A year can seem a long time in the movie world. That’s roughly how long we have to wait for Wonder Woman 1984, the second outing for DC superhero Diana Prince (Gal Gadot). This also means there’s plenty of time for Warner Bros to build our expectations with drip feeds of tasty little nuggets.
For now, we know the trio of Gadot, Chris Pine and director Patty Jenkins is back and that the action has moved forward 70 years from last time, while also introducing us to Kristen Wiig’s villain, Cheetah. There are rumours of a Cold War angle and perhaps a new love interest as well, but nothing’s confirmed yet.
The shift in time to the year that George Orwell made famous – or should that be infamous? – offers all kinds of tempting scenarios. It was a time when mobile phones had yet to take off (they weighed a tonne in the eighties) and the likes of the internet, online shopping and streaming were a mere pipe-dream.
On TV, shoulder pads and big hair reigned supreme in Dallas and Dynasty and the year 1984 itself saw the release of the Band Aid single. Meanwhile, Torvill and Dean won gold at the Winter Olympics, long before Dancing On Ice came calling.
When it came to cinema, it was a year that broke more than a few moulds and introduced us to some names that are now cinematic legends. Here’s just a few…
Before 1984, we didn’t know who we were gonna call. But the film originally called Ghostsmashers – yes, really! – changed all that, with the trio of Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (the two also wrote the script) and the incomparable Bill Murray cleanin’ up the town and freeing New York City from slime-ridden paranormal beings.
The film was a runaway success, topping the box office and holding on to the accolade of highest grossing comedy of all time until the release of Home Alone in 1990. A sequel followed five years later, there was that re-boot in 2016 and now Jason Reitman (son of Ivan, who directed the first two) is working on a third instalment in the original series.
But nobody can – or will - ever forget the original: the slime, the thumping song, Mr Stay Puft and Murray’s ad-libs. We ain’t afraid of no ghosts!
Peter Shaffer’s own adaptation of his award winning play about the life of Mozart, as told through the eyes of his rival, Salieri, turned out to be a critical and box office triumph. Despite two relatively unknown actors in the leading roles – Tom Hulce as the spoiled brat Mozart and F Murray Abraham as the insanely jealous Salieri – in the hands of director Milos Forman, it was intelligent, articulate, wickedly funny and visually stunning, with its lavish sets and costume designs.
This opulent treat went on to dominate the Oscars, scooping eight trophies including Best Picture and Director, while Abraham and Hulce went head to head for Best Actor. It went to Abraham and, while neither actor ever reached those stellar heights again, the film has stood the test of time and its Best Picture win is regarded as one of the few instances when the Academy got it right.
3. This Is Spinal Tap
The rock mockumentary to end all rock mockumentaries, Rob Reiner’s gleeful parody followed the second rate, fictitious heavy metal band as they promoted their latest album, Smell The Glove.
This improvisational take on the typical concert film format takes us on the ill-fated tour, Tap Across America, by Spinal Tap, one of Europe’s loudest bands. It’s the group's first visit to the US in six years and, once you hear the music, you know why.
With never-ending gags and downright weird experiences – a drummer who spontaneously combusted, second billing to a puppet show and the classic explanation of why the band’s amplifier was special (“These go to 11!”) – it’s an odyssey full of non-stop hilarity, in-jokes and numerous star cameos, including Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey and Anjelica Houston. There’s never been anything like it before or since. After all, who could forget that Shark Sandwich review?
4. Blood Simple
The drawling, world-weary phrase "The world is full is complainers" heralded the arrival of the most influential directorial double act in modern cinema. Until 1984, nobody had heard of Joel and Ethan Coen, but that was about to change – and so were the movies.
The brothers chose to launch their directing career with an homage to film noir, their favourite genre, one that they would later return to in the likes of Miller’s Crossing and Fargo. For Blood Simple, they took the triangle set-ups of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity and turned them on their heads.
Crammed with indelible sequences – the dead man crawling down the road, the cowboy boots strutting their stuff on top of the bar – coupled with knowing red herrings and a haunting piano riff that stuck in your head for hours, it was a stunning debut.
5. A Nightmare On Elm Street
Wes Craven’s horror classic pulled off a triple whammy. Reviving the teens-in-terror slasher movie genre, it also proved to be the start of a major franchise. And it launched one of the most famous and most hideous horror characters of all time – the sadistic, reincarnated and grotesque child killer Freddy Krueger, who haunted the children of his one-time persecutors during their sleep.
What could have been simply another slasher became something more inventive, with the real world and that of nightmares continually clashing to produce blood curdling images. It spawned a seemingly never-ending series in the second half of the eighties and the early nineties, although producer Michael Bay’s attempt to resurrect the franchise in 2010 fell on stony ground.
But the spirit of the film, and Krueger himself, has kept actor Robert Englund in constant work, from the films themselves to re-creating his role in the likes of The Simpsons and The Goldbergs. Freddy will never die.
6. Beverly Hills Cop
Until 1984, Brooklyn comic Eddie Murphy was a regular on Saturday Night Live – and then Beverly Hills Cop came along. As Axel Foley, the fast-talking, smart mouthed undercover cop from Detroit, he lit up the screen, instantly establishing an on-screen persona with which he would become synonymous.
Much of the dialogue between Murphy and the actors playing the local cops was improvised, with Murphy’s "super-cops" monologue reputedly fuelled by coffee, and such was Paramount’s confidence in the project that they committed to a sequel moments after the first private screening of the completed movie. In the meantime, the film was a massive box office hit, giving Ghostbusters a serious run for its money.
7. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
In 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark gave birth to Harrison Ford's inimitable Indiana Jones, the whip-cracking archaeologist and Nazi scourge. Steven Spielberg's relatively bright and breezy adventure remains one of the defining action movies of all time, but he and fellow Jones creator George Lucas did an about-face with the far-darker Temple of Doom.
The story this time sends Indy to deepest, darkest India where he comes face to face with a deadly cult. Any number of enjoyably grisly sequences are scoured onto the memory of an entire generation, most notoriously the heart-ripping, lava-dipping sacrifice scene midway through. Considered too gruesome for a young audience yet too childish for adults, the movie led to the creation of the intermediary PG-13 certificate in America. In 1989, Spielberg and Lucas would go light again for The Last Crusade.
It's easy to forget how much of a powerhouse Steven Spielberg was in the mid-eighties. Not content with directing his own blockbusters, he also threw his weight behind up-and-coming film-makers, including the mischievous Joe Dante.
Released in 1984, Gremlins cemented Dante's anarchic, satirical and darkly comic sensibilities, being the story of destructive monsters unleashed on small-town suburbia at Christmas time. Like Spielberg's own Temple of Doom, the movie caused controversy over its scarier and more gruesome sequences, but there's no denying it's become a festive classic.
Wonder Woman 1984 is released on 5th June 2020, so tweet us your own favourite movies from 1984 @Cineworld.
Freda Cooper is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.