15 Blockbuster Facts About the Summer Movies of 1985

Back to the Future was the summer of 1985's big box office winner.
Back to the Future was the summer of 1985's big box office winner.
Universal, IStock

Despite the onslaught of automatic weapons, grenades, and political corruption, Rambo’s biggest problem in 1985 turned out to be a scrawny kid in a DeLorean.

Back to the Future was that summer’s biggest hit, earning $210.6 million and knocking Sylvester Stallone’s well-oiled deltoids off of his predicted perch at the box office. Few expected Back to the Future to perform so well, but Marty McFly’s success was just one of several surprises coming out of that year's summer movie season. Check out these 15 facts about a failed return to Oz, a geriatric Bond, and why a bunch of high school kids had such a problem with The Goonies.

1. Movies Stuck Around All Summer.

In today’s rush to have a major opening weekend before the next big movie rolls up, it’s hard to imagine any one film dominating theaters for long. But that’s exactly what Back to the Future did, arriving in cinemas on July 3, 1985 and taking the number one spot for a total of 11 weeks. Only the late July debut of National Lampoon’s European Vacation kept McFly from 12 straight weekends of victory.

2. Movie re-releases were big.

Sequel fatigue has been setting in for years, with critics complaining that there are too many derivative works and not enough original material. But there was a time when studios would literally—not figuratively—rehash old titles by reissuing them. The summer months of 1985 saw the re-releases of Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, with E.T. earning roughly $40 million in additional revenue—more than many first-run movies that year.

3. Disney Was Battered By the Care Bears.

The Care Bears Movie was a surprise hit at the 1985 summer box office.MGM Home Entertainment

After five years of production and a reported $40 million price tag—at the time, the most expensive animated movie ever—The Black Cauldron was expected to reverse the course of underperforming Disney releases. Instead, it was a huge flop, earning less than half of its budget back and even getting out-hustled by the substantially less expensive The Care Bears Movie.

4. Disney Also Paid Out the Nose for the Ruby Slippers.

Disney’s Return to Oz was expected to cash in on the brand equity of L. Frank Baum’s book series, which was last seen onscreen in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. That film, however, made such an impression with its Technicolor portrayal of Dorothy and her travels that the more faithful adaptation turned out to be too intense for kids. The film bombed: The New York Times declared it a “catastrophe,” and Disney had to pay for the privilege. Even though Baum’s books were in the public domain, the Ruby Slippers were not. They had to be licensed from MGM in order to be used.

5. Explorers Was Supposed To Be the Breakout Hit.

When has Entertainment Tonight ever lied to us? In their summer movie preview, box offic prognosticators figured that Paramount’s Explorers, about kids that build their own spaceship, would rake in the dough. Why? Mostly because shooting children into orbit seemed like a can’t-miss proposition, and because director Joe Dante was also responsible for 1984’s Gremlins. But Explorers, which starred River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke, was rushed to meet its July release date, frustrating Dante and resulting in an uneven film that didn’t get much attention.

6. Michael J. Fox Bumped Himself Off.

Prior to shooting Back to the Future, Fox had finished Teen Wolf, an amiable if not-quite-classic comedy about a basketball-playing werewolf. Had it not been for Back to the Future’s massive success, it’s hard to know what audiences would have made of the film. But when it premiered in August, Fox had generated so much goodwill that it opened in second place, giving the actor both top slots. (Doing press for Teen Wolf, Fox told Starlog he disliked the title and was “chagrined” when the studio insisted on it.)

7. Arnold Schwarzenegger Starred As a Non-Conan Conan.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brigitte Nielsen in Red Sonja (1985).Warner Home Video

Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed to shoot a cameo role in Red Sonja, producer Dino De Laurentiis’s attempt to feminize the sword-and-sorcery genre the two men had popularized with the Conan movies. Owing to legal reasons, Arnold’s character could not be named Conan, and the actor was assured that the role would be a surprise for viewers. But filming dragged on and Schwarzenegger’s part kept growing; when Red Sonja began its marketing efforts, Arnold was featured prominently on the poster and in advertising. He was so incensed at De Laurentiis for tricking him into a script he felt was “trash” that he refused to promote the film.

8. Weird Science Won the Three-Way Kid Genius Stakes.

In a seven-day span, three movies were released that featured teenagers using their considerable intellects to get themselves into and out of trouble: Weird Science, My Science Project, and Real Genius. Critics thought the studios were sabotaging themselves and creating consumer confusion. In the end, Weird Science—a John Hughes-scripted film about two geeks who create their ideal woman with a computer program—was weird enough to stand out, earning a respectable $23.8 million.

9. James Bond Became the Butt of Jokes.

Roger Moore is Bond, James Bond in A View to a Kill (1985).MGM Home Entertainment

A View to a Kill marked the seventh time Roger Moore portrayed suave super-spy James Bond, but the fact that Moore was nearly 60 years old at the time did not go unnoticed. Moore himself was disturbed to find out he was older than his co-star’s mother, and former Bond Sean Connery chimed in to say that the character should be no older than 35. Moore resigned his post later that year.

10. The Goonies Lacked “Realism.”

The Los Angeles Times had the novel idea of gathering eight high school journalism students to quiz them on their interest in the upcoming summer film slate. Among their criticisms: The Goonies looked to be “fairly unrealistic,” with one concerned the title might be confused with Ghoulies or Gremlins; Clint Eastwood’s Western Pale Rider was a no-go since Eastwood is “not good-looking”; Chevy Chase, set to star in Fletch, reminded one of a “white Eddie Murphy.” The crew voted Explorers as the film they’d most like to see. Right on the money, kids.

11. It Was a John Candy Kind of Summer.

George Rose, Getty Images

Beloved comedian John Candy starred in a whopping four films between Memorial Day and Labor Day: Summer Rental, Volunteers, Brewster’s Millions, and a cameo in Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird. All of them performed well, except for Jim Henson’s effort: despite getting positive reviews, no one particularly cared to pay to see Big Bird when he was on television for free.

12. A Drive-In Theater Got the Twister Treatment.

On May 31, 1985, the Spotlight 88 Drive-In Theater in Beaver County, Pennsylvania was pulverized by an F-4 tornado. With business already in decline, the owners decided to convert it into a flea market. While it was being repaired, someone spray-painted a sign on the marquee: “Now Playing: Gone With the Wind.”

13. Siskel and Ebert Were Pretty Disappointed.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert rated—and fought about—movies for At the Movies.ABC

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were so peeved at 1985's offerings that the duo assembled an entire show about the worst of the worst. Siskel called it “one of the dullest, most juvenile, most homogenized summer movie seasons in recent memory.” Among their targets: The Bride, with Sting and Jennifer Beals as the bride of Frankenstein; the spy satire The Man With One Red Shoe, starring Tom Hanks; and Return to Oz, which Ebert declared “so depressing ... it was some kind of torture for me to sit through it.”

14. A lot of notable actors made their film debuts that summer.

Moviegoers were introduced to a lot of unfamiliar faces in the summer of 1985. Ethan Hawke starred in the pummeled Explorers; Dolph Lundgren made a fleeting appearance as a henchman in A View to a Kill before his breakout role as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV later that year; and Christian Slater had a prominent part alongside Helen Slater (no relation) in The Legend of Billie Jean. Slater was just 15 years old at the time.

15. The Average Ticket Only Cost $3.55.

SrdjanPav/iStock via Getty Images

... leaving moviegoers with enough money to grab a New Coke at the concession stand. (Until it was discontinued on July 11th.)

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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Late MythBusters Star Grant Imahara Honored With New STEAM Foundation

Grant Imahara attends San Diego Comic-Con
Grant Imahara attends San Diego Comic-Con
Genevieve via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Fans of MythBusters and White Rabbit Project host Grant Imahara were saddened to hear of his passing due to a brain aneurysm in July 2020 at the age of 49. Imahara, a graduate of the University of Southern California, used the television medium to share his love of science and engineering. Now, his passion for education will continue via an educational foundation developed in his name.

The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation was announced Thursday, October 23, 2020 by family and friends on what would have been Imahara’s 50th birthday. The Foundation will provide mentorships, grants, and scholarships that will allow students from diverse backgrounds access to STEAM education, which places an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. (Formerly referred to as STEM, the “A” for art was added more recently.)

Imahara had a history of aiding students. While working at Industrial Light and Magic in the early 2000s, he mentored the robotics team at Richmond High School to prepare for the international FIRST Robotics Competition. Whether he was working on television or behind-the-scenes on movies like the Star Wars prequels and The Matrix sequels, Imahara always found time to promote and encourage young engineering talent.

The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation’s founding board members include Imahara’s mother, Carolyn Imahara, and close friends Don Bies, Anna Bies, Edward Chin, Fon H. Davis, Coya Elliott, and Ioanna Stergiades.

“There are many students, like my son Grant, who need the balance of the technical and the creative, and this is what STEAM is all about,” Carolyn Imahara said in a statement. “I’m so proud of my son’s career, but I’m equally proud of the work he did mentoring students. He would be thrilled that we plan to continue this, plus much more, through The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation.”

Imahara friend Wade Bick is also launching an effort in concert with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to name a study lounge after Imahara. Donations can be made here.

You can find out more about the foundation, and make a donation, on its website.