Movies from the 1980s

A collection of scenes, people, lines, props, and other details from the movies of the 1980s.

Gregory's Girl

Gregory's Girl (1981)

Wandering around in the background of Bill Forsyth’s charming comedy is a lost boy in a penguin costume. He doesn’t serve any part in the story, and his presence is something of a mystery.

In an interview with The Times, Forsyth explained that the idea came from watching someone at Abronhill High school, where the film was shot, carrying a papier-mâché head down a corridor “and no one batting an eyelid; a school is a place where anything can happen.”

Inside the suit was Christopher Higson, son of production manager Peter Higson. It seems to have been his only credited acting role, but rumour has it that he went on to be a model-maker for the Lord of the Rings films.

Local Hero

Local Hero (1983)

The iconic red telephone box featured in Bill Forsyth’s 1983 comedy Local Hero was just a prop: the tiny town of Pennan in Aberdeenshire didn’t actually have a phone box.

There’s nothing unusual about that, but in this case, life soon followed art as film fans and tourists lobbied BT to install one. And so they did, although in a slightly less dramatic position than the film’s booth. (See below for a slightly skewed shot of the real box from Google Street View.)

At least BT got their money’s worth: according to, the phone box is now the most called booth in Scotland, due to tourists calling friends and family and getting them to call back.

The phone box’s iconic status almost came about by chance. The final shot of the phone box was inserted as a result of what director Bill Forsyth called ‘benign studio pressure’ for a more upbeat ending. Forsyth rejected various ideas for reshot final scenes, and finally came up with the idea that’s used; the shot itself was salvaged from the cutting room floor.

The Red Phone Booth installed in Pennan at the request of fans of Local Hero

Zelig (1983)

There isn’t much film footage of author F. Scott Fitzgerald around, so it’s always a treat to see him crop up in Woody Allen’s 1983 faux-documentary comedy Zelig.

He appears near the beginning, as one of the first people to take notice of Zelig’s mysterious personality alterations. There doesn’t seem to be much information available about where the footage is originally from, but according to a page on the University of South Carolina’s website (which also includes some streaming audio of Fitzgerald reading), what he’s actually writing in the clip is:

Everybody has been predicting a bad end for the flapper, but I don’t think there is anything to worry about.

There’s another brief clip of F Scott Fitzgerald here:

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Watching Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom on the small screen, it’s easy to miss the fact that Dan Aykroyd makes a brief appearance.

He plays Weber, who appears at the airport near the beginning, following the shoot-out at Club Obi-Wan. It’s Weber who arranges for Indiana Jones to leave the country on the ill-fated flight that kicks off the story proper.

Weber is (I think) supposed to be British, and Aykroyd’s accent is a little alarming: part Bridge over the River Kwai, part C-3PO.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom may not be the strongest film in the series, but it opens with a fine song-and-dance number, followed by an equally well choreographed shoot-out in a Chinese nightclub. What’s being fought over are the earthly remains—such as they are—of the Chinese emperor Nurhaci.

Born in 1559, Nurhaci began his career as leader of one of the many Manchu tribes, though he quickly consolidated his power, unifying the tribes and founding the Later Jin dynasty in 1616.

He also led a rebellion against the reigning Ming dynasty. This would turn out to be a long war: it was under his grandson that the dynasty Nurhaci had founded (now renamed the Qing dynasty) would finally rule China. The Qing dynasty would continue to govern into the twentieth century, when it was finally replaced by the Republic of China following the Xinhai Revolution of 1911.

With such an illustrious history, it’s surprising that he accepted such a—ahem—small part in Temple of Doom.