Ah, movie going in the 80s. We had VHS tapes (or maybe your family, like mine, had a Betamax player for a while) and we had HBO, but there was nothing like going to see first run movies at the theater. My friend Gail and I would each get a huge icy cup of Sprite and a serving of nachos (with a cup of heated “cheese” sauce and extra jalapenos) and then kick back and watch the big stars on the big screen.
The ideal watch-with-friends movies, to me, are fun and playful and perhaps sprinkled with just a touch of romance. Easy on the drama, and with a satisfyingly happy ending. Culling through my favorite fun movies of the 1980s was a huge challenge for me, so after you read my top pics, check out the honorable mentions at the bottom of the page. There were SO MANY awesome movies of the 80s.
1980 brought us Airplane, a pun-filled comedic take on the disaster movie. It’s one of the silliest movies ever. Full of goofy slapstick and awesome quotes. SURELY you agree with me. (And stop calling me Shirley!)
Valley Girl. I mean, OF COURSE, Valley Girl, right? This 1983 valley/punk version of Romeo and Juliet featured a world that was light years away from my rural Tennessee upbringing, but it was GREAT. And it had an awesome soundtrack, including Men at Work’s Who Can It Be Now? And Modern English’s I Melt With You.
(Oh, how I loved Nicholas Cage back in the day. He was so terrific in both Valley Girl and 1986’s retro-wonderful Peggy Sue Got Married, also starring Kathleen Turner. It was all about his gravelly voice, I think.)
Chevy Chase starred in National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983, spawning years of Clark Griswold impressions. This family-vacation-gone-wrong movie features a cross-country trip to Walley World (guarded by John Candy,) dysfunctional family visits with Aunt Edna and Cousin Eddie, and a flirty Christie Brinkley as the blonde in the Ferrari. Pure awesomeness.
1984’s Splash is one of my favorite romantic comedies. Yes, Darryl Hannah’s mermaid squawk is excruciating to listen to, but it’s a sweet, feel-good movie, back when Tom Hanks was young and adorable. Also, I was a little girl, and little girls want to be mermaids. I mean, right? Totally.
Also in 1984, we had Ghostbusters. Sure, we’ve all seen it a bazillion times by now, and the special effects are a tad dated, but that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome. Bill Murray is hysterical. Oh, that naughty little Slimer! Oh, those creepy pit bull-gargoyle creatures! Oh, that ZOOL!
St. Elmo’s Fire came out in 1985. It had a great cast: Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore. You know, The Brat Pack. It was about post-college young adults finding their way in the world. The iconic image in this one, for me, was Rob Lowe’s Billy visiting Demi Moore’s Jules, with the curtains billowing in her empty apartment, and blowing fire puffs from his lighter. And the shower make-out scene with Ally Sheedy’s Lesli and Andrew McCarthy’s Kevin (she WORE HER PEARLS!) And the scene where a breathless Kirby (played by Emilio Estevez) kisses a surprised Andie MacDowell’s Dale.
Also in 1985: Back to the Future. And I’m going to try to ignore the painful twang in my heart that I feel whenever I think about Michael J. Fox and his inspiring character through his battle with Parkinson’s disease. (Ouch, my heart.) He just seems like an incredibly nice guy and I get so sad to think of him being unwell. Anyway. (Sigh.) This is a GREAT movie with an adorable young Michael J. Fox as the teen time traveler Marty McFly, with Christopher Lloyd as the ridiculous Doc Brown. We had Crispin Glover as George McFly and Lea Thompson as Marty’s mom. A very sweet, clever, well-done sci-fi movie. Also, a time traveling DeLorean! There was this guy in 9th grade whose dad DROVE ONE, and he immediately earned exponential cool points for that very reason.
1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was another great burrito of wistful teen angst and romance wrapped in a flavorful cinematic shell. It’s about a single day of cutting class for three high school friends and the fun and soul-searching that ensue. Along with Vacation, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, and eleventy-three other light movie treats, it’s part of the John Hughes film canon. Seriously, check out John Hughes’s IMDB page – it’s NUTS. Surely there are college courses out there to study his cultural impact, right? (And stop calling me Shirley!)
I can’t leave out 1989’s Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a silly time traveling romp. Say what you will about Keanu Reeves: his acting is wooden, he’s overrated, blah blah blah. I’m a fan. I loved Bill and Ted. (Although, whatever happened to Bill…?) They were the quintessential lovable doofuses. Party on, dudes! Most excellent! Remember when it seemed that Keanu would never be free of his dumb-bunny Ted persona? And then he became Mr. Anderson, aka Neo, and kicked some serious computer boo-tay. Keanu ROCKS.
Oh, man, I’m adrift in nostalgia. Which to see first? Such happy little memories and great characters and whipsmart one-liners. I hope you’ve enjoyed remembering them with me. Here’s my list of those that didn’t quite make the cut, but that I also love in most radically awesome way: