1982 - when summer was a cinematic treat

This summer's line up of movie releases is decidedly underwhelming so we take a look back at 1982 - the year which saw seven sci-fi flicks be released that went on to become classics.

Mel Gibson in the film Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Sunset Boulevard / Corbis
Powered by automated translation

As we get older, it's easy to reminisce on days gone by and declare everything was better years ago - the sun was brighter, people were friendlier, music was more innovative and politicians were more honest.

Of course, we're viewing the past through rose-tinted specs, but when you look at this summer's crop of lacklustre movie releases (with the odd exception, such as the reportedly superb The Dark Knight Rises, although how would people living in the UAE know, it's not like the movie is opening here this weekend, sob; see page 11), it isn't hard to believe that summer movies really were better years ago.

Don't believe me?

Well, 30 years back, lucky cinemagoers were treated to not one, not two, but seven science fiction and horror movies that have deservedly become classics. And the fun didn't stop there - the summer of 1982 also gave us the memorable kitsch movies Conan the Barbarian and Rocky III, and the teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which helped launch the career of the writer (and later director) Cameron Crowe and featured a cast that included Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Forest Whitaker when they were just starting out. So, if you've had your fill of Marvel comic reboots, action movies loaded with CGI effects and kids' movie sequels, dust off the DVD player and take the time to revisit the adorable, scary, gripping, exciting, jaw-dropping summer of 1982.

ET: The Extra Terrestrial

A sci-fi adventure for the whole family, ET was the director Steven Spielberg's homage to childhood and, in particular, the warm heart of one little boy. Henry Thomas's Elliott finds a pot-bellied alien stranded on Earth and introduces him to such essential Earth delights as eating candy and dressing up in his little sister's (Drew Barrymore) clothes. Achingly sweet and unashamedly sentimental, this did get a polish a decade ago (Spielberg added a CGI spaceship and digitally removed guns from the hands of government agents pursuing ET, replacing them with walkie talkies) and will have a 30th anniversary re-release later this year.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

The Australian director George Miller made the 1979 movie Mad Max for just US$400,000 (Dh1.5 million) and it went on to make more than $100m worldwide, so a sequel was inevitable. Unusually, the sequel is actually better than the raw original as Mel Gibson's Max - an ex-cop who saw his wife and child butchered - roams a post-apocalyptic wasteland until he comes across a group of people desperate to protect themselves and their supplies from warriors around them. Packed with stunning car chases, brutal action, sparse dialogue and a superb central performance from Gibson, this was followed by Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome in 1985, while Tom Hardy will take on the iconic role of Max in 2013's Mad Max: Fury Road.


Steven Spielberg produced and co-wrote the script for this hugely successful horror, but it was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper at the helm for the story of a suburban family who find themselves threatened in their home by some malevolent force that first communicates with their angelic young daughter through the TV. Innocuous items suddenly become incredibly scary - the tree that attacks the son, the swimming pool that fills with decomposing bodies - and things get even stranger when the understandably distraught parents (JoBeth Williams, Craig T Nelson) call in paranormal "experts".

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan

Considered the best of all the Star Trek movies by many Trekkies, this features the characters from the original TV series (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, etc) and moves at a much faster pace than the first movie, while also being less silly than some of the films that followed. Now creaking around the Starship Enterprise, Kirk and his crew have to tighten up their middle-aged spreads and go into battle when an old nemesis, warlord Khan (Ricardo Montalban), whom Kirk sent to a prison planet years before, turns up seeking revenge. Witty, exciting and even sad (it's the one with that ending), it remains true to the original series while freshening it up for new generations.

The Thing

Forget last year's missable prequel. For true shocks and rising tension, you need to see John Carpenter's superb The Thing (based on the sci-fi story Who Goes There? that had already been adapted into the 1951 movie The Thing From Another World). Kurt Russell (who made two of his best films with Carpenter, the other being Escape From New York) is one of a group of workers at a remote outpost in Antarctica who find themselves under attack from an alien that can absorb and mimic any living thing (and, in one stomach-churning scene, it's caught assimilating the outpost's dogs). The transformations are both grotesque and stunning to watch, and the "who's human and who's not" plot is truly suspenseful.


The effects may look a little hokey now, but back in July of 1982 when Disney's Tron was released, they were truly state of the art. Jeff Bridges is the software engineer who finds himself imprisoned in a game by his former boss, forcing him to team up with the security programme Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) in an attempt to battle his way out. The Light Cycle race still thrills, and there are some stunning visuals even if the plot itself doesn't stand up to close scrutiny. Bridges and Boxleitner returned to their roles for the 2010 sequel Tron: Legacy, featuring a soundtrack from lifelong Tron fans Daft Punk.

Blade Runner

Ridley Scott's visually stunning cinematic version of Philip K Dick's short story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? has been much imitated over the past 30 years, but never bettered. While it wasn't well received on its initial release, it has since been embraced by audiences and critics alike, spellbound by the story set in 2019 Los Angeles of a detective (Harrison Ford) charged with tracking down replicants - mutinous androids masquerading as humans. Books have been written about the astonishing set design, debates have raged about the movie's true meaning (is it about religion, with the replicant creator Tyrell some sort of god?), rumours have abounded of the friction on set (Ford has said little except that it was the toughest movie he ever had to work on), and various alternative versions have been released (the Director's Cut, for example, loses Ford's narration and adds extra scenes) to keep us in thrall three decades on.