Updated: Jul 20
Many great films which remain popular today first premiered in cineplexes across the United States 35 years ago, with “Back to the Future” leading the way.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures
When Universal Pictures’ “Back to the Future,” a sci-fi film starring Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson and Christopher Lloyd, premiered in cinemas across the United States on July 3, 1985, that was just the climax in what was a standout year for theatrical premieres.
“The Goonies,” “Rocky IV,” “The Breakfast Club,” “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Clue,” “Witness,” “The Return of the Living Dead,” and so many other iconic movies in the pop culture canon came out in 1985. Just a skim through the year’s releases on the IMDb website shows how deep 1985’s offerings run.
As “Back to the Future” celebrates its 35th anniversary this month, it’s time to return to Hill Valley, California, to revisit an old favorite, and then hop into Doc Brown’s time-traveling DeLorean and head north to the Oregon Coast in “The Goonies,” before catching a flight over the Pacific Ocean to the Soviet Union to take in an epic bout between Rocky Balboa and bad guy Ivan Drago.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Save the clock tower
Buckle up, get comfortable, and crank up the volume on the car stereo because Huey Lewis and the News’ “The Power of Love” is on the radio. Once the DeLorean hits 88 miles per hour, it’s off to Hill Valley, first in 1985, and then 1955, where Marty McFly (Fox) and Doc Brown (Lloyd) team up to bring Marty’s parents, Lorraine Baines (Thompson) and George McFly (Crispin Glover), together after Marty’s drive through time throws off his family history.
With a story by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Zemeckis directs “Back to the Future,” one of the defining movies of the 1980s. Made by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, the film became so popular it spawned a pair of sequels, an animated TV series, an amusement park ride at Universal Studios, video games, and licensed comic books from IDW Publishing.
Nominated for three Academy Awards, and winner for Best Sound Effects Editing, the film kickstarted Fox’s movie career. Prior to “Back to the Future,” Fox had been known for portraying Alex Keaton, a conservative young man with hippie parents, on the sitcom “Family Ties.”
Fox nearly missed the chance to play Marty due to “Family Ties” commitments, as he was forced to drop from “Back to the Future” during pre-production and Eric Stoltz was cast to replace him. The film’s producers determined early during production that hiring Stoltz to play Marty was a mistake, so production was suspended and Fox was later able to recommit to the role. To make filming a reality, Fox worked a grueling schedule which required him to shoot both “Family Ties” and “Back to the Future” simultaneously. He was on the set of his sitcom during the day Monday through Friday, and he shot scenes of “Back to the Future” on nights and weekends.
With a score by Alan Silvestri, who up to that point was primarily known for his music from the film “Romancing the Stone,” a dash of Huey Lewis and the News, and some classics mixed in, the soundtrack to “Back to the Future” is as dynamic and energy-filled as the movie’s cast and plot.
Just like lightning striking the clock tower in Hill Valley, the film is electric.
Courtesy of Warner Bros
I smell ice cream
“The Goonies” is the ultimate kids’ adventure film of the 1980s, despite its very grounded setting. With filmmaker Richard Donner at the helm, best known for directing “Superman” from 1978, and a screenplay by Chris Columbus with a story from Steven Spielberg, the movie became an instant classic that’s now a cult favorite.
Hanging out in the Goon Docks, a fictional neighborhood in Astoria, Oregon, young Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen and Corey Feldman answer the call to adventure. Trying to help keep Goon Docks families out of a nasty foreclosure situation, the gang searches for One-Eyed Willy’s treasure, all while evading the Fratelli crime family, lethal booby traps, and having to walk the plank.
Astin’s Mikey Walsh is the heart of the film, Brolin’s Brandon Walsh, Mikey’s older brother, provides the angst, and Cohen’s Lawrence “Chunk” Cohen has several unforgettable scenes, which include showing off the “Truffle Shuffle” and his “I smell ice cream” moment.
Much of the filming for “The Goonies” was done on location along the Oregon Coast in Astoria and at Cannon Beach. A trip to the Oregon Coast is warranted for true fans of “The Goonies.” There they can visit the old Clatsop County Jail in Astoria, which is now the Oregon Film Museum, where a scene from the movie was shot.
The film features Cyndi Lauper’s “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” and “What a Thrill,” and even some music from the Bangles (“I Got Nothing”) and REO Speedwagon’s “Wherever You’re Goin’ (It’s Alright).”
The film, which was distributed by Warner Bros., with a release date of June 7, was made by Amblin Entertainment, which also had a heavy hand in the production of “Back to the Future.”
Courtesy of MGM Studios
If he dies, he dies
Say what you will about the Rocky franchise, “Rocky IV” was one of the top-grossing sports movies of the 20th century. Released on November 27 in the United States by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, the fourth installment in the boxing saga returns Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, everyone’s favorite southpaw from Philadelphia.
Stallone is again joined by Talia Shire, Burt Young and Carl Weathers as franchise mainstays, while Dolph Lundgren joins the cast as Ivan Drago, the Soviet Union’s top boxer who has a mean stare.
The fourth installment in the Rocky franchise goes global, uniting Americans against a then-common threat: the USSR. Early in the film, while fighting an exhibition match in Las Vegas following Rocky’s retirement from boxing, Rocky’s former-nemesis-turned-BFF, Apollo Creed, falls at the hands of Drago, who is immediately painted as a villain. Fair enough, Drago literally ends Rocky’s best pal, which prompts the Italian Stallion to come out of retirement, fly to the Soviet Union (USSR scenes were filmed in Wyoming), train, and teach Drago a lesson.
Even with James Brown’s cameo singing “Living in America,” the stark tone and serious start to the film washes away the leftover taste of Rocky taking on Mister T’s Clubber Lang from 1982’s “Rocky III.”
Like the first three Rocky features, this one was written and directed by Stallone, and the events of “Rocky IV” helped eventually launch the Creed movies of the 21st century.