The 80s were a wild time; from the crazy fashion (shoulder pads, anyone?) to the funky music (“Come on Eileen” is still everyone’s jam), you just can’t go wrong. A few years ago, I went through an phase where I watched pretty much exclusively 80s movies. Those films are still some of my favorites today, so I thought I’d compile a list of 17 need-to-watch flicks:
1. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Saturday detention never looked so good in John Hughes' unconventional movie about high school stereotypes. This is probably one of the most well known 80s movies out there, and for a good reason. Even though it’s over 30 years old, it’s still super relevant today. It’s my favorite movie on this list, and if you somehow haven’t seen, you have to. Immediately.
2. Stand by Me (1986)
The phrase, “Want to go see a dead body?” is the driving line of this Stephen King novella-turned-movie. Set in 1959 Oregon, it follows the journey of four young boys who are trying to find the body of a missing boy. This coming-of-age tale will make you feel all of the childhood nostalgia, and it’s definitely a must-see.
3. Heathers (1988)
Think Mean Girls, but with murder. Winona Ryder kills it (pun fully intended) in this cult classic high school movie, and Christian Slater is the perfect balance of charming and creepy. Plus, it’s hilarious, and so are the quotes: “Are we going to prom or to hell?”
4. Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
A bored suburban housewife, a crazy case of amnesia, and an angry mob man make this movie a wild ride. Plus, Madonna’s wardrobe is seriously iconic – you’ll want it all.
5. The Shining (1980)
Down to get spooky? Jack Nicholson shows us his murderous side as an author who moves into the abandoned Overlook Hotel with his family for the winter. This iconic psychological thriller is full of creepy twists and turns, and is the perfect movie to watch when you need a good scare.
6. Dead Poets Society (1989)
Welton Academy is a super strict, conservative all-male boarding school. Luckily, Robin Williams plays the ultra-cool teacher who makes life a little more bearable for the young students. This award-winning drama will make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, and it’ll make you carpe diem.
7. The Lost Boys (1987)
You can never go wrong with vampires, especially in this underrated 80s flick. Just like Peter Pan’s lost boys, these vamps stay young forever—unless our protagonist teen vampire hunters can catch them. Give it a watch to find out.
8. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Sean Penn’s most iconic role? Okay, maybe not. But still, his Southern California surfer character, Jeff Spicoli, will keep you laughing throughout. Plus, his is only one of many interweaving plots that are guaranteed to draw you in to this comedic drama.
9. St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
This movie is all too real: it follows recent college grads trying to navigate life after college. Relatable, much? The star-studded cast (Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, and more) depicts the Brat Pack at its peak.
10. Back to the Future (1985)
Marty McFly is truly a legend in this epic tale. After accidentally getting stuck in the year 1955, watch him race against time to bring his parents together and save himself in the process. Plus, time travel is cool!
11. The Outsiders (1983)
Who doesn’t love a good rumble? Watch the Greasers and the Socs fight it out in this drama-filled book-turned-movie. With a star-studded cast (young Rob Lowe has my heart) and a solid story line, what’s not to love? Stay gold, ladies.
12. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Ferris Bueller is everyone’s hero, and for good reason too. He’s clever, funny, and a master of his craft – even if that craft is just ditching school. Follow him and his friends around Chicago for a day in this John Hughes classic.
13. Dirty Dancing (1987)
Patrick Swayze said it best: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner”—especially not with those dance moves. Of course, Jennifer Grey's character wasn't always so talented. Watch this steamy romantic drama to see her evolution from bored resort goer to talented dancer, and, of course, the famous Dirty Dancing lift.
14. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
This movie is the perfect mix of comedy, action, and drama. Eddie Murphy will seriously keep you laughing all the way through, but you’ll still be on the edge of your seat.
15. Beetlejuice (1988)
This is one of Tim Burton’s first movies, and it’s a great one! Follow some not-so-scary ghosts, the infamous Betelgeuse, and angsty Lydia Deetz played by Winona Ryder. Give it a shot if you’re looking for a funny, quasi-horror film.
16. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A slasher movie in which young Johnny Depp wears a crop top. Need I say more?
17. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)
Before Laura Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky, there was Ronald Miller and Cindy Mancini. The difference? Ronald pays Cindy $1,000 to fake their relationship. Despite the bribe, this movie is super cute! People have been wanting to ride a lawnmower into the sunset with Patrick Dempsey for years since.
This list is a great place to start if you're interested in 80s movies, but it's far from complete. Luckily, there are plenty more movies from the iconic era to choose from once you've checked all 17 films off of your list!