best movies The Top 25 Must-See Quintessential '80s Movies  

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List Rules Vote up the '80s movies that define the genre and should be required viewing for beginners in an Intro to 1980s Films Class.

The '80s made for some great movies and - if you missed the decade - you may not realize all the great films released those years. Here, you'll find all the essential '80s movies. Given this list is comprised of films from a particular decade, there won't be a focus on genre, but there might be more than a few teen, adventure, Sci-Fi, or romantic comedies on this list. These are '80s movies for beginners - a glimpse into the must-see films that defined the decade. 

Unfortunately, '80s movies can have a reputation for being melodramatic and loaded with unnecessary - and corny - special effects, but not every movie of this time period followed this formula. Remember - this was the decade of John Cusack, Matthew Broderick, and some classic films including Back to the Future and The Empire Strikes Back! If you are sitting there thinking you could do without this decade in film, you need to rethink your position. Consider this an intro to '80s movies for all of you out there doubting the cinematic prowess of the decade. Remember, '80s movies constitute some of the most popular and famous films of the past 50 years! This was the decade where Indiana Jones first donned his famous fedora and Elliot had to say goodbye to E.T. 

There were thousands of movies released between 1980 and 1989, making a list of the 25 '80s movies everyone should watch something of a challenge. Many arguments will likely ensue, so vote your favorites up below to decide on the most essential films the '80s had to offer. 

list ordered by

1
343 13
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Beetlejuice Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Geena Davis Beetlejuice is a 1988 American comedy fantasy film directed by Tim Burton, produced by The Geffen Film Company and distributed by Warner Bros. The plot revolves around a recently deceased young ...more

2
350 18
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Back to the Future Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson Back to the Future is a 1985 American comic science fiction film. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale, produced by Steven Spielberg, and stars Michael J. Fox, ...more

3
331 17
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Ghostbusters Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd Ghostbusters is a 1984 American sci-fi-fantasy comedy film, directed and produced by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. The film stars Bill Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis as ...more

4
299 30
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The Karate Kid Elisabeth Shue, Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita The Karate Kid is a 1984 American martial arts romantic drama film directed by John G. Avildsen and written by Robert Mark Kamen, starring Ralph Macchio, who was 22 years old during principal ...more

5
300 31
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Raiders of the Lost Ark Harrison Ford, Alfred Molina, Karen Allen Raiders of the Lost Ark is a 1981 American adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. The screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan was from a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman. It was produced by ...more

6
301 36
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Ferris Bueller's Day Off Charlie Sheen, Matthew Broderick, Jeffrey Jones Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a 1986 American comedy film written, produced and directed by John Hughes. The film follows high school senior Ferris Bueller, who skips school and spends the day in ...more

7
293 35
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Die Hard Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia Die Hard is a 1988 American action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart. It is based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, by Roderick Thorp. Die ...more

8
290 35
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The Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Paxton, Linda Hamilton The Terminator is a 1984 American science fiction/horror action film directed by James Cameron, written by Cameron and the film's producer Gale Anne Hurd, and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, ...more

9
290 37
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The Goonies Corey Feldman, Josh Brolin, Sean Astin The Goonies is a 1985 American adventure comedy film directed by Richard Donner. The screenplay was written by Chris Columbus from a story by executive producer Steven Spielberg. The film's ...more

10
287 38
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Gremlins Steven Spielberg, Corey Feldman, Phoebe Cates Gremlins is a 1984 American horror comedy film directed by Joe Dante, released by Warner Bros. The film is about a young man who receives a strange creature called a mogwai as a pet, which then ...more

11
289 40
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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Drew Barrymore, Erika Eleniak, Debra Winger E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a 1982 American science fiction-family film co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Melissa Mathison, featuring special effects by Carlo ...more

12
274 36
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Big Tom Hanks, Jon Lovitz, Elizabeth Perkins Big is a 1988 American fantasy comedy film directed by Penny Marshall, and stars Tom Hanks as Josh Baskin, a young boy who makes a wish "to be big" and is then aged to adulthood ...more

The Best '80s Horror Movies

13
267 34
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Vacation Chevy Chase, Christie Brinkley, John Candy National Lampoon's Vacation, sometimes referred to as Vacation, is a 1983 Technicolor comedy film directed by Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron, ...more

14
280 44
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The Empire Strikes Back Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill The Empire Strikes Back is a 1980 American epic space opera film directed by Irvin Kershner. Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplay, with George Lucas writing the film's story ...more

15
257 38
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Police Academy Kim Cattrall, Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith Police Academy is a 1984 comedy film directed by Hugh Wilson, and starring Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall, and G.W. Bailey. It grossed approximately $146 million worldwide and spawned six more ...more

16
264 43
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Return of the Jedi Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill Return of the Jedi is a 1983 American epic space opera film directed by Richard Marquand. The screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas was from a story by Lucas, who was also the executive ...more

17
255 43
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Lethal Weapon Mel Gibson, Gary Busey, Danny Glover Lethal Weapon is a 1987 American buddy cop action film directed by Richard Donner, starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as a mismatched pair of L.A.P.D. detectives and stars Mitchell Ryan and ...more

18
242 48
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Top Gun Tom Cruise, Meg Ryan, Val Kilmer Top Gun is a 1986 American action drama film directed by Tony Scott, and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, in association with Paramount Pictures. The screenplay was written by Jim ...more

19
248 51
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Dirty Dancing Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach Dirty Dancing is a 1987 American romantic drama film. Written by Eleanor Bergstein and directed by Emile Ardolino, the film stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in the lead roles, as well as ...more

20
235 51
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Aliens Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn Aliens is a 1986 American science-fiction action horror film written and directed by James Cameron, produced by his then-wife Gale Anne Hurd, and starring Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael ...more

21
224 53
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Airplane! Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Leslie Nielsen, Ethel Merman Airplane! is a 1980 American satirical disaster comedy film directed and written by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker and released by Paramount Pictures. It stars Robert Hays and ...more

22
198 61
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Trading Places Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd Trading Places is a 1983 American comedy film directed by John Landis, starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. It tells the story of an upper-class commodities broker and a homeless street ...more

23
199 62
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Sixteen Candles John Cusack, Molly Ringwald, Joan Cusack Sixteen Candles is a 1984 American coming-of-age comedy film starring Molly Ringwald, Michael Schoeffling and Anthony Michael Hall. It was written and directed by John Hughes.

24
160 71
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Platoon Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe Platoon is a 1986 American war film written and directed by Oliver Stone and starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe and Charlie Sheen. It is the first film of a trilogy of Vietnam War films by ...more

25
168 80
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Dead Poets Society Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Lara Flynn Boyle Dead Poets Society is a 1989 American drama film written by Tom Schulman, directed by Peter Weir and starring Robin Williams. Set at the conservative and aristocratic Welton Academy in the ...more