10 Movies That Defined The ’80s

10 movies that defined the '80s

The 1980s are a decade we love to make fun of—it’s hard to believe anyone ever took those neon spandex clothes and awful hairstyles seriously—but the ‘80s also gave us some really memorable movies.  Here are 10 films that defined a truly underappreciated era in cinema:

The Breakfast Club

The quintessential ‘80s high school movie (sorry, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) laid bare all the archetypes we were familiar with, then broke down the barriers between them and injected each character with real humanity.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Ferris Bueller made it cool to not try so hard, made us understand the meaninglessness of popularity, and gave us permission to be happy doing whatever we want. No other slacker, before or since, has been quite as awesome.

Wall Street

If the ‘80s taught us anything, it’s that “greed is good.” If the 2000s taught us anything, it’s that we learned nothing from Bud Fox’s lust for wealth and its consequences.

Top Gun

The bro-est of dude movies, Top Gun is basically two hours of guys battling it out to be the manliest man of all the men. But it did make Tom Cruise a bona fide box-office star, which, regardless of what you think of the man himself, has been a good thing for movies.

Back to the Future

Cinematic time travellers owe a debt to Doc Brown and Marty McFly, whose time travel adventure manages to be fun without being dumb. Teenaged Marty goes back in time and meets his parents, draws the adoration of his future mom, and has to convince her to fall in love with his future dad or risk never being born—not your typical light-hearted popcorn fare.


Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi classic is family-friendly without being cheesy. Where alien movies before it had been mostly scary, E.T. gave us an extraterrestrial being we could cheer for.


Scarface is the one gangster movie that wears its ‘80s flair like a badge of honour. It features classic lines—the kind both spoken and snorted—over-the-top violence, and a conclusion that spawned legions of imitators.

This is Spinal Tap

The infinitely quotable film brought the idea of the “mockumentary” to the masses by lampooning the excess and obliviousness of rock stars.


The film that showed us just how good Tom Hanks could be. Hanks got his first Oscar nomination for his role as a teenager suddenly transplanted into an adult body, and the film has aged nearly as well as its star.


Love it or hate it, this now-dated video game opus was positively groundbreaking in its day. If you saw it when it was new you probably have fond memories, but trust us when we say it probably isn’t as awesome as you remember.

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