Can You Pass a 1980s Trivia Quiz?


By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: NASA

About This Quiz

From Madonna to Saddam Hussein to the Iran-Contra Affair to “Family Ties," the 1980s were a wild and crazy time in America and the world at large. The Internet was still to come, leaving TV and newspapers as a primary source of information. And absolutely no one had ever heard of Bluetooth. Do you think you have, like, the gnarly skills to beat our ‘80s quiz?

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger lifted into the skies over America ... and then exploded into countless pieces, all on live television. The cataclysm scarred schoolchildren watching in classrooms across the country and marked a major turning point in the ‘80s — but it was just one of many impactful events. Can you name any of the other sad or euphoric events of the decade?

A crazed gunman tried to kill an American president in 1981 … and failed. But on the other side of the planet, Indira Ghandi was murdered by her own bodyguards, and her assassination had huge political ramifications all over the region. Can you name other weighty political events of the ‘80s?

The ‘80s are often noted for their crazy fads. From the Rubik’s Cube to Swatch Watches, and hair metal to the emergence of industrial rock and grunge, no one could escape '80s culture. Bright-colored clothing and big hair dominated all over America. Let’s find out if you know all of the big ‘80s trends.

Grab your hair spray and parachute pants and dive into our fun ‘80s quiz. We’ll find out if you’re totally radical, or if you’re just a dweeb who needs to get real!

Who was elected U.S. president in 1980?

In November 1980, former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan was elected as president. He won a second term and served until 1989.


Which popular teen-oriented cable TV channel launched in 1981?

In 1981, MTV started its run. The first music video it ever played? "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles.


In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to do what?

In 1983, NASA’s Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, and the third in history, behind two Russian women (1963 and 1982).


Which Sony product transformed music culture in 1980?

Sony launched the Walkman cassette player in 1980. Suddenly, music was more mobile than it had ever been before.


"Reaganomics" referred to what?

Right after taking office, President Reagan began a series of new economic changes that became known as "Reaganomics." For instance, he lowered taxes in hopes of sparking more growth.


What did ocean explorers finally locate in 1985?

In 1985, after decades of fruitless searches, the doomed ocean liner Titanic was finally found at the bottom of the North Atlantic. Many of its artifacts have been harvested for museum exhibits but the ship itself remains in its watery resting place.


Which menu item did McDonald’s unveil in 1983?

In 1983, McDonald’s launched Chicken McNuggets, which almost certainly contains chicken of some sort.


Which "Star Wars" movie was popular in 1980?

On the heels of the original "Star Wars," 1980’s "The Empire Strikes Back" took the galaxy by storm, adding immensely to the "Star Wars" craze.


In 1989, the Tiananmen Square protests caused major tumult in which nation?

In 1989, young people in China marched for democracy, resulting in a confrontation at Tianenmen Square. Troops ultimately fired on protesters, massacring an unknown number of unarmed people.


Which music artist released an album titled "Thriller" in 1982?

In 1982, Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" sparked a musical uprising unlike anything since the Beatles. It is still the best-selling album in world history, with upward of 60 million copies sold.


In 1983, President Reagan directed the phrase "evil empire" at which country?

In 1983, as part of the Cold War, Reagan called the USSR the "evil empire." As you can imagine, the Soviets were none too happy about this characterization.


Hollywood director John Hughes released a hugely successful film in 1984. Which movie was it?

In 1984, Hughes found his fame increasing exponentially thanks to his film "Sixteen Candles," starring Molly Ringwald.


What sort of disaster occurred near Pripyat, Ukraine in 1986?

In April 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine malfunctioned, spewing radiation all over the area. The town of Pripyat is still abandoned due to radioactivity.


How did President Reagan approach the so-called War on Drugs?

During his time in office, Reagan drastically escalated the War on Drugs. His policies still reverberate in communites all over North America.


Which disease made headlines all over the world in the ‘80s?

In the 1980s, HIV and AIDS became recognized as a terrible health threat all around the globe. More than 40 million people have died from AIDS since doctors first noted it as an epidemic.


Which famous computer program was released for the first time in 1983?

In 1983, Microsoft Word was released for the first time. And to this day, no one understand how to control bullets and indents.


In 1987, what did President Reagan challenge Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to do?

Reagan continued ramping up his rhetoric during the Cold War. In 1987, he told Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!" He was referring to, of course, the Berlin Wall.


What ill-fated product did Coca-Cola introduce in 1985?

With Pepsi grabbing huge shares of the soda market, Coca-Cola revamped its formula with New Coke, one of the most lambasted product moves in history. Coke Classic was back in the blink of a eye.


Which gaming console was incredibly popular starting in 1983?

The Nintendo Entertainment System hit the market in 1983. It helped to spread the joys of Super Mario Brothers across the planet for an entire generation.


In 1982, Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands, igniting a war with which country?

Argentina saw the Falklands (which lie just off of the country’s coast) as its territory, which is why it tried to seize the islands from Britain. The British immediately retaliated and repelled the Argentinians in a 10-week war.


What was the highest-grossing film of 1980?

No other film could match the power of Luke Skywalker’s light saber. "The Empire Strikes Back" was 1980’s number one film. To date, it has earned around $540 million.


Which country suffered an unimaginable (and well-publicized) famine in the mid-80s?

Poor political leadership in Ethiopia sparked a major famine. Hundreds of thousands of people died, particularly in the hard-struck northern areas of the country. Heart-wrenching TV commercials cried out for donations from the Western world.


What was the name of an insanely popular toy of the ‘80s?

In the early ‘80s, plush toys called Cabbage Patch Kids sent Americans into a consumeristic feeding frenzy. All across the land, people came to blows trying to grab scarce dolls.


True or false, did the Cold War end in the 1980s?

The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 ... but the Cold War was still on. It finally ended with the collapse of the USSR in 1991.


What was a hallmark of the Iran-Iraq War of the ‘80s?

The brutal Iran-Iraq War lasted for eight years, and during that time, Iraqi forces reportedly killed many Iranian troops (as well as Iraqi civilians) with chemical weapons.


Which environmental problem was recognized by scientists in the ‘80s?

Even back in the ‘80s, the scientific community realized that global warming was going to be a problem. It’s an environmental issue that now makes daily headlines around the world.


True or false, was the first Atari gaming console released in the ‘80s?

The legendary Atari console was not an ‘80s product. It was actually introduced in 1977.


Which country fought a brutal (and futile) war in Afghanistan in the ‘80s?

From ‘79 to ‘89, the USSR sought to subdue the Afghans in a futile war. Ultimately, the Soviets pulled out without having really accomplished much.


In 1981, a labor strike in which industry had a major impact on which industry?

Air traffic controllers walked out on the job in 1981, snarling airline traffic all over the place. President Reagan responded by firing all of them and then banning them from federal work for life, although many workers worked around the ban with appeals.


In the ‘80s, Betamax fought with ____ in the consumer camcorder market.

In the ‘80s, consumer camcorders were a brand-new technology, one with competing formats called Betamax and VHS. VHS ultimately won out before the end of the decade.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!