The 21 Best 80s Movies From The Viewpoint Of An 80s Kid

Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

I haven’t been able to sleep for days coming up with a list of the best 80s movies.

It’s been a huge responsibility taking on the task of narrowing down the 21 best 80s movies, but it’s not a role I take lightly. The tough thing is what is the right approach to take? I could list all the critically adored and technically great movies, but for a kid growing up in the 80s, these are not the ones that had the biggest impact on us.

As great as those classics like “On Golden Pond” or “The Color Purple” are, they aren’t exactly in the wheelhouse of a kid growing up in the 80s. We want to look at the movies we watched, currently still watch, and will continue to watch.

There are also some criteria to all this: obviously, my own bias influences the list as certain movies make an emotional connection and illicit a certain response for the individual and that shapes the things we hold most dear. But I’d say I have a good perspective on behalf of 80s kids to help make the call. To help narrow down the best 80s movies, I’m also looking at:

  • Cultural impact
  • Rewatchability
  • Box office success
  • What those around me at the time also liked

So let’s look back on what I truly believe is the golden era for movies with the 21 best 80s movies

The 21 Best 80s Movies

21. Crocodile Dundee

There was a time in the 80s where Australia seemed to impact North American culture. You had Midnight Oil, Men At Work, Duracell commercials, and Yahoo Serious. And as the Simpsons mentioned “somehow the Aussies thought this would be a permanent thing”.

And then you had Crocodile Dundee. This was a classic fish out of water story that launched Paul Hogan. Hogan had been a massive star in Australia for years but he was able to take over America going into the fall of 1986.

Crocodile Dundee tells the story of Mick Dundee who is being researched for a newspaper article by Linda Kozlowski. She heads to the outback to follow his way of life before bringing him back to New York. From there we basically get the story of Borat but with a different accent.

Crocodile Dundee was a MASSIVE hit bringing in over $328 million on a budget of only $8.8 million. Hogan actually raised the budget for the movie himself through tax concessions and contributions from other actors he worked with. It paid off and Hogan would become a breakout star. 

Fun Facts:

  • It is the highest-grossing Australian movie ever with Mad Max 2 following it at # 2
  • Hogan was convinced it was a hit and would make millions of dollars
  • It is based on the real-life Crocodile Dundee named Rod Ansell

20. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

A classic John Huges teen comedy, Ferris Bueller’s Day off tells the story of a high school kid who skips class for the day and ventures around Chicago. This is an interesting movie because it took the unique approach of breaking the fourth wall and having the main characters talk to the audience. We see this all the time now but this was a real novelty in 1986.

Ferris Bueller is played by Mattew Broderick and the movie is a real love-letter to the city of Chicago. Hughes wrote the entire movie in less than a week, but that was his style of creating screenplays as he would often write through the night until 4 or 5 in the morning.

The movie came out on June 11, 1986, and was a massive hit. Critics loved it, audiences loved it, and it would make over $70 million in the U.S. alone. This was on a budget of just $5.8 million.

Ferris Bueller’s Day off remains an iconic movie, with many culturally significant moments and memorable lines.

Fun Facts:

  • The construction worker dancing in the parade had no idea a movie was being filmed
  • Also considered for the role of Ferris: Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, and Michael J. Fox
  • Ben Stein’s lecture on the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was actually improvised

19. Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom

We’re going to see Harrison Ford a few times on this list so consider this a spoiler warning. Actually, if there’s one actor that defines the entire 80s it has to he Harrison Ford. It’s incredible to be able to star in not just one, but two of the best trilogies ever made.

His first entry on the list is in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Not only was this the much-anticipated sequel to the first Indiana Jones, it would actually change the course of movies forever – but we’ll get to that in a moment…

This movie is full of a lot of action and adventure and is of course directed by Steven Spielberg. It was co-written and produced by George Lucas and serves as a prequel as Lucas didn’t want Indiana Jones to be fighting the Nazis again – but he didn’t really stick to that…

The movie was a massive hit making over $333 million dollars and came out on May 23, 1984. It actually broke the record for the highest opening weekend at $45.7 million which converted for today is around $111 million which holds up even today. And remember, the movies of the 80s opened on way fewer screens than today.

So how did this movie change film history? Well, if you remember it, it is a hell of a dark movie. Both Spielberg and Lucas were going through breakups at the time and this anger and hostility were reflected in the movie. There is a lot of messed up stuff in it and the movie only had a PG rating. Parents taking their unsuspecting kids were in for a rude awakening and everyone went nuts.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is responsible for the creation of the PG-13 rating which would help bridge the gap between PG and R. If you want to learn more about this whole interesting story check out my blog all about it here.

Fun Facts:

  • It had the record for highest-selling videotape of all time
  • It got a rare perfect 4-star rating from Roger Ebert
  • 80% of the film is actually shot on sound stages in England 

18. Stand By Me

Stand By Me is the ultimate coming of age movie and had a profound effect on kids like me watching it in the 80s. It’s another one of the best 80s movies made by Rob Reiner and is named after the iconic Ben E. King song.

This is the story of four boys growing up in Oregon in 1959. The simple synopsis of the movie is that they go on a hike in order to see a dead body. As simple as that premise is, it’s the journey – not the destination – that is the important part of the trip as we see the growth of the characters. 

Consider this Lord of the Rings but with the vomit scene.

Many forget, but this movie is based on the Stephen King book, The Body which came out in 1982. It stars some great young actors including Will Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell.

Stand By Me came out on August 8, 1986, and was a big hit. But here’s the thing: It only had a limited release and still made a lot of money. When Stand By Me had its full opening it only was shown on 745 theatres. Even at its peak – when it was received as a hit film – it was only shown on 848 screens. It still ended up making over $52 million ($121 million today) on a budget of just $8 million.

Fun Facts:

  • Rob Reiner says that Stand By Me is his personal favorite of all his films
  • The actors auditioning for Stranger Things were asked to read lines from Stand By Me
  • The four main actors spent two weeks together before filming which helped to build their chemistry

17. The Breakfast Club

Another coming of age/teen-based comedy that shows up as one of the best 80s movies. This time, we’re back with Jon Hughes and another simple premise and film that has lasted well beyond its years and has become a definitive part of the decade.

The Breakfast Club is as simple as it gets – but goes so much deeper. Five high-school kids, from varying levels of popularity and cliques, have to spend a Saturday at school in detention. That’s it. That’s the whole premise, but it’s a movie that has connected with so many people over the years.

I believe this is because The Breakfast Club has a character that everyone can relate to and identify themselves with. It also shows that despite their differences, the characters have much more in common than they realize.

This is because, at its core, the movie is also about the struggle of teenagers. They are often misunderstood by parents, teachers, and even themselves. Every kid can relate to this and it’s what makes the movie hold up to multiple generations.

Since this was a simple concept, it also was simple to make and cost only $1 million. The majority of the movie was a single set and shot in one room. This was John Hughes’s directorial debut and there was concern if he even had the ability to pull it off.

 The movie came out on February 15, 1985, and was obviously a hit. It was not only a critical hit but held up well considering it came out the same weekend as Beverly Hills Cop. It would end up taking in over $52 million and considering how low its budget was, was also a financial success.

Fun Facts:

  • The Breakfast Club is preserved in the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress
  • Emilio Estevez (EMILLLLIOOOOOO) auditioned for the role of Bender
  • Rick Moranis was originally cast as the janitor which would have been amazing

16. Blade Runner

Holy crap, Blade Runner is so good. Seriously, the more time goes by, the more you realize how amazing this movie is. It’s hard to sum it all up in a short section on the top 80s movies but Ima try.

Harrison Ford again appears in another iconic 80s movie, this time directed by the great Ridley Scott. Blade Runner is a story set in the future – specifically Los Angeles in 2019 (it’s always crazy when movies don’t go that far into the future and we end up living at the same time – I’m looking at you Back to the Future 2…).

In this dystopian future, synthetic humans – known as replicants – are being created by the sinister Tyrell Corporation to be sent to work on other planets. A group of replicants rebels and becomes fugitives and make it back to earth. It’s up to a haggard cop named Rick Deckard (Ford) to try and hunt them down.

If you’ve seen Blade Runner on Blu-Ray, you know that it looks like it was just filmed today. The movie came out in 1982 and it’s just crazy to see how ahead of its time it was. There is also the issue of the different versions as there is a theatrical release, a director’s cut, a domestic cut, an international cut, and “The Final Cut.” I recommend that first directors cut that came out in 1992.

Like many great movies, Blade Runner did NOT do well in theatres and took a while before it was fully appreciated.

It’s not really a “popcorn movie” that you can turn your brain off to and is served better by watching it multiple times. It polarized critics and barely broke even at the box office on a very high-for-the-time budget of $30 million. But whatever, see this movie and also see the vastly underappreciated Blade Runner 2049 which is mind-blowingly good.

Fun Facts:

  • The movie takes influences from things like Frankenstein and even Noah’s Flood
  • Dustin Hoffman almost played the role of Deckard. Also considered: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, and Jack Nicholson
  • Harrison Ford states that Blade Runner is not one of his favorite films

15. Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Harrison Ford just keeps rolling here on the list of the best 80s movies – but he’s not done yet! Here we have the movie that kicked off the whole Indiana Jones Franchise in 1981. If you think that within just a few years Ford had made two Star Wars movies, Blade Runner, and this, it’s crazy to think that he had time to sleep.

Indiana Jone and the Raiders of the Lost Ark introduces us to handsome archeologist Indiana Jones. Jones is trying to recover an ancient golden idol while trying to thwart the Nazis. He is taken to Egypt where the pursuit is on for the Lost Ark which is the biblical Ark of the Covenant. The ark turns out to be real and a lot of people die but the movie finishes with the iconic wooden crate/warehouse scene. 

Raiders of the Lost Ark was George Lucas wanting to return to classic TV serials of the 30s and 40s but brought to a modern audience. It worked well, and the casting of Ford made Indiana Jones a perfect new franchise. It came out on June 12, 1981, and was a gigantic hit.

It was the top-grossing film of 1981 pulling in $390 million which is over $1 billion today – which puts it in as one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. It was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and cemented Harrison Ford as the perfect action/movie star. An amazing thing was that Indiana Jones was rejected by every major studio in Hollywood. It had a pretty big budget of $20 million that no one wanted to touch – even after the success of Star Wars. 

If you haven’t watched Raiders of the Lost Ark in a while, check it out again as its a movie that will always be entertaining. 

Fun Facts:

  • The canyon where Indiana threatens to blow up the Ark was the same location where R2-D2 was attacked by the Jawas in Star Wars
  • The Atari Raiders of the Lost Ark game was the very first video game based on a movie
  • The movie ended up winning 4 Academy Awards

14. Beverly Hills Cop

Definitely not for every kid growing up in the 80s, but Beverly Hills Cop was an iconic film and a breakout feature for Eddie Murphy. The movie is about Axel Foley (Murphy) who is a cop from Detroit that comes to Beverly Hills after his friend is murdered there. He had been prevented from coming but fakes going on vacation to help solve his friend’s murder. 

Eddie Murphy was already well known after coming in to save Saturday Night Live, but Beverly Hills Cop made him a worldwide star. This was the perfect vehicle for him to star in as it combined action and comedy, and he could let it rip like in his stand up specials; Delirious and Raw.

As I said, this was not for kids – but that was part of the massive appeal of it. It was impossible to ignore the impact that Beverly Hills Cop made and it ended up being the number one grossing movie of 1984. Made on a budget of $13 million, it would end up pulling in $316 million or nearly $800 million converted for today.

It also featured the iconic theme song; “Axel F” which is probably in your head right now. Despite being a massive financial success, many forget that Beverly Hills Cops was also a critical hit. It was actually nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. 

Fun Facts:

  • The role of Axel was first offered to Mickey Rourke
  • 30% of the budget went towards Murphy’s salary
  • Beverly Hills Cop stayed at #1 for an amazing 13 straight weeks

13. Honey, I Shrunk The Kids

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids

A kid’s fantasy come true, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids was a massive hit for Disney during a time when their live-action films weren’t anything to write home about. The special effects don’t hold up today, but the spirit of the movie does.

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids is the story of an inventor who creates a shrinking ray that accidentally shrinks down his and the neighbor’s kids. They all accidentally get thrown out in the trash and have to sojourn their way through their backyard to get home. Along the way, they encounter many life-threatening creatures, objects, and situations.

The terrifying situations were what gave Disney some hesitation with this movie as it was written by a guy named Stuart Gordon who had a history in horror movies. Disney needed this to be a family-friendly movie but there was some concern about the implications that some of the characters might die. 

They were also worried about the creatures – especially ‘Antie’ – looking too intense for children. Either way, we now know that the movie was a great action-adventure and became a bit of a surprise hit for Disney. It opened to a very good $14 million when it came out on June 23, 1989. This put it up against Batman, and it was still able to finish #2 at the box office.

Its success might have been because Batman was selling out left and right and people still wanted to see a movie, but it did catch on and became a favorite of kids. It would end up making $222 million worldwide – doing much better than they had anticipated.

Fun Facts:

  • The neighbour “Russ” Thompson was played by Matt Frewer aka Max Headroom
  • The movie went through various names such as “Teenie Weenies”, “Grounded”, and “The Backyard”.
  • The title is grammatically incorrect and should be: “Honey, I Shrank The Kids”.

Check out my full article all about Honey, I Shrunk The Kids here.

12. Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade

This is not the last we’ll see Harrison Ford on the list of the best 80s movies, but it is the last time we see him as Indiana Jones – well until the atrocity that was the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. To me – and many others – the Last Crusade is everything that makes Indiana Jones – and movies – great.

It’s the classic story of the search for the Holy Grail and we get to meet Indiana’s father played by the legendary Sean Connery. This movie has everything; action, adventure, comedy, exotic locations, Nazis, and a biblical story that has always been compelling.

The movie moves at a breakneck speed and to me is the best of the trilogy. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out on May 24, 1989, and of course, was a massive hit. This was the first Indiana Jones to have the PG-13 rating, but the gore and violence were actually toned down making it more accessible: This was all about the adventure.

It made a massive $474 million at the box office (nearly $1 billion today) and made everyone happy especially Spielberg as this was his way to apologize to George Lucas for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. 

Fun Facts:

  • Oddly, no toys or kids merchandise was made to promote the film
  • It broke the record for the most money made over 7 days
  • 5000 actual rats were bred for the catacombs scene

11. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

“Marvel’s Avengers is the most ambitious crossover in film history”

Who Framed Roger Rabbit: “Hold my animated beer…”

A movie like Who Framed Roger Rabbit could only happen in the 80s and would be absolutely impossible today. This is the ultimate crossover of movie studios, characters, intellectual properties, and trademarks. It’s astounding to think all these famous characters would all share the same screen, but they do – and it’s an amazing movie.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was made by Robert Zemeckis and is the story of Roger Rabbit and his wife Jessica, who is being investigated by Eddie Valiant, a private eye who is seeing if Jessica is cheating on her husband with Marvin Acme who owns the Acme corporation and Toon Town – where everyone lives. 

Marvin is found dead and it’s suspected that Roger did it. We find out that Maroon was killed by the evil Judge Doom (The amazing Christopher Lloyd) as he is planning to destroy Toon Town with his melting creation, “Dip”. Eddie battles Judge Doom (who is actually a toon) kills him via dip, and everyone lives happily ever after.

This movie is actually based on a book called “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?” a mystery novel from 1981. The book is set in the modern-day and the movie goes back to the glory of Old Hollywood.

This movie was obviously a massive undertaking from a technical aspect as well as a legal one. Disney had been playing around with test footage as early as 1981 but it didn’t come together until Michael Eisner pledged that it would take $50 million to do this right. 

It was a massive risk, but one that paid off and it came out on June 22, 1988, and was a commercial and critical hit. It made $329 million and won 3 Academy Awards. We could go on forever about this great movie but check out my full length blog that covers everything!

Fun Facts:

  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit sparked a renewed interest in hand-drawn, traditional animation and led the way for modern classics like “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin”, and “The Lion King”.
  • Spielberg was the one to convince all the different studios to lend their characters
  • The voice of Roger was Charles Fleischer who was the “Thumb 100 bucks” guy from Back to the Future 2

10. Back To The Future 2

How’s that for a nice segway? It pains me to put one of my favorite movies ever farther down on this list, but I only do so as it’s not entirely an original movie but a continuation from the first. I have to acknowledge some other standalone movies on this list, but don’t get me wrong – Back to the Future 2 is amazing.

There was so much anticipation for this movie as it had been nearly four years since the original came out. The thing that makes this movie awesome is that it picks up right where the first one left off. Back to the Future 2 serves as a sequel and in some ways a prequel. It goes back into the original movie and really sets the stage for what fun a time travel movie can be – you just have to look past the new Jennifer and George…

Back to the Future 2 came out in November 1989 bringing it just under the wire for the decade. It’s also interesting as it’s one of the first times ever that the next movie would come out just a few months later. This was because Back to the Future 2 and 3 were filmed at the same time. Back to the Future 2 was also very innovative with technology with new advancements from Industrial Light and Magic along with Digital compositing.

It would end up making $332 million worldwide and was the third highest-grossing movie of the year. Pretty good for a movie that had never been planned.

Robert Zemeckis had no intention of a sequel after the original, (the ‘To be Continued’ at the end of the first film never appeared during its theatrical run and would only be added to video) and would only then do it if Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd signed back on.

Fun Facts:

  • People were duped into thinking Hoverboards were real due to a prank played by Zemeckis
  • It was groundbreaking for showing a trailer at the end of it for Back to the Future 3
  • It took two years to finish the set of Hill Valley in 2015

9. Return Of The Jedi

Funny to think how this was seen as being the end of the Star Wars saga and it seemingly ending on a high note. They maybe should have just stuck with that.

Return of the Jedi was originally going to be called “Revenge of the Jedi” but the name was changed at the last minute as it was thought that a Jedi does not take revenge. In this conclusion to the epic trilogy, we see Luke Skywalker evolved into a more powerful Jedi and having to come to grips with his *spoiler* father being Darth Vadar and an Emperor who wants to destroy him

Return of the Jedi was always my favorites of the originals as it seemed the most action focussed. The success of the first two had allowed for an exemplary budget and the technology was advancing enough to make the space battles that much more epic.

Even though the movie still looks modern and advanced, it’s crazy to think it came out way back in 1983. It opened on May 25, six years to the day that the original came out. It was the definition of a monster hit and would take in $475 million worldwide ($1.2 billion today).

There’s so much that can be said about the impact of Return of the Jedi, but for a kid growing up in the 80s, movies didn’t get much better than this.

Fun Facts:

  • George Lucas financed the movie himself which is never done in Hollywood. It did give him all the rights to merchandising which was some amazing foresight. For every dollar that Star Wars movies have made, they’ve made $2 in merchandise
  • The original plan was to kill off Han Solo early on in the movie
  • The Ewoks on the forest moon of Endor were originally going to all be Wookies

8. Batman

The movie that changed the way comic book movies were made and created a new and darker tone that would be embraced for decades. The story of a Batman movie goes back as far as the 70s in regard to the intent to make it.

The problem was, no one really wanted anything to do with comic books. Superman was seen as a one-off hit as the sequels were derided and Hollywood didn’t think there was any money in comic book movies. How times have changed.

Add this to the fact that most people’s impressions of Batman are the campy Adam West version from the 60s. But the vision of Tim Burton would help change the entire direction of this genre forever. He envisioned that Batman was more about the story of Bruce Wayne and created a more intense and darker tone to it.

The look of the movie, the violence, the setting of Gotham City, the music, and having heavyweight actor Jack Nicholson as the role of the Joker created the perfect storm of a movie. There were some big trepidations about having comic actor Michael Keaton play the role of the Caped Crusader which met with some serious backlash. Check out my article all about the great Michael Keaton backlash of 1988 here.

But everything about this movie was monumental – and audiences loved it. This was one of the few times I remember that people had to wait weeks to see it as every theatre was sold out.  Batman helped redefine what a blockbuster movie was and is seen as responsible for the importance of opening weekend box office totals. 

It broke the opening weekend record and finished with $411 million worldwide ($850 million today). Batman sold upwards of 60 million movie tickets and if you were to match that with the average movie ticket price today, it would put it in the top 5 Marvel movies moneywise. 

Fun Facts:

  • Keaton improvised the line “I’m Batman” which was originally intended to be “I am the night” when asked, “Who are you?”
  • The movie producers, and even Batman creator Bob Kane all thought Keaton was the wrong choice for the movie at first
  • Also up for the role of Batman? Robert Redford, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman, and I’m not making this up; Bruce Jenner

7. Gremlins

Gremlins may be the movie that defined the 1980s and definitely deserves a place on the list of the best 80s movies. This movie was mesmerizing to a kid growing up in the decade. It was part horror movie, part comedy, and also, technically a Christmas movie (read about why that is here)

Gizmo was cute and the Gremlins were terrifying. It has the memorable blender scene and also featured 80s dream girl Phoebe Cates. The idea itself came about from writer Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter etc) who when living in a loft in New York, would always hear mice running by his bed. He imagined what this would be like if the mice were actually little creatures – and Gremlins was born.

The fact Gremlins ever got made was basically pure luck as he had shopped it around to 50 different producers, who all passed on it. It somehow made it to the desk of Steven Spielberg’s secretary and she happened to have left it out on an angle, so when Spielberg walked by he noticed it and thought the name sounded interesting. 

Gremlins came out on June 8, 1984, the same weekend as Ghostbusters but was a huge hit making $153 million on a budget of $11 million. 

Fun Facts:

  • The scene where Gizmo pops out of the basket actually startled the dog
  • Gizmo was voiced by Howie Mandell
  • Jonathan Banks aka Mike from Breaking Bad plays one of the cops

6. Flight Of The Navigator

Another pure fantasy movie that was the perfect escapism for a kid growing up in the 80s. Flight of the Navigator is science-fiction, space, and a bit of time travel all thrown together. It’s the story of a kid named David who gets hijacked by a flying saucer and turns up in a hospital but it’s 8 years later. Everything and everyone has aged except him. 

At the same time, NASA has captured this spaceship who is now communicating with David. They meet up as David tries to get his way back to his original time.

Flight of the Navigator is associated as a Disney movie, but they really didn’t have anything to do with it. It was produced by a Norwegian company that ended up going bankrupt. Disney would eventually takeover it but weren’t head over heels about it. This was the time when live-action movies weren’t their bread and butter.

But they took a chance and kids and families loved it when it came out on August 1, 1986. But it wasn’t a huge moneymaker. Of all the films on this list of best 80s movies, it made the least. But it would find a huge audience on home video with kids watching it over and over – myself included.

Fun Facts:

  • The voice of MAX is indeed Paul Reubens who is credited as Pall Wall as they thought his real name would detract from the movie
  • This is some of the earliest use of CGI in a movie
  • The synth-based soundtrack dates it a bit but was created by Back to the Future’s Alan Silvestri. 

Check out my full blog all about Flight of the Navigator!

5. The Goonies

There is no kid who grew up in the 80s who was not influenced by Goonies. It is often the very favorite movie of kids who grew up in this decade. What makes Goonies so great is that at its core, it’s just a treasure hunt.

Another Chris Columbus movie, this is based on the comic called “The Goon Children” and is the perfect Spielberg movie of youth-based adventure. The Goonies came out on June 7, 1985, and made $124 million worldwide. It has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

I think what also makes the Goonies so great is that you can pick up on the energy of the young actors in it. It was one of those movies that you wished you could be a part of and fantasized about it being a real story. 

Fun Facts:

  • The reaction to seeing One-Eyed Willy’s pirate ship was all genuine as the actors were seeing it for the first time
  • Sean Astin improved the whole story of One-Eyed Willy
  • Sloth wears a Superman shirt – an ode to Goonies director Richard Donner who also directed Superman

4. The Empire Strikes Back

The best Star Wars movie ever, and you can fight me on that. What makes the Empire Strikes Back so great is that it took a step away from the usual continuation of a successful movie. Instead of just rehashing Star Wars, it took the trilogy in a whole new, and darker direction.

The idea is that a play is usually made up of three acts and in the second act, everything often goes to hell. And this is often the best act of the whole play. Whereas Star Wars is kind of corny and the lines can be eye-rolling, this was Star Wars all grown up. It felt more intense and we realized these characters are not just one dimensional. It fleshes out more of Luke’s past and it has the greatest reveal in movie history.

The technology also rapidly advanced and the movie was a technical masterpiece. The Empire Strikes Back came out all the way back in 1980 on May 17. The movie rocked people to their core and would be a definitive part of 80s movie culture. It made an astounding $547 million ($1.6 billion today) and is one of the greatest movies ever made. 

Fun Facts:

  • The original script had Vader telling Luke that Obi-Wan had killed his father to not let the cat out of the bag
  • Also, it’s “No, I am your father”, not “Luke, I am your father.”
  • Jim Henson was originally chosen to play Yoda

3. The Shining

Though it’s not number on my list of best 80s movies, it may be my favorite ever. The brilliant Stanley Kubrick masterpiece is his version of the classic Stephen King novel. It’s the story of Jack Torrence, his son Danny, and wife Wendy, and the main character of the movie: The Overlook hotel.

Like Blade Runner, The Shining wasn’t appreciated in its time. Mainly because it takes a few viewings to let this movie really ingrain itself into you. And then there are all the interpretations: is it about the faking of the moon landing? The genocide of the Native Americans? Something more?

The true intent of this movie will probably never be understood but at its core, it’s about the battle between good and evil that happens within the mind of everyone. There are also the stories of the making of the movie which are as famous as the film itself. 

And then there’s the fact that Stephen King hated it – read my blog to learn all about why!

The Shining is one of the most memorable, disturbing, culturally significant, and iconic movies ever made

2. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

I would have had the Shining at number 2, but I think E.T. is more symbolic of a true 80s movie that is accessible to everyone including kids. It’s another one of those films that you immediately think of as representing the decade. 

One of the most heart-warming movies ever, the story of E.T. is also the story of separation and divorce that affected Stephen Spielberg. E.T. represented that things were going to be ok and this struck a chord with many people. 

E.T. was the blockbuster’s blockbuster and when it came out on June 11, 1982, it took the world by storm. It redefined what a movie could be and made an eye-watering $800 million on a budget of just $10 million. That’s $2.1 billion today. This broke the record that Star Wars set and E.T would stay number one for an amazing 11 years until it was surpassed by Jurassic Park.

 E.T. is such a significant part of movies and popular culture and is definitely one of the greatest films of all time. Until the E.T. Atari video game came out… read all about that here

Fun Facts:

  • Most of the movie is shot from the eye level of a child to help better connect with Elliot and E.T.
  • E.T. is considered to be over 10 million years old
  • Harrison Ford was actually in the movie but his scene got cut out

1.The Garbage Pail Kids Movie

Sorry, that wasn’t meant to go there. But check out my article on why this was one of the worst movies ever made.

1.Back To The Future

21 best back to the future references

If you’ve spent any time around this blog you know that this was going to be #1 on my list of best 80s movies. I don’t even need to go over any of the plot because if you don’t know it, then this isn’t the blog for you.

Back to the Future is the perfect movie. It’s time travel, science-fiction, action, comedy, adventure, and ultimately, fun as hell. It made use of one of the most popular young actors at the time and is such a unique and original idea. It’s the movie that always comes to mind when I want to put something on and many share this same sentiment.

It perfectly captures the 1980s and is an absolutely timeless movie. It gave us the coolest car ever put on screen along with an iconic soundtrack and musical score. The movie goes really deep too and every time you watch it, you notice new things. I think this is the hallmark of any classic movie and I guarantee there are things you’ve never caught in it: check out the 21 best Back to the Future references you probably missed. 

Back to the Future came out on July 3, 1985, made nearly $400 million and was the #1 movie of the year. To me, it’s one of the best movies of all time, the pinnacle of the 1980s and #1 of on my list of best 80s movies.