I was born in the mid-80s, and for a very long time I associated the culture of that time primarily with horrible hairsytles and an absolutely appaling sense of fashion. During the 90s everything was so much cooler, but looking back at those years now, I again have to ask “what where we thinking?!” Also, when I got older, I associated 80s movies primarily with dumb, ridiculous action movies. You know, Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Just stupid explosions and lame jokes, with poor excuses for a plot. At that time, I was still too young to watch them and when I finally got around to see them 10 years or so later, but my oppinion of them was not very high.
But now that I am older, and therefore wiser, I see things quite different. Part of it might be simply nostalgia. It reminds me of when I was a kid, and we always kind of like that, even if we were not big fans of it back then. Another factor is plain and simple, that we only remember the best things. Those that were outstanding and so influential that their legacy survived to this day. I am certain there probably hundreds of action movies that were actually really stupid and nothing but explosions and excuse plots. But there also were some really good ones, which now pretty much make up my favorite movies of all time.
- Alien (1979)
- The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- Outland (1981)
- Raiders of the Lost Arc (1981)
- Blade Runner (1982)
- Conan the Barbarian (1982)
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
- The Thing (1982)
- Dune (1984)
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
- The Terminator (1984)
- Enemy Mine (1985)
- Aliens (1986)
- Lethal Weapon (1987)
- Predator (1987)
- Die Hard (1988)
- Total Recall (1990)
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Those still missing from my list of favorite movies are some Nolan and Cohen Brothers movies, but that would basically it. Honorable mention also to Back to the Future, but those aren’t action movies. It’s certainly not for the stories. No, it really is not for the stories. With the Exception of Blade Runner, the plots of these movies are all fairly simple with no big twists and turns or any ambiguity who are the good guys and the bad guys. It’s hard for me to put a finger on it, but there is something really special about the style these movies. And except for two on this list, they are all Sci-Fi or Fantasy movies. In some cases even both. However, I feel that in most of these cases, the movies used that as settings for the story, but not making the story about that. How much future tech are the characters actually using to deal with the Aliens? They got motion trackers, but that’s basically it. Other than that, they are just guys with guns. In The Thing and Predator, the monsters are from other planets, but the story would have been identical if they were rare creatures natives to the Antarctic and the South American Jungle. They are Sci-Fi and Fantasy movies, but they are not about Sci-Fi or Fantasy. And it may just have been the set design and lighting styles that were popular with production companies at the time, but they all have a somewhat surreal or ethereal feel to them.
I am currently working some more on my own Ancient Lands setting and trying to get the style right, and I noticed that even though it’s a fantasy setting for RPGs and books, the primary sources that inspire me are the Mass Effect and Metal Gear Solid videogame series, and the Tales of the Jedi/Knights of the Old Republic comic books. All of which are science fiction. What I just realized is, that all three are inspired very much by 80s movies. Metal Gear Solid doesn’t make a secret of being both a parody and reconstruction of James Bond and Schwarzenegger Movies, and some of the designers of Mass Effect have outright stated that they specifically wanted to create a style that captures the atmosphere of 80s movies. And the Star Wars comics are directly based on the movies.
So why don’t I do science-fiction if almost all the works that inspire me are? Why make my own creative work all fantasy? I am not entirely sure myself. But while I love all these movies and games, I don’t do so for the tech. The technology in these is almost completely irrelevant. Star Wars could easily replace light sabres with regular sabres and space ships with regular ships, and you could film the same scripts as fantasy movies with almost no changes at all. And I’ve directly taken some levels from the Mass Effect games and used them as adventures for my RPG campaigns, which worked without any problems.
I’ve heard some experienced and successful writers say “write the kind of stories you would want to read”. And this is exactly the kind of stories I want to read, but can not find anywhere. So why not giving it a shot and see how it turns out? Might be that there are a lot more people like me, who also really wish there would be something like that out there to read?