The 80s — what an iconic decade. We think about the neon lights, hairspray, neon colors, crazy fashion, drop dead gorgeous stars, fast paced music and, of course, the movies. Though many of us weren’t alive to witness these events going on, we can still appreciate the awesome, culturally defining movies that shaped our imaginations, especially the movies that we’ve only heard of, not necessarily seen. Here is a list of some of the most memorable movies of the era in absolutely no particular order. Bring on the nostalgia!
During the ‘80s, films crossed over a lot of different genres, such as comedy with action, comedy with drama, and drama with thriller.
TEEN/ COMING OF AGE:
“Fast Times at Ridgemont High”- This movie is just great. It’s all around funny, serious, and it will have you wishing that you were either a character or friends with one of them.
Any John Hughes movie. He understood that being a teen was both an exciting and scary time- straddling a fleeting adolescents and a sentencing adulthood. Nevertheless, the characters knew that they had a voice and through clever thoughts and actions, they managed to rise to the occasion.
“Stand By Me”- This adaptation of Stephen King’s novella is astounding. It shows how true friendship can change your future forever, even if it’s just a moment.
“Heathers”- This movie is not only dark and serious, but funny and relatable. From the fashion to the language, “Heathers” is a movie that you’ve got to watch.
“War Games”- Though underrated, it’s fantastic. You’ll be on the edge of your seat the entire time watching a young Matthew Broderick negotiate with the military.
“Back to the Future”- Nostalgia within nostalgia- I love it! It’s a feel good movie that you can watch repeatedly.
“Porky’s”- Speaking of nostalgia within nostalgia, if you are looking for a raunchy comedy- this is it! The characters just want to have fun before college.
“Valley Girl”- Another great, quirky movie released at the start of the ‘80s. It’s charming as it ping-pongs back and forth between parents growing up in the ‘60s and teenagers in the ‘80s. “Valley Girl” shows that when opposites do attract, it’s hard to pull them apart.
“Footloose”- Hey everybody- it’s time to dance! It will leave you impressed with Kevin Bacon’s charisma and dancing abilities as he meanders through a tiny Texas town looking for a good time.
“Risky Business”- This coming of age drama will leave you breathless. Tom Cruise plays a young man who finds himself at the end of the night. Think you can keep up with him? It’s risky business, after all. It’s gritty, it’s grainy, and it will leave you wondering what you’ve been doing this entire time.
COLLEGE/ YOUNG ADULT:
“St. Elmo’s Fire”- Thinking about life after college? Yup, so were the characters of this underrated movie. As you watch them navigate life after graduation, maybe you’ll find comfort in the fact that you’re not alone and you don’t necessarily have to have a plan, and that’s more than okay because sometimes life will find you.
“FlashDance”- The leg warmers! The hair! This movie will have you cheering until the very end for more crazy good music and incredible choreography. This movie shows that as long as you put your mind to it, anything is possible
“Ordinary People”- The ‘80s started off on a strong emotional note, taking viewers on a long winding road of survivor’s guilt, grief, heartbreak, and reconciliation. Long after this movie is over, this movie will stay with you.
“The Accused”- Jodi Foster garnered her first Academy Award win for her gripping performance in this movie as she fights against the justice system. It’s a fitting movie this day and age.
“Born on the Fourth of July”- Tom Cruise really showed depth as a man finding his place in the world. This movie garnered him an Academy Award nomination, proving that he is a diverse actor with serious talent.
“Scarface”- This larger than life remake shows how the American Dream is a lot harder and faster than expected and if you can’t keep up, you might as well as give up or go down swinging- or that’s what Tony Montana (Al Pacino) did. Either way, the movie is fantastic with the neon and the not so glamorous life.
“Rain Man”- The acting and the plot is stellar. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman hit it off as two brothers realizing with every twist and turn they need each other more than ever. It’s a tear-jerker but a movie you have to watch.
“Amadeus”- This movie is considered one of the best movies in American Cinema. “Amadeus” was called a gamble because of the fictional interpretation of Mozart in the time that MTV was emerging. Nevertheless, moviegoers loved it so much that it was infused into the culture of the time. This is a must.
“Raging Bull”- Harder! Harder! This dark movie is also considered one of the best movies in American Cinema. Martin Scorcese teams up with Robert DeNiro in this epic biopic about the downward spiral of an aspiring boxer. This tougher than nails, black and white film will leave you speechless.
“Children of a Lesser God”- A movie that doesn’t always come up when talking about the ‘80s. However the acting, the passion, the pain that each character goes through, and the struggles that the actors had interwoven in the story made it incredible. “Children of a Lesser God” is worth watching- it was Marley Matlin’s first ever film debut, and she won an Academy Award for it.
“Big”- Tom Hanks has the adventure of a lifetime as wishes to be, well, big! The movie is sweet and silly and there’s a great message at the end. Watch it and find out!
“Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” (or any Indiana Jones movie)- Speaking of adventures, Indiana Jones will certainly take you on one with the iconic theme. You’ll want to make it your own!
“A Fish Called Wanda”- This caper will make you scream- the acting, the fashion- just everything about it is fantastic. It’s tongue in cheek- you’ll definitely be laughing the entire time.
“Tootsie”- Another Dustin Hoffman movie to watch is “Tootsie”. This gender-bending comedy shows that if you have the talent and the moves, you can make any role iconic, as long as you can keep it a secret!
“Airplane”- This screwball comedy will have you laughing from start to finish. The dialogue, the plot, and the acting are all too good to pass up.
“Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” and “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”: These two movies are paired together because of 1.) how amazing they are and 2.) because you’ve got to finish what you started! George Lucas and John Williams sparked a longing for a galaxy, far, far, away. It really was ahead of its time.
“E.T.”- Speaking of sparking wonder, “E.T.” is a creative, wondrous experience that will bring out the kid in you.
“The Terminator”- This futuristic sci-fi thriller was state of the art with the action and plot. You will be back, especially with the special effects that were impressive in the ‘80s.
“Dune”- This epic sci-fi movie is spacious and will leave you thinking what will happen in the future. The story line is superb, as it keeps you guessing.
“Top Gun”- Do you feel the need for speed? Of course you do! The iconic rivalry in this movie is awesome. Not too long after, you’ll want to have aviator sun-glasses and your own high-intensity soundtrack.
These are just some rad movies, but there are so much more to check out. Have fun picking and choosing for your next movie night!