Best 80s Movies


Oh this should be fun.  As a child of the 80s (I was born in 1980 for anybody that cares), there’s something about seeing a movie from the 80s on TV that just makes me smile.  Whether it’s the special effects, the acting, or seeing actors that are so well-known today when they were just getting their starts, I can’t help myself.

Originally I was going to limit myself to 10 movies, but as I began my list of what I thought the best movies of the 1980s were, the list quickly surpassed that number.  So here are 20 movies for your consideration.  I’m sure I’ve left off a few favorites, but let’s be honest, you can’t have everything on here, and nearly all of these are personal favorites, or at least universally recognized as legendary movies.

E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial – 1982


If there’s a kid out there that hasn’t seen ET, their parents have failed them miserably.  Never mind the timeless story of friendship, this is the movie where Drew Barrymore got her start.  I for one plan on showing this movie to my children one day as the message is as relevant no as it was nearly 30 years ago.

Raiders of the Lost Ark – 1981

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The movie that introduced us to Indiana Jones.  This wasn’t our first movie with Harrison Ford, but much like Han Solo, this is a movie that helped to define his career.  The opening scene with Harrison Ford running away from the boulder has been spoofed in more films than I can count.  That’s the sign of a classic.

Back to the Future – 1985

Back to the Future

Marty McFly, Doc Brown, and a Delorean.  What else really needs to be said?  Oh, throw in some time travel, some iconic 80s music, and did I mention the Delorean?

The Terminator – 1984

The Terminator

If there’s ever been a more perfect casting, I don’t want to know about it.  While not his first roll, it’s certainly the one that Arnold is best known for, having even taken it into his political career as he is called the “Governator”.  Spawning multiple sequels, the original still stands the test of time.

Die Hard – 1988

Die Hard

Much like Arnold, Die Hard wasn’t Bruce Willis’ first film, but it’s certainly the one he’s best known for.  Thanks to this movie, the phrase “Yippee kai yay, motherfucker” is forever inscribed into our cultural vernacular.  Thanks Bruce.

The Empire Strikes Back – 1980

The Empire Strikes Back

Arguably the greatest sequel ever made.  It took everything that was great about the first Star Wars movie, and made it even better.  Yoda, more lightsabers, more Darth Vader, plot twists, Lando.  LANDO!  They could have stopped with this movie and I think we all would have accepted it.

The Breakfast Club – 1985

The Breakfast Club

If you graduated high school without seeing this movie you should really turn your degree back in.  The cultural impact of this film is still being felt today as the niches that each student was placed in are still relevant 20 years later.

Rain Main – 1988

Rain Man

Both creating and dispelling myths about autism, the film was nevertheless a commercial and critical success.  Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman are great together, and gave us a pair of characters that are both challenging and lovable all at once.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – 1986

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

I think it’s fair to say that everybody has played hookie once in their life, but nothing on a scale with what Ferris does.  Matthew Broderick is charming and hilarious in what could only be described as Peter Pan for the 20th century, as Ferris clearly doesn’t want to grow up and have responsibility.  This movie is the reason we had senior skip days in high school.

The Karate Kid – 1984

The Karate Kid

Raise your hand if you’ve never done a crane kick.  You’re a damn liar.  If you’ve ever said “Wax on, wax off”, whether seriously, quoting the film, or making some puerile joke, you can thank The Karate Kid.

Ghostbusters – 1984


Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and Harold Ramis all in one film?  What’s not to love?  With classic lines, music, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man laying waste to Manhattan, it’s quite possibly the perfect movie.

The Princess Bride – 1987

The Princess Bride

I have yet to meet a girl in her mid-twenties that hasn’t seen this movie.  Carey Elwes, Robin Wright, Andre the Giant, and Mandy Patinkin head a stellar cast through a story that is romance and action all rolled into one, and beloved by both guys and girls.

Revenge of the Nerds – 1984

Revenge of the Nerds

A very young Anthony Edwards heads a cast that made geek chic.  Part Animal House and part Weird Science, this movie turned nerds into heroes and even let them get the girl.  While now we know that the geek shall inherit the Earth (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs own us), back then it wasn’t such a certain thing.

Top Gun – 1986

Top Gun

And we have another Anthony Edwards sighting.  Fast planes, cool lines, an all-star cast, and Kenny Loggins music?  No wonder it’s been a favorite for years.

Lethal Weapon – 1987

Lethal Weapon

Mel Gibson back when he was sane.  Riggs and Murtaugh were a great duo, with age and experience from Murtaugh and reckless abandon from Riggs.  With a host of sequals, the addition of Rene Russo, Chris Rock, and Joe Pesci, this movie launched a film franchise.

Dirty Dancing – 1987

Dirty Dancing

Nobody puts Baby in a corner.  I mean what else really needs to be said?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – 1988

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Revolutionary technology blending animated characters and actors.  Classic cartoons from your childhood.  And, of course, Jessica Rabbit.

Field of Dreams – 1989

Field of Dreams

If you’ve never made some reference to the line “If you build it, they will come.” you’ve been doing something wrong with your life.  A classic story about baseball, fathers, and sons featuring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones.

Blade Runner – 1982

Blade Runner

Based on the Philip K Dick book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, we have another Harrison Ford appearance, along with some Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, and Rutger Hauer.  A look into a dystopian future is always a good bet in my book.

Raging Bull – 1980

Raging Bull

Considered by some to be one of the best movies of all time, and at the very least the best sports movie, it features Robert De Niro as boxer Jake La Motta and was directed by Martin Scorsese.  While Scorsese was overlooked for an Oscar, De Niro did win for Best Actor and the film continues to be a classic.

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