Best Films of the 1980s
Here are our pick for the best 80s movies!
Honorable Mention: Batman
Taking on The Dark Knight was no easy task, but director Tim Burton handled the material well bringing Gotham City's notorious vigilante to vibrant life. Casting Michael Keaton in the lead role was controversial but it worked well as he plays both Bruce and Bats as two sides of the same psychotic coin, but the coup came when Jack Nicholson joined the film as The Joker as he brought a zany and dangerous quality to The Clown Prince of Crime. This movie has a great gothic look, dark tone, and remains the most stylish take on the iconic character.
10. The Untouchables
Brian De Palma took on Prohibition-era Chicago with a deft hand as he crafts an intense crime drama with explosive action, enjoyable characters, and witty dialogue. The cast shines throughout the entire film as Kevin Costner leads Sean Connery, Andy Garcia, and Charles Martin Smith as a special police task force who have to take on ruthless gangsters including Robert De Niro's striking take on Al Capone. It's an important historical movie with a compelling story and characters you care about.
9. The Thing
Kurt Russell again paired with brilliant pulpy director John Carpenter for this suspenseful science fiction horror flick which finds a team of scientists in the arctic trapped by a blizzard and a shape-shifting otherworldly being. This is an expertly edited film as the tension remains palpable throughout the entire runtime which is also thanks to the fantastic cast who play into the paranoia of the situation. It's got some of the most incredible and disgusting special effects and puppet work in cinematic history from the brilliant Rob Bottin.
An amazing achievement in animation, Akira bursts onto the scene with it's unique story, stunning action, and cyberpunk style. This is a completely original film from Japanese visionary writer/director Katsuhiro Otomo based on his manga series which follows the leader of a biker gang who's friend is hunted by a shadowy government organization and must fight to protect him. It's a surprising tale of loyalty and friendship that features arresting visuals and an incredible story.
7. The Shining
A stirring masterpiece of psychological horror, The Shining plays out like a haunted house movie populated by strange characters and odd happenings. Jack Nicholson delivers his most unhinged performance as Jack Torrence, a writer who brings his family to stay at the Overlook Hotel while he plots out his new book. The cinematography beautifully captures the frightening images that come across the screen and the score sets the terrifying mood while Stanley Kubrick directs with unnerving precision.
6. Back to the Future
The ultimate time travel movie, Back to the Future is an action comedy musical romance science fiction drama which clearly has something for everyone. It's got a genius screenplay from Bob Gale which has Michael J. Fox going back in time as Marty McFly to guarantee his parents get together or else he'll never be born. The cast, including Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, and Thomas F. Wilson are all extraordinary in their roles, they're well directed by the outstanding Robert Zemekis, and composer Alan Silvestri's score is marvelous.
5. Good Morning, Vietnam
Robin William's best movie is Good Morning, Vietnam as it shows off the actor's wacky comedic chops as well as his significant dramatic ability. Based on real-life American military hero Adrian Cronauer, the movie shows us his life as a disc jockey in Vietnam as he's brought in to keep the soldier's moral up in the middle of a meaningless conflict. Barry Levinson displays significant directing ability here and the script by Mitch Markowitz is both hysterical and touching.
4. Die Hard
Making an action star out of a comedian is no small feat, but Die Hard did it with Bruce Willis fresh off his sitcom Moonlighting. Director John McTiernan transformed Willis into New York cop John McClane who's in the wrong place at the wrong time when terrorists take his wife and her co-workers hostage inside an L.A. high-rise. There's plenty of quotable dialogue, lots of fast-paced action, and some of the best characters in movie history, especially Alan Rickman's charming and malicious Hans Gruber.
3. Blade Runner
A haunting and moody sci-fi neo-noir, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner remains a watershed moment in the history of movies. It's completely different than anything that came before it thanks to it's dark and dreary atmospheric quality made possible by the outstanding production design, emotional Vangelis score, and astonishing special effects. Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah, Brion James, Joanna Cassidy, William Sanderson, M. Emmet Walsh, Edward James Olmos, Joe Turkel, and James Hong all bring some unforgettable performances to the screen here as well. The film's influence is evident in virtually any dystopian film released since and it's important story of a heartless man rediscovering his humanity will always be relevant.
2. The Empire Strikes Back
The ultimate movie sequel is The Empire Strikes Back. This film shocked audiences with it's tremendous special effects, twisty storyline, and terrible revelation. It takes everything that's great about the first film and expands it by taking us deeper into each of the characters and developing their relationships further by stretching them to new emotional places. The introduction of new characters like Yoda and Lando, and new planets like Dagobah and Bespin, expand this vast galaxy far, far away in brilliant ways. The battles are bigger, the lightsaber duel is epic, and the cliffhanger ending is a stunner.
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
The best film of the 80s is Raiders of the Lost Ark. The greatest entry in Steven Spielberg's significant filmography, this film brought audiences back to a time of roguish heroes and dastardly villains on an adventurous globe-trotting romp in the 1930s. It's a fun action film with just the right amount of romance and comedy to keep things interesting without losing the dramatic tension. These stunts are outstanding as each action sequences gives us something new and interesting to watch our hero overcome. This is Ford's best part as he plays Indy as a studious intellectual who's also a rough-and-tumble man-of-action. You won't find a more enjoyable crowd-pleaser than this.