I just finished watching Kagemusha with my family a few nights ago and liked it enough that I wanted to build a list around it. I'm sort of informally doing lists for the eighties (I've only done 1985 so far), so I thought "why not do one for 1980?"
1. The Empire Strikes Back (Kershner)
This is my favorite movie of all time, so it stands to reason it would be at the top of my 1980 list. One of the best, if not the best, sequels of all time.
2. The Shining (Kubrick)
I'm due for another screening, so my memory's not sharp, but for a bad adaptation of a book, this is a pretty incredible film.
3. Kagemusha (Kurosawa)
It's epic and tragic and beautifully filmed. Kurosawa used color in such a creative and powerful way, you'd think he'd been filming in color his whole career. In the opening scene, the camera and the characters don't move for almost a full seven minutes. There's a director who knows the story he wants to tell and is not afraid to get there however he needs to.
4. Permanent Vacation (Jarmusch)
Very low-key and meandering, but a great indication of what was coming from Jarmusch. He would take this basic structure of a story and flesh it out in all kinds of interesting and unique ways from then on, so he's building up from where he started, but staying true to the core of his message about humanity--ultimately, we're all searching for some kind of meaning, but ordinary life and interesting people keep distracting us from that search, and sometimes we're just too unmotivated to seek it out again for awhile. At least that's what *I* think he's saying.
[Note: According to IMDB, this was released in the US in 1981, so according to my own criteria this should be in the 1981 list, but whatever.]
5. Raging Bull (Scorcese)
This would probably be higher on a lot of lists; ultimately, picks 2-5 could content for any of those positions because they're all great films in my opinion. But in film club, you *have* to choose. Anyway, it's been awhile since I saw Raging Bull, but I remember being taken aback by how raw and brutal it was--and how I managed to find empathy for such a destructive and unlikeable person (La Motta, of course). It was only the second or third Scorcese film I saw in a pretty short amount of time, during my film discovery period at Houghton, and it boosted him quickly towards the top of my favorite directors list.
6. Airplane (Abrahams/Zucker bros.)
This was the first of many films by these guys that I grew to love in my adolescence. I saw all the Airplanes, Hot Shots, and Naked Guns I could get my eyes on--with a Top Secret for good measure. I'll admit that the style of humor has lost its allure somewhat these days, but the sight gags and endless silly wordplay has influenced my own personal sense of humor to an unquantifiable degree.
7. Friday the 13th (Cunningham)
You're probably wondering why I didn't rate this higher. Honestly, while it started a horror franchise that's one of my favorites, it's not one of my favorite in the series. I think it's mostly because the business with his mother is distracting and takes away from the horror of Jason himself. PArt two is superior in almost every way--even part three with its cheesy but wonderful 3-D effects manages to outdo the original.
8. Caddyshack (Ramis)
I also loved Chevy Chase when I was a teenager. The man could do no wrong.
9. The Fog (Carpenter)
I really have no business putting this on the list at all, but I'm running out of films I've seen in 1980 that I even want to include on a list, and I vaguely remember liking this, and I like Carpenter as a director, so that's why it's 9 instead of ten. But this is my list, after all, and I can do it however I want.
10. Superman II (Lester/Donner)
I haven't gotten too much into the whole Lester/Donner debate, but I do know this sequel could have been better than it was. Still, to a 6 year old, it was still pretty darn exciting. Especially Zod and his buddies.
Honorable mentions: Prom Night, Gods Must Be Crazy, Popeye, Private Benjamin (saw it as a kid and really liked it)
Haven't seen but want to: Elephant Man (I know!), Heaven's Gate, Maniac, Stardust Memories, Breaker Morant
Didn't get it: Altered States