140 Essential ’80s Movies

#35
#35
Adjusted Score: 81.286%
Critics Consensus: Too over the top for its own good, but ultimately rescued by the cast's charm, director John Landis' grace, and several soul-stirring musical numbers.
Synopsis: Expanding on their Saturday Night Live characters, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd star as Jake and Elwood Blues, two white... [More]
Directed By: John Landis

#34
#34
Adjusted Score: 100.014%
Critics Consensus: Smartly directed, brilliantly acted, and packed with endlessly quotable moments, This Is Spinal Tap is an all-time comedy classic.
Synopsis: A spoof about a filmmaker making a documentary about a once-famous, now almost forgotten British heavy metal band returning to... [More]
Directed By: Rob Reiner

#33

Amadeus (1984)
93%

#33
Adjusted Score: 101.252%
Critics Consensus: A lavish, entertaining, powerful film about the life and influence, both positive and negative, of one of Western culture's great artists.
Synopsis: For this film adaptation of Peter Shaffer's Broadway hit, director Milos Forman returned to the city of Prague that he'd... [More]
Directed By: Milos Forman

#32

RoboCop (1987)
90%

#32
Adjusted Score: 95.417%
Critics Consensus: While over-the-top and gory, Robocop is also a surprisingly smart sci-fi flick that uses ultraviolence to disguise its satire of American culture.
Synopsis: In near-future Detroit, a murdered police officer is resurrected as an experimental crime-fighting cyborg named Robocop. Tormented by memories of... [More]
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven

#31
#31
Adjusted Score: 97.903%
Critics Consensus: Wes Craven's intelligent premise, combined with the horrifying visual appearance of Freddy Krueger, still causes nightmares to this day.
Synopsis: A group of teenagers are terrorized by "Freddy Krueger", an evil being from another world who gets to his victims... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#30

Risky Business (1983)
92%

#30
Adjusted Score: 96.053%
Critics Consensus: Featuring one of Tom Cruise's best early performances, Risky Business is a sharp, funny examination of teen angst that doesn't stop short of exploring dark themes.
Synopsis: Risky Business is the film in which 19-year-old Tom Cruise dances around his living room in his underwear. He does... [More]
Directed By: Paul Brickman

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 93.878%
Critics Consensus: Both warmly nostalgic and darkly humorous, A Christmas Story deserves its status as a holiday perennial.
Synopsis: In the 1940's, in the town of Hammond, 9-year-old Ralphie wants one thing for Christmas -- an official Red Ryder... [More]
Directed By: Bob Clark

#28

Heathers (1988)
93%

#28
Adjusted Score: 96.909%
Critics Consensus: Dark, cynical, and subversive, Heathers gently applies a chainsaw to the conventions of the high school movie -- changing the game for teen comedies to follow.
Synopsis: A deliciously nasty black comedy, Heathers is set at a cliquish high school in Ohio. The most exclusive of those... [More]
Directed By: Michael Lehmann

#27
#27
Adjusted Score: 85.192%
Critics Consensus: Matthew Broderick charms in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, a light and irrepressibly fun movie about being young and having fun.
Synopsis: Teenaged Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is a legend in his own time thanks to his uncanny skill at cutting classes... [More]
Directed By: John Hughes

#26
#26
Adjusted Score: 93.675%
Critics Consensus: The Breakfast Club is a warm, insightful, and very funny look into the inner lives of teenagers.
Synopsis: John Hughes wrote and directed this quintessential 1980s high school drama featuring the hottest young stars of the decade. Trapped... [More]
Directed By: John Hughes

#25

Akira (2020)
90%

#25
Adjusted Score: 91.436%
Critics Consensus: Akira is strikingly bloody and violent, but its phenomenal animation and sheer kinetic energy helped set the standard for modern anime.
Synopsis: One of the best-known examples of contemporary Japanese animation, this cyberpunk adventure takes place in the post-apocalyptic city of Neo-Tokyo.... [More]
Directed By: Katsuhiro Ôtomo

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 82.793%
Critics Consensus: A magical journey about the power of a young boy's imagination to save a dying fantasy land, The NeverEnding Story remains a much-loved kids adventure.
Synopsis: Wolfgang Petersen adapted Michael Ende's children's story for this charming fantasy film that spawned several sequels. Bastian (Barret Oliver) is... [More]
Directed By: Wolfgang Petersen

#23

Stop Making Sense (1984)
100%

#23
Adjusted Score: 102.793%
Critics Consensus: Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense captures the energetic, unpredictable live act of peak Talking Heads with color and visual wit.
Synopsis: Stop Making Sense was the first feature-length documentary effort of filmmaker Jonathan Demme. The director's subject is The Talking Heads,... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Demme

#22
Adjusted Score: 96.567%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to the impeccable chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy, as well as a deft mix of humor and heart, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a hilarious, heartfelt holiday classic.
Synopsis: Were it not for its profanity-laden opening scenes, John Hughes' Planes, Trains and Automobiles might have been suitable family entertainment:... [More]
Directed By: John Hughes

#21

The Goonies (1985)
76%

#21
Adjusted Score: 80.151%
Critics Consensus: The Goonies is an energetic, sometimes noisy mix of Spielbergian sentiment and funhouse tricks that will appeal to kids and nostalgic adults alike.
Synopsis: Leonard Maltin wasn't alone when he noticed similarities between Goonies and the 1934 Our Gang comedy Mama's Little Pirate. Adapted... [More]
Directed By: Richard Donner

#20

Say Anything... (1989)
98%

#20
Adjusted Score: 101.185%
Critics Consensus: One of the definitive Generation X movies, Say Anything is equally funny and heartfelt -- and it established John Cusack as an icon for left-of-center types everywhere.
Synopsis: A high-school valedictorian begins dating an irresponsible army brat, much to the dismay of her father. After breaking off the... [More]
Directed By: Cameron Crowe

#19

Stand by Me (1986)
91%

#19
Adjusted Score: 95.923%
Critics Consensus: Stand By Me is a wise, nostalgic movie with a weird streak that captures both Stephen King's voice and the trials of growing up.
Synopsis: Based on the Stephen King short story The Body, Rob Reiner's easygoing nostalgia piece is set in Castle Rock, OR,... [More]
Directed By: Rob Reiner

#18

Predator (1987)
81%

#18
Adjusted Score: 84.435%
Critics Consensus: Predator: Part sci-fi, part horror, part action -- all muscle.
Synopsis: Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has a code of honor which he will not violate, even when his life depends on it.... [More]
Directed By: Shane Black

#17

Airplane! (1980)
97%

#17
Adjusted Score: 102.991%
Critics Consensus: Though unabashedly juvenile and silly, Airplane! is nevertheless an uproarious spoof comedy full of quotable lines and slapstick gags that endure to this day.
Synopsis: This spoof of the Airport series of disaster movies relies on ridiculous sight gags, groan-inducing dialogue, and deadpan acting --... [More]

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 99.567%
Critics Consensus: Evil Dead 2's increased special effects and slapstick-gore makes it as good -- if not better -- than the original.
Synopsis: This sequel is better, funnier, scarier and superior to the first indie gore-fest. Never before has there been such an... [More]
Directed By: Sam Raimi

#15

Raising Arizona (1987)
91%

#15
Adjusted Score: 95.379%
Critics Consensus: A terrifically original, eccentric screwball comedy, Raising Arizona may not be the Coens' most disciplined movie, but it's one of their most purely entertaining.
Synopsis: Combining influences from Tex Avery cartoons to Sam Raimi horror movies to 1940s B-movies, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen followed... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#14

Blade Runner (1982)
90%

#14
Adjusted Score: 101.622%
Critics Consensus: Misunderstood when it first hit theaters, the influence of Ridley Scott's mysterious, neo-noir Blade Runner has deepened with time. A visually remarkable, achingly human sci-fi masterpiece.
Synopsis: A blend of science fiction and noir detective fiction, Blade Runner (1982) was a box office and critical bust upon... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

#13

The Terminator (1984)
100%

#13
Adjusted Score: 104.921%
Critics Consensus: With its impressive action sequences, taut economic direction, and relentlessly fast pace, it's clear why The Terminator continues to be an influence on sci-fi and action flicks.
Synopsis: A Cyborg has been sent from the future on a deadly mission, it has been programmed to kill a young... [More]
Directed By: James Cameron

#12

Die Hard (1988)
94%

#12
Adjusted Score: 99.749%
Critics Consensus: Its many imitators (and sequels) have never come close to matching the taut thrills of the definitive holiday action classic.
Synopsis: It's Christmas time in L.A., and there's an employee party in progress on the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Corporation... [More]
Directed By: John McTiernan

#11

The Thing (1982)
85%

#11
Adjusted Score: 91.153%
Critics Consensus: Grimmer and more terrifying than the 1950s take, John Carpenter's The Thing is a tense sci-fi thriller rife with compelling tension and some remarkable make-up effects.
Synopsis: John Carpenter's The Thing is both a remake of Howard Hawks' 1951 film of the same name and a re-adaptation... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 103.266%
Critics Consensus: A delightfully postmodern fairy tale, The Princess Bride is a deft, intelligent mix of swashbuckling, romance, and comedy that takes an age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh.
Synopsis: Robin Wright and Cary Elwes star in this fairytale adventure about a beautiful princess and the gallant hero who rescues... [More]
Directed By: Rob Reiner

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 100.916%
Critics Consensus: Smart, vibrant, and urgent without being didactic, Do the Right Thing is one of Spike Lee's most fully realized efforts -- and one of the most important films of the 1980s.
Synopsis: This powerful visual feast combines humor and drama with memorable characters while tracing the course of a single day on... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 101.349%
Critics Consensus: Featuring bravura set pieces, sly humor, and white-knuckle action, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most consummately entertaining adventure pictures of all time.
Synopsis: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is no ordinary archeologist. When we first see him, he is somewhere in the Peruvian jungle... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#7

Raging Bull (1980)
93%

#7
Adjusted Score: 99.825%
Critics Consensus: Arguably Martin Scorsese's and Robert De Niro's finest film, Raging Bull is often painful to watch, but it's a searing, powerful work about an unsympathetic hero.
Synopsis: The story of Jake LaMotta, a former middleweight boxing champion, whose reputation for tenacity and success in the ring was... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#6

The Shining (1980)
84%

#6
Adjusted Score: 93.016%
Critics Consensus: Though it deviates from Stephen King's novel, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is a chilling, often baroque journey into madness -- exemplified by an unforgettable turn from Jack Nicholson.
Synopsis: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" -- or, rather, a homicidal boy in Stanley Kubrick's eerie... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#5

Sixteen Candles (1984)
84%

#5
Adjusted Score: 86.978%
Critics Consensus: Significantly more mature than the teen raunch comedies that defined the era, Sixteen Candles is shot with compassion and clear respect for its characters and their hang-ups.
Synopsis: On the eve of her sister's wedding, suburban teenager Samantha (Molly Ringwald) suffers silently as her family forgets her birthday.... [More]
Directed By: John Hughes

#4
Adjusted Score: 103.747%
Critics Consensus: Dark, sinister, but ultimately even more involving than A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back defies viewer expectations and takes the series to heightened emotional levels.
Synopsis: The second entry in George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the green-as-grass hero from the first... [More]
Directed By: Irvin Kershner

#3
Adjusted Score: 102.661%
Critics Consensus: An infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, with Bill Murray's hilarious deadpan performance leading a cast of great comic turns.
Synopsis: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson star as a quartet of Manhattan-based "paranormal investigators". When their government... [More]
Directed By: Ivan Reitman

#2
Adjusted Score: 110.885%
Critics Consensus: Playing as both an exciting sci-fi adventure and a remarkable portrait of childhood, Steven Spielberg's touching tale of a homesick alien remains a piece of movie magic for young and old.
Synopsis: Both a classic movie for kids and a remarkable portrait of childhood, E.T. is a sci-fi adventure that captures that... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 102.334%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.
Synopsis: Contemporary high schooler Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) doesn't have the most pleasant of lives. Browbeaten by his principal at... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

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