The definitive Sylvester Stallone performance, full of febrile promise and bull-collar bulk, is this 1978 story (concocted by screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, with nods to Jimmy Hoffa) of Hungarian immigrant Johnny Kovak (Stallone) whose fame as a union builder is compromised by his associations with the mafia. The elegant cinematography from Easy Rider's László Kovács and punchy direction from Norman Jewison are a bonus.
A pair of '70s cops, undercover, become miserably hooked on smack in this impressively unflinching '92 drama. Jason Patric and Jennifer Jason Leigh star, both grittily serving notice that they're prepared to sweat, shiver and sacrifice goody-goody mainstream careers. The despair's draining, but its influence was to prove widespread.
Bob Fosse surprised everyone in '74, showing there was more to his dark vision than nimble dance steps. He riffs permissively on Lenny Bruce's stand-up routines (which were never routine), and Dustin Hoffman's rarely been bolder. Somehow nominated for loads of Oscars while railing against the establishment's buffoonery.
Underrated 1989 adaptation of Jay McInerney's seminal NY nightlife novel, riddled with "Bolivian marching powder", period electro-pop and a brave (though criticised) performance from Michael J Fox as a broken-hearted magazine fact-checker who's burning the candle at three ends. Kiefer Sutherland's a bad influence. Dryly comic, painfully candid.
Detective Kyle Bodine (Ed Harris) meets the unhappily married-to-money Rachel Monro (Madeleine Stowe) and before you can say Body Heat he's dumping the hubby (Charles Dance) in a lake, and his own career along with it. Harris is dependable as ever but Stowe curiously inanimate, leaving China Moon with a central relationship that's about as steamy as a bowl of cold soup.
A Jerry Lee Lewis biopic from Jim (The Big Easy) McBride, starring an energetic Dennis Quaid as the piano-bashing, God-fearing rock'n'roller. He upsets the applecart (and middle America) by marrying the underage Myra (Winona Ryder), whose book provided the source material. Thus biased, it doesn't show the great balls it should, but Quaid amps it up.
Dennis Hopper-directed noir-by-numbers from 1990. Don Johnson's ambiguous stranger drifts into a sultry small town to run a con, and gets caught between lust for married Virginia Madsen and troubled teen Jennifer Connelly. Routine; but cherish this movie for the once-in-a-lifetime soundtrack Hopper persuaded Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker and Taj Mahal to jam.
Gary Oldman, miscast but blowing hard in Peter Medak's 1993 thriller, is a sleazy cop who takes bribes to spend on his wife (Annabella Sciorra) and mistress (Juliette Lewis). As if that wasn't enough girlie action, he lusts after hot hitwoman Lena Olin, but his dick leads him into a world of violent trouble. Wilfully sexist and almost camp, but hey, you can't say it's dull.
When Fed Debra Winger goes undercover in the rural Midwest to investigate a bunch of white supremacists, she makes the mistake of falling in love with vicious, family-loving klansman Tom Berenger. Director Costa-Gavras has made some coruscating political masterpieces, but this overwrought mess is close to idiocy. It defuses its own explosive subject matter. Worth seeing, though, for Berenger's committedly-crazed scenery-chewing.