1980s Fall Blockbuster Tournament Recap

OK, now this is getting weird. How weird? Well, it is October. So a little spookiness is permitted. But consecutive one-point victories in our Fall Blockbuster Tournament? Great Scott!

But that’s exactly what has happened yet again — whereby a low-scoring affair of 24 to 23, Back to the Future Part II edged out the #1 overall seed Beverly Hills Cop to take the title.

Cop had a little bit of a dirty path to the title match, having gotten there after a tie-to-the-higher-seed clash with Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Perhaps the close calls with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Good Morning, Vietnam stuck a banana in its tailpipe.

BTTF Part II made like a tree and got out of there with a first-round rout against Seems Like Old TImes. It then took down a sentimental favorite (Steel Magnolias), a beloved spoof (The Naked Gun), a Best Picture nominee (The Color Purple) and a Best Picture winner (Rain Man). Wouldn’t have put my money on that without the benefit of a time-traveled almanac.

So are we done with these nail-biters or do we simply have eight more nails on which to chew? Find out at noon today (Mon., Oct. 26), when a full field of 64 fall blockbusters from the 1990s hit the floor for battle. Be sure to vote on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/midwestfilmjournal/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/MWFilmJournal). 

Until then, here are some notes on the 1980s Fall Blockbuster Tournament, with a final bracket embedded at the bottom.

Every movie got at least one vote this time. But the comparatively less-loved from the first round (10 or fewer votes) included:

  • Absence of Malice (9 votes)
  • Always (5 votes)
  • Popeye (4 votes)
  • Seems Like Old Times (4 votes)
  • Spies Like Us (10 votes)
  • Tequila Sunrise (9 votes)
  • White Nights (10 votes)

Here are the largest percentages of victory in each of the first four rounds:

  • Round 1: Both BTTF II and Purple had 95% of the votes against Times and Popeye, respectively.
  • Round 2: Christmas Vacation took 80% of the vote against Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
  • Sweet Sixteen: Rain Man took 73% of the vote against Stir Crazy.
  • Elite Eight: Purple took 69% of the vote against Moonstruck.

And now the closest matches in the first two rounds:

  • Round 1: Twins over The Last Emperor (34 to 33) and The Land Before Time over Porky’s (27 to 26).
  • Round 2: The Naked Gun over Platoon (39 to 35)

From there, Cop had the tightest margins of victory all the way to the championship match. It tied with PT&A in the Sweet Sixteen (and advanced by virtue of a higher seed). In the Elite Eight, it outlasted Vietnam by six votes and advanced to the title bout after beating Christmas Vacation by one vote in the Final Four. Again, folks: The Twitter votes can make all the difference.

First-round upsets aplenty in this tournament. But the “weakest” region, headed by Three Men and a Baby at the top, exceeded its adjectival expectations. For the first time, the four top seeds (Baby, Look Who’s Talking, On Golden Pond and Porky’s) all failed to make it to the second round. They were respectively defeated by Scoundrels, Wall Street, Scarface and Land Before Time — none of which made it past the second round. In a wide-open region, Christmas Vacation (an #8 seed) made it to the Final Four, but only after a one-point victory over 9 to 5 in the Sweet Sixteen.

Other first-round upsets included:

  • #13: First Blood over #4: Terms of Endearment
  • #12: PT&A over #5: Out of Africa
  • #11: The Color of Money over #6: The Golden Child
  • #10: Beaches over #7: Oliver & Company
  • #10: Scrooged over #7: 48 HRS.
  • #9: Working Girl over #8: Any Which Way You Can

This was a very late-’80s tournament. Collectively, the year’s final three decades combined for nearly half of the total field of 64. The year with the most? 1989, which yielded 11 contestants:

  • Always
  • BTTF Part II
  • Born on the Fourth of July
  • Driving Miss Daisy
  • Harlem Nights
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Look Who’s Talking
  • Christmas Vacation
  • Steel Magnolias
  • Tango & Cash
  • The War of the Roses

Of those, seven advanced to the second round (although a couple were pitted against one another), and they represented 25% of the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight fields, and half of the Final Four. (The fewest? 1984, with just a single competitor, albeit a formidable one, in Beverly Hills Cop.)



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An award-winning film critic and features reporter, Nick has professionally written or gabbed about movies for Illinois newspapers, national syndicates, Playboy, The Art Immortal, The Film Yap and Midwest radio stations. He once drummed in a Billy Joel cover band known as Silly Joel and freely presents his Letterboxd page to engage and mock if you wish: https://letterboxd.com/ragekage79/


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