The 1980s was a very interesting time in America, and it was certainly interesting in the pop culture arena as well.
With so many changes happening in the domestic scene and in the international scene as well, it's no wonder that the pop culture products of that time also reflected the issues and concerns of that specific era. Even if many of these films tried to "hide" their versions of realities in comedic or sci-fi stuff, it's not such a surprise to see that, upon closer reading, there will be bigger reveals in these plots than meets the eye.
But of course, not everything '80s is that serious. In fact, there was also a lot of hanky-panky, a lot of goofing off, and a lot of slacking as well. The films also tried to represent those qualities as well. Thus, you have a lot of interesting comedies depicting characters that you may find or encounter in real life. In fact, you can actually find yourself depicted in such films as well!
No matter what kind of issues or concerns these films show us, they nevertheless turned out to be timeless and classic. That's why it's really so fun to watch them, over and over, again and again, as that '80s song also said.
Test your cinematic skills for the '80s, OK? Go go go!
“The Breakfast Club” is a very definitive 1980s film for sure, perhaps John Hughes’ signature work as a writer-director. These personalities were played very well by Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall and ‘80s film teen princess Molly Ringwald.
Robert Zemeckis hit the ‘80s goldmine with the "Back to the Future" film trilogy, as he toyed around with the idea of a teen in the ‘80s traveling back to the ‘50s when his parents were still teens. The very first one introduced to us the teen character of Marty McFly and his weird scientist of a best friend, Doc.
The unforgettable images and storylines of the 1984 sci-fi comedy classic ”Ghostbusters” still holds water today, especially the images of Slimer the ghost and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The unforgettable cast members include Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson as the Ghostbusting foursome, assisted by Annie Potts, and supported by Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver.
“E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” is perhaps Steven Spielberg’s huge sci-fi contribution to ‘80s films, because it humanized the concept of the “alien invader” and tailored it for children. The alien’s cute antics showed what an intergalactic friendship could look like if it met a typically curious American teen boy of the ‘80s.
Rumor has it that a sequel to the 1986 hit film “Top Gun” was being shot somewhere in a military base during the third quarter of 2018. But until we see the final output, we can be happier with re-watching Tom Cruise hit it off with Kelly McGillis in this Tony Scott-directed flick.
Who knew that the 1988 hit action movie “Die Hard” would produce many sequels, such as 1990s “Die Hard 2,” 1995’s “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard,” and 2013’s “A Good Day to Die Hard.” That’s a lotta Bruce Willis in there, headlining all of them!
"Raiders of the Lost Ark” wanted to show the concept of the heroic adventurer, but one that doesn’t come out unscathed or “un-dirty,” since that’s really how adventures ought to be. So we see Harrison Ford with dirt and scars while traipsing through jungles and stuff in this 1981 action-adventure comedy flick under the direction of Steven Spielberg.
The 1984 sci-fi action flick “The Terminator” was somewhat the perfect role for Arnold Schwarzenegger, since it played up on his robotic stance and that piercing look. That’s why the sequel tried to humanize this Terminator robot more, and we see that again even in the 2015 sequel.
James Cameron hit a goldmine with the “Aliens” film of 1986, as it showed the world that women can also headline this kind of film. It’s sci-fi, partly horror, and mostly action-packed, and Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley character was immortalized forever in this film.
John Hughes wrote a lot of teen movie gems during the ‘80s, and “Pretty in Pink” is one of them. It actually became a cult classic, even years after its showing, as the film solidified the concept of the Brat Pack of that era.
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is yet another John Hughes hit which he not only wrote and directed but also produced. The 1986 film immortalized a young Matthew Broderick in the role of Ferris Bueller, the guy who could charm his way out of many situations.
The 1980 horror film “The Shining” is actually based on a Stephen King novel, and it curiously features a writer as its protagonist. Jack Nicholson was unforgettable in his main role here as that “tortured” writer, with Shelley Duvall also delivering a superb performance as his co-star.
“Blade Runner” has an interesting evolution as a film, wherein the 1982 original cut featured Harrison Ford’s character doing a voice-over of the film. A director’s cut was released back in 1992 which featured no voice over at all, changing the cinematic landscape of the film’s narrative. A 2007 version was released on DVD, featuring director Ridley Scott’s full artistic version.
The 1980s rediscovered the dance film genre in many nations, and America’s contribution to that was “Dirty Dancing.” The 1987 film showcased Patrick Swayze’s other talents besides acting, since he was actually a trained dancer and even a choreographer.
People looking a film that’s actually anti-war in its sentiments should watch the 1986 film “Platoon.” Director-writer Oliver Stone channeled his own experiences as a soldier to forge the realistic characters in this award-winning film. It won Best Picture at the Oscars.
The 1984 film “The Karate Kid” championed the teen underdog storyline by empowering the bullied teen. However, there’s also a caveat shown here, that fighting is never really the option, but it doesn’t hurt to know karate once in a while.
The 1983 sequel to the sequel of “Star Wars” was simply known as “Return of the Jedi” before all of these fandom thingies exploded when the prequel trilogy was shown. Now, fans refer to them in numerical order, attaching Episode VI to this title.
If “Back to the Future” utilized a car as a time-traveling machine, then “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” reinvented the purpose of the phone booth as well. In this historically funny film, the phone booth is the time machine that the characters used to visit different eras in history -- and snatch important historical people with them, to “present” in their history class report.
Johnny Depp made his film debut as one of the teens who got sucked into “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in 1984. He’s the one “absorbed” by the bed while listening to headphones as he slept -- and met Freddy Krueger along the way.
“Risky Business” made Tom Cruise a huge star when it was released in 1983. The packaging was just right for him, since it showcased his teenybopper charm and his serious acting chops as well.
“First Blood” was the 1982 action film about another disenfranchised Vietnam War veteran, a character that was very familiar in the American TV and film landscape of that decade. This was where the cinematic world gets to first meet John Rambo.
We now know “Friday The 13th” as that film where the killer Jason wears a hockey goalie mask. But that mask didn’t actually appear in the 1980 original film, as it was introduced only in the third sequel of the film, shown in 1982.
The 1984 film “Gremlins” was a huge hit when it came out, as it featured this small, lovable-looking furry creature which multiplies when it gets wet! But it turns into a horror flick of sorts when the other cute gremlins turn into deadly creatures when they get transformed.
“Chariots of Fire” is actually kind of a biopic since it tells the stories of two athletes who competed in the 1924 Olympics. The 1981 film featured the story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams
The 1987 film “RoboCop” can actually be counted now as a cyberpunk film, wherein the concept of the “punk” is the rebel or radical set to change society, and the cyber part pertains to the combination of futuristic technology with human efforts. Cyberpunk is actually a sub-genre of sci-fi now, but this film by director Paul Verhoeven was just originally classified as a sci-fi action film before.
In the pre-digital age of filmmaking, it was a huge feat for Hollywood to produce something like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” back in 1988. The combined live action and animated scenes were nonetheless innovative, thanks to the vision of director Robert Zemeckis.
“Coming to America” was a huge 1988 success, starring funnyman Eddie Murphy, and former talk show host Arsenio Hall co-starred here. The funny film revolved around the concept of a prince escaping the arranged marriage situation he has in his African nation, and decides to find love through more traditional means.
“The Princess Bride” is actually a romance novel published in 1973, written by William Goldman. He also wrote the script for its 1987 film version, which was directed by Rob Reiner.
“Tootsie” played up on the gender-bender storyline to show some drama and laughs, and successfully, since it garnered a lot of nominations at the Oscars. The 1982 film was directed by Sydney Pollack, and co-star Jessica Lange actually won an Oscar here for Best Supporting Actress.
Did you know that the director of “Desperately Seeking Susan” also directed the pilot episode of “Sex and the City?” That director is Susan Seidelman, who directed Rosanna Arquette and Madonna in this 1985 comedy film.
The name Axel Foley became popular in the ‘80s because of the film called “Beverly Hills Cop.” Eddie Murphy portrayed him in this 1984 film, wherein he played a cop who visits posh Beverly Hills to investigate a murder.
Carpe diem! “Dead Poets Society” became a very quotable film when it came out in 1989, mainly due to the poetic verses they were discussing in the film. Aside from the catchy “Seize the day” quote, one other favorite amongst audiences is the “O Captain! My Captain!” end scene.
Martin Scorsese can also direct sports-oriented films, but this one focused more on the drama of boxer Jake LaMotta’s life. The film is called “Raging Bull” and was released in 1980, the story of which was based on the famed boxer’s published memoir.
The 1989 classic rom-com “When Harry Met Sally” shows two persons constantly bumping into each other, and these chance encounters happen in New York. The famous “fake orgasm in a restaurant” scene was from the mind of the brilliant writer, Nora Ephron.
Robert De Niro played Al Capone to Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness in Brian De Palma’s 1987 film called “The Untouchables.” This Prohibition Era-set film has an award-winning musical score by the legendary Ennio Morricone.