Best of 1984

1984 was not considered a great year for films, but the number one film (Amadeus) is still considered a masterpiece by many today.  More surprisingly, many of the most notable films of 1984 – including The Terminator and Once Upon a Time in America – did not crack the top 20 when this poll was conducted by Patrick McGilligan and Mark Rowland back in 1984.

18. All of Me (8 lists)

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“Martin has become a superb physical comic, and Tomlin brings some unexpected warmth to a cruelly written part. A manic fuzziness takes over in the last reel and spoils some of the pleasure, but it’s still a sympathetic effort.” – Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

18. Carmen (8 lists)

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“The combination of the casting and Bizet’s music ought to make for the perfect opera film, but it doesn’t quite.” – Ken Hanke, Mountain Xpress

18. Paris, Texas (8 lists)

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“Deservedly winning Cannes Fest top award, Wim Wenders’ brilliant film is a personal meditation on the relative power of images and words, as well as a contribution to the modern Western and journey pictures as uniguely American genres.” – Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.com

15. Careful, He Might Hear You (9 lists)

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“From the very first shot it’s clear that cinematographer John Seale contributes enormously to the film’s success. It’s without doubt one of the most wonderfully photographed films of Australian cinema.” – Urban Cinephile

15. Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (9 lists)

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“Hugh Hudson has fashioned a visually resplendent film that, while perhaps a bit too rigid to offer the proper degree of high adventure synonymous with the Tarzan trademark, contains no small measure of compelling sequences and strong performances.” – Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing

15. Under the Volcano (9 lists)

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“Daring as it is to have brought Under the Volcano to the screen in this faithful but incomplete form, Mr. Huston has done so without making compromises in the process.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times

13. Choose Me (10 lists)

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“Arguably Rudolf’s finest achievement, a moody romantic fable, with lurid visuals and intoxicating jazzy score, in which all the characters are love-struck.” – Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.com

13. A Passage to India (10 lists)

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“The film is very much ‘a full theatrical meal,’ and one that conveys a lot of ‘the multiplicity of life’ one seldom sees on the screen these days.” – Vincent Canby, New York Times

10. El Norte (11 lists)

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“El Norte is not exactly a great film, but it’s a very good one that, through the devices of fiction, manages to provoke a number of healthily contradictory feelings about the world we all inhabit at the moment.” – Vincent Canby, New York Times

10. The Natural (11 lists)

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“Being a baseball fan involves repeatedly experiencing exquisite pain and exquisite joy. Well, there’s a lot of both in The Natural.” – Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

10. Stranger Than Paradise (11 lists)

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“Not a lot to it, certainly, but the acting and performances combine to produce an obliquely effective study of the effect of landscape upon emotion, and the wry, dry humour is often quite delicious.” – Geoff Andrew, Time Out

8. Splash (12 lists)

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“Although film is a bit uneven, production benefits from a tasty look, an airy tone, and a delectable, unblemished performance from Hannah.” – Variety

8. A Sunday in the Country (12 lists)

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“[A] graceful and delicate story about the hidden currents in a family.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

6. Broadway Danny Rose (14 lists)

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“The jokes are firmly embedded in plot and characterisation, and the film, shot by Gordon Willis in harsh black-and-white, looks terrific; but what makes it work so well is the unsentimental warmth pervading every frame.” – Geoff Andrew, Time Out

6. The Killing Fields (14 lists)

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“It must be nerve-racking for the producers to offer a tale so lacking in standard melodramatic satisfactions. But the result is worth it, for this is the clearest film statement yet on how the nature of heroism has changed in this totalitarian century.” – Richard Schickel, Time

5. This Is Spinal Tap (16 lists)

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“For all its japes and jokes, the movie is really about exhaustion of the spirit: sitting in a bleak hotel suite at 4 a.m. with the bad taste of last night in the mouth and the feeling that tomorrow will not be a better day.” – Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

4. Places in the Heart (18 lists)

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“Out of the memories of his boyhood in Waxahachie, Tex., during the Great Depression, and within the unlikely tradition of the old-fashioned ”mortgage” melodrama, Robert Benton has made one of the best films in years about growing up American.” – Vincent Canby, New York Times

3. The Cotton Club (19 lists)

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“Whatever it took to do it, Coppola has extracted a very special film out of the checkered history of this project.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

2. A Soldier’s Story (23 lists)

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“Charles Fuller adapated to the big screen his powerful Pulitzer prize winning play about the murder of a black captain. Directed by Norman Jewison, the movie is well acted but it’s too verbose.” – Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.com

1. Amadeus (32 lists)

AMADEUS, Tom Hulce, 1984. (c) Warner Bros./ Courtesy: Everett Collection.

“The subject of artistic creation is typically handled badly in the movies…. [Amadeus] treats the subject of creativity in a fresh way.” – Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

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