How Well Do You Remember the '80s?

Mariana Sabino

Image: Spiderstock / filo / E+ / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

About This Quiz

There's no doubt about it. The 1980s was an exciting time. It wasn't just the hair that was big; the entire decade was large-scale, bold, and glitzy. This wasn't a time for understatement. Many people lived like there was no tomorrow, figuring the "world is so bright, I gotta wear shades." Still, not all was well. As a not-from-the-'80s author put it, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." This was a sentiment that encapsulated the '80s well for presenting a  mixture of optimism and upheaval. 

When you look back at the '80s, what do you recall? Big bangs, leg warmers and cell phones the size of a Buick? Sure, there was all that. But there was also plenty more.  We've devised a quiz that will take you back in time, planting you right where Marty McFly first got into that DeLorean.  That way, when you get "back to the future," you'll be partying like it's 1999 (wait, wrong decade!), showing off your know-how of '80s trivia.  So what are you waiting for? Start the quiz and find out just how well you remember all those tidbits from the time! Seriously, this kind of knowledge is rad! C'mon, righteous dude (or dudette), take the plunge!


Which extraterrestrial feel-good character became a sensation for movie-goers?

Directed by Steven Spielberg, "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" became iconic, staying in theaters for nearly a year! Spielberg's touching rendition of a boy grappling with his parents' divorce while taking care of a homesick alien warmed the hearts of children and adults alike.

Which hairstyle was a mainstay among punks?

This rebel-rousing hairstyle was initially associated with the British punk-rock movement, but quickly gained adherents in America. Remember Billy Idol? He sported it along with his signature snarl and leather.

What did Microsoft introduce?

The IBM Windows operating system arrived on the market in the mid-'80s. Windows 1 had a graphical user interface and included a mouse. A couple of years later, improvements were made, and the control panel was also introduced.

"Holiday" was sung by?

This catchy, throaty tune became the first hit song from Madonna's debut album. It helped to establish her reputation as a performer you could count on for a good time on the dance floor. Surprisingly enough, the song almost didn't make it into the album.

What was the anti-drug slogan of the time?

Introduced by Ronald Reagan's wife, Nancy, "Just Say No" was the slogan of the "War on Drugs" campaign. The slogan became synonymous with the movement to curb drug use. Heard in schools across American and on television, it urged children to just say the word "no" when offered a drug.

Which iconic wall was torn down?

As the physical and ideological barrier between East and West, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall symbolized the reconciliation of a divided Germany, as well as a new chance for democracy in Eastern-bloc countries.

What happened to Jonh Lennon at The Dakota?

John Lennon was fatally shot outside the Dakota Apartments, his home in New York City at the time. This is the same legendary building where rumors of mysterious hauntings took place. Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" was filmed there.

Which iconic soap opera about two feuding families was recently remade into a series?

Featuring Joan Collins and Linda Evans, this glitzy soap opera about two wealthy familes with little scruples and plenty of passion, sparked the imagination of television viewers. Even those who weren't known to watch the genre became familiar with its over-the-top melodrama and wicked humor.

Which South American country challenged British control over the Falkland Islands?

The conflict over the Falkland Islands sparked a war between Argentina and Britain. Known as the "Iron Lady," Margaret Thatcher, who was then Britain's prime minister, sent warships to the Falkland territory, regaining control over the island in a short amount of time.

Which celebrity launched a workout video that spawned a fitness craze?

"Feel the burn" became buzz words for Jane Fonda's straightforward workout videos. With Fonda leading the exercise routine, the videos encouraged regular women to exercise at home. Based on her best-selling workout book, it featured Fonda with leg warmers and all the trappings of '80s style.

Which label caused a stir with its underwear ad featuring a male model?

The billboard that appeared in Times Square featuring Olympic pole vaulter Tom Hintnaus is known for stopping traffic. The athlete/model appeared in nothing else but his underwear in a sexy pose that called to mind a classic Greek statue. Featuring a tanned and super fit Hintnaus, the ad was a pioneer in depicting males in an overtly sexy light.

Who was the first American woman in space?

Astrophysicist Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space. As an astronaut inside the Challenger space shuttle, she went on a second trip, becoming a role model for women who dreamed of becoming an astronaut.

Which Michael Jackson album became a worldwide sensation?

This best-selling album put Micheal Jackson on the map as a solo artist, forging his image in the '80s as a phenomenal performer with his Moondance and bad-boy style. Hits like "Billy Jean" and "Beat It" became a must on the dance floor, and was constantly played on MTV.

Which real-life defense plan became known by the title of a popular film series?

Ronald Reagan's defensive strategy, formally known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, was dubbed the "Star Wars Initiative." Reagan's initiative proposed defending the United States against a possible strike by an "evil empire," drawing a parallel between the movie and the political environment of the time.

Which successful computer did Steve Jobs introduce?

With its mouse, 9-inch screen and user-friendly graphical interface, the first commercial personal computer was born. It immediately gained a following, revolutionizing the computer market, which would never be the same afterward.

Which pioneering situation comedy show featured a black family?

As a widely popular situation comedy, "The Cosby Show" featuring Bill Cosby revived the genre and had stellar ratings. With its focus on the daily life of a middle-class black family, it became a precursor to other comedies such as "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "Family Matters."

Which song did Madonna perform during the first MTV Awards?

As one of her most memorable performances, Madonna emerged from a wedding cake to coo "Like A Virgin" as she rolled on the floor, showing a mixture of naughtiness and coy innocence for which she became known during the decade. Tame by current standards, the performance was considered super racy at the time.

Which benefit album featured the likes of Cindy Lauper, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen?

Many renowned yet disparate musicians came together to raise money for victims of the African famine. Known as the "We Are the World" benefit album, it featured everyone from Bob Dylan to Diana Ross. The album's title song, "We Are The World," is credited to Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.

Which hole in the atmosphere was all over the news?

First announced in 1985, the hole in the ozone layer observed in Antarctica became a major environmental concern. It was regularly discussed in the news, and quickly became a hot topic as people sought ways to lessen the damage.

Which sneakers that were named after a basketball player did Nike introduce?

Apparently Nike courted Michael Jordan for some time before he agreed to be the face of Air Jordan 1. Jordan had a preference for a Converse-like design, so Nike had to tailor its shoes to truly represent the basketball player's tastes.

Which space shuttle exploded?

The same shuttle that launched Sally Ride's first exploration of space, the Challenger shuttle exploded in its 10th flight, just seconds after liftoff. In the aftermath of the tragedy, it took a while for NASA to resume its space mission program.

Which volcano erupted?

An earthquake sparked a landslide that then provoked the eruption of the Mount St. Helens volcano. Wreaking havoc across various states, the eruption led to one environmental disaster after another. Talk about earthshaking...

Which classic video game featuring a hungry yellow character was all the rage?

Pac-Man was a non-violent arcade game that would have a wide reach. This Japanese video game featured Pac-Man, a yellow pie-like creature that ate dots around a maze. The challenge was to avoid being eaten by the ghosts that kept popping up. It was a hit!

Which news channel was established?

As the first 24-hour cable news channel, Ted Turner's CNN entered the network scene at the beginning of the decade. At the time, major networks only devoted a certain amount of time to covering the news. CNN changed all that.

Which film featured two renowned actresses and a famous female country singer?

Starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin, "9 to 5" struck a chord with American women and became a hit. Featuring sparkling performances by the trio, the movie was about female empowerment. Nearly 30 years after its original release, plans for a sequel have been confirmed.

An American embassy was attacked in which country?

In the early '80s, the American embassy in Beirut was bombed. Shortly after, there was another attack on military barracks that killed American Marines and French paratroopers. These attacks prompted the pullout of American and international troops from the country.

Which type of phone made its debut?

Motorola introduced the first commercial cellphone in the early '80s. It was as bulky as it was expensive, though, and meant for business-minded people. It took more than a decade for the cellphone to truly become commercial and mainstream.

Which computer mogul left his own company?

Pushed out of the company he founded, Steve Jobs left Apple and created another startup. Years later, Apple bought the startup and Jobs returned to the "mother ship." Only this time, Jobs came back under his own terms, becoming permanent CEO shortly after.

Which movie director dominated the teen market?

Undoubtedly, if you were a teenager during the '80s, you would be familiar with a John Hughes movie or two. Known for classics such "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Hughes had a way with capturing the style and the mindset of the time.

Which world leader came up with "perestroika" and "glasnost"?

Mikhail Gorbachev launched a series of political/economic reforms meant to boost and restructure the (former) Soviet Union. These reforms became known as perestroika and glasnost. Perestroika ended up paving the way for democracy as well as the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, as Gorbachev sought to overhaul the old policies of the Communist Party.

Which royal couple's wedding enthralled TV watchers?

One of the most memorable royal weddings of all time was that of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Watched by nearly 1 billion people, the wedding captured the imagination of romantics all over the world with its fairy-tale pomp and atmosphere.

Which antidepressant hit the market with a bang?

Touted as the wonder drug of an era, Prozac became THE antidepressant. Said to have fewer side effects, it helped to take the stigma off taking antidepressants to treat a host of afflictions. The drug became so popular that the term "Prozac Nation" didn't seem far-fetched when coined.

Which gangster movie featuring a rabbit became a hit ?

Considered to be one of the more innovative multimedia films of the time, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" offered a mixture of satire, hijinks fun and sexy innuendo that appealed to movie-goers. Jessica Rabbit also became the sex symbol of the time. Not bad for a cartoon character.

What replaced vinyl records for the first time?

Favored for its compact size and, most importantly, the sound quality, CDs were first introduced in the early part of the '80s. By the end of the decade, they had replaced vinyl altogether. However, vinyl has recently had a comeback for the same reason it was once discarded. The distinctive sound quality sounds rad to many people.

What's rad?

Used often by teenagers and rad dudes and dudettes, if something or someone was rad, they were totally, like, awesome! Really, if you didn't know what rad was, your friends might have thought you were totally bogus. You wouldn't want that now, would you?

What does bogus mean?

Although bogus has different meanings, if you said something was bogus in the '80s it meant the thing or person was the opposite of rad. Tossed around a lot in films, people would do anything to avoid being associated with something bogus.

Which animated sitcom was launched featuring a snarky, dysfunctional family?

Introduced to audiences as a Christmas special, "The Simpsons" took a little while to gain a following on the Fox network, but once it did, it really took off. As a beloved series, it's still running today. It set a record as the animated series with the longest run.

What happened to the internet in the late '80s?

In the late '80s, the World Wide Web was created. Credited to a British computer scientist, the initial proposal for the World Wide Web needed a little fine-tuning, but by the end of 1990, the foundation was set for the global phenomenon it has since become.

Which ice-cream brand received an award from President Ronald Reagan?

What began as a small-scale venture in Vermont became known as Ben & Jerry's, the delectable, chunky ice-cream brand. A decade after its humble beginnings, the founders of Ben and Jerry's won a small business award delivered by President Ronald Reagan at the White House.

"Walk this Way" is a __________.

It was an unlikely pairing. With its humorous take on the clash of two disparate styles, the "Walk this Way" remake by Aerosmith and Run-DMC offered a kind of sampling of an era. It brought together rock and hip-hop in one song that ended up being iconic for playing up the clash.

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!

Explore More Quizzes