The 1980s were an iconic era for movies. This decade launched the careers of movie stars like Patrick Swayze, Michael J. Fox, and Molly Ringwald and directors like teen movie titan John Hughes. Advanced special effects, memorable pop songs, and bright, bold fashion (remember shoulder pads?), permeated these coming-of-age films and classic adventures, and the themes still touch audiences today.
This movie launched two 80s icons: director, John Hughes and actress Molly Ringwald. Though Hughes already had two films under his belt, it was The Breakfast Club that solidified his directorial chops. When five teens spend a Saturday in detention, it seems at first that they have nothing in common. They soon learn that their problems go beyond fitting in as a jock or being the class clown and explore deeper issues like peer pressure and parental expectations.
Nobody puts Baby in a corner! Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey dance to romance set at a Catskills resort in the 1960s. Frances “Baby” Houseman (Grey) is on the verge of adulthood when she meets dance instructor Johnny Castle, who teaches her how to dance and… some other moves. The movie's dancing sequences were considered pretty risque at the time, and the movie also touched on taboo topics like abortion and the privileges of money. Dirty Dancing is a coming-of-age movie with lessons about social class and parental pressure, and many of Baby’s problems still feel relevant today.
Director John Hughes placed Matthew Broderick in the role of Ferris for this flick about the fun of playing hooky and trying not to get caught. Ferris and his two friends skip school and spend the day getting into all kinds of trouble in Chicago. Though Ferris seems to be a spoiled troublemaker at first, the movie soon shows us a teenager trying to enjoy what’s left of his carefree youth before the pressures of adulthood begin. As the titular character says in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Although he was already a household name for his role as Michael P. Keaton on the TV series Family Ties, Michael J. Fox became a bonafide movie star as Marty McFly in Back to the Future. Marty is a high school student who accidentally finds himself in 1955, where he meets his own parents as teenagers. His friend, a wacky scientist played by Christopher Lloyd, must figure out how to get Marty back to 1985 without changing the past's events–otherwise, Marty might never be born! The movie was a box-office hit and even spawned two sequels and a Broadway musical.
This heartwarming film broke records and became one of the highest-grossing films of all time. The story revolves around the friendship between a friendly alien and a human boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas). In her introductory role, Drew Barrymore plays Elliot’s little sister, Gertie. E.T. teaches us a powerful and timeless lesson about friendship and sacrifice, and if you can get through this movie without crying, you might be made of stone. Speaking of stones, Dee Wallace Stone from The Howling franchise plays Elliot's mother in the film.
While A New Hope started the Star Wars franchise, that movie was technically released in the late '70s. It’s The Empire Strikes Back that’s often referred to as the best movie in the series—a rare case of the sequel outperforming the original. This was the movie where we learned (spoiler alert!) that Darth Vader is Luke’s father! The Star Wars movies impacted pop culture for several generations, spawned an entertainment and merchandise empire for George Lucas, and still holds the record for highest merchandise sales in movie history at over $12 billion.
This story-within-a-story remains popular because it has a little bit of everything—romance, swashbuckling adventure, comedy, and some magic thrown in for good measure. The story revolves around the romance between Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) and her dashing farmhand Westley (Cary Elwes). The Princess Bride remains the standard of romance we’ve been searching for ever since.
Who hasn't seen Jennifer Beals’ breakout role as Alex, a young woman working as a welder by day and an exotic dancer at night? Flashdance teaches audiences to go after their dreams no matter the odds. Alex dreams of becoming a classical ballerina but lacks the training and resources. The movie’s title song, “Flashdance… What a Feeling,” sung by Fame alum, Irene Cara, is a karaoke go-to, but the movie’s greatest legacy might just be the cool off-the-shoulder shirt that Beals made iconic...or maybe her backlit water splash stage scene.
Anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider will find themselves relating to the characters in The Goonies, an action-adventure comedy starring Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, and a very young Josh Brolin. When a group of friends finds the treasure map of pirate One-Eyed Willy, they set out in search of the lost gold to save their homes. Unfortunately, a criminal gang is also after the treasure and will do anything to stop them! The Goonies was ground-breaking for its young cast of “misfits” taking center stage, proving that kids can be heroes, too.
Blade Runner is set in 2019, which was the "distant future" in 1982. In this 2019, humans live alongside “replicants,” human-looking androids. Harrison Ford stars as a former cop who falls in love with a replicant (Sean Young). You just know it won’t end well. Prometheus and Alien franchise director, Ridley Scott, lent his vision to the book written by Philip K. Dick, influencing generational love for sci-fi films, thanks to its special effects and vision of what the future may hold.