With several movies and TV shows taking place in 1984, Hollywood seems to be obsessed with the year, and there are a few reasons for that. A recent slew of movies and TV shows have either been set entirely (or partially) in 1984. Indeed, two of the most high profile projects, Wonder Woman 1984 and American Horror Story: 1984, proudly incorporate the year in their titles because it's important to their looks, tones, settings, and stories. But what is it, exactly, about this particular year in the Me Decade that Hollywood keeps focusing on?
Along with WW84 and AHS 1984, other recent 1984-set movies and TV series include Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, director Jason Reitman's Gary Hart biopic The Front Runner, Stranger Things season 2, and The Americans season 5. Parts of Bohemian Rhapsody, Netflix's Motley Crue biopic The Dirt, Terminator: Genisys, and Cobra Kai are also set in 1984. Indeed, Terminator: Genisys recreates scenes from James Cameron's original The Terminator, which was released in 1984, while Cobra Kai is a direct sequel to 1984's The Karate Kid, with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) even retelling the events of the film from his point of view, painting Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) as the true villain.
One of the main reasons for 1984's resurgence is nostalgia. Many of today's most prominent filmmakers came of age in the early 1980s: for instance, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch creator Charlie Brooker were 13 in 1984 while AHS's creator Ryan Murphy and Bohemian Rhapsody's director Bryan Singer were both 19 and in college during that year. So, 1984 is a seminal year for those filmmakers, who look back fondly at that formative time in their lives. They then bring their memories and nostalgia for that relative innocent era to their movies and TV series set in 1984.
However, while 1984 seems like a "simpler time" compared to 2019, 1984 was very much a tumultuous year. The Cold War continued between the United States and the Soviet Union, which boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympic Games held in Los Angeles. 1984 saw a contentious Presidential election where Ronald Reagan won a second term over Walter Mondale, the AIDS virus was discovered and made public, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated, and the threat of nuclear war hung over the world. 1984 didn't play out the way George Orwell predicted in his novel 1984 but that year was a scary time, in its own way, and many movies and TV series set in 1984 definitely reflect that feeling of dread and unease.
And yet, 1984 was also a significant year for pop culture that created many enduring franchises. Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and The Terminator all premiered that year and continue to make their mark a generation later; Jason Reitman's Ghostbusters 3 promises to be the true continuation of the franchise while James Cameron himself finally returned to producing a Terminator sequel, the Tim Miller-directed Terminator: Dark Fate. Transformers toys and the beloved cartoon arrived in 1984, Hulk Hogan (who will soon be played by Chris Hemsworth in a biopic) became WWE Champion in January and helped change professional wrestling forever, Bruce Springsteen released his iconic album Born In The USA, and Apple Computers premiered their infamous George Orwell-inspired commercial announcing the Macintosh personal computer.
1984 is an era long before the Internet and social media where no one had a smartphone and people weren't constantly connected, which allows greater opportunity for today's filmmakers to incorporate mystery and tension in their storytelling. The technology of 1984 was forward-looking but still primitive by today's standards, so that science fiction could lean more heavily towards "fiction" instead of "science". And, thanks in large part to Orwell's novel, 1984 carries an ominous aura that separates it from the other years of the Me Decade; 1984 was winding down the first half of the 1980s and seemed to predict both a brighter second half of the decade but also foretold more problems to come. All told, 1984 is fertile ground for compelling movies and TV for everyone from Wonder Woman to the kids from Stranger Things, and Hollywood is smartly reaping the benefits of that fateful year.
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020