The 1980s seem like a long time ago. There’s a likelihood that you weren’t even born in time to enjoy the decade that brought the world The Walkman, MTV, snap bracelets, and disposable cameras. Even still, you’ve probably enjoyed your fair share of ’80s movies. Because, let’s be honest, it was a great decade to be a movie fan. Even though the clothing styles might seem a little dated, some of the best comedies, action movies, thrillers, and dramas were released between 1980 and 1989 do not.
With this glut of great, sometimes heartfelt, often hilarious, sometimes not too politically correct films, there are a handful that every guy should see. These are the classic movies from various genres that, even in 2023, you’d be remiss if you haven’t viewed them.
Die Hard (1988)
Some refer to this movie as a Christmas movie, but there’s no need to get into that debate here. It’s a movie about a New York police officer named John McClane (played by Bruce Willis) who has to battle terrorists that take over the high-rise building where he’s attending his estranged wife’s holiday party. It’s a must-watch non-stop action spectacle any time of year.
Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981)
The name Indiana Jones has held a special part in many peoples’ imagination since Raiders of the Lost Ark was released way back in 1981. The story revolves around the archeologist and adventurer as he attempts to stop a group of Nazis from finding the Ark of the Covenant. It involves world-traversing action, supernatural face-melting, and of course Jones’s now-famous fear of snakes. A lot of snakes.
The Thing (1982)
If you’ve never seen the original Kurt Russell-led The Thing, finish reading this article and immediately stream it. It seems like monster movies and body horror are pretty commonplace these days, but back in 1982, the technology wasn’t exactly there. Yet, this story of scientists unearthing a shape-shifting alien in Antarctica managed to do it right. Scary, perfectly gory, and tension-filled.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Action, comedy, Eddie Murphy in his prime–what’s not to love? Beverly Hills Cop is one of the best ’80s comedies ever made. The movie follows the exploits of Detroit police officer Axel Foley who, while investigating a death of a friend follows the clues to Beverly Hills California while pretending to be on vacation. Thrills and hijinks ensue.
Raising Arizona (1987)
Raising Arizona is Nicolas Cage at his best. Cage plays H.I. McDunnough, a career criminal. He marries a police officer named Ed, only to find out they can’t have kids. The madcap, crime farce centers around the duo stealing a baby from a rich family because it was one of a group of quintuplets and Ed claimed, “They got more than they can handle.”
Back To The Future (1985)
This comedy, action movie, and science fiction story centers around Emmett “Doc” Brown who invents a time machine in 1985 with help from his teenage friend Marty McFly. When terrorists attempt to kill Brown, McFly jumps into the time machine and finds himself in 1955 on a mission to make sure his parents actually end up together.
Raging Bull (1980)
Due to this movie being released in the first year of 1980 and the fact that it’s in black and white, you might have missed Raging Bull. Now is the time to remedy the situation by watching this film about the rise and eventual fall of boxer Jake LaMotta (played epically by Robert DeNiro).
The Lost Boys (1987)
If you don’t know why this movie made the list, you’ve probably never seen it. This spooky, campy, very 1980s vampire movie is about a pair of brothers who move to a California beach town with their mom. The older brother falls into the worst kind of peer pressure. The kind that turns you into an undead vampire.
Field of Dreams (1989)
Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella hears a ghostly voice in his corn field that says, “If you build it, he will come.” This begins his journey to plow under his crops to build a baseball diamond and take a cross-country trip to find a reclusive writer. In a decade filled with baseball movies, this one is a true letter to America’s pastime and the impact it has on life and family.
Stand By Me (1986)
Based on the Stephen King novella The Body, this coming-of-age, loss-of-innocence story centers around a group of kids who set out to find a dead body that was hit by a train during the late summer of 1959. Amazing performances by Cory Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Will Wheaton, and the late River Phoenix make this a must-watch film.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
We didn’t mention many war movies on this list, although the decade had quite a few. If you only see one, make it Full Metal Jacket. Stanley Kubrick directed this look at the Vietnam war through the eyes of Private Davis (played by Matthew Modine). A bold, memorable performance by R. Lee Ermey as the pun-filled, angry drill sergeant and the heartbreaking fate of Private Lawrence (AKA Private Pyle) will make you rethink everything you thought about the effects of boot camp conditioning.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is possibly the most re-watchable ’80s comedy ever made. It centers around the aforementioned Ferris Bueller as he pretends to be sick to enjoy a day out in Chicago with his girlfriend Sloan and his (actually sick) best friend Cameron. A meddling principle and random shenanigans ensue.