"Beverly Hills Cop" (1984)
It's a comedy. It's an action movie. It's a fish-out-of-water story. It has Eddie Murphy. It's the '80s in a nutshell! Here we have the quintessential example of the "high concept" movie that has lit the light which is green at studios from Burbank to Culver City. I saw it with Eszter Balint, the then-18-year-old Hungarian-American actress who played cousin Eva in "Stranger Than Paradise." She told me afterward that she felt bad for the families of all the expendable characters who were killed in the gunfight and car chase scenes. With its (some would say rather callous) synthesis of comedy and violence, "BHC" (and Walter Hill's "48 HRS") brought a slicked-up exploitation-movie sensibility into the mainstream, paving the way in the 1990s for "Pulp Fiction" and its imitators.
"Top Gun" (1986)
A breakthrough in the portrayal of homoeroticism in Hollywood movies (we've all seen Quentin Tarantino's monologue about how it's the gayest movie ever, right?), as well as the apotheosis of the slick, MTV-style action picture produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (now just Bruckheimer, since Don Simpson OD'd on Tinseltown decadence). The deliberate, disorienting music-video cutting, the contemporary pop soundtrack, the shameless celebration of testosterone-injected buddy love -- it's all here, from Tony Scott ("The Last Boy Scout," "Beverly Hills Cop II," "Domino") to Michael Bay ("Armageddon," "Pearl Harbor") and beyond. One could argue that Adrian Lyne's 1983 celluloid video about the lady welder who was "a maniac, maniac" for dancing under buckets of water at gentlemen's clubs (aka "Flashdance") deserves this spot, but it lacks the militaristic gay element that became so prevalent in popular movies. "Brokeback Mountain" may have been sired out of "Red River," but "Top Gun" also blazed a trail for it.
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