The 1980s was a big decade for science-fiction films. Some of the biggest franchises in the genre began and ended during this decade, while big-name directors told bold and interesting stories in a sci-fi setting. Many of the films from this era are still watched and talked about to this day.
With so much time separating us from the '80s, it's interesting to look back at some of these movies and examine how their legacies have changed over the years. There are plenty of big movies that don't hold up as well while masterpieces still struggle to get the notice they deserve. Here are the most overrated and underrated science-fiction movies of the 1980s.
10 Underrated: They Live
John Carpenter is one of the masters of the sci-fi genre and that is most evident with his work throughout the '80s. But among some of his more acclaimed works, They Live is one that still gets lost in the mix.
The movie explores an alien invasion in which the invaders are living in plain sight and controlling the world through subliminal messages. It is packed with Carpenter's great commentary as well as a lot of humor and one of the greatest fight scenes on film. It deserves to be seen by more people.
9 Overrated: Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
The Mad Max franchise is one of the best sci-fi series around and it has no real bad entry. But even the biggest fans must admit this third film is a major letdown from what came before. Though an entertaining movie, it really doesn't feel like a Mad Max movie.
The story was actually conceived as an entirely different standalone movie before being made into the third Mad Max film. That fact, along with being the first Hollywood-produced movie in the franchise, makes Beyond Thunderdome feel like a pale imitator of the first two films.
8 Underrated: The Abyss
James Cameron is one of the biggest directors in the history of the movie business. Every movie he makes is met with a ton of excitement. That said, The Abyss doesn't get enough love.
Though it holds an impressive 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie was a rare misfire at the box office for Cameron and is generally forgotten among his more popular films. However, the ground-breaking effects and the emotional story make it one of Cameron's more impressive films.
7 Overrated: Return Of The Jedi
Don't get us wrong, Return of the Jedi is a lot of fun. The movie is a worthy conclusion to the original Star Wars trilogy and has some truly iconic moments. However, it is also really silly and a step down from the first two films.
Though it is counted highly along with A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi just doesn't hold up the way those other films do. It also feels like it might be the beginning of George Lucas' poor storytelling which hampered the prequel trilogy.
6 Underrated: The Thing
John Carpenter's second underrated film on the list is one that has thankfully grown in popularity over the years. The Thing is a sci-fi horror remake about a shape-shifting alien who preys on the people working on an isolated research facility.
The movie bombed when it opened and was heavily criticized for its gore and nasty tone. Since then, critics and audiences have recognized The Thing as the classic that it is. But for one of the best horror films ever made, it is still not given the recognition it deserves.
5 Overrated: Dune
Like The Thing, Dune is another ambitious science-fiction epic that was poorly received on its initial launch but gained cult status in years that followed. But unlike The Thing, the cult status of Dune is misplaced.
A David Lynch take on the beloved sci-fi book sounded like a brilliant idea, but the result is a great big mess. The story never comes together in an intelligible way, the performances are dull, and the movie never matches the scope it is presenting. Accepting it as a misunderstood gem requires ignoring a lot of shortcomings.
4 Underrated: Akira
Akira is another science-fiction film based on difficult source material, but this animated film does a wonderful job bringing the story to life. Based on the Japanese manga, the movie is the story of a group of young kids who get sucked into a government experiment.
The movie has plenty of fans and has been praised by critics, but it has yet to reach a mainstream audience. While a live-action remake has been in development for years, audiences would surely love the original if more people knew about it.
3 Overrated: Spaceballs
Given how big the Star Wars franchise is, it makes sense that a parody film would come along only a few years after the original trilogy ended. Spaceballs was comedy legend Mel Brooks' take on the beloved series and it certainly did provide some solid laughs.
However, Spaceballs' legacy as one of the best comedies ever made is a stretch. It's funny but it's doesn't compare to some of Brooks' other work. The reason it is held in such high regard is probably due to Star Wars fans who appreciate the humor more than the average person.
2 Underrated: Brazil
Though most of the films on this list are huge epics and adventure films, the science-fiction genre also allows filmmakers to tell complex and challenging stories within these extraordinary settings. That was very much the case with Terry Gilliam's masterpiece, Brazil.
The drama behind the release of Brazil is almost as legendary as the film itself. Like Blade Runner, it is a film that has a variety of versions, some from the studio and others from the director's own vision. The result is a brilliant film that was never able to reach a large audience.
1 Overrated: Tron
Tron was a major leap forward in the technology used to make science-fiction films. It told the story of a man who was sucked into the dangerous world of a video game. The high concept allowed the film to break in terms of visual effects.
Though the movie has plenty of fans, Tron isn't all that interesting beyond its visuals. All these years later, the film's look is also very dated.