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1984 Movie Reviews – Beat Street, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and Top Secret

by Sean P. Aune | June 8, 2024June 8, 2024 10:30 am EDT

Welcome to an exciting year-long project here at The Nerdy. 1984 was an exciting year for films giving us a lot of films that would go on to be beloved favorites and cult classics. Imagine a world where This is Spinal Tap and Repo Man hit theaters on the same day. That is the world of 1984.

We’re going to pick and choose which movies we hit, but right now the list stands at nearly three dozen.

Yes, we’re insane, but 1984 was that great of a year for film.

The articles will come out on the same day the films hit theaters in 1984 so that it is their true 35th anniversaries. All films are also watched again for the purposes of these reviews and are not being done from memory.

This time around it’s June 1, 1984, and we’re off to see Beat Street, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and Top Secret.

Beat Street

It’s 1984, and we’re already on our second break-dancing movie with at least one more to go.

What a time to be alive.

Beat Street follows the budding career of MC Kenny “Double K” Kirkland (Guy Davis) as he is coming to some notoriety in the hip-hop scene. His younger brother Lee (Robert Taylor) is a break dancer with a crew, and his best friend Ramon (Jon Chardiet) is obsessed with the street art/graffiti scene, specifically having his works appear on subway cars.

Each of them is on a different path, but all with the same goal of achieving notoriety in their fields. It ends better for some than others.

Beat Street feels like a time capsule of mid-80s hip hop that was just coming into its own. If you watch through the credits, you will see the unbelievable list of hip-hop stars of the 80s who have cameos in the film. This lends a much more authentic feeling to the film and the story than, say, the likes of Breakin’ – a film that was rushed into production so that it could be released before Beat Street. That film ended up becoming a bit more entrenched in the popular culture zeitgeist, but Beat Street feels far more authentic.

Mind you, none of this is to say that Beat Street is a great work of art. I may have laughed out loud every time Ramon saw the ‘white subway car’ like it was his own version of Moby Dick and he was going to be its Captain Ahab. To call it a bit on the nose would be an understatement.

Come for the time capsule, but don’t expect to walk away with some profound story locked in your head.

1984 Movie Project - Ghostbusters - 01


By Eric Frederiksen

There are few movies I’ve seen as many times as I’ve seen Ghostbusters. There are few movies from which quotes pop into my head unbidden in all kinds of life situations. And few movies have had the cultural footprint that the original Ghostbusters did. The movie assembled some of the greatest comedy actors and writers of the time and instead of putting them in a simple situational comedy, it dropped them into a bombastic movie with then-cutting-edge special effects. It was weird, but it worked.

I don’t even have to re-watch Ghostbusters to tell you if it holds up – it does. With the exception of some very 80s fashion decisions – I’m looking at you, Gatekeeper – a lot of Ghostbusters is timeless.

Part of what made me fall in love with Ghostbusters was the fiction at the periphery. The core movie of Ghostbusters really isn’t about anything in the way most movies are. It has lots of ideas littered throughout, but it’s ultimately more about the interactions of the cast than it is about any core idea. It’s more about the chemical reaction and spectacle of the ensuing explosion than it is about watching a carefully-tended idea grow. It’s fun to watch in the moment.

But Ghostbusters was the first movie, I think, that let me start imagining the world beyond the confines of the movie. The four characters at the center saved the world, but they did it because it was their job. The movie develops the workaday life of the Ghostbusters before it tasks them with saving the world. And so by the time they cross the streams, we know that they’ll continue existing, continue busting ghosts and feeling good (a direct result of said ghostbusting). They have all these arcane classifications and reference books that they mention casually and tools that they use. They’re not chosen ones – they’re just some guys. It’s easy to imagine myself in that spot, learning the ropes and calling in a class 7 full torso manifestation. It’s an accessible magical reality fantasy that lets anyone and everyone into the story.

I often think about what I would like filmmakers to take away from successful movies. Alien and Aliens are about putting well-written women into interesting situations. For me, Ghostbusters is about the power of alchemy. Not in the sense that the characters use alchemy, but that the movie itself is the culmination of a number of unpredictable elements working out; Eddie Murphy being busy, New York being still-affordable to film in, Bill Murray phoning in his role, Dan Aykroyd having the spiritualist background to make the fiction feel alive. You can write other Ghostbusters stories, and they can be very good (I love Ghostbusters 2, The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and the 2016 Ghostbusters film all for different reasons), but they’re never going to hit the same perfect alchemical reaction that the original achieved – one that still works today.


by Sean P. Aune

Five years ago when I launched this project I spoke with Eric and my general indifference to Ghostbusters. He informed me that was probably good way for me to see this series end quickly, and he graciously offered to take that review for me.

I thank him for that.

In 2024 I am rewatching all of the movies again, and that included Ghostbusters. And, finally, after 40 years, I think I have figured out my issue: I don’t like Peter Venkman (Bill Murray).

As I was watching this time, I found myself way more drawn to everyone else’s stories, and I found Venkman to be a nuisance. Yes, he’s funny, and I have no issues with Murray, but I found him distracting from a really fun, quirky, utility workers story.

There’s a scene where a haggard Ray (Dan Aykroyd) comes into the firehouse with a cigarette dangling from his lip. He’s had ‘a day,’ and it’s written all over his face. It was in that moment that I realized that was the movie I was actually enjoying. It’s not Venkman saying yet another wild thing, I was enjoying the humor in the absurdity of the premise. Venkman feels as though he’s living in a different, more traditional comedy while everyone else is occupying this crazy, fun world of guys who are just overworked, underappreciated, and showing up to get the job done.

Once I had this realization – admittedly 40 years late – I enjoyed Ghostbusters more than I have on any other viewing.

Call me late to the party if you must, but I think I have finally arrived. And yes, I know that for a lot of people Venkman is the movie, but I’ll just be back here enjoying what’s underneath.

1984 Movie Project - Gremlins - 01


(This review was originally published in 2019 when I first got this idea for the project. I watched the film again in 2024, and portions of the review have been updated.)

I love Gremlins. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Is it a brilliant film? No. But it is something pretty darn original for its time. A combination of horror and comedy was just becoming a concept at the time, and the ease with which the world was set up is just amazing. As with Streets of Fire last week taking just nine words to establish a world, Gremlins set out three rules and we were on our way.

Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is an inventor of dubious successes, to be sure, but he comes across a little creature called a Mogwai, and he knows he must have it for his son, Billy (Zach Galligan). Billy renames the Mogwai to Gizmo, and we’re off to the races on one of the oddest films of 1984, but also amazingly delightful and fun.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom started the debate for a new rating – what would eventually become PG-13 – Gremlins kind of sealed the deal. It was marketed with an incredibly cute creature, and even the eventual Gremlins were not shown in marketing to be violent, but at its core, this was a dark film. From Kate (Phoebe Cates) telling the story of how her father passed away and ruined her joy of Christmas, to the Gremlins being just generally grotesque in every way imaginiable.

It was a bold film, and not your typical summer fare. It was new and different, and it’s still very watchable today. Sure some things seem dated, but in general the film is timeless and more than worth your time to check out if you’ve never seen it.

1984 Movie Project - Top Secret - 01

Top Secret!

(This review was originally published in 2019 when I first got this idea for the project. I watched the film again in 2024, and portions of the review have been updated.)

Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker made one of the funniest movies I have seen in Airplane!. To this day, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, that movie will still make me laugh.

I haven’t seen Top Secret! in years and was ready to laugh.

In the entire run time of the film, I did not laugh once.

Where Airplane! has a story and character arcs – not deep ones, mind you – Top Secret! is just a complete muddled mess of different genres, tropes, and stereotypes. I remember laughing at it 40 years ago, and now it was bordering on painful and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

It’s hard to believe this was Val Kilmer’s first starring role and he was able to go on to anything else, let alone making one of my favorite 1980s comedies, Real Genius.

If you’re interested in returning to the films of the 1980s, this one should definitely go on the “skip it” pile. It was so bad I wanted to travel back to 1984 and smack myself for laughing at it. (Having watched it again for 2024… it was even worse. This movie is painfully unfunny.)

1984 Movie Reviews will return on June 15 with Under the Volcano!


Sean P. Aune

Sean Aune has been a pop culture aficionado since before there was even a term for pop culture. From the time his father brought home Amazing