140 Essential ’80s Movies


Re-Animator (1985)

Adjusted Score: 97.31%
Critics Consensus: Perfectly mixing humor and horror, the only thing more effective than Re-Animator's gory scares are its dry, deadpan jokes.
Synopsis: Scientist Herbert West has discovered a fluid which brings living tissue back to life. After the death of his professor,... [More]
Directed By: Stuart Gordon

Adjusted Score: 96.032%
Critics Consensus: Smart, tender, and funny in equal measure, Hannah and Her Sisters is one of Woody Allen's finest films.
Synopsis: A Woody Allen Manhattan mosaic, Hannah and Her Sisters concerns the lives, loves, and infidelities among a tightly-knit artistic clan.... [More]
Directed By: Woody Allen


Big (1988)

Adjusted Score: 102.44%
Critics Consensus: Refreshingly sweet and undeniably funny, Big is a showcase for Tom Hanks, who dives into his role and infuses it with charm and surprising poignancy.
Synopsis: More than anything else, 13-year old New Jerseyite Josh (David Moscow) wants to be "big". That's the wish he makes... [More]
Directed By: Penny Marshall


Lost in America (1985)

Adjusted Score: 98.96%
Critics Consensus: A satire of the American fantasy of leaving it all behind, Lost in America features some of Albert Brooks' best, most consistent writing and cultural jabs.
Synopsis: Two dissatisfied yuppies leave their suburban lives behind and embark on a journey to rediscover America and themselves. This idea... [More]
Directed By: Albert Brooks

Adjusted Score: 99.193%
Critics Consensus: Louis Malle's autobiographical tale of a childhood spent in a WWII boarding school is a beautifully realized portrait of friendship and youth.
Synopsis: During the Nazi occupation of France, a young Catholic boarding-school student witnesses the courage of his teachers as they defy... [More]
Directed By: Louis Malle, Renato Berta


My Left Foot (1989)

Adjusted Score: 100.717%
Critics Consensus: No doubt most will come to My Left Foot for Daniel Day-Lewis' performance, but the movie's refusal to go downbeat will keep it in viewer minds afterwards.
Synopsis: An alternative to the general run of "triumph over the odds" biopics, My Left Foot is the true story of... [More]
Directed By: Jim Sheridan


Ran (1985)

Adjusted Score: 103.661%
Critics Consensus: Akira Kurosawa's sprawling, epic take on King Lear should be required viewing for fans of westerns, war movies, or period films in general.
Synopsis: Ran is Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's reinterpretation of William Shakespeare's King Lear. The Lear counterpart is an elderly 16th-century warlord... [More]
Directed By: Akira Kurosawa

Adjusted Score: 93.047%
Critics Consensus: With coke fiends, car chases, and Wang Chung galore, To Live and Die in L.A. is perhaps the ultimate '80s action/thriller.
Synopsis: William Friedkin's crime thriller, based on a book by U.S. Secret Service agent Gerald Petievich, concerns an arrogant Secret Service... [More]


Body Heat (1981)

Adjusted Score: 100.9%
Critics Consensus: Made from classic noir ingredients and flavored with a heaping helping of steamy modern spice, Body Heat more than lives up to its evocative title.
Synopsis: Lawrence Kasdan's first directorial effort is a throwback to the early days of film noir. The scene is a beastly... [More]
Directed By: Lawrence Kasdan


Pretty in Pink (1986)

Adjusted Score: 79.502%
Critics Consensus: Molly Ringwald gives an outstanding performance in this sweet, intelligent teen comedy that takes an ancient premise and injects it with insight and wit.
Synopsis: John Hughes crafts an exemplary '80s Brat Pack romance out of the standard Cinderella story in Pretty in Pink. Andie... [More]
Directed By: Howard Deutch


Blue Velvet (1986)

Adjusted Score: 101.148%
Critics Consensus: If audiences walk away from this subversive, surreal shocker not fully understanding the story, they might also walk away with a deeper perception of the potential of film storytelling.
Synopsis: Director David Lynch crafted this hallucinogenic mystery-thriller that probes beneath the cheerful surface of suburban America to discover sadomasochistic violence,... [More]
Directed By: David Lynch

Adjusted Score: 80.363%
Critics Consensus: While Fast Times at Ridgemont High features Sean Penn's legendary performance, the film endures because it accurately captured the small details of school, work, and teenage life.
Synopsis: Based on 22-year-old Cameron Crowe's undercover exposé on life in a Southern California public high school, this groundbreaking effort presents... [More]
Directed By: Amy Heckerling

Adjusted Score: 90.943%
Critics Consensus: Featuring an atmospherically grimy futuristic metropolis, Escape from New York is a strange, entertaining jumble of thrilling action and oddball weirdness.
Synopsis: It's 1997 and Manhattan has been turned into a maximum security prison. When the United States president crash lands into... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter


The Killer (1989)

Adjusted Score: 100.626%
Critics Consensus: The Killer is another hard-boiled action flick from John Woo featuring eye-popping balletic violence and philosophical underpinnings.
Synopsis: Chow Yun-Fat, director John Woo's favorite actor, stars as a professional assassin. The moral outrages of his employers lead Yun-Fat,... [More]
Directed By: John Woo


Repo Man (1984)

Adjusted Score: 101.252%
Critics Consensus: Repo Man is many things: an alien-invasion film, a punk-rock musical, a send-up of consumerism. One thing it isn't is boring.
Synopsis: A down and out young punk gets a job working with a seasoned repo man, but what awaits him in... [More]
Directed By: Alex Cox


Broadcast News (1987)

Adjusted Score: 101.884%
Critics Consensus: Blockbuster dramatist James L. Brooks delivers with Broadcast News, fully entertaining with deft, deep characterization.
Synopsis: Writer/director/producer James L. Brooks scores on all counts with this clear-eyed look at the television news business and the dysfunctional... [More]


They Live (1988)

Adjusted Score: 90.657%
Critics Consensus: A politically subversive blend of horror and sci fi, They Live is an underrated genre film from John Carpenter.
Synopsis: A homeless drifter discovers a reason for the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor: a conspiracy by non-human... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter


Sid and Nancy (1986)

Adjusted Score: 94.09%
Critics Consensus: Visceral, energetic, and often very sad, Sid and Nancy is also a surprisingly touching love story, and Gary Oldman is outstanding as the late punk rock icon Sid Vicious.
Synopsis: Punk rock's first great embodiment of the motto "live fast and die young," Sid Vicious joined The Sex Pistols when... [More]
Directed By: Alex Cox


Lethal Weapon (1987)

Adjusted Score: 85.353%
Critics Consensus: The most successful installment in a phenomenally successful series, Lethal Weapon helped redefine action movies for the 1980s and 1990s.
Synopsis: L.A. cop Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), whose wife has recently died, is a loose cannon with a seeming death wish.... [More]
Directed By: Richard Donner


Poltergeist (1982)

Adjusted Score: 91.625%
Critics Consensus: Smartly filmed, tightly scripted, and -- most importantly -- consistently frightening, Poltergeist is a modern horror classic.
Synopsis: With Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper, Steven Spielberg had his first great success as a producer. Released around the same... [More]
Directed By: Tobe Hooper

Adjusted Score: 81.762%
Critics Consensus: Brimming with energy and packed with humor, Big Trouble in Little China distills kung fu B-movies as affectionately as it subverts them.
Synopsis: Playing in a manner that can be conservatively described as larger than life, Kurt Russell plays a macho truck driver... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter


Scarface (1983)

Adjusted Score: 88.321%
Critics Consensus: Director Brian De Palma and star Al Pacino take it to the limit in this stylized, ultra-violent and eminently quotable gangster epic that walks a thin white line between moral drama and celebratory excess.
Synopsis: Al Pacino stars as Tony Montana, an exiled Cuban criminal who goes to work for Miami drug lord Robert Loggia.... [More]
Directed By: Brian DePalma

Adjusted Score: 93.527%
Critics Consensus: Lighter and more comedic than its predecessor, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade returns the series to the brisk serial adventure of Raiders, while adding a dynamite double act between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.
Synopsis: The third installment in the Spielberg/Lucas Indiana Jones saga, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade evokes many of the thrills... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

Adjusted Score: 97.613%
Critics Consensus: My Neighbor Totoro is a heartwarming, sentimental masterpiece that captures the simple grace of childhood.
Synopsis: This superbly animated children's tale is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, one of Japan's most beloved animators. The story follows Satsuke... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

Adjusted Score: 101.657%
Critics Consensus: Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an innovative and entertaining film that features a groundbreaking mix of live action and animation, with a touching and original story to boot.
Synopsis: In this film, Hollywood's animated cartoon stars of the 1940s are a subjugated minority, living in the ghettolike "Toontown" One... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis


After Hours (1985)

Adjusted Score: 92.875%
Critics Consensus: Bursting with frantic energy and tinged with black humor, After Hours is a masterful -- and often overlooked -- detour in Martin Scorsese's filmography.
Synopsis: A Manhattan Yuppie's night out becomes a comic nightmare, courtesy of director Martin Scorsese. Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette star... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Adjusted Score: 96.837%
Critics Consensus: The Road Warrior is everything a bigger-budgeted Mad Max sequel with should be: bigger, faster, louder, but definitely not dumber.
Synopsis: Director George Miller's follow-up to his own 1979 hit Mad Max is proof that not all sequels are inferior to... [More]
Directed By: George Miller


Platoon (1986)

Adjusted Score: 94.196%
Critics Consensus: Informed by director Oliver Stone's personal experiences in Vietnam, Platoon forgoes easy sermonizing in favor of a harrowing, ground-level view of war, bolstered by no-holds-barred performances from Charlie Sheen and Willem Dafoe.
Synopsis: Oliver Stone's autobiographical Vietnam War film stars Charlie Sheen as Chris Taylor, a neophyte soldier who finds himself caught in... [More]
Directed By: Oliver Stone

Adjusted Score: 96.537%
Critics Consensus: Blessed by a brilliantly befuddled star turn from Chevy Chase, National Lampoon's Vacation is one of the more consistent -- and thoroughly quotable -- screwball comedies of the 1980s.
Synopsis: The first film in the Vacation comedy franchise stars Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, an ad exec who becomes consumed... [More]
Directed By: Harold Ramis


Trading Places (1983)

Adjusted Score: 91.95%
Critics Consensus: Featuring deft interplay between Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, Trading Places is an immensely appealing social satire.
Synopsis: The "nature-nurture" theory that motivated so many Three Stooges comedies is the basis of John Landis's hit comedy. The fabulously... [More]
Directed By: John Landis


Batman (1989)

Adjusted Score: 76.98%
Critics Consensus: An eerie, haunting spectacle, Batman succeeds as dark entertainment, even if Jack Nicholson's Joker too often overshadows the title character.
Synopsis: Jack Nicholson is the Joker, who emerged from a horrible accident as a maniacal criminal. Michael Keaton is the Caped... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

Adjusted Score: 98.795%
Critics Consensus: Intense, tightly constructed, and darkly comic at times, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket may not boast the most original of themes, but it is exceedingly effective at communicating them.
Synopsis: Stanley Kubrick's return to filmmaking after a seven-year hiatus, this film crystallizes the experience of the Vietnam War by concentrating... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

Adjusted Score: 90.796%
Critics Consensus: Though failing to reach the cinematic heights of its predecessors, Return of the Jedi remains an entertaining sci-fi adventure and a fitting end to the classic trilogy.
Synopsis: In the epic conclusion of the saga, the Empire prepares to crush the Rebellion with a more powerful Death Star... [More]
Directed By: Richard Marquand

Adjusted Score: 102.481%
Critics Consensus: An achingly sad anti-war film, Grave of the Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli's most profoundly beautiful, haunting works.
Synopsis: Grave of the Fireflies opens on an evening in 1945, after Japan's surrender at the end of World War II;... [More]
Directed By: Isao Takahata


Gremlins (1984)

Adjusted Score: 90.656%
Critics Consensus: Whether you choose to see it as a statement on consumer culture or simply a special effects-heavy popcorn flick, Gremlins is a minor classic.
Synopsis: "Don't expose him to bright light. Don't ever get him wet. And don't ever, ever feed him after midnight." This... [More]
Directed By: Joe Dante

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