(CNN) — Turner Classic Movies has a regular franchise called “The Essentials,” which is as good an organising principle as any faced with the daunting, highly subjective task of contemplating key movies from each of the last several decades.
Using “essential” as the criteria helps shape what makes the grade, with various considerations coming into play: the best, yes, but also the most influential, with the longest tails. Movies that hold up upon repeat viewing, but also those that define and capture the times in which they were made.
The ’70s, notably, ushered in what’s widely considered the modern era at the major studios — for better and worse — with first Jaws and then Star Wars rewriting expectations for box-office blockbusters, especially during the summer. The ’80s continued that trend, paving the way for the sequel-heavy reliance on “franchises” that currently holds sway.
Yet when push came to shove, the question “What movies should everyone have seen from the ’80s?” — especially if they want to understand not only those years, but where the entertainment industry finds itself today — produced the following selections, presented in chronological order.
By Brian Lowry, CNN