How strange was 1987? Forget Gary Hart, Tammy Bakker, Oliver North and Gorbymania. Just consider this: It was the year America's movie critics reached a consensus. They liked what they saw. Sort of.

The year "represented a complete recovery {from 1986}," wrote Jeff Simon of The Buffalo News. "Even the throwaway commercial junk was somehow more imaginative and clever ...

"It wasn't such a bad year for movies," agreed Marsha McCreadie of The (Phoenix) Arizona Republic.

"As years go, 1987 was no better or worse than any other," equivocated Ed Blank of The Pittsburgh Press.

For this survey, 100 newspaper and magazine film critics were polled and their votes tallied for "best" and "worst" films of the year. This sampling reflects an over-all geographical representation and includes only critics who supplied year-end lists or commentaries.

Despite the sheer quantity of films released in 1987 -- estimated at more than 500 -- a core group of 10-15 films recurred on list after list, from coast to coast and in-between.

Not a solitary "best" vote was cast for the overall audience favorite of the year, "Beverly Hills Cop II," which grossed $153.7 million. Indeed, not a single film in the box office Top Ten made the critical All-Ten. The consensus list was dominated by foreign films, U.S. films attributed to foreign-born directors, U.S. directors living abroad (Stanley Kubrick is a category unto himself) and independent filmmakers. Not one of the All-Ten Best titles was actually filmed in Hollywood.

The All-Ten Totals 1. "Broadcast News" (61 lists out of possible 100) 2. "Hope and Glory" (53) 3. "My Life as a Dog" (45) 4. "Full Metal Jacket" (44) 5. "Jean De Florette," "Radio Days" (each 38) 6. "Roxanne" (34) 7. "River's Edge" (31) 8. "Tin Men" (30) 9. "The Last Emperor" (29) 10. "Raising Arizona" (28)

At least 20 lists each: "Empire of the Sun" (26), "The Untouchables" (25), "The Dead" (22), "Platoon" (22), "Manon of the Spring" (22) and "Tampopo" (20).

As usual, the year-end wrap-ups revealed some trends and raging splits in the critical fraternity. A few observations:

Foreign films (with an especially praised contingent from Great Britain) continued to seduce the critics, even if they had to leave their own particular Podunk to see them.

"Many of the best films never made it to middle America," complained George Hatza of the Reading (Pa.) Eagle. Hatza's Top Ten included eight foreign entries, and ony two of his Ten Best actually played movie houses in Berks County, "a bad comment on how local chains limit our film consumption."

Joan Bunke of The Des Moines Register admitted she filled out her list with trips to New York and Chicago. "Your friendly neighborhood reviewer hasn't seen {director John Huston's adaptation of the James Joyce short story} 'The Dead,' " she added, sounding a rueful note, but "the preview trailer I saw in Chicago gives 'best' emanations."

Though Jim Emerson of The Register in Santa Ana, Calif., dared to list some esoteric titles among his 20 "best," he cautioned his readers: "If some of those titles don't look familiar to you, it's only because you live here."

Kerry Drake had to admit that certain highfalutin films, such as the one-man talkathon "Swimming to Cambodia," would just never show up in Cheyenne, Wyo., except in video format. Consequently his list, published in the Wyoming Tribute-Eagle, was one of the few to short-shrift foreign films and boast only made-in-the-U.S.A. movies.

Actually, the critics in "Boonieland," as Douglas Armstrong of The Milwaukee Journal referred to virtually everywhere outside of New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Chicago, have just as much trouble keeping up with some mainstream American movies.

The vagaries of distribution meant that many film critics did not get to see the Vietnam drama "Platoon," the Oscar-winning Best Picture of 1986, until 1987. Look for "Good Morning, Vietnam," which only a handful of critics managed to sneak onto their lists after early previews, to receive similar belated "best" attention next year.

Despite the dilemma of the provincial reviewer, there is little to suggest that big-city reviewers have developed tastes more sophisticated -- or even different -- than their regional counterparts'.

The two top vote-getters of 1987, "Hope and Glory" and "Broadcast News," received "best film" citations from critics' organizations in Los Angeles and New York City, respectively. But both films also received whopping support from "flyover country," while many an arty import, such as the offbeat Japanese "noodle Western" "Tampopo," graced lists from Memphis to San Jose.

Not that local reviewers shrink from paying due to a film if it comes naturally with the territory.

Nat Segaloff, summing up in the Boston Herald, was the only reviewer in the country to give a "best" nod to the documentary "What Happened to Kerouac?," about the beat era writer who happened to grow up in nearby Lowell, Mass. And Marsha McCreadie of The Arizona Republic might have overlooked "O.C. and Stiggs," if her attention was not drawn to the fact that the barely released youth comedy was filmed in scenic Phoenix. As it was, McCreadie went out of her way to slag Robert Altman's film as "dreadful" and to consign it to her "worst" heap.

Offer a film critic a sacred cow and you may discover that he (or she) prefers a horse. Who can figure? This year, on principle, film critics scorned a batch of movies starring babies, with the exception of a kidnaped infant by the name of Arizona. And they professed ardor for so many war movies that their lists sometimes read like "Rambo's best."

The only real brouhaha of the year was over the turnstile smash "Fatal Attraction", which managed to tot up 14 "best" votes against a sprinkling of scathing "worst" comments. "It was the year's most talked-about movie," Eleanor Ringel of the Atlanta Constitution decided, "and no one ... was quite sure why."

Past favorites such as directors Francis Coppola ("Gardens of Stone") and Michael Cimino ("The Sicilian") were on the outs with reviewers this year. Brian DePalma rated "best" and "worst" votes for "The Untouchables." The ineffable Woody Allen had two contenders, and found himself both in ("Radio Days") and out ("September").

Actors who might like to take a film critic out to dinner include Richard Dreyfuss (praised for both "Stakeout" and "Tin Men"), Jack Nicholson (for "The Witches of Eastwick", "Ironweed" and a cameo in "Broadcast News"), and Holly Hunter ("Broadcast News" and "Raising Arizona").

Mickey Rourke, who won kudos for "Barfly" but was kayoed for "Angel Heart," might spring for lunch. Sylvester Stallone ("Over the Top") will have to settle for pie in the face.

In lieu of any genuine controversy, critics were forced to manufacture one out of their own juices.

Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune singled out, as one of the bright spots of the year, the fact that "Robby Benson didn't make a film." People magazine offered an "honorable mention" laurel to Richard Gere "who for the first time in years didn't make a terrible movie, which is to say he didn't make any movie at all."

Certain scribes let off steam by gratuitously insulting certain other scribes -- quite the developing trend -- which, at the least, Robby Benson and Richard Gere ought to be happy about.

"Critic Rex Reed ... said he would quit if they made 'Police Academy 5,' " noted Desmond Ryan of The Philadelphia Inquirer. "{The filmmakers are} obliging and we all hope Rex is a man of his word."

"Movies like 'Ironweed' and 'Moonstruck,' " observed Douglas Armstrong in The Milwaukee Journal, "are only to be savored by and show up on the lists of critics this time who register at the {Time magazine critic} Richard Schickel mark or above on the snooty index."

"The reason we watch 'Siskel and Ebert,' " opined Jim Emerson of The Register, "isn't because they are particularly knowledgeable or articulate on the subject of movies, but simply because they hold jobs that put them on TV."

Among the joys of the annual "best" list ritual are the arcane, indulgent or downright puzzling choices, of which there is never any shortage.

The New York Times' Vincent Canby probably raised a few eyebrows by rapturously praising Les Blank's "Gap-Toothed Women" as a film "in which women discuss the slight space they have between their two upper front teeth, and how that space has affected their perceptions of life."

"A must for any student of human nature," Canby raved.

Duane Byrge of The Hollywood Reporter weighed in with "Surf Nazis Must Die" on his "best" list. "It wasn't about much of anything," Byrge granted. "It was refreshing to find a 'small film' that wasn't sensitive or thoughtful or way too long. Better yet, you don't have to worry about sitting next to people who sip cappuccino at this movie."

In that spirit we offer the following "odd fellows," movies chosen by one -- and only one -- film critic in the survey as one of the "best" of 1987:

"Making Mr. Right" (Susan Stark, The Detroit News); "Surrender" (Lou Cedrone, Baltimore Evening Sun); "Evil Dead 2" (Michael Healy, Los Angeles Daily News); "Benji the Hunted" (Michael H. Price, Fort Worth Star-Telegram); "Best Seller" (Tony Frazier, The Daily Oklahoman).

No critic swam more against the tide than F.X. Feeney of L.A. Weekly, who not only crowned the operatic epic "The Sicilian" the best movie of 1987, but pronounced Michael Cimino as "the greatest director living in America." "The Sicilian" received no other "best" votes, but not because the film escaped notice. Indeed, it was the surprise leader in "worst" votes.

Of course, "The Sicilian" did lose a couple of votes (not enough) because some critics regarded it as too easy a target, right up there with "Ishtar", the big-budget desert floppola starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman. But "The Sicilan" was also in the rare position of earning "worst" votes just by word-of-mouth.

"I never saw 'The Sicilian,' " Roxanne Mueller of the Cleveland Plain Dealer admitted, "but critics and readers alike heaped so much abuse upon it that I feel like I've seen it and hated it."

One critic's poison is another critic's caviar. For every, uh, dozen film critics who detested Robert Altman's "Beyond Therapy" enough to condemn it to the "worst" pile, there was a lone David Elliot of The San Diego Union to sing its praises as one of the year's "best." Film critics cherish their dissenting criteria when meting out "worst" punishment.

"With more new releases than ever," wrote Janet Maslin of The New York Times, "it takes a great barking dog of a film, an 'Angel Heart,' a 'Who's That Girl,' to stand out from the crowd ..."

"My list of the ten worst movies of 1987 is made up of films which made me question the wisdom of my job choice," wrote Joe Meyers of The Bridgeport (Conn.) Post.

Some of the more eminent reviewers eschew the low road and assign the "worst" to a junior critic for the wrap-up. They pretend to have erased the year's garbage from the memory bank. But others cannot forget, and besides, some take to the task with relish. Bad movies can be painful to watch, and skewering them in print allows a small measure of revenge.

All sequels with the numeral IV, anything starring Whoopi Goldberg or Arnold Schwarzenegger, and especially "Ishtar" -- these were objects of opprobrium. More than 200 different titles were cited as being among the year's "worst," and the critics vied with imaginative brickbats.

"Burt Reynolds said he made 'Heat' and 'Malone' to prove to the world he didn't have AIDS," sneered Jeff Simon of The Buffalo News. "Publishing his most recent blood test would have been much easier on us all."

Jeff Strickler of the Minneapolis Tribune singled out "Less Than Zero." "On a scale of one to ten," he reasoned, "it would get a less than zero."

The much-maligned "Million Dollar Mystery" was included on the "worst" list of Ted Mahar of the Portland Oregonian, among many other. "What can you expect of a film coproduced by a garbage bag company {Glad}?" asked Mahar.

Though competition among this year's turkeys was unusually intense -- Madonna went chica a mano with Bill Cosby -- the following All-Worst has been regrettably compiled:

The All-Ten Worst 1. "The Sicilian" 2. "Leonard Part 6," "Over the Top" (tied) 3. "Jaws the Revenge" 4. "Who's That Girl" 5. "Ishtar" 6. "Beyond Therapy," "Mannequin" (tied) 7. "Straight to Hell," "Million Dollar Mystery" (tied) 8. "Fatal Beauty" 9. "A Prayer for the Dying" 10. "Superman IV," "Spaceballs" (tied)

"It was the best of times and worst of times at the local Bijou," assessed Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

"It was not the best or worst of years, Mr. Dickens," countered Elliott of The San Diego Union.

In times of such confusing middle ground, it is comforting to turn to the wisdom of an old pro at this game, film critic Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice. This year marked his 30th of compiling a year-end "best" list.

Reflecting on that anniversary, Sarris had a disturbing insight. His first Ten Best list, published in 1958, managed to omit Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller "Vertigo." Thinking it over nowadays, Sarris said, he made a mistake. He likes "Vertigo" a lot. In fact, he would place "Vertigo" on his all-time Top Ten.

"I may very well have missed something in 1987 that will loom larger in the year 2017," Sarris summarized. "Perhaps it may loom as large as 'Vertigo.' "

Pat McGilligan, a senior editor of Playgirl magazine, lives in Milwaukee. Mark Rowland, an associate editor of Musician magazine, lives in Los Angeles. They have conducted this survey for the Los Angeles Times for the last seven years.