While discussing Mannequin on the latest episode of the Cult Film Club we brought up the fact that in the 80s “unconventional” romances on film was sort of a thing. You know, boy sculpts girl, boy gets fired for taking too long constructing girl, boy stumbles upon girl in a department store window, boy gets job at department store to be close to girl, girl turns out to be a real girl, they fall in love, boy ends up saving girl from a giant chipper/shredder. Your basic run of the mill love story for the 80s. Since this style of film was so prevalent during the decade, I thought it would be fun to rank my top 15 weird-ass WTF 80s romance flicks. Strangely enough, ONLY three of them star Jeff Goldblum!
#15: The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Woman hearts Fictional Character
I first saw this on HBO back in the day and it broke my young mind. For those who haven’t seen it, this Woody Allen film stars Mia Farrow and Jeff Daniels and centers on Farrow’s character Cecilia falling in love with Tom (a fictional character in the movie within a movie played by Jeff Daniels.) Tom, having somehow noticed Cecilia watching him from the audience over and over, breaks the 4th wall (literally) and steps out of the film into the real world to get to know and eventually fall in love with Cecilia.
#14: Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)
Woman hearts Blue Fuzzy Alien
What do you get when three horny (and rather furry) aliens crash land in Geena Davis’ pool while attempting to seek out some hairless female companionship? Hilarity. It’s also the first of three times that Jeff Goldblum finds his way onto this list. Written by kooky Julie Brown, this flick captures the WTF hyper-color weirdness aesthetic of the late 80s particularly well…
#13: Date with an Angel (1987)
Man hearts a Real Life Angel
Proving that it’s possible to make a romantic film in the 80s about a man falling in love with an angel an not using Real Life’s Send Me an Angel, Date with an Angel is a rare gem indeed. Though it’s a romantic comedy, the premise is kind of WTF (aside from the fact that there’s angel romance in it) as the main character is about to die from a brain tumor when the angel sent down to fetch his soul accidentally crashes into a satellite, breaks her wing and falls into the main character’s swimming pool. Only in the 80s….
#12: Vibes (1988)
Psychometist Man hearts Trance Medium Astral Projectionist
Hello again Jeff Goldblum. Okay, so if you’re noticing, the general gist of this list involves rather normal people falling in love with abnormal beings, and technically this movie has two abnormal people falling in love with each other, but still, it’s such a weird romantic madcap romp that I had to add it to the list. Besides, it upped Jeff Goldblum’s participation to 20%! Either way, I love this flick as it’s fun watching Cyndi Lauper acting, something that she didn’t do nearly enough of back in the 80s…
#11: My Stepmother is an Alien (1988)
Man hearts Super Hot Alien
This was one of those films that I completely missed out on back in the day but finally caught up with thanks to my CFC co-host Jaime. I love 80s era Aykroyd so it was awesome finally catching up with this flick where he plays a scientist working on sending radio waves into space. He stumbles across Kim Basinger, an alien from a world called Cosine N to the 8th, who is investigating the source of a disturbance that is wrecking havoc on her home world. The unlikely duo fall in love and in a very fish out of water setting we get to see Basinger’s Celeste discover a world of amazing experiences on Earth. Also, notable for introducing the world to a young Alyson Hannigan…
#10: Making Mr. Right (1987)
Woman hearts Adorably Naive Android
This was one of those films that I saw two million times on Comedy Central throughout the 90s. Starring John Malkovich in the dual roles of scientist inventor Jeff Peters and his creation Ulysses, who is designed for replacing the human element in long term deep space flight. When Frankie Stone is hired to do PR for the Ulysses project she gets more than she bargained for when the android falls in love with her and the world he was created to leave.
#9: High Spirits (1988)
Man hearts Ghost of Murdered Bride
This is another flick that I totally missed out on until recently when Jaime sat me down to watch it. I love The Gute, Steve Guttenberg, and as you’ll see Daryl Hannah is no stranger to starring in these types of weird, WTF romantic comedies. I’d also call this flick a hidden gem with some really fun performances by Liam Neeson, Jennifer Tilley, Beverly D’Angelo, and Peter freaking O’Toole.
#8: Electric Dreams (1984)
Man & Obsessive AI Stalker Computer hearts Woman (who’s into the computer kinda)
Electric Dreams is one of those super weird early 80s flicks that was riffing on the whole 1984 “big brother” theme, but wrapping it up in a romantic pseudo-comedy. Miles in need of organizational help finds the “perfect” AI -driven computer, computer and Miles both fall for their new neighbor, Cellist Madeline, weird love triangle ensues. For fans of last year’s Spike Jonze flick Her, this movie feels like it was a heavy inspiration…
#7: Walk Like a Man (1987)
Woman hearts Man-Child who was Raised by Wolves
One of my favorite guilty pleases of the 80s, this flick is Howie Mandel at his best. The researcher/teacher/student/pet relationship between Penny (Friday the 13th Part 2‘s Amy Steel) and Bobo is beyond heart warming and the zany antics with Bobo’s brother and sister-in-law (Christopher Lloyd and Colleen Camp) are hilarious. To this day I still want to shove a Raisinet in the mouth of anyone who does good work…
#6: My Demon Lover (1987)
Woman hearts Man Possessed by Horniness-Induced Demon
This is not a good movie. It’s actually really awful bordering on unwatchable in parts but I still have a soft spot in my heart for Scott Valentine (Nick from Family Ties) and can’t help but love the concept. As a horny young boy Kaz (Valentine) was cursed by the gypsy grandmother of his first kiss to forever become a horned demon whenever he gets, well, horny. Since then he’s roamed the streets of NYC as a begger bum who purposefully acts as obnoxious and chauvinistic as possible to avoid falling in love with a a woman he knows he’ll never get to keep. That is until he stumbles upon Denny (played by Michelle Little), a girl who specializes in hopelessly dating scum. Match made in Heav…er…Hell.
#5: Mannequin (1987)
Man hearts Two Thousand Year-Old Egyptian Princess trapped in a Mannequin
What more can I say about this flick that we didn’t address in our most recent episode of the Cult film Club or on our 30 Things We LOVE About it list? Andrew McCarthy is at his Andrew McCarthy-iest and Kim Catrall is perfect as Emmy. Nobody said falling in love with a dummy would be easy…
#4: Weird Science (1985)
Two boys heart the Woman of their Dreams, that they Built Themselves
How do you find the perfect woman if you’re a nobody dorky geek with only one friend? Easy, join forces with said friend, throw a copy of Frankenstein on the VCR, strap on your mother’s bra, hack governmental imaging software, feed in numerous magazine and newspaper clippings, and tap into the mystical wish fulfillment ether to will the perfect woman into the body of a Barbie doll you have hooked up with a battery. Easy peazy. Now break out the chips, dips, chains, whips, and .357 revolvers and get to it!
#3: The Fly (1986)
Woman hearts Man whose DNA fused with that of a Fly in a Teleportation Accident
I know what you’re thinking, this flick isn’t a romance. Well, even though it’s a horror film, I truly think that the core story is more of a dark romance, much like Clive Barker’s Nightbreed or Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. Besides, this list didn’t have nearly enough Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, so there. And who wouldn’t want to make-out with Seth Brundle, even during his vomiting on doughnuts and eating the liquidy after effects phase…
#2: Splash (1984)
Man hearts Mermaid
Probably the most classic (and classy) of the WTF romances of the 80s, Ron Howard’s Splash set the bar for inter-species love. Also, is it just me or was Daryl Hannah born to plays roles like Madison? I mean highly emotive, mostly silent (I’m thinking Pris from Blade Runner, Ayla from Clan of the Cave Bear, etc.) This is also the film debut of the Tom Hanks that would steal all of our hearts throughout the decade. Also, eating lobsters shell-on is pretty hardcore…
#1: Howard the Duck (1986)
Rock Star hearts Alien Duck
So I’ll be the first to admit that Howard the Duck isn’t really a romance, but as far as WTF romances go, the fact that it’s alluded to that Howard and Beverly “get it on” is amazing and awesome. Especially awesome for ducks hoping for some Lea Thompson love. In my book that makes it number one.