According to The Killing Joke, in the eighties, we had to push and we had to struggle. The movies coming out of The Decade Of Decadence certainly didn’t reflect that mentality. Only two of the top ten movies of the decade aren’t comedies, and one of them still has some laughs in it (“Who’s scruffy looking?”). Moviegoing fans learned what to and what not to do with magical cute furry pets, even though Billy didn’t seem to follow a single rule. Steven Spielberg introduced to a not-so-cute, but still very friendly alien who just wanted to get home. He and George Lucas also brought fans an adventurer for the ages complete with a bullwhip and a penchant for punching out Nazis.
While the nineties and aughts teen comedies tried to recreate the “romp and circumstance” of an “Eighties Movie,” there was no way that those movies could recreate the types of movies that created the genre. Thankfully, we have plenty of classics to check out whenever we want a Day Off to hunt some Predators. Check out how many of these movies you’ve seen from the Top 10 Movies of the '80s According To IMDB.
10 Three Amigos (1986)
Because of ever-changing pop culture norms, a movie like Three Amigos would never get greenlit today. Three silent movie actors are mistaken for real heroes, the Three Amigos, and are asked to stop the bandit El Guapo.
Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms, and Ned Nederlander all assume that Carmen’s telegram is an invitation to perform in character. The movie stars three of the best stand-up and Saturday Night Live comics ever: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short.
9 Airplane! (1980)
Whenever there is a huge sweeping fad at the movies, it’s up to a bunch funnymen and ladies to skewer the genre for laughs in an all-encompassing parody. Airplane! took all of the elements of the disaster movies of the seventies, particular the Airport movies, and turned them on their ear with completely off-the-wall, slapstick comedy.
It’s the movie that made a comedic actor of Leslie Nielsen. Nielsen was known for his turn in the disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure. But after his role here, Nielsen and the film’s directors went on to work on the series Police Squad and the subsequent Naked Gun movies.
8 Arthur (1981)
Dudley Moore made his name here, playing a boozing, partying, entitled little brat philandering all over New York. His dad demands that he marries Susan Johnson, the daughter of an acquaintance.
Either Arthur marries her, or Arthur will not be inheriting nearly a billion dollars. He ends up falling for a working-class girl from Queens, played by Liza Minnelli, instead.
7 Star Wars: Episode V–The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
For older Star Wars fans, Empire is the pinnacle of all of George Lucas' and now Disney’s epic space saga. But it also happens to be among one of the best films of all time. All of the adventure of the first (fourth) movie is added on, along with the menacing tone of the Empire and Darth Vader seeking vengeance against the Rebels who destroyed the Death Star.
Luke’s training, Lando’s swindling, Han’s scruffy-looking, and Leia’s swooning are all on display in still the best Star Wars movie of all time. The film also is noted for beginning the time-honored Star Wars tradition of splitting up all of our main heroes on their own individual quests.
6 Pee–Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Tim Burton's first movie isn’t filled with anything dark or macabre, which would later become his staple. Instead, he was tapped by Paul Ruebens to help bring his alter-ego, Pee-Wee Herman, to the big screen.
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure not only was a big coming-out party for Burton but for the Pee-Wee character as well. It’s hard to believe now, but he was a big part of a lot of childhoods back in the eighties, and this first movie became an instant classic for those kids. Pee-Wee’s beloved bike was stolen, leading to the eponymous adventure to try and find it and making the song “Tequila” famous in the process.
5 Trading Places (1983)
This is an unabashed eighties take on The Prince And The Pauper. How about a biting social commentary on the disparity of wealth in America?
Sure, those things are there too if you’re trying to write a college dissertation. But what’s really important is if you want to laugh for nearly two hours straight, then you need Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places.
4 Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)
Cameron Crowe went undercover at Clairemont High School and came out with his book that the movie was based on, which was Amy Heckerling’s (Clueless) directorial debut.
Crowe’s experience gave way to this movie about sex, drugs, and rock and roll—everything that high school kids of the day really cared about. Not to mention '80s crush Phoebe Cates making one of her earliest appearances.
3 The Shining (1980)
Just the drive up to the Overlook Hotel can give anyone nightmare fuel for days. Then the Hotel’s manager informs writer and prospective winter caretaker Jack Torrance that the previous caretaker had gotten cabin fever and killed his family.
That somehow didn’t stop Jack from bringing his family up for the winter to the cursed hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The adaptation of Stephen King’s novel deviates far from the source material, but Kubrick crafts a disturbing tale in his own right that shows just how far a man can fall when he lets his mind wander into the breach. That and living all by yourself in a haunted hotel built on an Indian Burial Ground.
2 National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
All Clark Griswold wants to do is spend some quality time with his family and have a great Vacation. The plan is simple: hop in the family station wagon and head to Wally World, America’s Favorite Family Fun Park.
The park’s in California and the Griswolds live in Chicago. Clark somehow convinced the family to take the “Holiday Road,” and drive cross-country is the ultimate comedy of errors.
1 Back To The Future (1985)
Michael J. Fox and the DeLorean both became instant eighties icons in Back To The Future. Fox was already America’s favorite kid on TV in Family Ties, so he might as well transition to movies.
He did in a big way with Robert Zemeckis’ Back To The Future. As Marty McFly, Fox was able to charm filmgoers by inadvertently traveling back in time to the fifties to make sure his father and mother met, as otherwise, he wouldn't exist.