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Vintage '85: Madonna, Stallone, Marty McFly, Golden Girls...

by Nathaniel R 

click on the image to embiggen

1985 is our "Year of the Month", as we work towards the Supporting Actress Smackdown (Sunday October 1st!). We'll be periodically peppering the blog with takes on showbiz from that year. But first a "TOTALLY 80s" overview of the year that was in movies, music, theater, and tv after the jump... 


Out of Africa was the fifth biggest hit of 1985 (yes in the 80s adult aimed dramas became blockbusters!), inspired fashion trends, kept Meryl's hot 80s streak growing, and won 7 Oscars!

Oscar: Out of Africa (11 nominations/7 wins), The Color Purple (11 nominations), Witness (8 nominations/2 wins), Prizzi's Honor (8 nominations/1 win), and the unlikely indie arthouse sensation Kiss of the Spider-Woman (4 nominations/1 win) made up the Best Picture shortlist.

...but if there'd been 6-10 nominees?
1985 presents a really tough challenge in this popular what-if game  since the actual Best Picture nominees were so dominant. A Chorus Line had plenty of pre-release hype but then it opened for Christmas and disappointed critics and audiences -- and yet it still managed 3 nominations. Akira Kurosawa's Ran was the more likely just-miss with a very healthy nomination tally for a foreign language film (4 nods including Best Director). But perhaps the list would have ended with 6 pictures because unlike Ran none of the other films seem all that likely. Other films that had pockets of support but nothing like across-the-board momentum: the actor's branches liked Agnes of God and Runaway Train  (3 noms each), Brazil was a critics darling (2 nominations), and the pop smashes Cocoon (2 nominations but it won both) and  Back to the Future (4 nominations) were not taken as seriously at the time as they are now... isn't that always the case?!

Golden Globe: (drama) Out of Africa*, The Color Purple, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Runaway Train, and Witness (comedy/musical) Prizzi's Honor*, Back to the Future, A Chorus Line, Cocoon, The Purple Rose of Cairo

Top Box Office Hits:

  1. Back to the Future
  2. Rambo
  3. Rocky IV
  4. The Color Purple
  5. Out of Africa
  6. Cocoon
  7. The Jewel of the Nile
  8. Witness
  9. The Goonies
  10. Spies Like Us
  11. Police Academy 2
  12. Fletch
  13. A View to a Kill
  14. European Vacation
  15. Mask
  16. The Breakfast Club
  17. White Nights
  18. Pale Rider
  19. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
  20. Brewster's Millions

: Because 1984-1986 is when I really became a movie mad nut, I have a hard time doing top ten lists... so much nostalgia for this falling in love with the movies time. But the movie I think about the most from this year are (in rough order of mental real estate): The Purple Rose of Cairo, Witness, The Breakfast Club, Ladyhawke, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Desperately Seeking Susan, Prizzi's Honor, Clue and Ran.



 ad from the premiere of The Golden Girls (September, 1985)

Most Popular Shows:
The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Murder She Wrote, Cheers, Dallas, Dynasty, The Golden Girls, Miami Vice, Who's The Boss  and the mini-series North and South was a ratings smash.

Debuting Series
: Moonlighting, Jem and the Holograms, Mr Belvedere, Larry King Live, 227, The Golden Girls, Growing Pains, Misfits of Science, The Equalizer.  

Series Finale of Long-Running Programs: Alice, The Jeffersons, The Dukes of Hazzard, and two animated series Super Friends and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.

Emmy Winners
Drama Series: Cagney & Lacey finally knocks Hill Street Blues from its Emmy throne. Other nominees that year were: Magnum PI, St Elsewhere, and freshman Murder She Wrote (replacing Fame in the perennial lineup); Drama Actor: William Daniels, St. Elsewhere (1st of 2 consecutive wins); Drama Actress: Tyne Daly, Cagney & Lacey (3rd of 4 wins); Drama Supporting Actor: Edward James Olmos, Miami Vice (his only win); Drama Supporting Actress: Betty Thomas, Hill Street Blues (her only win from 7 nominations for this series - by the end of the decade she was transitioning to Directing and would later win an Emmy for that, too); Comedy Series: The Cosby Show unseats Cheers for its only win in this category (debut season) also beating Family Ties, Kate & Allie, and Night Court; Comedy Actor: Robert Guillaume, Benson (sixth and final nomination and second win for this character, though the first time was as a Supporting Actor before the character spun-off from the short lived but brilliant Soap); Comedy Actress: Jane Curtin, Kate & Allie (2nd consecutive win but this category was about to get a major overhaul with the steamrolling arrival of the The Golden Girls; Comedy Supporting Actress: John Laroquette, Night Court (1st of 4 consecutive wins for this character); Comedy Supporting Actress: Rhea Perlman, Cheers (2nd of 4 wins for this show); MINISERIES: The Jewel in the Crown; TV MOVIE: Do You Remember Love starring Joanne Woodward as a professor with Alzheimers


Tony Awards
Musical: Big River won against a category of otherwise forgotten musicals: Grind, Leader of the Pack, Quilters. It was such a dire year for musicals that they cancelled the Best Actress and Best Actor categories in musicals. No, really. They did!!! Featured Actress Musical: Leilani Jones in Grind; Featured Actor Musical: Ron Richardson in Big River; Play: Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues  triumphs over a very famous group. The other nominees were  As Is, Hurlyburly, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; Actress, Play: Stockard Channing in A Day in the Life of Joe Egg; Actor Play: Derek Jacobi in Much Ado About Nothing; Featured Actress Play: Judith Ivey in Hurlyburly; Featured Actor Play: Barry Miller in Biloxi Blues.

Yul Brynner was given a special Tony for his 4,525 performances in The King and I, a role for which he had previously won both the Tony and the Oscar. He would die just a few months later of lung cancer. 

Lindsey Duncan and Alan Rickman were the original Merquise & Valmont. Close & Malkovich replaced them for the film version

Other New Plays: Christopher Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses premiered in London, and was quickly followed by both a Broadway transfer with the same leads (1987) and then the Oscar nominated movie adaptation (88) with a whole new cast. Wallace Shawn's Aunt Dan and Lemon opened Off Broadway.


Top Singles of the Year 

  1. "Careless Whisper" - George Michael 
  2. "Like a Virgin" - Madonna
  3. "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" -Wham!
  4. "I Want to Know What Love Is" - Foreigner
  5. "I Feel For You" - Chaka Khan
  6. "Out of Touch" - Hall & Oates
  7.  "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" -Tears for Fears
  8. "Money For Nothing" - Dire Straits
  9. "Crazy For You" - Madonna
  10. "Take on Me" - a-ha
  11. "Everytime You Go Away" - Paul Young
  12. "Easy Lover" - Philip Bailey and Phil Collins
  13. "Can't Fight This Feeling" -REO Speedwagon
  14. "We Built This City" - Starship
  15. "The Power of Love" - Huey Lewis *Oscar Nominated Original Song*
  16. "Don't You (Forget About Me)" - Simple Minds
  17. "Cherish" - Kool & The Gang
  18. "St Elmos Fire (Man in Motion)" - John Parr
  19. "The Heat is On" - Glenn Frey
  20. "We Are the World" - USA for Africa

Grammy Wins (held in February 86)
Album: Phil Collins "No Jacket Required" won over a field that included "Brothers in Arms" by Dire Straits, "Whitney Houston" by Whitney Houston, "The Dream of the Blue Turtles" by Sting, and "We Are the World" by USA for Africa (That was a whole album?! Weird); Record/Song of the Year: "We Are the World"; Best New Artist: Sade took the prize over a-ha, Freddie Jackson, Katrina and the Waves, and Julian Lennon. Curiosity: Whoopi Goldberg won a Grammy for Comedy Recording, one fourth of her EGOT. 

Pulitzer: Stephen Albert for "Symphony No 1 RiverRun"

Music Video of the Year The Grammys voted for "We are the World" which is a silly music video to name as best. Best intentions, sure. The MTV Video Awards went with Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" (a hugely popular video at the time. Though weirdly it's not available on either YouTube or Vimeo)



Some Best Sellers: (no particular order) "Contact" (Carl Sagan), "The Class" Erich Segal, "The Cider House Rules" (John Irving), "If Tomorrow Comes" (Sidney Sheldon), "Family Album" (Danielle Steele), "Thinner," and "Skeleton Crew" (Stephen King), "Lucky" (Jackie Collins), "Lake Wobegone Days" (Garrison Keillor), "Texas" (James Michener), "The Mammoth Hunters" (Jean M Auel). 

Pulitzer Prizes

Fiction: "Foreign Affairs" (Alison Lurie); Drama: "Sunday in the Park With George" (James Lapine & Stephen Sondheim); Biography "The Life and Times of Cotton Mather" (Kenneth Silverman); Poetry: "Yin" (Carolyn Kizer); Non-Fiction "The Good War: An Oral History of World War II" (Studs Terkel)

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Reader Comments (16)

Great, exhaustively researched write up. So much going on this year.

My top 10 faves for the year in order movie wise:

A Room with a View
Back to the Future
The Sure Thing
Sweet Dreams

With After Hours, The Official Story and Dance with a Stranger coming in just below those 10.

And if I had my way this would have been the Best Picture lineup:

After Hours
Back to the Future
The Purple Rose of Cairo
A Room with a View

With A Room with a View taking the prize

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

1985 was the year I really remember diving into pop culture. I was 9, and I'm guessing that's probably a normal age to become aware that there are true celebrities and their lives might be interesting beyond the movies and music they make. Madonna was of course the catalyst.

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

What a great year for pop songs. I'll always remember that summer when I gave my heart to Corey Hart.

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterhepwa

Tina Turner in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome will forever be my favorite thing about 1985.

"Mastahblastah runs Bahtahtown", bitches!

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

1985. My year of birth!

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKBJr.

The things we take for granted! Glad I lived all that.

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Thank you, Jonathan Lynn, for bringing together (Oscar-nominated legends!) Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn and Lesley Ann Warren on the big screen. You rock.

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

I was 8 in 1985 and while I wasn't going to the cinema much it was videos galore in our household (we were always allowed 1 overnight and 2 weeklies).

Like Nathaniel said, it's hard to be objective from childhood films.

The films I remember most from the era (and not necessarily good ones or ones I saw in 85) are:

A View To A Kill
Prizzi's Honour
Young Sherlock Holmes
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Jewel of the Nile

Favourite of course and what is one of the seminal films for children from the era - THE GOONIES

What a great time to be a kid.

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Lewis

I was 16 in 1985, and I was completely consumed by All of the Above.

I certainly spent my allowance on at least 15 of those Top 20 movies.

I was addicted to Dynasty and Cheers and Magnum P.I. ( sigh.. Tom Selleck in tight blue jeans!).

Every single one of those songs are STILL overplayed today! I had the 45 of "We Are the World", and it cracked within hours of purchase. No Refunds!!!

"Thinner" was the book that "exposed" the Stephen King / Richard Bachman "scandal"

The Sunday paper had a 10 or 12 page full color pullout on that night's Academy Awards. It was.... divine!!!

My Top 10 (in no order): (okay, more than 10)
The Breakfast Club
After Hours
Back to the Future
The Color Purple
The Goonies
Desperately Seeking Susan
St. Elmo's Fire
Into the Night
The Sure Thing
A View to a Kill (DURAN DURAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

(I didn't see "The Purple Rose of Cairo" until film school in the late 80's. Truly a beautiful portrait of the power of film. One of Woody's best.)

This was, like, totally bitchin' in an awesome way! Like totally tubular, fer sherr! Totally!!!

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

1985 was a banner year, one could say the apex of '80s pop culture. (Who knew Baryshnikov was such a big deal, cover star and all?)

I turned seven that year but had four older siblings and grandparents who owned a video store (Adventureland Video, y'all!), so the level of exposure was great. Needless to say, I saw WAY too many "inappropriate" movies, still dining out on Purple Rain and Sixteen Candles (from the year before) and seguing right into the likes of Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Better Off Dead, Clue, European Vacation, Fletch, The Goonies, Gotcha!, The Jewel of the Nile, The Sure Thing, Weird Science, etc. (Little did I know that Crocodile Dundee, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Nine and a Half Weeks were right around the corner!)

Mask is one of this year's class I think about often and fondly. "Now you can go anywhere you want, baby."

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

This was the year my parents were born so many of these films were things I came to slowly learn to love.
Out of Africa, Ladyhawke, and Back to the Future were VHS's my dad owned from one of those video clubs. Once Disney movies were watched too many times, my dad started showing those to supplement our viewing.
Out of Africa objectively isn't perfect but I love it so much. It's one of my favorites that I've watched dozens of times. It has one of the best film scores EVER!
A Chorus Line is such a truly disappointing film, but it's not that surprising. They get rid of half the original score and try to jazz it up with all that flashy 80s style which doesn't really make sense. I wish someone would remake it properly.
The Purple Rose of Cairo is nearly perfect and Farrow is chief reason for that. She and Whoopi would have be a real battle for Best Actress trophy.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDrew C

blood simple
pee-wee's big adventure
*the purple rose of cairo*

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Best magazine cover of 1985-January '85-Vanessa Williams & George Burns-the 'Oh God, She's Nude' cover. Boy, was that a bombshell!

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTOM

I graduated High School in 1985. Seems strange for me to say I remember it fondly, as many bad things happened to me that year - my mom died, I was hospitalized twice for collapsed lungs and my little sister attempted suicide - but I love the movies, music, TV and even theatre of that year. Possibly what kept me sane through all the bad stuff. Still have the Playbill from Joe Egg that I waited at the stage door to have Stockard Channing and Jim Dale sign.

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterReady

Mia Farrow is so overdue for an honorary Oscar. Is it true that she won't participate if they use any clips of her in Woody's films?

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Michael R -- i have heard that as well. I assume it's true which means she'll never get any lifetime awards from anyone since the bulk of her great work is within his filmography, the major exception being Rosemary's Baby by Roman Polanski.

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

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