When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at '87, it gave its Best Picture award to The Last Emperor, an opulent but bland biography with a moderately Maoist message. You won't see that one here:
1. Full Metal Jacket Directed by Stanley Kubrick Written by Kubrick, Gustav Hasford, and Michael Herr, from a novel by Hasford
I was watching one of those Siskel and Ebert ripoffs -- I think it was the one with Michael Medved, but maybe it was the one with Rex Reed -- when they preceded their reviews of this terrific black comedy with the movie's funniest clip: the one where the sergeant brags that Charles Whitman and Lee Harvey Oswald learned to shoot in the Marines. I was still laughing uncontrollably as one of the hosts gazed gravely from the screen and announced that the scene had sent a chill down his spine. Not for the last time, I realized that many critics are full of shit.
2. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story Directed by Todd Haynes Written by Haynes and Cynthia Schneider
A 16mm biopic performed by Barbie dolls. A deeply disturbing movie, it ran into trouble with both Mattel and the Karen Carpenter estate -- and it's still under a legal cloud today. But it's not much trouble to find it online.
3. House of Games Directed by David Mamet Written by Mamet, from a story by Mamet and Jonathan Katz
Unlike many stories that rely on plot twists, this paranoid tale's sudden shifts are unpredictable without being unbelievable.
4. Hope and Glory Written and directed by John Boorman
From the screenplay: "he is astonished to see hundreds of children in a state of delirious celebration. Boys fling their caps in the air. They cheer. They whoop. They run amok. Behind them lie the smouldering ruins of the school."
5. Raising Arizona Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
I was watching one of those Siskel and Ebert ripoffs -- I think it was the one with Rex Reed, but maybe it was the one with Michael Medved -- when one of the hosts announced that he couldn't understand why this comedy about kidnapping had gotten such a positive reaction. After all, he explained, kidnapping is a felony. Not for the last time, I realized that many critics are full of shit.
6. Tin Men Written and directed by Barry Levinson
It's the best of Levinson's Baltimore movies, which is another way of saying it's the best Levinson movie, period. I'm a big fan of formstone, by the way. I don't understand why all those yuppies insist on peeling it off their houses.
7. RoboCop Directed by Paul Verhoeven Written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner
A satire posing as an action movie. The fake ads alone earn it a place on this list.
8. Barfly Directed by Barbet Schroeder Written by Charles Bukowski
"Sometimes I just get tired of thinking of all the things that I don't wanna do. All the things that I don't wanna be. Places I don't wanna go, like India, like getting my teeth cleaned."
9. Withnail & I Written and directed by Bruce Robinson
If you want to impress the nerds, call it The Two Doctors.
10. Roxanne Directed by Fred Schipisi Written by Steve Martin, from a play by Edmond Rostand
"People ski topless here while smoking dope, so irony's not really a high priority. We haven't had any irony here since about, uh, '83, when I was the only practitioner of it. And I stopped because I was tired of being stared at."