80s Films: You Love 'Em or You Love 'Em

From the 1960’s emerged the hippies, the 70’s brought the punk subculture, with the 80’s came shoulder pads and the 90’s gave us the Backstreet Boys. Moving into the new millennium triggered more change in the economic and political world rather than any radical cultural movements, which may explain the nostalgic trends in fashion, art and music drawing on 20th century styles. The 80’s in particular have made their comeback in full swing with the backing of 21st century hipsters. The fashion of the 1980’s largely consisted of padded shoulders, high-waisted acid wash jeans and crop tops (think everything in American Apparel) and it’s safe to say that the wardrobe of an 80’s teenage girl would be the absolute dream of any legitimate “hipster”.


It’s not just the fashion but also the music around in the 80’s that will always be popular; I mean who doesn’t like Elvis Costello, The Clash and Cyndi Lauper? The fashion statements prevail more than ever amongst teenage girls who are going for the “quirky” look. Both music, fashion and culture all converge in the genre of film and three cult classics that stand out for me in the decade of the 80s are When Harry Met Sally, Heathers and The Breakfast Club.  Whilst each of these films contain vastly different plots, they present similar ideas and vibes, those of coming-of-age, romance and relationships, and with the exception of When Harry Met Sally, they are set within the context of American high school.  



                Rob Reiner’s comedy classic, When Harry Met Sally (1989), examines the age-old question of whether a boy and girl can only ever be friends without eventually getting together, one that Harry raises almost immediately, ‘Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way’. In our day and age, this kind of question is almost redundant; mixed gender friendships are nearly as commonplace as same-sex ones. However, speaking from experience, when I become close friends with a boy there is occasionally the issue of whether or not to cross the boundary into romantic territory. Harry and Sally deny their undeniable chemistry for over 10 years before giving in to their mutual attraction, a guarantee for a long-lasting relationship; sometimes the best relationships are built on friendship and this romantic-comedy perfectly explores this idea.


                Another highly acclaimed film that was born out of the 80’s is Michael Lehmann’s Heathers (1989). This black, coming-of-age comedy highlights the vices and idiosyncrasies of a typical American high school; think Mean Girls with a dark twist. The ruling clique of the school is made up of the three Veronicas (they share names and, coincidentally, a skill for being both loathed and loved), all beautiful and wealthy, along with the elusive protagonist, Heather, played spectacularly by Winona Ryder.  Even croquet acts as an insight into social politics – the opening scene sees the head Veronica having ‘dibs’ on the red ball and later on Heather and J.D (the bad-boy newcomer, played by the heartthrob Christian Slater), play a game of strip croquet that marks the beginning of their rocky adventure. The bitchy hierarchy of the Ohio high school life reaches an extreme level of jealousy, malice and even murder when Heather, influenced by J.D, accidentally murders her “best-friend” and several others who happen to irritate her. Whilst the film is essentially unrealistic, what you get out of the film is the message that friendship should not be a popularity concept, as well as the fact that killing your best friends and framing it as suicide is not the best way to go about solving a problem.



                It would be almost rude to discuss 80’s films and not mention John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club (1985), a film that bases itself upon a clash of the cliques.  When five students find themselves spending Saturday detention together, from 7am – 4pm, they are forced to face up to their own stereotypes. By the end of the day, they are no longer distinguished by the labels: ‘Brain’, ‘Athlete’, ‘Basket Case’, ‘Princess’ and ‘Criminal’; instead they are ‘The Breakfast Club’. Although the film is light-hearted it touches also on more profound ideas of identity, adolescent behaviour and friendship.


                Whilst I’ve only discussed three films from the 80’s, I strongly encourage you to delve into and obsess over the vast expanse that remains. They present universal and moral truths but if that just isn’t enough, their witty, relaxed approach makes for quality entertainment.