Blockbuster year: Step back in time to the totally awesome 1984

Let's go back 30 years and relive one of Hollywood’s most prolific blockbuster seasons.

With Hollywood’s blockbusters getting bigger, louder, and filled with more CGI, superheroes and explosions with each passing year, sometimes it’s nice to go back to the classics when everything was much simple.

This week, we hop into our time-machine to go back three decades to a year that saw the release of some of the most iconic movies ever made.

In 1984, a smart-mouthed Detroit cop topped the US box office charts, while ghost-hunting scientists, dancing teens, evil little critters, dream stalking killers, killer robots from the future, and er... car-waxing karate kids set the tone for what was truly an iconic year for Hollywood blockbusters.

Here are 10 of what we think are the most memorable films from that year. Check out our YouTube playlist to watch more video clips from these movies.   


Look out behind you! The Ghostbusters go to ex-streams to get rid of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man.
Look out behind you! The Ghostbusters go to ex-streams to get rid of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man.

Don’t cross the streams!

The plot in one line: Three scientists form a company to hunt ghosts, demons, and giant marshmallow men.

Why it matters 30 years later: Anytime anyone asks me what is my personal favourite comedy of all times, I would tell them it’s Ghostbusters. It had everything – great comedic actors, brilliant lines, great special effects (at the time), a giant marshmallow man, and above all, the Ecto-1, which surely ranks as one of the coolest cars in the history of film.

“Rarely has a movie this expensive provided so many quotable lines,” said the late legendary movie critic Roger Ebert in his 1984 review of Ghostbusters, and by Gozer he was right. 

From the above quote about crossing the streams, to Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) proclaiming that “when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say yes!”, Ghostbusters was filled with brilliant comedic lines delivered by three comedians at the peak of their powers – Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Harold Ramis.

It’s also a movie filled with brilliantly iconic scenes – including the team’s first ghost hunting sortie where they come up against the green blob of slime that later came to be known as Slimer; Sigourney Weaver floating three feet off her bed; and of course, a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man attacking the city.

The Terminator

I’m Reese. Sergeant Tech-Com, DN38416. Assigned to protect you. You’ve been targeted for termination.

The plot in one line: Naked men/robots come from the future to save/kill poor pre-bada** Sarah Connor.

Why it matters 30 years later: “The machines rose from the ashes of the nuclear fire. Their war to exterminate mankind had raged for decades, but the final battle would not be fought in the future. It would be fought here, in our present…”

So began one of the greatest science-fiction franchises of all time, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in THE most iconic role of his entire career, and marking the first step James Cameron took towards becoming the blockbuster king of the world.

He said he would be back and he did. Again and again. Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator.

The special effects may be a little jaded now, and the story really doesn’t seem like much (besides the mind-blowing revelation that Kyle Reese was sent back by his son, John Connor), but its success set the foundations for the further development of the franchise and ensured its place in pop-culture history.

So influential is Schwarzenegger in this franchise that it is almost unimaginable that a Terminator movie could go without its iconic star – for all its special effects and Skynet-heavy action, the McG-directed Terminator Salvation (2009) ultimately proved to be a big letdown, making do with only a badly CGI-ed glimpse of the then-California Governor.


First of all, keep him out of the light, he hates bright light, especially sunlight, it’ll kill him. Second, don’t give him any water, not even to drink. But the most important rule, the rule you can never forget, no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never feed him after midnight.

The plot in one line: Small town kid gets cute cuddly pet that spawns evil little creatures that kill a lot of people but love Snow White.

Awww so cuuuute! Just don't feed him after midnight, or he'll turn into an evil little gremlin.
Awww so cuuuute! Just don't feed him after midnight, or he'll turn into an evil little gremlin.

Why it matters 30 years later: Everyone knows the three rules of keeping a mogwai. Sure, the rules don’t really make sense (like, how long after midnight should one wait to feed him?), but there was something about the cute, cuddly little creature that “gave birth” to a horde of twisted, evil creatures that made this a huge hit.

The comedy was dark, the violence was controversial, and the film was almost devoid of any big name actors; yet, Gremlins proved to be successful enough to spawn a sequel (Gremlins 2: The New Batch) and countless immitators (Critters, Troll, Munchies ... you get the picture). And after watching it, I wanted Gizmo as a pet as well.

Police Academy

Move it, maggots!

The plot: Bunch of hopeless society rejects join a police academy and stay on long enough to make six other movies.

Why it matters 30 years later: This is the movie that set the benchmark for ensemble cop comedies, and spawned a thousand sequels, or so it felt like (there were seven in total).

However, no matter how many sequels Steve Guttenberg and company (which included a pre-Samantha Jones Kim Cattrall) made, nothing beats the all-out wackiness of the original movie.

From the bunch of misfits that formed the core group, to the nasty Lieutenant Harris, and THAT podium speech scene, this was low-brow humour at the highest order, and was funny enough to gross more than US$146mil (RM474mil) worldwide.

The Karate Kid

Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.

The plot in one line: Small-town boy in new city gets bullied, and gets conned into doing chores by Japanese maintenance man under the pretence of learning karate.

Why it matters 30 years later: Cheesy as hell and with a story that isn’t exactly Oscar-worthy, the movie would not have been as memorable i11f not for the late Pat Morita’s Mr Miyagi, the little white haired Japanese maintenance man who catches flies with chopsticks and has a white belt from J.C. Penny.

From his unorthodox training methods (“Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off.”), to the way he rubbed his hands together to generate smoking healing hands, Morita’s performance was so iconic that he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and the name “Mr Miyagi” is now pop-culture-speak for “wise old sensei”.

It’s also testament to The Karate Kid’s popularity that it not only spawned three sequels (all with Morita as Miyagi, and one with a female Karate Kid), it also prompted two remakes and the most recent one starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. It was even the basis of a running gag on How I Met Your Mother, in which Barney Stinson claims that the movie’s hero was the actual “karate kid”, Johnny Lawrence, the Cobra Kai kid Ralph Macchio’s Daniel beats in the final.

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

Hey, Dr Jones, no time for love. We’ve got company.

The plot: Everyone’s favourite archaeologist cum adventurer heads to India for some heart grabbing, bridge chopping, rollercoaster-riding fun.

Why it matters 30 years later: Come on, it’s Indiana Jones! After the huge success of Raiders Of The Lost Ark in 1981, it was no surprise that Harrison Ford reprised his role as the fedora wearing adventurer.

Arguably the scariest and most uncompromising of the three Indiana Jones movies (we refuse to acknowledge that Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull ever exists), this had it all – adorable sidekicks, annoying damsels, exciting rollercoaster mine cart rides, and a nail-biting rope bridge climax that still ranks as one of the franchise’s most iconic moments.

Beverly Hills Cop

Is this the gentleman who crashed through Victor Maitland’s window? Who disabled an unmarked unit with a banana?

The plot: A Detroit cop heads to Beverly Hills to solve the murder of his best friend, and discovers a new way of using bananas.

Eddie Murphy was a Beverly Hills cop before becoming a nutty professor and a donkey in a land far far away.
Eddie Murphy was a Beverly Hills cop before becoming a nutty professor and a donkey in a land far far away.

Why it matters 30 years later: That this was the No. 1 movie in the US box-office that year says a lot about it – Axel Foley made Beverly Hills cool before the Fresh Prince did, and it is still one of the funniest movies Eddie Murphy has ever made.

Murphy was genuinely funny and likeable, which is more than one can say about some of his later roles (Norbit, anyone?).


I thought this was a party. LET’S DANCE!

The plot in one line: Boy moves to a small town that has banned dancing, and ends up dancing a lot (Yeah, that’s pretty much it).

Why it matters 30 years later: It’s got Kevin Bacon dancing a lot. What else do you need?

Oh fine. Iconic enough to warrant a modern remake in 2011, Footloose is one of those movies that just sticks in your head, though Kenny Loggins' classic earworm probably plays a big part in that. Bacon’s classic solo dance in an abandoned warehouse was especially memorable, not just for his moves, but the sheer over-the-top-ness of it all.

Speaking Bacon’s dance, check out his recent entrance to the Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show, which went viral and got the word “Footloose” trendy (or rather, trending) again.

This Is Spinal Tap

The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...

The plot in one line: Mockumentary about the rise and the fall of 1980’s heavy metal Spinal Tap that is funnier than this one-liner sounds.

Why it matters 30 years later: You know that phrase “turn it up to eleven”? This is the movie that created that phrase.

It may not have made much money upon its release, but its cult status continued to grow long after 1984, cultimating in Entertainment Weekly putting it on top of their Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time list.

The satirical “rockumentary” about fictional British heavy metal band Spinal Tap, it parodied all the usual tropes rock stars were known for back then - the excessive lifestyles, the eccentric sets, the controlling girlfriends... It took everything that was funny and outrageous about rock music, and turned it up to eleven.

A Nightmare On Elm Street

Do you need you nails trimmed, Mr Kruger?

Do you need you nails trimmed, Mr Kruger?

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four, better lock your door. Five, six, grab your crucifix. Seven, eight, gonna stay up late. Nine, ten, never sleep again.

The plot in one line: Fedora-wearing, stripy-sweatered, scar-faced villain with REALLY pointy fingers stalks the dreams of kids living on just one apparently very special street.

Why it matters 30 years later: Nine films, a spin-off TV show, and countless other appearences in video games, comics and orther mediums. Freddy Kruger is one of the most iconic horror characters of all time, though he was never been as scary as he was in Wes Craven’s original.

Subsequent sequels horrifically played up the comedic nature of the character, so most people tend to underestimate Freddy, but go watch the original again, and you’ll see exactly why Freddy Kruger is ranked as one of the greatest and most iconic movie characters of all time.

Related stories:

Memorable events in the music world that took place in 1984

Looking for the 1984 pop rewind? Music from the 1980s rock!

Defining albums of 1984

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment , 1984 , moves , Hollywood , Ghostbusters , Gremlins , The Terminator , Footloose


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