There are times when the gauzy lens of nostalgia distorts how we think about movies, music, and TV shows of years past, tricking us into thinking they're better than they were — and then there are times when we're presented with cold, hard facts that things simply were better. Take, for example, the state of summer movies in 1985.
The Houston Chronicle's Bayou City History blog posted a listing of movie times for the July 4th weekend 30 years ago, and it's basically a line-up of some of the decade's best movies. On that fateful weekend, you could head to the air conditioned confines of a theater to watch a new release called Back to the Future, and follow it up with The Goonies. Or maybe you wanted to see a double feature of Cocoon followed by Fletch. If you were in the mood for something more mature, there was Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner in Prizzi's Honor, as well as St. Elmo's Fire and Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider.
On the action front, Roger Moore's James Bond was facing off against Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill, and both Schwarzenegger and Stallone provided options with Red Sonja and Rambo: First Blood Part II, respectively.
What do the multiplex options look like in 2015? Well, there's new releases Magic Mike XXL (intriguing) and Terminator Genisys (hrrrm). There are holdovers — and money printing machines — Inside Out (emotions!), Jurassic World (ehhhh), and the Melissa McCarthy vehicle Spy. And then it's just padded out by a bunch of movies people are already forgetting exist (San Andreas, Ted 2), with every other free screen devoted to additional showings of those two new releases.
A snapshot of how movies have changed
When compared against the 1985 listings, it's a snapshot of how the industry has changed: no mid-range movies, no extended theatrical releases where something like Fletch can linger despite middling box office, no room for more mature fare amidst the superheroes and broad comedies. That's not to say there aren't good films made today — Inside Out and Max Max: Fury Road are just two examples from this summer — but as a whole, it's hard to not yearn for the summers of decades past.
Now I'm going to go watch Fletch or The Goonies. Probably both.