12 Classic 80’s Movies You Should Have Seen by Now
Go back to the decade of big hair and shoulder pads to cut footloose with these classics that capture the iconic 1980s.
Top Gun (1986)
Tom Cruise smiled his iconic smirk as Maverick, flying straight through the danger zone and into America’s heart. Val Kilmer as Iceman and Anthony Edwards as Goose showed up as his pilot buddies, at the ready for some shirtless beach volleyball and airplane stunt flying. Put on your aviator sunglasses because “you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.” Not really. Not ever, Maverick.
St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
The Brat Pack genre was born in this ensemble drama about a bunch of yuppies who just graduated from college. It stars half the cast of The Breakfast Club, another must-see 80’s flick, with Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, and Ally Sheedy. Add Demi Moore dressed like a Madonna-wannabe, Andrew McCarthy as a brooding loverboy, and Rob Lowe with an earring, mullet, and saxophone, and you’re all set for some bratty melodrama courtesy of rich kids desperate for love.
Kevin Bacon rose to stardom as a city boy marooned in a rural town where dancing and rock music are banned. But that doesn’t stop Bacon as Ren from busting a move with his Walkman, blasting his boom box, and giving his school a senior prom. No matter how many times you watch this flick, you will not be able to resist tapping your foot, especially to Kenny Loggins’ classic pop song lyric, “Everybody cut footloose!”
The Breakfast Club (1985)
This John Hughes classic took on the caste system of high schools across America. Everyone could relate to either being a part of a clique or trying to break into one. Molly Ringwald stood out as the 80’s “It Girl,” with her signature bob hairstyle and a pout that captured adolescent angst. Anthony Michael Hall played the nerd. Emilio Estevez was the athlete. Ally Sheedy was the weirdo. Judd Nelson rounded out the cast as the class clown with such a desperate need for acceptance that the whole movie felt authentic.
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Glenn Close’s performance as the “other woman” became iconic for its blistering portrayal of the dangers of cheating, but the film was actually a referendum on gender norms and working women. It caused a huge cultural storm as audiences took sides on who to blame for destroying family values. No one ever looked at a boiling stew pot the same way again. Bunnies, beware!
Back to the Future (1985)
Michael J. Fox shot to idol status after his star turn as Marty McFly, the high schooler who shoots back in time to the 1950s and ends up making his own mother fall for him. Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) had to get his time machine DeLorean back on track so as not to upset the space-time continuum. Everybody loves this classic about meeting your own parents before you’re even born.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Sean Penn plays a stoner surfer-boy in this coming-of-age story about how hard it is to be a teenager. Some things never change! Judge Reinhold stars as a teen in love with Phoebe Cates, who won’t give him the time of day. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Stacy, a girl who’s dying to grow up. Cameron Crowe’s script (adapted from a book) captured the timeless angst of teen life in the early 80s.
Valley Girl (1983)
Nicolas Cage became an unlikely heartthrob in this romantic comedy set in the valley near Los Angeles. He plays a punk rocker from Hollywood who falls for a valley girl, Romeo and Juliet-style. Their friends and family oppose the coupling because the two are just too different. But Cage is so lovestruck he won’t let go. So he crashes the girl’s prom and steals off with her in a stolen limo while “I Melt with You” plays in the background. Like, totally!
Jennifer Beals shines as a welder who longs to be a ballerina. But she doesn’t have any formal training other than “flash-dancing” at the local night club. No problem. She scores an audition (thanks to her rich boyfriend) and shows the conservative ballet judges what real dancing looks like. It looks a lot like jazzercise. What a feeling!
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Molly Ringwald plays a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who dresses in lots of pink vintage clothes in this other John Hughes classic. Andrew McCarthy plays the popular rich boy who is drawn to her. James Spader shows up as a tyrannical high schooler bent on keeping the two apart. Don’t forget Jon Cryer as “Duckie,” the stylish early hipster who also loves Ringwald. At the end, she shows up at the prom in a handmade gown and yes, she’s definitely pretty in pink!
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Eddie Murphy shot to stardom in the first film of this popular franchise about wise-cracking cop Alex Foley. He’s used to the streets of Detroit, but heads to sunny California and chi-chi Beverly Hills to solve the murder of his best friend. Murphy displays the signature comedy style that he brought to his stint on Saturday Night Live and other 80’s classics like Trading Places and 48 Hours.
Wall Street (1987)
Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, the guy who said “Greed is good,” was the emblem of 1980’s corporate excess. Charlie Sheen starred as the newbie stock broker trying to get rich quick. Oliver Stone’s movie took place in mansions, luxury apartments, and opulent high-rise offices that were meant to show the allure of extreme wealth. But by the end, everyone is in handcuffs and probably heading to jail.
Originally published as 12 Rad Classic 80’s Movies You Should Have Seen by Now on ReadersDigest.com.