A Totally Rad Roundup of 80s Flicks in Honor of Vice City
Looking back on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on the occasion of its recent mobile release is a pretty powerful double-hit of nostalgia for us. Not only are we here at Rockstar taken back to that wild year of 2002 when we labored to take the groundbreaking 3D GTA experience pioneered in the previous fall's Grand Theft Auto III into a direction that no one at the time expected - but it's also a time to revisit the fascination with 1980s pop culture that inspired Vice City in the first place. From coked-out debutantes, suave and in-control hit men, hot-blooded drug kingpins, egomaniacal movie directors... the larger than life attitudes of that "me" decade as served up in the films of the era served as perfect inspiration for the stories, characters and scenery that drove the world and vibe of Vice City...
But of course. Largely dismissed at the time as an overblown, needlessly and gratuitously violent and profane remake of Howard Hawks' 1932 gangster classic - it has now, of course, transcended all of that and become one of the biggest and most enduring cult hits of all time - defining what a modern crime epic should be. An absolute top favorite of ours, we started paying homage to the film's legacy in GTAIII with Flashback 95.6's Scarface soundtrack heavy playlist and the casting of Robert Loggia as the sciatica-plagued Ray Machowski - but it goes without saying that Vice City owes much of its inspiration to the vivid characters, style, scenery and music of De Palma and Pacino's 1980s Miami gangster masterpiece.
Less Than Zero (1987)
Hands down the darkest movie of the 'brat pack' genre, this Robert Downey Jr. and Andrew McCarthy-starring movie is a stylish adaptation of the disturbing Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) novel. A morality tale of excess following rich Beverly Hills yuppie kids caught up with living life in the coke-fueled fast lane of the 1980s social scene. Incredible style, music and oddly prophetic to the drug troubles that would plague Downey himself in the years to come.
The Long Good Friday (1980)
The Long Good Friday was released at the dawn of the decade - a great crime drama that is now listed as one of the top 100 British films of the 20th century by the British Film Institute. An intense Bob Hoskins portrays a local British kingpin trying to close a landmark deal, working the angles between American mafia investors, crooked politicians, and his own questionably loyal ranks - whilst thwarted by an unknown enemy. Also starring a young, blonde Helen Mirren as Hoskins' moll.
To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
Directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist), this is an awesome crime film from the era with Los Angeles based agents after a notorious counterfeiter and thief - played by Willem Defoe as your archetypical 1980s villain sociopath. Side note - the film's soundtrack was composed entirely by 80s wunderkinds (and Flash FM favorites) Wang Chung.
Michael Mann is almost singlehandedly responsible for defining what 1980s action ‘looked’ like thanks to his work as Executive Producer of Miami Vice, and for his direction of Manhunter - the first film adaptation of Thomas Harris’ series of books about serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Drenched in 80s style, this one takes neo-noir into neon-noir with suspense set to synths.
A more taut and psychological thriller than the cavalcade of action films from the 1980s about lone good-guy American soldiers prevailing against seemingly endless parades of gun-toting baddies with poor aim, Stallone's 1982 turn as a distressed Vietnam War veteran turned one-man-army undoubtedly inspired the decade's later work of Arnold Schwarzenegger, modern folk hero Chuck Norris, Michael Dudikoff - and of course the legendary Jack Howitzer of Evacuator and Exploder fame.
The Road Warrior (1981) & Aliens (1986)
1980s Hollywood seemed to have one basic approach to sequels - take a somewhat understated, successful suspense film and blow the doors off it with a follow-up that ups the ante to all-out-balls-to-the-wall action. Both of these however turned out to be awesomely amplified blockbusters that did good justice to their progenitors. A hammy, young Bill Paxton playing his brash space marine character in Aliens almost exactly as his Chet from Weird Science - is a particular 80s treat.
Sudden Impact (1983)
Top Gun (1986)
Body Double (1984)
Somewhere in between Brian DePalma’s flashes of brilliance that were Scarface (1983) and The Untouchables (1987) came this very underrated Hitchcock homage/rip-off (depending on your opinion) that took the DNA of Vertigo and Rear Window into a totally 80s Los-Angeles-set suspense thriller complete with an awesome extended Frankie Goes to Hollywood music video / porn sequence, starring a young Melanie Griffith as Holly Body.
Rocky IV (1985) & Over the Top (1987)
Vice City probably wouldn’t have had Jack Howitzer’s Push Up: The Movie – the story of a washed up ex- push up champion who trains to defeat a Russian nemesis in an international push-up contest held in “Tokyo, China” – if it weren’t for this special pair of mid-80s Stallone ‘classics’. In Rocky IV, Sly's Balboa fights a machine but in Over the Top, his Lincoln Hawk becomes one (well, once he turns his ball cap backwards). "You can't win!"