Top Ten 1985

1. Out Of Africa
2. The Official Story
3. Vagabond
4. Witness
5. Ran
6. Shoah
7. Kiss Of The Spider Woman
8. The Purple Rose of Cairo
9. My Beautiful Laundrette
10. A Room With A View


Toshiro Mifune is probably the most famous Japanese actor who ever lived, but my personal favourite Thespian to emerge from that country’s fascinating cinema industry is Tatsuya Nakadai. Throughout his career he managed a deft and subtle level of sexy masculinity and intelligent strength, never letting his handsome face speak for itself. He topped his oeuvre with Akira Kurosawa’s last celebrated masterpiece Ran, fully embodying the anger and eventual madness of the maestro’s eastern vision of King Lear.

Honour Roll: Julian Sands, A Room With A View


There’s lots of great choices in this category this year, and my very favourite is the amazing Norma Aleandro in the greatest Argentinian film of all time. As the professor of history whose knowledge of her own country’s shady past becomes clearer to her while investigating the origins of her adopted daughter in The Official Story, Aleandro brings an astonishing range of fear, vulnerability and terrifying tenacity to what is already a perfect film. She deservedly shared the Best Actress prize at Cannes for her work (with Cher!) and went on to an impressive career following its release.

Honour Roll: Sandrine Bonnaire, Vagabond; Whoopi Goldberg, The Colour Purple; Jessica Lange, Sweet Dreams; Meryl Streep, Out Of Africa/Plenty


Did you know that there was a time when Daniel Day-Lewis was not an overbearing presence on the silver screen? While his latter years have shown a distinct ability for chewing up all the scenery (and, when housed in the right role, it’s wonderful to behold), Day-Lewis was once an actor capable of subtle charms. Two films he made in 1985, both released in the US in 1986, showed this extremely well though in polar opposite ways. He’s deliciously sexy as the protagonist’s adventerous boyfriend in Stephen Frears’ wonderful My Beautiful Laundrette, the best gay movie made in the 80s, while in A Room With A View he provides a wonderful tightass opposite to Julian Sands’ freewheeling, charmingly romantic hero.

Honour Roll: Danny Aiello, The Purple Rose Of Cairo; Denholm Elliott, A Room With A View; Eric Roberts, Runaway Train; Eric Stoltz, Mask


Despite having appeared in a handful of films for fifteen years or so, including almost anything her father John Huston directed, no one really paid any serious attention to Anjelica Huston until her Oscar-winning performance in one of her dad’s last films, Prizzi’s Honour.  It’s understandable to see why, considering what she brings to the character: MaeRose Prizzi isn’t the most fascinating woman in the gangster canon, but Huston’s weirdly wonderful, sometimes kinky and otherwise villainous portrayal makes her among the most memorable characterizations in a Hollywood film that decade. She went on to a career that proved her to be among the most versatile actors of her generation–there’s really no role she has played that she doesn’t pull off with alarming charisma.

Honour Roll: Judi Dench, A Room With A View; Maggie Smith, A Room With A View; Meg Tilly, Agnes Of God; Oprah Winfrey, The Colour Purple


Sydney Pollack doesn’t always do well with romantic drama; later movies like Havana and Random Hearts are barely worth watching once. In 1985, however, he created his masterpiece, an intelligent and gorgeously photographed look at the love life of Karen Blixen (before assuming her pen name of Isak Dinesen) and her years on “The Dark Continent” in Out Of Africa. Seamlessly adapted from a number of source materials, the film is ably guided by Pollack’s deft balancing of beautiful period details, sharp performances, smart dialogue and a lush sense of romance.

Honour Roll: James Ivory, A Room With A View; Akira Kurosawa, Ran; Luis Puenzo, The Official Story; Agnes Varda, Vagabond