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1984 Movie Reviews – Once Upon a Time in America, Star Trek III, and Streets of Fire

by Sean P. Aune | June 1, 2024June 1, 2024 11:20 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 Once Upon a Time in America, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Street of Fire.

Once Upon a Time in America

Sergio Leone made a name for himself with his ‘spaghetti Westerns,’ but who knew he had an epic telling of New York gangsters waiting to be told.

Numerous gangster epics have been written over the years, but almost all of them have focused on either the Italian mafia or your average American street kids of the 1920s and 30s. Once Upon a Time in America takes an interesting approach, following New York’s Jewish community in the early 20th Century through Prohibition and until the demise of some of the characters in the 1960s.

The film follows a non-linear format, pumping around the timeline of “Noodles'” (Robert De Niro) life, but focusing heavily on his formative years through his 30s. Sent to prison for murder in his teens, he gets out during the height of Prohibition and finds himself in a world not quite how he left it, and adjusting to what it means to be part of what is now a burgeoning crime organization run by his childhood friends.

Once Upon a Time in America represents a time period in American cinema that has definitely been lost in the last few decades. It’s a film that delves so deeply into the time period of the film that becomes a character unto itself. The early to mid-80s tended to have one or two of these films a year, with examples such as Reds and Gandhi. They weren’t just films that would go big on their setting, but they also allowed a story room to breath and mature. Sometimes, it paid off in a case such as this, and other times, it was Reds.

This was the first time I had ever seen Once Upon a Time in America, and honestly, I didn’t love it during the actual process of watching it. It was only after a few days of thinking about it that I came to realize what a well-made film it truly is. There are some moments that feel over-indulgent in their run time with lots of silent staring for no apparent good reason for that choice, but otherwise it’s a master class in settings and directing.

It’s a film you need to set aside the time to focus on and prepare to digest for a while, but you’ll find your effort rewarded.

1984 Movie Project - Star Trek III The Search for Spock - 01

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Review

(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.)

The movie that started the famous meme of, “Oh no, it’s an odd-numbered Star Trek movie.”

Sitting down and watching Star Trek III for the first time in 20 or more years, I have to say… it’s not as bad as I remember it. By no means am I saying it’s great, or even good, it’s just kind of… there. If the Star Trek movies were a TV series, it would just be a so-so episode, and you would move on with your life, but when it’s a film, something you have to make an effort to see, it carries more weight.

As many of you know, it picks up within a few days of the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and follows the crew trying to reunite Spock’s “katra” with his body. Besides being just a bit over the top in the supernatural aspect, it felt very much like something the Vulcans would be in to.

This film ended up being part of a trilogy within the Star Trek films that kicked off with the previous film. After the success of that movie, everyone had high hopes for III and what we got was just never going to meet those demands.

If Star Trek III is guilty of anything, it’s of being dull. It moves slowly and methodically towards an end goal you knew was coming from the title alone. Did you really think they would ‘search for Spock’ only to conclude, “Nope, totally dead?”

Exactly. It just moves a bit too slowly and you knew the second you bought your ticket how it was going to end.

It’s worth a watch, just go in with very measured expectations.

1984 Movie Project - Streets of Fire - 01

Streets of Fire Review

(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.)

So many movies struggle with how to tell you that you need to throw your expectations out the window. That you need to be ready for anything, and everything, to happen.

Street of Fire found the perfect solution with four words on two title cards before the film began.

The first says “A Rock & Roll Fable.” The second says:

“Another time,
Another place…”

I’m in. I am SO in.

This mashed-up world of 1950s greaser gangs and 1980s fashion & neon, with a dash of weird sci-fi references to the world outside, is just bonkers in the most awesome ways possible.

Streets of Fire is the type of movie that makes you long for the days of video stores. The film was a complete disaster at the box office taking in around $8M off of a $14M budget, but it thrived at the rental counter, and that’s where I first discovered it. Since that time I have owned it on VHS, Laser Disc, DVD, Blu-ray, and now on digital. I will always own a copy of this movie.

It’s allegories to ancient Greek myths is not exactly difficult to spot, and you just don’t care. It’s fun, it’s different, and it looks and sound amazing.

What is the story? A biker gang, led by Raven (Willem Dafoe) kidnaps mega-hit singer, Ellen Aim (Diane Lane). Her old boyfriend, Tom Cody (Michael Paré), comes home and gets talked into rescuing her.

Why did Raven kidnap her? No clue. Why did Tom ever leave home? Maybe because Ellen broke his heart? You never know for sure.

STOP IT! You’re thinking too much. You do not think when worshipping… I mean… when watching Streets of Fire.

The film was the brainchild of Walter Hill who only five years earlier had written and directed the cult-classic, The Warriors. Somehow you feel as though these movies may exist in the same universe, but it really doesn’t matter.

Short version here is, it is a fluff movie, and it will rot your teeth, but does anyone really care? There’s a fight with sledgehammers. Your arguments are moot.

This film also went on to inspire animes such as Bubblegum Crisis, and was an instant cult hit in Japan, so there’s that as well.

Watch this trailer and tell me you can resist it.

So weird. So fun.

1984 Movie Reviews will return on June 8 with our first triple feature! Join us for Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and Top Secret!


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