Seven Great Films From the 80s To Add To Your Watchlist

Planes, Trains & Automobile

Despite being born in the 1980s there are a lot of supposedly classic 80s films that I don’t like. I won’t mention any names but let’s say kids going off looking for pirate gold and people hanging out together at around breakfast time I don’t particularly like. But here are seven undeniably great 80s films:

This Is Spinal Tap

This Is Spinal Tap -1984 (bloomberg.com)

This is not only one of the funniest films ever made it also invented the “mockumentary”. Directed by Rob Reiner as part of his legendary run of films including When Harry Met Sally and Stand By Me the film follows the ludicrously over the top band Spinal Tap on a less than successful tour. Eternally quotable for it’s discussions around amplifier volume and the colour black it’s also has a who’s who cast of American comedy.

Best Line – the two-word review of Spinal Tap’s album Shark Sandwich “Shit Sandwich”.

A Fish Called Wanda

A Fish Called Wanda
A Fish Called Wanda – 1988 (Credit: MGM)

A classic crime-caper-comedy in which the best thing about this film is undoubtedly Kevin Kline in a singularly great comic performance that was rightly rewarded with an Oscar. Bear in mind this film also stars comedy geniuses John Cleese and Michael Palin who are always overshadowed by Kline. The film revolves an elaborate diamond heist and features too many double-crosses to mention. Kline plays Otto, crazed American assassin/thief who thinks he’s smart but isn’t and shines in every scene he is in, whether it’s dangling John Cleese out of a window or his general hatred towards British people.

Best Line – Otto “You pompous, stuck-up, snot-nosed, English, giant, twerp, scumbag, fuck-face, dickhead, asshole”.


Aliens 1986
Aliens – 1986 (abcnews.com)

It’s important to say that as a work of cinema, Alien is the better film, but the one I enjoy watching more is Aliens. James Cameron’s follow-up might just be the best sequel ever made and an all-time classic of sci-fi action. Not only did it give us the best weapon in science fiction – the M41A Pulse Rifle, it further cemented Sigourney Weaver’s status as a first-rate action hero. Often the addition of a young child to a film is a disaster but the relationship between Ripley and Newt is one of the best things about the film, especially as we learn that Ripley’s own daughter died while she was in hibernation. For an explosive action film, it has some amazing lines of dialogue that are some of the most memorable quotations from the 1980s.

Best Line – Hudson “That’s it, man. Game over, man. Game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?”


Beetlejuice 1988

This is a film that gets just about everything right – it has a sensational cast where seemingly every actor is perfect, the soundtrack is spooky and fun, the costumes and set design tell you everything you need to know. The assorted ghosts, monsters etc all look perfect and the special effects have a very old-school feel to them. This is Tim Burton at the height of his creepy powers and you get all of this in ninety-two minutes.

Best moment – the possessed dinner party/dance party where they all start singing Day-o.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark -1980
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark -1980 (Amazon.com)

Indiana Jones is one of the great heroes of cinema, not only a tough adventurer but an intellectual professor who spends a lot of time punching Nazis. In a rare moment of clarity for The Academy, this film was even nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. The film is non-stop brilliance, from the unforgettable opening scene in the tomb to Indy stealing the truck which contains the Ark, surely one of the best action set-pieces of all-time (and contains lots of Nazi punching). There is so much of this film that has passed into our cultural consciousness – the boulder chase, the snake-filled tomb, shooting the highly skilled swordsmen and even the very last of the warehouse seemingly full of dangerous treasures from around the world.

Best Line – Too many to choose – but Indy shooting the highly skilled swordsman is great.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Planes, Trains And Automobiles-1987
Planes, Trains And Automobiles-1987 (filmschoolrejects.com)

It would be hard to talk about films in the 80s without mentioning John Hughes, who wrote and directed many of the decade’s most memorable films. Perhaps the best was Planes, Trains and Automobiles featuring a pair of comedy greats who normally warrant a single starring role. Often mistakenly remembered as being a Christmas film Steve Martin’s character is actually trying to get home for Thanksgiving. Due to poor weather, his originals travel plans are cancelled and he endeavours to get home however he can but is accompanied be talkative and good-natured Del Griffith. Not only is this a hilarious film but it has a lot of moments of genuine emotion and tragedy.

Best moment – The bit that will forever stick with me is when they nearly get crushed between two trucks and when Martin glances at Candy he has become the Devil.

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride - 1987
The Princess Bride – 1987 (intofilm.org)

Considering it has one of the worst trailers the world has ever seen The Princess Bride is an amazing film. Another film directed by Rob Reiner but this time written by screenwriting legend William Goldman, The Princess Bride is a story about love and adventure. It is a wonderful film starting with a grandfather reading a book to ill grandson and developing into an unforgettable story. It is surely one of the best scripts ever written with practically half the text remembered as quotable lines. It has what was billed to be the best swordfight in cinema history, a battle of wits over poisoned goblets and to top it all it has Andre the Giant in it. This is a film that works perfectly for both children and adults and due to its fantasy setting has barely aged at all (perhaps in a current telling of the story Princess Buttercup would be a bit more proactive).

Best Line – there are so many but – Westley – “Life is Pain. Anyone who says different is trying to sell you something.”

Also Read: 7 Reasons Characters Die In Horror Films

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Posted by
Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.