All last week, we covered the 10 essential classics from the Summer of ’86. But the list of great movies that opened in theaters that summer doesn’t stop at 10. Whenever big hits like Aliens, Top Gun, and Stand by Me were sold out at the movie theater — or checked out at the video store — there were plenty of other, less-heralded films to keep us entertained. The Yahoo Movies staff dug into our memory banks and revisited some our personal favorites from the Summer of ’86, films that imprinted themselves on our minds… and maybe yours as well.
Flight of the Navigator
As a kid, I was never all that moved by standard “a boy and his dog” stories like Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows. Flight of the Navigator’s “boy and his spaceship,” premise, on the other hand, threw my youthful imagination into hyperdrive. And as much as I adored the flying parts of Flight, I was equally taken with the young Navigator’s plight of being a boy out of time, deposited eight years in the future by a silver spacecraft and then piloting said spacecraft back through the years to return to his proper era. It’s a round-trip adventure that had my childhood self scanning the skies for sight of my own gravity-defying ride. —Ethan Alter
There may be no more prototypical ’80s action film than Cobra, which among its many triumphs, boasts arguably the greatest tagline in movie history: “Crime is a disease. Meet the cure.” Stallone’s character is known as “Cobra” because his real name is “Marion Cobretti” (seriously), and his saga involves taking out a group of social Darwinist radicals who believe that only the strong should live. With future Stallone wife (and Rocky IV co-star) Brigitte Nielsen as the story’s de facto love interest, the film indulges in virtually every fascistic genre convention from the era, to alternately amusing and thrilling effect. Oh, and it also boasts the funniest French-fries-and-ketchup-related moment in movie history. —Nick Schager
Night of the Creeps
“Thrill me.” The debut film from Fred Dekker, Night of the Creeps is the B-movie genre fans dream about. Horror icon Tom Akins stars as Det. Ray Cameron who gets all the best lines and teams up with a couple of plucky college students to defend their campus from aliens that possess human hosts, turning them into zombies. Full of as many laughs as screams, this gem has gained a massive cult following and rightfully so. —Karen Kemmerle
The Great Mouse Detective
This rodent-sized Sherlock Holmes mystery is all too often overlooked when recounting the story of Disney’s mid-’80s animated renaissance. That’s a shame, because Basil, the titular mouse detective, is one of the Mouse House’s most appealing creations, a dogged sleuth who is every bit as brilliant as Baker Street’s most famous human resident. Besides spinning a great yarn, The Great Mouse Detective climaxes with an expertly choreographed chase sequence set inside Big Ben that hums with clockwork precision. —E.A.
Nothing in Common
“It’s a comedy. And a drama. Just like life.” The tagline was a little on-the-nose, but 30 years later this Tom Hanks-Jackie Gleason two-hander remains one of the better father-son flicks around. It was Hanks in preseason Big-mode as a developmentally arrested hotshot ad exec forced to help out his neglectful pops (Gleason) after his parents split. It was also a seminal moment for the young star, the first time the Bosom Buddy added dramatic weight to his comedic repertoire. He’s used it ever since. Just like in life. —Kevin Polowy
Released just five months after the Challenger disaster, SpaceCamp was a bust at the box office and never really stood a chance with its cornball story about a pack of misfit kids who are accidentally launched into orbit aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. Still, to this misfit, NASA-loving kid, it was a rousing adventure that inspired tantalizing what-would-I-do reveries. Seen from today, it’s an almost perfect ’80s space capsule, with a post-Temple of Doom Kate Capshaw as the permed, no-nonsense professional astronaut, Lea Thompson as the overachieving, wannabe pilot, and young Leaf Phoenix (who would later change his name back to Joaquin) as the genius 12-year-old with a robot best pal. —Kerrie Mitchell
Following in the footsteps of 48 Hours, Running Scared is, on the surface, the story of two mismatched cops who spend their time trading one-liners and gunfire with bad guys. What makes it work are leads Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, neither of whom seems like a natural fit for an action-oriented affair, and thus energize it with some welcome eccentricity. Directed by Peter Hyams with snappy proficiency, the Chicago-set comedy tanked upon its June 1986 debut. Nonetheless, it’s a worthy addition to the black cop-white cop subgenre, thanks to Hines’ and Crystal’s ability to make even the most perfunctory chase scenes — and instances in which they’re yelled at by their commander — opportunities for inspired riffing. —N.S.
The Boy Who Could Fly
Part of me is deathly afraid to re-watch writer-director Nick Castle’s teen drama, which peers at serious subjects like suicide and autism through a slightly fanciful lens. But that element of fantasy is precisely what compelled me to revisit the film so often as a kid (well, that and the fact that it was on cable all the time), as I strove to answer for myself whether emotionally traumatized boy next door Eric (Jay Underwood) really could fly or if it was all a delusion. I don’t know that I ever settled on a definitive answer, but The Boy Who Could Fly prompted me to ponder some big questions. —E.A.
Number 5 is alive! What ’80s kid didn’t love the military robot who developed a childlike personality and desire for ‘input’ after being struck by lightning? With a cast that included two of the decade’s biggest stars in Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg, this light-hearted sci-fi comedy made everyone cheer for the lovable robot. Add in the catchy theme song “Who’s Johnny” by El DeBarge and this classic family flick can’t help but put a smile on your face. —Giana Mucci
Bob Hoskins received his only Oscar nomination for his role as George, a low-level gangster who just wants to be a better father to his estranged daughter. Fresh from prison, he takes a job from his former employer to protect high-class call girl Simone (a radiant Cathy Tyson). Short-tempered but sentimental, George quickly finds himself falling for Simone as she lures him back into a world he thought he was through with. Directed and co-written by Irish auteur Neil Jordan, Mona Lisa is a searing neo-noir with a heart of gold lurking underneath. —K.K.
The Transformers: The Movie
We played with the toys. We watched the TV show. But back in ’86, there was still something mind-blowing about seeing the Autobots battle the Decepticons… in a movie theater! And the filmmakers made the big-screen experience worthwhile, upping the action quotient, not to mention the body count, significantly from the television series. If you thought Bambi’s mom was traumatic, you clearly never watched the death of Optimus Prime in a theater filled with young Transformers fans. —E.A.
Back to School
With all due respect to Caddyshack, Back to School is Rodney Dangerfield’s funniest star vehicle. The legendary comedian plays a wealthy father who decides to enroll in the same college as his son (Keith Gordon) to keep the boy from dropping out. That ridiculous set-up leads to non-stop absurdity in which Dangerfield cheats his way through school — including hiring Kurt Vonnegut to write a paper on his own novels — while stealing away his rival’s girlfriend and helping Gordon’s swimmer triumph over a nasty bully (The Karate Kid’s Billy Zabka). Co-starring M. Emmet Walsh, Ned Beatty, Sam Kinison, Adrienne Barbeau, and even a young Robert Downey Jr., Back to School is a wealthy-underdog-makes-good riot (and precursor to Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison) that deserves moviegoers’ everlasting respect. —N.S.
Based on Nora Ephron’s novel about her failed marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, Heartburn stars Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson as a high-powered couple whose lives are turned upside down by an affair, forcing Streep’s pregnant Rachel to go out and make it on her own. A tale of self-realization and reliance, this romantic dramedy reflects that times were a-changin’ and gave ’80s audiences a heroine they could really root for. —K.K.
One Crazy Summer
In 1985, a 19-year-old John Cusack starred as a heartbroken, suicidal teen in the zany comedy Better Off Dead from a director by the name of Savage Steve Holland. One year later, Cusack and Holland reteamed for this equally nutso story about a lovelorn cartoonist (Cusack) who spends the summer on Nantucket battling yuppie scum and falling for a local singer (Demi Moore). An absurdist tour de force, this Crazy Summer mashes up an animated rhinoceros looking for romance, armpits hanging from trees, and Bobcat Goldthwait in a Godzilla costume, among other oddities, to absolutely live up to its title. —K.M.