1980s Movies That Are So Good, They’re Considered Perfect

Not only was the 1980s a decade defined by iconic music, fan-favorite television shows, and unique style, but many movies became giant blockbusters.

Critics and audiences alike adored these films because of their superb acting, genius writing, memorable sets, and dynamic costumes. Now, it’s time to see which ’80s movies are considered the best of all time.

Back To The Future Stands Out Among The Rest

Only certain movies are able to stand the test of time, and one ’80s movie that is able to do so is Back to the Future.

marty and doc in back to the future
Universal Studios/MovieStillsDB
Universal Studios/MovieStillsDB

Wesley Lovell at Cinema Sight said, “Back to the Future is a film you need to see. Whether you’re nine or 90, you will enjoy this movie. It’s old-fashioned entertainment.”

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Isn’t Just Science Fiction

One of the reasons why E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is still watched over four decades later is because it perfectly blends a sci-fi adventure with a charming childhood tale.

et the extra terrestrial puppet in front of a blue background
Universal Studios/MovieStillsDB
Universal Studios/MovieStillsDB

Bob Thomas at the Associated Press said, “This is a real movie, with all those elements that have proved surefire through history…”

Sixteen Candles Is Still Relatable To Teens

When it comes to teen movies of the 1980s, a select few encapsulate the era. While John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles is a bit raunchy, it honestly portrays teens during that time.

two teens sitting on a table with a birthday cake
Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Famed film critic Roger Ebert wrote that the movie is “a sweet and funny movie about two of the worst things that can happen to a girl on her sixteenth birthday.”

The Direction Of Raging Bull Was Perfect

Critics on Rotten Tomatoes agreed that 1980’s Raging Bull was one of the finest films made by Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro.

robert de niro as a boxer in raging bull
United Artists/MovieStillsDB
United Artists/MovieStillsDB

“Scorsese’s direction of the Paul Schrader-Mardik Martin screenplay gives something rare in American cinema: a lucid involvement with a central character with whom it is absolutely impossible to identify,” said Meaghan Morris of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark Is Thrilling From Start To Finish

Fans of Raiders of the Lost Ark love it for many reasons. The set pieces are one-of-a-kind, there is a bunch of witty humor in the screenplay, and it features never-ending action.

harrison ford as indiana jones in raiders of the lost ark
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB

“Spielberg has made a pure-fun extravaganza that is like a thirties serial, only grander, funnier, and blessedly free of interruptions,” said David Denby of New York Magazine and Vulture.

The Princess Bride Is An Enchanting Fantasy Film

The Princess Bride takes a classic fairy tale and flips it on its head. There’s a great mix of adventure, romance, and comedy that leaves it feeling fresh for every watch.

man and woman facing each other in a farm field in the princess bride
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB

Derek Malcolm of the Guardian said, “The Princess Bride easily transcends expectations as a fantasy that has a few pertinent things to say about the genre…”

The Terminator Is The Ultimate Action Flick

With a score of 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s easy to tell that The Terminator is loved by many. The impressive action scenes have a fast pace and are done with great direction.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as the terminator
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB

“This action flick has more than a few moments of intimacy, lyricism, and tenderness as it confronts the bleak prospects for mankind from a matriarchal point of view,” said Andrew Sarris of Video Review.

Raising Arizona Is Pure Entertainment

The 1980s were filled with screwball comedies, and one that surely made a mark on the decade was Raising Arizona. This entertaining movie had audiences laughing the whole way through.

a police woman and a man in a suit in raising arizona
20th Century Fox/MovieStillsDB
20th Century Fox/MovieStillsDB

“Starting from a point of delirious excess, the film leaps into dark and virtually uncharted territory to soar like a comet,” said Geoff Andrew of Time Out.

Airplane! Pushes Comedy Boundaries

There have been many spoof comedy films, but Airplane! is a classic. The jokes may be a bit juvenile, but there are tons of funny quotes and slapstick gags.

a blow up doll and a flight attendant in airplane
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Mike Massie of Gone with the Twins said, “Part of what makes this all so effective is how straight the actors play their parts…”

Stand By Me Still Resonates With Fans

Stephen King’s story comes to life in Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stand By Me. The movie has a nostalgic feel with great chemistry between the young cast. There is still humor in between the dark material.

a group of boys in the woods in stand by me
Columbia Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Columbia Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Peter Canavese of Groucho Reviews said, “[It] exquisitely captures the vulnerability not only of youth but of the male identity.”

Say Anything… Tells A Three-Dimensional Love Story

When it comes to rom-coms, it’s hard to forget the iconic scene in Say Anything… when John Cusack stands outside with a boombox over his head. The film had a lot of heart with some funny moments as well.

man holding a boombox in front of a car in say anything...
20th Century Fox/MovieStillsDB
20th Century Fox/MovieStillsDB

“At last, a teenage love story with real characters instead of clich├ęs, posers, and attitudes,” said Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader.

The Breakfast Club Looks Inward At Teens

According to the critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, “The Breakfast Club is a warm, insightful, and very funny look into the inner lives of teenagers.”

cast of the breakfast club in the library
Universal Studios/MovieStillsDB
Universal Studios/MovieStillsDB

Many critics were blown away by the ’80s film and could tell that director John Hughes had a good relationship with his cast during filming.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Is A Celebration Of Life

Not every movie needs to be complex. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a light-hearted comedy highlighting a fun day of a teen boy and his friends.

the cast of ferris bueller's day off in a museum
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB

“Like Napoleon Dynamite years later, Bueller depicts deliciously recognizable instances of high school life to be savored,” said Mark Jackson of the Epoch Times.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit Brings Cartoons To Life

Something that sets Who Framed Roger Rabbit apart from other 1980s movies is its perfect blend of live-action and animation, complete with an original and emotional storyline. Those who grew up on classic cartoons can catch all of the best gags in the film.

a cartoon rabbit in who framed roger rabbit
Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB

“Technology has advanced significantly since 1988, but Roger Rabbit doesn’t just hold up, it wows,” said Christy Lemire of ChristyLemire.com.

Tom Hanks Is Captivating In Big

One of Tom Hank’s most memorable film roles from the ’80s was as the kid who turns into an adult in Big. The film had charm, with sweet characters and funny scenes for all ages.

tom hanks dancing on a giant piano in big
Twentieth Century Fox/MovieStillsDB
Twentieth Century Fox/MovieStillsDB

“Tom Hanks is marvelously child-like as Josh, all restless energy, innocence, and real pleasure in the liberation that being grown up allows him,” said Victoria Mather of the Daily Telegraph.

The Little Mermaid Brought Back The Disney Magic

The popularity of Disney films started to dwindle in the 1970s and early 80s, but musical films such as The Little Mermaid brought fans back to the surface.

Ariel, Sebastian, and flounder under the sea in the little mermaid
Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB

The Little Mermaid — impudent, grandiose, a multilevel crowd-pleaser — almost returns the Disney animated features to their [glorious] traditions of the ’30s and ’40s,” said Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times.

Little Shop Of Horrors Is A Musical Worth Watching

Based on an early ’60s B-movie and an off-Broadway musical, Little Shop of Horrors gave audiences camp, catchy songs, and just a little bit of jump scares.

rick moranis in little shop of horrors
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB

“You can try not liking this adaptation of the off-Broadway musical hit…but the movie sneaks up on you, about as subtly as Audrey II,” said Richard Corliss of TIME Magazine.

Bill Murray Led The Cast In Ghostbusters

Not only was 1984’s Ghostbusters a comedic movie with actors who knew how to land the jokes, but it also had stellar special effects. Both critics and audiences loved Bill Murray’s hilarious deadpan performance.

cast of ghostbusters in their costumes
Columbia Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Columbia Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Joseph Gelmis of Newsday said, “Ghostbusters is like romping through Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion with Bill Murray.”

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back Takes Viewers To Another World

While Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back was a bit darker than the other films in the franchise, fans were blown away by the visual effects.

darth vader in star wars episode v the empire strikes back
Twentieth Century Fox/MovieStillsDB
Twentieth Century Fox/MovieStillsDB

Bob Thomas at Associated Press said, “The Empire Strikes Back displays the same soaring imagination that made Star Wars a filmmaking classic; most other space movies seem clunky and earthbound in comparison.”

Spike Lee Is A Genius Storyteller In Do The Right Thing

The critics’ consensus from Rotten Tomatoes states that Do the Right Thing is “smart, vibrant, and urgent without being didactic…” It remains one of Spike Lee’s most important films.

spike lee talking on the phone in do the right thing
Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Robert Osborne of the Hollywood Reporter said, “Any way you judge it, Do the Right Thing reaffirms Lee’s position as a filmmaker with audacity, courage, and ideas.”

Steve Martin And John Candy Bring The Funny In Planes, Trains And Automobiles

Planes, Trains and Automobiles wouldn’t have been as successful without the chemistry between the leads, Steve Martin and John Candy. This holiday classic has the perfect mix of comedy and heart.

steve martin and john candy in planes, trains and automobiles
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB

“Mainstream audiences should readily identify with the series of tribulations and woes that befall the Everyman Martin in this good-natured, albeit predictable comedy,” said Duane Byrge of the Hollywood Reporter.

Heathers Redefined High School Comedies

One of the darkest teen films of the 1980s was Heathers. Not only was there a ton of cynicism, but the movie turned the teen comedy genre into something that hadn’t been done before.

christian slater and winona ryder in heathers
New World Pictures/MovieStillsDB
New World Pictures/MovieStillsDB

“Still shocking after 30 years…this definitive blast of teenage nihilism is strong medicine indeed,” said Kevin Maher of Times (UK).

A Christmas Story Continues To Be A Holiday Favorite

There’s a reason why A Christmas Story is shown for 24 hours every holiday season. This 1983 holiday film is nostalgic, humorous, and just a bit dark.

blonde boy with glasses in a christmas story
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB

James Berardinelli of ReelViews said, “If you’re a fan of Christmas movies or films that use nostalgia as a driver, A Christmas Story cannot be missed…”

Tom Cruise Develops As An Actor In Risky Business

Fans got to know Tom Cruise during one of his first performances as an angsty teen in Risky Business. The film had wit, humor, and an incredible soundtrack.

tom cruise wearing sunglasses in risky business
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB

“For writer/director Paul Brickman, this was a case of being in the right place at the right time and, perhaps most importantly, getting the right leading man in place,” said James Berardinelli of ReelViews.

A Nightmare On Elm Street Is Made Especially For Horror Fans

Those looking for a horror-filled flick from the 1980s should check out A Nightmare on Elm Street. Not only is the premise scary, but it’s hard to get the frightening image of Freddy Krueger out of your head.

johnny depp talking on the phone in a nightmare on elm street
New Line Cinema/MovieStillsDB
New Line Cinema/MovieStillsDB

Variety said, “A highly imaginative horror film that provides the requisite shocks to keep fans of the genre happy.”

This Is Spinal Tap Puts Mockumentaries In The Mainstream

Written and directed by Rob Reiner, This Is Spinal Tap is a hilarious mockumentary that details the life of a metal band struggling to get back on the charts.

rock star playing electric guitar in this is spinal tap
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB

The critics’ consensus from Rotten Tomatoes states, “Smartly directed, brilliantly acted, and packed with endlessly quotable moments, This Is Spinal Tap is an all-time comedy classic.”

Stanley Kubrick Interprets The Vietnam War In Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket was Stanley Kubrick’s take on the Vietnam War. It was intense, finely tuned, and even had hints of comedy.

Vincent D'Onofrio in a white t-shirt in full metal jacket
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB

Jay Scott at Globe and Mail said, “Full Metal Jacket is violent, caustic, ironic, and cold, an amoral object formed from a camera gliding majestically across slow-motion carnage while refusing to blink an eye or shed a tear.”

National Lampoon’s Vacation Is Packed With Family Fun

“Half-baked but occasionally hilarious, National Lampoon’s Vacation gets a reasonable amount of mileage out of depicting the disaster-prone journey of a “typical” family of four, the Griswolds of suburban Chicago,” said Gary Arnold from the Washington Post.

family waving by a packed car in vacation
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB

At the time, Chevy Chase was praised for his comedic performance as the patriarch Clark Griswold.

The Actors Took Their Roles Seriously In Broadcast News

One of the reasons why Broadcast News is considered a great film of the 1980s is because of the impeccable performances by the actors.

cast of broadcast news in front of tv's with colored stripes
20th Century Fox/MovieStillsDB
20th Century Fox/MovieStillsDB

“Albert Brooks and Holly Hunter perform with such vitality, such comic neuroticism, that they at least blur the edges of their stereotypes,” said Sean French of Sight & Sound.

A Fish Called Wanda Was Perfectly Cast

“Smartly written, smoothly directed, and solidly cast, A Fish Called Wanda offers a classic example of a brainy comedy with widespread appeal,” said critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

man and a woman on a plane in a fish called wanda
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB

Stars such as Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese, and Kevin Kline are able to show off their comedic acting chops while not straying from the storyline.