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WarGames

The Best and Worst Video Game Movies of the ’80s

Flashback with IFC's '80s Weekend July 30th and 31st.

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Photo Credit: MGM/courtesy Everett Collection

With video games becoming madly popular in the 1980s, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood found ways to integrate Pac-Man, Tron and the rest into movies. Some were rad, some were bogus. Here are our picks for the best and worst video game-themed movies from the 1980s. For more retro fun, be sure to watch IFC’s ’80s Weekend.

Rad:

1. Tron

Many of the effects in this 1982 Disney film still look great today. Tron was a double winner: a good movie about a video game that spawned a good video game (and a worse sequel 28 years later). Even better: a video game Easter egg in the movie, where you can see and hear Pac-Man.


2. The Last Starfighter

What if being great at a video game could get you noticed by its inventor? And then put into space to fight aliens? And then make you a hero to an entire people? That’s the premise of this ’80s cult favorite, which promised a never released arcade game in the credits. We’re still waiting…


3. WarGames

In our current era of high-profile computer hacks, Matthew Broderick almost causing nuclear war with a video seems prescient. In fact, the movie scared President Ronald Reagan so much, it led to some of the first cyber security legislation.


4. Cloak & Dagger

WarGames star Dabney Coleman continues his complicated relationship with 1980s technology, playing a dual role of dad and imaginary friend/spy in this family thriller. In an early example of video game/movie synergy, the filmmakers teamed up with Atari, who repurposed an in-development game called Agent X as a Cloak & Dagger arcade game.


Bogus:

1. Joysticks

One of the many T&A flicks that littered cable during the ’80s, Joysticks is not for the kiddos. The story revolves around employees trying to prevent the shutdown of their video arcade. But really, it’s just an excuse to show scantily clad coeds. As is required in most movies from the 1980s, Joe Don Baker plays the bad guy.


2. The Wizard

What could make you turn on Kevin Arnold himself, Fred Savage? How about a 100-minute infomercial for all things Nintendo, disguised as a runaway’s quest to win a video game tournament? Just squeaking in to the 1980s with its December 1989 release, The Wizard portends the product placement-heavy movies we’d be inundated with in the coming years. It also portends Tobey Maguire, who makes his film debut (with a sweet mullet) in a non-speaking role.


3. Nightmares

“The Bishop of Battle” segment of this horror anthology film finds a young Emilio Estevez as J.J., a punk rock-loving teen obsessed with a video game called… Bishop of Battle, a game so difficult that no one has gotten to its Level 13. 13? That sounds spooky! And sure enough, when our boy gets there, the game takes on mystical powers and J.J. must fight the video nasties in the real world. The graphics are surprisingly crisp, unlike most of the performances in the movie.


4. The Dungeonmaster

Featuring Z-grade special effects and Richard Moll (aka Bull from Night Court) as a bad guy, this low budget flick is ripped off from, er, heavily inspired by Dungeons & Dragons and early computer RPG games. Plus, it features a cameo from the metal band W.A.S.P.!

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…