1982 was a vintage year for summer blockbusters

This 1982 preview of the summer's big science fiction movies seems to prove that things did, in fact, used to be better. I means, what a goddamned year: Blade Runner, Poltergeist, ET, The Thing, Wrath of Kahn, and Tron. I turned 11 that summer.

Summer Movie Sci-Fi Sneak Preview from 1982. (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. My parents were 22 and 17. I’m pretty sure both of them went to see all of these. 

    (Wrath of Khan, btw.)

  2. Not sure that telling the world that Spock dies at the end of Wrath of Khan can really be considered a “sneak preview.”

  3. Of the 6 movies listed, there are only two I’d consider rewatching.  (Blade Runner, Wrath of Khan)

    1. I was just going to point to the same thing. it was a fantastic thing to relive the summer of ’82. if only it wasn’t a 200 mile round trip for each film I saw…. which also included The Wall, Class of 1984, Fast Times, Friday the 13th 3, and The Dark Crystal.

      more movies were shown, these are the ones I drove to see in the theater again.

      besides the loss of Blade Runner (which i understand why)… the only film i truly missed from the glorious summer was The Beast Within.

      1. The Beast Within lol! That is the only movie I have seen where the audience spontaneously began cracking jokes out loud. What a great time!

    1. And Star Trek III!

      One of the main features of this sequel is the ending, where the beloved Mr Spock meets his end. But of course, in Science Fiction, nobody really dies

      Except for poor Peter Preston.

  4. It may just be a matter of perspective (I was 26 during the summer of 1982), but Tron, The Thing, and Poltergeist were not as good as the hype. And they haven’t improved over time.

    1. I have that reaction to Blade Runner. Decker kills people. Decker might be a replicant too, so what? who cares if he’s a replicant? who cares if anyone’s a replicant, it’s no excuse to kill people!

      And if some people think someone’s less human because someone fails the Voight-Kampff test, I guess they think I’m less human because I’m very likely autistic and I’d probably fail the Voight-Kampff test. I know people misread my facial expressions and misread my avoidance of eye ‘contact,’ more like eye pressure, and I think the Voight-Kampff test relies on similar cues.

      1. Blade Runner is, arguably, the most influential science fiction film in history. Perhaps you’d like to recommend the “Top 10 SciFi Films Better Than Blade Runner”?

        1. Blade Runner is the most influential science fiction movie in history?  How about STAR WARS, METROPOLIS or 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY, just to name three? Furthermore, “influential” and “better than” are two completely different animals; the former being fact based and the latter, opinion based. Personally, I’ve never made it through BLADE RUNNER. I’ve tried several times since 1982, but I always become completely uninterested about 20 minutes in. Such a dreary film.

          1. I wouldn’t consider Star Wars to be influential. Blade Runner was a huge influence on the vision of the future in many other films, although BR itself is derivative of Metropolis. I don’t really see other filmmakers creating films that are influenced by Star Wars, at least not watchable films. Popularity isn’t the same as influence.

          2. Tiptoeing around what you may mean by ‘watchable’… I would say both ‘The Last Starfighter’ (1984) and ‘Serenity’ (2005) were influenced by the vision of ‘Star Wars’; I consider those two films “watchable”.  (I loved Robert Preston!)  But Bladerunner was the more influential film — ‘The Fifth Element’ and ‘Gattaca’ to a name two films.

            Also, though it was a sad story, visually ‘A.I.’ pretty much blew me away, as well as ‘I, Robot’.  In terms of our vision of the future including our physical emergence with robots, and/or being aided by robots as separate entities, I think we’re seeing the vision of both Star Wars and Bladerunner.

      2. The point of the movie is that Deckert agrees that killing the Replicants just for being replicants is murder –  he is blackmailed into taking the job, and only willingly does the investigation because the replicants in question are murderers. Also, he never kills a single replicant in the movie who did not try to kill him first.

        Deckert’s questioning of whether the replicants are just machines or as real as humans is a central theme of the movie (and book), and vital to the message the author was trying to get across.

        1. The book and the movie are SO different!  To me they’re separate works.  Anyway the movie should stand or fall on its own in my opinion.

      3. It’s Deckard. I think the fact that you react so strongly to the film is actually a testament to how powerful a subject it is. But, you know, don’t take it personally. There actually is no such thing as a Voight-Kampff test.

      4. I’ve re-watched some of these recently.  I still think that Tron is brilliant.  I still find Blade Runner dull and self-important.  As to Poltergeist, I live next door to the tribal cemetery, but since I knew a few of the people buried in it, I’m probably safe.

        1. “They’re heeeeere….”

          I watched Plotergeist II first and so was expecting more of the same chills and humour when I finally got around to watching the first film… scared the pants of me…

  5. I was 14 in 1982. So hey, I‘m in the spread between 11 years old & 16 years old which means my childhood was better than yours people who were born 10+ years after me!

  6. Summer of 86: Aliens, Big Trouble in Little China, Ferris Bueller, Labyrinth.

    Okay, not quiiiite as good, but pretty much cements that movies were better before blockbuster franchises.

    (We’ve still got some good stuff this year, like Wreck it Ralph, but not like this. Even Ralph is basically just wallowing in 80/90s nostalgia).

    1. 1980s in general = very reasonable & robust world of intelligent escapism.

      2012 holiday season? Look at what’s playing in the U.S. right now. Anything come close to those 1980s films? 

      1. The 80s were incredible for movies. In addition to the ones mentioned for ’82, there were dozens only a few years before or after: Ghostbusters, The Terminator, Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Princess Bride, just to name a few of the most popular. I’m sure that the majority of movies back then were still crap, but it seems like no matter what you liked, you’d have at least one or two really great movies to look forward to each year, and most of them weren’t sequels or remakes, either. What the hell happened?

  7. You know what wasn’t better in 1982?   Doofus entertainment reporters with no emotional connection to what they are reporting on, who give away the endings to half the movies they review.  Yikes.

  8. I turned 11 that spring, so I couldn’t watch Blade Runner in the cinemas back then. I think that’s the only movie I missed (and the one that years later I still love -even obsess about it- and re-watch all the time). 

  9. And people think the internet is bad with the spoilers! 

    BTW, I was born in late 70’s so all the movies in the 80’s represented my childhood! I’m not sure I’d like to fall into the trap of nostalgia that makes one go “everything in the present is crap and everything in the past is better”. However, there is something to be said for practical effects in movies over using CGI for everything. John Carpenter’s The Thing certainly was better than the prequel recently released and that is one of the reasons.

    1. I was thinking about this same thing in the Anchorman 2 thread. They just dont make quality comedies like Ghostbusters, Stripes, Raising Arizona, Caddyshack, etc.

      1. I’d submit that Superbad is as good or better than any of the comedies you mentioned. And if you want to extend the spread over 10 years, which I think a lot of the lists in this thread are doing, you can add lots of others that I think compete as well: Adaptation, Best in Show, Borat, O Brother Where Art Tho, Spun, Royal Tenenbaums, Juno, Napoleon Dynamite, Shaun of the Dead.

        And don’t get me started on how much better TV is now than it was then: Weeds, IT Crowd, The Office, Arrested Development, Southpark, Reno 911, Downton Abbey, Sopranos, Freak & Geeks, The Wire, Mad Men, Rome…

  10. I was 10 in 1982 and I never got the appeal of Tron when it came out. It looked cheap and over-hyped. It had that same cheesy look to it that The Black Hole had, so I guess Tron was the pinnacle of Disney’s darkest days of the 70’s and 80’s before The Little Mermaid brought them back from the brink (damn you dildo castle spires!) I finally tried to sit through Tron from the beginning two years ago and had to turn it off after 30 minutes, IT IS THAT BAD!

      1. Jeff Bridges was clearly asleep on his feet, figuring this is just a dopey kids movie, so he phones in his performance, as does David Warner. It’s just a bad movie.

  11. There was a week when I and some co-workers argued whether 1984 or 1985 was the best year in movies ever.

    1984: Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, Karate Kid, Police Academy, Footloose, Star Trek III, Amadeus, Red Dawn, Buckaroo Banzai, Conan the Destroyer, Johnny Dangerously, Revenge of the Nerd, Sixteen Candles, and Spinal Tap

    1985: Back to the Future, Rocky IV, Goonies, Breakfast Club, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Brazil, The Last Dragon, Legend, Real Genius, Remo Williams, Spies Like Us, St Elmo’s Fire, Vampire Hunter D, Weird Science, and Witness

    Clearly, both are strong contenders, and I say either was a great year for movies, but science fiction-wise don’t hold a candle to 1982.  Also, clearly, we need more work to do.

    1. There was a week when I and some co-workers argued whether 1984 or 1985 was the best year in movies ever.

      1939: Gone With The Wind, Dark Victory, The Wizard Of Oz, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Of Mice And Men, Destry Rides Again, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Drums Along The Mohawk, Ninotchka, The Rules Of The Game, Wuthering Heights, Young Mr. Lincoln

          1. It’s sweet enough to choke an elephant, but I like a bit of saccharine every once in a while.

            A cinema class I took a while back focused solely on films from 1939, and the Professor didn’t even show Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington because there were so many great films released that year, and he assumed we’d seen those three already.

          2. 1940 wasn’t quite as great, but Rebecca, The Grapes Of Wrath, The Philadelphia Story and The Great Dictator are nothing to sneeze at, either.  Then you fast forward a decade or three, and dodgy films like The Greatest Show On Earth and Oliver! were winning Best Picture Oscars.

      1. And, as William Goldman notes (in Adventures in the Screen Trade), Gunga Din.   Not to mention Goodbye Mr Chips, although someone has indeed mentioned it.  Definitely a good year (apart from that little business with Germany.)

  12. I went to see Tron with my older brother and neighbors, then snuck in to ET. We got in tons of trouble when we finally got home, over two hours late. :)
    My dad took my sister, my brother and me to Khan.

  13. “Hey internet nerds of the future!  Do you like sci-fi?  Well, sit back while I ruin your enjoyment of this year’s entire record crop with my spoilers and helmet perm– and then use light years as a unit of time!  BA HA HA!”

  14. I was a year out of college; a group of friends and I took a designer drug that was not illegal at the time and went to see Tron. We totally did not understand the plot.

  15. We recently re-watched Blade Runner with our teenage kids. It is still the grimiest sci-fi movie I’ve ever seen. It also has the amusing anachronisms of flying cars and cathode ray tubes in 2019. And no cell phones! Don’t these writers know not to set films close enough in the future that people will be able to fact-check them? 

    1. Admit it. You’d really like to have an asymmetrical mullet and a purple suit with shoulder pads.

        1. I was just projecting my own fantasies.  Back then, I had a two-tone Mohawk and outfits that Michael Jackson would have rejected for being over the top.

          1. Thank heavens I was living in Europe at the time.  Missed everything.  Never even wore leg warmers.

            Although I did have a lot of big shoulder pads in my work clothes.  How conveniently I forgot about that until now.  /runs screaming from the room

  16. I was one year old when all those movies came.
    I totally soiled my pants.
    I still soil them when I see one of those.

  17. I graduated high school that year. Went to see them all. Things actually were better then…

    /age bias, I’ll be in the corner if anyone needs me…

  18. 1982 wasn’t bad, I must admit. Plus, just a year before came Clash of the Titans, which stuck with me my entire life as the only Harryhausen film I was able to see in the theater.

  19. The past seems better because you only remember the good and forget the bad. Lets not forget that Blade Runner flopped and that Tron is really more of a novelty then an actually good movie. It hasn’t aged well at all. And The Thing was a remake.

    1. Not that there’s anything wrong with the original – it’s actually pretty great (and haunted my young mind for years when I saw it as a kid on tv) – but The Thing is one of the few remakes that is better than the original (and The Thing also haunted my young mind for years a few years after I saw the original when I caught just part of it on TV).

  20. Critics hated Blade Runner, most giving it ~2 out of 10. They still don’t like it but feel obliged to give it a higher score because of its massive influence on film and computer game culture.

    1. True enough. But if I only listened to what the critics said, I’d have missed some of my favorite films. And watched a lot of crap, too.

  21. “Look at this year’s sci-fi films. Then back to 1982. Now look at this year. Now back to 1982. Sadly, this year isn’t 1982….”

  22. I was a tyke of nine. I begged my mom to take me to see Blade Runner and The Thing, but for *some* reason she wouldn’t take me to see Blade Runner…but she had no problem taking me to see The Thing. It was so gruesome it almost made her sick. :) Me? I just LOVED IT! I became instantly obsessed with the film, and now own all manner of memorabilia related to it. Talk about influencing an impressionable young mind!

  23. Am I really the only living person who minded the fact that the movie POLTERGEIST contains no poltergeists whatsoever?  The filmmakers stopped the action and took time out to carefully explain to you the difference between a ghost and a poltergeist, to make SURE you knew they’d deliberately mistitled their film–and nobody minded the bait-and-switch!  I still don’t get it. I paid my money to see people terrified by a real, plausible, well-documented (if little-understood) phenomenon–and instead I got a movie about people terrified by cartoon bullshit. I was pissed off–why wasn’t anyone else?  And why are we even talking about a ghost story in a discussion of classic science fiction movies?  The only thing science fictional about POLTERGEIST was the title, and it was a flat lie.

  24. Ah, The Thing.  Last movie I saw before going to basic training.  I took my girlfriend to a nice, Italian restaurant for dinner, then to see this film.  I wish I had not had the linguini before seeing the scene in the dog pen.

  25. Those are all fine films, but my favorite from that period was Time Bandits (1981). I never get tired of watching it.

    From a completely non-nostalgic point of view, movies really were better back then because smaller budget films from independent studios could still get wide distribution. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that’s the case today. I don’t think Time Bandits (which was a bit hit) could get made today on a decent budget and get on even 1,000 screens.

    I don’t know when this period ended, but I still remember sex lies and videotape (1989) getting wide distribution. Not many small budget/independent films since then have broken through to the mainstream. Even Blair Witch Project, for all its hype, was shown in art house-type cinemas.

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