Tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET, we are showing the 1987 classic “Less Than Zero.” Based on Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name, this drama about the lifestyles of the rich and famous teenagers in Beverly Hills stars Brat Packers (remember the Brat Pack?) Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, James Spader, and Robert Downey Jr, but this is no high school flick. Ellis’ LA is about as far as you can get from John Hughes’ Sherman, Ohio. McCarthy is Clay, a college freshman who returns home during Christmas break. He reconnects with his old flame Blair (Gertz) who is now more interested in her new beau Julian (Downey, Jr.), the fun-loving party boy with a penchant for drugs, who rapidly spirals downward, addicted to cocaine and freebasing. His friends try halfheartedly to intervene, with no success and soon he is so far in debt to drug dealer Rip (Spader) that Julian becomes a male prostitute, whoring for enough money for his next fix. It’s an intense and deliciously dark film that highlights everything wrong with times. And what year was it made: 1987.
Here’s the thing: 1987 was one of the best years for film, possibly ever. The Best Picture Winner was Bertolucci’s epic “The Last Emperor,” and that vast, gorgeous, and sweepingly cinematic film was just the tip of the iceberg. From foreign shores came “The Year My Voice Broke” and Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire.” “Pelle the Conqueror,” “Babette’s Feast,” “Au Revoir Les Enfants,” and “My Life as a Dog” all came out that year as well. In the U.S. 1987 was just as hot. For dramas and documentaries, 1987 was an incredible year for filmmaking, including Spaulding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia,” “Matewan,” “Ironweed,” “The Dead,” “Good Morning, Vietnam.” On the other end of the spectrum, 1987 was also the year for some of the most lasting classic comedies, including “Moonstruck,” “Overboard,” “Eddie Murphy Raw,” “Adventures in Babysitting,” and “Throw Momma From the Train.” While 1987 did produce some clunkers (“Ishtar,” “Over the Top,” “Leonard Part 6,” “Mannequin”), even they have made a lasting impression on film buffs. While movies from 1987 have hilarious technology, bad hair, lot of saxophones, and everyone smokes, if you’re ever looking for a film, check out the offerings from 1987. It’s a fine vintage.
Here are ten of our favorite films from 1987, listed in no particular order:
1. “The Princess Bride”
2. “The Last Emperor”
4. “Empire of the Sun”
5. “Less Than Zero”
6. “Lost Boys”
7. “Raising Arizona”
8. “Planes Trains & Automobiles”
9. “Evil Dead 2”
10. “Withnail and I”
*Bonus (because with this many good movies, we couldn’t keep it to ten):
Straight to Hell
“Less Than Zero” airs on IFC tonight at 10:20 p.m. ET and Saturday, Apr. 21 at 5:45 p.m. ET