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What Are The Best 80's Movies of All Time?

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by Sarah Says (subscribe)
I am a marketing and communications consultant and freelance writer. Living on the Gold Coast in Australia. Check out my website or follow on Twitter @WENGoldCoast
Published August 16th 2012
A couple of weeks ago I saw an old 80's favourite movie of mine and it got me thinking about all the brilliant movies that the 80's gave us. So I thought I would put together a list of my top 80's movies. But then I thought, well what do I know, there will be loads I miss out or don't include so I decided to throw it open on Facebook, Twitter and my blog asking people to name their top five favourite films of the 80's.

The overwhelming response was "what? only five, that is impossible" so with well over 200 suggestions and a few heated discussions later on what was not in the 80's and what should be included, I ended up with a massive list of the best (and potentially some of the worst) 80's films of all time, for all tastes and genres.

I am sure you will disagree with some, agree with others and hopefully it will bring back some much loved memories and get you setting off to blockbuster or downloading for an 80's movie marathon.

Now of course movies are subjective and what can be the best film ever for someone may be the worst film someone else has ever seen. That's what is so great about films they evoke passion and memories and feelings of love or loathe, and certainly the response I got just goes to show how passionate people are about the movies that shaped their childhood.

I have also included a list of those that people thought were in the 80's but in fact were not.

So here are my top 20 favourites (in no particular order, seriously otherwise I'll be here for months) and why I love them and then a list all the rest for you to discuss and add to if you should wish. There are so many movies from the 80's that I just love, that I struggled to get down to just 20 so there will have to be about 20-30 films that are joint 21st on my list.

So here goes, some of the films I love:

Back To The Future (1985) - I honestly don't think there could be an 80's movie list without this on it. I have seen this film well over 100 times and I never get tired of it, it still makes me smile and still makes me happy after all this time. Brilliantly cast and superbly acted this has to be the movie to sum up the 80's. Quite scary to think that the "future" is now only 3 years away, although this does mean that we should expect to see self-adjusting clothing, hover boards and flying cars in the stores very soon.

Back to The Future
Back To The Future

The Little Mermaid (1989) my favourite Disney animation of all time based on the popular fairy tale by the Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen, this is such an endearing film and always makes me happy. I recently went to see it at The British Film Institute in London when they were showing all the Disney films in order for its 50th film anniversary. It was wonderful to see it on the big screen and I fell in love with it all over again.

Young Guns (1988) a total favourite of mine that I promise is not solely based on the very attractive cast (well maybe a bit). The story of how Billy the Kid (played by the perfectly cast Emilio Estevez) became the most notorious man in the Wild West. Also starring Emilio's brother Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips. A wild west epic there have been so many Billy The Kid films but I have yet to see one with a better cast Billy than Emilio.

Beaches (1988) Starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey - I am STILL unable to watch this film without crying my eyes out, I don't know how many times I have seen it but it still affects me in the same way. A wonderful tale of love and friendship and a reminder that we should cherish those closest to us *sobs*.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986) A totally bonkers movie with Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene in the title roles. A musical about trying to better your life no matter what the cost. The soundtrack is phenomenal and done by the same talented guys, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who wrote the score for the little mermaid.

Little Shop Of Horrors
Little Shop Of Horrors

Big (1988) probably my favourite Tom Hanks film. A charming story of wishing away your childhood, and wanting to grow up too fast. The scene in the toy store when they play Chopsticks and Heart & Soul on the large floor piano is one that is simply timeless and even thinking about it makes me smile. In 5 years, 10 years and 50 years it will still be just a great film, which you cannot help but love.

Return of The Jedi (1983) my favourite of the original trilogy, Empire Strikes Back is also an 80's movie but only just as it was made in 1980. This has always been my favourite of the Star Wars family and I cannot put my finger on why I prefer it - perhaps it's the happy ending, perhaps it's the moon of Endor and the Ewoks, perhaps it's that Luke and Darth come together and good overcomes evil. I guess it doesn't really matter why; it's just an amazing film.

Rocky III (1982) Its easy to forget that Sylvester Stallone actually wrote, directed and starred in this incredible series of films potentially the best ever underdog story? Rocky III is my favourite by far Eye of the Tiger, Mr T as Chubba Lang and Hulk Hogan what more could you want. When Mickey dies I am always a total mess, and the end fight scene always gets me on the edge of my seat I know what happens, to be honest by now I know every punch and every line, but I still get caught up in the moment and that is what great films should do.

Die Hard (1988) - Yippee-ki-yay (um you know the rest) Bruce Willis at his action hero witty best. This film has all the perfect ingredients for an action movie - face-paced, one-liners, great characters, exciting, funny and full of explosions and gunfire, plus Bruce Willis in a vest. Alan Rickman is also wonderful as terrorist Hans Gruber who holds the skyscraper hostage. One of the best action movies of all time.

Die Hard
Die Hard

Batman (1989) Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors and for me he got Gotham City spot on. Totally the original and the best in my opinion, Michael Keaton is perfect as Bruce Wayne/Batman and the performance of Jack Nicholson as the joker is just stunning, a spellbinding mix of crazy and terrifying and he has some of the best lines I have ever heard in a film, "never rub another man's rhubarb" as an perfect example.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) A landmark movie of it's time combining the glorious efforts of live action with animation seamlessly. Definitely not just for kids highly entertaining with some stand out performances, Bob Hoskins is superb as the toon-hating cop and the casting of Kathleen Turners sexy vocal talents makes Jessica Rabbit one of the all time greatest movie characters. As she says, "I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way".

Lost Boys (1987) Before Twilight and True Blood this was the original vampire movie that made bloodsuckers cool and sexy its just sums up the 80's for me in the "cool" genre - a simple plot of two brothers moving to a strange new town who soon realise things are not as they seem. It has an excellent cast including "The Corey's" Haim and Feldman, and the brilliant Keifer Sutherland (really is there anything he can't do?).

Lost Boys
Lost Boys

Lethal Weapon (1987) Firstly let me say "mullet" and then lets leave it at that. There have been so many veteran-cop-partnered-with-young-maverick-rooky-cop movies over the decades but I don't think any do it as well as the Lethal Weapon series. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are a casting dream and it's none stop action, humour and Mel Gibson's crazy eye acting makes it a total classic.

Field of Dreams (1989) "If you build it. He will come" there is still some debate as to who uttered that iconic line, credited to Ray Liotta however Kevin Cosner claims it was him. Probably a completely unique plot and one of a kind a man hears a mysterious voice in his corn crop and builds a baseball field, and then a ghost team comes to play. Crazy, but it is one of the best movies I have ever seen and that is mostly down to Ray Liotta, James Earl Jones, Amy Madigan and Burt Lancaster's performances.

Mannequin (1987) A complete A-Z look at the eccentric fashion of the 80's. Before Sex and the City, Kim Catrall was a store mannequin that came to life and fell in love with a shop fitter. A ridiculous plot and as camp as a row of tents, this is a glorious piece of entertainment that I just adore, even though it's kind of rubbish.


Ghostbusters (1984) Who you gonna call? A great movie, and again largely down to it's casting, I think, for its success. Bill Murray is a comic genius and perfect in this kind of role. Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis. Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray all add such different acting dimensions, which compliment each other wonderfully and makes for really engaging chemistry. The ending is genius when told to clear you mind and to not think of anything what would pop I to your head?

Weird Science (1985) What happens when to nerdy boys try to create the perfect woman using their computers. Written and directed by John Hughes (wow inspired the "Brat Pack" movement) this is a completely silly, very funny and highly entertaining film; this has always been one of my favourites from the 80's.

Parenthood (1989) An ensemble cast of some excellent actors, this is a great film, which depicts the very real trials and tribulations of being a parent and the different approaches to raising children. A comedy drama that has some real laugh out loud moments, and some very touching scenes. I watched it recently and after 23 years it hasn't lost any of its charm and comedy.

E.T. (1982) a truly beautiful film that is a joy to watch and I don't think that will ever change. It's one of those films that capture a magical essence that you cannot put your finger on. There are so many moments; the iconic bike scene, the flower coming back to life at the end, the spaceship landing, phone home, Gertie saying goodbye (genuine heartbreak from Drew Barrymore who was too young to understand he wasn't real) but one of my favourite moments is when E.T is in the kitchen and Elliot is in class and they feel the same. A lovely story of friendship, in the unlikeliest of places.

Ferris Buellers Day Off (1986) another film written and directed by John Hughes. Probably for many the film that defines the 80's the ultimate coming of age movie. Matthew Broderick is great as the school wise guy who is determined to skip school and have a day off, taking his reluctant mates with him. Very funny, smart and an absolute classic.

Ferris Buellers Day Off

The Contenders:

Big Business, Top Gun, Beetlejuice, Teen Wolf, Footloose, Beverley Hills Cop, Clue, Overboard, 9 to 5, Steel Magnolias, The Breakfast Club, Gregory's Girl, Desperately Seeking Susan, Splash, Working Girl, The Big Chill, St Elmo's Fire, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Gremlins, Aliens, Dirty Dancing, Rain Man, Risky Business, Revenge of the Nerds, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bladerunner, Flashdance, Footloose, Fame, Heathers, The Terminator, The Goonies, Labyrinth, Neverending Story, The Princess Bride, Stand by Me, The Gods Must be Crazy, Weekend at Bernies, The Money Pit, Terms or Endearment, Amadeus, An American Werewolf in London, Raiders of the Lost Ark, On Golden Pond, Withnail and I, King of Comedy, Blue Velvet, Hannah and Her Sisters, When Harry met Sally, Raging Bull, Once Upon A Time in America, American Gigilo, Cotton Club, Scarface, Colour Purple, Chariots of Fire, Arthur, Local Hero, Midnight Run, Airplane, Body Heat, Fish Called Wanda, Porkys, Three Men and a Baby, Innerspace, Major League, The Untouchables, Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Thing (John Carpenter's), Coming To America, See No Evil Hear No Evil, RoboCop, Rambo, Crocodile Dundee, Friday The 13th

Not in the 80's:
Total Recall 1990, The Crow 1994, Star Wars 1977, Rocky 1976, Grease 1978, Rocky Horror Picture Show 1975, Muriel's Wedding 1994, Life of Brian 1979, Terminator 2 1991, Superman 1978, Flatliners 1990
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Most of my favourites are already in yourlist... the 80s was such a brilliant decade for movies and now you have made me feel all nostalgic... great article. I imagine doing the best movies of the 90s would be a bit harder...
by Shannon Meyerkort (score: 3|1792) 2378 days ago
A few of my favourites are in your list already (especially Die Hard). I'd add Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Ladyhawk and The Breakfast Club.
by Jennifer Muirhead (score: 3|1081) 2373 days ago
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a 1981 American action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by George Lucas, and starring Harrison Ford. It is the first film in the Indiana Jones franchise.
Release date: June 12, 1981 (initial release)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan
Music: John Williams
Sequel: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
by beijomez (score: 0|4) 2371 days ago
oh wow, you have given such a great list and I love most of the ones you have already listed.what about "Real Genius" with Val Kilmer 1985. Classic.
by Where I Holiday (score: 2|338) 2286 days ago
The Breakfast Club is one of my favourite movies of all time, so much so that when I was in Chicago in late 2011 my partner and I went to the school (now a police precinct) where it was filmed! Wasn't able to do the full John Bender defiant fist in the air action in the school football field but I did do that outside the "school". I was a child in the 80s and I also loved the Pippi Longstocking movies and "Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller", with a young Rufus Wainright singing the theme song! Oh wow I just totally geeked out there! :)
by Erica Enriquez (score: 2|214) 1781 days ago

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