I was going to write about how awful Michael Bay is, but it seems the rest of the rational world already has him pegged as the bullying, misogynistic, fan-hating, sellout that he is.

There’s not a lot more that I can add to that conversation.

As much as I want to look upon the Bay-infatuated youth of the day with disdain, I’m not entirely innocent myself. For some reason, despite the offerings of Spielberg, Cameron, Lucas, and Scott, I fell for some really terrible movies that time has mostly forgotten, films likely responsible for my own generation’s brand of narcissism: the idea that no matter how much of a nobody I am, I can grow up to be a rock star.

Here they are in all their 80’s glory:

The Wraith (1986)

A no-name actor gets murdered by Nick Cassavetes and is reincarnated as Charlie Sheen, who then wreaks automotive vengeance whilst Randy Quaid watches helplessly. Think The Crow meets Fast and Furious. Yup.

I remember sharing this film with my Dad, enjoying it so much we actually went out and found the stretch of highway outside Tucson, AZ where it was filmed. At least I think he enjoyed it…he wasn’t so eager to rent it the second or third time. What can I say? I was 8 and The Wraith had guns, explosions, cars, and spacey stuff. Looking back, it really does seem like something only an 8-year-old could appreciate.

By the way, Nick Cassavetes considers The Notebook his worst film ever, not this…which is interesting. He’s also one of California’s biggest tax delinquents (owing close to $250,000), and he thinks incest is cool. For real, look it up!

The Last Starfighter (1984)

Ok…there’s going to be people who argue with me about this one, and yes, it was one of the first films to incorporate CG effects (quite successfully in some instances), but let’s be honest, this is a really cheesy movie. I mean, REALLY cheesy.

A nobody from nowhere happens to be awesome at an arcade game that HAPPENS to be a recruiting tool for an intergalactic star-fleet. Basically, if you’re good at the arcade game, it sends a signal to the mother ship and a creepy dude in a butt-ugly 80’s car picks you up and pushes you to the front lines of a war.

Kinda makes me glad I was never really that good at Mortal Kombat…

Krull (1983)

Basically the fantasy version of Flash Gordon (1980). This film holds a weird place in my heart; I kinda like it even though I think it’s terrible. It’s yet another “extraordinary thing happening to an ordinary person” story. Though I will say, having a character who is aware of the place and time he will die is interesting. That idea has stuck with me all these years.

Some interesting Krull facts:

  • This was one of Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid from Harry Potter) first movie roles.
  • The soundtrack was composed by James Horner (who’s composed pretty much everything John Williams hasn’t), and still enjoys a cult following to this day.
  • The production was expansive, with 23 sets built from scratch, and costing almost $50 million (and them’s 1983 dollars). The film only earned $16.5 million, meaning the studio lost $33.5 million. Coincidentally, that’s how much OJ Simpson owed the Goldman and Brown families after losing his civil suit.

Explorers (1985)

I had completely forgotten about this movie until it popped up on Netflix about a month ago. No, don’t go watch it. It’s slower than 2001: Space Odyssey in slow-motion. In it, young and nerdy Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, and a third no-name build a space ship and blast off to meet some creepy-as-junk rubber aliens.

I remember 8-year-old me really liking this one too, and scrubbing through it last month, I was actually impressed with some of the set design on the alien space ship.

Director Joe Dante also helmed Gremlins and Innerspace, two other cinema standouts from my childhood (why did my parents let me watch this stuff???).

There’s not much else to say about this one.

Which leads us to…

Mac and Me (1988)

This one is super special. Rotten Tomatoes ranks it as one of the worst films ever made (it currently holds a 0% approval rating), largely due to being a complete ripoff of E.T., and cram packed with product placement (play the preview, you’ll see what I mean).

In it, wheelchair bound Eric must help his new alien friend, Mac, reunite with his family.

As terrible as it was, images from this film stuck with me. I can’t remember how many kids films (let alone sci-fi films) feature a disabled protagonist. Mac the alien communicated the location of his rendezvous by placing little flowers in coke bottles to signify a nearby wind farm. Not sure why that last one stuck.

There are three notable facts about this film:

  1. It is Jennifer Aniston’s debut film…as an uncredited background extra.
  2. There was a sequel planned…that was quickly shelved.
  3. Director Stewart Raffill also directed the sequel to 1987’s Mannequin: Mannequin Two: On the Move. So…there’s that.

Contrived Conclusion

Alright, I admit it. My generation had is quirks too. I may not be ready to forgive the regurgitated 80s fashion and Michael Bay movies, but we can at least agree on one thing: bad sci-fi movies are clearly to blame for our faults.

The end.

What 80’s sci-fi movie haunts your dreams?

Dan Baker

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Dan works out his social anxieties by producing and directing films. He's a proud New Mexican, and prefers green over red.

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