Cinematic Nostalgia: Traveling 88 mph to the 1980s

Cinematic Nostalgia: Traveling 88 mph to the 1980s

“Goonies never say die!”

– Sean Astin (Mikey) in The Goonies

When you grow up, there are those movies you watch once and forgot about, leaving very little of a mark on your pop culture makeup. Other times there are those films that stand the test of time, maybe not in graphics, or dialogue, but in substance. These films, still to this day, are a nostalgic reminder of one of your great cinematic experiences and a sentimental part of your past.

We all have our internal or external list of “favorite movies.” Often the list is personal, ranging from a film you can’t stop thinking about, or one that proved a cinematic masterpiece, or others purely for their stupidity. The list is yours, no one else, so the films you loved are allowed to stand in place as “your” greats. My list is similar to that idea. I have my masterpiece like Shawshank Redemption, my favorites Memento, Back to the Future, Pulp Fiction, Jurassic Park, Platoon, movies by Christopher Nolan, Stephan Spielberg, Quintin Tarantino, and so on. My list is my list, films that had an effect on me, one way or another.

Nostalgic Films

For this reason, as I said in a previous blog post, my brother and I started our weekly movie chats during the pandemic and modeling it after our favorite movie podcast, The Rewatchables. We wanted movies from our lists for our reasons. So, this is how we decided upon the films listed in my previous POP! Culture post, POP! Culture on Repeat, based on the genre we wanted to tackle that week. After 17 weeks of choosing a movie from a specific category, for example, science fiction – Snowpiercer, 80s random – Weird Science, or perfect for 4th of July – Glory, I decided to go in a different direction this past week. (To note; my brother and I have an agreement not to do any movies already covered by The Rewatchables podcast, which is why some films that should be covered will not).

A few days ago, I thought about my favorite movies and the impact some of these movies had on me. For example, Jurassic Park had illuminated my childhood love of dinosaurs. Memento had transformed my understanding of film-making and awakened, in me, the power of memory in historical studies. But for the film conversation with my brother this week, I wanted to be more reflective. So, I texted him and said, pick a film that is most “nostalgic.” What I wanted was a list of movies that might not have inspired us to go write a book or was a film that shook the ground we were on, but rather a film that served as a sentimental part of our “happy place.” A film that did what only a few films on our movie lists can do, provide a sense of comfort, security, and transport us back to a period in the past when dreams did not seem so unreal. 

Think about that! Of all the movies you have seen, pick a film that you feel illustrates feelings of happiness and serves as a nostalgic leviathan. This film could be stupid, or a classic, or famous, or little known. The type of film does not matter. The reason you equate this film with feelings of nostalgia or its position in the pantheon of emotionally impactful films is yours alone. So, it was this idea I threw at my brother. I asked him for three nominations. I was adamant that it be only three since more would ruin the experiment. Going over that number would allow him, and me, to find more and more reasons for other films that might not hold a nostalgic position to make its way on our overall list.

It’s a daunting task to select that type of movie, lots of unnecessary pressure. At one point, you may feel lousy one film is left off your list since it too left a mark on your life. But, for this exercise, you must consider whether the film gifts you a sense of nostalgia. If the answer is no, then move on. That is what I did when I constructed my “nostalgia film” list. I went through numerous nominations before boiling it down to my top 3. Making it harder was the fact that some movies my brother and I had already discussed would have made a list. Films like The Princess BrideBack to the Future, Bill & Ted’s Excellent AdventureThe Karate KidStand By Me, and The Lost Boys always seem to transport me back and provide feelings of nostalgia. Still, these films, excluding Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, were covered. The Princess Bride and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure are perfect examples of films that might have made my top three list. But, The Rewatchables already discussed one, The Princess Bride, and the other, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, has not been covered, but we are waiting to cover it. We are saving for August 29 to prepare for the September 1 release of the third film, Bill & Ted Face the Music

Everyone can come up with their own most nostalgic movie list and winner. My wife selected Never Been Kissed as her most nostalgic film, although she wrestled between that, 10 Things I Hate About You and Troop Beverley Hills. My sister, Becky, selected Home Alone. My oldest brother Bobby went outside the box and chose early career Tom Hanks with Bachelor Party. My brother-in-law Kyle went with The Sandlot, a perfect selection for him, while his wife Christine picked 101 Dalmations. Kaitlyn, my sister-in-law, choose Grease, although she was tempted to select It Takes Two, and her fiancé Ryan, known for his love of the NY Yankees, went all-in for The Sandlot

For me, there is one film that has sat atop my list, not only as an all-time favorite but one I consider most nostalgic. It thankfully is a film my brother Jeff, and I had not selected yet for our weekly chats. So, with my number one nostalgic film chosen, I still wanted to produce a top 3 list, but with The Princess Bride disqualified, I had to think about what two other films deserved a spot on my list. How would I decide? Well easy, what other 80s movies do I make references to, even when the moment often does not call for it and with a passing thought are films that make me think of years gone by with a smile? Those two: The NeverEnding Story (1984) and Adventures in Babysitting (1987).

My Most Nostalgic Films

After considering Indian Jones and the Last Crusade, Coming to America, Willow, Sandlot, Teen Wolf, A League of Their Own, and Beetlejuice, I decided upon those two films as my number 2 & 3. Again, your list will be different. No right or wrong here, and that’s not to say the movies are the best or top of your favorites, but they serve a different purpose in your movie-watching experience.

Selecting Adventures in Babysitting was a no brainer for me. Although several parts of the film have aged poorly, to say the least, the movie transports me back to watching it with my little sister in the living room. We were amazed by the adventures of these kids in the city, the dangers they escaped, and their heroic babysitter, a strong female lead, played by the #alwaysfantastic Elisabeth Shue, whose performance was outstanding. To this day, I can’t hear The Crystals’ 1963 song, “And Then He Kissed Me,” without thinking of Shue, as Chris, dancing in the intro of the film. I loved her then and still love her today, especially her performance in The Boys! I argue she should have been in every movie of that era. I feel the same way today about Samara Weaving (Guns Akimbo, Ready or Not, Mayhem), she is fantastic! Adventures in Babysitting is a movie that has always stayed with me. I can’t hear the word babysitting without thinking of this movie and, yes, when the new Marvel film Thor came out, the 80s kid in me thought of Adventures in Babysitting. Those of you who have seen this movie understand why. In the end, Adventures in Babysitting had a lot to love.

Then there was The NeverEnding Story. Can those who have seen it think of anything else when you hear the word “Nothing.” Ok, so maybe Game of Thrones and the famous line “you know nothing, Jon Snow,” but GOT is not as renowned as The NeverEnding Story, right? I mean Stranger Things offered an awesome shoutout to it at the end of last season! The NeverEnding Story always transports me back in time and offers me a sense of cinematic comfort. I have probably seen this film more than any other. Not sure why, maybe because my family owned it on VHS, so my sister and I watched it regularly, allowing ourselves to be taken over by the unique fantasy tale. It was exciting and dark, sad and honest, funny and magical, and emotional and uplifting while tapping into our childhood fears and dreams. It plays with the notion, like playing with toys, that the world of fantasy has boundaries that grow smaller as you get older. As a child, I was captivated by the journey of hope and despair, like the scenes when Atreyu lost his horse Atrax or the Rock Biter confronts The Nothing, which still to this day are haunting. As an adult, I recognize the emotional lesson to let go of the restrictions placed on children’s imagination, that we can preserve and come back from anything, and we can face self-doubt and see ourselves for who we are. The NeverEnding Story still brings me emotions of childlike inspiration that never die. It’s a magical film, with great graphics and a catchy song, which is perfectly 1980s. It brought us Atreyu, the Childlike Empress of Fantasia, the Ivory Tower, and Falkor the Luck Dragon, which every kid of that era wanted to ride. 

Turn around / Look at what you see / In her face / The mirror of your dreams

Make believe I’m everywhere / Given in the light / Written on the pages / Is the answer to a never ending story

Song lyrics by Limahl for The NeverEnding Story

In all honesty, when nostalgia is the category of the week, a film like The NeverEnding Story is nearly flawless for the emotional connection to the past it elicits, especially for me. But it serves, along with Adventures in Babysitting, to only be 2/3 of my top three nominated films for most nostalgic movies. My number one film may, or may not, be surprising. I am sure there are many people born in the 80s, who would select this film as their top nostalgic film. Without further delay, here it is. 

The Goonies (1985) is #1

For me, there is no other film that comes close to eliciting the nostalgic response than The Goonies. A group of kids in search of pirate gold to save their town from foreclosure while fleeing a mob boss, and her sons, and discovering who they are and who they can be. I am sure a lot of people would agree, and this is not a hot take. Do not forget the awesome Cyndi Lauper song, “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough.” The Goonies is PERFECTION all around. It includes up and coming, at the time, actors like Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Martha Plimpton, Corey Feldman, and includes Stephen Spielberg, Richard Donner, and Chris Columbus. I…am…all…in! Who is not? Even American Dad, one of my favorite animated television comedies, in Episode 210 “May the Best Stan Win” spoofed The Goonies. It depicted Rodger, the Alien, directing Steve and his friends in a couple of major scenes, this after making them change their movie from another 1980s classic, Mannequin

I came of age in the 80s and 90s. I grew up watching movies and loved it when there was an uplifting message surrounding the subject matter of fantasy, adventure, and comedy. Nostalgia plays a significant role in the films I have recently chosen to watch. With everything going on, it seems like whenever I try to watch a new movie, I panic and can’t seem to finish it. I find comfort in film from the past, of which I have a connection, and serve a sentimental role that reminds me of a world outside this pandemic. Wher they were John Candy movies like Uncle Buck or Plains, Trains, and Automobiles, or classics of the era like Stand By Me, Field of Dreams, Dead Poets Society, or others like SpaceballsLabyrinthClue, and Batman, I watched all kinds of filmsRight, wrong, or indifferent, I was watching movies constantly. Those that offered some message of hope, change, reflection, and adventure were still considered go-to and stayed with me long after my initial viewing. I felt that when I watched Flight of the NavigatorShort Circuit, or even The Land Before Time, to name a couple of random films. 

The Goonies is the epitome of this nostalgia apex. It has everything I could ask for in a film that, either by watching it or hearing its name, transports me back to youth and offers me sentimental comfort. What does The Goonies succeed at that maybe other nostalgic movies on my list do not possess? This movie came out in 1985. I would have been too young to see it at a theater, so I must have seen it for the first time on VHS while sitting on the floor in my living room in Fairhaven. It would have been a couple of years after the film’s initial release, but I feel like I watched it on day one. Again, while The Goonies is my all-time nostalgic movie, that is not to dismiss my other films for the reasons I have provided. Even so, let us explore this rationale further in Mendon, Mass. at the Mendon Twin Drive-In, which the other day had The Goonies back on the big screen, and I was there to see it.

As I said, I never saw The Goonies on the big screen, unlike my two older brothers, who watched it at the drive-in when it first came out. Setting out with my wife, brother-in-law, Kyle, and his wife Christine and with Dairy Queen and snacks in hand, we took in the film on the big screen. Seeing this movie in this format did not disappoint. The Goonies has everything you need, and the reason I see it with such nostalgic glasses is how the story, and specific scenes, make me feel. Scenes, like when Brand, played by Josh Brolin, hugged Mikey, played by Sean Astin after the bankers dropped off the foreclosure paperwork, or when the group of goonies are in the attic and discover One-Eyed Willy’s map to his elusive and fabled treasure. These are two that connect with me. In one scene, you watch a tender moment between two brothers, and as the younger brother of two older brothers, I identified with Mikey, who argued with Brand all the time but needs him at this moment. It illustrated the stakes involved in what will happen if his youthful optimism is proved misguided, and his hope, excitement, and faith in the greater world diminished. In contrast, but not in opposition, the map scene offered the excitement of impending adventure and the unknown possibility of young dreams and what if the stories we thought were a myth might be true, after all. 

I always liked Mikey’s steadfast refusal to give up and how he inspired his friends to follow, even when they doubted his vision. Mikey’s passion is summed up perfectly in two other scenes I view as not only rewatchable but wonderfully nostalgic. These two scenes are the wishing-well scene and the discovery of One-Eyed Willy’s ship and majestic treasure. The wishing-well scene is great because it adds a dilemma to the ongoing struggle of the Goonies. They confront the option of abandoning their adventure in search of treasure and the ability to escape the Fratelli family. For Mikey, while they may escape the clutches of the mobsters, they would give up on ever finding the pirate treasure in time to save the town. They needed to continue for their town, their friendships, and their belief in the impossible. As he saw it, adventure and success came with risk, but giving up would provide nothing.

The scene with the Goonies escaping the Fratellis, going down the water slide, and then seeing, with disbelief and shared amazement, One-Eyed Willy’s ship is another of my favorites (Their exploring of the ship can is an extension of that moment). But why is this scene so powerful, and even nostalgic? As a kid who grew up near the ocean and heard stories of pirates, treasure, and adventures, this scene brings back my childlike sense of wonder and my belief in the impossible. Mikey could be described as the kid with his head in the clouds, and while most subscribed to the saying that just because you believe something does not make it accurate, he did not and followed the path the adventure laid out for him. The ship, treasure, and meeting One-Eyed Willy are for Mikey, what our passions, dreams, and ambitions are for us. As a whole, the movie is a fun adventure, but it is these few scenes I most identified with and connect with nostalgically. Family, adventure, promise & doubt, and in the end, the struggle of your quest is proved worth it and justified.

“The next time you see sky, it’ll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it’ll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the bestest stuff for us. But right now they gotta do what’s right for them, ‘cause it’s their time. Their time, up there. Down here it’s our time. It’s our time down here.”

Mikey in The Goonies

The End

The Goonies is the next film for my brother and me to discuss. It was universally agreed to by both of us, even though my brother’s nostalgic movie nominee was Better of Dead, which we will do the following week. It would be wrong to get my number one and not allow him his! I can already see what our most rewatchable scene is (bottom of wishing-well, possibly) best quote (atop the blog), and over actor (looking at you Troy). Although some things in the movie have aged poorly, and others pretty good, we will dive into the movie excited to reopen a door to our 80s and expect sentimental feelings to wash over us once again.

I will always be an 80s and 90s kid at heart. Most movies that stand tall for me are from those eras. The Goonies will always be my center, the film that seemingly has all the ingredients needed to both bring me back to an earlier time, remind me of why I love cinema and movie-making, and how it connects with me on so many levels. Watching The Goonies on the big screen under the stars did such a thing. I cannot imagine it will ever cease to offer this nostalgic response. Hopefully, everyone can discover their most nostalgic film. The only thing left to say is; What is yours?

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