Feel free to cancel, delete, or block me because of this list of overrated 80’s movies. There will no doubt be at least someone who disagrees with one (or all) of my choices here.
These thoughts obviously come from my own perspectives, so I won’t need to repeat phrases such as “I think,” or “in my opinion…” etc. When making a list like this, I’ve also factored in conversations I’ve had with friends, family, and even strangers.
Again, this may speak to the sensibilities of people I surround myself with, but when we see consistent sentiments, this may translate to a bigger audience.
So, some you may wholeheartedly agree with, and other choices may make you think I’m an idiot–which is genuinely true.
So what makes for an overrated movie? We’re not talking about straight-up awful ones like Howard the Duck, or Mac n Me–that’s too easy. This is about super-successful movies that made a ton of money and helped to define the decade. But do they get more praise than they deserve?
An overrated movie, to me, is one that people feel like they have to like. They’re the movies that we include on “top 10” lists, but they’re not the ones we actually watch. They have all the appearances of an epic movie (action, special effects, big-name actors) but all of it doesn’t quite come together.
All of those elements may make for an impressive spectacle, but they don’t affect you in the way they should. Again, it may be more the hype of some of these movies that create their legacy, and not the movie itself. All the movies on the list are good–great, in fact. I just don’t see them as the pinnacle of 80s movies that some people make them out to be.
OK, let’s not delay this anymore and get to 6 of the most overrated movies of the 80s.
The Karate Kid
Well, we may as well start strong with an opinion that will divide many people. This may be a favorite of yours, but somewhere along the way, it got lumped in with Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, and the Star Wars movies as one of the best of the decade.
I don’t really think it is.
The Karate Kid is good. It has some iconic moments, lines, and imagery. I just think this formula has been done a lot better. At the time, yes, it held up, but there wasn’t as much to compare it to.
There are also the issues that Daniel is the real bully in the movie. Whether or not you agree with that, it can change the way you view it. The Karate Kid also gets lumped in as a sports film. I suppose it is, but again, I think there is a lot that did it better, such as Rocky, Field of Dreams, even Remember the Titans.
Many also say the ending to the movie is extremely rushed. I don’t want you to think I don’t like the Karate Kid, far from it in fact. I think it’s really good, I just don’t think it’s the greatest.
Since I’ve probably stirred up anger, why not keep it going?! As an action movie, Die Hard is great–but there are many other action movies out there. The fact that it’s set at Christmas was a way to differentiate it from the flood of other action movies we got in the 80s.
There’s the debate whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie (it is) and we get confirmation from writers Steven de Souza and Jeb Stuart that it is. Also, if you listen to the Stuff You Should Know Podcast, in their 2017 Christmas episode, the writers actually wrote in to hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant to tell them they crafted Die Hard as a Christmas movie.
One big reason is so they could get yearly residuals. And I think this reveals a lot. They took a standard action-movie formula but tied it into Christmas because it may have not held up on its own.
It’s also an overly typical theme of a good-guy American facing off against an evil German. I find the scenes with Sgt. Powell and John over the walkie-talkie to be so forced. The character development feels rushed, not to mention some of the unrealistic encounters and engagements.
Somewhere along the way, we all got convinced that Die Hard is the greatest action movie of all time. It’s still great, but I’d say some of the sequels polish things up a bit better.
Alan Rickman is amazing in it, though.
Tron is one of those movies I’ve always looked back on fondly, but when returning to it: it doesn’t hold up. I think that’s another factor that makes a movie overrated: it should hold up and fill you with that original thrill.
This isn’t about a movie being “dated.” Being dated involves the look, clothing, soundtrack, and overall appearance. But that’s what gives you that great nostalgia. When we talk about overrated, it’s about a film no longer capturing what you think it did.
Tron was a technological marvel when it came out in 1982. The special effects, of course, look dated by today’s standards, but they’re still decent. Tron isn’t on the level of Blade Runner, which has special effects and imagery that make it look like it was made less than 10 years ago.
Tron relied so heavily on special effects that the rest of the movie falls flat. It is very boring at times and seems more like a showcase for technological achievement than for classic storytelling.
Tron is still a good movie–just like all these other ones are. They’re very good, in fact. But I just don’t believe they deserve a spot on the highest tiers of epic 80’s movies.
Despite having some iconic imagery, when you look around at the general response to it, it doesn’t exactly shine through. Tron is a movie I’m less likely to go out of my way to watch.
Yes, the action in Top Gun is awesome, but it should be. This is a movie about the Air Force, so there’s no way it shouldn’t be amazing. It’s amazing to see these real-life planes and ships put on film.
One interesting fact was the Navy made their F-14’s available for the cost of $7800 an hour.
There’s also a funny story from when they were shooting on the aircraft carrier. The captain had sailed the ship into an area with bad lighting. To get the ship back on course so they could properly film cost the production another $25,000 on the spot for just 5 minutes of filming.
Despite all this, the movie was made for only $15 million and was based on a 1983 article called “Top Guns.” The fact this movie was based on a magazine article and not a deeper narrative may explain its lack of depth and hollowness.
Top Gun seems more like a recruitment video than true character development and storytelling. Maverick is simply a d-bag, and he doesn’t experience growth or progression as a character. It may have been more interesting to see him rise the ranks and develop his skills to become an elite fighter the way Luke Skywalker did.
Despite the impressive production, this movie may not hold up as you remember. If you haven’t seen it in a while, go back and watch it, and you may be left disappointed. The writing, dialogue, and acting are not great and it almost feels like the ultimate “bro” movie.
One interesting thing about Top Gun is it’s the movie that really ushered in the era of home video. I have an article all about this that you can read here.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
This is a pretty easy one. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is an all-time movie classic. It helped reintroduce the classic swashbuckling movie formula. But its follow-up is absolutely one of the most overrated 80s movies.
This is a movie that pushed the boundaries of what the PG rating was and is responsible for the creation of PG-13. The dark themes in this movie were because of the turmoil facing George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s personal lives.
I have no problem with violence, but the violence in the movie is excessive. This, again, was a reflection of the darkness going on in Spielberg’s and Lucas’ own lives.
It’s also way over the top. The middle part of the movie is a disaster, the acting is often terrible, and some of the lines in it are just eye-rolling. There are some great technical shots, and the mine cart/roller coaster scene is still extraordinary.
When stuffed between Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Last Crusade, The Temple of Doom just doesn’t hold up. It’s often discussed as an 80s classic, but when you go back to watch it, it doesn’t really deserve that title.
Thankfully, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade brought true glory back to the franchise with one of the greatest movies ever made. And the trilogy was made complete, never to be ruined again…
The Breakfast Club
It’s a movie that you feel like you have to say you like. If you’re making a top ten list and The Breakfast Club isn’t in there: what are you even doing? But for all the adulation this movie gets, it’s one that I don’t think I’ll ever re-watch again.
Does rewatchability have a lot to do with what makes for a classic 80s movie? Maybe, but for me, The Breakfast Club isn’t a movie that you’ll ever throw on in the same way you would with Back to the Future or The Empire Strikes Back.
The classic coming-of-age theme is definitely relevant, and we do get to see ourselves in at least one of the characters. I feel I’ve seen it enough times to get everything out of it.
Again, it feels like a movie you have to always reference if you truly say you love the 80s. The Breakfast Club is a great movie, but maybe it’s not as great as everyone claims. It’s often stated as the defining movie of the 1980s, and I wouldn’t classify it this way.
The coming of age, core message still rings true, but it always had that feeling of a made-for-TV movie. It speaks best to those who were that age when it came out and could instantly identify with the look and situations that kids in the 80s went through. But every generation goes through these same things.
This causes problems translating to different generations, and that’s another factor that can make a movie overrated. My nieces and nephews are in junior high/high school and they love things like Star Wars and Gremlins. The Breakfast Club does nothing for them because it speaks to a specific time, and not their time, and I think classic movies cross over multiple generations and eras.
Yes, the themes are still relevant, but it’s the presentation that holds it back a bit. Again, The Breakfast Club is still a really good movie, but I wouldn’t consider it the Citizen Kane of the 80s.
So that’s my list of some of the most overrated 80s movies. I definitely understand if you disagree with some of my choices, but I think the reasoning is pretty justified.
There are still movies here that I would watch, they just don’t come to mind as the best representation of the 1980s. With enough time, will these movies make a new impression? It’s hard to say, but with so many great offerings from the 1980s, I don’t think these choices stand at the forefront.