Best of 1985

In 1985, Pat McGilligan and Mark Rowland started polling 75 critics, rather than 50 as they had in the past.  The film that appeared on the most of those lists – at 75 – might surprise you.

19. The Breakfast Club (10 lists)


“Hughes may deserve more plaudits as a social worker than a filmmaker, but you have to admit his hokey situation plays. The reason is the five terrific young actors, who bring more conviction to these parts than they perhaps deserve.” – David Ansen, Newsweek

19. The Emerald Forest (10 lists)


“Just as he did with the British countryside in EXCALIBUR, Boorman gives the deep jungles of South America an almost dreamlike, magical quality” – Brian McKay,

18. Plenty (11 lists)


“Be a little patient: What builds beneath this quiet exterior, shot through with dark wit, is a haunting examination of the price that romantic idealism can exact.” – Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times

17. Desperately Seeking Susan (12 lists)


“Even if the plotting (a mistaken identity farce involving that old chestnut, amnesia brought on by a bump to the head) is square as a square peg. Madonna has never found a better fit than the role of Susan.” – Time Out

16. The Killing Fields (13 lists)


“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 Magazine

13. Blood Simple (14 lists)


“It tells a story in which every individual detail seems to make sense, and every individual choice seems logical, but the choices and details form a bewildering labyrinth in which there are times when even the murderers themselves don’t know who they are.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

13. Cocoon (14 lists)


“It has no real competition as this season’s reigning fairy tale.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times

13. Mask (14 lists)


“The film’s undeniable impact comes from Bogdanovich’s willingness to go too far with practically every emotional moment, while maintaining a distant, classical visual style that gives the film a surface dignity and reserve.” – Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

12. The Official Story (17 lists)


“A rare film, which makes a powerful political statement while telling a touching personal story. In his feature debut, Puenzo shows commitment to human rights without imposing explicit political doctrine.” – Emanuel Levy,

11. Lost in America (18 lists)


“It is, I think, Brooks’ masterpiece — nothing inessential, one great scene after another, just flat-out perfect. Stanley Kubrick was an Albert Brooks fan for a reason.” – Rob Gonsalves,

10. Shoah (20 lists)


“Shoah is the greatest use of film in motion picture history, taking movies to their highest moral value. For what director/interviewer Lanzmann has done on film is nothing less than revive history, a history so ugly that many would prefer to forget.” – Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

8. After Hours (28 lists)


“Scorsese’s orchestration of thematic development, narrative structure, and visual style is stunning in its detail and fullness; this 1985 feature reestablished him as one of the very few contemporary masters of filmmaking.” – Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

8. Out of Africa (28 lists)


“Out of Africa is a great movie to look at, breathtakingly filmed on location. It is a movie with the courage to be about complex, sweeping emotions, and to use the star power of its actors without apology.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

7. Ran (29 lists)


“What’s remarkable about Ran is that the drama enhances the spectacle the same way the spectacle bolsters the drama. Few other directors had Kurosawa’s ability to convey the intimate as well as the epic, to handle stillness as well as violence.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

6. Back to the Future (30 lists)


“Zemeckis and Gale… give us two priceless scenes in which the young time-traveler simply regards his parents-to-be with wonderment, delight and empathy. And we cannot help but share that emotion and relate it to our own lives.” – Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

4. The Color Purple (33 lists)


“It is a great, warm, hard, unforgiving, triumphant movie, and there is not a scene that does not shine with the love of the people who made it.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

4. Kiss of the Spider Woman (33 lists)


“Argentine writer Manuel Puig’s book Kiss of the Spider Woman has a theme that endures throughout all its various incarnations: that of human dignity and compassion surviving within a society that denies it.” – Jeremiah Kipp, Slant Magazine

3. Witness (39 lists)


“Playing John Book allowed viewers the opportunity to see Ford the actor instead of Ford the action/adventure icon. It is one of the few times he has been given the opportunity to play in a straight drama.” – James Berardinelli, ReelViews

2. The Purple Rose of Cairo (44 lists)


“It’s a sweet, lyrically funny, multi- layered work that again demonstrates that Woody Allen is our premier film maker who, standing something over 5 feet tall in his sneakers, towers above all others.” – Vincent Canby, New York Times

1. Prizzi’s Honor (48 lists)


“This is the most bizarre comedy in many a month, a movie so dark, so cynical and so funny that perhaps only Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner could have kept straight faces during the love scenes.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times