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Tuesday Top Ten: 1985 Favorites! 

Because we'll be seeing what various cinephiles around the web think of Peter Weir's Witness for "Best Shot" tonight here's an entirely rando top ten list of 1985, direct from my brain. Or, rather, from web archives or my brain. Which means it's an unholy amalgam of things I loved when I was young and things I love now after many watches over the years and things I possibly would only love ironically now because I loved them when I was young. 

1985 silliness after the jump...

  • The Breakfast Club (John Hughes)
  • Insignificance (Nicholas Roeg)
  • Kiss of the Spiderwoman (Hector Babenco)
  • Ladyhawke (Richard Donner)
  • Out of Africa (Sydney Pollack)
  • Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Tim Burton)
  • Prizzi's Honor (John Huston)
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen) 
  • Ran (Akira Kurosawa)
  • Witness (Peter Weir) 

What would old lists look like if we had to rewatch everything? Who knows because who has time to watch 100 pictures you've already seen for such projects, year by year? I mean besides Nick Davis of course who is always working through lists all over again, bless. 

So here's how my film bitch awards might have gone back then had they existed but been announced now (wait, what?)


  • (Gold) The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • (Silver) Witness 
  • (Bronze) Pee Wee's Big Adventure if I'm feeling crazy, Akira Kurosawa's Ran if I'm feeling serious, The Breakfast Club if I'm feeling nostalgic



  • ??????  I don't remember this year well in lead actressing I must admit. At the time I wasn't into the Oscar nominees all that much (apart from Streep in Out of Africa though that performance doesn't hold up as one of her best of the 80s. I prefer her in Plenty that same year) but things could change on a revisit.



  • (Gold) Jeff Daniels, Purple Rose of Cairo
  • (Silver) Harrison Ford, Witness
  • (Bronze) William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman... maybe I'd think the latter too hammy now? Who knows.



  • (Gold) Sonia Braga, Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • (Silver) Mieko Harada, Ran
  • (Bronze) Anjelica Huston, Prizzi's Honor
    This was a RIDICULOUSLY strong year for supporting actresses. I thought of 15 more (!!!) while typing those three names. You could make a handful of extra Best Supporting Actress lineups with 1985 and nobody would look at you like "weak year, huh?" if they were to chance upon them and mistake them for a real one. 



  • ...omg I can't remember worthy candidates here. They must have existed. Anyone?


  • Terry Gilliam's Brazil 
  • Albert Brook's Lost in America


  • Attention: Daniel Day Lewis's Double Feature Amazement (A Room With a View / My Beautiful Laundrette) was an entirely 1986 experience in America. But they both say 1985. Those two films are such vivid memories... FROM 1986. 


  • Michael J Fox's sleeping contortions in Back to the Future
  • Meg Tilly's stigmata in Agnes of God
  • Helen Mirren crying watching Mikhail Baryshnikov dance in White Nights
  • Brian Kerwin's butt in Murphy's Romance 
  • Molly Ringwald using her cleavage to apply lipstick in The Breakfast Club
  • The cast of Clue bunching up around doorways
  • Tim Curry laughing (with horns) in Legend


Basically any image of Michelle Pfeiffer in Ladyhawke but especially this one pictured (previously discussed in a Q&A column) and also any image of Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan though this one is way up there...




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Reader Comments (33)

Hello Color Purple, Whoopi, Oprah, Avery.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersummer

Ok 85 faves


Witness,Mask,The Color Purple,Out Of Africa,Kiss of the Spider Woman





April 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

Laura Dern and Mary Kay Place are both exceptional in Smooth Talk.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterUli

My top 10 for 1985 would be

01. Shoah
02. Come and See
03. The Purple Rose of Cairo
04. Ran
05. My Beautiful Laundrette
06. A Room with a View
07. The Breakfast Club
08. Brazil
09. Kiss of the Spider Woman
10. Mask

Since I'm portuguese, and have very little patience for the weird release dates of my country, I usually follow IMDB's dates. Sorry. (Also, I need to watch A Time to Live and a Time to Die)

My favorite performances:

Actress: Farrow, The Purple Rose of Cairo
Actor: Day-Lewis, My Beautiful Laundrette
Supporting Actress: Harada, Ran
Supporting Actor: Hall, The Breakfast Club

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermagnificent obsession

- Chus Lampreave, Verónica Forqué and Carmen Maura in What Have I Done to Deserve This? all merit consideration
- Cher and Eric Stoltz for Mask!

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTami

I watched Kiss of the Spider Woman a few months ago, and after watching Witness again I would have given Best Actor to Ford (haven't seen the other three nominees though).

Another 1985 favorite of mine that's not mentioned here is Scorsese's After Hours.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKeisha

The choices mentioned are great. I'm glad to see Ladyhawke getting some love. Pfeiffer is luminous and her presence makes Matthew Broderick more tolerable.

One film worth checking out is The Official Story from Argentina. Norma Aleandro in the lead was the Best Actress of the year for me.

An oddball choice is the very British A Private Function. It's not for everybody, but I find it quite funny and Maggie Smith nails the social climber beautifully.

Also, just need to mention Sam Elliott in Mask. I know Cher and Eric Stoltz get the big praise (and deservedly so), but he does so much so subtly in his supporting performance. After seeing him in Grandma and I'll See You in My Dreams last year, I'm starting to appreciate how underappreciated Sam Elliott is!!

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames Canada

WHERE IS CLUE?!?! This post is fired.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Blood Simple, Brazil, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Plenty, The Purple Rose of Cairo*

Blood Simple, Brazil*, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Plenty, The Purple Rose of Cairo

Jeff Daniels, Harrison Ford, Raul Julia, Sean Penn [Falcon/Snowman], Paul Reubens*

Cher, Mia Farrow, Whoopi Goldberg, Miranda Richardson [Dance With A Stranger]*, Meryl Streep [Plenty]

Wilfred Brimley [Cocoon], Kevin Costner [Silverado], John Gielgud [Plenty], Crispin Glover [Back To The Future]*, M Emmet Walsh [Blood Simple]

Jan Hooks [Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure], Anjelica Huston*, Meg Tilly, Tracey Ullman [Plenty], Oprah Winfrey

Back to the Future, Blood Simple, Brazil, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure , The Purple Rose of Cairo*

Agnes of God, Out of Africa, Plenty*, Prizzi's Honor, The Trip to Bountiful

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I was waiting very impatiently for CLUE to pop up here lol

I have conflicted feelings about THE BREAKFAST CLUB, now that I'm not in my youthful obsession with it. As much as there is undeniably great about it, I just can't stomach it anymore for some reason (probably it's ambivalence with using gay slur and general implausibilities)

April 12, 2016 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

He doesn't like The Color Purple summer.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

After Hours
Back to the Future
The Purple Rose of Cairo-Winner
The Color Purple

Martin Scorsese-After Hours

Harrison Ford-Witness

Actress-Miranda Richardson-Dance with a Stranger

Supporting Actor:
Christopher Lloyd-Back to the Future

Supporting Actress:
Madeline Kahn-Clue

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

"Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters" and "Come and See" are big absences here.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan: Come and See is AMAZING. My alphabetical BP line-up that year would probably be: Back to the Future (A), Brazil (A+), Come and See (A+), The Purple Rose of Cairo (A-) and Ran (A-). Of the stuff I've seen that he's included in his top 10 that's not in my top 5? The Breakfast Club: B+. Kiss of the Spider-Woman: B-. (William Hurt's "Donald Sutherland 2.0" persona is a painful flop in this one.) Out of Africa: B-. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure: A-. Prizzi's Honor: B-.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

My favorite film from '85 would have to be "The Emerald Forest". But "Brazil", "After Hours" and "Lost in America" were also pretty terrific.
Jonathan Pryce("Brazil") and James Mason("The Shooting Party") were both remarkable that year. And I'm still down with Geraldine Page's '85 Oscar win. But Streep was pretty special in "Plenty". Also liked Jessica Lange ("Sweet Dreams") and Susan Sarandon ("Compromising Positions"). Never bought into the Cher as actress thing in "Mask" or anything else. Still haven't come to terms with that "Moonlighting"Oscar she copped in '87 over masterful work from Sally Kirkland ("Anna") and Glenn Close ("Fatal Attraction') not to mention brilliant (un-nominated) performances from Lillian Gish ("The Whales of August" ) and Streep ("Ironweed").
Lots of solid supporting actor action in '85 from Don Ameche("Cocoon"), Charles Dance("Plenty"),Kevin Costner("Silverado",Charley Boorman and Ruy Polonah("The Emerald Forest")
I loved Cheryl Campbell in "The Shooting Party". But Oprah hit it out of the park in "The Color Purple".

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKen

This year has lots of great female leads.

I concur that Miranda Richardson was fabulous, wild and dangerous in Dance With A Stranger.

I also like: Desperately Seeking Susan, Goodbye New York, Jewel of the Nile, Anne of Green Gables, Vagabond.

Also fun: Runaway Train, Letter to Brezhnev, Joshua Then And Now, Dim Sum.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I second James Canada's notion that Norma Aleandro ist the Best Actress of 1985. For Best Supporting Actor, I propose Roddy McDowall in 'Fright Night'.

As for Best Actor: I'm firmly team Nakadai here, but am I the only one who thinks Raul Julia delivers the better male lead performance in 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'?

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

I meant "Moonstruck", not "Moonlighting". I need to get a grip.

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Of course Madonna invented the selfie!

Molly Ringwald using her cleavage to apply lipstick I remember but it's the cynical, slow clap of Judd Nelson that has stayed with me. I actually felt Clare's hurt while empathising with Bender's low opinion of the kind of person that find's that kind of thing clever and amusing.

Chris Feil mentions they he has conflicting views of the Breakfast Club and so do I but there's no denying it hit a nerve. I feel that anyone from our generation who paid attention grew up to be a little less judgemental and more accepting of others. Maybe?

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

Brian Kerwin's butt in Murphy's Romance... I thought I was the only one!

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBiggs

I'm a bit of a child of the times, a quick google tells me my extent of films I've seen from 1985 are basically The Goonies, Ladyhawk, Teen Wolf, Return to Oz , Desperately Seeking Susan, Weird Science, A Chorus Line, and Back to the Future. A GREAT year for film in my eyes, as these are all films I watched over and over and over as a kid, and still feel very fondly towards them all :)

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJB

- Elem Klimov's Come and See is one the best movies of all time. It makes an astonishing duo with Larisa Shepitko's The Ascent. Larisa was Klimov's wife, but she suffered a can accident and died. These two movies, The Ascent and Come and See may be the best war movies ever made. I mean EVER.

- Still on foreign movies: Norma Aleandro's performance in The Official Story is like marvelous, wondrous, breathtaking. What a hell of a performance!

- Nathaniel, you love Daniels but you don't love Farrow?

- I am really ok with Out of Africa as a best picture winner. And I love Streep in it, too.

My winners and nominees:


1 Come and See
2 Back to the Future
3 The Official Story
4 Ran
5 Out of Africa


1 Michael J. Fox, Back to The Future
2 Tatsuya Nakadai, Ran
3 Jeff Daniels, The Purple Rose of Cairo
4 Raul Julia, Kiss of the Spider Woman
5 William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman


1 Norma Aleandro, The Official Story
2 Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple
3 Meryl Streep, Out of Africa
4 Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful
5 Mia Farrow, The Purple Rose of Cairo

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Cal -- no, i LOVE Farrow in that movie but i mean every time i tried to come up with gold/silver/bronze for actresses i was like well... I think i need to rematch stuff from that year because Mia is the only one I know I'd nominate.

JB -- weirdly i *HATED* Goonies at the time whereas most people in my general age range love it. but the other ones i have fond memories of seeing. well except Return to Oz. I abstained due to loyalty to Judy G.

Biggs -- no. one of the saddest things to me about the internet is the lack of fetishisizng about 80s and early 90s movies (i.e. before the internet-- now even a movie with 3 fans might have a truckload of high quality images available online.) Brian Kerwin was so ridiculously sexy in the 80s and no one ever talks of him. (i also loved him in Torch Song Trilogy)

Joanne - right? Madonna is perfect.

April 13, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Tami -- Oh God, you're right! Now my best actress list is just impossible!!!

Best Actress was quite crowded that year. Norma Aleandro should have been nominated for The Official Story. Shout-out to Mia Farrow, Rosanna Arquette and The Turner.

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

MrW -- i believe this was actually a minority opinion back in 85 so you're not alone. Hurt's performance was big and acclaimed but some thought "too" big.

Adri -- i did see DANCE WITH A STRANGER but i don't remember it at all beyond how striking Miranda Richardson and Rupert Everett looked together.

Ken -- i should've added EMERALD FOREST to that list with Brazil. I saw it but didn't "get" it.

eurocheese & chris -- CLUE is there. you just have to read the whole post for it.

April 13, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Hate to admit but I actually saw most of these in movie theaters in 1985. So many fond memories of: Out of Africa, Emerald Forest, Brazil, Mask, Jagged Edge (I know, but I had a bit of crush on Jeff Bridges), White Knights (the first time I saw Helen Mirren, then went back and watched Excalibur and Caligula), Legend of Billie Jean, Purple Rose of Cairo.

And my first "foreign" movie an art house cinema - Ran.

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Best Pictures: Brazil, When Father Was Away on Business, Prizzi's Honor

Best Actor: James Mason - The Shooting Party

Best Actress: Coral Browne - Dreamchild

Best Supporting Actor: William Hickey - Prizzi's Honor

Best Supporting Actress: Anjelica Huston - Prizzi's Honor

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterken s

ken -- OOOh. Coral Browne. she was indeed special in Dreamchild.

April 13, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Oops forgot MVP: Ian Holm - Brazil, Dance with a Stranger, Dreamchild, Wetherby - excellent in all of them

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterken s

Oh my God, Nathaniel PLEASE re-watch Brazil. It's maybe not completely brilliant but is easily the best thing Gilliam has ever done - such a striking, unique vision, and so absurdly, acidly funny, too.

I was all of one year old in 1985, so.... That said, though, I don't see any film from this year beating Purple Rose of Cairo or Ran for my Best Picture.

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Yes, I did see your very brief note for Clue at the end. I stand by my question. My 1985 movie year is all about Clue, followed by all other lesser films. Ensemble of the decade, an impossible choice between ladies in their category (and I feel you could argue either category - even as an ensemble, the entire cast is on screen in almost every scene where they didn't split up), and if they all go in supporting, Tim Curry is easily your answer in Best Supporting Actor. I'm honestly shocked I'm one of the few championing it. Clue is Actresseual Paradise.

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

I'm late to this party but the nostalgia for 1985 is well deserved.
I just wanted to point out that the video store/VCR had really started to come into their own at this time. I saw a number of films at the 2 local rep theatres that specialized in double features of first run films, but renting was also popular.

I remember Ladyhawke, and Michelle as a video discovery because we kept rewinding her part.
Out of Africa was beautiful in the theatre with that soaring John Barry score, I still love Streep in that part.
Miranda Richardson, Raul Julia, Prizzi's Honour, and both actresses in The Official Story stand out for me in the acting categories.
Lost in America was very funny to me but the friend I watched it with didn't get it.
What a great year for film.

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

After Hours is kind of a Supporting Actress fantasia overload as I recall. I loved everything about it at the time.

Plenty is in my Top 5 Meryl Streep performances but I'm shocked to see anyone else liked it. I thought I was alone!

Witness was my favorite of the year, but wasn't this the year of My Life As A Dog? I loved that one at the time. Lasse Hallstrom has been riding that goodwill train for the last 30 years!

Tampopo anyone?

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Hollywood

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