60 Totally ’80s Movies We All Need Right Now

1

Trading Places

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In this classic comedy, the exceedingly wealthy Duke brothers decide to conduct a social experiment involving the hierarchy of riches. As part of their bet, a rich stock broker (Dan Ackroyd) trades places with a financially challenged con artist (Eddie Murphy), with the Dukes watching how each man copes with his change of fortune. The movie was very well-received, won several awards, and continues to be celebrated by audiences decades later. Jamie Lee Curtis co-stars.

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2

Heathers

heathers
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Heathers is the ultimate dark comedy exploring just how vicious high school girls can be. The film follows Veronica (Winona Ryder), who starts to despise the way her friends treat other people. Veronica’s boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater) accompanies her to confront leader of the gang Heather about her bad behavior. However, an accidental poisoning starts a chain of events that call into question J.D.’s motives. Co-starring Shannen Doherty.

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3

Die Hard

a man holding a gun
20th Century Studios

Bruce Willis rightly became known as an action hero following his performance in 1988 action movie Die Hard. Detective John McClane (Willis) arrives at Nakatomi Plaza to woo his estrange wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) on Christmas Eve. Before he can make any moves, the building is held hostage by German terrorist Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his henchman. Little do they know that McClane is more than a match for them. Many sequels followed, but the quintessentially ‘80s original remains the best.

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4

Drugstore Cowboy

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International Video Entertainment

Inspired by the novel of the same name by James Fogle, Drugstore Cowboy tells the story of a group of drug addicts who travel across the country stealing from pharmacies. Directed by Gus Van Sant, the movie stars Matt Dillon as Bob Hughes, a twenty-something addict wrestling with his actions and the effects his proclivities have on those around him. Co-starring Kelly Lynch, Heather Graham, and William S. Burroughs.

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5

School Daze

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Columbia Pictures

Spike Lee’s second film focuses on frictions between students at a historically Black college, and is inspired by the director’s experiences attending Morehouse College at Atlanta University Center. Both a musical and a comedy, School Daze stars Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tisha Campbell, and explores a whole host of important social and political issues. As some of the students work towards political activism, their friends grapple with problems commonly faced by fraternities and sororities.

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6

When Harry Met Sally

there's something about a love story that starts as a friendship and harry and sally are the poster couple for it from bickering road trip companions to casual acquaintances that fate keeps drawing together to best friends and finally two people madly in love their path to romance isn't direct but it's certainly adorable
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1989’s When Harry Met Sally stars Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal as a pair of platonic friends desperately trying to disprove the theory that men and women can’t ever be just friends. After meeting on a long car journey as graduates, the film tracks their friendship over the course of more than a decade, as they date other people, deny their feelings, and forge a really great friendship. Carrie Fisher co-stars in this wonderful romantic comedy.

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7

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

whoopi goldberg
20th Century Studios

Terry Doolittle (Whoopi Goldberg) is a computer whiz who is an early adopter of chatting to strangers online. An unexpected encounter with a person going by the name of Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Jonathan Pryce) catapults Terry into a world of international espionage. Jumpin’ Jack Flash follows Terry as she attempts to avoid the KGB and save a British agent, all while exhibiting her special brand of humor. As always, Goldberg is on top form, proving she was a force to be reckoned with on the big screen throughout the decade.

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8

Dead Poets Society

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Dead Poets Society is a coming-of-age movie about a group of male students attending a New England boarding school in the late 1950s. Robin Williams stars as a teacher called John Keating, who uses poetry to inspire his students, as they encounter the stresses and strains associated with growing up. Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, and Robert Sean Leonard play students in this life-affirming drama, which has been hailed as a masterpiece since its 1989 release.

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9

The Lost Boys

a person with glasses and a group of people behind him
Warner Bros.

The Lost Boys features a whole host of ‘80s icons, including Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Kiefer Sutherland. The film tells the story of two brothers, whose move to California is far from smooth. When Michael (Jason Patric) finds himself in danger from a gang of vampires led by David (Sutherland), Sam (Haim) and his friends attempt to rescue him. Of course, wherever there are vampires, vampire hunters are never far behind.

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10

Romancing the Stone

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20th Century Studios

Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner’s chemistry positively sizzles in Romancing the Stone, an action-adventure-rom-com (!) that was surely the inspiration for Channing Tatum and Sandra Bullock’s The Lost City. Turner plays a romance writer who is forced to travel to the Colombian jungle when her sister is kidnapped. While attempting to deliver a coveted treasure map to the kidnappers, she crosses paths with an obnoxious yet incredibly handsome Indiana Jones-type, played by Douglas.

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11

Moonstruck

best 80s movies of all time
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Say what you will about Nicolas Cage, but the actor gives good performance. Especially as Ronny Cammareri, the Brooklyn baker with a wooden hand who sweeps his brother’s bride-to-be off her feet. That woman is Loretta Castorini, a role that won Cher an Oscar, and rightfully so. With fantastic supporting performances by Olympia Dukakis and others, this gloriously off-genre romantic comedy is enchanting from the second the moon strikes your eye.

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12

Working Girl

best 80s movies of all time
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Melanie Griffith rocks a totally ’80s wardrobe in this genius Mike Nichols throwback about an underestimated secretary from Staten Island who gets swindled out of a promotion by her male boss. Technically a romantic comedy, it also puts the disparaging inequalities of man vs. woman in the workplace on full display and elevates the genre with an all-star cast including Harrison Ford, Joan Cusack, and Sigourney Weaver.

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13

Big

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If we had one wish for the carnival Zoltar machine in Penny Marshall’s near-perfect Big, it probably would have nothing to do with size, or roller coasters, or aging overnight. But to each their own. Young Josh Baskin, played by David Moscow, wishes he were big, and thus, his wish is granted, causing big Josh Baskin, played by a brilliant Tom Hanks, to move to New York City, get a job, and find that damned Zoltar to fix this mess.

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14

Beverly Hills Cop

best 80s movies of all time
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Eddie Murphy’s at the top of his funny game in this cop-com laugh riot as Officer Axel Foley, a Detroit native who gets involved in investigating a murder in Beverly Hills. In true Murphy form, no identity is off-limits, as the comedian tries on every personality for size, keeping us in stitches from beginning to end as he does so. There’s slapstick, there’s vintage car chases, there’s Eddie cruising down Rodeo Drive to throwback Patti LaBelle.

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15

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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Tired of looking out the same old windows, we could all use a day trip through the Windy City courtesy of a twentysomething Matthew Broderick in this John Hughes classic right about now. Broderick, who stars as the cavalier title character (or should we say Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago?), is joined by some of the decade’s most notable players—Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jennifer Grey, Jeffrey Jones—and if you’ve survived quarantine without a Day Off, well, we can fix that now.

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16

Beetlejuice

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Tim Burton, a visionary maestro of the strange and unusual, was only getting started when he unleashed his bombastic bio-exorcist on the masses in 1988, with Beetlejuice solidifying a solid sophomore effort—and instant cult classic—for the director. Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin star as a dead married couple who summon Michael Keaton’s poltergeist to scare an eccentric family away from their home. Plot holes or not, we have only one question: Where is the sequel?!

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17

Say Anything…

best 80s movies of all time
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Nothing says ’80s love like a dude in a trench and high-tops, heaving a boom box over his head, blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” under his ex-girlfriend’s open window. If Lloyd Dobbler was looking for a dare-to-be-great situation, he just found it. Cameron Crowe, a director whose skill for fusing story, music, and emotion into one feel-good package, may have Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous at the height of his oeuvre, but for us, nothing beats John Cusack and Ione Skye in Say Anything.

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18

Back to the Future

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A double-dose time capsule from Robert Zemeckis, this time-traveling classic hops from the ’80s to the ’50s—from an era of malls, Jordache, and Huey Lewis and the News to soda shops, poodle skirts, and Etta James. A skateboarding, bubble vest-wearing Michael J. Fox stars as our DeLorean-steering hero, Marty McFly, with Christopher Lloyd his wacky science guy sidekick, Doc Brown—the two on a mission to get back to a future that looks like it did when they left it.

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19

Ghostbusters

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Ivan Reitman’s take on the supernatural realm—a kid-friendly dimension possessed by floating orbs full of green slime and demigods that manifest as demented Stay Puft marshmallows—may not necessarily reflect that of other specter storytellers, but that doesn’t make Ghostbusters, starring a troupe of charismatic comedians including Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Annie Potts, any less of a favorite. Keep an eye on the details for the Afterlife reboot here.

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20

E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial

best 80s movies of all time
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A tear-jerker from Steven Spielberg, E.T. is a film whose little alien companion was reportedly inspired by an imaginary friend Spielberg created after his parents’ divorce. And if that factoid isn’t enough to pull at your heartstrings, how about this one: The actor who plays E.T.’s best friend, Elliott, Henry Thomas, channeled the emotion of his dog dying to land the part. Gah. Just let those tidbits weigh on your conscience the next time you watch the film’s farewell scene.

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Headshot of DeAnna Janes

DeAnna Janes is a freelance writer and editor for a number of sites, including Harper’s BAZAAR, Tasting Table, Fast Company and Brit + Co, and is a passionate supporter of animal causes, copy savant, movie dork and reckless connoisseur of all holidays. A native Texan living in NYC since 2005, Janes has a degree in journalism from Texas A&M and  got her start in media at US Weekly before moving on to O Magazine, and eventually becoming the entertainment editor of the once-loved, now-shuttered DailyCandy. She’s based on the Upper West Side.

Headshot of Amy Mackelden

Amy Mackelden is a freelance writer, editor, and disability activist. Her bylines include Harper’s BAZAAR, Nicki Swift, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, ELLE, The Independent, Bustle, Healthline, and HelloGiggles. She co-edited The Emma Press Anthology of Illness, and previously spent all of her money on Kylie Cosmetics.

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