For, Friday,Nov. 20, 2020


EDITOR’S NOTE: As we near the end of 2020 — and if you’re like me, it can’t come fast enough — I’m reminded of the ritual that movie critics go through every year about this time, picking the best (favorite) and the worst (least-favorite) movies of the year. So here’s a look back to my choices 40 years ago. You read that right. Forty years ago. Ouch, I’m old.


Under the headline ‘Hicks picks the flicks — 1980’s 10 best … ” this story was published in the Deseret News on Dec. 31, 1980. And here’s a pop quiz. How many of these titles are unfamiliar? Probably several, I’m thinking. But they are all still worth seeking out. If some of these are films you’ve never heard of, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Wait till next week — 1980’s worst films!


In terms of movie history, 1980 will surely go down as one of those years when there were very few films worth noting — especially films from Hollywood.


But it’s always easy to come up with a top 10 list, even in a bleak year like this one. A few national critics have been so discouraged by the movies this year that they have opted to forego the traditional 10 best list — but there have been more than 10 worth noting and some would be at the top of any list any year.


In order of preference, here are my favorites for 1980 (not to say that the very best films are necessarily toward the top):


Ordinary People. Robert Redford’s superb directorial debut is in a class by itself and, despite its R rating for a single profanity used a few times, it should be seen by families together.


Coal Miner’s Daughter. You don’t have to be a country-western fan to enjoy Loretta Lynn’s biographical film with an excellent lead performance from Sissy Spacek.


— The Elephant Man. An artistic, moving look at man’s inhumanity to man, using history as a lever, with perfect performances form Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt.




The Empire Strikes Back. The “Star Wars” sequel was pure fun from beginning to end, even though it didn’t really end. Can we wait two years for “Revenge of the Jedi?”


The Stunt Man. Of all the movies about movies this one has to be the fastest moving, most mind-twisting of them all. A tribute to what film is all about. Peter O’Toole has never been better.


Raging Bull. Though this picture won’t be released in Utah until February I include it because you’ll hear a lot about it before you ever see it. An incredible film with an even more incredible performance by Robert De Niro as fighter Jake LaMotta in an uncompromising look at the dark side of a dark personality.




Brubaker. A hard, rough film with Robert Redford, one of the few in 1980 to make a serious social comment and succeed. Prison life at its worst.


The Black Marble. One of those overlooked box-office failures, this cops-and-lovers film was a wonderful change-of-pace for Joseph Wambaugh.


Inside Moves. Schmaltzy and poignant, an exuberant celebration of life about physical and emotional handicaps, and how hard it is to separate the two.


Resurrection. Ellen Burstyn again proving her considerable worth as an actress gave a great boost to this story of a woman who inexplicably receives the power to heal by touch, and then doesn’t know what to do with it.


I have purposely kept the list to American films (yes, I know “Empire” was filmed in England, but it’s still an American film). Otherwise I’d have to include the excellent Australian film “My Brilliant Career” and the fine Canadian picture “Why Shoot the Teacher?”


All in all, not a bad list, but out of the 200-plus films that qualify as 1980 movies that came through Salt Lake City, a poor percentage.