140 Essential ’80s Movies

Adjusted Score: 84.632%
Critics Consensus: Desperately Seeking Susan works with its fairy tale depiction of New York and the fun, frothy chemistry generated by its two leads.
Synopsis: A petite New Jersey housewife finds self-fulfillment through amnesia in this new wave comedy of errors set in New York's... [More]
Directed By: Susan Seidelman


TRON (1982)

Adjusted Score: 77.318%
Critics Consensus: Though perhaps not as strong dramatically as it is technologically, TRON is an original and visually stunning piece of science fiction that represents a landmark work in the history of computer animation.
Synopsis: A computer programmer is trapped in the game he's creating.... [More]
Directed By: Steven Lisberger


The Color Purple (1985)

Adjusted Score: 82.814%
Critics Consensus: A sentimental tale that reveals great emotional truths in American history.
Synopsis: Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple spans the years 1909 to 1949, relating the... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg


Beetlejuice (1988)

Adjusted Score: 88.027%
Critics Consensus: Brilliantly bizarre and overflowing with ideas, Beetlejuice offers some of Michael Keaton's most deliciously manic work - and creepy, funny fun for the whole family.
Synopsis: Thanks to the carelessness of a cute little dog, newlyweds Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin are killed in a freak... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

Adjusted Score: 85.644%
Critics Consensus: The buddy cop movie continues its evolution unabated with this Eddie Murphy vehicle that's fast, furious, and funny.
Synopsis: What's that wisecracking young black guy (Eddie Murphy) in that beat-up Chevy Nova doing in lily-white Beverly Hills? He's Axel... [More]
Directed By: Martin Brest


The Lost Boys (1987)

Adjusted Score: 80.101%
Critics Consensus: Flawed but eminently watchable, Joel Schumacher's teen vampire thriller blends horror, humor, and plenty of visual style with standout performances from a cast full of young 1980s stars.
Synopsis: In this hit '80s hybrid of the horror movie and the teen flick, a single mom and her two sons... [More]
Directed By: Joel Schumacher

Adjusted Score: 52.948%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Comedian Eddie Murphy's live appearance before a packed Washington D.C. audience is the subject of this performance film. The film... [More]
Directed By: Bruce Gowers


Wall Street (1987)

Adjusted Score: 83.132%
Critics Consensus: With Wall Street, Oliver Stone delivers a blunt but effective -- and thoroughly well-acted -- jeremiad against its era's veneration of greed as a means to its own end.
Synopsis: "Greed is Good." This is the credo of the aptly named Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), the antihero of Oliver Stone's... [More]
Directed By: Oliver Stone


Working Girl (1988)

Adjusted Score: 85.681%
Critics Consensus: A buoyant corporate Cinderella story, Working Girl has the right cast, right story, and right director to make it all come together.
Synopsis: Unhappy with her job and her loser boyfriend, Melanie Griffith takes a secretarial post at a major Wall Street firm.... [More]
Directed By: Mike Nichols

Adjusted Score: 85.281%
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by impressive special effects and a charming performance from its young star, Flight of the Navigator holds up as a solidly entertaining bit of family-friendly sci-fi.
Synopsis: The year is 1978: 12-year-old David Freeman (Joey Cramer), playing in the woods near his home, is knocked unconscious. He... [More]
Directed By: Randal Kleiser


Stripes (1981)

Adjusted Score: 88.386%
Critics Consensus: A raucous military comedy that features Bill Murray and his merry cohorts approaching the peak of their talents.
Synopsis: A charming, self-elected leader winds up commanding an outfit of misfits.... [More]
Directed By: Ivan Reitman


Mystery Train (1989)

Adjusted Score: 90.083%
Critics Consensus: Mystery Train meanders by design, but it never goes off the rails, retaining its deadpan cool throughout.
Synopsis: A tacky, low-rent Memphis motel dedicated to Elvis Presley is the setting for this anecdotal comedy-drama. The film tells three... [More]
Directed By: Jim Jarmusch


Labyrinth (1986)

Adjusted Score: 74.922%
Critics Consensus: While it's arguably more interesting on a visual level, Labyrinth provides further proof of director Jim Henson's boundless imagination.
Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Sarah resents her baby brother Toby and secretly wishes that he will just disappear. Her wish comes true when... [More]
Directed By: Jim Henson

Adjusted Score: 88.168%
Critics Consensus: Affecting performances from the young cast and a genuinely inspirational turn from Robin Williams grant Peter Weir's prep school drama top honors.
Synopsis: Robin Williams toned down his usually manic comic approach in this successful period drama. In 1959, the Welton Academy is... [More]
Directed By: Peter Weir


Commando (1985)

Adjusted Score: 71.995%
Critics Consensus: The ultimate '80s Schwarzenegger movie, replete with a threadbare plot, outsized action, and endless one-liners.
Synopsis: Colonel Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is retired and living peaceably with his 10-year-old daughter (Alyssa Milano) when she is kidnapped by... [More]
Directed By: Mark L. Lester


Field of Dreams (1989)

Adjusted Score: 90.259%
Critics Consensus: Field of Dreams is sentimental, but in the best way; it's a mix of fairy tale, baseball, and family togetherness.
Synopsis: "If you build it, he will come." That's the ethereal message that inspires Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) to... [More]
Directed By: Phil Alden Robinson

Adjusted Score: 90.937%
Critics Consensus: The Naked Gun is chock full of gags that are goofy, unapologetically crass, and ultimately hilarious.
Synopsis: Seeking vengeance when his partner (Simpson) is shot full of holes by drug dealers, Lt. Frank Drebin searches for the... [More]
Directed By: David Zucker


The Karate Kid (1984)

Adjusted Score: 91.076%
Critics Consensus: Utterly predictable and wholly of its time, but warm, sincere, and difficult to resist, due in large part to Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio's relaxed chemistry.
Synopsis: Newly arrived in California from New Jersey, teenager Daniel (Ralph Macchio) almost immediately runs afoul of karate-trained high school bullies.... [More]
Directed By: John G. Avildsen

Adjusted Score: 82.422%
Critics Consensus: A classic tearjerker, Terms of Endearment isn't shy about reaching for the heartstrings -- but is so well-acted and smartly scripted that it's almost impossible to resist.
Synopsis: Terms of Endearment covers three decades in the lives of widow Aurora Greenaway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter Emma (Debra... [More]
Directed By: James L. Brooks


Near Dark (1987)

Adjusted Score: 91.745%
Critics Consensus: Near Dark is at once a creepy vampire film, a thrilling western, and a poignant family tale, with humor and scares in abundance.
Synopsis: A roving band of contemporary vampires travel across the American West in search of the human blood they crave in... [More]
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow


Tootsie (1982)

Adjusted Score: 94.447%
Critics Consensus: Tootsie doesn't squander its high-concept comedy premise with fine dialogue and sympathetic treatment of the characters.
Synopsis: Michael Dorsey is a talented actor, but his demanding nature and stubborn temperament have antagonized every producer in New York.... [More]
Directed By: Sydney Pollack

Adjusted Score: 93.177%
Critics Consensus: A punk take on the zombie genre, Return of the Living Dead injects a healthy dose of '80s silliness to the flesh consuming.
Synopsis: When a mysterious military chemical gets into the atmosphere it ends up soaking into a cemetery down in bayou land... [More]
Directed By: Dan O'Bannon

Adjusted Score: 95.347%
Critics Consensus: Rob Reiner's touching, funny film set a new standard for romantic comedies, and he was ably abetted by the sharp interplay between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.
Synopsis: Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin... [More]
Directed By: Rob Reiner


Time Bandits (1981)

Adjusted Score: 92.327%
Critics Consensus: Time Bandits is a remarkable time-travel fantasy from Terry Gilliam, who utilizes fantastic set design and homemade special effects to create a vivid, original universe.
Synopsis: A young boy joins a group of renegade dwarves on an unpredictable journey through time in this humorous fantasy. Monty... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

Adjusted Score: 94.579%
Critics Consensus: Remixing Roger Corman's B-movie by way of the Off-Broadway musical, Little Shop of Horrors offers camp, horror and catchy tunes in equal measure -- plus some inspired cameos by the likes of Steve Martin and Bill Murray.
Synopsis: It started as a 1960 Roger Corman horror comedy, filmed in two days; it then inspired a lavish 1982 Broadway... [More]
Directed By: Frank Oz

Adjusted Score: 98.347%
Critics Consensus: The Little Mermaid ushered in a new golden era for Disney animation with warm and charming hand-drawn characters and catchy musical sequences.
Synopsis: Disney's The Little Mermaid was the first in a series of blockbusters that restored the venerable firm's reputation as the... [More]
Directed By: John Musker, Ron Clements

Adjusted Score: 102.099%
Critics Consensus: A coming-of-age story with uncommon depth and sensitivity, My Life as a Dog is sweet, sincere, and utterly charming.
Synopsis: In 1959 Sweden, young Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) lives with his dying mother and his nasty older brother. He survives all... [More]
Directed By: Lasse Hallstrom

Adjusted Score: 96.572%
Critics Consensus: Part delightfully tense techno-thriller, part refreshingly unpatronizing teen drama, WarGames is one of the more inventive -- and genuinely suspenseful -- Cold War movies of the 1980s.
Synopsis: Once more, a wise-guy teenager tries to prove he's smarter than any adult-and nearly destroys the whole world in the... [More]
Directed By: John Badham


Dragonslayer (1981)

Adjusted Score: 88.916%
Critics Consensus: An atypically dark Disney adventure, Dragonslayer puts a realistic spin -- and some impressive special effects -- on a familiar tale.
Synopsis: When Princess Elspeth (Chloe Salaman) is scheduled to be the next sacrificial virgin to a deadly dragon, it is up... [More]
Directed By: Matthew Robbins


Moonstruck (1987)

Adjusted Score: 97.423%
Critics Consensus: Led by energetic performances from Nicolas Cage and Cher, Moonstruck is an exuberantly funny tribute to love and one of the decade's most appealing comedies.
Synopsis: When there's a full moon over Brooklyn, anything can happen, and everything happens in the neighborhood where widowed bookkeeper Loretta... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison


Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

Adjusted Score: 101.448%
Critics Consensus: Drugstore Cowboy takes us into a violent, transient world with cool, contemplative style.
Synopsis: The operative word in Drugstore Cowboy is "drug". Matt Dillon plays the leader of a group of dopeheads who wander... [More]
Directed By: Gus Van Sant

Adjusted Score: 98.745%
Critics Consensus: Smartly written, smoothly directed, and solidly cast, A Fish Called Wanda offers a classic example of a brainy comedy with widespread appeal.
Synopsis: An ambitious and sexy con artist uses every tool at her disposal to obtain a fortune in jewels stolen by... [More]
Directed By: Charles Crichton


Das Boot (1981)

Adjusted Score: 101.703%
Critics Consensus: Taut, breathtakingly thrilling, and devastatingly intelligent, Das Boot is one of the greatest war films ever made.
Synopsis: It is 1942 and the German submarine fleet is heavily engaged in the so called "Battle of the Atlantic" to... [More]
Directed By: Wolfgang Petersen


Paris, Texas (1984)

Adjusted Score: 98.938%
Critics Consensus: A quiet yet deeply moving kind of Western, Paris, Texas captures a place and people like never before (or after).
Synopsis: Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) is wandering through the Texas desert, a bit shaky and in desperate need of water, when... [More]
Directed By: Wim Wenders

Adjusted Score: 90.256%
Critics Consensus: It may be too "dark" for some, but Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom remains an ingenious adventure spectacle that showcases one of Hollywood's finest filmmaking teams in vintage form.
Synopsis: The second of the George Lucas/Steven Spielberg Indiana Jones epics is set a year or so before the events in... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

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