What Movie Should Have Won the Oscar – 1980-1989

Upon where I look at what movies the Academy Award nominated each year and through my perspective in time and space tell the Academy what they got wrong and which movies they should have instead selected.

Things fall apart in the 1980’s. Perhaps it was the cocaine. You start to see a schism between fun, popcorn movies, the comedies, the fantasy, the action movies and the high minded Academy movies that take themselves way too seriously. Very rarely do the two meet. Until now.

Click here to read my choices for 1969-1979.


Winner- “Ordinary People”

Losers- “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, “The Elephant Man”, “Raging Bull”, “Tess”

Should have been nominated- “The Blues Brothers”, “The Elephant Man”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, “Raging Bull”, “The Shining”

Should have won- “The Elephant Man”


1980 might have been the greatest year for movies. “Ordinary People” was a fine movie, really it was. So was “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, but if I had to leave off perhaps the two funniest movies ever made in “Caddyshack” and “Airplane”, room is scarce. “The Blues Brothers” is one of my favorite movies, but “The Elephant Man” touches the human spirit in a way not even music and laughter can.


Winner- “Chariots of Fire”

Losers- “Atlantic City”, “On Golden Pond”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Reds”

Should have been nominated- “Atlantic City”, “Blow Out”, “My Dinner With Andre”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Stripes”

Should have won- “Raiders of the Lost Ark”


As deep as 1980 was, that’s how shallow the roster of movies of 1981 are. “Chariots of Fire” and “On Golden Pond” look completely ridiculous to modern eyes while at close to 4 hours long “Reds” is interminable. I had no choice but to go with the first chapter of Indiana Jones, the forefather of the modern superhero movie.


Winner- “Gandhi”

Losers- “E.T.”, “Missing”, “Tootsie”, “The Verdict”

Should have been nominated- “Blade Runner”, “E.T.”, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, “The King of Comedy”, “The Verdict”

Should have won- “E.T.”


“The Verdict” is a wonderful movie with a great open ending, but it’s hard to top “E.T.” for the number of people a movie touched and continues to touch. “Tootsie” feels too much like a sitcom to usurp a much better comedy in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”.


Winner- “Terms of Endearment”

Losers- “The Big Chill”, “The Dresser”, “The Right Stuff”, “Tender Mercies”

Should have been nominated- “The Dead Zone”, “The Outsiders”, “Rumblefish”, “The Right Stuff”, “Terms of Endearment”

Should have won- “Terms of Endearment”


I don’t know how Francis Ford Coppola got forgotten twice with the excellent “The Outsiders” and “Rumblefish”, but “Terms of Endearment” gets you right at your heartstrings and deserved its prize.


Winner- “Amadeus”

Losers- “The Killing Fields”, “A Passage to India”, “Places in the Heart”, “A Soldier’s Story”

Should have been nominated- “Amadeus”, “Ghostbusters”, “The Karate Kid”, “The Natural”, “The Terminator”

Should have won- “Amadeus”


This might have been the low water point for the Academy in picking forgettable movies. They got the winner right in “Amadeus”, but  the bridesmaids are a sorry lot.


Winner- “Out of Africa”

Losers- “The Color Purple”, Kiss of the Spider Woman”, “Prizzi’s Honor”, “Witness”

Should have been nominated- “Back to the Future”, “Brazil”, “The Color Purple”, “Fletch”, “Witness”

Winner- “Back to the Future”


So hard to leave off so many great, fun flicks like “The Goonies”, “Commando”, “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”, “National Lampoon’s European Vacation”, “Weird Science”, “Better off Dead” the list goes on and on. 1985 might be the high water point of rewatchable escapist movies, but it was nearly impossible to find five decent “adult” movies, therefore an imaginative teenage movie wins.


Winner- “Platoon”

Losers- “Children of a Lesser God”, “Hannah and her Sisters”, “The Mission”, “A Room With a View”

Should have been nominated- “Platoon”, “Hannah and her Sisters”, “Blue Velvet”, “Stand by Me”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

Should have won- “Platoon”


“Blue Velvet” might have been one of the more glaring omissions made so far, but I’m willing to grant “Platoon” as a correct pick. Also strange is how Woody Allen is the only comedy director whose movies ever get nominated.


Winner- “The Last Emperor”

Losers- “Broadcast News”, “Fatal Attraction”, “Hope and Glory”, “Moonstruck”

Should have been nominated- “Empire of the Sun”, “Full Metal Jacket”, “The Princess Bride”, “Raising Arizona”, “Wall Street”

Should have won- “The Princess Bride”


The one year so far where the Academy didn’t get a single one right. Admittedly I haven’t seen “Hope and Glory”, but I doubt it could match the romantic perfection of “The Princess Bride”. Again it was a solid year for popcorn movies that get shunned including “Spaceballs”, “Lethal Weapon” “Robocop” and the Schwarzenegger one-two punch of “Predator” and “The Running Man”.


Winner- “Rain Man”

Losers- “The Accidental Tourist”, “Dangerous Liasons”, “Mississippi Burning”, “Working Girl”

Should have been nominated- “Coming to America”, “Midnight Run”, “Rain Man”, “The Last Temptation of Christ”, “Working Girl”

Should have won- “Rain Man”


I’ve come up with a new rule for this exercise in that if it’s close between who the Academy crowned and an usurper, I’ll go with the Academy’s choice. “Midnight Run” is such a perfect movie it was a challenge not to knock off “Rain Man”, but maybe it’s more enjoyable as a quirky secret.


Winner- “Driving Miss Daisy”

Losers- “Born on the Fourth of July”, “Dead Poets Society”, “Field of Dreams”, “My Left Foot”

Should have been nominated- “Born on the Fourth of July”, “Dead Poets Society”, “Do the Right Thing”, “Field of Dreams”, “My Left Foot”

Should have won- “Born on the Fourth of July”


The Academy almost got it completely right as they rounded out the 1980’s in style except for the winner. Give me Tom Cruise in a wheelchair fighting for peace over Dan Aykroyd in bad make-up any day.

Click here to read the 1990’s


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s