Twenty-five years ago today, cinema changed forever. That makes it sound like something groundbreaking or game changing occurred, but all that happend back on April 14, 1989 is that moviegoers were introduced to Say Anything, and with it the unforgettable image and sound of John Cusack holding a boom box blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” It probably actually took a few days or weeks for the moment to reach pop-culture consciousness in a way that made it iconic, but regardless it’s difficult to imagine life, the world, the movies without that scene. It’s like trying to imagine a time before trees.
Maybe that’s a stretch, but really famous movie moments are so implanted in our brains that they seem as if they’ve always been there. Cinematic iconography is likely more powerful with moments we grew up with, though. Is the Say Anything boom box scene (the making of which is discussed here) as significant to our parents? Is, to stick with Cameron Crowe, the “Tiny Dancer” sing-along in Almost Famous more iconic to moviegoers who grew up with that? Maybe it works both ways. Do the kids today have any reason to get why Phoebe Cates’s exit from the pool in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (written by Crowe) is so famous?
The truly most iconic moments of the 1980s are those that even my unborn child will find to be an indelible part of life, or at least of film history. E.T. and Elliott biking through the air in front of an enormous Moon is a pretty safe bet for that qualification. The scene’s endurance has, of course, been helped by its being a part of the Amblin Entertainment logo. Another one that my kids won’t be seeing so quickly and which might not resonate nearly as much when they do is the orgasm bit in When Harry Met Sally.
Maybe they’ll be privy to the “Old Time Rock and Roll” scene from Risky Business whether they ever bother with the movie itself. That’s one of those iconic moments that has lasted in spite of its source being otherwise barely talked about or regularly watched over the decades. I don’t even know if I’ve seen the whole thing, yet I’ve seen that moment a billion times. That’s definitely the case for Flashdance, which I’ve definitely never seen at all.
Those that come to mind quickest for me are from movies that I not only have seen but which are longtime favorites of mine. There’s the first image of the Delorean disappearing and leaving behind fiery tire marks from Back to the Future. The crane move at the climax of The Karate Kid. The Truffle Shuffle in The Goonies. Indiana Jones outracing the boulder from the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Any number of the scenes that produced numerous nightmares throughout my childhood from Poltergeist. And even though it’s my least favorite part of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the parade float number has an everlasting presence in my memory.
Actually, if I’m going to go with something from Ferris Bueller it’s gotta be Ben Stein’s roll call.
What’s the most iconic ’80s movie moment?
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