Top 10 80’s movies


Connor Shea, A&E Co-Editor

The 80s was known for all sorts of things from Reagan and Chernobyl to MTV first hitting the air, but overall one of the most notable aspects from the 80s is the films. Home to some of the most outlandish and impeccable movies, it’s hard to narrow down which movies from the decade are the best. Here are some of the most memorable and impactful films from the 80s across a number of genres. These films are ranked in no particular order and were chosen by their memorability, rewatchability, overall enjoyment and quality.

(“Evil Dead 2” 1987 cover art: Google Images)

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Released March 13, 1987, “Evil Dead 2” is the sequel/remake to the classic horror movie “Evil Dead”, both starring Bruce Campbell. “Evil Dead 2” follows the same plot of the original with college kids going to a remote cabin in the woods, only to find the demonic Necronomicon which causes the dead to be possessed and attack our group of survivors. The second film however, focuses more on comedic horror as it includes more jokes and one-liners. Directed by Sam Raimi as his eleventh film and starring Campbell as the main character Ashley “Ash” Williams, “Evil Dead 2” is known primarily for how weird the movie is. There are a number of scenes of incoherent noises and jump cuts, however moments like these proved to be successful as they’ve been used in a number of other horror and comedy movies alike. Although not the greatest or most famous horror movie of its time, “Evil Dead 2” proves to be a more than enjoyable and memorable movie that builds up by far the best film in the series, “Army of Darkness.”

(“Heathers” 1989 cover art: Google Images)

Heathers (1989)

“Heathers” is a teenage drama and dark comedy released March 31, 1989. The film stars Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in their 5th and 9th roles respectively. Directed by Michael Lehmann, “Heathers” is primarily known for its engaging story, a high school couple, Jason Dean and Veronica, murdering some of the most popular students and covering up the crimes as suicides. “Heathers” dives into some more uncomfortable topics, going as far as making very blatant jokes about suicide and eating disorders while still maintaining the seriousness that the plot deserves. All in all, “Heathers” is one of the few movies that will always be recommended to people looking for a new film that they can watch a million times over, and is one of the few films that truly broke social boundaries.

(“Beetlejuice” 1988 cover art: Google Images)

Beetlejuice (1988)

Who hasn’t heard of the legendary film “Beetlejuice”. Released on March 30th, 1988, “Beetlejuice” is one of the few movies that can simply be described as perfect. Starring large names like Winona Ryder in her third role, and Michael Keaton in his 13th film, “Beetlejuice” proves to perfectly blend the horror and comedic aspects, creating a late example for every horror movie in the late 80s. To top it all off, the film was directed by Tim Burton, known for making incredible films of the spooky comedy genre. There’s not one thing about “Beetlejuice” to highlight however, the movie is full of hilarious jokes while always holding the same intensity throughout the entire hour and thirty two minutes. To make matters better, Beetlejuice features incredible makeup and prosthetics done by Ve Neill, the same makeup artist who would go onto do films such as, but not limited to, “Blow”, “Edward Scissorhands”, and even worked on a number of films from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series. “Beetlejuice” is one of the handful of films from the 80s that are impossible to rank, but is well known for being among the best.

(“The Lost Boys” 1987 cover art: Google Images)

The Lost Boys (1987)

“The Lost Boys” is one of the best vampire movies out there by far. Released July 31, 1987, “The Lost Boys” has been said to have some of the “sexiest” vampires in film history. The film was directed by Joel Schumacher and stars Jason Patric and Kiefer Sutherland. Although not the scariest vampire movie out there, definitely overshadowed the 1985 film “Fright Night” on the scary meter, “The Lost Boys” is far more memorable for its incredible cast and plot line. “The Lost Boys” follows a family of three moving to the sunny state of California, only for the older brother Michael to be brought into the wrong crowd of a group of “teenage” delinquent vampires. The film not only has an incredible overall screenplay but also includes a surprising twist that would even put M. Night Shyamalan to shame. Although not nearly as apparent as “Beetlejuice”, the movie also features makeup done by Ve Neill. “The Lost Boys” is one of the most unique movies on this list and in general stands out, making it a perfect candidate for an entertaining and enjoyable movie you can watch time after time without getting sick of. 

(“Three O’clock High” 1987 cover art: Google Images)

Three O’clock High (1987)

Don’t be surprised if “Three O’clock High” is a new name as the film has less notability than the other films in this list, but rest assured that it does deserve to be here. “Three O’clock High” is one of the many comedies from the 80s that seemed to just sink down with some of the other joke movies, but it rises above all the rest in more than one way. Released October 9th, 1987, “Three O’clock High” follows the main man Jerry Mitchell, played by Casey Siemaszko, tries to interview the new kid Buddy Revell, played by Richard Tyson, who has every rumor surrounding him from stabbing a teacher to killing someone. Mitchell finds himself forced to fight Buddy in the highschool parking lot at, get this, three o’clock. The film follows Mitchell through the day, showing him trying to escape this fight only for him to succumb to his eventual fate. Although it doesn’t seem like much on paper, director Phil Joanou makes this film unique by employing a number of shots techniques; like the quick zoom montage, that although unique at the time, would be used in a countless number of films later on. So for the people looking for a simple laugh and the title of being one of the few people to even know the name “Three O’clock High”, this movie is for you. 

(“Better Off Dead” 1985 cover art: Google Images)

Better Off Dead (1985)

John Cusack shines in this movie “Better Off Dead”, proving to be his best movie by far. Released August 23rd, 1985, the film follows high schooler Lane Meyer, played by Cusack, attempting and failing to commit suicide after his girlfriend leaves him for the jock, ski captain Roy Stalin. The film’s plot takes a number of twists and turns featuring the French exchange student Monique, played by Diane Franklin, druggy super senior Charles De Mar, played by Charles Armstrong, and even a portrayal from the young Dan Schnieder, who plays the terrifyingly fitting role of the creepy nerd across the street, Ricky Smith. “Better Off Dead” doesn’t focus entirely on the humor, creating a good blend between the jokes and the romance focused scenes, while also containing one of the greatest moments in film history, a singing and dancing hamburger playing the guitar. By far one of the funniest teen romance movies out there with a twist of some heavy dark comedy. Still, it stands as one of the funniest movies of the decade and one of, if not the best of John Cusack’s career.

(“Stand By Me” 1986 cover art: Google Images)

Stand By Me (1986)

Where to start… “Stand By Me”, released August 22, 1986, is by far one of the most impactful of all 80s movies. Directed by Rob Reiner and based on the Stephen King novella “The Body”, the film follows a group of four boys and their journey through the rural parts of Castle Rock to see a dead body. However, a synopsis of the plot doesn’t accurately tell the viewer what to expect from this film. Starring actors like Cory Feldmen, River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, and Jerry O’Connell, the film proves to be more of an emotional, coming of age story. It shows how Gordie Lanchace comes to terms with growing up and having to grow apart from some of his closest friends, and shows how the group of boys bond in every situation from eating sandwiches to running from certain doom by an oncoming train. “Stand By Me” is one of the few movies that can accurately portray the way the kids interact with each other and with their surroundings, along with their own identity. This movie is absolutely recommended to everyone. Just beware if you don’t like the idea of leeches.

(“The Breakfast Club” 1985 cover art: Google Images)

Breakfast Club (1985)

In a sea of millions of coming of age movies, “The Breakfast Club” is a lone buoy. Released February 15. 1985, “The Breakfast Club” is one of the most iconic movies from the 80s, set in high school detention of all places. Directed by John Hughes, the film follows a mixed group of teens who are all subject to weekend detention for a variety of “crimes”. The Beauty of “The Breakfast Club” doesn’t just come from the hilarious jokes and montage scenes, but also from how the film accurately portrays teens from different backgrounds and cliques, and how they might interact with each other. Starring big names like Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, and Anothony Michael Hall, “The Breakfast Club” proves to be an entertaining and heartwarming movie that anyone in their high school years can relate to, and unlike some of the earlier entries, “The Breakfast Club” is a film that deserves the hype.

(“Dead Poets Society” 1989 cover art: Google Images)

Dead Poets Society (1989)

By far the most heartbreaking entry on the list, “Dead Poets Society” was directed by Peter Weir and released June 2, 1989. The film follows a group of boys attending an extremely prestigious private school known as Welton Academy, or Hellton according to the students. It shows the way the boys begin to stand for themselves after the introduction of a new teacher, Mr. John Keating, portrayed by Robin Williams. From his unique way of teaching poetry to the students, and the life lessons it comes with, the group of boys, starring a young Ethan Hawke, reinvigorate the “Dead Poets Society”, started by Keating himself decades prior. Not much more should be said about the screenplay however as the best part of the film is how you never know what will come next. A mix of highbrow and lowbrow humor is blended perfectly allowing a laugh for anyone watching without seeming cheesy and much like “the Breakfast Club”, the film accurately portrays how highschool teens would act around one another even when in a very compliance based school. With by far the greatest and yet the saddest ending of almost any 80s movie, “Dead Poets Society” is one of the greatest 80s movies and one of the best films to this day.

(“A Nightmare on Elm Street” 1984 cover art: Google Images)

Nightmare on Elm Street  (1984)

And last but most certainly not least, one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, Wes Craven’s “Nightmare In Elm Street”. Released November 16, 1984, “Nightmare on Elm Street” is a staple of the horror genre. Providing one of the greatest horror villains of all time, and one of the most troubled franchises of all time, “Nightmare on Elm Street” is a movie that everyone has heard of. Starring Robert Englund as Freddy Kreuger himself, and Johnny Depp in one of his premier roles, the film follows a group of teens who are picked off by the dream demon Freddy Kreuger. It’s impossible to pinpoint the best parts of the film as everything from the special effects to the score and even the concept itself are what make this movie incredible. Featuring a perfect mix of dark humor and non-cliche scares, “Nightmare on Elm Street” still impacts the industry itself, being seen as not only a classic horror movie, but also likely the beginning of the horror-comedy subgenre. “Nightmare on Elm Street” is another classic that everyone has heard of but one of the few horror movies that isn’t dated by time, still being a genuinely chilling movie today unlike some of its counterparts, and a film that everyone has to see at least once.