Sometimes even movies with the biggest stars still get relegated to the dustbin of history. Occasionally, it’s deserved, but often it can be confounding as to why some movies become classics, while others just fade away. This list is dedicated to those ‘80s movies with A-list casts that just haven’t stood the test of time, for one reason or another.
Heaven’s Gate (1980)
After the success of The Deer Hunter in 1978, director Michael Cimino was the darling of Hollywood. Producers and actors were lining up to work with him, including the powerhouse cast of Heaven’s Gate. Kris Kristofferson, Jeff Bridges, Christopher Walken, John Hurt, and Sam Waterston all starred in the film, which went on to become one of the biggest flops in cinema history, making just $3.5 million on an insane budget of $44 million.
The only time you ever really hear about Heaven’s Gate is in reference to how badly it bombed. The movie is worth a second look, however, and in more recent reviews, it gets a little more praise, but it’s still mostly forgotten by movie fans today. It probably doesn’t help that it now shares its name with a notorious cult.
By the 1980s, movie Westerns popularity had fizzled and far fewer were being made than in the previous decades. 1985’s Silverado was an exception. It has a monster cast, led by Kevin Kline, who was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood at the time. Scott Glenn also stars, along with, Brian Dennehy, and Danny Glover. Jeff Goldblum stars as Slick, and Kevin Costner plays Glenn’s little brother in one of his earliest roles, and John Cleese even shows up in a rare serious role.
The cast is filled out by Academy Award-winner and mega-star at the time, Rosanna Arquette. It’s a shame Silverado isn’t talked about much anymore because it really is everything you’d ever want in a great Western. Still, probably owing to the fact that the genre just wasn’t as popular as it once was when it was released in 1985, it’s often overlooked.
The Bounty (1984)
1984’s The Bounty might be the best movie you’ve never seen. Starring Anthony Hopkins as the infamous Captain Bligh, it tells the true story of the mutiny on the HMS Bounty in the late 18th century. Mel Gibson stars as Christian Fletcher, the man who led the mutiny. Members of the crew of the Bounty include a young Daniel-Day Lewis and Liam Neeson.
To top it off, in the film’s final act, a courtroom drama that sees Bligh exonerated, the judge in the court martial is Admiral Alexander Hood, played by maybe the greatest actor of all time, Sir Laurence Olivier. How’s that for an all-star cast? It does make sense, that despite the cast, that The Bounty is overlooked because the story has been told so many times.
Once Upon A Time In America (1984)
Like Westerns, the ‘80s weren’t all that great for mobster movies. One reason might have been Once Upon a Time in America not exactly blowing up the box office in 1984. Despite starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, James Woods, and Elizabeth McGovern, the movie lost money.
In the decades since, it’s rarely mentioned when people bring up the classic mob movies like other De Niro classics like The Godfather II, The Untouchables, and GoodFellas. You’d think everyone would be rushing out to see a De Niro crime movie, especially one with Joe Pesci, but that wasn’t the case in 1984 and is still the case today.
Seems Like Old Times (1980)
In 1978 Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase teamed up for the classic Foul Play, which became a box office smash. It only made sense that the two icons would team up again and try to match that success. The movie they starred in next was Seems Like Old Times, where they were joined by Charles Grodin and Benson star Robert Guillaume.
With a cast like that, you’d expect another classic, right? Sadly, while the movie is really funny, especially Chase, who was at the height of his comedic powers, the movie falls a little flat on screen and fell very flat at the box office and as such, is mostly forgotten these days.
Casualties Of War (1989)
Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox were two of the biggest stars in Hollywood in 1989. It only makes sense they would team up for a Vietnam War movie. Casualties of War hit screens in the summer of ‘89 and promptly bombed. The late ‘80s had a plethora of classic ‘Nam movies, from Platoon to Full Metal Jacket, so this one, despite a great cast, seems to fall through the cracks.
John C. Reilly, John Leguizamo, Wendall Pierce, and Ving Rhames fill out the cast, but despite all the great actors, it’s never talked about as a great war movie. It just gets lost in the shuffle.
We’re No Angels (1989)
1989 was a big year for Sean Penn as it also saw him co-star with Robert De Niro and Demi Moore in We’re No Angels. If you think Meet The Parents was De Niro’s first foray into comedy, you’ve probably never seen We’re No Angels. Of course, therein lies the issue. Very few people have seen it these days.
In addition to starring three of the biggest stars of the late ‘80s in Penn, Moore, and De Niro, it also includes a supporting cast filled with some of the biggest character actors of the day, like Princess Bride star Wallace Shawn, John C. Reilly, Bruno Kirby, and country star Hoyt Axton. It’s one of the more forgotten-about films in De Niro’s catalog after bombing at the box office.
The Dream Team (1989)
This is one movie on the list that is criminally underrated. The Dream Team is literally that when it comes to the assembled cast. Michael Keaton leads a crew of escaped mental patients across 1980s New York City. The three other patients are Christopher Lloyd’s Henry, Albert (Animal House star Stephen Furst), and Peter Boyle.
The first act in the hospital is worth the price of admission alone and it’s weird that it isn’t included more often in lists of the great comedies of the 1980s, but then again, there were a lot of great ones. In fact, The Dream Team opened at #2 at the box office, behind another, better remembered classic, Major League.
Speed Zone (1989)
There isn’t a lot to explain here. Speed Zone is the ill-advised third movie in The Cannonball Run franchise. The core of the cast are alumni of SCTV, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty, and Don Lake. It also includes Peter Boyle, Tim Matheson, Alyssa Milano, and of course Jamie Farr as “The Shiek” as he was in the previous films.
From there, like its more successful counterpart, there are a ton of cameos, including Brooke Shields, The Smothers Brothers, race car driver Richard Petty, and sprinter Carl Lewis. Unlike its counterparts, the movie was poorly received and crashed at the box office, forever relegating it to the junkyard of cinema history.
Tucker: The Man And His Dream (1988)
Tucker: The Man and His Dream, which is based on a true story, was a big deal when it came out in 1988. Jeff Bridges stars as Preston Tucker, who started a car company just after World War II ended. His goal was to beat out the “Big Three” automakers with innovative design. Tucker was a real prestige film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola who had been planning the movie for 15 years. Unfortunately, it hasn’t stood the test of time.
The cast, in addition to Bridges, includes Christian Slater who plays Tucker’s son, Joan Allen as his wife, plus Martin Landau. Dean Stockwell and Lloyd Bridges. With a cast and a director like Tucker has, it’s a wonder the movie isn’t more remembered today. It was a hit with critics, but 35 years later, it’s rarely ever mentioned.
Max Dugan Returns (1983)
1983’s Max Dugan Returns is a nice movie. It’s an odd movie, but in the end, it’s a somewhat unremarkable one, despite being the on-screen debuts for both Matthew Broderick and Kiefer Sutherland. Jason Robards plays Max, and Kiefer’s father Donald Sutherland also stars. To top it off, it was written by Neil Simon!
The movie was a moderate hit, but it’s just a ho-hum movie, especially when compared to the other more memorable Neil Simon/Matthew Broderick collaboration, Biloxi Blues. It’s a stacked cast and crew, but the sum doesn’t equal the individual parts, unfortunately.
The Cotton Club (1984)
The second Francis Ford Coppola flick to make this list is The Cotton Club. Much like Tucker, the film was in development for years before it finally happened. Coppola managed to assemble another all-star cast including Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, Fred Gwynne, and his nephew, Nicolas Cage.
It follows the story of a musician caught up in the mob underworld of 1930s New York City, and as you’d expect, looks (and sounds) amazing, but it really struggled at the box office and ended up earning only about half its budget back. For years, it was mostly forgotten until Coppola recut and restored it in 2019 to much better reviews.
1983 was a huge year for Meryl Streep. She started the year by winning her first Best Actress Oscar for 1982’s Sophie’s Choice and she ended it by starring in Silkwood with Kurt Russell, Cher, and a slew of amazing character actors like Craig T. Nelson, David Strathairn, and E. Emmett Walsh.
The film did well at the box office, and as we’ve all come to expect, Streep was nominated for another Oscar. Still, it’s not often discussed today, probably because the story, which was based on a big news story at the time, isn’t discussed much either.
The Pick-up Artist (1987)
The Pick-up Artist is the Brat Pack movie that time forgot. In the ’80s, if you cast Molly Ringwald and Robert Downey, Jr. in a film, you’d expect it to be a hit, and years later, we’d still be talking about it alongside all the other classics they starred in with the other “Brat Pack” members. Alas, neither is true.
Despite a strong supporting cast that includes Dennis Hopper and Danny Aiello, the movie tanked and as a result, it doesn’t come up in conversations like Sixteen Candles, or Weird Science. Honestly, that might be for the best, as it’s not the strongest work to emerge from that talented group of actors.
Prizzi’s Honor (1985)
Prizzi’s Honor is an exception to most of this list as it was a huge film at the time. While it was only a moderate success financially, it was nominated for eight Academy Awards, and it won four of the six Golden Globes for which it was nominated, yet it’s not even available for streaming anywhere, not even to rent or buy.
The cast is led by Jack Nicholson, who was obviously one of the biggest A-listers at the time and a star of an endless string of hits. His love interest is played by Kathleen Turner, and Anjelica Huston — whose father John Huston directed the film — won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Robert Loggia and Stanley Tucci were also among the cast, but if you want to watch, you may have to dig up an old laser disc player.
How do movies with the likes of Robert De Niro, Demi Moore, Jeff Bridges, and Kathleen Turner struggle to find an audience, even in the age of streaming? Well, there is usually a good reason, like the film bombing, though that isn’t a guarantee a film won’t be remembered fondly. Our collective conscience just doesn’t have the capacity to remember everything, it seems.