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The 10 Most Under-Rated Movies Of 1986

We travel back 30 years to unearth some under appreciated gems.

Words by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

When it comes to 1986, the movies that spring to mind are probably blockbusters like Top Gun and Aliens, or celebrated cult movies like Blue Velvet and Labyrinth. But what of those movies that didn't get enough love at the time? Here are 10 movies from 1986 we think deserve more love.

A version of this post originally appeared at Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

Deadly Friend

Along with classics like Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street, the late, great Wes Craven made a few stinkers. Few stink quite as badly as Deadly Friend, but damn if it isn't one of his most entertaining flicks at the same time. In the sort of plotline that could only exist in the mid-80s, Kirsty Swanson's dead teenager is brought back to life by the robotics genius kid next door. Come on, where else do you get to see Anne Ramsey's head explode like a watermelon after being struck by a basketball?

Eight Million Ways to Die

Directed by Hal Ashby, written by Oliver Stone and Robert Towne, and starring Jeff Bridges, Rosanna Arquette and Andy Garcia, this is one movie that's badly in need of a critical reassessment. Bridges is at his rugged best as Matt Scudder, pulp novelist Lawrence Block's alcoholic private eye, and Arquette makes for a smouldering femme fatale in a movie that was either a couple decades late or too ahead of its time. Undoubtedly the best movie to boast a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Hitcher

One of the decade's best thrillers, The Hitcher would find its way into my VHS player at least once a week at one point after its first TV airing, yet only Jennifer Jason Leigh emerged to form a deserving career. This should have catapulted director Robert Harmon, writer Eric Red and stars C Thomas Howell and Rutger Hauer into mainstream success, but the quartet would work largely in straight to video fare for the rest of their careers.


The late Australian director Richard Franklin is one of cinema's most under-rated filmmakers, responsible for a fantastic run of genre movies across the '70s and '80s. Link, the story of a lab orangutan menacing scientist Terence Stamp and housekeeper Elizabeth Shue, isn't one of his best, but it's one of his most enjoyable, right up there with George A Romero's Monkey Shines in the killer ape sub-genre.

Mona Lisa

Director Neil Jordan's best movie and featuring  Bob Hoskins' greatest performance, Mona Lisa plays like Britain's Taxi Driver, as Hoskins' chauffeur falls for Cathy Tyson's hooker, an obsession that leads to a violent climax. The late actor combines vulnerability and intimidation in a way few can.

Night of the Creeps

Superior to director Fred Dekker's more celebrated The Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps ranks alongside An American Werewolf in London and Return of the Living Dead in the pantheon of '80s horror comedy. It's a rare horror movie that features genuinely likeable teens, but it's Tom Atkins who steals the show, as a suicidal cop haunted by his past, and contributes to one of the horror genre's most memorable dialogue exchanges.

Psycho III

The Psycho sequels are overlooked at best, considered blasphemous at worst, but Richard Franklin's Psycho II is a fantastic movie in its own right and the third movie isn't half bad either. Anthony Perkins takes to directing with remarkable flair here, delivering a movie heavy on mood and style, and you can see this film's influence in Park Chan-Wook's Stoker. It also features a great score from Carter Burwell that daringly deviates from Bernard Herrmann's original iconic score.

Rawhead Rex

Adapted from his own short story by Clive Barker, this Irish set monster movie is a gloriously trashy throwback to the golden age of the genre as the titular beast menaces a small rural village. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Round Midnight

Loosely based on the friendship between French author Francis Paudras and American jazz pianist Bud Powell, Bertrand Tavernier's film might be the best screen evocation of the power of music, summed up explicitly by the image of Francois Cluzet crouching in the Parisian rain outside a jazz club to catch the sounds of Dexter Gordon's sax within.

Sid & Nancy

Another great music biopic arrived in '86 with this look at the troubled and doomed relationship between Sex Pistols' guitarist Sid Vicious and his American girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Gary Oldman cemented his reputation in the title role, but sadly director Alex Cox would struggle to finance projects after this point, becoming best known to a generation of cinephiles in the British isles as the host of BBC's excellent Moviedrome series.

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