And here we go… the 1980’s! I loved this decade!!! The Cold War and threat of nuclear annihilation at any moment… that mushroom cloud looming in the distance, the big balloon going up, survivalists taking up residence in underground shelters… good times!
Some of my absolute favorite flicks come from this time. You may have noticed by now that just because a movie is a favorite of mine, it doesn’t mean that it is the best. There are undoubtedly better movies out there, these just happen to be my favorites.
This list will be comprised of two parts. This post will be comprised of Part 1. Part 2 will appear at a future date.
As always, click the movie poster to watch either a trailer or scene from the movie.
The Blood of Heroes… “People no longer remembered the Golden Age of the 20th Century. They didn’t remember the miraculous technology, or the cruel wars that followed. They didn’t remember when juggers first played The Game or how it came to be played with a dog skull….”
Take a band of wastelanders, dress ’em up in all sorts of old tire remnants, leather straps, and other assorted scavenged armor. Give ’em chains and sticks and throw ’em in a makeshift dirt arena. Throw a rock at an old trashcan lid and watch ’em beat the hell out of each other while trying to stick a dog skull on a stick. That, my friends, is what we call Jugging. In the wasteland of the future, roaming teams of “Juggers” fight in dogtowns for the chance to make it big. Getting to the championship arenas that are located in underground cities to fight for the bigwigs who live the life. Hey, it’s got Rutger Hauer and Vincent D’Onofrio, what more could you ask for? It was filmed in the area of Australia known as Coober Pedy (you might recognize the name, a number of other films were filmed there such as Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Pitch Black).
Cherry 2000… A dude’s Cherry 2000 love-bot short-circuits from some shenanigans on a wet kitchen floor. He enlists the aid of a professional tracker to help him get through “Zone 7”, an area of the wasteland that is fabled to house the lost tech of the past – and more Cherry 2000’s (you see, his ‘bot’s memory was saved on disk and he only has to insert it into another “frame”).
There are a decent amount of movie stars in this one – Melanie Griffith (Edith “E” Johnson), David Andrews (Sam Treadwell), Tim Thomerson (Lester – one of his best parts), Brion James (Stacy – R.I.P.), Laurence “Larry” Fishburne (Glu Glu Lawyer), and Robert Z’Dar as Chet (sadly we lost Robert just this past March, 2015).
The soundtrack was done by Basil Poledouris, but oddly enough Tangerine Dream is featured in the trailer….
Cyborg… “First there was the collapse of civilization: anarchy, genocide, starvation. Then when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, we got the plague. The Living Death, quickly closing its fist over the entire planet. Then we heard the rumors: that the last scientists were working on a cure that would end the plague and restore the world. Restore it? Why? I like the death! I like the misery! I like this world!”
It’s with these opening lines from the main baddie (Fender Tremolo), that we’re introduced to the world of Cyborg and one more opportunity to see Jean-Claude Van Damme do the splits (seriously, that dude’s got the pelvis of a fourteen-year-old Olympic gymnast).
The world’s taken a turn for the worst and a cyborg needs to get from Point A to Point B in order to procure information that can save the world. She ends up enlisting the aid of a “Slinger” (Van Damme) and the adventure begins.
Little side note…. one of the actors lost his eye during filming when Jean-Claude got a little sloppy with a prop knife. Apparently he sued Van Damme and received $487,500.00.
The Day After… I remember watching this on TV back in 1983 and it scared the hell out of me. We even had to watch it in school. This was a time in my life that I was reading nothing but postapoc pulp novels and seeing something that was done in a realistic way was terrifying. Where were the mutants? Where were the raiders? Where was the lone wanderer? It was just people becoming flash fried and radiation poisoned. That was the point, though. To get people to really think about what nuclear war was like and hopefully prepare for what may happen.
It’s a good flick as well as a cautionary tale about just how horrible a nuclear armageddon might be…
Le Dernier Combat… I first came across this while perusing the DVD section of Borders back around 2003. Seeing that it was done by Luc Besson (a favorite director of mine and it was his first film), along with being postapoc, I threw down the cash before even doing any research as to what it was all about. It’s filmed in black and white and there are only two words of spoken dialogue through the whole film. It takes place at some point in the future after some sort of apocalypse (we’re never told what happened) and apparently humankind has been left mute. “The Man” spends his time scavenging for parts to complete a flying machine and running into “The Brute” (played by Jean Reno). It’s a fairly simple tale with a nice ending, you should give it a try…
Def-Con 4… What an absolutely wonderful movie! A trio of astronauts stationed aboard a military space station, replete with nuclear missiles, witnesses WWIII unfold below them. The station is hacked into by a group of military school punks and programmed to crash land. After landing, one of the astronauts shortly meets a grisly end. The surviving two, Howe (Tim Choate – who also played Zathras of Babylon 5 fame, God rest his soul) and Jordan (Kate Lynch) are left. Jordan knocked her noggin and is passed out. Howe leaves the craft in search of help and runs into Vinny (Maury Chaykin – one of my favorite characters in a postapoc movie). Jordan is taken captive by the military preppies, as well as Howe and Vinny. Oh, there’s a nuclear bomb that’s still on the ship and set to go off in about 60 hours…
Oh, as an extra bonus, here’s the orginal artwork by Angus McKie (1976) that the movie poster was based on…
Escape From New York… Not necessarily postapoc, but close to it and certainly 100% baddass. The year is 1997 and New York has been turned into a maximum security prison. Air Force One has gone down and the prez needs to get to a peace summit ricky tick. It’s up to Snake Plissken to get in, get the prez, and get out. The movie is just full of awesomeness and if you haven’t seen it, under which rock have you been for the past 34 years?
Exterminators of the Year 3000… Just one of many Italian Mad Max ripoffs that became so popular in the 80’s, the movie follows the main character,”Alien”, as he battles a motorcycle gang over the most precious commodity in the wasteland – water…
Hell Comes to Frogtown… In a radiation-blasted wasteland, Sam Hell (“Rowdy” Roddy Piper) is one of the last fertile males to be found. He ends up being captured by a group of warrior/nurses and enlisted to help them rescue a group of fertile women who have also been captured – by a mutated band of, well….. frogs….
In the Aftermath… “After the Great War, the earth is reduced to an unyielding wasteland, civilization is history, and clean air is the most precious commodity known to man. One soldier’s dreams become a haunting window to the future and his strange and colorful dreams are transformed into a terrifying reality. Among this horrible desolation, one small girl holds the key to the future… a future that may hold little promise.”
I first watched this in 1992 while stationed at Ft. Carson, CO while serving in the U.S. Army. I lost track of the title and virtually every detail (all I could remember were gas masks and a big egg) until I noticed just recently while researching another movie for this list. Luckily I also found it on youtube and so I naturally watched it again. Like some others, I can’t really explain why it’s a favorite of mine – it’s actually sort of hard to watch, but there is just something about it. From what I understand, it was based somewhat on an anime called Angels Never Sleep. There is a mixture of both the anime and live-action. The anime portion is hauntingly beautiful. It’s a bit of a trip, but you should check it out…
The Quiet Earth… A wonderful “last man on earth” tale coming out of New Zealand. Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) wakes up at 6:12am to a world in which he is alone. After a few days, eventually going a little mad, he comes across a woman, Joanne (Alison Routledge). Think it’s gonna get all Adam and Eve? Nope, they end up coming across a fairly stout Maori fella by the name of Api (Pete Smith). This, of course, results in a typical love triangle, but Zac is a scientist and is concentrating more on just what has happened and why. Seems he may have had something to do with it.
The ending scene has become fairly famous in the postapoc film genre and really leaves the watcher wanting more. I’ve always thought it would be great if someone would continue the story in book form…
Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior)… “My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land. But most of all, I remember the road warrior, the man we called Max. To understand who he was we have to go back to the other time, when the world was powered by the black fuel and the desert sprouted great cities of pipe and steel — gone now, swept away. For reasons long forgotten two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel they were nothing. They’d built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked, but nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. Cities exploded — a whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men.
On the roads it was a white-line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice, and in this maelstrom of decay ordinary men were battered and smashed — men like Max, the warrior Max. In the roar of an engine, he lost everything and became a shell of a man, a burnt-out desolate man, a man haunted by the demons of his past, a man who wandered out into the wasteland. And it was here, in this blighted place, that he learned to live again.”
Max is back! Taking place approximately three years after the first film, Max spends his existence roaming the wastes hunting for fuel. Eventually coming across a refinery in the desert populated by Pappagallo and his clan of white-armored followers, he finds that it is being harassed by Humungus – the Lord of the Wasteland, and his gang of marauders. The denizens of the refinery have plans to strike out into the wasteland and search for a better place. Striking a bargain with Pappagallo, Max agrees to find a tanker that will hold all of that “juice” in return for some guzzoline and a 125,000 mile service on his “last of the V-8’s” Interceptor.
Things pretty much go to hell after that.
And so ends Part 1 of my Fav’s of the 80’s. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and stay tuned for Part 2 coming in the near future…. if there’s a future left.
6 thoughts on “My Favorite Post-Apocalypse Movies of the 1980’s – Part 1…”
A very nice list. It’s good to see DEF-CON 4 getting some much deserved attention.
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You’ve given me a couple to add to my “to watch” list. Thanks, as always, for your incredible lists and synopses.
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I’ve got some real gems for Part 2. 😉 Thanks for the kind words, Kari. 🙂
Thanks for making this list. I’m looking forward to working through it. I appreciate the laughs in there too. Glad I ran into you on Twitter. Cheers!
Thank you! I have a lot of fun doing these and it means a lot when someone likes them. 🙂
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