What was life like in the 1980's?
May 24, 2010 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Looking for movies that evoke how it is to live in the time in which they are set.

I just saw Nashville by Robert Altman, and I felt that the movie did a good job of making the viewer feel what people's lives in the 1970's were like.

I'm not necessarily looking for Altman-esque movies. I'm looking more for a movie that can make the viewer feel how it was to live in the year or era in which it is set, like Nashville did.

Of particular interest to me are movies set in the 1980's and 1990's.
posted by reenum to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Boogie Nights.
posted by alms at 8:37 AM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

For the early 1990's - Slacker.
posted by bonsai forest at 8:51 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Despite being a comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High feels genuinely like the early to mid-1980s to me. For the 1990s, Singles is good, though it and Fast Times are very specifically American/US-based.

Until you specified 1980s/1990s, I thought immediately of Topsy Turvy. Mike Leigh, the director, went to special effort to get the details of life in the 1880s right, and it shows.
posted by artlung at 8:51 AM on May 24, 2010

McCabe & Mrs Miller (also by Altman) set in the "Old West" in winter. Altman built a frontier town where all the actors lived during shooting (I think.)
posted by anadem at 8:53 AM on May 24, 2010

I rather liked the Keira Knightly Pride & Prejudice for the rather dirtier depiction of the era which seems more in line with other reading I've done on the living conditions in that time.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:54 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Reality Bites! I saw it again recently and it's pretty annoying now, but it did do a good job of capturing that time period for young people.
posted by something something at 8:55 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Boyz n the Hood

Hood films, which were strictly a 1990s phenomenon, vary in their authenticity, but the philosophy behind a number (but not all) of them was to be as real and close to the black experience in impoverished West Coast areas (South Central, usually) as possible. Similarly, Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing is equally hyper-stylized and an accurate portrayal of Bed Stuy (in Brooklyn) during the late 80s.
posted by griphus at 9:24 AM on May 24, 2010

How about the 1880s? The Age of Innocence.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:28 AM on May 24, 2010

Best answer: The 25th Hour is an especially vivid depiction of immediately post-9/11 NYC.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:33 AM on May 24, 2010

I highly recommend Withnail & I as a rarely-seen accurate depiction of the late 1960's.
posted by ovvl at 9:49 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Black Robe really captured the cold and grime of 17th-century New France. One got a fantastic sense of just how hard life was in those conditions.
posted by fso at 9:50 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Days of Heaven tells a great story, but when I rewatch it what I really love is the recreation of 1916, where they sit half in the modern world of technology and mobility and half in Dickensian injustice. Fanny & Alexander also captures that world of the early 20th century, with it's alien gentility and cruelty.
posted by bendybendy at 9:51 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is probably a rather odd suggestion, but I've always felt that Superman II really captures 1980 to a tee.
posted by BrianJ at 9:55 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Bright Lights, Big City
posted by Ratio at 10:01 AM on May 24, 2010

Best answer: Not all 80's and 90's, but -

American Beauty
Dazed and Confused (I guess that's the 70's...but)
Forrest Gump
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:11 AM on May 24, 2010

Legends of the Fall
posted by timsteil at 10:16 AM on May 24, 2010

Barry Lyndon is probably one of the most accurate-looking period movies ever made.

Piggy-backing on bendybendy's Days of Heaven recommendation, I just re-watched The New World last night, and was really impressed by its depiction of life in Jamestown. The scenes of England at the end are also really cool. When Pocahontas encounters European markets for the first time, it's really an amazing moment.
posted by thebergfather at 10:16 AM on May 24, 2010

Two John Sayles movies have great early 20th century details: Eight Men Out and Matewan.
posted by octothorpe at 10:37 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wall Street (1987) and The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) for New York in the '80s.

Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers.

American Graffiti (1973) does a great job of recreating the early 1960s. National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) is pretty good at depicting about the same time period.

L.A. Confidential recreates 1950s Los Angeles.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:38 AM on May 24, 2010

Best answer: The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Once Upon a Time in America, GoodFellas, and Donnie Brasco.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:45 AM on May 24, 2010

Best answer: Seconding Reality Bites for the 1990s.

Crooklyn for the 1970s.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:55 AM on May 24, 2010

Best answer: I just rewatched Swingers recently (having not seen it since it was new), and it really struck me how very 90s it was.

Took me back -- which sounds kind of ridiculous, since the 90s were not all that long ago, but considering the changes in technology and how ubiquitous things like cell phones and internet usage have become, the differences felt significant.
posted by Ouisch at 11:07 AM on May 24, 2010

Donny Darko does a good job of establishing it's time frame in 1988
posted by jrishel at 12:33 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

This may seem strange but I think the original Halloween really captures late 1970s suburban life. My life in the 1970s was much more like Halloween than Nashville. Except for the crazed murderer of course.
posted by interplanetjanet at 12:47 PM on May 24, 2010

Best answer: Martin Scorcese always conveys a great sense of period, and I think
After Hours really nailed 1985.
posted by newmoistness at 2:48 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't say from experience but A Christmas Story seemed to really get the 1940s.

And every time I watch E.T. I feel for some reason like 1982 is fresh in my mind.
posted by fso at 4:23 PM on May 24, 2010

Best answer: i particularly liked The Last Days of Disco for the very reason you asked this question. it's set in the very early 1980s. continuing with the altman thread Short Cuts is an epic look at l.a. in the early 1990s, just like Nashville in its scope and generosity.
posted by iboxifoo at 8:01 PM on May 24, 2010

Laugh if you will, but the scenes of kids in "Say Anything" struck me as pretty accurate: a bunch of guys sitting around doing nothing.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:54 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

For the 1980s, there's nothing better than American Psycho.
posted by lhall at 12:05 PM on May 25, 2010

Seconding Last Days of Disco, particularly for Whit Stilman's masterful characterization of the 80s yuppie.
posted by Menomena at 12:35 PM on May 25, 2010

Boys from the Blackstuff (OK, it's a series)
Letter to Brezhnev - depressed 80s Liverpool meets the Cold War

I watched Popular recently and was struck by how 90s it looked - the dark lipliner and mini butterfly hair-grips.
posted by mippy at 12:50 PM on July 12, 2010

Fast Times at Ridgemont High might do it for you.
posted by Artw at 10:41 AM on September 13, 2010

Just stopping in to nth Reality Bites, which when I see pieces of it now makes me cringe at its accuracy. Making $400 a week and still being picky enough not to get pizza from Domino's because of the owner's politics ... it's just too right.
posted by kostia at 1:27 PM on April 5, 2011

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