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The 1980s will forever go down as one of the most significant decades in terms of contributions to pop culture. With timeless classics like Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Breakfast Club, and landmark sci-fi and horror movies like The Terminator, Aliens, and Friday the 13th, the list of Best ‘80s movies is one that is rich and bursting at the seams with memorable characters, quotable one-liners, and stellar soundtracks that are as popular in 2021 as they were in the summer of 1985.
If you have been wanting to take a trip down memory lane and revisit the best movies the decade had to offer, look no further as we have put together a comprehensive list of nearly 60 of the best ‘80s movies and where you can find them streaming, through digital rentals, and old-fashioned physical media. There’s a lot of ground to cover in not much, so let’s get started…
9 to 5 (1980)
Colin Higgins 1980 workplace satirical comedy 9 to 5 follows three fed-up secretaries, played by Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin, who decide to get even with their tyrannical and sexist boss.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Bob Clark’s 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story follows a young boy named Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) as he tries to convince everyone from his parents to his teacher and even the Santa Claus himself to bring him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.
Adventures In Babysitting (1987)
After being stood up by her boyfriend, high school senior Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) decides to spend the night watching a group of young siblings. What at first seems like a quiet night and easy money quickly turns into anything but in Adventures in Babysitting.
The 1980 disaster film spoof Airplane! answers the question: what happens when a man afraid to fly is the only one who can prevent a jumbo-jet from crashing?
Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is back with a vengeance in James Cameron’s 1986 sci-fi action flick Aliens, and she isn’t stopping until the final Xenomorph is launched into outer space.
Back To The Future (1985)
When Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) steps into a DeLorean time machine and is transported back to 1955, he must avoid high school bullies and a younger version of his own mom if he wants to get Back to the Future.
Tim Burton’s dark and moody 1989 unconventional superhero film Batman sees the Caped Crusader (Michael Keaton) cross paths with his archenemies The Joker (Jack Nicholson), who is hellbent on bringing chaos, destruction, and death to Gotham City.
When the efforts by a ghostly couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) to scare away the new owners of their country home are fruitless, they turn to a spirit by the name of Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) to gain back control.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Martin Brest’s 1984 buddy action comedy Beverly Hills Cop introduces the world to Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy), a wise-cracking and rebellious Detroit police officer who has come to Los Angeles to track down those responsible for his best friend’s murder.
When 12-year-old Josh Baskin (David Moscow) wishes he was a little bigger, he gets his wish and then more when he wakes up to find he has been transformed into a full-grown adult (Tom Hanks). Penny Marshall’s timeless comedy sees Baskin navigate 1980s New York City, but as a child trapped in a man’s body and various situations.
Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Strange things are afoot at the Circle K in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure when two dopey high schoolers (played by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) are given access to a time-traveling phone-booth to pass their history exam and keep their band together.
Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s 1982 noir sci-fi thriller Blade Runner follows replicant hunter Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) as he tracks down four escaped criminals who have returned to earth from an off-world colony. What starts off as a simple game of cat and mouse slowly turns into something much more complex.
Blue Velvet (1986)
David Lynch’s 1986 surrealist crime drama Blue Velvet centers on college student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) as he becomes involved with the dark and twisted world of his town’s criminal underbelly led by the psychotic Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper).
The Blues Brothers (1980)
John Landis’ 1980 musical comedy The Blues Brothers follows the titular characters (played by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi) as they attempt to get their old band back together to help save the orphanage in which they were raised.
Broadcast News (1987)
James L. Brooks romantic comedy Broadcast News plants the audience in the middle of a love triangle involving a talented news producer (Holly Hunter), her best friend (Albert Brooks), and a handsome yet under-qualified anchorman (William Hurt) all while they try to present the news day in and day out.
Set at the Bushwood Country Club, which is infested with rodents and yuppies alike, Harold Ramis’ 1980 sports comedy Caddyshack follows caddies (led by Michael O’Keefe), grounds crew (led by Bill Murray), and all other sorts of characters who spend a summer at the prestigious club.
Coming To America (1988)
John Landis’ 1988 comedy Coming to America follows Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) as he travels to Queens to find a wife to bring back to the African nation of Zamunda.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Set in a prestigious college prep academy, the 1989 drama Dead Poets Society follows newly arrived English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) as he spends a semester opening eyes and changing the lives of his students, for better or for worse.
Die Hard (1988)
NYPD officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) finds himself in the right place at the right time in Die Hard when his wife’s holiday Christmas party is overtaken by a group of international terrorists who holds them hostage in hopes of securing unfathomable wealth.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) goes to spend a summer in the Catskills with her family in Dirty Dancing. Thinking she’ll spend the summer bored out of her mind, Baby quickly finds herself learning what it means to dance, love, and stand up for herself thanks to her dance instructor-turned-lover Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze).
Do The Right Thing (1989)
What initially starts out as a disagreement over which actors should or shouldn’t be included on the wall of a Brooklyn pizzeria quickly escalates into a full-blown riot in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Steven Spielberg’s 1982 sci-fi adventure E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial follows a young boy (Henry Thomas) as he forms an unbreakable bond with a gentle alien who is trapped on Earth and just wants to go home.
Escape From New York (1981)
John Carpenter’s 1981 dystopian thriller Escape From New York sees Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) attempt to save the U.S. President from a group of fanatical criminals who run the streets of Manhattan which has been turned into a prison colony.
Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)
Amy Heckerling’s 1982 raunchy teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont Hight follows the various cliques that call the titular home and how they navigate life, love, and algebra.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
John Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off follows the charismatic titular high school senior (Matthew Broderick) as he convinces his girlfriend and best friend to skip class and have an epic adventure in Chicago.
When Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), a dance-obsessed high schooler, moves to a small town that has banned all forms of music and dancing, he does what any teenager would do in his position: rebels with loads and loads of dancing in Footloose.
Friday The 13th (1980)
The slasher film Friday the 13th follows a group of teenager as they are picked off one by one by a sadistic masked killer with one hell of a backstory involving Camp Crystal Lake.
Who ya gonna call? Well, Ghostbusters if you’re looking for a fun supernatural comedy involving college professors who use their knowledge to rid New York City of ghostly threats.
Written by Chris Columbus and directed by Joe Dante, the 1984 horror flick Gremlins answers the question: What’s the worst that could happen when you spill water on your new pet and feed them after midnight.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Los Angeles police detectives Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) are forced to look past their differences and different lifestyles to uncover a massive drug-trafficking ring in Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon.
Midnight Run (1988)
Martin Brest’s 1988 buddy action comedy Midnight Run follows bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) as he sets out to capture mob accountant Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin), who has skipped out on his bail. What follows is a cross-country adventure with the mob and FBI hot on their tail.
National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
Bumbling father Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) takes his wife and two children on what is supposed to be two weeks of family bonding but quickly devolves into a trip from hell in National Lampoon’s Vacation.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street follows a group of teenagers who are being terrorized by the undead killer Freddy Krueger who attacks them when most vulnerable: while they sleep.
Oliver Stone’s 1986 Academy Award-winning military drama Platoon follows a group of American soldiers in the Vietnam War who are pushed to the brink of losing what little humanity they have left.
Raging Bull (1980)
Robert De Niro plays Jake LaMotta, a former heavyweight boxing champ whose life is falling apart in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 acclaimed Raging Bull.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
The world is introduced to archeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Steven Spielberg’s 1981 adventure film Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Rain Man (1988)
Barry Levinson’s 1988 drama Rain Man netted Dustin Hoffman an Academy Award for his portrayal of Raymond Babbitt, an autistic man who has a knack for counting cards and the game of blackjack.
Brian De Palma’s sprawling 1983 crime epic Scarface follows Cuban immigrant Tony Montana (Al Pacino) as he climbs from the bottom of the food-chain to the top of Miami’s booming cocaine market.
Mel Brooks’ 1987 sci-fi spoof Spaceballs takes plot point from the likes of Star Wars and other classic adventures and creates a farcical race to save the galaxy from the evil President Skroob (Brooks) and Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis).
Stand By Me (1986)
Based on a story by Stephen King, Rob Reiner’s 1986 coming of age story Stand By Me follows a group of childhood friends as they spend the final days of their summer break looking for the dead body of a missing boy.
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)
The 1982 sci-fi adventure film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan sees Enterprise commander Captain James Kirk (William Shatner) cross paths with the villainous Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán), a genetically enhanced superhuman he never thought he’d have to see again.
Steel Magnolias (1989)
The 1989 Golden Globe winner Steel Magnolias follows a tight-knit group of women in northwestern Louisiana who stand together through the thick and thin.
The Abyss (1989)
James Cameron’s 1989 sci-fi thriller The Abyss follows a group of Navy Seals and petroleum engineers as they go to the bottom of the ocean to make a remarkable discovery, one that could destroy or save humanity.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
John Hughes’ 1985 “Brat Pack” classic The Breakfast Club follows five high school students from different walks of life who are brought together during Saturday detention, forever changing their lives.
The Goonies (1985)
Richard Donner’s 1985 coming of age film The Goonies centers on a group of friends who set out for one more adventure together before their neighborhood is demolished and turned into a multi-million-dollar development.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
1980’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back starts off with an epic battle on the ice planet of Hoth and only picks up from there as Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) uncovers a dark secret about his past.
The Karate Kid (1984)
When high schooler Daniel LaRusso is forced to pack up his life and leave the East Coast, he lands in Southern California, where he finds himself the target of the evil Cobra Kai dojo; that is until he learns a few tricks of his own in The Karate Kid.
The Little Mermaid (1989)
The 1989 Disney animated film The Little Mermaid follows the rebellious Ariel (Jodi Benson) as she tries to chart her own course in life, even if that means sacrificing everything.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Rob Reiner’s 1987 fantasy comedy The Princess Bride offers a new spin on the classic fairy tale setup with an epic and hilarious story about a man who would go to the end of the Earth to save the woman he loves.
The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s controversial 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining follows writer/caretaker Jack Torrance and he descends into madness while isolated with his family in the Overlook Hotel in Colorado one winter.
The Terminator (1984)
James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi thriller The Terminator sees Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) being hunted down by a cyborg assassin from the future who has been sent to the past to kill the young waitress before she can give birth to John Connor, humanity’s last hope.
The Thing (1982)
The crew of a remote research facility in Antarctica is torn apart when a shapeshifting alien finds its way into the complex in John Carpenter’s The Thing.
They Live (1988)
Wrestler-turned-actor Roddy Piper plays a drifter armed with a pair of sunglasses that gives him the ability to see behind the illusions of an alien race that has invaded the planet in They Live.
Fed up with not being able to get a job, struggling actor Michael Horsey (Dustin Hoffman) does the unthinkable in Tootsie and reinvents himself as Dorothy Michaels, a female actor who quickly lands a starring role on a popular daytime soap opera. It only gets more complicated from there.
Top Gun (1986)
Tom Cruise plays Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Tony Scott’s 1986 action thriller Top Gun. Upon being invited to a specialized fighter pilot school, Maverick’s skills, as well as his attitude, is put to the ultimate test.
Trading Places (1983)
In John Landis’ 1983 comedy Trading Places, Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy play two men who find their positions reversed as part of a sick game by a duo of villainous millionaires.
The 1983 thriller WarGames follows high school student David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) as he begins to play what he believes to be a high-tech arcade game but what is actually a supercomputer that could bring on the destruction of the planet through nuclear war.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, the 1989 romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally follows the titular characters played by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as they try to prove that a man and woman can have a relationship that doesn’t involve sex.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Robert Zemeckis’ 1988 live-action/animation hybrid Who Framed Roger Rabbit follows Bob Hoskins’ hardened private investigator who is tasked with proving the titular rabbit has been framed with the murder of a high-profile figure.
Well, that was a comprehensive list of the best ‘80s movies streaming. In the event you’re looking for recommendations, there is always CinemaBlend’s list of the best movies on Netflix as well as one with all of the best movies on Amazon Prime. And if you’re looking for new movies, go ahead and check out all the 2021 movie premiere dates.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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