Movie Buffs! Check Out The Most Iconic Films Of The 80s

The nostalgia factor associated with some of these movies will hit you right in the feels, believe me! Action blockbusters which got recent sequels, career-defining projects for Scorsese, David Lynch, and Spielberg… the 80s’ movies had it all, and here are the best of the best ones!

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#22. Amadeus

Maybe the fact that classical music’s popularity has declined heavily during the 20th and 21st Century can diminish this movie’s attractive, at least to young fellas. But believe me, this portrayal of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life is as full of drama as any famous rapper’s biopic.

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Though some of the genre’s purists criticized director Milos Forman for presenting the audience with some fictionalized events, the truth is that these decisions (like including a bitter rivalry between Mozart and fellow composer Salieri) only added to the movie’s intensity.

#21. This Is Spinal Tap

We can’t help admiring F. Murray Abraham’s acting as Salieri, that was definitely one of history’s best performances! Amadeus would later win 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. On the other hand, maybe This Is Spinal Tap didn’t earn prestigious awards like Amadeus, but it’s undeniably a classic.

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Released in 1984 and directed by Ron Reiner, this movie wasn’t too successful at first, but it gathered a massive cult following as the years went by. The concept itself is already funny: a “director” follows the steps of a fictional band called Spinal Tap. The whole thing is a great satire, as the movie makes fun of real rock documentaries and their tendency of putting musicians on a pedestal.

#20. After Hours

Though some boring people didn’t get This Is Spinal Tap‘s humor, it was declared “culturally, historically, or aesthetically relevant” by the Library of Congress in 2002, so guess who’s laughing now, huh?

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Featuring Griffin Dunne as the protagonist, and directed by no other than Martin Scorsese, After Hours came out one year after This Is Spinal Tap. The renowned director of Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and The Wolf Of Wall Street, had received lukewarm reception with The King Of Comedy, of 1983.

#19. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Fortunately, Scorsese’s talent was recognized once again with the success of After Hours, a black comedy that takes place in Soho, New York. Another movie from the 80s that’s universally considered iconic is the teen comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

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Written and directed by Jon Hughes, the film stars Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller, a high school student who spends a day in Chicago. The innovative and hilarious script made it an instant box-office triumph and one of the most successful movies of 1986. If you liked this one, don’t miss #11!

#18. Ran

That’s right fellas, it wouldn’t be right if this list only included English-speaking films, there’s a ton of unforgettable art from that comes from foreign countries! Though many film lovers have been paying attention to Japan’s awesome Anime movies in the past couple of years (Your Name, A Silent Voice, etc), this country’s classic directors are generally overlooked.

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The name Akira Kurosawa should at least ring a bell, since he’s one of the most influential directors in the history of cinema, with classics like Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Ran. The latter came out in 1985 and it’s an epic adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear… definitely a must-see!

#17. Back To The Future

Even when an amazing movie is released and celebrated by critics and casual cinema fans alike, it can be hard to tell if it’s going to be considered a timeless classic that represents a specific era or cultural moment.

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Back to the Future is definitely one of those scarce cases in which a movie can both stand the test of time and carve itself an invaluable place in everyone’s memory. Even if you weren’t dazzled by it, it’s undeniable that Michael J Fox’s time-traveling story is practically a synonym of the 80s!

#16. The Elephant Man

What a way to open the decade, right? Released in 1980, The Elephant Man is probably where you should start if you wanna look into David Lynch’s phenomenal and sometimes mind-bending work. Lynch has accomplished a curious feat: he never abandoned the surreal and complex touch which he is known for, while also earning mainstream success.

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While Mulholland Drive is said to require watching it at least three times to understand what’s going on, The Elephant Man is more easy-going. Don’t ask me how did John Hurt manage to pull off such a spectacular performance with that amount of makeup though!

#15. Once Upon A Time In America

Don’t miss our top 3 to discover which other memorable David Lynch movie made it into the list! But enough about the director of the Twin Peaks series for now. Why don’t we talk a bit about the immense Sergio Leone?

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The director of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is credited by film experts with the honor of creating (and popularizing) the Italian Western genre. Starring no others than James Woods and Robert De Niro, Once Upon a Time in America is perhaps the best film to have come out in 1984.

#14. Die Hard

Indeed, Sergio Leone is one of the only guys who know how to create an extremely violent, yet classy and gripping film. But another emblematic movie of the 80s that’s filled with violent scenes is Die Hard.

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Starring Bruce Willis, this film was released in 1988. As a Friends fan, I can’t help but reminisce about that hilarious scene where Joey and Ross enthusiastically shout “Die Hard!!!” and proceed to watch it for the second time in a row.

#13. The Empire Strikes Back

I sure can’t blame them, cause Die Hard is always a reliable pick when you’re thirsty for adrenaline and some good old action scenes! And talking about movies that everyone knows, The Empire Strikes Back deservedly earned its place as one of the best releases of the Star Wars franchise.

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Anticipation was huge after the original Star Wars film’s success in 1977, and fortunately enough, George Lucas was on an incomparable creative moment, for he wrote the entirety of that awesome script all by himself. Impressive, right?

#12. The Road Warrior

Though George Lucas did plan the story, a lot of the credit is also due to the actors’ solid performance (Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill) and Irvin Kershner’s directing skills. Yet another sequel that surpassed the already enormous expectations was The Road Warrior.

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Released in 1981 and also known as Mad Max 2, George Miller’s post-apocalyptic classic stunned every single fan with its stunning visuals and epic scenes. If you liked Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth installment of the franchise, then you shouldn’t miss this one.

#11. The Breakfast Club

If you ask me which is the best Mad Max film, I’d have to go with The Road Warrior for Mel Gibson’s incredibly solid performance, but let us know which one is your personal favorite! Moving on, maybe The Breakfast Club doesn’t have any flamboyant visual effects or anything like that, but it’s still one of the quintessential films of the 80s.

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The idea of this emblematic comedy-drama is pretty straightforward: 5 teenagers are stuck in detention for a whole Saturday with the school’s annoying and bossy headmaster. Each character represents a different stereotypical high schooler: we have the nerd, the sports star, the troublemaker, the goth-loner, and the popular girl.

#10. Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Despite being extremely skeptical of each other at first, rather sooner than later the students discover that they share more similarities than they could’ve thought. The Breakfast Club would prove to be a hit amongst young audiences, and it’s still one of the most lovable movies of all time! But now, let’s change the genre and talk about one of the greatest epic films ever.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark is certainly one of Steven Spielberg’s most iconic projects. It’s the memorable first installment of the legendary Indiana Jones franchise. Harrison Ford was chosen for the lead role, and the gripping intensity of his character’s mission (finding the Ark of the Covenant) turned the film into the biggest box-office success of 1981.

#9. Aliens

James Cameron is yet another director with a gift for directing creative and critically acclaimed films which also break box-office records. At this moment in his career, he still hadn’t achieved the highest-grossing movies of all time (Titanic and Avatar), but his talent was already palpable with the amazing Aliens.

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Aliens, which came out in 1986, achieved a rare feat that not many sequels accomplish: it had an original style while remaining faithful to the original at the same time. Without a doubt, it’s one of the greatest horror films ever.

#8. Raging Bull

Renowned director Martin Scorsese has already appeared on this list with After Hours, but we wouldn’t help to mention Raging BullIf you’re into dramatic biopics, then this film is exactly what you’re looking for.

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Unquestionably one of the best movies of the 80s (and perhaps Scorsese’s most captivating one), Raging Bull stars Robert De Niro achieve one of his most mesmerizing performances as the toxically jealous and self-destructive boxer Jake LaMotta.

#7. Hannah And Her Sisters

It’s pretty rare for a director that had his golden-era movies in the 70s or 80s to achieve a notable resurgence in such a different time as the 2010s, but Woody Allen garnered praise, once again, with recent projects like Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris.

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But his funniest and most solid films are Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters, one of the greatest comedies of the 80s. Featuring Mia Farrow and Carrie Fisher, as well as Michael Caine, Hannah and Her Sisters hilariously explores Manhattan’s neurotic habits.

#6. Ghostbusters

However, if a prize for the funniest movie of the 80s existed, it would probably go to Ghostbusters. Released in 1984 and directed by Ivan Reitman, the film follows a group of guys who open a ghost-catching business in New York.

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The producers required a budget of almost 30 million dollars for the innovative special effects, but the witty script and Bill Murray’s hilarious role were definitely Ghostbuster’s highlights. The movie would then become not only a box-office hit but also an enormous cultural phenomenon in America.

#5. The Shining

Some people consider The Shining to be a drama film, while others affirm it fills all requirements of a horror flick. If we take the latter position, then it’s safe to say that The Shining is probably the most acclaimed movie of its genre.

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The far-flung, snowy and eerie setting, the iconic scene where Jack Torrance breaks the bathroom door with an ax, Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duval’s striking performances… The Shining had what it took to become an instant classic!

#4. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Truth be told, most of the credit for The Shining’s awesomeness should be given to director Stanley Kubrick, and to Stephen King, since the plot is based on a novel of his. But, going back to Steven Spielberg’s stunning catalog as a filmmaker, E.T. is another of the decade’s most defining releases.

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Indeed, though many of the movies of this list are pretty much considered some of the best of all time, others need to be contextualized, since their prestige is also due to the fact that they became huge cultural phenomenons, and an important part of the country’s history as well. And that’s definitely the case of E.T.!

#3. Blade Runner

Let’s face it, who can help but crying while watching Spielberg’s cherished classic? The little alien and the movie’s valuable lessons definitely carved themselves a place in everyone’s heart since it first premiered on cinemas. But now, let’s go back to action films and relive one of the genre’s greatest classics.

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Yet another film that defined the 80s and got a recent sequel is Blade Runner. Though many watched (and loved) Blade Runner 2049, featuring Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, and others, the original film, which came out in 1982, was undoubtedly more revolutionary. Be sure to watch it if you haven’t already!

#2. Do The Right Thing

Spike Lee stands amongst some of the most thought-provoking and respected directors. His vivid and faithful portrayal of one of the most controversial activists on Malcolm X, BlacKkKlansman‘s compelling drama… the man is as relevant as ever, and so are the topics he usually addresses.

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Perhaps Do The Right Thing is where he best achieved his goal: to shed some light and thus open the debate regarding America’s racial tensions and the country’s historical mistreatment towards African-Americans. Besides, this one was also the director’s commercial breakthrough. Slide on to discover our #1 movie from the 80s!

#1. Blue Velvet

We’ve already discussed David Lynch’s admirable accomplishment as a director: while taking risks and creating complex films with innovative plots, he also managed to obtain commercial success and maintain popularity.

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Released in 1986, Blue Velvet is a psychological drama that, due to its controversial content, became one of the oddest Hollywood films. As time passed, it amassed a cult following, and Lynch received his second Academy Award nom for Best Director.

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