Best Movies of 1983

10. THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY

The Year of Living Dangerously

46 LISTS | 4 TOP SPOTS
Peter Weir | 115 mins | Drama/Romance/War
Mel Gibson | Sigourney Weaver | Linda Hunt

“A conventionally plotted movie, told with a flair that transcends the predictability. Director Peter Weir again proves his enormous style and Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver give vitality to roles that might have been played by Clark Gable and Gene Tierney in an earlier Hollywood. Linda Hunt is a front-runner for the best supporting actress Oscar.” – Philip Wuntch, Dallas Morning News

9. WARGAMES

WarGames

47 LISTS | 1 TOP SPOT
John Badham | 114 mins | Sci-Fi/Thriller
Matthew Broderick | Ally Sheedy | John Wood

“This is a movie that not only anticipated a fad, but may have started one with its almost how-to-do-it lessons on illegally tapping into computers. The movie, though, is wonderful fun, whatever the repercussions. It has excitement, suspense, laughs and — practically a major breakthrough for Hollywood, at least in recent times — it depicts teen-agers as something better than terminal nerds. It also establishes young Matthew Broderick as an actor worth watching.” – Bill Hagen, San Diego Union-Tribune

8. SILKWOOD

Silkwood

66 LISTS | 0 TOP SPOTS
Mike Nichols | 131 mins | Biography/Drama/History
Meryl Streep | Kurt Russell | Cher

“Mike Nichols resisted easy finger-pointing in telling the story of Karen Silkwood, who blew the whistle on the hazards faced by atomic workers in the Oklahoma factory in which she worked. Her 1974 death in a car crash remains unexplained to this day. Meryl Streep, summoning her considerable resourcefulness, makes Karen Silkwood seem anything but a nuclear Joan of Arc. She’s reckless, impulsive, raunchy, vulnerable, unforgettable. But her bosses don’t drool blood. They’re frightened, pathetic men, too afraid of not meeting their quotas to pay proper attention to safety.” – Jay Carr, Boston Globe

7. LOCAL HERO

Local Hero

79 LISTS | 3 TOP SPOTS
Bill Forsyth | 111 mins | Comedy/Drama
Burt Lancaster | Peter Riegert | Fulton Mackay

“Bill Forsyth, the Scottish filmmaker who knocked us over with ”Gregory’s Girl,” continues to demonstrate his most original, oddball comedy talents with ”Local Hero.” It’s about an impossibly powerful American oil man, played with loving understatement by Burt Lancaster, and what happens when he decides to buy an impoverished Scottish village. The cast of mostly British actors is superb, but I remember most clearly Denis Lawson, as an innkeeper; Jenny Seagrove, who plays a mermaid, and Peter Riegert, an American actor, who plays Mr. Lancaster’s factotum, an achiever with the soul of a poet.” – Vincent Canby, New York Times

6. TENDER MERCIES

Tender Mercies

81 LISTS | 4 TOP SPOTS
Bruce Beresford | 92 mins | Drama/Music
Robert Duvall | Tess Harper | Betty Buckley

“Robert Duvall’s finest performance, as Mac Sledge in “Tender Mercies,” set the quietly dramatic tone for this relatively simple story of a down-and-out country singer trying to put his life back in order. Director Bruce Beresford’s evocation of the independent East Texas spirit, as echoed in the best country music, gave Duvall a rich context in which to explore the loneliness and isolation of a rootless man trying to settle down.” – Michael Blowen, Boston Globe

5. ZELIG

Zelig

84 LISTS | 1 TOP SPOT
Woody Allen | 79 mins | Comedy
Woody Allen | Mia Farrow | Patrick Horgan

“Wood Allen’s remarkable creation of a fictional character who takes on the surroundings of wherever he finds himself in the real-life Roaring Twenties. Actual footage of such luminaries of the day as Babe Ruth and Scott Fitzgerald is spliced with diabolical wit and cunning, into a pixyish tale of Zelig, the little man who’s always there, and his psychiatrist lover Mia Farrow, who tries to figure out what it’s all about. A brilliant tour de force.” – Richard Freedman, Newhouse News Service

4. THE RIGHT STUFF

The Right Stuff

86 LISTS | 9 TOP SPOTS
Philip Kaufman | 193 mins | Adventure/Biography/Drama
Sam Shepard | Scott Glenn | Ed Harris

“In the weeks before “The Right Stuff” was released last October, there was a lot of discussion about whether the movie would help John Glenn’s presidential candidacy. Maybe what they should have been asking was whether Glenn’s candidacy would hurt the movie. The best film of 1983 never lived up to the box-office expectations of its makers, and the reason might have been widespread confusion over what the movie was about. Here was this thrilling, spectacular story of the first Americans to break the sound barrier and to fly into space, and a lot of teen-agers (the film’s primary target audience) somehow thought it was about the presidential primaries.
That’s too bad. But it doesn’t affect the stature of Philip Kaufman’s movie, which was a daring blend of styles, from social satire to historical reconstruction to flat-out space opera. “The Right Stuff” was not only fun as a movie, it was also thoughtful, building on author Tom Wolfe’s perception that the U.S. space program involved a basic revision of our ideas about heroes. Instead of cowboys who value their independence (like the first test pilots), we got “team players” who were valued for their image.
There was another reason “The Right Stuff” was a milestone. More than any single movie since, perhaps, “The Magnificent Seven,” it serves as a showcase for a new generation of likely male movie stars. Among them were Ed Harris, as John Glenn, Scott Glenn, as Alan Shepard; Dennis Quaid, as Gordon Cooper; Fred Ward, as Gus Grissom, and playwright Sam Shepard, whose performance as test pilot Chuck Yeager continues his series of lone-wolf movie roles.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

3. FANNY AND ALEXANDER

Fanny and Alexander

94 LISTS | 9 TOP SPOTS
Ingmar Bergman | 188 mins | Drama
Bertil Guve | Pernilla Allwin | Kristina Adolphson

“Ingmar Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander” is the work of a great filmmaker at the peak of his talent. Although his weaknesses are evident in murky symbolism about the existence of God, and there’s some overdone Gothic horror toward the end, there is a rich exuberance and style to this magical, mystical tale of a theater family in a Swedish town in 1907 that few directors can match.” – Judy Stone, San Francisco Chronicle

2. THE BIG CHILL

The Big Chill

95 LISTS | 5 TOP SPOTS
Lawrence Kasdan | 105 mins | Comedy/Drama
Tom Berenger | Glenn Close | Jeff Goldblum

“Inspired ensemble acting and one of the cleverest scripts since his own devilish “Body Heat” made Lawrence Kasdan’s film about a reunion of ‘60s survivors the most ambitious – and most consistently mature – American comedy of the year. (Wood Allen’s “Zelig” was probably No. 2.) The ending was a letdown, it’s true, but most of “Chill” was unfailing absorbing (to this ‘50s survivor, at least). And in its fine-tuned handling of mood in the wake of that problematic opening suicide, the film walked a tightrope between unforced pathos and bright, brittle humor that seemed gratifyingly close to the mark.” – David Baron, New Orleans Times-Picayune

1. TERMS OF ENDEARMENT

Terms of Endearment

123 LISTS | 39 TOP SPOTS
James L. Brooks | 132 mins | Comedy/Drama
Shirley MacLaine | Debra Winger | Jack Nicholson

“Terms of Endearment catches at the emotions, piques the intellect and strikes sparks from the funny bone. In it, Shirley MacLaine demonstrates the powerful talent she has developed over the years in performing both musical and straight roles as well as the maturing experiences she has stored up and written about. She is the top of a pyramid of praiseworthy performances by Jack Nicholson, Debra Winger, John Lithgow and Jeff Daniels.” – Carole Kass, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Full List:

RFilmL#1ARL%#1%TCLTCL1TCL%TCL1%
1Terms of Endearment123392.9472%33%431069%23%
2The Big Chill9555.0556%4%30048%0%
3Fanny and Alexander9494.0056%8%38561%12%
4The Right Stuff8694.5951%8%37360%7%
5Zelig8416.3349%1%25040%0%
6Tender Mercies8144.2848%3%28345%7%
7Local Hero7935.3446%3%30148%2%
8Silkwood6606.6539%0%25040%0%
9War Games4716.9428%1%16026%0%
10The Year of Living Dangerously4646.1427%3%16226%5%
11Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi4506.4026%0%9015%0%
12Never Cry Wolf3905.3523%0%19031%0%
13Risky Business3806.3822%0%11018%0%
14Under Fire3606.2621%0%11018%0%
15The King of Comedy3635.7121%3%13021%0%
16The Return of Martin Guerre3515.4721%1%11018%0%
17The Grey Fox3416.5020%1%11118%2%
18Betrayal3444.5020%3%15024%0%
19The Night of the Shooting Stars3382.3319%7%18629%14%
20The Dresser3005.3518%0%12019%0%
21Educating Rita2516.1415%1%305%0%
22Yentl2306.6314%0%10016%0%
23Testament1905.7911%0%10016%0%
24Berlin Alexanderplatz1882.5811%8%10316%7%
25Rear Window1723.4510%2%518%2%
26Star 801615.0010%1%7011%0%
27La Traviata1606.009%0%406%0%
28Pauline at the Beach1506.459%0%9015%0%
29Trading Places1507.789%0%508%0%
30Say Amen, Somebody1406.788%0%8013%0%
31Heart Like a Wheel1307.298%0%8013%0%
32Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence1214.137%1%508%0%
32Without a Trace1217.107%1%406%0%
34Baby, It's You1207.007%0%508%0%
35Rumble Fish1114.787%1%416%2%
36Scarface1115.836%1%203%0%
37Danton1107.606%0%508%0%
38Monty Python's The Meaning of Life1006.296%0%203%0%

Lists Included 170 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 62

R Rank
L Total number of lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
AR Average position on ranked top 10 lists
#1 Total number of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year
L% Percentage of total lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
#1% Percentage of mentions where the film was selected as the best film of the year
TCL Number of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1 Number of times that the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL% Percentage of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1% Percentage of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists

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