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Everybody seems to be in love with the '80s again because of Stranger Things. And why not? The decade of Reagan, Indiana Jones, and Ferris Bueller is just so iconic, that it’s hard not to be. The hair, the clothes, the music. Pretty much everything about the '80s is most excellent. That’s why it’s so awesome to see so many great '80s movies on Netflix available to stream right this instant.
Some of these movies will make you laugh. Some of them will make you cheer. And some of them will even make you think. But all of them will transport you back to the decade when excess was everything, and a guy named Frankie just wanted you to relax. So let’s head back to the '80s, everyone. And pack light. Because where we’re going, we don’t need roads.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Bueller…Bueller… John Hughes’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the quintessential '80s movie. It tells the story of one Ferris Bueller, a carefree teenager (played by Matthew Broderick) who just doesn’t want to go to school today. But the principal (played by Jeffrey Jones), isn’t going to let that fly, and he's out to spoil Ferris Bueller's perfect day.
In a lot of ways, not only is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off the quintessential '80s movie, but it’s also the quintessential Chicago movie as well, since so much of the city is represented and on display in this film. Some people like to say that Ferris is a bad person, while others posit that Ferris Bueller doesn’t even exist and is really just a figment of his friend, Cameron’s, imagination. Whatever you tend to believe, though, one thing is proof positive. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a kick-ass movie, and one that you should be watching right now. Twist and shout!
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Now retroactively known as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, many people believe that the first Indy movie is the best one. Not me, though. I’m a Temple of Doom man, myself. But most people tend to agree that Raiders or The Last Crusade are the best Indy movies. Thankfully, all four (sigh. Yes, there are four Indiana Jones movies…) are available to stream on Netflix. I don’t know if you knew that already, but if you didn’t, then now you do. You’re welcome.
But seriously, the first movie is so iconic that it’s easy to forget just how groundbreaking a film it was upon its release. It tells the story about the most badass archaeologist on the planet (Indy, of course, played by Harrison Ford) who is in a race to reach the Ark of the Covenant before some nefarious Nazis can get their hands on it. The Ark has supernatural powers, and the U.S. government doesn’t want it to fall into enemy hands. That’s where Indy comes in. There’s action, suspense, romance, a boulder! What else more could you possibly want? Kali Ma! Kali Maaaaa! Oh, wait. That’s The Temple of Doom again. Sorry.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)
Do androids dream of electric sheep? I don’t know, do they? In this extended, final cut, they could. But they may also dream of unicorns. There’s also some more violent scenes in this final cut than the original, theatrical version. So, yay, violence.
What is Blade Runner about? Well, it’s really heady stuff. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is about a world in the future (2019!) where androids (known in this movie as “Replicants”) turn dangerous, and a cop named Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford AGAIN!), who may or may not be a Replicant himself, must track them down and “retire” them. But within all that is the question of who deserves to live and die, and if somebody is created to be a human, don’t they have a right to live, too? Check it out. Because there’s a reason why it’s considered one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time.
Stream Blade Runner: The Final Cut
The Evil Dead (1981)
My favorite movie on this list, The Evil Dead is about a man named Ash who travels with his friends to a remote cabin in the woods, only to unleash unspeakable horrors upon themselves when they read from the dreaded book of the dead in the basement. Deadites appear, and there’s even a strangely sexual tree. Yeah…it’s pretty weird.
Purple Rain (1984)
Everybody loves the soundtrack to Purple Rain (it went 13X platinum!). But what about the movie? Well, the movie is pretty great, too. It’s like 8 Mile before there was 8 Mile in that the star of the film is really just rehashing a fictionalized version of their own rise to fame.
That star, of course, is Prince, and he plays a character simply known as “the Kid.” He has a tough life at home but music is his outlet. But there are some problems along the way that Prince, er, “The Kid” must contend with before he can become the ultimate musician. The songs are spectacular (especially the stuff by Morris Day and The Time!) and it's a visually appealing movie.
Stream Purple Rain
La Bamba (1987)
Since we’re already on the topic of music, we might as well hop on over to the story of Ritchie Valens in the biopic, La Bamba. Lou Diamond Phillips plays Valens, and we learn about the rise and tragic fall of the famous musician, who died in an airplane crash with “The Big Bopper” and Buddy Holly.
You know what Robins Williams movie always gets forgotten? Popeye. The movie tells the story of the famous sailor man as he’s looking for his long, lost pappy. On his search, he ends up in the town of Sweethaven where he finds the love of his life in Olive Oyl (played perfectly by Shelley Duvall). They adopt a baby, call him Sweet Pea, and Popeye has to eventually contend against a bully named Bluto for Olive Oyl’s love. It’s a simple story, but a fun one.
Little Monsters (1989)
Speaking of family films. Before there was Monsters Inc, there was Little Monsters. It tells the story of a boy (played by Fred Savage!) who finds a monster named Maurice (played by Howie Mandel) under his bed. But the monster isn’t really scary. No. In fact, he’s pretty much a big goofball.
The film is fun, but also a little creepy—especially when Maurice takes Fred Savage’s character to Monster Land. But it’s an enjoyable film for older kids who like the idea of monsters being their friends.
Stream Little Monsters
Police Academy (1984)
Did you know that there are SEVEN Police Academy movies? The first one, which came out in 1984, stars Steve Guttenberg as Carey Mahoney. Carey joins the police academy when a new mayor says that pretty much anybody can become an officer since there are so few cops on the beat. So pretty much anybody applies. And as you could probably guess, the recruits are woefully unqualified.
Depending on your mileage, you’ll either laugh out loud when you see characters like Larvell Jones making sound effects with his mouth, or you’ll think it’s the corniest thing you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Either way, if you’re watching comedies from the ‘80s, then you have to watch Police Academy. I’m pretty sure it’s the law.
Stream Police Academy
Red Dawn (1984)
You know, if Vladimir Putin ever decides to take on America, I’m pretty sure that we could use the 1984 movie, Red Dawn, as a combat guide. It tells the story of some teenagers, led by a kid named Jed Eckert (Patrick Swayze), who take on the Soviet Union. It’s probably one of the most patriotic films you’ll ever see, and it reeks of Reaganism.
So, yeah. Even though it’s 2020, the ‘80s are still alive and well, and we have Netflix to thank for it. But you can only watch these movies if you have a Netflix account. Because you know. Members only, baby.