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Regardless if you’re an ’80s baby yourself, or you were born after the new millennium, there’s a universal appreciation for the period of filmmaking when everything seemed slightly more grandiose — thanks especially to the advances in technology. But the best ’80s movies didn’t rely solely on spectacle. Rather, they’re a harmonious blend of themes, whimsy, and adventure, and of course, executed from names who grew into legends like Spielberg, Scorsese, Zemeckis, Ramis, Landis, Hughes, and more.

Instead of trying to provide a definitive ranking, we’ve instead compiled the best ’80s movies chronologically. The ten year period was ripe in drama, sci-fi, and comedy — even bucking the notion that sequels were never as good as an original film.

Scroll down see our selection of the best ’80s movies.

The Blues Brothers

Year: 1980
Director: John Landis
Rotten Tomatoes: 83 percent
Editor’s Note: The Blues Brothers was an example of John Belushi and Dan Akroyd coming together at the height of their fame. Sadly, in two years time, the noted SNL funnyman would be dead from a drug overdose.

The film itself is chock full of ’80s movie logic. Two unlikely heroes — distinctly unique in their approach to life — must reach an end goal that is much bigger than either of them. But unlike similar films of the era, The Blues Brothers is heavily aided by musical flourishes from luminaries like James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker.

Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back

Year: 1980
Director: Irvin Kershner
Rotten Tomatoes: 95 percent
Editor’s Note: While it would be hard to top the original Star Wars, some have argued that The Empire Strikes Back is not only equally as good, but even outpaced the first film in the franchise. Since audiences had the first film’s set-up to rely on, there’s an added complexity to the characters in the second installment — while also adding in memorable new aspects like the AT-AT Walkers, Boba Fett, and Lando Calrissian. But at its core, we come out of this film feeling connected much stronger to Luke’s saga with Darth Vader, and Han and Leia’s relationship.

Raging Bull

Year: 1980
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rotten Tomatoes: 95 percent
Editor’s Note: There are often two schools of thought when it comes to boxing films. One type of audience wants something like Rocky provided — an underdog story ripped completely from the mind of a screenwriter — while another type of audience wants the cold, hard facts that a traditional biopic highlights.

Raging Bull falls into the latter category, but thanks to Jake La Motta’s unbelievable life, sticking to the facts doesn’t mean we’re starved of those goosebump-inducing moments when you’re unsure if the main character will prevail even though it’s a factually-based story.

Caddyshack

Year: 1980
Director: Harold Ramis
Rotten Tomatoes: 84 percent
Editor’s Note: Caddyshack is a classic ’80s movie whose logline/synopsis doesn’t do it justice. Perhaps that’s the real beauty of Harold Ramis’ film about the inner workings at an elitist country club; the shenanigans of every day life far outpace any grandiose plot points. And of course, the loosely constructed narrative gave Bill Murray ample room to do what he does best.

The Shining

Year: 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Rotten Tomatoes: 87 percent
Editor’s Note: Horror movie content works in cycles. There was an era when it was decidedly psychological in nature, then there was “torture porn,” and now production houses like Blumhouse have moved toward micro-budget features with strong hooks. The Shining would probably be considered a psychological film, but of course, there are plenty of moments when the things on screen are as unsettling as anything ever seen in the horror genre. If there’s any knock on horror films, it’s that the characters seem to go from 0-60 MPH when it comes to evolving as a fully formed person. In The Shining, Jack Nicholson’s descent into madness occurs slowly — making his turn all the more effective.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Year: 1981
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rotten Tomatoes: 95 percent
Editor’s Note: There are few ’80s movie characters as iconic as Indiana Jones — the suave, smart, and brave archaeologist who battles Nazis in between college lectures. The first installment in the trilogy (we’re just ignoring Indiana Jones 4) set the tone for what would be hallmarks of the franchise. Jones is a decidedly flawed man, but his willingness to stick his neck out for important relics — far beyond mere showcase pieces at a museum — make his shortcomings forgivable.

Superman II

Year: 1981
Director: Richard Donner & Richard Lester
Rotten Tomatoes: 85 percent
Editor’s Note: Superman II is the rare sequel that is actually better than the original. Asking a question we’ve all probably pondered at one point or another — “what if Superman gave up his powers?” — we see a side of a superhero that would later be explored in Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe when an aging Bruce Wayne is no physical match for Bane. In this case, Superman’s decision to live as a mortal man coincides with an alien invasion that forces Clark Kent to choose between his love for Lois Lane, and his duty to his adopted home planet.

Stripes

Year: 1981
Director: Ivan Reitman
Rotten Tomatoes: 86 percent
Editor’s Note: Be prepared, Bill Murray makes several appearances on this list of the best ’80s movies. In Stripes, he plays an aimless man who decides to enlist in the U.S. Army in hopes of using the structure the armed forces provides to make changes in other aspects of his life. Of course, joining up comes with more complications than solutions — providing the audience with an off-kilter look at an Army story that is more about the people in uniform, than the mission.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Year: 1982
Director: Amy Heckerling
Rotten Tomatoes: 78 percent
Editor’s Note: Fast Times at Ridgemont High was an important film that set the template for other high school-focused films that would come later. Depending own who you are, high school was probably either the best or worst time of your life. On one hand, life is pretty care free and everything from the roof over your head to the clothes on your back are given to you. On the other hand, you have no idea who you are in the grand scheme of things. Amy Heckerling’s honest portrayal of what life is like for both sides is not only hilarious, but also sobering at times.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Year: 1982
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Rotten Tomatoes: 89 percent
Editor’s Note: Just like in the case of Superman II, many have made the argument that the sophomore effort in the Star Trek franchise is better than the original. Focusing on a hero that is forced to reconcile with an old nemesis, The Wrath of Khan somewhat feels like a Western that has been transplanted into space.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Year: 1982
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rotten Tomatoes: 98 percent
Editor’s Note: There are few films that captured the public’s imagination like Steven Spielberg’s E.T. did. Although both visual and practical effects went a long way in telling the story of a lampooned space alien, Spielberg’s real genius lay in anchoring the narrative in the life of ten year old, Elliott. As they grow closer, the danger feels palpable. The stakes are also both heightened and grounded. We know if E.T. is discovered, he will be subjected to a life of pain, but if he leaves, Elliott will lose a best friend. Like any good drama, the choice isn’t an easy one.

Blade Runner

Year: 1982
Director: Ridley Scott
Rotten Tomatoes: 90 percent
Editor’s Note: Set in Ridley Scott’s version of 2019 Los Angeles, Blade Runner finds a burnt-out cop, Harrison Ford, looking to track down six replica human beings in a city populated by 106 million people. While there are of course prominent sci-fi elements, the film is grounded by prominent film noir principles which introduced aspects like a femme-fatale and nihilistic viewpoint.

Rambo: First Blood

Year: 1982
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Rotten Tomatoes: 88 percent
Editor’s Note: Like so many other characters that Sylvester Stallone has portrayed, Rambo was yet another on-screen personality who birthed a string of other hits. The film that started them all, Rambo: First Blood, is a definitely an ’80s action flick, but underneath all of the savagery, is a relevant tale about a Vietnam War veteran struggling to acclimate back into society.

Trading Places

Year: 1983
Director: John Landis
Rotten Tomatoes: 86 percent
Editor’s Note: What elevates Trading Places from a funny film to one of the best ’80s movies is not only the chemistry that Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd share on screen, but also the subtext of “nature versus nurture” which was explored in more recent film, Three Identical Strangers. Set in the stuffy world of personal finance, it’s the rare film set in around the stock market that actually entertains as it explains the process of “longing” and “shorting” a position.

Scarface

Year: 1983
Director: Brian De Palma
Rotten Tomatoes: 81 percent
Editor’s Note: There are few characters in all of cinematic history as memorable as Al Pacino’s portrayal of Tony Montana. Watching as he rises from low-level drug pusher to one of the most notorious kingpins in the Miami area, the film is ripe with quotable for days and established a precedent embraced in modern television where it was indeed okay to root for the bad guy.

National Lampoon’s Vacation

Year: 1983
Director: Harold Ramis
Rotten Tomatoes: 93 percent
Editor’s Note: The classic, American family road trip is as universal a plot as any. While many have followed throughout the decades, none have don’t it quite as effectively as National Lampoon’s Vacation. Chevy Chase shines as patriarch, Clark Griswold, whose seemingly innocuous desire to have the perfect cross-country bonding experience with his family brings out the absolute worst in him.

Risky Business

Year: 1983
Director: Paul Brickman
Rotten Tomatoes: 96 percent
Editor’s Note: When you think of Risky Business, chances are you first conjure up that image of Tom Cruise in his underwear and Ray-Ban Wayfarers singing Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.” While decidedly an iconic scene in film history, Risky Business is a film that tracks from the opening credits to the closing scrawl thanks to an ensemble that feels like perfect casting of teenagers just looking to have a little fun without parental supervision.

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

Year: 1983
Director: Richard Marquand
Rotten Tomatoes: 81 percent
Editor’s Note: Set one year after The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi establishes other iconic characters in the franchise like Jabba the Hut — while also wrapping up the building tension between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. While it’s definitely not a perfect film, it does an admirable job at providing a conclusion to the original trilogy of films.

Eddie Murphy Delirious

Year: 1983
Director: Bruce Gowers
Rotten Tomatoes: 83 percent
Editor’s Note: Eddie Murphy’s debut stand up film, Delirious, solidified the SNL alum as one of the breakout stars in the history of the lauded late night show. Decidedly profane — while still maintaining his ability to turn something as mundane as a kid visiting an ice cream truck into a masterclass in pantomime — it’s hardly a coincidence that Murphy turned into one of the biggest stars during the era.

A Christmas Story

Year: 1983
Director: Bob Clark
Rotten Tomatoes: 89 percent
Editor’s Note: Christmas stories are decidedly niche. And while that sentiment is pretty true, Bob Clark’s film turned the tradition of gift giving on its head by exploring something that is wholly universal; wanting something with little disregard for if it’s a good idea or not. In Ralphie, a character unwilling to contemplate life without a Red Rider BB Gun, we all feel that adolescent pull between boyhood and having to put away childish things.

The Karate Kid

Year: 1984
Director: John G. Avildsen
Rotten Tomatoes: 88 percent
Editor’s Note: The Karate Kid franchise has been reignited recently with a return to the original cast for a YouTube original series — albeit finding Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence in place as de-facto sensei’s. What makes the original Karate Kid so memorable was the relationship forged between Daniel and Mr. Miagi. Whereas members of Cobra Kai were taught to be merciless, Miagi instilled in Daniel a sense of self-restraint when it came to using violence. While we all can recall his unorthodox teachings like “wax on, wax off,” “paint the fence,” and “sand the floor,” in the moment, it was hard to fathom that Miagi was actually teaching him karate lessons.

This is Spinal Tap

Year: 1984
Director: Rob Reiner
Rotten Tomatoes: 95 percent
Editor’s Note: Mockumentary films can be a tricky genre to navigate. At their core, they are spoofing films that have already come out — thus relying on call backs to moments that may be unfamiliar to many. What makes This is Spinal Tap so effective is that everyone — regardless of their preference of music — understand the outrageous behavior of a rock and roll band. With that concept firmly established, the masterful cast of Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer were free to improvise much of the film which added greatly to the overall feel of this actually being shot and interpreted in the moment.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Year: 1984
Director: Wes Craven
Rotten Tomatoes: 94 percent
Editor’s Note: Wes Craven’s classic ’80s horror movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street, took viewers to a place I bet they wish they didn’t have to go; specifically, into the seemingly tranquil dreamscape which the filmmaker no longer established as an esoteric place with nothing to fear. The villain in the scenario, Freddie Krueger, terrified both kids and adults alike thanks to a burned up aesthetic and razor sharp glove which continues to be a combination that registers with contemporary horror fans.

Dead Poets Society

Year: 1984
Director: Peter Weir
Rotten Tomatoes: 84 percent
Editor’s Note: A good teacher can impact the entire trajectory of his/her student’s lives. While that doesn’t perfectly summarize the plot of Dead Poets Society, it does go a long way in explaining how if a teacher is fully committed — and specifically able to use unorthodox means to awaken seemingly dormant areas for a student — anything is truly possible moving forward.

Once Upon a Time in America

Year: 1984
Director: Sergio Leone
Rotten Tomatoes: 86 percent
Editor’s Note: Although Sergio Leone’s name is most synonymous with spaghetti westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars, he traded in the great Italian expanse for a New York City locale for Once Upon a Time in America. Focusing on a familiar aspect of the gangster genre — a rise from adolescent hood to adult power broker — the European cut of the film is considered amongst the greatest in the pantheon of mob films.

Purple Rain

Year: 1984
Director: Albert Magnoli
Rotten Tomatoes: 67 percent
Editor’s Note: The semi-autobiographical film starring Prince as an up-and-coming musician in the Minneapolis scene is the rare film where the music itself feels like a fully fleshed out character — thus earning the box office smash an Academy Award for Best Original Score. Bathed in ’80s neon hues, boasting big hair, and spandex that leaves very little to the imagination, Purple Rain remains a precious time capsule to the era.

Ghostbusters

Year: 1984
Director: Ivan Reitman
Rotten Tomatoes: 97 percent
Editor’s Note: Whereas ghosts themselves had usually been reserved solely for horror films, Ghostbusters was able to artfully blend the supernatural with the slapstick — due in large part to the wonderful ensemble of Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. Asking the question, “what if the people catching the ghosts were more interesting them the phantasms themselves?” the film remains of the best ’80s movies of all time.

Beverly Hills Cop

Year: 1984
Director: Martin Brest
Rotten Tomatoes: 84 percent
Editor’s Note: It should come as little surprise that Eddie Murphy parlayed his stand up special, Delirious, into a successful franchise. As Axel Foley — a Detroit cop out of his element in the posh Southern California community — Beverly Hills Cop laid the groundwork for similar buddy cop movies that would come later like Rush Hour.

The Terminator

Year: 1984
Director: James Cameron
Rotten Tomatoes: 100 percent
Editor’s Note: As recognizable a franchise as any in film history, the original Terminator explored the idea of fusing a time traveling element with a more traditional action film. Arguably launching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career worldwide, the film established him as an unstoppable killing force, only to humanize him in the excellent Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Year: 1984
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rotten Tomatoes: 85 percent
Editor’s Note: The follow-up to the original from three years earlier, Indiana Jones resumes his action-packed archaeological life — this time trading in Nazis foes — as he battles a mysterious Indian cult who rely on evil practices like child slavery and human sacrifice. It may not quite live up to the original, but there are a number of memorable set pieces — like the plane crash into the Himalayas, monkey brain dinner, and of course, watching as a mysterious high priest pluck out a living man’s heart.

The Goonies

Year: 1985
Director: Ivan Reitman
Rotten Tomatoes: 71 percent
Editor’s Note: A familiar trope contained in many of the best ’80s movies was to have a group of colorful — and dreadfully under-supervised children — go off on a great adventure which tests not only their bonds, but gets them in just deep enough that the audience questions if they’ll make it out on the other side. The Goonies uses an effective set up to get things in motion. Since all of the kids and their parents are losing their homes, there’s really only one option — seek out the booby-trapped treasure of One Eyed Willie.

Back to the Future

Year: 1985
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Rotten Tomatoes: 96 percent
Editor’s Note: Back to the Future was supposedly conjured up when writer, Bob Gale, had a thought pop into his head one day that asked, “I wonder if I would be friends with my parents if we went to high school at the same time?” Of course, this would only be possible if time travel were at a person’s disposable. Following this line of thinking, we find Marty McFly travel back from 1985 to 1955 — albeit as an accident instead of as an intention. And since the future is already written, any disturbances to that timeline had dire consequences.

The Color Purple

Year: 1985
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rotten Tomatoes: 85 percent
Editor’s Note: Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Color Purple is one of the more serious films during an era where every box office smash was either an action film, or a broad comedy. Touching on important — yet often swept under the rug issues relating to race in America — the box office smash launched Oprah Winfrey’s career and established Steven Spielberg as a director capable of multiple genres.

The Breakfast Club

Year: 1985
Director:
Rotten Tomatoes:
Editor’s Note: If there were such a thing as the “King of ’80s movies,” the title would probably be held by John Hughes — who along with The Breakfast Club — churned out National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Planes, Trains & Automobiles. The Breakfast Club feels like one his most personal. Following an eclectic group of kids who have all been called in for detention, the inactivity of school jail forces them all to confront truths about themselves that they may not like.

Rocky IV

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Year: 1985
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Rotten Tomatoes: 40 percent
Editor’s Note: There’s usually sequel fatigue with every progressive installment that a franchise churns out. It’s usually a combination of a premise being squeezed for everything that it has, or out of left field choices that bastardize the original. In the rare example, Rocky IV actually feels like a fresh addition to the life of the Philadelphia pugilist. Placing him in the squared circle against an opponent who he knows he can’t beat — who just so happens to have made it personal — it’s really the first indication that Rocky could actually get killed in the ring.

Top Gun

Year: 1986
Director: Tony Scott
Rotten Tomatoes: 54 percent
Editor’s Note: On paper, Top Gun shouldn’t really work. The majority of the film is spent in the training portion of what it takes to be a fighter pilot. That would be like a sports film spending most of its time on the stretching and nutrition aspects of being a professional athlete. And yet, it somehow works — due mostly to the competitive nature of the pilots themselves — where ego and risk taking always threatens to end in disaster.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Year: 1986
Director: John Hughes
Rotten Tomatoes: 76 percent
Editor’s Note: There is no grandiose plan inside the mind of Ferris Bueller when he decides to skip school and bring his girlfriend and best friend along for the ride. If the film were much more goal oriented, it probably wouldn’t be as an effective a story. Bueller himself isn’t into making plans. Instead, he lives in the moment and savors every second of it. While those on the periphery may be fed by making a point — like Principal Rooney — Ferris is simply blissful in puling off an effective ruse.

Stand by Me

Year: 1986
Director: Rob Reiner
Rotten Tomatoes: 91 percent
Editor’s Note: At the end of Stand by Me — after a rag tag group of friends completed an arduous journey to discover the body of a missing kid — the narrator states,”I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12.” There’s something both poetically happy — and sad — about this idea. As we grow older, we tend to grow apart from the people who shaped us so greatly as adolescents. And even if that’s true, Stand by Me reminds us we don’t have to forget the valuable life lessons we learned along the way.

Aliens

Year: 1986
Director: James Cameron
Rotten Tomatoes: 96 percent
Editor’s Note: Aliens is yet another ’80s movies which challenges the idea that a sequel is usually worse than the original film. While decidedly more action-packed than the more horror-focused Alien, it does an excellent job at exploring Ripley’s grief as she reconciles with everything that has already happened.

Blue Velvet

Year: 1986
Director: David Lynch
Rotten Tomatoes: 94 percent
Editor’s Note: Even if David Lynch films aren’t necessarily your cup of tea, there’s much to be learned from his horror-noir film, Blue Velvet. If you’re going to do a film that might be deemed controversial, one has to be willing to accept the good commentary with the bad. Lynch makes films that satisfy his own personal curiosities — not simply placing out tasty pieces of bait for consumers. And while challenging, Blue Velvet is an important film in his canon.

Platoon

Year: 1986
Director: Oliver Stone
Rotten Tomatoes: 88 percent
Editor’s Note: While most young men who ended up fighting side by side in the jungles of Vietnam were drafted into service, there were also thousands of enlisted men who signed up to fight for their country. When placed together on both the battlefield — and during down time — it makes for a truly unique experience that Oliver Stone captures brilliantly in Platoon.

Big Trouble in Little China

Year: 1986
Director: John Carpenter
Rotten Tomatoes: 78 percent
Editor’s Note: When Big Trouble in Little China came out, people didn’t quite know what to make off the off-center martial arts flick that was also equal parts comedy that really pushed the boundaries on absurdism. As such, the film was a critical failure. But like many films that don’t adhere to genre guidelines, it has since become a cult classic.

The Princess Bride

Year: 1987
Director: Rob Reiner
Rotten Tomatoes: 97 percent
Editor’s Note: The Princess Bride is a film about characters. Regardless of how intricate they are in Westley’s plot to get back the love of his life, Princess Buttercup, each person feels like a fully formed individual with ample quirks that make them hard to forget about. Should Hollywood ever circle back to explore different elements of William Goldman’s world, we’d certainly love to see what Miracle Max is up to, or come to understand more about Inigo Montoya’s father.

Predator

Year: 1987
Director: John McTiernan
Rotten Tomatoes: 80 percent
Editor’s Note: Thanks to the success of The Terminator, we had a lot of ’80s movie plots that pitted man versus a seemingly perfect killing machine. However, Predator is light on cyborgs and dystopian futures, in favor of a more simplistic game of cat and mouse in the jungles of Guatemala.

Lethal Weapon

Year: 1987
Director: Richard Donner
Rotten Tomatoes: 83 percent
Editor’s Note: The buddy cop trope is not only effective, but also timeless. In the case of Lethal Weapon, it was the perfect mix of Mel Gibson’s off the wall antics as Martin Riggs, and Danny Glover’s Roger Murtaugh who seemed to want to play it a little more by the book. Spanning countless sequels, the film remains a gold standard in exploring the relationship between police partners.

Dirty Dancing

Year: 1987
Director: Emile Ardolino
Rotten Tomatoes: 71 percent
Editor’s Note: When Patrick Swayze suavely announced, “No one puts Baby in the corner,” it launched the actor as a certifiable sex icon throughout the ’80s and ’90s. While the plot is decidedly straight forward — a young woman’s awakening upon meeting a local dance instructor — the soundtrack for the film illustrated that music could be a character unto itself.

Raising Arizona

Year: 1987
Director: Joel Coen
Rotten Tomatoes: 91 percent
Editor’s Note: Only in the hands of artful filmmakers like the Coen Brothers could a story about a baby kidnapping place the kidnappers in the roles of the heroes. Like other films they’d go on to make, everyone in Raising Arizona is seemingly morally bankrupt. As such, a couple’s infertility seems like a perfectly reasonable excuse to kidnap a baby.

Robocop

Year: 1987
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Rotten Tomatoes: 89 percent
Editor’s Note: As the title of the film succinctly spells out, Robocop exists in a future version of Detroit where technology allows fallen police officers to rise from the dead. Of course, this type of God-wielding power is corrosive — and when combined with corporate greed — lays the foundation for a popcorn action movie.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Year: 1987
Director: John Hughes
Rotten Tomatoes: 93 percent
Editor’s Note: The road trip film is a staple of ’80s movies — specifically in the comedy genre when you place two comedy powerhouses together. In the case of Planes, Trains and Automobiles we get the mismatched personalities of Steve Martin’s Neal Page with John Candy’s larger-than-life Del Griffith. As they make their way from Kansas to Chicago — by a host of different transportation means — each man learns a valuable lesson about himself.

Wall Street

Year: 1987
Director: Oliver Stone
Rotten Tomatoes: 78 percent
Editor’s Note: As Gordon Gekko, Michael Douglas told the world that, “greed is good.” While many were and still are confused about what occurs on Wall St., the film sharing the same name tore the lid of the financial sector by exploring what fuels the people who are willing to do just about anything to turn a profit.

La Bamba

Year: 1987
Director: Luis Valdez
Rotten Tomatoes: 96 percent
Editor’s Note: Whereas music biopics have become all the rage in recent years, there were much fewer options in the late ’80s when it came to exploring the lives of important musicians. Perhaps that’s why there’s so much fondness for La Bamba. Not only is the music great, but it explored the life of a Mexican-American singer who may have been overlooked by the masses.

Die Hard

Year: 1988
Director: John McTiernan
Rotten Tomatoes: 93 percent
Editor’s Note: Is it a Christmas movie, or is it not a Christmas movie? It’s a question that people continue to debate to this day. What is not being contested is how important Die Hard was to the action genre. The contained shooter launched Bruce Willis as a movie star, and Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is amongst the best villains of the decade.

Akira

Year: 1988
Director: Katsuhiro Ôtomo
Rotten Tomatoes: 88 percent
Editor’s Note: Identified as one of our favorite anime films ever, Akira remains one of the strongest and most well known stories in the genre. Both ground breaking for its visual style and adult themes, Akira dispelled the myth that “cartoons” were only for children.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Year: 1988
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Rotten Tomatoes: 97 percent
Editor’s Note: When Who Framed Roger Rabbit debuted it was unlike anything people had ever encountered before — mixing live action actors with some of the most famous cartoon characters in history. However, the film doesn’t rely solely on the spectacle of groundbreaking filmmaking techniques. Rather, it’s a hard-boiled noir story that digs deep into some of the seedier aspects of Hollywood.

Coming to America

Year: 1988
Director: John Landis
Rotten Tomatoes: 88 percent
Editor’s note: As we await the long gestating sequel which is scheduled to hit theaters in 2020, one can’t overlook the brilliance of the original Coming to America. Allowing both Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall to shine in multiple rolls, it remains one of the most quotable and best ’80s movies to this day.

Midnight Run

Year: 1988
Director: Martin Brest
Rotten Tomatoes: 96 percent
Editor’s note: Midnight Run marked an interesting turn in Robert De Niro’s career. Having spent the previous decade working on strict dramas like Mean Streets, The Godfather II, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, and Once Upon a Time in America, the two-hander with Charles Grodin was a decidedly comedic film — albeit with some mafioso elements spliced in for good measure.

Beetlejuice

Year: 1988
Director: Tim Burton
Rotten Tomatoes: 84 percent
Editor’s Note: Beetlejuice took viewers on a ride that they probably weren’t expecting. Ghosts are our heroes, a strange teenage girl is our viewpoint, and Michael Keaton absolutely sells it as an undead character with the grace of a sadistic used car salesman.

Big

Year: 1988
Director: Penny Marshall
Rotten Tomatoes: 97 percent
Editor’s Note: Big is one of those high-concept ’80s movies whose formula is reappropriated every so often because it just seems to work. Not quite the body switch genre, the “little to big” transformation allows a major Hollywood star — in this case Tom Hanks — to explore his inner man child.

Rain Man

Year: 1988
Director: Barry Levinson
Rotten Tomatoes: 89 percent
Editor’s Note: Rain Man put a new spin on the road trip movie — opting for something much more poignant and dramatic than the aforementioned comedic fare. For many people, this was their first time experiencing a person with autism. Not only did the film go a long way in illustrating that people with challenges are not helpless, but the on screen chemistry between Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman was quite remarkable as well.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Year: 1989
Director: Stephen Herek
Rotten Tomatoes: 76 percent
Editor’s Note: When two rudderless high school students facing failing grades and military school travel back in time to ace their history presentation, they get much more than they bargained for. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure may be silly, but it established the idea that leading men don’t necessarily have to be brainy or even brawny.

Field of Dreams

Year: 1989
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Rotten Tomatoes: 86 percent
Editor’s Note: For those that label baseball as being “boring,” Field of Dreams should be must-see-viewing. The film reveals that the game is less so about wins and losses, and much more about how America’s pastime links generations together.

The Killer

Year: 1989
Director: John Woo
Rotten Tomatoes: 98 percent
Editor’s Note: John Woo’s classic film was recently introduced to a newer generation when the imagery was used for Supreme’s 2018 collection. Beyond that contemporary sartorial renaissance, The Killer was revolutionary at the time. Whereas many Asian characters of the era were portrayed as being docile, Chow Yun-Fat’s Ah Jong is portrayed as a suave, cool, and calculated.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Year: 1989
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rotten Tomatoes: 88 percent
Editor’s Note: If you rule out 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, one could make the argument that the trilogy ended perfectly with the introduction of Sean Connery as Jones’ father. While we certainly got our fair share of fights with Nazis, this film also introduced a side of Indy where the relic wasn’t the most important thing anymore.

Batman

Year: 1989
Director: Tim Burton
Rotten Tomatoes: 70 percent
Editor’s Note: With the recent speculation that Robert Pattison is going to take on the role of the Caped Crusader, it seems like a good time to reexamine the film that launched the DC universe. While certainly more comical than Christopher Nolan’s interpretation, Michael Keaton’s version of Bruce Wayne established the framework for a billionaire playboy with demons on the inside.

Do the Right Thing

Year: 1989
Director: Spike Lee
Rotten Tomatoes: 90 percent
Editor’s Note: While Spike Lee already had two films under his belt by the time 1989 rolled around, Do the Right Thing was a film that elevated him to Hollywood royalty. Set against a massive heatwave in Brooklyn, the film explores the bubbling racial tensions in a bold and unflinching manner.

Back to the Future 2

Year: 1989
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Rotten Tomatoes: 65 percent
Editor’s Note: After averting near crisis in 1955 — where he successfully secured his own future by making sure his parent’s fell in love — Marty McFly visits a 2015 version of Hilldale that made every kid envious of his hoverboard and Nike Mag’s. As a result of a few poor decisions, the regular 1985 timeline is turned into a dystopian hell that once again shatters the McFly family.

Uncle Buck

Year: 1989
Director: John Hughes
Rotten Tomatoes: 61 percent
Editor’s Note: John Candy had the uncanny knack for turning what could have been a tired cliché into one of the most memorable characters of the ’80s. Crass, loud, and assuredly flawed, Candy slowly built someone as Uncle Buck who may have been rough around the edges, but also understood the value of family.

Sex, Lies and Videotape

Year: 1989
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Rotten Tomatoes: 96 percent
Editor’s Note: Identified as one of our favorite indie movies of all time, Sex, Lies and Videotape illustrated that a commercially viable film didn’t have to fit inside a tidy genre box. Rather, it could be risqué and explore a side of sexuality that may have been deemed taboo earlier in the decade.

Words by Alec Banks
Features Editor

Alec Banks is a Los Angeles-based long-form writer with over a decade of experience covering fashion, music, sports, and culture.