20 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Classic '80s Sci-Fi Movies

List Rules
Vote up the most impressive facts that made you say, 'Whoa.'

Science fiction is one of those genres that consistently produce fantastic, well-written movies that fail to gain an audience. Then, after some time, they become cult classics. That was certainly the trend in the 1980s, which produced tons of excellent science fiction films that have become widely beloved classics. Some of the best films of all time are sci-fi, and the 1980s produced many of the greatest, including E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Empire Strikes Back, and Tron​​​​​.

Most sci-fi movies may seem like little-effort popcorn flicks targeting easy money, and while there's undoubtedly some of that in the genre, most good science fiction films from the '80s have a lot going on that fans know little to nothing about. No matter how many times you watch The Terminator, The Last Starfighter, or the Back to the Future trilogy, you're not going to know everything there is to know about the films... unless you worked on them. Even then, there are probably a few things you didn't know about famous sci-fi flicks!

This list features some of the most interesting nuances of the very best science fiction movies from the 1980s. Whether it's about the actors playing a hero or about the production itself, odds are, even the most ardent sci-fi movie fan won't know it all.


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    137 VOTES

    80% Of The Dialogue In 'Ghostbusters' Is Improvised

    Ghostbusters is a movie that touches on a number of genres, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and, of course, comedy. The movie has some of the funniest dialogue of the decade, and it stars a pairing of the funniest '80s stars. The film was written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, but according to Akyroyd, the vast majority of the movie's dialogue didn't come from the script.

    While appearing on Josh Gad's Reunited Apart, the veteran comic actor revealed that "80% would have been improv, and the rest was just structure and exposition." He credited Bill Murray for most of that added dialogue, including Murray's character screwing around on the piano in Dana's apartment. Another improvised plot point was the whole "crossing the streams" element, but the best-improvised part of Ghostbusters has to be Ernie Hudson's line: "When someone asks you if you're a god, you say yes!"

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    170 VOTES

    The Breathable Fluid In 'The Abyss' Is Real

    In The Abyss, a liquid is introduced that is compared to the amniotic fluid all mammals breathe in vitro, and it functions as one of the movie's most important plot devices. Early in the film, a rat is placed inside a box filled with the stuff, and it is shown to take in the liquid and breathe "normally," surviving the ordeal with little more than a touch of trauma and some wet fur.

    While most people might watch the scene and think it was done using CGI or practical special effects, in reality, everything shown at that moment is 100% legit. The fluid does exist and is called oxygenated fluorocarbon fluid. It had been thoroughly tested on animals for decades before the production of The Abyss. When Ed Harris's character is shown breathing the same liquid, that is a trick. The actor didn't inhale it like the rat, though he said shooting those scenes was his worst experience in the movie, as it kept shooting up his nose.

    That breathable fluid is actually the reason the movie exists. When he was 17, James Cameron attended a lecture given by Francis J. Falejczyk, the first man to breathe fluid like the stuff seen in the film. After the lecture, Cameron wrote a short story based on the concept. While the story's structure changed by the time the script came into being, the core element of breathable fluid and a group of scientists working in an undersea lab remained.

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    73 VOTES

    Arnold Schwarzenegger Was So Big, He Had To Do His Own Stunts In 'The Terminator' And Many Other Films

    One great thing about being a massive bodybuilder is that you can make a transition into film. One of the bad things about this is there aren't many people who look like you. While that may sound great for most people, in filmmaking, it can be a liability. Early in Schwarzenegger's career, he ran into this problem - he was too big. Because of this, studios had the impossible task of finding stunt performers who could double for him, and they failed.

    For most of his early career, there simply weren't any stuntmen who could convincingly play Schwarzenegger on the silver screen. This wasn't as big a problem in movies where he wore regular clothing, but for Conan the Barbarian, he had to do all of his own stunts. This is usually something studios would prefer to avoid since insuring an actor to do stunt work can be prohibitively expensive.

    In 1984's The Terminator, Schwarzenegger had to do a stunt on his own when he punched through a car window. James Cameron later admitted he didn't have the permits to film in the street, nor did he have the time to put prop (breakable) glass into the car, so he just had his actor slam his fist through it. Over the years, Schwarzenegger's popularity grew, and so too did his stunt team. He's added Billy D. LucasJoel Kramer, and Peter Kent to the crew, and they've collectively performed a ton of Arnold's stunts.

  • 4
    73 VOTES

    The Rebel Troops On Hoth In 'The Empire Strikes Back' Were Members Of The Norwegian Red Cross

    During The Empire Strikes Back, many of the scenes set on the ice planet, Hoth, were filmed in Finse, Norway. Several scenes during the Battle of Hoth involve unnamed Rebel soldiers filling various trenches to defend the base so transports can escape. Interestingly, the actors playing those characters weren't actors; they were highly credentialed locals.

    The people playing these soldiers were all Norwegian mountain-rescue skiers. In appreciation for their work, production company Lucasfilm made a donation to the Norwegian Red Cross. None of the skiers spoke English, so giving them directions was somewhat challenging; second unit director Peter MacDonald had to act out what he wanted them to do.

  • 5
    103 VOTES

    'WarGames' Created Real-World Change Via The First Anti-Hacking Law In The US

    Movies are designed to entertain, but they aren't usually created to effect real-world change unless they're documentaries. Even if they are, they don't always make an impact, and standard-issue genre films rarely impact the world in any real way. When WarGames was released in 1983, it showed how a young hacker could break into a Department of Defense computer with relative ease and almost set off World War III. The movie is entertaining and a classic, but more than that, it scared the hell out of President Ronald Reagan.

    After watching the film at Camp David, Reagan brought up the concept at the White House to his Joint Chiefs of Staff. He asked, "Could something like this really happen? Could someone break into our most sensitive computers?" He didn't get his answer that day, but about a week later, he was told, "Mr. President, the problem is much worse than you think." That meeting resulted in a complete alteration of how the US government handled computer security. It also resulted in the passage of the first anti-hacking legislation that would eventually evolve into the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

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    55 VOTES

    'The Wrath of Khan' Was The Cheapest (And Best) 'Star Trek' Movie

    Star Trek proved you didn't need a massive budget with insane special effects to make a great TV show, but the opposite didn't prove true with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That film had a bloated budget, and while the special effects were impressive for the time, the movie bombed. When the studio finally agreed to make a sequel, the budget was slashed to only $12 million, making The Wrath of Khan the cheapest Star Trek film ever made.

    With its meager budget, the first Star Trek sequel managed to solidify itself as a sci-fi classic, and to most Trek fans, it's the best movie of the franchise. That's largely due to the story and how Ricardo Montalban absolutely knocked his performance out of the park. Of course, the on-screen interactions between the primary cast made it one of the most heartbreaking films of the franchise.

    In the final exchange between Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, the phrase, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one," stands as one of the best-written lines in all of Trek. If you thought it was taken from some ancient Eastern philosophy, it wasn't. The line was written for the movie, though it does share some similarities with the teachings of philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who wrote that "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong."