Today! Because I thought they smelled bad on the outside –
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Starring Mark Hamill (x3), Harrison Ford (x7), Carrie Fisher (x7), Anthony Daniels (x3), James Earl Jones (x6), Kenny Baker (x4), Peter Mayhew (x2), Frank Oz (x8), Alec Guinness (x3), David Prowse (x2), Billy Dee Williams (x2), Julian Glover (x2), Jeremy Bulloch, Kenneth Colley (x3), Denis Lawson, John Ratzenberger (x7), Jason Wingreen
Look, there was bound to come a time on this list where the movies just get crazy great. While there are maybe a few unconventional choices going forward, maybe some preferences inside franchises that are atypical, we’re still largely going to be dealing with super popular or super acclaimed films, by and large. So, like, what is there to say about The Empire Strikes Back that hasn’t already been said? Is there anything in entertainment or pop culture that has been written about more over the last forty years than Star Wars?
For me, it’s basically just this movie and the St. Patrick’s Day parade, though
Today! Because I’m out of it for a little while, everyone gets delusions of grandeur –
Return of the Jedi (1983)
Directed by Richard Marquand
Starring Mark Hamill (x2), Harrison Ford (x4), Carrie Fisher (x6), Anthony Daniels (x2), Kenny Baker (x3), Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones (x5), Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid (x2), Frank Oz (x7), David Prowse, Alec Guinness (x2), Sebastian Shaw, Kenneth Colley (x2), Warwick Davis (x2)
The first movie I distinctly remember seeing in theaters, Return of the Jedi was everything to me as a kid. I don’t wholly remember a time before it – figure, I was a sturdy three-and-a-half when Jedi came out – but as this was the newest film, it rapidly became the go-to in our rotation of Star Wars flicks. Even now, while (spoiler) it is my least favorite of the original trilogy, I contend it has the single best sequence of any of the films – the Tatooine/Jabba’s Palace first act, obviously. And sure, it just drowns in stuffed animals by the end – and a final action sequence that goes on forever – but as much as you might hate the Ewoks, if you grew up with them, do they really bother you that much? This was a franchise built on merchandising first and foremost! They needed their own line of Care Bears! Come on!
Today! Because I couldn’t just stand there and watch him shoot those people right in front of me. It was…rage –
Patriot Games (1992)
Directed by Phillip Noyce
Starring Harrison Ford (x3), Sean Bean, Patrick Bergin, Anne Archer, Thora Birch, Samuel L. Jackson (x3), J.E. Freeman (x2), Polly Walker, James Earl Jones (x4), James Fox, Richard Harris, Hugh Fraser, Ted Raimi (x2), Bob Gunton (x3), Jonathan Ryan, Alex Norton
There have been a bunch of Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan adaptations, but only one was released at the center of my film universe – 1992! And so, Patriot Games, the best and my favorite of the Jack Ryan movies I’ve seen (sorry, Sum of All Fears!)! It’s not as baggy as Clear and Present Danger and is more exciting than Sean Connery’s Russian sub commander in The Hunt For Red October. We only went and saw the Chris Pine Shadow Recruit (I think it was called?) thing because we were literally travelling to Moscow the following month, and thought it might be a good travelogue primer. It was not!
It’s a plenty scary work trip for everyone who goes!
Today! Because Bertram got really into the ’60s, and no one ever saw him again –
The Sandlot (1993)
Directed by David Mickey Evans
Starring Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Denis Leary, Karen Allen, Patrick Renna, Art LaFleur, James Earl Jones (x3), Marley Shelton, Arliss Howard, Chauncey Leopardi, Marty York, Brandon Adams, Grant Gelt
Clearly, 20th Century Fox did not know what they had on their hands with The Sandlot. I mean, jeez, look at those taglines! “They’re the best buddies in the entire history of the world”?? Even if it’s meant tongue-in-cheek, it’s not quite tongue-in-cheek enough to be clear. And the other tagline just makes this out to be a sun-dappled nostalgia fest. This is a legitimately hilarious summer vacation fantasia replete with giant monster dog things and the Great Hambino. As endlessly quotable as any kids movie ever made, The Sandlot may have initially been treated as just another disposable calendar filler by the studio, but I would go out on a limb to say it’s a borderline American classic, and one of the three or four best baseball movies ever made. Continue reading
Today! Because Ike said, “Hey look, give us your technology, we’ll give you all the cow lips you want” –
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson
Starring Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, David Strathairn, Timothy Busfield, Donal Logue, George Hearn, Stephen Tobolowsky, James Earl Jones
All the cast in the world came together for this relatively light heist flick in the early ’90s, with pretty fun results. It’s not a movie you hear bandied about much these days – but judging by its gross, it was fairly popular in the fall of ’92. Redford and Kingsley play friends-turned-rivals battling over this MacGuffin that will decode and hack into everything on the remedial early ’90s internet. Redford’s team of good guys includes very funny turns by Aykroyd, Phoenix, and particuarly Strathairn as the blind sound expert Whistler. To my knowledge, this is also the only big screen pairing of film legends Redford and Poitier, so that’s cool! Is it a bit dated, given that the high-tech wizardry on display in this movie looks like a cheap Nintendo game? Sure. But even at the time this seemed more an excuse to gather up a ton of great actors and go on a good, old fashioned caper than to try to wow the audience with gadgets. The movie doesn’t quite match up to the heavy hitters involved, but it is definitely enhanced by their collective presence. Continue reading
Today! Because it hurt that my friends never stood downwind –
The Lion King (1994)
Directed by Rogers Allers and Rob Minkoff
Starring Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Cheech Marin, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Robert Guillaume
Even if it doesn’t have the most entries on this list, I often hold up 1994 as being possibly the best year ever for movies. The highs are just so high – and it kicks off with what was the top grossing animated movie ever for a very long time afterward. Coming on the heels of the superior The Little Mermaid/Beauty and the Beast combo and the funnier Aladdin, Disney crashed the summer and dominated with what is often accurately described as “Savanna Hamlet.” Home video was already well established by this point, however in the early ’90s you saw successful movies stay in theaters for lengthy runs, and I ended up seeing Lion King some five times at movie theaters and drive-ins across ’94 and ’95. This would stick around at least tied for Movie I Saw in Theaters Most for many, many years. Continue reading