The 80 Greatest Movies of the ’80s

In anticipation of Stranger Things 3, we're revisiting our old VHS tapes

The 80 Greatest Movies of the '80s, artwork by Cap Blackard
The 80 Greatest Movies of the ’80s, artwork by Cap Blackard

    By now, our nostalgia for the ’80s has outlasted the decade itself by about 20 years — and for good reason. Like the ’60s before it, the ’80s was an Industrial Revolution of Pop Culture. Think about all the icons. Or the fashion. Or the trends. In almost every vertical, be it music, or film, or television, there was something radical going down. Even better, there was an economy of weird, and the mainstream was trying its hardest to capitalize on it in every capacity. Not a bad thing.

    Yet perhaps no medium was more impacted than film. So much about what we love in film came from this era. It perfected the summer blockbuster. It championed the midnight movie. It brought movies into our homes. Did you know that by 1985, there were already 15,000 video rental stores operating in America? And in just four years that number had escalated to 25,000? In an era of streaming, those numbers seem antiquated, but they were paramount for Hollywood. It changed the game.

    That change extended to America and beyond. For the first time ever, you could watch your favorite movies at your own leisure, a twist in the moviegoing experience that went on to influence everything from family hangouts to Saturday sleepovers. All of a sudden, concepts like a “Friday night rental” or a “re-watchable movie” were just as integral to the industry as a “box office smash” and a “Sunday matinee.” Now, they’re an everyday part of our pop culture vernacular.


    Without them, we certainly wouldn’t be assembling this list: The 80 Greatest Movies of the ’80s. After all, most, if not all of the titles ahead, were ranked and compiled off the conceit that these have been a part of our culture since they first hit celluloid and eventually made their way into our homes via VHS, then Laserdisc, then DVD, and you get the point. The very fact that they were the first to do so is one of the myriad reasons why they’ve becomes such staples in film culture.

    That notion was integral when compiling these movies. Because we didn’t want to just list all the greatest critical triumphs from 1980 to 1989 — although many are scattered amongst this list — we wanted to celebrate those that were truly emblematic of that magical time. Not all of them made the cut — if we’re being transparent, this was inordinately difficult to chisel down to the poppy 80 title — but we’re confident each and every one of these titles had a special place in your living room.

    And probably still do.

    –Michael Roffman


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