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Top 50 movies of the 1980s

LISTS - MOVIE LISTS

It was the time of heroes, the age of the blockbuster... and here are the best of them...

Top 50 movies of the 1980s


Flash! Ah-ah...50: Flash Gordon (1980)

 

Giving life to classic comic book hero Flash Gordon, Get Carter director Mike Hodges takes the reigns in this 1980 sci-fi spectacular and delivers one of the most enjoyable films of the decade. Accompanied by the only good bit of music Queen ever did, Flash finds his way to the planet Mongo, home of Ming the Merciless, and saves our good selves from Ming’s plan to destroy the Earth. Cue a damsel in distress, flying bird men, a young Timothy Dalton and the maniacal Ming himself, played here by Max Von Sydow. The special effects weren’t great, and the costumes were questionable, but none of it mattered - Flash Gordon was, and is, one of the all-time feel-good films of the 80s. Sing it: ‘Flash! Ah-ahhhhh!’

Notable Quotable: ‘Do you want to live forever? Hawkmen, DIIIIVE!’


Tim Curry In 'Legend'49: Legend (1985)

Beautifully filmed, magically lit and artfully directed, Legend was Ridley Scott’s successful attempt at fairytale and fantasy. This dark fable saw a young Tom Cruise take on Tim Curry’s Lord of Darkness, who wanted nothing more than to plunge the world into eternal night. Accomplished performances are delivered throughout, but it’s Curry who steals the show as the demonic Darkness. Fantastic and frightening, Legend was storytelling at its finest, and by a director on top of his game…

Notable Quotable: ‘The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity.’


The Blues Brothers48: The Blues Brothers (1980)

Jake and Elwood Blues (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd respectively) made music and movie history as the all-signing, all-dancing Blue Brothers in this John Landis comedy classic. On a mission from God to save their childhood home, the brothers decide to reform their old blues band and raise enough money by staging the mother of all gigs. Unfortunately for the shade-wearing siblings, life doesn’t run that smoothly and they’re soon on the road (and on the run), meeting along the way such musical legends as Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker. The film is pure entertainment and features some of the best musical numbers ever performed in a movie. It was also, sadly, one of the last performances Belushi ever gave before is his untimely death in 1982…

Notable Quotable: ‘We’re on a mission from God.’


When Harry Met Sally47: When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Can men and women just be friends and nothing more? No, not according to this 1989 rom-com. Starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, the film asks the question and then provides the answer: men and women can’t be just friends or the simple reason that sex always gets in the way – and, of course, it eventually gets in their way. After many years of dating other people and many years of struggling to remain ‘just friends’, they finally do the deed and Harry is forced to confess what we already know, that he loves Sally and he loves her badly, but not before Sally fakes one of the best on-screen orgasms of all time…

Notable Quotable: ‘I’ll have what she’s having.’


Trading Places (1982)46: Trading Places (1983)

In the list of 80s comedy legends, somewhere near the top would have to be Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. And here we get them both in the always hysterical Trading Places, a film where the rich become poor and the poor become rich. Aykroyd plays the well-to-do Louis Winthorpe III, while Murphy takes on the role of Billy Ray Valentine, a down-and-out two-bit con artist. Thanks to a wager from Winthorpe’s devious superiors, Winthorpe and Valentine have soon traded places, allowing for some of the funniest comedy to come out of the 80s as they both try to adapt to their new circumstances and figure out what the hell is going on…

Notable Quotable: ‘When I was growing up, if we wanted a Jacuzzi, we had to fart in the tub.’


Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)45: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

It’s the late, great and always hilarious John Candy, teamed here with the comedy legend that is Steve Martin. Directed by John Hughes, the odd couple find their lives, and destinies, forever entwined after a series of travel mishaps force them to journey home together. Of course, it never runs as smoothly as that and we’re soon in the midst of a love/hate relationship as they bicker and bitch their way across the US. Hilarity runs throughout, but one of the movie’s most memorable scenes has to be Steve martin losing it with a car rental clerk: ‘..I really don’t care for the way your company left me in the middle of fucking nowhere with fucking keys to a fucking car that isn’t fucking there. And I really didn’t care to fucking walk down a fucking highway and across a fucking runway to get back here and have you smile in my fucking face. I want a fucking car RIGHT FUCKING NOW!’ Genius.

Notable Quotable: ‘Those aren’t pillows!’


Stop! It's Robocop!44: Robocop (1987)

Directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Peter Weller, Robocop tells the tale of honest cop Alex J. Murphy, newly assigned to crime-ridden Detroit. Not long after reassignment, Murphy comes into contact with a gun-happy gang led by Clarence Boddicker. Boddicker and his boys make short work of Murphy and, after one of the most violent executions in cinema history, leave our hero for dead. Amazingly, Murphy survives, but only long enough to be ‘rebuilt’ as the half human half robot Robocop, a lethal, killing, crime-fighting machine. It’s violent as hell and over the top in every way imaginable, but still stands out as one of the best action movies of the 1980s and one of the most violent movies of all time…

Notable Quotable: ‘I’d buy that for a dollar!’


Jonathan Pryce in Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil'43: Brazil (1985)

Jonathan Pryce leads an all-star cast in Terry Gilliam’s surreal masterpiece. Pryce plays Sam Lowry, a downtrodden technocrat in a futuristic society where nothing works they way it should and where government intrusion is the norm. Sam yearns for another life and wants nothing more than to fly away with the woman of his dreams. Unfortunately, due a technical error and the wrongful arrest of a citizen, Sam is soon embroiled in a fight with the state and finds himself fingered for a spate of terrorist bombings. Beautiful and terrifying, Gilliam’s vision of an Orwellian future is both nightmarish and wonderful, giving us one of the most impressive and complex films of the 1980s…

Notable Quotable: ‘Mistakes? We don’t make mistakes.’


Yipee-kay-ay42: Die Hard (1988)

With lines like ‘Welcome to the party, pal!’ and ‘Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker,’ the first instalment of the Die Hard series is still the best. Introducing us to John McClane, and saving Bruce Willis from television hell, Die Hard was also memorable for the film’s German villain, Hans Gruber, played here with absolute relish by the brilliant Alan Rickman. An action classic in every sense, Die Hard saw officer McClane barefooted and gun-happy as he takes on a group of West German terrorists in an L.A. skyscraper… and with explosive results…

Notable Quotable: ‘Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister.’


Probably worth paying attention here.41: Full Metal Jacket (1987)

‘Were you born a fat, slimy, scumbag puke piece o’ shit, Private Pyle, or did you have to work on it?’ ‘It looks to me like the best part of you ran down the crack of your mama’s ass and ended up as a brown stain on the mattress.’ ‘You little scumbag! I got your name! I got your ass! You will not laugh! You will not cry! You will learn by the numbers! I will teach you! Now get up! You had best unfuck yourself or I will unscrew your neck and shit down your neck!’ And that’s just the first 30 or so minutes of Kubrick's take on the Vietnam war. Harrowing and hilarious, Full Metal Jacket got up close and personal with what it meant to be a marine in ‘Nam, and added another notch to Kubrick’s already distinguished director’s belt. The film was also notable for memorable performances by Matthew Modine as Private Joker, Vincent D’Onofrio as Private Pyle, and the brilliant Lee Ermey as Sergeant Hartman, the hilarious drill instructor and private tormentor who sets out to dehumanise his latest group of ‘Nam-bound wannabes…

Notable Quotable: ‘Bullshit! I still can’t hear you! Sound off like you’ve got a pair!’


Big (1988)40: Big (1988)

It was the career-defining role that confirmed Tom Hanks as a household name, and all it took was a spot of chopsticks on a giant toy store piano. Frustrated by his lack of size, 12-year-old Josh Baskin wants nothing more than to be big. Finding a fortune-telling machine at the local fairground, Josh confesses his big wish and, lo and behold, his wish is granted. Going from 12-year-old kid to fully-grown man in the space of a night is no easy task, but Hanks pulls it off and gives us one of most enjoyable and funny films of the 1980s. With gusto, bravery and a total commitment to making an absolute ass of himself, Hanks was perfectly cast as the boy trapped in a man’s body and reminded us all just how much fun it is to be a kid…

Notable Quotable: ‘The space goes down, down baby, down, down the roller coaster. Sweet, sweet baby, sweet, sweet, don't let me go. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. I met a girlfriend - a triscuit. She said, a triscuit - a biscuit. Ice cream, soda pop, vanilla on the top. Ooh, Shelly's out, walking down the street, ten times a week. I read it. I said it. I stole my momma's credit. I'm cool. I'm hot. Sock me in the stomach three more times.’


Who Framed Roger Rabbit39: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

She may not be flesh and bone, she may not even be real, she may in fact be a cartoon, but it doesn’t change the fact that Jessica Rabbit is one of the sexiest sirens to ever grace the silver screen. Unfortunately, she only has eyes for her furry, bunny-tailed hubby, Roger. More memorable than his lovely wife, though, is the incredible merging of animation and live action, allowing our favourite cartoon characters to interact with real live actors, giving the very real effect that actors and ‘toons occupied the same space and time. Funny and original, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was an ambitious film that succeeded on every level and ticked all the right boxes, a truly worthwhile piece of cinema from one of the most imaginative decades the industry has ever seen…

Notable Quotable: ‘I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.’


He'll be back38: The Running Man (1987)

Loosely based on the Stephen King story of the same name, The Running Man tells the tale of a particularly violent game-show set in the future, where criminals are forced to, literally, run for their lives. Arnie, as ever, is the hero of the piece as the wrongly convicted Ben Richards, and soon finds himself on the run from a host of larger than life hunters, including Fireball, Dynamo, Subzero and Captain Freedom. Managing to stay alive long enough to join the resistance, Arnie returns with a squad of underground rebels and launches an assault on the show, the show’s host and the network itself – proof indeed that reality TV really is bad for you…

Notable Quotable: ‘Don’t touch that dial!’


Rambo: First Blood (1982)37: Rambo: First Blood (1982)

Proving that less is more, Stallone takes the title role in this film about a quiet, non-communicative Vietnam vet who wages a one-man war against an entire police force in small town America. Written by Stallone, First Blood introduced us to John J. Rambo, his second most famous character after Rocky Balboa, and gave us one his most convincing performances as the soldier who, after being pushed too far, finally pushes back, wracking up an impressive body count in the process…

Notable Quotable: ‘Don’t push it. Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe.’


Argghhh! Welcome to Frrrright Night...36: Fright Night (1985)

In a decade filled with bad horror movies, this little gem offered the perfect combination of horror and comedy. Fright Night saw high school horror fan Charlie Brewster become increasingly obsessed with his new neighbour, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon). Believing him to be a vampire responsible for a spate of local murders, Charlie enlists the help of his friends and fearless vampire killer Peter Vincent (Roddy MacDowall), and does his best to torment the man next door. Dandridge eventually summons Charlie and Peter for a final showdown and gives us one of the best stand-offs of the vampire genre, and one of Roddy MacDowall’s most memorable performances. Currently lost to remake hell, Fright Night was one of the better, and more original horror films of the 80s and still holds up to this day…

Notable Quotable: ‘Oh, you’re so cool, Brewster!’


Freddie Kruger in 'A Nightmare On Elm Street'35: Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you… In 1984 Wes Craven introduced us to the stuff of nightmares, the one and only Fred Krueger. With his burn-ridden skin, his dusty old hat and his finger-knife glove, Freddy haunted our dreams and preyed on the teenage souls of small town Springfield, seeking revenge for his murder at their parents hands. The film proved so successful as to spawn a series of tragic sequels, and is currently winging its way back to us with (a promising-looking) remake. As always, though, there’s no substitute for the original, and this was the one that started it all. A true classic of the 1980s, the film was also notable for the debut of a certain young actor by the name of Johnny Depp, who went on to do a couple of films you may have heard of…

Notable Quotable: ‘He’s dead, honey, because Mommy killed him.’


Eddie Murphy in 'Coming To America'34: Coming to America (1988)

Eddie Murphy really proves his worth in this 1988 comedy as he takes on not one, not two, not three, but four different roles. Meantime co-star Arsenio Hall goes one better and plays five characters in this tale of an African Prince travelling to New York, in the hope of finding true love. Adding more merriment to the cast is James Earl Jones and Eriq La Salle, and an early appearance from a gun-toting Samuel L. Jackson. One of the funniest films of the decade, Coming to America was probably the last good film Murphy made before his career took a turn for the worse in the troubled 90s…

Notable Quotable: ‘Now let’s see if you can defend yourself, you sweat from a baboon’s balls!’


Told you he'd be back...33: The Terminator (1984)

The film that launched the careers of Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron also spawned four sequels and a TV show. Featuring violence, time travel and the first utterance of Arnie’s immortal line ‘I’ll be back’, Terminator saw Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) travel back in time to 1980s America to find and protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) from, you guessed it, The Terminator. A mean, lean, robotic, killing machine, there seems to be no stopping the single-minded psycho-bot as it stalks Reese and Connor in the hope of stopping her from giving birth to her son, and future rebel leader, John Connor.

Notable Quotable: ‘I’ll be back.’


Kurt Russell in 'The Thing' (1982)32: The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter makes his first appearance in our list with his 1982 remake of the Howard Hawks classic. Starring Carpenter favourite Kurt Russell, the film adheres more closely to the original novella by John W. Campbell Jr. than the 1951 original. A US outpost in the artic comes into contact with a shape-shifting life form that takes on the appearance of any organism it kills. Apart from its incredible Rob Bottin special effects (which landed him in hospital after an exhausting 24/7 year on the project), the film's greatest strength is the mounting suspicion and paranoia our isolated heroes fall victim to as the Thing picks them off one by one and leaves them fearing themselves and each other…

Notable Quotable: ‘Nobody trusts anybody now…’


Blue Velvet (1986)31: Blue Velvet (1986)

Before Mulholland Drive, before Wild at Heart, before Twin Peaks, there was Blue Velvet. David Lynch’s 1986 murder mystery featured his trademark surrealism, brilliant direction and one of the most terrifying performances ever given, with Dennis Hopper as the psychopathic Frank Booth. Starting with the discovery of a severed finger in a field, Lynch takes us on a nightmarish journey through the hidden underbelly of small town America, revealing the seedy goings-on behind the closed doors of his fictional Lumberton. Accompanying us on the nightmarish trip are Lynch favourites Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern, leading the way through a tale of secret suburbia, sadomasochism, violence and murder. A true must for any Lynch fan and one of the darkest films in an otherwise brightly-lit decade…

Notable Quotable: ‘See that clock on the wall? In five minutes you are not going to believe what I’ve told you.’


The Never Ending Story30: The NeverEnding Story (1984)

Das Boot director Wolfgang Petersen lands in Hollywood to write and direct this magical fantasy about a lonely little boy who answers the call to adventure in the mystical land of Fantasia. Reading the land’s tale from a leather-bound book he’s ‘borrowed’, our young hero, Bastian, follows the tale of Atreyu, a young warrior on a quest to save Fantasia from certain oblivion. However, reality and fantasy soon meet and Bastian finds the book calling to him, begging him to save the characters and the doomed land in which they live. With staggering visuals and fantastic special effects, The NeverEnding Story is a truly magical piece of film and a wonderful addition to 80s cinema…

Notable Quotable: ‘Fantasia has no boundaries.’


Labyrinth (1986)29: Labyrinth (1986)

Starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie, this musical fantasy from director and Muppets co-creator Jim Henson is one of the 80s' more memorable movies. With her baby brother abducted by the Goblin King (Bowie), Sarah Williams (Connelly) is forced to find her way through a mythical and ever-changing labyrinth before her brother is turned into a goblin himself. Featuring songs and musical numbers by Bowie, and Henson’s penchant for puppets and memorable characters, Labyrinth is one of those films for which the 80s will always be fondly remembered, and rightly so…

Notable Quotable: ‘You have thirteen hours in which to solve the labyrinth, before your baby brother becomes one of us… forever.’


Carrie Fisher in 'The 'Burbs'28: The 'Burbs (1989)

Tom Hanks leads the cast in this comedy classic about a group of nosey suburbanites who find themselves fascinated by their new neighbours, the Klopeks. Convinced their newest residents are nothing more than devil worshipping mass murderers, Hanks and co are soon armed to the teeth with surveillance equipment, heavy artillery and an iron-cast will to protect their idyllic neighbourhood from the forces of darkness. Hilarity ensues, of course, and the film is made all the better with welcome performances from Bruce Dern and Rick Ducommun, the true antagonists of the piece and the perfect depiction of the real neighbours from hell. Always a worthwhile watch, The 'Burbs still seems fresh and relevant to this day…

Notable Quotable: ‘Nobody knocks off an old man in my neighbourhood and gets away with it.’


Flight Of The Navigator (1986)27: Flight of the Navigator (1986)

Starting off in 1978, a young boy goes missing, only to turn up again in 1986. Despite being missing for eight years, the boy, David Scott Freeman, hasn’t aged a day. Coinciding with his reappearance is the discovery of a flying saucer, and it soon becomes clear that the two are intricately linked. It seems young David did more than disappear in 1978, but went on the journey of a lifetime and navigated his way around the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Reacquainting himself with the downed craft, David reassumes his role as ‘navigator’ and sets about finding his family and his way back to 1978. A classic adventure, Flight of the Navigator is still enjoyable today and remains a firm favourite with anyone who was lucky enough to grow up in the 80s…

Notable Quotable: ‘OK turkey, you fly it!’


Beverly Hills Cop26: Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Another appearance form Eddie Murphy here with his star-making turn as Detroit cop Axel Foley, on the tailcoats of his stunning and lauded performance in 48 Hrs (1982). On the trail of his best friend’s killer, Axel finds his way to the sun-kissed streets of Beverly Hills and soon uncovers a drug smuggling plot involving local art dealer Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff). Hindered and helped by bumbling cops Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and John Taggart (John Ashton), Foley foils Maitland’s smuggling operation and avenges his friend’s death, all the while producing one of the funniest films to come out of the 1980s and one of Eddie Murphy’s most memorable characters…

Notable Quotable: ‘You’re not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe?’


The Abyss (1989)25: The Abyss (1989)

It’s another entry for James Cameron here with an underwater sci-fi adventure set in the dying days of the Cold Wa. The Abyss sees a team of underwater oil rig workers enlisted by the US Navy to help recover nuclear warheads from the ocean floor. Agreeing to help out, the civilian staff soon find themselves locked in a battle with the Navy seals they’ve allowed on board, and the slow realisation that something else is down there in the water with them, something not human, something alien… With pioneering camerawork by diving enthusiast Cameron and the fantastic special effects we’ve come to expect from him, The Abyss is one of the director’s more profound pieces and showed us the futility of the cold war and a world armed to the teeth with world-obliterating nukes…

Notable Quotable: ‘It’s not easy being a cast-iron bitch. It takes discipline and years of training… A lot of people don’t appreciate that.’


Adrienne Barbeau in The Fog (1980)24: The Fog (1980)

Still riding high from his earlier success with Halloween (1978), John Carpenter made a return to form with this 1980 horror classic. Featuring real life mother and daughter Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis, the film saw the return of vengeful pirates, risen from the dead to wreak havoc on the descendents of those who betrayed them 100 years before. The film proved a real fright-fest and offered up some genuine scares, as a small town fends off a slaughter from the sea. Carpenter again provides the music in this tale of terror, as he did on Halloween, and once again proves his worth as a director and true master of the horror genre…

Notable Quotable: ‘The celebration tonight is a travesty. We’re honouring murderers.’


Nasty (Predator, 1987)23: Predator (1987)

It wouldn’t be the 80s without Arnie, and here he is again with 1987’s Predator. Here, Arnie plays Dutch, the commander of a crack commando squad, called in to retrieve a CIA hostage in the Central American jungle. It isn’t long, though, before Dutch and his troops realise they’re not alone and find themselves being picked off, one by one, by an invisible killer. With classic Arnie one-liners, explosions galore and violence aplenty, there’s not much to find wrong with this action-packed tale of an alien on the hunt and where humans are the game…

Notable Quotable: ‘Get to da choppa!’


Nice. Willow (1988)22: Willow (1988)

Sorcery, witchcraft, war and wizardry all come into play in this 1988 fantasy directed by Ron Howard. Warwick Davies plays the title role of Willow Ufgood, a reluctant dwarf forced to take a young princess back to her people. Unfortunately for Willow, he soon runs afoul of humans, black magic and mayhem. Luckily, he has the help of the swashbuckling Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), the wise old sorceress Fin Raziel, and two miniscule Brownies, Rool and Franjean. With a story by George Lucas and one of the first displays of the 'morphing' computer-generated special effect later to be made most famous in Michael Jackson's Black And White music video, Willow was a fantastic story and light-hearted adventure that still manages to entertain to this very day…

Notable Quotable: ‘ooh, I’m really scared. No! Don’t! There’s a peck here with an acorn pointed at me!’


Platoon21: Platoon (1986)

Starring Charlie Sheen, Platoon is Oliver Stone’s personal take on his experiences in Vietnam and the fight for his soul between commanding officers Elias (Willem Dafoe) and Barnes (Tom Berenger). The film depicts what life was like in 1967 Vietnam, and follows Chris Taylor (Sheen) as he completes his tour of duty and learns what it really means to be at war. Harrowing and brutal, Platoon was not only a testament to war and the hell it brings, but also to youth and the loss of innocence, for America itself as well as its soldiers…

Notable Quotable: ‘Shut up! Shut up and take the pain! Take the pain!’


Steve Guttenberg and Kim Cattrall in 'Police Academy' (1984)20: Police Academy (1984)

The film that spawned six sequels, and rumours of an eighth was, unfortunately, the only one that was actually funny. Funny enough, though, to earn its rightful place in our top 50, and also for marking our first introduction to favourite characters such as human noise-machine Jonesy, Commandant Eric Lassard, Eugene Tackleberry, the always uplifting Sgt. Callahan and the always outsmarted Lt. Harris. The film also introduced us to a young Steve Guttenburg, taking up his most memorable role as Cadet Carey Mahoney. The gags come thick and fast as we follow a bunch of hopeless hopefuls making their way through police academy training and eventually becoming the bumbling police officers we all know and love…

Notable Quotable: ‘So tell me, you and the wife do it doggie-style, or what?’


Wall Street (1987)19: Wall Street (1987)

‘Greed is good,’ said Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) in Oliver Stone’s take on the Wall Street wannabe’s of 1980s America. In a film that probably holds more relevance today than it ever did before, we follow young Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) as he lies and deceives his way to the top of the money pile, betraying his family and himself in the process. This movie defined a decade. Wall Street’s unabashed lust for power and money still holds sway today, and it won’t be long now before Gordon Gecko makes his big screen return with money-grabbing sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Notable Quotable: ‘Lunch is for wimps.’


Big Trouble In Little China (1986)18: Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

It had Kung fu and Kurt Russell, magic and mayhem, John Carpenter and Kim Catrall, wise-cracking wizards and the Pork Chop Express. It was, of course, Big Trouble in Little China, the film which saw all-American trucker Jack Burton (Russell) come to his friend’s aid in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Tough-talking lipstick-wearing Burton is one of Carpenter’s most hilarious creations, as he talks and shoots his way through the supernatural underworld to do battle with Lo Pan, a 2000 year-old magician and the kidnapper of his friends fiancé. An insane plot with insane special effects, Big Trouble in Little China is a true triumph of 1980s cinema and a welcome departure for Carpenter as a director…

Notable Quotable: ‘Ol’ Jack always says… what the hell?’


The Breakfast Club17: The Breakfast Club (1985)

The brain, the athlete, the criminal, the princess and the basket case, they will always remain faithfully ours – The Breakfast Club. Cruelly sentenced to a Saturday morning detention, this small band of high school misfits are forced to deal with each other and their own unique personalities, experiencing humour and heartbreak along the way. Adding further woe to their weekend incarceration is uber bastard Principal Vernon, played here by the ever-cranky Paul Gleason. The film marked another bout of quality direction by John Hughes and provided us with yet another nugget of 80s movie gold…

Notable Quotable: ‘We’re all pretty bizarre, some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.’


Stand By Me (1986)16: Stand by Me (1986)

Rob Reiner’s adaptation of the Stephen King novella, The Body, tells the tale of four friends embarking on a journey to see, you guessed it, a dead body. The film, much like King’s story, focuses more on the journey the friends make and what they learn about each other, and themselves, than the actual end result of finding a dead kid. Narrated by Richard Dreyfuss and starring a young Kiefer Sutherland, the film’s real stars were its main characters and the accomplished portrayals the young actors gave them. And while Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton and Jerry O’Connell all delivered performances well beyond their years, it’s the late River Phoenix who really brought it home as the kid with a bad rep but a heart of gold…

Notable Quotable: ‘Suck my fat one, you cheap dime store hood.’


Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun'15: Top Gun (1986)

Homosexual overtones aside, Top Gun was the feel-good film of the 80s, packing in action and entertainment faster than an F-16 fly-by. Directed by Tony Scott, Top Gun follows the rise and fall of a young pilot named Maverick (Tom Cruise). Fighting his fellow pilots and his pain-ridden past, Maverick does his best to stand out in a testosterone-filled flight school and romance his new flight instructor (Kelly McGillis), all the while flashing that whiter-than-white Tom Cruise smile. The film saw Cruise cement his status as an 80s icon, and left us with a story of pilots and their pitfalls as they compete against one another to find out who the real Top Gun is. Is it Ice Man or Maverick? It’s certainly not Goose…

Notable Quotable: ‘I feel the need…the need for speed!’


Indy doing his thing in 'Temple Of Doom'14: Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984)

Amazingly, this Indiana Jones venture is the one Spielberg is least proud of, believing he naively gave into sentiments of casual racism with his depiction of the Indian people. Whether you agree with that or not, there can be no denying that The Temple of Doom is one of the best films of the 1980s, and a more than worthy sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark. In this instalment Indy finds himself re-routed to India, where a small village calls on him to rescue their enslaved children and return their sacred stones, recently stolen by the latest residents of the Pankot Palace. Indy wouldn’t be Indy if he didn’t come to their aid and soon sets off on yet another adventure, where all an archaeologist needs is a whip, a damsel in distress and ‘that’ hat to get the job done…

Notable Quotable: ‘Hey, lady! You call him Dr. Jones!’


Scarface (1983)13: Scarface (1983)

Directed by Brian De Palma and written by Oliver Stone as a fond farewell to his cocaine addiction, Scarface was an ode to excess in every way possible. It told the tale of Tony Montana, a Cuban exile who claws his way to the top of the Miami underworld and becomes a paranoid, drug-addicted mad man in the process. The always outstanding Pacino delivered the performance of a lifetime and earned his place in the hearts of gangsta rappers everywhere with the introduction of his ‘little friend’ and his always popular philosophy: ‘When you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.’ Have truer words ever been said?

Notable Quotable: ‘All I have in this world are my balls and my word, and I don’t break ‘em for no one.’


Ill-omens in 'The Shining' (1980)12: The Shining (1980)

Another Kubrick classic here, and this time it’s his adaptation of the Stephen King novel of possession and madness. This 1980 horror saw Jack Nicholson take on the role of Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who ups sticks with his wife and son to an isolated hotel to finish his flagging novel. Unfortunately for Jack and his brood, they aren’t the only ones in the hotel, and they soon fall victim to the whims of the resident ghosts, encouraging Jack to bludgeon his family to death with a fire axe. One of the most memorable films of all times, it’s also one of the standout horrors of the decade and still has the power to terrify to this day…

Notable Quotable: ‘Heeerre’s Johnny!’


Ferris and company take an artistic break11: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller, the answer to every teenager’s dream of pulling a sickie and bunking off school. This John Hughes classic told the story of a day in the life of the high school hero, his friend, Cameron, and girlfriend, Sloan, as they make the most of ditching class before their looming graduation. A celebration of youth, disobedience and living for the moment, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off remains one of the better comedies of the 1980s, helped cement Matthew Broderick’s star status, and confirmed John Hughes as one of the decade’s most important directors…

Notable Quotable: ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.’


Kiefer Sutherland in 'The Lost Boys'10: The Lost Boys (1987)

Vampires, vampire hunters, the two Coreys and a kick-ass soundtrack - what more could you ask for from an 80s horror film? And while Vampires may be all the rage right now, it was Lost Boys that first gave the genre the rock ‘n’ roll treatment. Arriving into Santa Carla, California, with their newly divorced mother, brothers Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) soon run afoul of the local neck biters, led by David (Kiefer Sutherland), and find themselves in the fight of their lives. Enlisting the help of vampire killers Edgar and Allan Frog, Michael and Sam arm themselves with garlic, wooden stakes and holy water, and take on the local blood-suckers in a fight to the death. With surprisingly good direction from Joel Schumacher and one of the best soundtracks to ever accompany a horror film, The Lost Boys remains one of the best horrors to come out of the 80s…

Notable Quotable: ‘You're a vampire, Michael! My own brother, a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire. You wait 'till mom finds out, buddy!’


Some nasty surprises in the mirror in 'Poltergeist'9: Poltergeist (1982)

Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist caused a critical and commercial sensation when it was released in 1982. The horror classic, about a family’s fight to retrieve their daughter from the supernatural clutches of some restless spirits, proved to be one of the more terrifying horrors to emerge from the 80s. Debate still rages over who really directed the film, with certain scenes and the overall style of the film bearing an uncanny resemblance to Spielberg’s E.T. and Close Encounters of The Third Kind. But to say it was all Spielberg would do a massive disservice to Hooper, who had already proven his horror chops with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Salem’s Lot in the previous decade. Not that any of it really matters anyway, because the end result is still the same: a brilliant piece of cinema and one of the most original movies of the horror genre…

Notable Quotable: ‘They’re heeerre!’


Sigourney Weaver in 'Aliens' (1986)8: Aliens (1986)

Another entry for James Cameron here with his follow-up to Ridley Scott’s classic, Alien (1979). While holding true to the basic nature and essence of the original, Cameron put his own familiar stamp on the franchise by adding action, action, and more action. Reprising the role of Ripley, this time Sigourney Weaver takes the fight to the aliens, and sees her come face to face with our all-time favourite sci-fi bitch, the alien queen. Action and sci-fi at its finest, Aliens took the franchise in a new direction and gave us one of the best thrill rides of the 80s…

Notable Quotable: ‘Get away from her, you bitch!’


Jabba's court in Return Of The Jedi7: Return of the Jedi (1983)

The epic swan song in George Lucas’s Star Wars saga saw our rebel heroes bring it home with one final, crushing blow against the evil Empire. Return of the Jedi also saw Han rescued, Luke become a fully fledged Jedi, a second Death Star destroyed and Darth Vader finally come good. And let’s not forget Leia in that gold bikini. Sadly, the film also saw the death of Yoda, the introduction of Ewoks and the death of Boba Fett. Nevertheless, as final acts go, this one had it all and wrapped up the greatest trilogy of all time, ending possibly the greatest sci-fi story ever told…

Notable Quotable: ‘You cannot hide forever, Luke. Give yourself to the dark side.’


Roy Batty's last moments in 'Blade Runner'6: Blade Runner (1982)

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Deckard is an android… Oh yes he is! He’s an android! He’s an android! He’s an android! Got it? Good. Now that’s out of the way, we can fully appreciate one of most perfectly executed and beautifully filmed movies to come out of the 80s. Helmed by Ridley Scott and based on a Phillip K. Dick novel (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Blade Runner tells the story of a retired cop, Deckard, forced back on the beat to hunt down and ‘retire’ five ‘skin jobs’ (androids) who have illegally landed on Earth. Along the way Deckard falls in love with the beautiful Rachael (Sean Young) and comes face to face with his own mortality and hers. The film is beautifully directed and perfectly paced, with special effects that still seem fresh and relevant to this day. Add to that one of the best-ever musical scores by Vangelis and standout turns by Rutger Hauer and Harrison Ford, and you have one of the greatest films of the 80s and one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time…

Notable Quotable: ‘It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?’


Formidable opponents for Marty McFly 5: Back to the Future (1985)

Making skateboards look cool is one thing, but travelling back in time and almost stopping yourself from being born is another. Of course, if you’re Marty McFly (Michael J. fox) and you’ve got access to a mad scientist (Christopher Lloyd) and his time travelling DeLorean, it’s really not that big a deal. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Steven Spielberg, this brilliant sci-fi adventure saw young Marty making his way back to 1955, having his own mother become smitten with him, saving his dad from the local bully and almost destroying the entire space-time continuum by telling his people what the future holds. One of the most original movies to come out of the 80s, the film was also the first instalment in one of the best trilogies ever produced and made overnight stars out of Fox and Lloyd as the time travelling double-act. A true masterpiece of 80s cinema…

Notable Quotable: ‘He's a peeping tom!’


Indy robbing things he doesn't own in 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark'4: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The film that marked our very first introduction to everyone’s favourite archaeologist, Raiders was the result of the combined talents of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and what a result it was. Locked into a race against time with the Nazis, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) journey to Egypt in search of the Ark of the Covenant, one of the religious artefacts Hitler has had his greedy little eye on. Determined to find it before the Fuhrer’s footmen, Indy enlists the help of his old friend, Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), and sets out on the ride of a lifetime. With action, adventure, danger and romance running throughout, Raiders may very well be the greatest adventure ever committed to film, providing cinemagoers with one of the greatest screen heroes of all time and one the most exciting stories ever told. A brilliant film from start to finish, Raiders remains unchallenged as one of the greatest movies ever made…

Notable Quotable: ‘I hate snakes, Jock! I hate ‘em!’


The Goonies3: The Goonies (1985)

Pirates, hidden treasure, booby traps, adventure, bad guys and gadgets, The Goonies had it all. With a story by Spielberg and direction by Richard Donner, The Goonies saw Mikey Walsh (Sean Astin) lead his friends, and disgruntled brother (Josh Brolin), on the adventure of a lifetime as they go in search of One Eyed Willie’s hidden treasure. Faced with the threat of losing their homes to make way for a new golf course, the Goonies dodge bullets and battle their way through underground caves, fending off high school bullies and escaped convicts in the process. It’s a fantastic ride and remains a firm favourite with all ages even to this day, but then how could it not when you’ve characters like Sloth, Data, Chunk and Mouth, and possibly the most memorable dance of all time – the Truffle Shuffle…

Notable Quotable: ‘I’ve got it. Why don’t we spread chocolate all over the floor and let Chunk eat his way through?’


Luke takes a look around Dagobah in 'The Empire Strikes Back'2: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Looking back, it’s hard to see how George Lucas could have topped the first instalment of his phenomenal space saga, but top it he did. In one of the few sequels that really are better than the original, Irvin Kirshner's Empire Strikes Back took the Star Wars story in a braver, bolder and much darker direction. Still licking its wounds from a surprise defeat by the rebels in A New Hope, the empire, led by Darth Vader, goes for the jugular and tightens its stranglehold on the galaxy – first chasing the rebels out of their hideout, then pursing Han and his cohorts across the stars for a showdown in Cloud City. It’s all a ruse, of course, to lure plucky young Skywalker into a trap set by the Dark Lord himself. Luke, being the hero that he is, flies in head-first and comes face to face with a family truth no one saw coming. Not as epic in scope and scale as A New Hope, Empire still surpasses its predecessor with a story that saw everything go to hell, an ending that sent shockwaves throughout the world, and the introduction of a certain green-skinned, big-eared character who proved size isn’t everything. A true classic in every sense, Empire Strikes Back remains one of the pinnacles of 80s cinema and one of the greatest films of all time…

Notable Quotable: ‘No, I am your father!’


The boys in 'Ghostbusters' (1984)1: Ghostbusters (1984)

Of all the truly memorable and brilliant films of the 1980s, there could only one that pipped them all to the post of being our number one. In possibly the film that the 1980s will be best remembered for, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis turned in probably the most memorable movie of their careers. Still fresh, funny and full of fond memories, Ghostbusters told the tale of three parapsychologists who went into business for themselves as spook catchers in New York city, cleaning up the town with nuclear-powered proton packs strapped to their backs. Featuring favourites such as Slimer, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and Gozer the Gozerian, Ghostbusters was spook central and proved fertile ground for some the most original comedy of all time, while only proving to be a landmark for special effects. With hilarious performances delivered throughout by Aykroyd and Ramis, it’s easy to forget about the always overlooked Ernie Hudson and Rick Moranis, both brilliant characters in their own right. But, the real star of the show, as always, is Murray himself. Playing the lecherous and loveable Dr Peter Venkman, Murray delivered one-liner after one-liner, usually to save his own neck, but also to snare the object of his affection, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver). Murray made the movie, so it’s surprising that he seems to be the one holding out on Ghostbusters III. Nevertheless, the first instalment of the Ghostbusters franchise had everything: spooks and special effects, action and adventure, ghouls and gags galore - even the soundtrack still sounds good! If you’ve already seen it, you know what we’re talking about, and if not, why not? It’s our number one film of the 80s and one of our all-time favourites - the always enjoyable Ghostbusters. So, who ya gonna call?

Notable Quotable: ‘We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!’


Related:

Top 10 films that defined the 90s

Top 100 movies of the 1970s

Top 100 movies of the 1970s


Lists at Shadowlocked


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Comments 

 
#1 Guest 2010-04-29 02:36
Fantastic list - it freaks me out that I've seen every single one of the movies on here and have to agree with their status as the top 50 in a decade that truly gave us some crazy, imaginative, brave and totally original movies. The only major exclusion for me is Gremlins... my number 3 favorite movie of all time (after Ghostbusters and Aliens of course).
I love reading your website guys, keep it all up!
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#2 Guest 2010-04-30 06:48
no gremlins? :(
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#3 Guest 2010-04-30 22:25
where is raging bull? clearly the best movie of the 80s and one of the ten best movies ever made.
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#4 Guest 2010-05-02 08:44
what about batman?
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#5 Guest 2010-05-14 05:23
Forgetting that Ghostbusters was not exactly an 80's thing. It started out as a 70's Saturday morning live action show. Same basic premise except that there were only three of them , and one was a gorilla. Before you say something, no I'm not talking about the cartoon ghostbusters , or the cartoon " the Real ghostbusters " , but the show with Larry Storch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4-Io8xMHL4
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#6 Guest 2010-05-14 15:01
Great list. What about Princess Bride? Maybe Raiders and Temple of Doom could be merged into one to make room for it?
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#7 Guest 2010-05-14 16:16
Awesome list.

Maybe I'm just getting old but was the eighties decade the best film decade of all time? (My DVD collection thinks so...)

When's the 90's follow up coming?? :0)
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#8 RE: Top 50 movies of the 1980s Mike Delicious 2011-02-09 11:45
good list! Would have put Empire Strikes Back at the top, but good list otherwise!
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#9 Re: Top 50 Guest 2011-03-30 23:50
Good List. I would replace Temple of Doom with the superior Last Crusade. The Burbs is an odd choice and should be replaced. Die Hard should be moved way up and I agree with the above that The Princess Bride needs to be on this list. Legend and Flash Gordon are iffy calls. Roxanne should also be on this list.
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#10 RE: Top 50 movies of the 1980s der kommissar 2011-04-05 16:39
what about E.T.? ! it was at one time the highest grossing movie and nominated for 9 academy awards.

and Sixteen Candles is also a classic that should be included.
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#11 RE: Top 50 movies of the 1980s Kanye 2011-04-16 05:33
Quoting Guest:
Awesome list.

Maybe I'm just getting old but was the eighties decade the best film decade of all time? (My DVD collection thinks so...)

When's the 90's follow up coming?? :0)


Yo 80's imma let you finish, but the 70's was the best decade of all time!

- sorry couldn't help myself
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#12 RE: Top 50 movies of the 1980s jesse boorman 2011-05-10 19:44
Are you retarded? Coming to America? No Time Bandits, The Fly, Raging Bull, etc. Queen's only good bit of music? You are a twit!
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#13 RE: Top 50 movies of the 1980s Gina 2011-07-03 08:34
BLUE VELVET IS WAY TOO LOW.
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#14 RE: Top 50 movies of the 1980s Wes 2011-07-17 15:04
The main character Jeffery Beaumont found a human ear at the beginning of "Blue Velvet". Just wanted to clarify that. Most of these movies rank in my all time favorites, but I do question the omission of "Gremlins" and "E.T." Overall great list. They just don't make movies like this anymore. Every thing nowadays is exploding CGI horse$h!t.
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#15 RE: Top 50 movies of the 1980s Ken-o 2011-10-07 14:45
What struck me after reading this, having read the Top 100 films of the 70's, was how we have been dumbed down. The vast majority of these movies are, to put it simply, children's movies. No foreign films. Not many made for adults. It is obvious that this is when the decline began.
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#16 RE: Top 50 movies of the 1980s Jim Sullivan 2012-04-18 15:48
Temple of Doom? Really?! And where is Princess Bride, Local Hero and Field of Dreams?!
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#17 RE: Top 50 Movies of the 80's DeEtta Leaton 2012-08-03 22:35
What? No Princess Bride? After it has been touted as: The Wizard of Oz for a new generation. That's just terrible.
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#18 http://roma.xbakeka.com Bakeca Incontri Roma 2013-05-30 06:09
I really like Robocop and Terminator ( all parts ). There are so many movies there I haven't seen
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#19 Pint Chris Chris 2013-12-27 13:16
E.T
Top Gun
Commando
Young Guns ???
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