DID YOU READ

“Tales From Development Hell” reveals more about the “Lord of the Rings” movie starring The Beatles, and other films we’ll never see

beatles lord of the rings

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In his new book Tales From Development Hell, author and screenwriter David Hughes takes readers on a journey to a place filmmakers hope their projects will never end up: the creative limbo known as Development Hell.

Using the stories of several high-profile, never-made films to illustrate how the Hollywood machine can kill the momentum of even the most plausible projects, Hughes’ offers a fascinating look behind the scenes and into the boardroom as movies are conceived, re-conceived, written and rewritten, but never make it to the screen. From Darren Aronofsky’s “Batman” movie starring Clint Eastwood to a film based on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, Tales From Development Hell recounts the tumultuous journey from pitch to purgatory for a long list of projects.

IFC spoke to Hughes about the book, and got his take on some of the projects he uses as examples, what their fates say about the filmmaking industry, and some of the surprises he discovered during his research. We also received an exclusive excerpt from the book describing one particular project that almost happened: a big-screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings starring The Beatles.

IFC: David, can you give me a little background on the book and the research you did for it? How does one go about getting information on stalled projects like these?

DAVID HUGHES: I started work on my first book about unproduced films, The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, more than a decade ago (the first volume was published in 1999), so it’s kind of been an ongoing process since then — it’s just been a matter of narrowing the field from the dozens of high-profile unproduced movies to the ones which I felt deserved a whole chapter to themselves.

IFC: What was the most surprising development story you unearthed?

HUGHES: I’m surprised it wasn’t more widely publicised that Oliver Stone and James Cameron both had very different “Planet of the Apes” reboots in the works before Tim Burton landed the gig in 2000. In that case, from reading the various drafts involved, it seemed as though they went ahead and filmed the worst of all possible scripts — but then that’s not as uncommon as one might think. I mean, if you leave Frank Darabont’s “Indiana Jones” script on the shelf and make “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” all bets are off.

For sheer entertainment value, however, the story of Ridley Scott’s unmade Ebola-outbreak movie “The Hot Zone” takes some beating: Scott had Jodie Foster and Robert Redford as co-leads, and the rights to the originating article, Richard Preston’s “Crisis in the Hot Zone” – and Warner Bros simply ignored them and went ahead and made “Outbreak,” which had the advantage of not having to stick to the facts. You have to admire the chutzpah.

IFC: Did you find any recurring themes or similarities between the projects that often get relegated to development hell?

HUGHES: One word: fear. As Neil Gaiman — one of the countless writers, directors and producers I interviewed for the book — puts it: “Films carry with them a certain amount of fear because if you say ‘Yes’ to something and you’re wrong, you’re out on your ear, whereas if you say ‘No’ to something, you’re never going to get into trouble, if everything is always defensible. So you wind up in development with people trying to make things more like things they know, because that is a defensible position: you will probably not get fired for it. Unfortunately that’s why you wind up with films that look like other films.”

Few people at the studio are willing to risk their job, their reputation, their parking space, their place at the commissary, or whatever, by backing the wrong horse. So they might throw another million at yet another screenplay, by whoever just had a big movie opening (and therefore seems to know what the audience wants), rather than write “the big check” for maybe $100, $200 million, and get it wrong. There is very little to choose between “Speed Racer” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” going in. It’s a crapshoot.

IFC: As you were writing the book, did you find yourself revising any chapters as projects surfaced again or moved forward unexpectedly?

HUGHES: Yes, but those didn’t end up in the book — the last thing I wanted was for a particular film to be in theaters as the book came out, unless of course the development story was still worth writing about. Funnily enough, as the book was getting ready to go to press, the screenwriters of the infamous spec script “Smoke and Mirrors” (about an ageing stage magician called out of retirement to discredit an Algerian mystic — based on a true story) suddenly sold a big script, “Pompeii,” and told me to stand by for news about a revival of “Smoke and Mirrors.” But I’m still waiting for the call, so…

IFC: Among all the projects you researched, was there a particular film that’s had a rougher development period than the rest? Something that just seems unluckier than the others?

HUGHES: Something always seemed to come along to stop Walon “The Wild Bunch” Green’s epic script “Crusade” being made: first director Paul Verhoeven lost his currency when “Showgirls” flopped; then Arnie lost a bit of his sheen when he had a couple of underperformers; then 9/11 made it virtually impossible to film in the Middle East (or to make a politically risky film sympathetic to Muslim factions in the 11th Century); and then Arnie – who was already too old to play the leading man, Hagen – went off to be Governor of California. That one is a real missed opportunity, and now there are millions of dollars stacked up against it, so anyone who takes it on will start with a really big bill. I doubt that will ever happen.

The development of Neil Gaiman’s comic book series The Sandman also makes sobering reading – even when editing the book, my jaw dropped a couple of times – and the fact that the film hasn’t been made at all is some kind of Pyrrhic victory of common sense/artistic sensibility over stupidity/commerciality. They really did try to make Sandman the next Batman, which — as Gaiman said — is a little like trying to make Great Expectations the next Batman.

IFC: You make it clear that there are many, many more reasons for a project to end up in development hell than whether it’s good/well-conceived. What are some of the common reasons you found in your research?

HUGHES: Being “good/well-conceived” is rarely a reason a film gets made to begin with! There are almost as many reasons as there are unproduced films: perhaps a star gets nervous and jumps ship, leaving the studio holding the bag; maybe something similar opens, and doesn’t do that well — or has a similar idea; a star becomes attached but isn’t available for three years, by which time the moment has passed…

Frequently it’s just that the numbers don’t add up. I mean, I would have spent $100 million of my own money on “At the Mountains of Madness,” the H.P. Lovecraft adapatation with Guillermo del Toro directing, Steven Spielberg producing, and Tom Cruise starring. But then someone would legitimately say that the film would have to do $500 million to break even, so it would have to be the biggest R-rated movie of all time. That’s a hell of a big ask. Despite what “Field of Dreams” has taught us, if you build it they don’t always come.

IFC: If there was one stalled project you came across in your research that you could push forward, which one would it be?

HUGHES: I do have a soft spot for “Crusade,” “Smoke and Mirrors,” and “At the Mountains of Madness” — but if I had to pick one I’d have to selfishly say “T.J. Hooker: The Movie” because I wrote it! I thought it was a really fun, viable “Beverly Hills Cop”-style action-comedy with real action and real comedy — not one of those “neither one thing nor the other” efforts like “Starsky and Hutch.” But when “The A-Team” opened, T.J. Hooker creator Rick Husky put it back in a drawer, and now William Shatner is 80, and probably too old to play T.J. Hooker Senior opposite Kevin James or Will Ferrell, or whoever would be tapped to play the hapless T.J. Hooker Junior. Sigh.

IFC: What can aspiring writers/filmmakers learn from your book?

HUGHES: Hopefully that even the biggest filmmakers in the world can struggle to get a film off the ground! James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott, Tim Burton…these guys have between them put billions of dollars into the Hollywood machine, and they still have a catalogue of unrealised dreams. So hopefully aspiring writers/filmmakers can take solace in the fact that they’re not alone. It’s certainly helped me to remain philosophical in my screenwriting career: I’ve come so close to having high-profile films produced, but I try never to get excited for longer than the duration of the phone call or the meeting — because anything else is just slow-motion suicide.

And now, an excerpt from Tales From Development Hell:

[The Lord of the Rings] had become one of the publishing sensations of the decade, and every studio in town was clamoring for the film rights. This time, it was another 60s phenomenon — The Beatles — who became linked to the project, a move apparently instigated by John Lennon. “We talked about it for a while,” Paul McCartney told Roy Carr, author of The Beatles at the Movies, “but then I started to smell a bit of a carve-up because, immediately, John wanted the lead.” According to Carr, however, Lennon was interested in the role of Gollum, with McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr opting for Frodo, Gandalf and Sam respectively. Whether related to The Beatles’ ambitions or not, United Artists successfully acquired the rights to film The Lord of the Rings in the autumn of 1969, for the sum of $250,000.

It was around this time that Heinz Edelmann, designer and art director of The Beatles’ animated film Yellow Submarine, became interested in pursuing the idea of an animated adaptation. At the time, Edelmann was doubtful that stories of action, suspense and thrills could be depicted as straight animation, and proposed to make the film “as a kind of opera, or a sort of operatic impression”, more closely related to Disney’s Fantasia than, say, The Sword in the Stone. He intended to approach it “As one does an operatic version of any book,” he told Outré magazine, “[to] sort of try for a distillation of the mood and the story, but not follow every twist of the plot.” For instance, “One could have packed 300 pages of wandering into a five-minute sequence set to music.”

Edelmann has said that his version of The Lord of the Rings would not have been stylistically similar to Yellow Submarine: “The artwork would have been completely different: much less colour, and unrealistic, but without the art nouveau touch Yellow Submarine has.” Neither did Tolkien’s original illustrations for the book, which were all based on medieval art, appeal to Edelmann, who saw the story more in terms of an Akira Kurosawa film. “If you look at all the fantasy films done in the last thirty years,” he said in 2001, “there is a strong Japanese ethnic influence in the staging, in the buildings, and especially in the costumes. I think at that time we might have been the first to think in those terms. The Lord of the Rings is such a classic right now that almost no artistic freedom is possible. Back at that time, when it was new and Tolkien was still alive, it would have been a contemporary version, and I think that would have given us much more artistic freedom.” Nevertheless, he added, “I would have loved to have done it. Sometimes I do still think about it, but it would have been an awful amount of work. Maybe it’s better that it has remained just a concept.”

“Tales From Development Hell” by David Hughes is on shelves now. Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

(The Beatles/Lord of the Rings image courtesy of Geeks of Doom.)

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Fast Times at Ridgemont High Ratner

Name Game

The Best ’80s Movie Nicknames

Catch Fast Times at Ridgemont High during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” If Ol’ Bill was a Hollywood screenwriter during the ’80s, he might’ve mused, “What’s in a nickname?” Any ’80s movie worth its popped-collar and feathered hair had at least one character with a great nickname. In celebration of IFC’s ’80s Weekend, we compiled a list of some of our favorites.

1. Maverick and Goose, Top Gun

Maverick Goose
Paramount Pictures

Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) are not only best friends — they’re the best pilots aboard the USS Enterprise, which is why they’re sent to the Top Gun school. Maverick, as his codename suggests, is a total hotheaded risk taker while Goose tends to be a bit more cautious and protective. During the ’80s, Maverick and Goose had one of the all-time great movie bromances, inspiring a loving feeling that even the Righteous Brothers couldn’t lose.


2. Baby, Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing Swayze
Vestron Pictures

“That was the summer of 1963 –- when everybody called me Baby, and it didn’t occur to me to mind.” So says 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) at the beginning of Dirty Dancing. Baby begins the summer as an idealistic and naïve young woman who has her eyes opened to the ways of the world by working class dance instructor/eye candy Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and the summer staff of Kellerman’s. By the end of her sexy, ballroom dancing-filled, coming-of-age in the Catskills, it’s safe to say she’s definitely outgrown her Baby nickname.


3. Duckie, Pretty in Pink

Duckie Pretty in Pink
Paramount Pictures

Philip F. Dale, better known to the students of his high school as “Duckie,” is actually quite the odd duck. From his bolo ties and dirty white “Duckman” loafers (which all the hipsters in Brooklyn are now wearing) to his pompadour hair and love for Otis Redding, Duckie never tries to fit in with the in-crowd. Like his avian counterpart, Duckie seems to be floating through life and school, much to best gal pal Andie’s chagrin, but he doesn’t let much ruffle his proverbial feathers except guys named after appliances who try to date the object of his affections.


4. Mouth, Chunk, Sloth, and Data, The Goonies

Goonies
Warner Bros.

HEY YOU GUUUUUYS! There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say “die” and Goonies. Our favorite ragtag band of adolescent adventurers from Astoria, Oregon all have totally killer, perfect nicknames. Mouth (Corey Feldman) has a smartass comment for everything even in Spanish. Chunk (Jeff Cohen) enjoys making fake vomit and eating pepperoni pizza. Sloth (John Matuszak) is a little slow-moving, but knows how to make a dashing Errol Flynn-style entrance. Data (Ke Huy Quan) builds pretty nifty booby traps. Mikey (Sean Astin), Brand (Josh Brolin), Stef (Martha Plimpton) and Andy (Kerri Green) round out the precocious gang who managed to steal both our hearts AND One-Eyed Willie’s treasure in this 1985 cult classic. Fratellis, watch out!


5. Indiana Jones

Scruffy archeology professor/adventure-seeker, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is usually the one unearthing secrets, so it came as a bit of a shock when it was revealed Indiana is not his real first name. At the end of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Henry Jones, Sr. (a playful Sean Connery) reveals that Indy’s name is Henry Jones, Jr. after loyal pal Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) keeps asking, “What does it always mean, this ‘‘Junior’?” The punchline is that our dashing, Nazi butt-kicking hero took his nickname from none other than his scrappy childhood dog. Awww puppy love looks good on you, Indy, erm, Henry!


6. Stiles, Teen Wolf

Enterprising teen Rupert “Stiles” Stilinski (Jerry Levine) never met a sarcastic/slightly offensive T-shirt he didn’t love. When he’s not sartorially expressing himself, he’s being the life of the party or running some scheme to make a little fast cash, capitalizing on best friend Scott’s (Michael J. Fox) werewolf alter-ego in every way he can. Whether van surfing with Scott, trying to get a keg for a party, or cracking wise, Stiles always does everything in style.


7. Rat, Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Fast Times
Universal Pictures

Inexperienced Ridgemont High nerd Rat (Brian Backer) is head over heels for popular Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), but he lacks the skills and social status to land her, i.e. he’s pretty far down the high school food chain. Like the mammal with whom he shares his nickname, Rat spends a lot of time in the dark both literally (he works at a movie theatre in the mall) and figuratively (fumbling his way through his feelings for Stacy), even nervously scurrying away from Stacy’s advances with his tail between his legs, so to speak. Rat definitely gets picked on, but he has a biting sense of humor about pretty much everything.


8. Pee Wee, Porky’s

Porky's Pee Wee
20th Century Fox

The most desperate of his group of friends to lose his virginity, Pee Wee concocts plan after plan to “become a man,” all of which fail miserably. Definitely the runt of the litter, so to speak, Pee Wee is often the butt of everyone’s jokes. And since this is a raunchy sex comedy where guys drop trou fairly often, we probably don’t have to explain what Pee Wee’s nickname REALLY refers to.


9. Snake, Escape from New York

Snake Plissken
Embassy Pictures

Forget what you heard — Snake Plissken (full name: S.D. Bob Plissken) is DEFINITELY not dead. And if there’s anyone we’d trust with the survival of the human race and the rescue of the President, it’s the former Special Forces war hero turned criminal with the badass eyepatch and cobra tattoo on his abdomen. With a sharp tongue and killer instincts, Snake always manages to slither his way out of the worst situations (like being injected with explosives that will kill him in 22 hours if he doesn’t complete his mission). Oh, and somehow he does it all without ever wrecking his perfectly-coiffed hair. Consider us jealoussssssssss, Ssssnake!


10. Cobra

With a name like Marion Cobretti, it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to go into a line of work that involves bashing heads and blowing away creeps. As played by Sylvester Stallone in the over-the-top 1986 action movie that shares his name, “Cobra” lives up to his nickname by being coldblooded when it comes to dispensing justice to any perp who gets in his way.

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Good Golly Ms. Molly

Ranking the Guys From Molly Ringwald’s John Hughes Movies

Catch Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Universal Studios

John Hughes isn’t the only one who loved Molly Ringwald throughout the 1980s. Thanks to his trio of Brat Pack movies starring the teen icon, we all did. And since her character’s biggest problem is often who is going to take her to the next school dance, we’ve decided to take a look at her many memorable suitors and rank them from lamest to dreamiest. (For more Molly, catch The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles during IFC’s ’80s Weekend.)

10. Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe), Sixteen Candles

Long Duk Dong
Universal Studios

In addition to annoying Sam (Ringwald), foreign exchange student “The Donger” manages to score a date at the school dance before her. Plus, he’s got the whole dated cultural stereotype thing going against him.


9. Bryce (John Cusack), Sixteen Candles

John Cusack Sixteen Candles
Universal Studios

As one of the geeks who pines for Sam, Bryce may have some nifty gadgets but he’s barely a blip on her radar. Give it a few years, Cusack. You’ll get the girl eventually.


8. Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), The Breakfast Club

Universal Studios
Universal Studios

You may have missed it but at the start of their day-long detention at Shermer High School, Andrew casually invites Claire (Ringwald) to a party that very night. She brushes him off. Which leaves him with Ally Sheedy’s “basketcase” Allison styled by Claire as an in-crowd lookalike. Which probably means Andrew still wants Claire.


7. Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), The Breakfast Club

Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Brian’s the only one on the list who doesn’t openly pursue Molly, but we can totally see him pining after Claire from his desk. In fact, Brian puts his hat on his lap at one point to hide his erection then boasts of having sex with her. Right, like maybe in your mind, Brian.


6. Steff (James Spader), Pretty in Pink

pretty-spader
Paramount Pictures

Spoiled rich kid Steff has been hitting on Andie (Ringwald) in the school parking lot for years yet she won’t give him the time of day. His revenge? He trashes her to his best friend then makes her feel like a hoser at his house party. Seriously, she should ask him to the prom and then leave him hanging. This guy needs a takedown.


5. “Farmer Ted” (Anthony Michael Hall), Sixteen Candles

16-candes-2
Universal Studios

Ted’s all false bravado and his constant fawning over Ringwald’s Sam is kind of cute until he crosses the line and starts charging admission so his fellow geeks can gawk at her polka-dotted underwear. His blackout sex with a senior doesn’t bode well either. He’s young, so maybe he’ll grow out of it.


4. Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), Sixteen Candles

Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Yes, dreamy Jake gets Sam a belated birthday cake and saves her from attending her sister’s wedding reception which is bound to be a bummer. But he also pawns off his drunken ex on a freshman after remarking that she’s passed out upstairs and could be done any which way. Plus he cruises Sam before he’s even single. Jake? More like jerk.


3. John Bender (Judd Nelson), The Breakfast Club

Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Bender’s so deep, he bares his soul and the cigar burn he got from his pop. He’s also the first guy to see Claire’s panties up close while she’s wearing them. By the end of the movie, he’s got her diamond earring in his palm and she’s got him in the palm of her hand.


2. Duckie (Jon Cryer), Pretty in Pink

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Who defends Andie’s honor when Steff and the other rich kids put her down? Who’s there to escort her into the prom when Blane stands her up? Who exhibits somewhat stalker behavior by bicycling by her house every day? It’s Duckie! “Do I offend??” Yes, but we still love ya, Duck.


1. Blane (Andrew McCarthy), Pretty in Pink

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

He stood her up at her last prom but we just know he’d never do that again. I mean, he LOVES her. And frankly, she loves him. Plus, she tricked him into buying a Steve Lawrence album, for God’s sake. They both jerked each other around. Get over those abandonment issues with your mom, Andie. This one’s a keeper.

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The Last American Virgin 1980

Back to School

10 Underrated ’80s Teen Movies You Need to See

Go back to high school with The Breakfast Club, Footloose and more during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Cannon Film/ Everett Collection.

The 1980s saw the rise of cable television and the fall of the Soviet Union, but you can make a case that it’s also the decade where the teen movie really came into its own. Whether you were once a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess or a criminal, we can all relate to ’80s teen movies. But as much as we love John Hughes, there were some great teen movies from the Atari decade that had huge laughs and a few life lessons that didn’t come from the mind of the great and soulful teen whisperer. Before you flashback with IFC’s ’80s Weekend, check out these 10 underrated teen movies that deserve to be seen.

10. The Last American Virgin

The success of the hilariously raunchy Porky’s jump-started the R-Rated teen comedy genre, and no movie captures the way-too-harsh reality of being a sex-crazed and hormone filled teen like 1982’s The Last American Virgin.

Starring Diane Franklin of Better Off Dead and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure fame, The Last American Virgin has a gritty look and a cast of young actors who could’ve come straight from a Devo concert or roller rink. This movie is the greatest PSA for teen abstinence ever made as our hero Gary (Lawrence Monoson) and his pals go through some raw and un-sexy attempts to lose their virginity, including an awkward encounter with a prostitute that would never be confused for Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

The Last American Virgin is mostly remembered today for having the saddest ending ever for a teen comedy that also has Oingo Boingo on the soundtrack. It’s right up there with the ending to Old Yeller, except it’s Gary’s heart that gets shot to pieces by his jerk friend Rick (Steve Antin) and the girl he thought he loved.


9. Hiding Out

The 1987 high school comedy Hiding Out gave Jon Cryer the chance to play an adult after immortalizing himself in teen moviedom as Duckie in Pretty in Pink. Except here he plays a twenty-something stock broker forced to pose as a teenager in order to hide out from the Mob. It helps that when he shaves off his beard, he’s got a baby face and convinces his nephew Patrick (an even more baby faced Keith Coogan) to hide the fact that he’s living in the upstairs bedroom from his aunt.

Cryer’s Andrew Morenski becomes the impulsively named “Maxwell Hauser” and proceeds to have a much more popular high school experience the second time around. He develops a kinship with the adorably sweet Ryan (Mystic Pizza‘s Annabeth Gish) and ends up running for Class President, which isn’t the best way to keep a low profile. Cryer and Gish have a sweet chemistry together and Coogan’s Andrew has some funny moments trying to fit in with the cool guys at school.

If you’re looking for an ’80s blast complete with a roller rink date and a soundtrack that includes everything from the Johnny Rotten band Public Image Ltd. to Pretty Poison’s pop gem “Catch Me (I’m Falling),” then you’d be wise to spend a night in with Hiding Out.


8. Little Darlings

Featuring ’70s child stars Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal as rival 15-year-olds coming of age at summer camp, 1980’s Little Darlings is like a feature length “After school special” that’ll leave you feeling as good as its soft rock soundtrack. McNichol is Angel (don’t let the name fool you), the rough-around-the edges tomboy who’s new to the camp. O’Neal plays Ferris Whitney, the girl seemingly born with a silver spoon in her mouth. All the girls in their bunk are likeable and funny and the story revolves around a bet Angel and Ferris make to see who loses their virginity first.(No easy feat at an all-girls camp.)

Little Darlings is the movie that every parent should have their teenage daughter watch, as the emotions Angel and Ferris go through are far more raw and real than the ones depicted in glossy modern teen dramas. Retro cameo alert: In addition to Matt Dillon in an early heartthrob role, look for a very young (and very blonde) Cynthia Nixon as one of the girls in the bunk who are all not quite ready for adulthood.


7. My Bodyguard

Before Matt Dillon solidified his teen idol status as the cool, unstable brother figure greaser in The Outsiders, he terrorized Chris Makepeace as a bully in My Bodyguard. Makepeace, who you may remember as the homesick camper in Meatballs, could’ve used Bill Murray in this film as he plays a kid whose dad (Martin Mull) becomes a manager at a Chicago hotel, forcing young Clifford Peache to become the new kid at school.

With a name like Clifford Peache, it’s no wonder he becomes a target for Matt Dillon’s Moody who likes to shake down the smaller kids for lunch money. Basically the Mafia boss of the school, Moody offers Clifford protection from another teen named Linderman (Adam Baldwin), who rumor has it killed his own brother. In a fun twist, Clifford befriends Linderman and tries to get him to be his bodyguard against Moody.

Baldwin (no relation to Alec) is great in his film debut as the titular bodyguard, and the casting of Ruth Gordon (Harold and Maude) as Clifford’s cantankerous grandma helps give My Bodyguard its quirky hidden gem status. (Keep an eye out for a young Joan Cusack as the geeky Shelley.)


6. River’s Edge

In the dark 1986 drama River’s Edge, the kids live in a stoned haze and run wild while the parents all seem to be more messed up than they are. The story revolves around how a group of teens react when one of their friends, Samson (Daniel Roebuck, delivering a truly creepy performance), kills a young woman for no apparent reason. Matt (Keanu Reeves) and Clarissa (Ione Skye) try to come to terms with what their friend has done while Layne (Crispin Glover, bringing a Nic Cage level of over-the-top intensity) tries to cover up the murder.

You know a movie is dark when it has Dennis Hopper playing a crazed Vietnam Vet who’s a little too attached to a blow up doll and he’s not even the creepiest character. That award belongs to Matt’s little brother Tim (Joshua John Miller), who gives one of the all-time creepiest/funniest child actor performances as a punk kid who doesn’t just fall in with the wrong crowd but is the wrong crowd. Tim’s crazy eyes, along with everything Crispin Glover does, helps make River’s Edge a cult classic.


5. Vision Quest

Forget the Rocky movies — if you were a teenage boy in the ’80s, Vision Quest was the movie that had you doing push-ups in your living room. When Louden Swain (Matthew Modine) decides to drop over 20 pounds to wrestle an immovable object/cyborg of a state champion rival, he takes on the biggest challenge of his life and slowly wins the trust of his teammates and coach.

Featuring Linda Fiorentino as the older woman that Louden falls for, Vision Quest is a movie about how what you can accomplish in six minutes can change your life. It’s also a pure shot of ’80s awesomeness with Michael Shoeffling, aka Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles, sporting a Mohawk and The Material Girl herself performing “Crazy for You” at a club.


4. Heaven Help Us

Welcome to St. Basil’s, a Catholic school where they preach discipline and patience — except patience is a paddle wielded by Brother Constance (Jay Patterson), a sadistic priest dedicated to instilling his will and spoiling any fun had at the all-boys school. In 1965 Brooklyn, Michael Dunn (Andrew McCarthy) quickly learns that it’s not so much fun being the newbie at a strict Catholic school, until he reluctantly becomes friends with Kevin Dillon’s wise-cracking Rooney.

The gang — which includes Caesar (Malcome Danare), a know-it-all nerd who carries a laminated note to get him out of any gym related activities — end up breaking the rules and engaging in teenage shenanigans in their quest to meet girls. McCarthy’s Dunn is the heart of the movie as he recently lost his parents and meets Danni (Mary Stuart Masterson), a girl who runs the local soda shop and cares for her depressed father.

Masterson exudes approachable cool, and shares some sweet moments with McCarthy. Look for The Princess Bride‘s Wallace Shawn as a priest who gives a lecture on the evils of “lussst.”


3. The Legend of Billie Jean

Teenage boys in the ’80s may have had Heather Locklear’s poster on their wall, but they dreamed of Helen Slater as Billie Jean. Slater stars as a Texas girl who lives in a trailer park with her mother and her brother Binx (played by a young Christian Slater) and dreams of living in Vermont. When spoiled and cocky Hubie (Barry Tubb) hits on Billie Jean and steals Binx’s scooter, it sets off a chain of events that leads to Billie Jean, Binx and their friends becoming fugitives.

Billie Jean lives up to her outlaw name as she becomes famous and helps people she meets while on the run. At one point, Billie Jean cuts her hair to look like Joan of Arc and also conveniently looks a lot like a blonde Pat Benatar, whose song “Invincible” is played throughout the film. Billie memorably says the line “Fair is Fair,” but it’s not fair that The Legend of Billie Jean isn’t legendary in its own right.


2. The Hollywood Knights

The Hollywood Knights might’ve been riding on the ’60s revival coattails that American Graffiti, but the George Lucas classic didn’t have a scene where prankster Newbomb Turk (Robert Wuhl) farts “Volare” into a microphone at a school dance. This classic scene of teenage shenanigans is just one of numerous Animal House-style moments that have lived on in the memories of anyone who stayed up to watch The Hollywood Knights on late night cable in the ’80s.

Newbomb is the goofball of The Knights, a car gang with a longstanding tradition of annoying the stuffy Beverly Hills Resident’s Association. The gang of teenage misfits causes havoc for the snobs who shut down the Knights’ hangout, Tubby’s Drive-In. It doesn’t get more ’80s than a film where a young Michelle Pfeiffer makes out with Tony Danza and Fran “The Nanny” Drescher turns up as a young fan of Newbomb’s antics.


1. The Flamingo Kid

Directed by the late, great comedy master Gary Marshall, The Flamingo Kid is one of the most likeable and underrated films of the ’80s. Matt Dillon breaks out of the tough teen mold as Jeffrey Willis, a kid who just graduated high school in 1960s Brooklyn and gets a job working at a posh Long Island Beach club that his upper middle class friends belong to.

A classic fish out of water (or fish out of Brooklyn) story ensues when wide-eyed Jeffrey meets a flashy car salesman (Richard Creena) who shows him a life his working class father doesn’t understand. Jeffrey’s not just another kid from Brooklyn — he also happens to be a world-class gin rummy player, and when he gets a chance at joining the big game, he makes the right choice at the table and in life. Give this one a shot and you’ll be rooting for “The Flamingo Kid” to say “Sweet Ginger Brown.”

Catch The Breakfast Club, Footloose and Fast Times at Ridgemont High during IFC’s ’80s Weekend! For more classic films you need to see, check out our list of underrated ’80s comedies

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