Life in the '80s Quiz

Deborah Beckwin

Image: Izusek / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

The 1980s was an iconic era that still impacts popular culture today.

There were major technological changes, such as the personal computer, the first commercially available cell phone, video cassette recorders (VCRs) and gaming consoles.

This was the age of the blockbuster movie, with movies like "Raiders of the Lost of Ark" and "Beverly Hills Cop" grossing hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the '80s, we were watching a lot more TV, including popular sitcoms like "Family Ties," "The Cosby Show" and "Cheers." There were suddenly more channels on TV, with the expansion of cable channels like ESPN, Nickelodeon, CNN, HBO and Showtime. 

MTV was shaping American culture through the medium of music videos. This channel in particular was starting to show the fissures between Reaganomics-influenced yuppie culture (a nickname for the "work hard, play hard" Baby Boomers, young urban professionals) and the way younger people and people of color were seeing the world.

Politically, the '80s were a volatile time. Although the U.S. had adopted a more conservative political ethos, many national governments across the world were going through upheaval and unrest through protests, assassinations and coups. 

The '80s brought a lot of changes which still shape our lives today. So are you ready to peg your jeans, tease your hair big, eat some Pop Rocks and dive into this quiz? We totally think you'll ace it. Have a bodacious time!


When did Mount St. Helens erupt in the state of Washington?

The most significant and deadly volcanic eruption in the lower 48 states, Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, at 8:32 a.m. This eruption killed 57 people and cost over $1 billion in damages.

What popular arcade game was released in 1980?

Developed by Japanese gaming company Namco, the iconic Pac-Man is one of the highest-grossing arcade games. Pac-Man is probably the most famous video game, and it's still around today.

What iconic gaming console made its debut in the U.S. in 1985?

When the NES came on the scene in 1985, video gaming was in a bit of a lull, with personal computers coming on the scene and a glut of gaming consoles. In three years, NES games were more popular than computer games, and by 1990, the gaming console was in 30 percent of U.S. homes (compared to 23 percent of households which had a personal computer).

Which head of state survived an assassination attempt in 1981?

The 1980s unfortunately had many assassinations and assassination attempts of heads of state and famous people. On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley and survived the assassination attempt. His press secretary, James Brady, was also shot and had to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

In what year did Prince Charles and Princess Diana get married?

On a late morning on Wednesday, July 29, 1981, Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles. This extravagant wedding was watched by 750 million people and dubbed the "wedding of the century."

On August 1, 1981, what famous cable TV channel made its debut?

At 12:01 a.m., on Saturday, August 1, 1981, Music Television (MTV) was launched with these words: "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll." In the 1980s, MTV was a pop culture juggernaut, with its VJs (video jockeys), music videos with style-conscious musical artists and the Video Music Awards (VMAs).

Which deadly virus was discovered in 1981?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can develop into AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), was discovered in 1981, when five young gay men died from the disease. It took years before this epidemic would be taken seriously by the American government. There was a heavy stigma to having HIV and AIDS, which still lingers today.

In 1982, what famous Disney World park opened?

On October 1, 1982, the Experimental Community of Tomorrow opened at Disney World. Walt Disney had envisioned EPCOT as an experimental planned urban community. Now it's a park with two parts: Future World, with cutting-edge pavilions like Spaceship Earth; and World Showcase, with pavilions showcasing 11 different countries.

When were the first CD players sold?

Transforming the worlds of music and data storage, Sony was the first to sell the compact disc player, initially only in Japan, called the CDP-101. And they weren't cheap either - the player cost around $730 dollars.

Who was the first American woman in space?

On June 18, 1983, astrophysicist Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, as part of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger. She was also the youngest astronaut to date, going on her first mission at age 32.

In what year was the space shuttle Challenger disaster?

The space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after its launch on January 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members aboard, including school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was the first teacher in space. Because McAuliffe was a teacher, this shuttle launch was shown in many American public schools via NASA TV, so many schoolchildren watched the explosion. This disaster grounded the shuttle program for almost three years.

In what year was the first mobile phone sold?

Cell phones are such a part of our lives now, especially as smartphones. But before the advent of the iPhone, there was the DynaTAC 8000x, the first commercially available mobile phone, costing $3,995 at the time. That big, blocky white phone with its large antenna was an iconic symbol of status, but that was mainly in the '90s.

What was the must-have watch of the '80s?

Swiss watchmaker Swatch came on the scene in the U.S. in 1983, with dazzling colors and styles, plastic straps and Swiss movement. Swatch meant "second watch," a watch for more casual wear, and it's arguably the watch of the 1980s.

What album released in 1982 has become the world's best-selling album?

"Thriller" was released on November 30, 1982, and was part of the zeitgeist of 1980s music, with Jackson's music videos on heavy rotation on MTV. "Thriller" won eight Grammys in 1984, including the Album of the Year. To date, Thriller has sold 66 million copies.

When was Coca-Cola's "New Coke" introduced?

To compete with Pepsi, on April 23, 1985, soft drink manufacturer Coca-Cola introduced a new version of Coke, dubbed New Coke, but it was officially called Coke II. It was instantly reviled by the American public, and not because it didn't taste good - it was just people didn't want to change the classic taste. So on July 11, 1985, Coca-Cola Classic was introduced.

Which personal computer was introduced in 1984, with an iconic Super Bowl ad directed by Ridley Scott?

Personal computers had been around since 1977, and Apple had previously released the Apple II and Apple IIe. But the Apple Macintosh became the zeitgeist of personal computers for the 1980s and beyond. The groundbreaking "1984" ad, which was only shown once, helped to boost sales of the computer.

Which was NOT a 1980s cartoon?

If you were a kid of the 1980s, you're familiar with a long list of cartoons. Many of these shows came with lucrative toy and merchandise tie-ins, such as "Transformers," "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

Which famous film director created film classics such as "Sixteen Candles" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"?

John Hughes was a filmmaker best known for capturing an honest slice of affluent high school life. Many of the actors in these '80s films are considered to be a part of the "Brat Pack."

Who is NOT considered to be a part of the "Brat Pack" of the '80s?

The term "Brat Pack" came from a 1985 "New York Magazine" profile which looked at this group of successful actors who were in their 20s. Usually, this group consists of the main actors of the films "The Breakfast Club" and "St. Elmo's Fire": Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy. Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy.

Which '80s pop star was a fashion and culture icon?

Madonna was a controversial figure in the '80s, and her outfits and songs pushed the buttons of conservatives and concerned parents across the country. Miniskirts, black lace gloves and visible bras were all a part of the Madonna look.

Which British band was known as the "Fab Five" and were the darlings of MTV?

Synth pop/new wave band Duran Duran were part of the New Romantic scene of the U.K. They had memorable hit songs and music videos such as "Rio," "The Reflex" and "Hungry Like the Wolf." They're arguably one of the most successful bands of the '80s.

Which group is NOT considered to be an '80s rap group?

The 1980s started to bring rap and hip-hop as an integral part of pop culture. Run DMC in particular helped to cross over, through their performance with rock band Aerosmith on the song, "Walk This Way."

Which movie from 1983 influenced fashion with leggings, leg warmers and oversized sweatshirts?

Jennifer Beals' portrayal of a young welder trying to make it as a professional dancer in "Flashdance" was an instant classic, despite negative reviews from critics. After that movie debuted, leg warmers and leggings became a new fashion trend. What a feeling.

Which film was the highest-grossing in the 1980s?

Released in 1982, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" was directed and produced by filmmaker Steven Spielberg. "E.T." told the story of a young boy, Elliot, and his encounters and connection with an alien, dubbed E.T.

Which movie franchise had the number two and three top-grossing films of the 1980s?

"Return of the Jedi" and "The Empire Strikes Back," respectively, were the number two and number three top-grossing movies of the 1980s. The Star Wars saga began in 1977 with "Episode IV" and was a part of starting the movie blockbuster phenomenon.

What is the name of the fictional place "where everybody knows your name"?

"Cheers" was a popular sitcom about bar regulars in a bar modeled after a real bar in Boston. "Cheers" made its debut in 1982 but was almost canceled in its first season when it ranked near the bottom of the Nielsen ratings. It's arguably one of the most popular and critically acclaimed TV series to date.

What popular TV sitcom focused on four senior ladies living together in Miami?

We all know their names: Dorothy, Sophia, Rose and Blanche. Three widows and a divorcée decided to live together in Blanche's home, and hijinks and heartfelt moments ensued. "The Golden Girls" debuted in 1985 and spun off three shows: "Golden Palace," "Empty Nest" and "Nurses." "Golden Girls" won many awards and critical acclaim, and the show still influences popular culture today.

Which basketball great was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1985?

Michael Jordan's NBA debut with the Chicago Bulls was as the number-three draft pick. In 1986, after overcoming a broken foot earlier in the season, he set the still-standing record of 63 points in a playoff game. His six NBA Championship rings came in the '90s, but Jordan was already on his way to being one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Which hockey player is known as "The Great One"?

You can't talk about the National Hockey League, or hockey in general, and not mention Wayne Gretzky. He utterly dominated the NHL, with records involving scoring goals, assists and MVP awards. During the '80s he was with the Edmonton Oilers, until he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988.

Which professional football team came out with a dance called "The Super Bowl Shuffle"?

The 1985 Chicago Bears, who won Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots, have been called one of the greatest football teams of all time. "Da Bears" were led by head coach Mike Ditka, along with memorable players like running back Walter "Sweetness" Payton and defensive lineman William "Refrigerator" Perry. "The Super Bowl Shuffle" was a rap song the team recorded, which made it to #41 on Billboard's Hot 100.

Which sunglasses brand became a stylish staple in the '80s with the "Aviator" and the "Wayfarer"?

Ray-Ban had been around since 1937, but popular movies such as "Risky Business," "Top Gun" and "The Blues Brothers" helped to cement the brand as one of the most popular sunglasses brands. The Wayfarer and Aviator models are still the most popular sunglasses for Ray-Ban.

Mark David Chapman shot and killed which famous musician on December 8, 1980?

John Lennon was returning home to The Dakota in New York City after being at a recording studio when Chapman shot him four times. Howard Cosell was the first to announce his death during "Monday Night Football." It was a major moment in pop culture history that still touches people today.

What style of jeans were made popular during the '80s?

Acid-washed jeans had actually been around in 1960s California surf culture, but they became mainstream when punks and skinheads started to douse their denim with bleach. Clothing maker Guess sold similar jeans in 1981, and soon the jeans were not a sign of counterculture but were widely worn by all kinds of people.

In what year did the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster happen?

On April 26, 1986, in Ukraine, an explosion from one of Chernobyl's nuclear reactors occurred after a routine test. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), this disaster "put 400 times more radioactive material into the Earth's atmosphere than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima." The Chernobyl disaster had lasting cultural, medical and governmental effects, including a deeper public distrust in using nuclear energy.

The Berlin Wall came down in what year?

After months of East Germans fleeing into West Germany, Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, along with major protests in East Germany, the Berlin Wall, which represented part of the Iron Curtain of the Eastern Bloc, fell on November 9, 1989. This historic event led to the reunification of Germany the following year and closed out a very tumultuous decade.

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