Although filling this out was mostly just a fun diversion and a walk down memory lane ("Hey, look, A League of Their Own!"), it actually might be a good remedy if you're the type to despair at the state of movies these days. Every decade had at least one year that was an embarrassment of riches (2006 was by far the toughest year for me, although 2015 gave us Mad Max and Inside Out--and I didn't even end up choosing either of those); every decade also had at least one year that was richly embarrassing (I'm looking at you, 2002); and years that produced some of my favorite movies also produced some incredible stinkers (the glorious 2006 also gave us X3: The Last Stand, which is the only movie that's ever made me scream in rage at the movie theater screen). The 80s brought us some great movies. They also brought us Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
So, without further ado . . .
1983: Return of the Jedi. This is my favorite Star Wars movie. I make no apologies for this.
1984: Ghostbusters. And somehow, the fact that there was a remake has yet to ruin my life.
1985: Real Genius. But wow, this is a tough year. Back to the Future, Brazil, Breakfast Club--and that's just the B's!
1986: Labyrinth, absolutely no question. Labyrinth may very well be my favorite movie from any year of my life, or indeed any year at all. (Sorry, Aliens. I wish you'd come out another year.)
1987: The Princess Bride. Not the most original choice, but hey, there's a reason it's so popular.
1988: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, although I might change my mind if I rewatched Beetlejuice. (I've never seen Die Hard. I'm sorry.)
1989: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Another trilogy where I have a non-traditional love of the third movie. Sean Connery ensured that whenever I was in the mood for Indy, I was in the mood for this movie.
1990: Ghost, because I have a second X chromosome.
1991: Whoof. Like the Academy, I'm being forced to choose between the serious apples and oranges of Beauty and the Beast and The Silence of the Lambs. Unlike the Academy, I have to go Beauty and the Beast, but . . . whoof, I say.
1992: The Muppet Christmas Carol. I have watched this every Christmas for almost fifteen years, and I still haven't gotten tired of it.
1993: Nightmare Before Christmas, which is Labyrinth's chief competition for "Rachel's favorite movie ever." (I'm glad Nightmare came out this year to make my life easier, because Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Jurassic Park, AND Hocus Pocus? It's no 2006, but still . . .)
1994: Heavenly Creatures. I'm a sucker for a good story about toxic friendship and for well-done magic realism, so this movie feels like it was made just for me.
1995: Rob Roy. This was what kicked off my lifelong crush on Liam Neeson.
1996: Star Trek: First Contact. This was "my" Trek movie. I was too young for original Trek, and the other Next Gen movies ranged from "deeply mediocre" to "claw-your-eyes-out terrible." I didn't have to convince myself that I was enjoying First Contact the way I did for Generations and Insurrection, though. It was actually good.
1997: Princess Mononoke. I'm cheating and going with its Japanese release date rather than the American one, because it has less competition here than it does in 1999.
1998: Prince of Egypt. Because it's Prince of Egypt.
1999: I looked at the list and asked myself, "By Grabthar's hammer, why are you making me choose between Galaxy Quest and The Iron Giant?" Then I realized that I'd just answered my own question.
2000: Unbreakable. Say what you will about M. Night Shyamalan (and I've said a lot), this movie is frakking amazing.
2001: The Fellowship of the Ring. Before this movie, it was nigh impossible to imagine an epic fantasy where you didn't have to ignore the cheesy special effects. I can't describe the sheer awe and joy of watching this in the theater for the first time.
*whispers* But really The Room . . .
2002: This . . . was not a good year. Admittedly, I haven't seen Blade II in a while, so that might change things, but I'm probably going to have to go with Spirited Away (cheating and going with the American release even though I did the opposite for Princess Mononoke).
2003: Return of the King. Everything I said about Fellowship of the Ring to the nth power. (And, like 1993, I'm glad that there was a clear winner this year. Finding Nemo, Big Fish, AND X2: X-Men United? I would have picked any of those for 2002.)
2004: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. Yes, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came out this year and it's another great toxic relationship movie as well as being a heartbreaking work of staggering genius and possibly the best movie made in the past twenty years, buuuuuuut . . . The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.
2005: A History of Violence, not only because it's an amazing movie, but because it was an incredibly valuable lesson in storytelling.
2006: No . . .
Pan's Labyrinth. But this is cruel.
2007: Hot Fuzz. Or maybe I'll whisk myself to an alternate reality where The Fountain came out six weeks later so I can pick that.
2008: The Dark Knight. Again, not exactly unconventional, but hey.
2009: Coraline. Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick? Yes, please!
2010: I'm going to go with Toy Story 3, although I need to rewatch Inception.
2011: The Muppets. You can tell a movie is good when your child wants to watch it every single day and you don't get tired of it.
2012: This is another tough year, but I'm going with Queen of Versailles. This movie could have been three days long and I still would have been enthralled.
2013: As much as I liked Pacific Rim and Gravity, I'm going with The Conjuring. As a Catholic spec fic writer, I desperately want more media like this--something that wears its piety on its sleeve but not in a way that will alienate non-Christian viewers, and is a darned good movie to boot.
2014: X-Men: Days of Future Past. I've been a fan of Claremont-era X-Men for almost twenty years, and this is everything I possibly could have wanted from an X-Men movie. (Plus, unlike the first two, it wasn't competing with Unbreakable and Return of the King.)
2015: Guys, the weirdest thing keeps happening with this year. I'm trying to type the name of that movie with Joy and Sadness and Bing-Bong, but the only thing coming out of my keyboard is Crimson Peak and the occasional stream of hearts.
2016: Doctor Strange. There were other comic book movies in 2016 that gave it a run for its money (namely Civil War and Deadpool), but the visuals were so daggone good, and I was geeking out over the theological implications for weeks.
2017: I haven't seen any 2017 movies yet. I read The Girl With All the Gifts, though. Does that count?
That's 34 years. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go rewatch Pan's Labyrinth. Or The Fountain. I can't decide.
*whispers* But I'm really going to go rewatch The Room.