The summer of 1985 was a great time for movies, but some of the best movies in 1985 weren’t released in the summer. Movies released in September through December 1985 are some of the highest grossing and most loved movies of the year. Award winning movies like Out of Africa and The Color Purple and classic fan favorites like Spies Like Us, Commando and Rocky IV.
Labor Day always signaled the end of summer for me. School started shortly after and it was back to the daily grind of classes, homework and counting down the days until the holidays.
This final installment of The Greatest Summer of Movies will cover all the movies I saw in the fall of 1985 and I’ll touch on the ones I didn’t see as well. If you haven’t read the first issue, it covers July 1985 and the sequel covers August 1985.
The movies I saw in the theater are presented below in no particular order. Grab a bucket of popcorn and let’s look at the movies from the Fall of 1985.
Silver Bullet – 11 October 1985
Silver Bullet was one of two horror movies released in October. The other, Re-Animator never made it to my theater. Like I mentioned in the August 1985 issue New Line Cinema missed the boat and released A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge on November 1st. To be fair in 1985 Halloween fell on a Thursday, November 1st could still be seen as the Halloween weekend. Personally I would have released it the Friday before Halloween.
New Line Cinema never figured out when to release the Nightmare series, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 was released in February! It never hurt the bottom line though, A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most successful horror franchises around.
I didn’t see A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 in the theater. I watched it the following summer when I rented it from a local video store. One horror movie I did see in the theater was Silver Bullet, a movie adapted from a Stephen King story. Silver Bullet features Gary Busey and Corey Haim battling a werewolf. While the concept is great for a Halloween flick, it didn’t turn out great. Silver Bullet isn’t a good movie. If you missed it, you’re one of the lucky ones!
If you want to watch a good 80’s Werewolf movie this Halloween season, watch An American Werewolf in London or The Howling.
Transylvania 6-5000 – 08 November 1985
By the title you’d think this is another entry in the horror genre. Transylvania 6-5000 is technically a horror-comedy but is mostly a comedy. It stars Jeff Goldblum and Ed Beagley Jr. as tabloid reporters who travel to Transylvania to discover the truth behind reported Frankenstein sightings. Along the way they meet all the classic horror creatures; Wolfman, the Mummy and a Vampire, played marvelously by Gena Davis.
Being a comedy movie and not a straight horror movie meant I could see it without sneaking around. My friend Doug and I saw Transylvania 6-5000 on a cold and snowy Sunday afternoon. We both enjoyed the movie, but it didn’t stick around to long. There were other movies in November that grabbed our attention
Transylvania 6-5000 is a fun movie that takes the normal horror genre and adds a great comedic twist. I’ll say it again though, releasing a horror movie, even a horror-comedy after Halloween is a travesty!
If you want a lighthearted movie for this Halloween season, Transylvania 6-5000 is the one to watch.
Commando – 04 October 1985
Coming off the success of the Conan movies and The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in one of the highest grossing movies of 1985. Schwarzenegger stars as a retired Special Forces Colonel who will stop at nothing to save his daughter, played by Who’s the Boss star, Alyssa Milano. Commando mixes high octane action with Schwarzenegger’s humor and trademark one-liners.
My dad and I went to see this movie a couple weeks after it came out. Somehow we messed up the start time and showed up after the movie started and the kid at the ticket counter didn’t want to sell us tickets to the movie. My dad looked up at the listings and bought two tickets for Remo Williams instead. I was set on seeing Commando though.
We stopped and bought our snacks and headed to see Remo Williams, only we walked right passed the theater and into the one playing Commando! What?!? Can we do this?? Probably not, but we did. We missed the first 10-15 minutes of the movie, which wasn’t too bad.
After Commando was over we decided to watch Remo Williams, since we already had tickets and walked into the theater. We saw the last hour of Remo Williams, which was still good even though we didn’t know the entire plot line.
That was my first experience with theater hopping, my friends and I would try it several times over the years. Sometimes successfully, other times, not so much.
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins – 11 October 1985
I first saw this during the impromptu double feature with my dad, described above. Unfortunately it would be another year or so before I saw the entire movie. Due to dismal box office returns the movie wasn’t in the theater very long. It’s really too bad. I enjoy the movie and would have loved to see the adventure continue.
Fred Ward stars as Remo Williams, a NYC cop recruited as an assassin for CURE, a secret government organization. Remo enters the care of Chiun, a Korean martial arts master, who trains him in the ways of the assassin.
In all my years training in martial arts, quotes from Chiun continue to pop up. Uplifting, affirmative quotes like… “You move like a pregnant yak” or “you’re reflexes are pitiful. The seasons move faster!” The kind of positive reinforcement every student needs!
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins was nominated for an Oscar for Best Makeup, but lost to Mask.
Spies Like Us – 06 December 1985
SNL Alums Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase team up to stop a nuclear attack on America. Sounds legit. The movie was a decent comedy back in 1985, with two big names in the industry and a director, John Landis, known for making some of the best comedies ever.
With all that star power Spies Like Us should be a great comedy for the ages, but it isn’t. While it made a decent amount at the box office, it isn’t the best movie. It’s the kind of movie you’d expect from Aykroyd and Chase, however their chemistry on screen doesn’t’ work in this film.
This was, however, the biggest comedy released in late 1985. You have to go back to August 1985 to find another big name comedy. Perhaps audiences were ready for a little more lighter fare during December.
Spies Like Us hits #10 on the highest grossing movies of 1985. If you are a fan of Aykroyd or Chase it’s worth seeing.
Clue – 13 December 1985
Based on the classic board game, Clue is a murder mystery comedy. Strange combination but it works. All the characters are present; Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, you get the idea. Clue features a star studded cast as well with Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Martin Mull and Madeline Kahn to name a few. It was also written by John Landis but didn’t fare as well as Spies Like Us, barely breaking even.
A movie from an arcade game isn’t new, but a movie from a board game is a novel idea. Thankfully it works with Clue. I think there are only two movies based on board games, Clue and 2012’s Battleship, possibly Jumanji, but I don’t know if the game came first or the movie.
Doug and I saw this movie too. It’s a fun mystery that keeps you guessing the entire time, kind of like the game.
Here’s a great twist for those who haven’t seen it. The movie was released with three different endings and each theater received a different ending to the movie! Unfortunately, I don’t recall the ending I saw in the movie theater. I learned about the three different endings while watching Siskel and Ebert, who both disliked the movie. When Clue was released on VHS all three endings were included.
Jewel of the Nile – 11 December 1985
Jewel of the Nile is the sequel to 1984’s Romancing the Stone. Both star Micheal Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. In the movie Turner is a romance novelist swept away on an adventure with Douglas. It’s a decent action movie with good humor thrown in, but it isn’t as good as the first installment Romancing the Stone.
Jewel of the Nile had a different writer than Romancing the Stone which may have been the problem. Diane Thomas wrote the first movie but not this one. After the success of Romancing the Stone she was hired by Steven Spielberg to work on one of his movies. On a sad note, Diane Thomas died in a car accident on October 1985 having written only two screenplays.
Jewel of the Nile had a good showing at the box office and claims the #7 spot for movies that year. While the first one is certainly better, Jewel of the Nile is worth watching.
Rocky IV – 27 November 1985
While I said these are in no particular order, I did save the best for last! Rocky IV hit theaters the day before Thanksgiving to take advantage of the long holiday weekend. I saw it the weekend it came out…twice! During the Christmas break Rocky IV was the go-to movie if nothing else looked good.
Unlike the previous movies, Rocky takes to the international stage. Rocky, played by Sylvester Stallone takes on Soviet boxer Ivan Drago, played by Dolph Lundgren. It is a nationalistic movie through and through, from Apollo Creed’s Red, White and Blue boxing shorts to James Brown singing ‘Living in America’ to Rocky being draped in an American flag at the end.
It screams ‘Merica! And I love it! Nobody beats America, not even a juiced up Soviet machine.
Using old-school training techniques and an awesome training montage Rocky defeats Drago and wins the Cold War. When the Russian crowd starts chanting Rocky’s name, it’s over, the Iron Curtain is coming down!
And the Oscar goes to…
The big winner at the Academy Awards for 1985 was Out of Africa. I still haven’t seen it so I can’t say if it was good or not.
Out of Africa, released on 18 December 1985, stars Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and is directed by Sydney Pollack. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 7!
- Best Picture
- Best Director
- Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium
- Best Art Direction
- Best Cinematography
- Best Original Score
- Best Sound
The Color Purple was arguably the other best movie of the year. It was released on the same day as Out of Africa. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, The Color Purple was also nominated for 11 Academy Awards. It was snubbed and didn’t win a single Oscar.
The Oscars are awarded for excellence in film and it doesn’t always line up with a movies popularity. 1985 was a bit different, Out of Africa and The Color Purple took home record nominations and awards, they also had a good showing at the box office sitting in the top 5 movies for the year.
Back to the Future was the clear winner for box office sales, with Sylvester Stallone right behind. As great as Back to the Future was in 1985, Stallone ruled the box office. He starred in the #2 and #3 highest grossing movies of the year, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV.
Fade to Black
Thirty-five years ago the movie going public enjoyed an abundance of movies across all genres. For teens and young adults the choices seemed endless. I’ve always loved movies. The rich storytelling, spectacular visuals and immersive soundtracks grab your attention and transport you to another place and time.
I still enjoy the movies from 1985. Some of them have found new audiences in the modern day, while others are relegated to Cult Classic status. Regardless of how the movies hold up over time, they all hold special memories for me, whether it’s when I saw it, or who I was with.
That’s going to wrap it up for the Greatest Summer (and Fall) of movies. What were your favorite movies from 1985? Let us know in the comments below.