Are you still aggressively avoiding socializing right now? We knew you were a smart one! Snuggling up on the couch or curling up in bed to watch a classic 80s movie sounds about the right speed. The 1980s were an absolutely insane time for movies. For every great film, there were about a dozen flops. But, would the 80s be without the excesses of capitalism that brought us Howard Duck? You take the good with the bad and there are quite a few standouts from the decade that elevated the medium.
So, you know you’re in the mood for some big hair and high stakes, but you’re not sure which movie to pick. We can help with that! We’ve got a good mix of classics and even some underrated deep cuts to help you continue to social distance and hide from the pandemic. The 80s had an array of auteurs operating at the heights of the careers including Stanley Kubrick who released both The Shining and Full Metal Jacket in the same decade. Meanwhile, John Hughes was turning out classics all decade long with The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, two films that defined the 80s. It was one heck of a time to be alive for cinephiles. Here are 10 80s movies we think deserve a revisit.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Would you believe us if we told you that almost every major film school programs this movie for students to watch? Who Framed Roger Rabbit might be a fun-for-all-ages movie, but its technological advances were groundbreaking at the time.
The movie follows Detective Eddie Valiant, a toon-hating crime solver who ends up being a cartoon rabbit’s only hope to prove his innocence after being accused of murder. It’s a chaotic romp that you should really check out if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s rated PG and it’s a blast to watch with kids… if you’re into that.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is streaming on Disney+ or available to rent.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Aw… Baby Mandy Patinkin! Rob Reiner‘s endearing classic, The Princess Bride is as hilarious today as it was 30 years ago. The movie is structured as a children’s story being told to a sick boy by his grandfather who reads him the story of a farmboy-turned-pirate and his quest to be reunited with his one true love. It’s a complete blast that’s truly a timeless classic. This is another PG affair so be sure to invite the kids along for the ride if you’re not too tired of them yet.
The Princess Bride is streaming on Disney+ or available to rent.
The Color Purple (1985)
Alice Walker‘s masterpiece got the movie treatment from Steven Spielberg in 1985. While uneven, the film is unforgettable thanks to some of the best performances ever caught on camera. Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Margaret Avery are completely captivating in this classic. The film is set in the early 1900s and follows Celie, who, after suffering years of abuse struggles to find her identity. It’s heartbreaking and powerful.
The Color Purple is streaming on Hulu or available to rent.
The pitch-black comedy, Heathers was a complete and total theatrical failure that only benefitted from the advent of the VHS tape. Critics widely panned the film but that didn’t stop its growing cult following from spreading the gospel. Heathers became a cult classic because of its ironic, angsty, dry humor that permeates every single scene. The film follows Veronica (played brilliantly by Winona Ryder) who teams up with a troubled boy to take down the high school clique she’s a part of known as “the Heathers.”
If you haven’t made time for this one yet, no time’s better than the present. It’s nuts.
Heathers is streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu or available to rent.
The Fly (1986)
In the mood for something really gross? The Fly is a remake of a classic 1958 sci-fi film, but in this instance, the remake is more widely remembered than the original. Directed by the master of body-horror, David Cronenberg, The Fly is a truly gut-churning movie with insane makeup and practical effects. Jeff Goldblum will make you feel a certain way at the start of this one before it goes downhill, quickly. He plays an eccentric scientist who slowly transforms into a hybrid human/fly being after an experiment goes terribly wrong.
The film is remembered today as a cultural metaphor for the AIDS epidemic that ravaged the gay community in the 1980s. Fear about our bodies and disease (cancer) is the theme of the film, so… Although it was not intentional, the film definitely felt like a commentary to many critics at the time.
The Fly is streaming on Starz or available to rent. Bonus points for also checking out Cronenberg’s other 80s classic, Dead Ringers.
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Steel Magnolias (1989)
If the best cast movie of the 1980s was The Color Purple, Steel Magnolias comes in at a very close second place. This very funny and campy drama follows the lives of a tight-knit group of beauticians in a small Louisiana town. Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah, and Dolly Parton round out the cast and they do not disappoint! This deep-fried classic is one you enjoy more every time you see it.
Steel Magnolias is streaming on Showtime or available to rent.
9 to 5 (1980)
While we’re talking about the god who is Dolly Parton, we present for your consideration 9 to 5. Parton is joined by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin who play three employees of an egotistical bigot who decide to turn the tables on him. Come for the performances and stay for one of the best original songs in any movie ever. Ever! This movie is so enjoyable and its unapologetic feminist themes arrived right on time for many professional women in the 1980s.
9 to 5 is streaming on Starz or available to rent.
Paris, Texas (1984)
Here’s one you might have missed. Paris, Texas is one of the greatest movies ever made. The film is directed by Wim Wenders and written by the late (Pulitzer Prize-winning) playwright Sam Shepard. At its core, Paris, Texas is a character study and road movie that follows Travis (played expertly by Harry Dean Stanton) a vagabond who wanders out of the desert and reconnects with his 7-year-old son. The pair travel through the American Southwest in hopes of finding Travis’s missing wife. We can’t say enough good about this gorgeous movie! If you haven’t, please give this one a try. It will touch you all the way in the soul you forgot you had.
Paris, Texas is streaming on HBO Max or available to rent.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
One of Spike Lee‘s finest, Do the Right Thing is sumptuous and unconventional in all the right ways. The film takes place on the hottest day of the year on a street in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. As tensions boil, violence erupts and it’s clear that the heat has brought out the worst in everyone. The ensemble cast makes this movie truly unforgettable. There are so many excellent actors in this movie that you forgot were in this movie. Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Giancarlo Esposito, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Nunn, Frankie Faison, John Turturro, and Rosie Perez are all in this classic movie.
If you’re feeling hot this summer, Do the Right Thing and watch this movie.
Do the Right Thing is available to rent.
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The Goonies (1985)
The Goonies is the most Spielberg movie ever, even though it wasn’t directed by Spielberg. He brought you E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark (and two Indiana Jones sequels), and The Color Purple all in the same decade.
The Goonies is a hallmark of the 80s with just about every blockbuster movie trope slammed into one adventure film. Although he did not direct, Spielberg did write and executive produce this one. The Goonies tells the story of a group of misfit kids who discover an ancient map and decide to follow it to a long-lost treasure. It’s an absolutely stupid blast. The movie has some problematic elements, like many films of the day, and we urge you to think about if it’s appropriate to watch with children. If you’re revisiting this film as an adult for the first time, you’re not going to believe your parents let you watch this.
The Goonies is streaming on HBO Max or available to rent.
There you have it! 10 great 80s classic movies with a couple you probably haven’t thought about in a while thrown in. Enjoy an 80s binge and pair these movies with a Blue Hawaiin cocktail and some pop rocks. Actually, do not do that. Popcorn is fine.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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