80s Movies – Giant List of the All Time Best 1980s Films
In the 1980s, the movie industry made great strides in improving the theatre experience for families across the globe, and the movie industry became more diverse and powerful than ever before.
The Eighties cemented certain characters and stars in pop culture forever, from the rise of teen coming-of-age films like The Breakfast Club to the generation’s comedic stars like Eddie Murphy.
We have rounded up the best 80s movies from across the different genres that inspired pop culture for decades to come. No matter what your genre is, there’s sure to be a movie on our list to fit your taste.
Untouchables is widely regarded as one of the greatest gangster films in the history of filmmaking and rightfully takes its place as one of the best 80s movies of all time. The script is based on the real-life story of Al Capone, a Chicago king pen known for running whiskey among other crimes. He’s considered untouchable until Elliot Ness comes along and begins investigating the mafia boss. Robert De Niro, Kevin Costner, and Sean Connery deliver action-packed performances that have captivated audiences for decades. Even today, it continues to inspire modern classics like Oceans Eleven. If you’re looking for crime, action, and drama, this is not a movie you want to miss.
An American Werewolf in London
This movie has it’s flawed, there’s so much to love from the incredible soundtrack to the transformation as a college student stuck in London is attacked by a large wolf and later learns he has become a werewolf. It’s still considered one of the most favorited horror 80s movies with a cast of amazing stars who were just beginning their rise to fame at the release of this classic. An American Werewolf in London is noted mostly for having an incredible camera and set design effects for its time, breaking film barriers with its unique style of horror. No 80s movie list can be complete without this classic pop horror film.
One is for comedy and romance lovers. Diane Keaton stars in one of her first roles at the time as J.C.: a working woman just starting to learn to advance her career. Everything changes for this New York sophisticate when her life is thrown into turmoil after she is appointed as a guardian of a distant relative’s baby. When the parents of the child die in a tragic accident, J.C. has no choice but to adopt after she learns to connect with the child. She gives up everything from her New York apartment to her boyfriend and begins to build a life for her and the child. She is determined to find a new way of living, and the story of how she did that provides a unique comedic story that would later help inspire the comedic scene we often see today.
Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, and Daryl Hannah Steel Magnolias stole the show with this unique comedy that created catchy one-liners still used among fans today. The film was one of the first of its kind to shine a spotlight on people living with diabetes and the health struggles many people face with the disease as Shelby (Julia Roberts) struggles to live a normal life and fulfill her dream of becoming a mother. Shelby is surrounded by a small town of unique and lovable characters that help her along the way. This dramatic comedy hit the Hollywood floor with one of the strongest female cast of its time and discussed real issues of grief, loss and family drama with southern heart and honesty that can’t be ignored.
The Lost Boys
Take our list of best 80s movies back to the horror, adding a touch of comedy with the cult classic, The Lost Boys. When Michael and Sam are forced to move to a new town with their mother, they are shocked when they learn the town is brimming with vampires. When Michael accidentally gets turned into a creature of the night, it’s up to Sam and his new friends to save his brother from the gang of vampires wanting to take over the town. While not perfect, this movie won the audience of the 80s over with its unique and offbeat soundtrack, a unique combination of vampire lore and teenage modernism of the time all captured with visually stunning shots that made it a favorite 80s movie for its time.
Dead Poets Society
Dead Poets Society is a film about a teacher who teaches in a high-stakes, high-society environment. Robin Williams plays a teacher who teaches in a way that goes against the tradition of the school where he works. His methods are controversial, and they change the lives of many students. The movie itself is still considered a favorite today among movie circles and coined the phrase “Carpe Diem” and reignited the popularity of the poem “Oh Captain, My Captain” that Williams captures perfectly in one of the most iconic scenes of the movie. This film strays from Williams typically comical roles into something more serious and proved that the actor could take on any role he wanted and nail it with his unique style of perfection in a way that reminds us to be true to ourselves, challenge authority when necessary and always do the things that make us happy.
When Harry Met Sally
80s movie list is complete without this romantic drama. The age-old question of whether or not women and men can just be friends is examined in this 80s romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally. The film follows the hilarious ragtag team of comedians, Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal as two college graduates who end up traveling together by happenstance to New York. During the length of a Taxi Ride, the two debate whether or not women and men can be friends without romance becoming an issue. Ten years later, the two meet up again in a random book store and try to stay connected without making sex an issue for the friendship. Full of iconic scenes, dramatic honesty and a great look at 80s fashion, this romantic comedy is a must-see for anyone looking for the best 80s movies.
Trading Places starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy became an 80s movies favorite overnight with its hilariously honest commentary of one of the most relatable issues known to any decade: the separation of wealth classes when a homeless street hustler and upper-class commodities trader are made to switch places by a couple of criminal swindlers looking for another person to take the fall for their crimes. When Aykroyd and Murphy’s character learns the truth about the scheme, they team up to seek revenge and truth against Akyrod’s former partners. Along the way, they meet a crazy cast of characters and become close friends. Often considered a modern take on Mark Twain’s The Prince and Pauper, this movie is an 80s classic must watch for the comedy lover.
Pretty in Pink
Many 80s movie pop classic list, Pretty in Pink is a must-have. Molly Ringwald stars in this 80s classic of as a poor, unpopular high school student who suddenly gains the attention of the popular boy she’s had a crush on forever at school. With her dreams in sight, she must choose between her former self and the popular crowd, even if it means losing her best friend. The two sides couldn’t be more different and both pull her down a path she wants to have. John Hughes, the scriptwriter for Pretty in Pink, was known for his relatable storytelling that connected across a wide variety of audiences and gave realistic look at high school drama of the era. Pretty in Pink became such a pop classic 80s movie that it is still referenced and quoted today. Though the film is typical in every way, it’s the acting and storytelling that make this one of the best 80s movies of its time.
The Breakfast Club
John Hughes’ movie, this story follows a group of teens stuck in detention. What happens when five strangers are forced together in a detention room on a rainy Saturday morning? Teenage mayhem that includes facing fears and honest realities alike that will change the way they see the world and each other forever. John Hughes has become a master of portraying the adolescent spirit in a way that is both relatable and relatable. The Breakfast Club combines a cast of lovable and unique characters that we can all relate to in some way—the uptight popular girl (played by Molly Ringwald), the stoic jock (played by Emilio Estevez), the dirty-mouthed rebel (played by Judd Nelson), the virgin bookworm (played by Anthony Michael Hall), and the strange recluse (played by Ally Sheedy)—and watches as they let go of their stereotypes and bond into unlikely friendships with comedic and dramatic honesty. With its highly meme-worthy dialogue, iconic scenes, wild fashion styles and star-making performances, this 80s version of the trials of adolescence high school society became a defining pop-culture phenomenon overnight, one whose influence now spans generations. With iconic theme songs, soundtracks and film scenes, this 80s movie set the bar for high school comedies, proving why Hughes was one of the best screenwriters of his time for younger audiences.
Friday the Thirteenth
Friday the Thirteenth is considered to be one of horrors best 80s movies of the time and one of the most memorable to date. The franchise continues to put out movies that make blockbuster hits around Halloween, which now include an amazing twelve films. The storyline follows five camp counselors as they are stalked and murdered by what they think is only a legend of the lake. The legend becomes too real as they each face harrowing horrors in their attempt to escape. This movie made its mark as one of the best classic 80s movies because of its action pack jump scares and unique and realistic storytelling, proving that horror stories can do more than just scare, but make the audience feel invested in the plot as well.
The Shining is one of the most iconic horror movies from the 80s in general. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer’s block, but the luxurious hotel isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. The hotel’s dark past tries to claim Jack as he becomes more and more violent towards his family. This movie is iconic for many reasons. First, it takes something relatable—an average American family and turns them into both the victim and the monster equally. Its unique master storytelling makes us question how well we know and trust our own family. This Nicholson made Jack’s character our favorite big bad with great one-liners that are still used today. Just go up to anyone and say “Redrum, redrum” and they will most likely know the iconic reference from this movie.
Driving Miss Daisy
A movie that helped jump kicked Morgan Freeman’s career, Driving Miss Daisy, is a classic example of the best 80s movies turning into a cult classic that is capable of lasting generations. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture and stars Jessica Tandy who won Best Actress. Tandy plays Daisy Werthan who is an older Jewish widow living in Georgia and enjoys living a full and active life. Despite some health setbacks, she is attempting to keep her independence. When she has an accident on the road, her son takes away her license and finds a local, quirky driver named Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman) to help her continue to run her day to day errands so she can still be active. Daisy and Hoke’s relationship begins rather rocky with a slew of problems rising between them, but as they begin to look past the stereotypes and personal issues they begin to form a close friendship that allows them to see past the social stereotypes ingrained in society. This heartfelt comedic drama has shown light on the political and racial climate of the time in a way that was lighthearted and personal.
Summer love, awe-inspiring dance moves, and a hot leading man? The 1987 smash brought us an epic love story between a young socialite girl named Baby and the dark bad boy dance Johnny that spellbinds viewers from the moment we meet them on screen. Baby’s family vacations at the hotel while Johnny teaches dance. There’s only one rule at the hotel: Johnny can’t mingle with guests. That changes when Baby finds the secret club hidden in the shadows of the woods and she shares her first dance with Johnny. With iconic lines like “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”, the fantastic, star-studded cast delivers an epic performance that put ballroom dancing on the scene in the early 80s. Its final dance scene proved exactly why this movie was one of the best classic 80s movies of all time and continues to inspire a new generation of dancers every year.
Back to the Future
The list would not be complete without this classic 80s movie. The film became a huge overnight hit and catapulted Michael J. Fox to stardom. Since then, Fox has been certified an A-list movie star and the series launched in a franchise that still manages to break box office hits today. Marty McFly (Fox) travels back in time in a wild experiment and puts his own life in danger when he interrupts his parents’ first date. When things begin to go array and he realizes he might not be able to get back home if he doesn’t fix his mistakes, he is forced to try to reunite the two love birds and remind them of how they fell in love in the first place. Even more troublesome, he has to make sure he makes it back to his own time and save the life of his friend and experimenter Doc Brown. This movie was a classic for more than one reason. The hilarity that ensued once Fox was introduced to his parents, classic one-liners and the iconic fashion of the early 50s made this movie one of the best cult 80s movies on the list, combining two unique genres of science fiction and comedy in a way that captivated audiences around the globe.
That’s an 80’s Wrap
Though our favorite movie stores like Blockbuster might’ve closed down, you can still bring the classic theatre feel to your home with these 80s movies pop classics on your favorite streaming sites like Netflix or Hulu. Whether you are looking for a hot rod time machine, unforgettable lines, crazy fashion or a new high school crew to hang with 80s movies will not disappoint. So grab the bucket of popcorn and your favorite blanket, cuddle up on your couch and enjoy the best 80s movies with these awesome cult classics no matter if you’re seeing them for the first time or for the hundredth time.