10 Movies to Describe the 80s

10 Movies to Describe the 80s

If someone came up to you, who had no knowledge of the 80s, and asked you for ten movies that you would recommend to teach them about the 80s, what would you choose? This is far harder than you can imagine. I’ve jotted down a list of movies, with no limit, and I had to stop myself at 25. So what not make this the top 25 movies? Need a nice number, and 10 just fits.

(Note: Yes, I know everything is #1.  When I copied and pasted into WordPress, it changed.  Not sure why, I’ve done this before and didn’t have this problem, but it kinda works since this isn’t a true Top 10.)


  1. The Secret of My Success

As a kid growing up, I loved this movie. Michael J. Fox, a hot girl (Helen Slater), and it all goes down in New York City. Can you get any better? Ok, the real reason I love this movie, and added it to this list, is because growing up, I actually though that when you grow up and become a business person, you have to go to a big city. You go to it and live there, work there and all that. So, thinking that, and seeing that in this movie, I was in heaven!

I have no idea what Fox’s character, Brantley, does at this company. All I know is he gets to wear a sweet ass suit, has a secretary, and did you see his office? Today, in my cube life, I’d be happy to have a cube by a window, but he gets and office, a huge fucking office! If you gave me that, and the internet, my productivity would be about .03%. Seriously. I’d be staring out the windows, surfing the net, playing some games.

So why is this movie on the list when there are better work movies (9-5 or Wall Street)? Because I never saw those movies in the 80s and so they never hit me like this one. Remember, this is my list…you’ll get your chance later to make your own!

  1. A Nightmare on Elm Street

In the 80s, there are two horror movie franchises that come to mind when you think horror and 80s: Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Both are great 80s horror franchises and I only have room for one, so I chose the one that impacted me the most.

As a boy, growing up in the 80s, I loved Horror! My best friend growing up and I would watch as many as we could. He even convinced his mom to subscribe him to Fangoria Magazine! How the hell did he do that? I’m not sure, but because of that, we spent hours poring over them. We topped off the 80s in 1988 by convincing his dad, and my parents to let him, take us to see Nightmare on Elm Street 4 in the theaters. Big deal you thing? I was either 11 or 12, and he 10 or 11 and we got to see a rated R movie in the theater. We were the shit and we threw it in everyone’s face who would listen. Yes, we left the part out of having nightmares for a week, but that can be lived with to be able to say you saw a rated R movie in the theater. I guess now a days it’s not that big of a deal, but in the 80s, it was.

We’d also take old winter gloves, cut off the finger tips, cut out four cardboard “blades” and attach them to the gloves. The kids in our neighborhood would shit bricks when they saw us coming. Probably laughing at our ridiculous gloves, but we liked to think that they were really afraid.

Understand now why I chose Nightmare over Friday the 13th? It was a part of my youth, where Friday the 13th was never appreciated by myself until college.

  1. Indiana Jones movies

Yes, this is three movies, not one. But you can’t list one with out the rest. They all affected me the same, so I can’t leave any of them out. So what is it about these movies that I would use to show the 80s?

First there is the amount of Action/Adventure movies that are in the same line at this: Tomb Raider, National Treasure and The Mummy to name a few.

Second, if you were asked to name an Action/Adventure movie from the 80s, what would you say? Yea, got ya there!

Third, they all kick major ass. Come on, what little boy in the 80s didn’t play Indiana Jones with one of their dad’s hats and one of their sisters jump ropes? I sure did. Thankfully, there is no picture of that.

  1. Back to the Future Trilogy

Again, another trilogy of movies, but you can’t name one without the others. When I think about the 50s, I still see the version set forth in the first movie! In the 80’s, who didn’t think of the year 2000 and not think of flying cars, hot colors and hover boards! These movies kicked ass and had a major influence on us all. If I say flux capacitor, you know exactly what I mean without mentioning the movie! And these movies make the De Lorean a cool car. Hell, when I first got my drivers license, the first time on the highway, I took my car up to 88 mph just as a tribute to this movie franchise.

To this day, I see many a Gen Xer that still quotes it. “Hello, McFly!” is the most famous of them all. Just a few months ago, I caught my former boss saying it to a coworker! I totally loled (will that one be around in 25 years?). And I can’t count the number of times when heading off on a road trip that I heard this: “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” Classic!

  1. Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi
star_wars_empire.jpg starwars_returnofthejedi_12.jpg

You don’t think I’m going to forget these two movies, do you? I doubt anyone will question Empire, but some of you will question Jedi. Why both? Well, Empire goes without question. It was, without a doubt, the best in the original Star Wars Trilogy. But Jedi, for me as a 7 year old, awesome! I could spend all day watching the movies, and the toys! I best friend growing up had all the Star Wars toys, and I was so jealous. I had a Luke Skywalker who lost its lightsaber. He had so many, and anytime up there, we pull them out and spend an afternoon playing. As a kid, I didn’t understand that Jedi wasn’t a great movie. “The good guys won!” “The Toys Rock!” “I wish I could meet an Ewok!” Yes, that last quote would make a mature (oxymoron maybe?) Star Wars fan cringe, but I loved them. Why is that? I was 7 and I accepted them without question. That is why I loved the Ewoks then, and since I still accept them today, I love them now. And that is why Jedi ruled, because I accepted what was presented before me and didn’t question. To bad I grew up and now don’t…at least not with some things. But I will still, and always will, accept what George Lucas presented us with Star Wars.

  1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

“Ferris Bueller, you’re my hero.” was famously quoted by Ferris’ best friend Cameron after Ferris saved him from the swimming pool. And what kid who grew up in the 80s didn’t think that? Here was your average looking kid, who skipped school, had an awesome fucking adventure and got away with it! Now, I skipped my fair share of school, but never did I have an adventure like this movie! Hell, I didn’t have the balls to even try. But I lived vicariously though this movie and boy was it fun! There have been rumors that they might make a sequel to this. I sure hope they never do. What will they do, Ferris skipping out of a day at work? His kid skips out? Lame!!! Don’t trash the greatness that is this movie by creating a sequel just to make a sequel. If I want to see Ferris, I’ll pull out my DVD and pop it in and have fun. And along the way I’ll have some great flashback on my life growing up, and no new movie can ever do that.

  1. The Goonies

I grew up in suburbia. At the end of my street was a woods. My sisters and friends would many a day spend in those woods searching for adventure, trying to create our own Goonies and by George did we have a blast! I’ve talk to many a person who watched this movie growing up, and every one that loved this movie tried to go on their own adventure at least once. That my friends is the mark of a decade defining movie. I’ve seen scores of kids movies since, and none have the adventure, and none treat the youth audience like adults like this movie. I think that is what makes it great. The story doesn’t treat you like a kid. My wife, who is 6 years my junior, watched this with me, for the first time, two years ago. She loved it! She was amazed that it was a kids movie. What the hell can’t more kids movies be like this. A movie meant for kids, but one that doesn’t talk down to them, one that isn’t dumbed down for them.

  1. The Breakfast Club

I didn’t see this movie until the 90s. But upon watching this for the first time, it brought flash back to the 80s, and that is why I put this on the list. That, and the fact that it was a huge hit too.

In this, you see all the different types of kids in school and you see them splintered at first, and finally together. It is a great story, that really isn’t all that much if you think about it. But that’s what makes it great! It’s simple yet very complex. And it has a great 80s feel too.

  1. The Karate Kid

This movie, like with so many other kids, got me into Karate. I only started in the spring of 1990, but I started because of this. Not only that, this movies kicks ass, literally and figuratively. Mr. Miyagi is a cult icon, even unto this day. The story is a classic “underdog” story, telling of a kid that under horrible odds comes out on top. Come on, what is more 80s than that?!

Now, I didn’t go around with friends and play The Karate Kid, (except on the Nintendo…horrible game that was) but, like so many kids at that time, I signed up for karate because of this movie. The school I went to started up two years before the movie came out, and I remember talking to my teachers about his movie and they said that the kids poured in to their school when this came out.

Ok, what did that last paragraph have to do with the 80s? Nothing, but it shows that it was a popular movie, and if you are questioning why this one is on the list, go watch it then argue.

  1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

This movie is a classic! This movie just dumps a load of 80s on you and doesn’t quit. From the wonderful house in the suburbs, to the trendy neighbors, this whol movie screams 80s!

Now, why did I pick this one instead of the first Vacation movie or European Vacation? Well, European vacation sucked. Besides showing a nice set of boobies, I don’t remember anything about that one. The first Vacation movie is awesome, but when asked about any one of the National Lampoon Vacation movies, hell, any National Lampoon movie, what is the first one that comes to mind? Exactly, this one! That is reason enough to pick it.

This list was a far greater undertaking then I imagined when I came up with it. Took me far longer to write too, but it was a blast! Yes, I missed a lot of great 80s movies. But let’s face it, this is my list and I can put whatever on it that I want. Remember, if someone asked me for 10 movies to define the 80s, this is what I would give. I’m sure a dozen people can create a top 10 on this and each person will come up with something different. That’s the way of top 10 lists.

What is most important is not that I left something off, but that each one of these movies belongs. Don’t think so? Let me know. What 10 would you have chosen? Leave yours in the comments below and let’s see what you’d have chosen


2 responses to “10 Movies to Describe the 80s

  1. Great list, I agree with you every step of the way. You’re right about it being hard too, cos there are some I can think of which are also landmarks. Well to me anyway. Like the Princess Bride, or Willow. Great list and a great read.


  2. You are so right! When I created this list, I had a list of 25 or so movies and narrowing it down was kinda hard. And Princess Bride was on that 25.

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