The decade of 1980s will be remembered most for creating a phenomenon called “franchise”. From Indiana Jones to like Star Wars to Star Trek … all flourished in the 80s and established their position in the industry as money-making machines. 80s also saw a jump in the television viewership with many cult shows making their debut during that time.
Although Netflix’s catalogue focuses mostly on new films and tv shows, you can still find a lot of quality movies of the 80s on it. Many argue that the 80s movies have lost their appeal with the current generation, but if you’re a film buff and if you are a fan of horror or teen flicks, classic adventures or documentaries then you’ve come to the right place. Even though Netflix doesn’t have a comprehensive collection of films from the 80s, still, it has some of the greats we were looking for. However, I have to warn you: the probability of feeling nostalgic after reading this list is high. Here is the list of some really good 80s movies on Netflix. You can also find many of these best 1980s movies on Amazon Prime or Hulu.
24. Turner & Hooch (1989)
Scott Turner (Tom Hanks) has three days left in the local police department before he moves to a bigger city. Meanwhile, he sets himself on the case of the murder of Amos Reed. The closest thing to a witness is Amos Reed’s dog, which Scott Turner has to take care of if it’s going to avoid being “put to sleep”. Tom Hanks is very convincing and entertaining in his role of a neat-freak cop. There are predictable moments but, overall, is a nice cop-doggy comedy that people of all ages will enjoy.
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23. Always (1989)
Pete works for aerial firefighting missions and frequently flies an A-26 bomber over the fire zones to douse them with water or foam. His girlfriend, Dorinda, gets increasingly worried about the well being of her boyfriend and constantly prays that nothing untoward should happen to Pete. One fine day, the water bomber on a fire rescue mission, Pete’s plane crashes and the moment he walks out of the crash zone, unscathed, he is met with Hap who tells him that he’s dead now and the only course of action to follow was to see her girlfriend wedded to another handsome persona, Ted. ‘Always’ is a heartwarming tale of love and relationships and would often take you by surprise.
22. Ghostbusters II (1989)
The movie opens with Ghostbusters who were once famous but are now mostly forgotten and command no respect. Their company has filed for bankruptcy and they have no way out. With lack of work, they sing at kids’ birthday parties or go some small gigs to make a living. Dana, Peter Venkman’s ex, is forced to report a paranormal activity after she discovers slime. She comes across the portrait of an evil man who had been long dead. The portrait has to be broken to set him free, and Ghostbusters come to the rescue yet again.
21. She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
Written and directed by Spike Lee, “She’s Gotta Have It” follows Nola Darling, who is in a relationship with three different men. But things start to get complicated when they want her to commit solely to them. This fine cinematic debut of Lee completely fits in the category of a sexy, unique film. It is fascinating and entertaining due to its original perspective. It is about artistic, well-educated, middle-class African-Americans and very feminist while being funny. Overall, its authenticity and charm are its best quality.
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20. Octopussy (1983)
The movie opens with a fatally injured British agent 009 who is going from East to West Berlin while carrying a fake Faberge egg. James Bond is tasked to investigate the matter as the original egg has been found in an auction in London. The original egg is traced to an Afghan prince named Kamaal Khan who is involved in a crime syndicate smuggling Russian valuables through a circus’ front and delivering them to the beautiful Octopussy. His other plans include setting off a nuke while dealing with his usual circus antics. ‘Octopussy’ has been rated one of the lowest of the Bond films and we don’t see a reason why it shouldn’t be.
19. Empire Records (1995)
The ‘Empire Records’ is an independent store in Delaware that is run by Joe by employing a group of young folks with a penchant for music. Lucas, one of the laid back employees of the store upon hearing the news that the store might be acquired by a big player in the music industry, wants a larger chunk of his share in the shop for himself. Lucas then takes a day’s receipts to Atlantic City to help win some money for Joe so that every employee retains their job, for the Music City employees are forbidden to have tattoos which would disqualify each one of the Empire Records’ employees. As Lucas fails, the threat looms on Empire Records more than ever. All the events in the movie occur within a span of 24 hours. The movie was mostly met with negative criticism and perhaps the only best part of the movie is Liv Tyler.
18. The Living Daylights (1987)
The fifteenth instalment of James Bond’s films, ‘The Living Daylights’ witnesses a collaboration between Bond and the Soviet Union with the former assisting a top Soviet General Georgi Koshkov to defect from Czechoslovakia to Britain. After a botched mission which leads to the recapturing of the General, Bond begins the pursuit of a mystery woman who has been tasked to kill him instead. Enter an American arms dealer and a plan to smuggle opium from Afghanistan, we see Bond going places from London to Prague and to various terrains in never-seen-before visuals. The action sequences are nothing new and we see some repetitive sequences used in other Bond movies as well. Overall, ‘The Living Daylights’ is a weaker Bond movie but boasts of a more realistic, serious James Bond who isn’t as promiscuous as in the other Bond movies. A watchable flick for at least one time.
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17. Christine (1983)
The movie opens in an assembly plant of Chrysler when the assembly of a peculiar 1958 Plymouth Fury leaves a worker dead. Cut to 21 years later when Arnie, a beaming teenager, plan on buying a used, bruised and battered red Plymouth Fury and names it Christine. After restoring the car all by himself, he begins spending more and more time with “her”, for her parents won’t allow the car to be kept at their place. After Arnie’s school friend vandalizes the car owing to a personal vendetta, the car repairs itself and avenges the vandals by killing all of them systematically. It is later revealed that the car is possessed by an evil spirit which would let no harm to come to itself or its owner. Based on a Stephen King novel, ‘Christine’ has been made and remade in a countless number of languages across the world.
16. Pretty in Pink (1986)
A highly regarded romantic comedy and a cult classic, ‘Pretty in Pink’ is straight from the kitty of John Hughes. The movie is the narrative surrounding a high school and tells the story of Andie, an unpopular girl in the school who hangs around with Iona and Duckie, her best friend. Although Duckie doesn’t admit, he secretly has a crush on Andie. Andie soon meets with Blane, the rich brat at school who is also one of the highly popular ones, and there begins a love triangle between the trio, with Andie having to make a difficult choice. From today’s standpoint, the movie doesn’t hold much water due to the fact that we’ve witnessed this story in many other movies. The movie continuously harps on a message that states one should stay true to themselves, to begin with. Andie’s predicament is both relatable and enviable.
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15. Stripes (1981)
Perhaps ‘Stripes’ is Bill Murray’s best film to date if I am not wrong. The movie’s narrative tells the tale of John Winger, a cab driver who has lost everything and decides to enlist in the army. John slacks in the basic training and so is his friend Russell who too has joined the army on John’s persuasion. They fall for their crushes at the training Bootcamp, Stella and Louise. When General Barnicke sees them perform a drill without a sergeant, they are assigned to the EM-50 project in Italy. Out of a fiasco, one of their trucks is captured by the Soviets and upon hearing the news, John, along with Russell, Stella and Louise, infiltrate the Soviet base on the EM-50 and save their platoon. ‘Stripes’ is a fun flair and one would love to celebrate all the foolishness that is being thrown at the audiences at a very minimal cost.
14. The Last Dragon (1985)
A typical high-impact entertainer, ‘The Last Dragon’ is a cocktail of kung-fu, music, romance, action, and decent CGI. Leroy Green is a martial artist who idolizes Bruce Lee and wants be like him. After his master reveals that he has reached the final stage of learning i.e. ‘The Last Dragon’ and tells him that martial artists who reach this level begin showing “glow”, but Leroy doesn’t follow and begins his quest to look for Sum Dum Goy – the only one who can help Leroy achieve “the glow”. After realizing the entire quest was a failure and that everything comes from within as his previous master had quoted, Leroy uses the “glow” to beat his arch nemesis Sho’nuff and achieve a glowing body towards the end. ‘The Last Dragon’ is somewhat juvenile and corny, but boasts of decent action, thus making it a watchable 80’s flick on Netflix.
13. Sixteen Candles (1984)
The movie is the narrative of Sam Baker, an almost 16-year-old girl Sam whose 16th birthday has been mostly forgotten due to the upcoming marriage of her elder sister Ginny. Sam is also attracted to Jake, a senior at her high school. It is revealed to the audiences that Jake too has a liking for Sam who keeps staring at him. Back at home, Sam has to encounter an embarrassment as she finds out that all four of her grandparents are staying at the Baker home and are accompanying an exchange student of Chinese descent. Ted, another geeky kid is also in love with Sam. The movie ends on a positive note as a hopeful Jake arrives at the church where Ginny is being wedded, to propose to Sam and make things official, with a birthday cake in the backdrop. ‘Sixteen Candles’ is John Hughes’ rewarding romcom that hits all the right notes. Watched it yet?
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12. Bull Durham (1988)
With baseball in the backdrop of the entire movie, ‘Bull Durham’ revolves around three lives – Crash, a Minor League veteran who has been assigned to Durham Bulls, a mediocre team with a “record” on their own where he needs to coach a dim-witted Nuke about pitching. They both fall for Annie, the promiscuous team mascot who has a record of spending time with every man on the team, one per season. While Crash wants to end his career on a higher note, Nuke has no interest in the sport whatsoever and is behind Annie all the while, amid conflicts with Crash. ‘Bull Durham’ follows a casual, nonchalant approach towards baseball and is unique and different in a way that would impress you but not to an extent that you’d watch it one more time.
11. Poltergeist (1982)
Penned by Steven Spielberg, ‘Poltergeist’ is a cult horror classic and follows the story of the Freeling family headed by Steve, who is a real estate developer in Southern California’s Orange County, where he lives with his wife Diane and their three children – Dana, Robbie and Carol. In a strange turn of events, Carol displays erratic behaviour when she wakes up in the middle of the night and starts talking to a television set. Things begin to move on their own in the house, a tree grabs Robbie and Carol is sucked into a portal which leads to the “other side”. After parapsychologists arrive at the place, they conclude that the house is built on a place where a cemetery once stood, thus explaining the supernatural activities. In desperate attempts to rescue Carol, the team comes to the conclusion that the entrance to the dimension is through the closet while the exit is from the living room’s ceiling. The Freelings then flee the place for their own good. ‘Poltergeist’ is perhaps one of the best movies of the ’80s, and has also received three Academy Award nominations.
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10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
The Oscar-winning venture of Steven Spielberg and the prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, the movie begins with Indiana Jones and Willie Scott, a nightclub singer, along with a 12-year-old Chinese boy landing up in India in a small village where a sacred stone has been stolen, thus leading the villagers to believe that their children are disappearing as a result of the stone’s disappearance. The Temple of Doom is a mystic temple with a lot of booby traps and the Mola Ram, a Thugee Priest of the temple believes that using the five Sankara stones, one can rule the entire world. It is now up to Jones to rescue the children and put an end to Thugee’s evil intentions. Amrish Puri as Thugee had made news all over the world and Spielberg himself described Puri as the best villain of all time. Thoughts?
9. Playing for Time (1980)
An intense drama set during the Holocaust, ‘Playing for Time’ narrates the story of Fania, a French Jew who is being shipped to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp during the second world war, along with many other Jews. Turns out, Fania is a talented pianist and those having a flair for music weren’t persecuted as badly as others. She applies to be a part of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz and gets selected, while many others perish under Nazi atrocities. She also befriends another lady Marianne and though she isn’t a singer, the Nazis agree to take her into the fold. For Fania, the predicament of staying in the orchestra and suffering abuses by Nazi soldiers or to be a part of the other prisoners of the camp is heartbreaking. ‘Playing for Time’ received critical acclaim after its release, primarily for the authenticity.
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8. Ghostbusters (1984)
Yet another Bill Murray’s flick on this list, ‘Ghostbusters’ is a fantasy comedy at the very outset. The movie is the narrative of a group of tainted scientists who form a paranormal investigation and elimination service called ‘Ghostbusters’ and run their business from an abandoned firehouse. Their USP is the weapons they use to eliminate ghosts – proton guns, high-tech explosives and investigative devices. As a supernatural crisis hits the city no one has any clue about, Ghostbusters are called to the rescue, led by Peter Venkman and others. The special effects were praiseworthy and the comedy wasn’t, still ‘Ghostbusters’ is regarded as a cult phenomenon, with many remakes and reboots that have come across over the years.
7. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Directed by John Hughes, ‘The Breakfast Club’ is the story of five high school students on a day when they’ve been summoned for detention. Each of them is unique in their own ways. Claire is a spoilt brat, Brian is the intelligent one, John has a penchant for crimes, Andrew is a fighter and Allison is an outcast who is liked by none. The principal arrives and asks them to write a thousand-word essay on “who do you think you are”, until the end of the day. As the students spend time with each other, they also get to know one another and open up about why they’ve been stereotyped “being” someone. For example, Allison is a compulsive liar which makes her an outcast. The movie concludes with the five bonding like never before, like they could’ve never imagined.
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6. Quiet Victory: The Charlie Wedemeyer Story (1988)
A defining biopic, ‘Quiet Victory: The Charlie Wedemeyer Story’ is a real-life story of Charlie Wedemeyer, who was born in Hawaii and was a quarterback in his high school team. While he was heading a football team as a coach in 1978, he was diagnosed with ALS that took a toll on his body, rendering him immobile with only his lips and eyes moving until his death. Be that as it may, Charlie decided never to quit and fought the disease till the very end. The 80s weren’t known for biopics and precisely because of that reason, ‘Quiet Victory: The Charlie Wedemeyer Story’ gained quite a lot of traction. Have you watched it yet?
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5. The Terminator (1984)
Perhaps a childhood muse of every millennial out there, ‘The Terminator’ is a sci-fi action fantasy which revolves around Sarah Connors, the future of the world. As the prophecy goes, Connors son would be the saviour of mankind in a post-apocalyptic era when machines will rule the world. A Terminator is sent from the year 2029 back into 1984 to eliminate Connors. Kyle Reese is a human from 2029 who is tasked with protecting Sarah Connors. As the Terminator begins eliminating all the women named Sarah Connors, Kyle saves Connors in the nick of the moment. The cat and mouse chase follows until the Terminator is terminated. Directed by James Cameron, ‘The Terminator’ has become a cult classic and received praise across all departments. An absolute blockbuster that you can watch on Netflix right away.
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4. Heathers (1988)
A classic from the 80s, “Heathers” is “Mean Girls” with a very dark twist. Winona Ryder is Veronica, a girl trying to survive the social jungle that is high school, by hanging out with the three most popular girls in school (all named “Heather”). When she meets JD (Christian Slater), she enters into a spiral of hate, murder, and revenge. The film became a cult classic due to the charisma of the couple of misfits that Rider and Slate interpret but also because of its dark atmosphere. “Heathers” is not for everyone, its dark comedy and obscure approach on the high school drama may be seen as over dramatic. However, the controversy is one of the factors that turn this one into a film you should watch.
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3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
The brainchild of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ follows the story of the titular Indiana Jones who is on the search for the Holy Grail. Soon, he comes to know that another archaeologist, which turns out to be his father, had gone in the missing while looking for the Holy Grail. Turns out, the Nazis have captured Professor Henry Jones in a desperate attempt to extract its powers to fuel their own evil designs. ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ won many accolades and covered up the shortcomings of its predecessor, along with achieving universal critical acclaim. Sean Connery as Henry Jones was praised for his character-oriented performance.
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2. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Directed by Sergio Leone and featuring Robert De Niro and James Woods in leading roles, ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ compares and contrasts the childhood and adult lives of a bunch of Jewish ghetto youths, who have grown up to be the crime bosses of NYC’s mob world. Robert De Niro is David Noodles, who has returned to the NYC in 1968, more than 30 years after he had left the city. David is back to learn about his friends and his childhood days and confronts his worst nightmares yet again. ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ was praised for its production design and authentic recreation of both the era’s – the ’30s and the ’60s.
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1. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Arguably the best film of the Indiana Jones franchise, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ to this day remains the inflation-adjusted top-grossing movies of all time. Often considered as one of the best films ever made, this Steven Spielberg’s directorial venture is the narrative of Indiana Jones who is meandering the Peruvian jungles in search for a golden idol. After miraculous escapes and a series of braving booby traps, he learns from one of the museum creators about the Ark of the Covenant, which is crucial for humanity’s existence. Jones ends up travelling places while looking for the Ark while encountering vicious insurgents, the Nazis and his arch nemesis – a French archaeologist named Rene Balloq. ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ was nominated for the Academy Awards in nine categories, winning five of them.
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