We’re going all 80s today, starting with Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick’s take on the Vietnam War that turned out to be his penultimate effort as a filmmaker. It’s a harsh, brutal and stereotypically cold effort from the master, and most people agree that the first half — covering the dehumanizing boot camp experience of a group of Marines on Parris Island — does much better than the actual Vietnam stuff in the second act. That stems largely from two unforgettable performances: R. Lee Ermey in the role of a lifetime as the platoon’s merciless drill sergeant and Vincent D’Onofrio as the hapless — and slowly unraveling — target of his abuse. The film opened today in 1987.
After a series of outings that got progressively outlandish and over the top, James Bond returned to basics with For Your Eyes Only, pitting Roger Moore’s 007 against a supposed ally actually playing him for a fool. It gives Moore a chance to show a grittier side of his playboy superspy, and with Carol Bouquet’s vengeance-obsessed Bond girl by his side, turns the effort into arguably the best of Moore’s run with the character. The film opened today in 1981.
Back in the 80s, you could open multiple top-tier films on the same day, and they wouldn’t get in each other’s way. Case in point: Dragonslayer, a high-end fantasy film released the same day in 1981 as Bond. It fared poorly at the box office, but has since developed a well-deserved cult following, due largely to its clever revisionist take on traditional fairy-tale elements, as well as one heck of a fire-breathing dragon. In an era where straight-up fantasy was hard to find (even Conan the Barbarian was still a year away), it shows a lot of boldness and imagination.