Other than Aretha Franklin being the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and, on a personal note, my parents getting married, 1987 was a pretty miserable year. The music and movies (and maybe some TV shows, if you’re into Full House) released in 1987 are the highpoints of an otherwise forgettable moment in history.
What were movies like that year? Comedies were mostly cheesy, for better or worse. The action genre was booming, with actors like Arnold Swarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone becoming household names. Cher was doing dramedies — one of which she won awards for. Vampires were still very popular in the horror genre, and the 1980s continued to embrace its 1950s/1960s nostalgia with movies like Dirty Dancing.
Here are the best movies of 1987 you should check out.
Director: John Badham
After a dangerous prisoner escapes custody, detective partners Chris (Richard Dreyfuss) and Bill (Emilio Estevez) are assigned to watch the prisoner’s ex-girlfriend’s house. To their surprise, this police detail proves to be life changing. It’s not Lethal Weapon, so don’t go into it expecting melodramatic intensity or its level of violence.
Emilio and Richard work well as partners because both have a knack for comedy. Stakeout is a surprisingly fun movie with a bit of suspense added in. The characters are likable and you buy their friendship. By 1987, buddy cop movies were starting to become their own sub-genre with how well-received they generally were.
2. Monster Squad
Director: Fred Dekker
That’s right: Monster Squad makes the list. Even though it wasn’t a box office success, Monster Squad is a wonderful film. It might seem like The Goonies meets the Universal monsters, but it’s so much more than that. The monsters are searching for an amulet of sorts, meanwhile these kids who are horror fans try and stop them.
It’s a simple premise, sure, but it’s a fun, wholesome movie and I’m surprised it’s not played ad nauseum on TV for Halloween. At its simplistic best, the story follows a great group of kids of different ages who are working together to stop bad guys, which is why children and young adults may have appreciated it more than anyone else.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Director: Chuck Russell
Dream Warriors focuses on Kristen (Patricia Arquette) who is placed in a psychiatric ward, where she befriends a group of others who have one thing in common: Freddy Krueger. As always in these films, no one’s listening to the teenagers. Instead, their concerns are boiled down to mass hysteria.
Wes Craven returned to write the script, with Robert Englund back as Freddy and Heather Langenkamp reprising her role as Nancy Thompson. It’s skillfully directed and easily the best sequel in the franchise; not to mention it has an awesome theme by Dokken. Aside from the original film, Dream Warriors is the franchise’s most shocking and entertaining entry.
Director: John McTiernan
Alan (Arnold Swarzenegger) leads a rescue mission with his team to save hostages, but as they’re roaming around the jungle, it becomes evident that they’re being hunted. Predator blends action and sci-fi, with war, drama and horror sub-genres. That sounds like a lot to take in, but it’s actually pretty cool.
Predator is an exceptionally made sci-fi action thriller with a memorable antagonist and some brutal and intense scenes. Although the premise is rather simple and the characters are mostly the same, it’s impressively made and the special effects are the film’s greatest aspect.
5. Dirty Dancing
Director: Emile Ardolino
Dirty Dancing is an era piece that’s beautifully written and masterfully shot. It stars Jennifer Grey (Frances) and Patrick Swayze (Johnny), who are equally pleasant in their roles. Both succeed in creating memorable characters with their ability to light up the screen with their chemistry — and choreography. The story takes place at a summer resort where Baby and her parents are spending their last summer together.
While there, Baby becomes the resort’s dance instructor, Johnny’s partner. Backed by a good soundtrack and stellar casting, Dirty Dancing’s greatest achievement is the time it takes to properly structure character development.
6. The Secret of My Success
Director: Herbert Ross
Brantley (Michael J. Fox) decides to leave his family farm in Kansas for a corporate job in New York City. As he’s settling in and realizes things aren’t going according to plan, he grows even more determined to make a break for himself. The Secret of My Success comically shows what it’s like to leave the nest after school or college and the struggles of adapting to a new place.
The film does such a good job with its characters that, even if they have just two lines, they’re memorable. Why The Secret of My Success wasn’t a big hit, I’ll probably never know. It’s entertaining, the soundtrack is pretty good and Michael J. Fox is always fun to watch.
7. Three Men and a Baby
Director: Leonard Nimoy
You could look at Three Men and a Baby as a comedic cautionary tale with its share of Hollywood melodramatics, but it’s simply a well-made film about three lotharios maturing as they raise a love child left at their door. Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg are entertaining to watch as they struggle with raising the baby.
Leonard Nimoy (yes, Spock) added to his directorial credits with Three Men and a Baby, and he did a wonderful job with both pacing and character development. Most likely everyone knows of this movie because of the ghost boy rumors. I’m sorry to inform you that there’s no ghost boy, it’s a cut out of Ted Danson’s character — in fact, it appears in a close up, somewhere in the movie.
Director: Garry Marshall
Goldie Hawn plays an uptight rich snob named Joanna. One night she slips off her yacht and winds up with amnesia. Hearing about the accident on the news, Dean (Kurt Russell) pretends she’s his wife, just to get back at her for being condescending when he did a carpentry job for her.
Joanna goes home with Dean, where she plays wife and mother to a pack of wild boys. The plot is strange, but Overboard is a pretty funny movie with great performances from its leads. For some reason, not a lot of people heard about this movie, but have heard about the remake. If you haven’t seen it, the original Overboard is worth the watch.
9. Fatal Beauty
Director: Tom Holland
Hitting the city streets is a new and much stronger brand of cocaine named Fatal Beauty. An undercover cop named Rita (Whoopie Goldberg) risks her life and career trying to put a stop to the ring. Starring alongside Whoopie is Sam Elliot as a potential love interest and Brad Dourif who’s always fun to watch as a villain.
Fatal Beauty may not have been a hit upon its theatrical release, but 33 years later, it’s an energetic and entertaining movie filled with great performances. Aside from being a great comedy movie, there really are some decent action-y moments and dramatic performances that cement this movie as being totally underrated.
10. Summer School
Director: Carl Reiner
Mark Harmon stars as a gym teacher who is suckered into teaching a remedial English course for the summer, since no one else is willing to do it. Not long after, he inadvertently becomes a bad influence on the high schoolers, and this leads him to almost losing his tenure. With the help of a history teacher (played comically by Kirstie Alley), he’s able to become a role model for the kids.
It’s an incredible, fun movie with a likable cast and a great soundtrack. Horror fans will also enjoy the characters Chainsaw (Dean Cameron) and Dave (Gary Riley), who are obsessed with special makeup effects by Tom Savini and Rick Baker. Summer School is probably one you haven’t heard of, but check it out, I think it’ll surprise you.
What’s most appealing about checking out older movies is seeing how well they hold up, or what it was like in the world before you were born or — if you were there — you get to remember what it was like before people constantly looked down at their cell phones or before social media. Whether it’s nostalgia or curiosity that convinces you to check out films you wouldn’t otherwise see, take into consideration the time in which they were made, what technology existed and what was popular at the time. On that note, which movies from 1987 have you seen? Did they make the list? Leave a comment and let us know.
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