Watchworthy

The Best Historical Movies Released in the 1980s 

Ranker Film
Updated February 5, 2019 736 votes 118 voters 4.9k views 33 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite historical films from the 1980s.

What are the best historical movies from the 1980s? This list includes great historical movies such as Glory, Amadeus, and Name of the RoseHistorical movies allow audiences to relive a piece of a history that they may never know about otherwise. They become sources of both entertainment and education.   

 The movies on this list are the best of the best when it comes to historical films. Which one is the best? Well, that's up to the voters to decide. Vote up your favorite historical movie from the 1980s, and if there isn't one on here that you think deserves a spot, be sure to add it. 

Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
1
Ranker Video
Stephen Fry, Kenneth Branagh, Ian Holm

Released: 1981

Directed by: Hugh Hudson

Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British historical drama film. It tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of ...more

More Chariots of Fire 

#363 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #125 of 130 Movies That Should Never Be Remadelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

2
Ranker Video
Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Adam Baldwin

Released: 1987

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 film directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay by Kubrick, Michael Herr, and Gustav Hasford was based on Hasford's novel The Short-Timers. The film ...more

More Full Metal Jacket 

Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making Of 'Full Metal Jacket' #2 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #65 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

3
Ranker Video
Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick

Released: 1989

Directed by: Edward Zwick

Glory is a 1989 American drama film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman. The screenplay was written by Kevin Jarre, based on ...more

More Glory 

#15 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #38 of 729 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

4
Ranker Video
Jeff Goldblum, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid

Released: 1983

Directed by: Philip Kaufman

The Right Stuff is a 1983 American drama film that was adapted from Tom Wolfe's best-selling 1979 book of the same name about the Navy, Marine and Air Force test pilots who were involved in ...more

More The Right Stuff 

#1,064 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #179 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
Ranker Video
Jeffrey Jones, Cynthia Nixon, Christine Ebersole

Released: 1984

Directed by: Miloš Forman

Amadeus - Directors Cut is a 1984 biography drama film written by Peter Shaffer and directed by Milos Forman.

More Amadeus 

#196 of 378 The Best Musical Movies of All Time #233 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

6
Ranker Video

Released: 1989

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Born on the Fourth of July, published in 1976, is the best selling autobiography by Ron Kovic, a Vietnam veteran who became an activist. Kovic was born on July 4, 1946, and his book's ironic ...more

More Born on the Fourth of July 

#141 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #236 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

7
Ranker Video
Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman, Frances McDormand

Released: 1988

Directed by: Alan Parker

Mississippi Burning is a 1988 American thriller film directed by Alan Parker and written by Chris Gerolmo. It was loosely based on the FBI investigation into the incidents involving of three ...more

More Mississippi Burning 

#276 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #191 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

8
Ranker Video
Daniel Day-Lewis, Ben Kingsley, Martin Sheen

Released: 1982

Directed by: Richard Attenborough

Gandhi is a 1982 epic biographical film which dramatises the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the leader of India's non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement against the United ...more

More Gandhi 

#371 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #211 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

9
Ranker Video
John Malkovich, Craig T. Nelson, Sam Waterston

Released: 1984

Directed by: Roland Joffé

This film is a 1984 British drama film set in Democratic Kampuchea, which is based on the experiences of two journalists: Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg. The film, which won ...more

More The Killing Fields 

#59 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #290 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

10
Ranker Video
Peter O'Toole, Joan Chen, Vivian Wu

Released: 1987

Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci

The Last Emperor is a 1987 biographical film about the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China, whose autobiography was the basis for the screenplay written by Mark Peploe and Bernardo ...more

More The Last Emperor 

#280 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #896 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

11
Ranker Video
Sean Connery, Christian Slater, Ron Perlman

Released: 1986

Directed by: Jean-Jacques Annaud

The Name of the Rose is a 1986 film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, based on the book of the same name by Umberto Eco. Sean Connery is the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and Christian ...more

More The Name of the Rose 

#157 of 368 The Best Movies Based On Books #429 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #22 of 27 Actual Lawyers Explain Which Legal Movies They Like The Best

12
Raging Bull is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Historical Movies Released in the 1980s
Tom Islava added Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Martin Scorsese

Released: 1980

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Raging Bull is a 1980 American biographical black-and-white sports drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, produced by Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler and adapted by Paul Schrader and Mardik ...more

More Raging Bull 

Behind The Scenes Of 'Raging Bull,' The Masterpiece Scorsese Never Wanted To Make #79 of 368 The Best Movies Based On Bookslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

13
Ranker Video
Great Balls of Fire! Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Dennis Quaid

Released: 1989

Directed by: Jim McBride

Great Balls of Fire! is a 1989 American biographical film directed by Jim McBride and starring Dennis Quaid as pioneer rock 'n' roll star Jerry Lee Lewis. Based on a biography by Myra Lewis and ...more
14
Ranker Video
Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Gene Hackman

Released: 1981

Directed by: Warren Beatty

Reds is a 1981 epic film that was co-written, produced, and directed by Warren Beatty. The picture centers on the life and career of John Reed, the journalist and writer who chronicled the ...more

More Reds 

#472 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #270 of 321 Movies with the Best Soundtrackslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

15
Ranker Video
Christian Bale, Emma Thompson, Judi Dench

Released: 1989

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

Henry V is a 1989 British drama film adapted for the screen and directed by Kenneth Branagh, based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name about King Henry V of England. The film stars ...more

More Henry V 

#266 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #480 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

16
Ranker Video
Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hunt

Released: 1982

Directed by: Peter Weir

The Year of Living Dangerously is a 1982 drama film directed by Peter Weir and adapted from the novel The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher Koch. The story is about a love affair set in ...more
17
Ranker Video
Paul Newman, John Cusack, Laura Dern

Released: 1989

Directed by: Roland Joffé

Fat Man and Little Boy is a 1989 film that reenacts the Manhattan Project. The film is named after the weapons "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" detonated over Nagasaki and ...more
18
Ranker Video
Mickey Rourke, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Bridges

Released: 1980

Directed by: Michael Cimino

Heaven's Gate is a 1980 American epic Western film written and directed by Michael Cimino. It portrays a fictional dispute between land barons and European immigrants in Wyoming in the 1890s. ...more

More Heaven's Gate 

#186 of 395 The Best Western Movies Ever Made #486 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #583 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

19
Ranker Video
Oliver Reed, John Gielgud, Anthony Quinn

Released: 1981

Directed by: Moustapha Akkad

Lion of the Desert is a 1981 Libyan historical action film starring Anthony Quinn as Libyan tribal leader Omar Mukhtar, a Bedouin leader fighting the Italian army in the years leading up to ...more
20
Ranker Video
North and South

Released: 1985

North and South is the title of three American television miniseries broadcast on the ABC network in 1985, 1986, and 1994.The 1985 first installment, North and South, remains the seventh-highest ...more

More North and South 

#762 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #148 of 395 The Best Western Movies Ever Madelisted on Civil War Movies List

21
Ranker Video
Moses Zook added Mel Gibson, Liam Neeson, Daniel Day-Lewis

Released: 1984

Directed by: Roger Donaldson

The Bounty is a 1984 British adventure drama historical film directed by Roger Donaldson, starring Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins, and produced by Bernard Williams with Dino De Laurentiis as ...more
22
Ranker Video
Peter O'Toole, Barbara Carrera, David Warner

Released: 1981

Directed by: Boris Sagal

Masada is an American television miniseries that aired on ABC in April 1981. Advertised by the network as an "ABC Novel for Television," it was a fictionalized account of the ...more

More Masada 

#29 of 60 The Best Roman Movies #31 of 34 25+ Fantastic Pre-Modern War Movies That Take Place a Long Time Ago #29 of 167 The Best Miniseries in TV History

23
Ranker Video
Michael Caine

Released: 1988

Directed by: David Wickes

Jack the Ripper is a 1988 Anglo-American co-production by Thames Television and CBS television film drama based on the notorious Jack the Ripper murder spree in Victorian London. It was first ...more
24
Ranker Video
Tom Islava added Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Peter MacNicol

Released: 1982

Directed by: Alan J. Pakula

Sophie's Choice is a 1982 American drama film directed by Alan J. Pakula, who adapted William Styron's novel of the same name. Meryl Streep stars as Sophie, a Polish immigrant who shares a ...more

More Sophie's Choice 

#270 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #425 of 802 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

25
Ranker Video
Ian McKellen, Jane Seymour, Anthony Andrews

Released: 1982

Directed by: Clive Donner

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a 1982 British romantic adventure film set during the French Revolution. It is based on the novels The Scarlet Pimpernel and Eldorado by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, and ...more