Quintessential Eighties Movies
This is a page devoted to what I feel were the quintessential movies of the
eighties. These aren't necessarily my favorite movies, or even in some cases
movies that I've seen. These are the movies which I feel translate well,
not just in the eighties. The categories are fairly broad, with
the emphasis on the comedy and teen angst. Personally, I don't think there
are really any teen angst films in the nineties like there were in the
eighties. I've tried to trim movies which weren't as well known, as I want
this list to be somewhat compact, and because I consider these to be the best
films to recommend to people who haven't seen them. These aren't ranked in
order of importance either.
Better Off Dead
John Cusak is trying to cope with the loss of his girlfriend and trying to
sky the most difficult slope on the mountain. Chock full of different
characters, and very much an eighties film.
The Breakfast Club
Five teenagers serving detention together, learn a lot about how they've
very similar despite belonging to different cliques. Has more of a message
than Fast Times at Ridgemont High
which is why I picked it for this category.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Matthew Broderick skips school and all kinds of hijinks occur. This is one
of those rides which is really fun, a small lesson is learned for one of the
minor characters. Basically though, the situations that Ferris gets in and
out of are for the most part believable, and are certainly enjoyable.
Really a pre-teen movie, but lots of fun none-the-less. A group of misfits
fight to save their home by going after an elusive treasure. Lots of tense
situations for the characters to solve, good for children. It's as fresh
today as it was then.
Surviving popularity, and killing your friends go hand to hand in this one
featuring Wyonina Ryder and Christian Slater. Definitely displays the
clique-ness of the eighties in high school (which has always existed though)
and is a total flip in atmosphere from something like Ferris Bueller's Day Off
which is upbeat, this one is very dark.
The Karate Kid
A great film about the values of patience and learning. A great story about
a teenage trying to overcome the seemingly impossible to beat karate experts
which run rampant over him. A sense of optimism seems to prevail throughout
this movie and it's very uplifting to watch.
The Lost Boys
Teenage vampires, this one always gets bad reviews, but it still has a lot
of character growth in regards to peer pressure. This is a very dark
comedy, but it still works well, especially if you're not expecting a
typical horror flick or a typical teenager flick.
Pretty In Pink
Poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks falls in love with a rich boy
from the right side of the tracks and vice-versa.
John Cusak tries to woe the love of his life.
A John Hughes movie without parallel. Molly Ringwald is just trying to get
people to remember it's her birthday, while at the same time trying to get
the boy she idolizes to ask her out.
Stand By Me
A flashback movie to the fifties (which were in vogue during the eighties)
about 5 boys on the verge of manhood. A great movie from Stephen King which
is probably the rarest thing you'll ever hear.
Cold war paranoia compared with the whiz-bang appeal of personal computers.
A computer geek's must-see.
Leslie Nealson's big-screen breakthrough in this off the wall comedy.
This movie helped to bring the zany comedies that were popular in the
fifties into the eighties.
Hard to believe this is Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice, but it is. This
movie makes the world of death seem like a larger than life playground.
Michael Keaton's performance as the over the top Beetlejuice is what really
sells this one.
The Blues Brothers
One of the best movie adaptations of a Saturday Night Live sketch, and
definitely a cult classic. Some of the music sequences are a little too
over the top, but that's more the appeal of this movie than anything. The
car chase involving hundreds of police cars piling up, the car chase in a
A movie about golf and growing up for a caddy. The most memorably roles
of actors are those of Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Rodney Dangerfield.
The best for a non-actor goes to the golpher that Bill Murray chases
throughout the movie. The plot is fairly predictable, but if you ignore
that and watch for the big name actors, then it's worth watching.
A Christmas Story
The "It's a Wonderful Life" for the eighties generation. Another 50's
flashback film, this one dealing with Christmas and the Red Ryder bee-bee
gun. It's getting a little overplayed around Christmas now, but the trials
of the main character (little Ralphy) are very easy to identify with in
A huge box-office success with a great fish out of water story line. First
you have the big city reporter going to the outback of Australia and trying
to cope with the wilderness. Then you have Paul Hogan's character following
the reporter back to New York and trying to cope with many of the modern
conveniences he never experienced. Sometimes a little unbelievable, but a fun
Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd take on ghosts with science. The characters are
great fun, especially Bill Murray as the smooth fast talking charlatan.
Good Morning, Vietnam
Robin Williams at his zaniest as a radio announcer. There is great character growth
for his character in this one as he copes with being stationed in Vietnam and
dealing with some of the horrors of war.
9 to 5
Dolly Parton and Lilly Tomlin get mid-evil on their employer's buttocks and
learn how to take control of their own lives.
The Princess Bride
A great cult classic involving the mid-evil times with a lot of interesting
characters and memorable lines.
Revenge of the Nerds
The geeks get revenge on the jocks which control their lives.
A robot comes to life and experiences the wonder of learning while helping
a scientist learn more about love and life outside of the lab.
An excellent sci-fi spoof from Mel Brooks, anyone who has seen Star Wars,
Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, etc. will find themselves laughing at the
take on these classics.
One of John Candy's best roles as the guy who tries to cope with babysitting
and having to take on responsibility for the first time in his life.
Back to the Future
Michael J. Fox's best movie role ever, and definitely the best in the
series of movies. This exemplifies the action movie for the family position.
Beverly Hills Cop
Eddie Murphy is absolutely stunning in this movie, as he takes on the bad
guys and the Beverly Hills police force at the same time.
The remake of the classic horror film adapted to the eighties.
Helped to spawn several sequels of lesser quality, but this one had a great
feel to it. Sean Connery is lots of fun in this as well, has a somewhat
dark edge to it, and great atmosphere.
Mel Gibson is a wild out of control cop, Danny Glover is just trying to stay
alive long enough to retire. Together they kill and blow up tons of stuff.
Helped to spawn lots of lesser imitators, including it's own sequal (the
third one wasn't too bad, we'll see how bad the 4th one turns out next
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The first of three, definitely a break through work when it came out, and
helped to establish Harrison Ford as something other than Han Solo. The
opening sequence is probably one of the most memorable in a movie. I also
recommend the third movie in the series, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with
Sean Connery as his father, almost better than the first.
The Road Warrior
Mad Max, this is the one that started it all. Mel Gibson in the gritty
futuristic post-apocalyptic world coping with the death of his wife and
child. Doesn't feature Mel's voice, as the producers thought it wasn't
I picked this one because it exemplifies the buddy cop movie almost as
much as Lethal Weapon does. I almost
said 48 Hours instead, but I think Billy
Crystal is much more believable in his role, and it's a little bit grittier.
The clincher is definitely the car chase on the subway line with the cab
Arnold in this sci-fi action adventure is unforgettable. Is there any
question as to why "I'll be back" is a catch phrase that can't be forgotten?
"I feel the need, the need for speed." One of the best films the year it
came out, it features Tom Cruise in his best role of the eighties.
Another retro film about the fifties, and a film where the main character
grows up a lot during the course of the movie.
E.T. - The Extraterrestrial
A children's classic, timeless. See Drew Barrymore when she's still
A downtrodden dancer tries to make it to the big time.
A great horror story about what happens when people rush into things they
A Nightmare on Elm Street
One of the best horror series of the eighties, this one was highly original
for it's time, and even now doesn't look dated.
An Officer and a Gentleman
A great movie about the military.
Pink Floyd: The Wall
Tommy for the eighties.
A classic ghost story without a lot of unnecessary gore.
Prince's masterpiece, an excellent showcase for his music.
Dustin Hoffman's best movie role of the eighties, a great character learning
film for Tom Cruise's character as he learns to cope with an autistic brother
he never knew he had.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
The first eighties nostalgia film, ten years before the Wedding Singer.
The crew of the Enterprise come back in time to the eighties in order to
save a pair of whales to enable the future to survive.
A View To Kill
The James Bond film of the eighties with the highest charting theme song.
A perfect example of James Bond films of the eighties.