4 Competition Movies from the 80s (That Aren’t Winners in Retrospect)

By Jonathan Meisner


Taste is subjective.

It doesn’t matter if it’s food, entertainment or sexual preference; we are all our own arbiters of taste with what we find pleasing or appealing. Satisfying and enjoyable. Take movies for example. A film that you may have absolutely loved as a kid, a film you look back at with rose colored glasses and think, “Yeah man that movie was the shit!”

Was it? Is it still “the shit” all these years later viewed through adult eyes, or is it just “shit”?

Today on PopLurker, current me is going to look back at four movies that kid me thought were totally bitchin’. And together, we’ll see if they can stand the nostalgic test of time.


4) Rad


My friend Andrew and I were all about this movie when we were seven years old. I mean come on the movie’s name is Rad! With a name like that its gotta be totally awesome and righteous and tubular. Right, dude?


Eh, bear with me here.

Rad was a 1986 film shot up here in Canada, in the town of Cochrane, eleven miles west of Calgary. Uh huh huh huh, Cochrane, get it? We also have a town called Balzac.


Cochrane is a quaint and peaceful town in 2018, I can only imagine that it was probably damn near desolate in 1986. But the filmmakers came here anyway and somehow got Talia Shire to take a break from the Rocky films to star in this story of a BMX competition with the main character Cru being faced with a dilemma. Compete in the infamous HELLTRACK; I had to capitalize it because come on…Helltrack! Or take the SAT and go to college.

Rad 1.jpg

The decision is simple, SAT’s won’t give you the opportunity to win a hundred grand, a Corvette and all the tail you could ever dream of and while they’re both three letter words SAT does not equal RAD! So, Cru signs up to qualify but keeps getting cockblocked along the way when the president of the Federation of American Bicyclists and owner of Mongoose bicycles keeps changing the rules to get Cru to quit. But Cru is…RAD at least according to his t-shirt so take your rules and cram ‘em up your Mongoose! Cru enters Helltrack, triumphs in the end and forms his own team Rad Racing for all the plucky, young underdogs out there waiting to catch their break.

My clearest memory of this movie was Cru and his eventual love interest in the film played by Lori Loughlin from Full House dancing together at the high school dance to “Send Me an Angel”, but they dance on their bikes in slo-mo for that ultimate cheese factor.

Rad was released in the 80’s on VHS and Laserdisc only, but if you feel like dropping $20 you can find a DVD version on Amazon. It’s worth a watch at least once just to revel in its implied radness; I mean some of the bike tricks are cool, but in hindsight Rad is better summed up with another three-letter word, meh.


3) Ski School

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Being a Canadian, you may be thinking, “Hey Jonathan, you’re probably used to snow, aren’t you?!”

Sure, used to it. But, at the end of the day, well…no sir, I don’t like it. I never liked skiing either. It’s cold and boring. Not to mention cold and boring and hell, I’ll meet you at the bar at the lodge after you’ve finished having “fun”.

I do remember liking Ski School however which is about Section 8 a group of fun loving, devoted party animals according to the trailer doing all they can to keep their jobs, facing off against the button downed, square, lame-o yuppie snobs in a ski competition.

It’s easy to understand why I dug this movie at the time, I was a pre-teen and as a pre-teen especially a male pre-teen it doesn’t always take much to entertain us. The trailer looks like one of those Juicy Fruit commercials, but with promises of hilarity, hijinks, early 90’s neon and some gorgeous babes with one being the “secret weapon” ready to show off her sweet cans to get our heroes in Section 8 all hot and bothered in hopes they’ll blow the competition, among blowing other things.

Ski School 1.jpg

But honestly looking back at it now, Ski School is cliché and derivative. A carbon copy of better movies with a similar plot or story arc, a rowdy bunch of misfits versus the straight laced and milquetoast “establishment”, or the plucky underdog against the “man” like in Rocky or Animal House.

Ski School is an innocuous way to kill 90 minutes of your day and was enough of a success that it spawned a sequel a few years later but much like a cheap and convenient fast food burger, it may hit the spot, but it leaves you wanting more. Leave that burger on the menu and leave this movie on the slopes.

I’ll still be at the bar.


2) Better Off Dead

Better off Dead.jpg

I want my two dollars!

Better Off Dead starring John Cusack is worth more than a measly two dollars, Johnny!

What would you do if your girlfriend of six months dumped you for a better-looking dude on the ski team? Move on and find another girlfriend? That’s the rational approach. I mean certainly you wouldn’t try to off yourself unless that was some serious tail, but Cusack’s character of Lane tries to kill himself multiple times in half-hearted fashion resulting in comical failure, but then he meets a French foreign-exchange student named Monique in this rather bizarre story of…redemption?

Redemption, sure I can roll with that.

I’ve never been the biggest John Cusack fan; in fact I’ve honestly never watched any of his movies outside of this one which was again on cable all the time growing up. Here, we have a tale of a down on his luck skier but unlike Ski School the plot involved is better and above all else the film tries to do something different, in as weird beard and quirky a way as possible.

Better off Dead 1

There’s a lot to unpack in this movie. Aside from Lane’s repeated suicide attempts, there’s the character of his little brother Badger who appears to be a mute but can build lasers and is quite the ladies’ man at only eight years old, some Korean drag racers, his best friend Charles de Mar who crams various odd substances up his nose for kicks, just say no to nitrous oxide, kids. Then, last but certainly not least you’ve got Johnny who makes the movie with his constant and persistent demands of wanting his TWO DOLLARS, DAMNIT!!! Delivering papers ain’t no joke, if only Lane’s Dad would bite the bullet and pony up.

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I mentioned this was a story of redemption amidst the insanity and after John Cusack’s character meets Monique and she gives him the confidence he needs, he defeats the captain of the ski team Roy who took his previous girlfriend from him, then he and Monique live happily ever after, despite Lane losing his house after Badger obliterates it with his home-made space shuttle. Good thing Monique conveniently lives next door

I loved this movie in its time and I still love it today. Better Off Dead? Better off finding this movie and watching it for yourself.


1) Over the Top


Find me a bad Sylvester Stallone movie, I dare you!

Alright, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, you got me there, there are more humane ways to torture someone than to make them watch that dreck.

Over the Top could be considered a bad movie but I love it. I got it on DVD as a Christmas gift a few years ago and what’s not to love. This is a bad movie, but it’s so bad that it’s good and thus is so good in its badness that it comes around full circle and is completely awesome!

Stallone plays arm-wrestling truck driver Lincoln Hawk who is hoping to reconcile with his son. The kid is so fucking annoying though. Every time I’ve watched this movie whether it was thirty years ago or today, I’m compelled to grab him, shake the shit out of him and scream “Look who your Dad is, you little twerp!”

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But, you can’t fault the kid his Grandpa Robert Loggia is a complete dickwad, hiding the letters Hawk had been sending his son from the road all these years, enlisting him in military school, and doesn’t appreciate Hawk’s line of work being a greasy truck driver who arm wrestles on the side.

Annoying baby child aside, Over the Top is tremendous. It’s preposterous in many ways, but hell preposterous pretty much sums up the 80’s in a nutshell. The “A” story of Hawk reconnecting with his son is fine, but it’s the “B” story that we’re all here for, the arm wrestling.

I like to think of myself as a well balanced and at times refined individual, but I do enjoy dumb movies from time to time and I always grin from ear to ear when Sly slides his cap around backwards to get into his zone and slam another testosterone fueled meat sack known as an arm down onto the table.

Sure, I may have to suspend my disbelief a little when something as simple as repositioning his thumb gives him the leverage and advantage needed over a three hundred pound shaved down gorilla in the arm-wrestling arena, but what did these other arm wrestlers and I honestly expect? Sly may be the underdog and is outsized by all his opponents, but this is Rocky Balboa, damnit! This is John Rambo and he’s your worst nightmare, because he’s fighting for the love of his son, and…you know $100,000 and a swank new truck are also bitchin’ reasons to throw down too.

Now, excuse me while I go shotgun a six-pack and fistfight a bear in tribute.


Jonathan is saving the youth center through a ski, dance, basketball, boxing, or other 80s challenge on Twitter.

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