The 40 Best Movies of the 80s

The 1980s have long achieved their own cult following in modern pop culture. During the period in which the boomer generation experienced arguably the greatest highlights of their lives, a new age also began for the era of movies.

Many directors, who are still successful with their works today, released their first films here. In addition, the use of special effects during the 80s was first found across the board in the great works of Hollywood. Many of the titles that were successful at the time still enjoy cult status among audiences of all ages. This is also due to the fact that today many of the works of the 80s are produced in the form of remakes and sequels. But which films were particularly popular? And what makes them the best works of the decade?

1. Back to the future

Is a movie in the 1980s like “Back to the Future”? The first two parts were not only released in the 1980s, but they also seem to be absolutely typical for this decade. The story around the teenager Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, has the theme of Science fiction brought to the screens in a humorous but impressive way.

With nearly $400 million in box office receipts, it is one of the most successful films of all time and has changed the genre forever. Michael J Fox’s career has also been shaped – and for that, every fan of good movies should be grateful.

2. Ghostbusters

Ghost hunters are also a cult title, and many of the actors, above all Bill Murray, are still indispensable in Hollywood. Ghostbusters mixes action and comedy, creates a completely surreal world, and is a milestone for the humor as well as the sci-fi genre. Often copied but never equaled, the original film is not only a very popular subject in pop culture, but also brought in the box office results that were hoped for even in its time.

The film is still one of the most successful films of all time and has been convincing, not only in commercial terms. Next to Star Wars, Ghostbusters is probably the franchise that has released the best fan merchandise and merchandise items. It was also followed by a hugely successful animated series about the Ghostbusters.

3. Shining

Probably the most successful Horror movie of all time was penned by Stanley Kubrick and remains unmatched in its genre to this day. Whether this is due to the unique and absolutely terrifying acting performance of Jack Nicholson? In any case, it is one of the reasons why Shining is still an absolute classic today. Due to the genre alone, the film was never particularly strong at the box office, but in its own way, it left such a lasting impression that it can easily be counted among the best films of all time and not just those of the 1980s.

4. The Empire Strikes Back

Among Star Wars fans, “The Empire Strikes Back” is still considered the best part of the series and the absolute gold standard for creating new works. Not only was film history made here, but the effects used and the special effects were also tested here for the first time in some cases.

“The Empire Strikes Back” may not only be to blame for the continued success of Star Wars but may have inspired an entire generation of filmmakers. To this day, this milestone is unrivaled, and the work is as celebrated among fans as it is in pop culture.

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5. Die Hard

To this day, Bruce Willis is considered one of the outstanding action stars of the modern era. This is not only evident in films such as “Expendables” but can, of course, be traced above all to the famous Die Hard series, which now has five parts to its credit. However, it all started in the 1980s. The story around the New York policeman John McClane, who simply has a great talent for bursting into incidents involving the worst criminals in addition to his job, still inspires us today.

Whether the first or the second part is the best – is a question of personal taste, which can probably never be conclusively clarified. What is certain is that the events surrounding “Nakatomi Plaza” began one of the most interesting stories in modern film history.

6. Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Most people know Harrison Ford mainly for his role as Han Solo in Star Wars, but at the same time, he was also starring in another film series: Indiana Jones. The archaeology professor who sets out searching for lost civilizations and treasures and encounters brutal enemies is a cult.

The Raider of the Lost Ark is arguably the best part of it. The film won four Oscars and grossed over 350 million dollars. In the process, it also helped Steven Spielberg to one of his many successes. Besides these pure statistics, the action and great dialogue make this movie so special.

The film should not only not be missing in any collection, but also belongs to the works that you can watch again and again and that do not lose their charm.

7. Scarface

When it comes to mafia films, it is, above all, the Godfather series that attracts special attention. But connoisseurs of the genre also swear by Scarface. Al Pacino’s absolute starring role as gangster Anthony “Tony” Montana is less concerned with the lives of families in the U.S. than with the Mafia’s planned expansion into Cuba and South America.

With incredible dialogue and a unique story that remains unmatched even for mafia movies, Scarface has become an absolute cult. Above all, the acting performances, the incredible raw brutality, and the most absurd scenes make this film a rarity. Scarface is a must-see for anyone who has a heart for movies from the 1980s and who likes gangster movies.


“Call E.T. home” is probably one of the most famous phrases in film history, both in this form and in its countless translations. And this also applies to the film itself.

Steven Spielberg’s film is still one of the most popular films of its kind, commercially most successful film of all time – even though he is now almost 40 years old. The story about the alien who suddenly lands in a simple suburb in America and becomes a part of the family is heartwarming and, at the same time, has exceedingly painful scenes that have moved many to tears.

Four Oscars, countless other awards, and numerous adaptations only underscore the role that E.T. plays to this day in the world of movies.

9. Return of the Jedi

The original Star Wars films have changed film history and probably the world to some extent. There is hardly a place on this planet where you haven’t heard of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker. The third and, at that time, the last part of the series should conclude and bring it to a conciliatory end. At that time, no one could have guessed that seven and more films would follow in this series.

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Return of the Jedi is not the strongest Star Wars part, but without a doubt, an important piece of film history.

10. Platoon

In addition to film adaptations of literature, the 1980s also stood for action in terms of movies – and for coming to terms with the historical period of the Vietnam War. Platoon is still considered one of the most impressive and perhaps frightening films dealing with this conflict today.

With box-office takings of over 190 million euros, the film is also considered one of the most successful war films of all time. Oliver Tone received critical acclaim for not only the film’s symbolism but also several awards, including best picture, director, and editing. It’s not necessarily a movie for a boring afternoon, but it impresses with explicit scenes and the psychological stresses the soldiers faced during that time.

11. Terminator

Terminator offers a completely different form of action. To this day, the film is perhaps the most cited and made fun of film of all time. The famous ‘I’ll Be Back’ has become the tagline for Arnold Schwarzenegger and has been used in countless other works. Yet the film never won many awards, and even Schwarzenegger described it at the beginning as a work that hopefully won’t destroy his career.

The story of how technology takes over the thinking of mankind and becomes a danger can still be found in various sequels and is an absolute cult of the 80s. One can also overlook the rather mediocre acting performance of all involved.

12. Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket shares two chapters – training to be a soldier and the subsequent war in Vietnam. In a somber atmosphere, it shows what the men had to go through before they even started the war in a foreign country. Especially Vincent D’Onofrio’s “Private Paula” performance has gone down in cinematic history. Full Metal Jacket shows the bitter reality associated with this dark age in American history.

It is a cinematic masterpiece that is not for people with weak stomachs. With impressive but also upsetting scenes and outstanding acting performances, the film has earned its placement in the best films of the 1980s – and not only because it is still so popular today.

13. Dead Poets Society

A young Robin Williams, a superb novel adaptation, and a story that probably shaped an entire generation of teachers. The story about a young educator coming to an elitist English-style boys’ boarding school with new techniques and ideas has spawned many references. Some very interesting careers were started here.

Above all, however, it is a film for all ages and suitable for both children and adults. Moreover, it was one of the first works in which Robin Williams could prove his talent as an actor.

14. Stand by Me – The Secret of a Summer

The 80s were a time of film adaptations of books, and so is the case here. Stephen King’s “The Body,” tells the story of a group of boys who set out to find a dead body that is supposed to be in the neighborhood. The film focuses mainly on the challenges of growing up; it is a tale about boys who discover in the course of the story that they are becoming more and more men.

With Kiefer Sutherland, a young River Phoenix, and Will Wheaton, it also launched several careers that continue to this day.

15. Teen Lover

One of the two films that started John Cusack’s illustrious career was Teen Lover. The mixture of romantic drama and criminal cases is still considered a rather shallow but quite convincing love story with aspects of drama. It was not really convincing in terms of box-office takings or awards. As is so often the case, it took a few years, and today the film is considered one of the best teenage love movies ever. It also ensured that John Cusack appeared on the screen much more often afterward and followed up many a good film, which is a pleasant side effect.

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16. The Neverending Story

The novel of the same name by Michael Ende is considered one of the best works of early fantasy and is standard literature for children and young adults. There was some drama surrounding the film adaptation of the work, but that hasn’t changed the fact that the film is still considered a milestone today. The big problem was the length of the book and the cinematic realization. The 80s offered only a few multi-part movies; they tried to get as much action as possible into one film.

Not only did the film win many regional awards, but the German influence is also clear, which is why it is still considered one of the most successful German films on the international stage today.

17. Blues Brothers

Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Carrie Fisher, James Brown – and probably every jazz and blues musician of the 80s. All this is Blues Brothers. The wacky story about two brothers trying to pay the tax debt of their old orphanage is one of the absolute cult films of the early 80s, and to this day, the work enjoys a real cult following.

That’s because there is a perhaps unique blend of action and Music film originated. In addition, the film has brought many people closer to the blues. In addition to the outstanding acting of those involved and the crazy script, it is, above all, the presence of many unique musicians that make this film such a special one. To this day, it is very popular with many fans of all ages.

18. Wall Street

Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, and Michael Douglas create a unique mood in this drama about America’s financial industry. Already in 1987, a few years before the whole world became aware of the excesses of the financial world, it is shown how unscrupulous some actors act and what people can do when their entire life is oriented only to profit.

Oliver Stone created a masterpiece, which later got a second part. Besides the moral depravity, which is clear to the viewer from the beginning, the acting performance is outstanding. Above all, the two Sheens and Douglas deliver gripping dialogues and battles of rhetoric on screen. A circumstance that makes this film not only relevant to this day but also highly recommendable.

19. Airplane

In Germany, “Airplane” was released under the somewhat unwieldy name “The Incredible Journey in a Crazy Airplane. The film, which was shot in just under a month, was nothing more than a homage to various comedy works at the time. With a starry comedy ensemble with the likes of Robert Hays and Leslie Nielsen, the work quickly became a cult even in its day.

The reviews were excellent, and it has even made it into the register of American films worthy of preservation. In addition, the film was also a commercial success – despite the fact that it cost just 3.5 million dollars its create. Many great gags and crazy comedies make the film worth watching even today.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Another comedy that made it into the National Registry is “Ferris Macht Blau” (Ferris turns blue). The film can be considered the origin of modern high school comedies, as the genre was disregarded. As Ferris is successful in various ways of thinking of diseases for truancy, Matthew Broderick is the film’s main character. Together with his two friends, he goes on a road trip.

The film is also convincing in that it occasionally breaks the fourth wall and interacts directly with the audience. Otherwise, it is simply a film that is quickly watched and offers great comedy. This is also why “Ferris Macht Blau” is still considered one of the most successful comedy films of all time.

21. Raging Bull

22. Blade Runner

23. Predator

24. The Thing

25. The Breakfast Club

26. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

27. Do the Right Thing

28. A Nightmare on Elm Street

29. Poltergeist

30. Amadeus

31. Batman

32. Rain Man

33. Rambo – First Blood

34. The Princess Bride

35. When Harry meets Sally

36. Risky Business

37. RoboCop

38. Back to the Future 2

39. The naked gun

40. The Goonies

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