The Period from 1980 until 1989 was truly an amazing time for cinema. Everything was just so…1980’s! Filmmakers during this time were truly doing something magical. Maybe it was something in the air. I have no idea what it was, but there was definitely something going on that will never be able to be replicated today, try as they might. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and go through 10 top classics from this golden age. Whether you were born then or just love everything about it, there’s something for everyone on this list.
1. Scarface (1983)
“Say hello to my little friend!” Kicking off this list, we have Al Pacino in the starring role of Scarface, playing a Cuban drug lord in Miami named Tony Montana. It’s a classic tale of rising to the top and the dangers that come along with drugs, murder, and living excessively… as if those things weren’t dangerous enough as it is. If you like violence and crime with the F-word used in every other line, this is your movie!
2. Ghostbusters (1984)
Everything Bill Murray touches turns to gold. He’s just perfect. And with him playing Dr. Peter Venkman as the lead character in Ghostbusters, you’d have a very tough time debating that statement. Three men go into the business of Ghost Busting, which is just another word for a ghost removing service… like a bug removal guy, except a little more advanced. This is another film to be produced in the 1980’s to just have an all-around stellar cast, featuring Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis, an actor who left show business completely halfway through the 90’s to be a family man.
3. The Terminator (1984)
Before he was The Governator, he was The Terminator. Arnold Schwarzennegar plays as a time-travelling killing machine. He is sent back in time to kill a waitress from the year 2029, due to the fact that her soon-to-be-born child will eventually lead a war against the increasingly powerful machines, resulting in disaster. It’s violent. It’s gritty. It’s totally fun. The Terminator is an excellent movie, however, it falls into a very rare category in which the sequel surpasses the original. Had it been released in the 80’s, Terminator 2: Judgement day would have made its way on here instead. Watch both. You won’t be disappointed.
Five different kids from high school all meet in detention and the experiences changes their lives. It is incredibly sappy and melodramatic, but it is a near-perfect time capsule for this period in movie history. There are more quotable lines from this movie than I could ever list (well, I could, but that would take all day) and a lot of great comedic scenes. It’s a film that everyone will be able to relate to no matter what kind of people they hung out with in High School.
5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Ferris Bueller is taking the day off from school. That’s final. His principal can try and stop him all he wants, but there is no way in hell Bueller is going to school today. Instead, he’s gonna joyride in his friend Cameron’s car, hang out with his buddies, go to a parade, and just do general 1980’s things. Matthew Broderick is excellent as the lead character today, bring the perfect wise-guy attitude that is needed to complete a role such as this. John Hughes is master director with a great eye for detail and little comedic nuances, and this is a prime example.
6. Stand by Me (1986)
A classic coming of age story, originally written by Stephen King as a novella titled “The Body.” Stand By Me stars River Pheonix, may he rest in peace, alongside Corey Feldman, Will Wheaton, and Jerry O’Connel. But wait! There’s more! This movie also includes Kiefer Sutherland, John Cusack, and Richard Dreyfuss as the narrator. It’s a heartfelt story of kids in the golden age of America, the 1950’s, who hear of a missing person’s report. Supposedly, a kid was hit by a train and the body went missing. Whoever finds it gets a reward and, well, for these kids, to be heroes. If it sounds like a horror movie, it’s not. It will hit you in the nostalgia nerve hard.
Funnymen Steve Martin and John Candy star in this bromance before bromance was even a thing, about a man just trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving. Candy’s portrayal of Del Griffith is both the most frustrating yet endearing; everything he touches turns into a disaster yet he only has the best of intentions at all times. The comedic pair are a match made in heaven, bouncing off of each other flawlessly. Steve Martin has stated that out of all of his films, Planes, Trains & Automobiles remains his favorite.
8. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Harrison ford makes this list not one, but twice! Here he plays the daring Indiana Jones in the first installment of the Indiana Jones franchise in Raiders of the Lost Ark, written a duo of creative geniuses; George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. You can debate the quality of their later works, but from the period of the late 1970’s to the late 1980’s, they were masters at what they did. Raiders is the perfect mixture of action and suspense playing like a 1950’s adventure story, and when Harrison Ford is added into the mix, the results are astounding. It spawned two critically-acclaimed sequels and one abomination (2008’s Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull), as well as a television show about his adventures as a kid, which no one really seemed to pay any mind to. Still, each installment from 1981 until 1989 is well worth watching.
9. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
While there were two Star Wars films that were released this decade, The Empire Strikes Back is widely considered to not only be the superior film of the decade, but of the franchise as a whole. I can’t say I disagree. The effects are absolutely stunning, and the story with the big reveal between the relationship of Luke and Vader is one of the greatest moments in all of movie history. Harrison Ford originally wanted Han Solo to be killed off in Empire; he felt that story-wise, it was the best possible move for the series to make. Fortunately, he didn’t, and we got to see more of him three years later in Return of the Jedi, and now in The Force Awakens!
E.T. is without a doubt the number one most iconic film from this decade. Steven Spielberg’s magnum opus follows the story of an unbreakable bond between a child named Elliot, struggling with his parent’s divorce, and an alien lifeform that was left behind by his family when they needed to make a quick escape from earth. Elliot and his family start on an adventure to bring the little alien at home and go through all kinds of stuff that really makes you feel like The Grinch when his heart just starts getting bigger and bigger and bigger at the end of his own film. Beautifully directed, wonderfully scripted, gorgeously shot, and featuring John William’s unparalleled scoring, E.T. is one of the most important fantasy works of all time. Seriously, if you want to cry, watch this film. You can find everything that was truly great about this decade in E.T.
That’s it. That’s all there is for now. Why are you still reading this? Go watch one of these movies! You can’t go wrong with ANY of these choices. Trust me!