What are the cult films of the 80s that have marked a generation? We had counted at least 150, but for reasons of space we had to reduce the ranking to a third.

50 titles that contain the sense of a decade. Art films, but above all many entertainment films. It was not easy to choose what to wear and what not and many will be pissed off because “that film” is missing. But this list makes sense.

There are films that have given us amazing soundtracks or jokes that we can’t stop mentioning over 30 years later. There is Kubrick, Woody Allen, Scorsese, Stone … there are the nightmares of Lynch and Cronenberg, there are the dreams of Spielberg, Zemeckis and Tim Burton … the muscles of Stallone and Schwarzenegger … the comedy of Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy and much more.

Dirty Dancing (1987)

“Nobody can put Baby in a corner”

It is mainly girls who grew up between the 80s and 90s who love Dirty Dancing and the love story between a dance teacher and 17-year-old Baby. Like many other ’80s cult films, the winning mix is ​​a simple story, well-chosen performers (Patrick Swayze + Jennifer Gray) and a memorable soundtrack. The song (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life won the Oscar.

dirty dancing film from the 80s cult

Predator (1987)

A rescue mission turns into a nightmare when a military squad has to deal with an invisible alien predator. The idea is brilliant, the development is perfect and Arnold Schwarzenegger confirms himself as an 80s action star. Predator is undoubtedly one of the greatest science fiction cult of the legendary 80s.

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

The stories of some New York gangsters intertwine from the 1920s to the 1960s. With once upon a time in America our Sergio Leone ends his career with a flourish. The film is an unrivaled criminal epic, which still remains unsurpassed today, so much so that it is considered by audiences and critics to be one of the best films ever.

once upon a time in america 80s cult film

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

1980s is John Carpenter + Kurt Russel. There are many films shot together by the wildest couple ever and at least two end up right in this ranking. One of them is Big Trouble in Chinatown , a crazy and wild 80’s cult film in which Kurt Russel does what he does best: the anti-hero.

Platoon (1986)

Platoon is probably, along with Apocalypse Now , one of the most significant films about the Vietnam war. With this film Oliver Stone enters the Olympus of Hollywood and takes home 4 statuettes. A great Willem Dafoe!

platoon film from the 80s cult

Ladyhawke (1985)

The 80s are a fantastic decade in every sense. There are many fantasies that have become cult in the following decades and Ladyhawke is certainly one of them. The impossible love story between Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer, one human by day and wolf by night, the other hawk by day and human by night, has struck a generation to the heart and has every right to be among these cult films 80s.

ladyhawke 80s cult film

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

From Stardust Memories to Crimes and Misdemeanors , Woody Allen made 11 films in the 80s. In doubt between Zelig and The Purple Rose of Cairo we opted for the latter. Above all because the film in question had an undoubted influence on so much cinema in the following years, but also because it is one of the most beautiful films of him ever.

the purple rose of cairo film from the 80s cult

The Fly (1986)

David Cronenberg remakes Dr. K’s experiment in his own way and creates a memorable sci-fi nightmare. Thanks to one of Jeff Goldblum’s best performances and unforgettable horrifying moments (the nightmare, the final metamorphosis), The Fly is not only one of the best science fiction films of the 80s, but it is also to be counted among the best ever .

la moscow cult film from the 80s

The Untouchables (1987)

“You are just talk and badge”.

The Chicago of prohibition, Al Capone, a perfect cast are the ingredients that made the film The Untouchables legendary. Brian De Palma gives us a great gangster movie thanks to the perfect interpretations of Kevin Costner, Andy Garcia, an Oscar-winning Sean Connery and a Robert De Niro in a state of grace. An absolutely untouchable 80s cult film!

the untouchable films of the 80s cult

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

“I came tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible”

A man and a woman become friends, they get lost, they find each other, they bond emotionally and so on. But can friendship between man and woman exist? Harry Met Sally is Rob Reiner’s masterpiece, thanks to a great screenplay by Nora Ephron, and one of the most significant romantic comedies ever, able to perfectly represent the sentimental imbalances of a generation. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal never so perfect.

harry meet sally

Raging Bull (1980)

Having to choose a Scorsese film that represented the decade why not choose this splendid black and white film inspired by the biography of boxer Jake LaMotta? If only because it is also the definitive consecration of De Niro with the first Oscar as a leading actor (second, after the supporting one for The Godfather – Part II and last until 2019). What film!

raging bull 80s cult movie

Robocop (1987)

The policeman Alex Murphy is left dying because of some criminals. He will become a partly cyborg super cop. Paul Verhoeven’s film is violent, cynical and satirical and is a sort of 80’s cinecomic. Although it may seem like a superficial action cartoon, RoboCop is actually very representative of the nightmares and hopes of American society of the 80s and much more. deep than you think. An Oscar for sound editing, two sequels, a remake, comics, video games and several TV series. Absolute cult!

robocop film from the 80s cult

Wall Street (1987)

If only because he gave us Gordon Gekko, one of the most fascinating movie characters of all time, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street is a son of his time. A race for success in an upbeat and unscrupulous society that will then be worthily described in that hallucinating nightmare that is the novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen and Daryl Hannah take us between brokers and dollars, in the American financial Olympus.

wall street film from the 80s cult

Labyrinth – Where Everything Is Possible (1986)

Jim Henson + David Bowie = crazy cool

Those who grew up or born in the 80s carry this fantasy in their hearts. Scenography, characters, a screaming soundtrack add to the charisma of David Bowie (in one of his most iconic roles) and the skill of a very young Jennifer Connelly. Sure, Dark Crystal also had its own visual power, but Labyrinth is pure fantasy rock! Let’s dance the Magic Dance!

The Elephant Man (1980)

Of course Lynch is normally much more extreme, but The Elephant Man remains one of his most intense films. A heartwarming true story with stunning renditions of John Hurt (under a lot of makeup) and Anthony Hopkins. Many Oscar nominations (8), but no victory.

the elephant man 80s cult film

Good Morning Vietnam (1987)

“Gooood morning Vietnam”

Inspired by the true story of the disc jockey Adrian Cronauer, Good morning Vietnam can certainly be counted among the best 5 performances of Robin Williams, who among other things received a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. Even today it must be considered among the most beautiful films on the conflict in Vietnam, managing to make people think and smile.

1997: Escape from New York (1981)

Double by John Carpenter and Kurt Russel (we could have “started from three” by including The Thing, but we sacrificed it) who invent a character, Jena (Snake in the original) Plissken, who is immediately cult. Carpenter is at ease with urban westerns and also in this case, after that masterpiece that is District 13 , he does not hide the ingredients borrowed from the cinema of Leone and Peckinpah. On the other hand Plissken is a sort of Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef also stars in the film. 1997: Escape from New York exudes coolness from every pore.

1997 escape from new york cult film from the 80s

Breakfast Club (1985)

We would also have put A crazy day off because explaining the 80s without John Hughes films would be impossible. But Breakfast Club is certainly the most important film by the producer / director / screenwriter that has changed the way young people are shown in American cinema. Breakfast Club is “THE” teenage drama. A window on the condition of a youth destined to play a role in order to be part of society, but which risks losing their real personality. A cult film from the 80s that is still very topical and that should be shown in schools.

cult film from the 80s

Nightmare (1984)

The cinematic 80s are the era of dreams. But dreams can become nightmares and you risk never waking up again. The exceptional intuition of Wes Craven is to create a “monster”, a “babau”, which strikes just when we sleep, that moment when we are weakest. Freddy Krueger is certainly the most representative horror character of 80s movies and the first Nightmare could not be missing from this list .

nightmare film from the 80s cult

One Armchair for Two (1983)

A Christmas comedy that actually came out in America in the summer. An armchair for two in Italy has become over the years the Christmas film par excellence and with great reason. It’s true, it doesn’t have much of exceptional, but Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd are a very close couple, the basic idea is simple but perfect and the comedy is so well structured that it is still laughed today, more than 30 years after its release. at Cinema.

christmas movie

Top Gun (1986)

Militarist and pro-American to the bone, but with charm to spare. Top Gun is very representative of the American ideal and over time has been revalued negatively for the ideals represented. Yet it is a cool and full of adrenaline film, with a very fascinating Tom Cruise and an unforgettable soundtrack by our local Giorgio Moroder.

top gun film from the 80s cult

Beetlejuice (1988)

We have two Tim Burton films on this list and both starring Michael Keaton. Beetlejuice is that Tim Burton we all remember with nostalgia. Crazy in his fantasy that mixes comedy and dark tones, able to create extreme and unforgettable characters. What a world it would be without Tim Burton.

beetlejuice film from the 80s cult

The Big Chill (1983)

A group of friends, from the generation of ’68, meets on the occasion of the funeral of one of them. The great cold of Kasdan is a cult film especially in America, but it inspired the cinema of the following years also in our country. This 80s “dramedy” tells a glimpse of a disillusioned generation and does so with a great cast (Jeff Goldblum, Glenn Close, William Hart, Kevin Kline, Tom Berenger) and a screaming soundtrack

the great cold 80's cult film

Highlander: The Last Immortal (1986)

“There will be only one”

The story of the immortal Connor MacLeod has captivated audiences around the world. Highlander mixes fantasy, epic and history and hits the mark thanks to Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery perfectly in part. Lots of sequels and derivative works, but none up to par. And let’s talk about the Queen soundtrack?

highlander film from the 80s cult

Gremlins (1984)

Only 3 rules to respect in this brilliant fantahorror of the 80s. Yet it’s not that simple … Gremlins is still remembered with a certain nostalgia by those who grew up between the 80s and 90s. His perfect blend of Christmas fairytale, fantasy and horror us he can still remember how much the 80’s movies were full of ideas.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

“I’m not bad, it’s just that they draw me like this”

A film in which humans interact with cartoons? Nothing new, but Robert Zemeckis elevates to the nth degree the idea that had already been used in the past in numerous film sequences. The brilliant idea is also to target a more adult audience and create a cynical and plausible universe. Unforgettable Bob Hoskins, Roger Rabbit, but above all the beautiful Jessica Rabbit.

roger rabbit film from the 80s cult

Scarface (1983)

“The World is yours”

Following the rise of a Cuban emigrant from petty crimes to the undisputed domination of Miami, Brian De Palma creates a memorable cinematic work by gifting Al Pacino with one of his best characters ever: Tony Montana. The approximately 3 hours of Scarface , remotely inspired by the 1932 film of the same name, pass quickly thanks to a fascinating story and the skill of the performers, among which a young Michelle Pfeiffer stands out. Scarface is still a cornerstone of cinema today.

scarface film from the 80s cult

Flashdance (1983)

Difficult not to sing on the notes of ” What a feeling “, impossible to resist the rhythm of ” Maniac “. Despite a simple and almost banal story, Flashdance must be considered a turning point in the female image of American cinema. The protagonist Alex is completely emancipated, works as a welder, also dresses in men’s clothes and aims at an equal relationship with her man. It’s hard not to think that she helped change the mentality of an entire generation of girls.

flashdance film from the 80s cult

The Neverending Story (1984)

The third season of Stranger Things relaunched “ Neverending Story “, the song from the film. In fact, for many young people who grew up in those years The Neverending Story has never been forgotten. A true cult film of the 80s, it kept us in suspense during the trial of the Sphinxes, made us cry for the fate of the horse Artax and made us constantly fear for the fate of the world over which Nothing hangs. Undoubtedly one of the best fantasy of the 80s and ever.

the neverending story 80s cult film

Karate Kid – To Win Tomorrow (1984)

“Give the wax, remove the wax”

Karate Kid has certainly contributed to the knowledge of karate in mass culture. It is a simple coming-of-age story, but at the same time an interesting teaching on non-violence, respect and the need for a good dose of patience and self-understanding in sport and in life. Unforgettable Pat Morita in the role of the master Miyagi.karate kid film from the 80s cult

Stand by me – Memory of a summer (1986)

Another coming-of-age story taken from the pages of Stephen King. The story The Body inspires the film Stand By Me , the story of the passage to adolescence of some children and their first approach with death. A beautiful film accompanied by an unforgettable soundtrack.

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Hard to keep up with Sergeant Riggs and his insanity. Yet this is the fate of Roger Murtaugh in this action film and the subsequent 3 sequels. Lethal Weapon is one of the most beautiful action movies of the 80s, a buddy movie perfectly balanced between exciting sequences and funny jokes. Great both Mel Gibson and Danny Glover with two now cult characters.

The Fleeting Moment (1989)

“O captain, my captain”

The second and final Robin Williams movie on this list is also one of the most remembered ever. The fleeting moment is a hymn to non-conformism, freedom of thought and life in general. Robin Williams is a long way from her usual comic register, but in this dramatic role she works great and gives one of the best performances of her.

the fleeting moment cult film from the 80s

Batman (1989)

“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale full moon?”

Tim Burton takes Batman and makes him his. Yes, because both this film and its sequel, Batman Returns , should be seen just as Burtonian works and not as cinecomic. The ’89 Batman is perfectly packaged. Extraordinary performers (Jack Nicholson’s great Joker, but also a Michael Keaton that no one would ever see like Bruce Wayne), memorable soundtrack, spectacular sets and an unforgettable dark atmosphere. Forgive me Nolan, but the Batmobile in this movie is still at the top.

batman film from the 80s cult

Die Hard – Crystal Trap (1988)

“Yippee ki yay, piece of shit”

The best Christmas movie? Maybe not, but Crystal Trap is undoubtedly one of the action movies we are most fond of. And then Bruce Willis is John McClane, there are no saints. The story of this policeman struggling with the black jinx of a terrorist attack just as he reaches his wife for Christmas is now history. McClane makes it a fashion to get involved in bigger events than him, but never as in Crystal Trap does the film work very well. Maybe even for a crazy villain like Hans Gruber, played by the late Alan Rickman. What film!

Beverly Hills Cop – A Cop in Beverly Hills (1984)

And to think that Sylvester Stallone had to play him… For all of us, however, the legendary Axel Foley is the irresistible Eddie Murphy, who in this film and its 2 sequels sets a completely different tone to the standard of the detective story. Ironic and light-hearted the policeman Axel Foley between a joke and a joke maintains his sense of duty and solves crimes while in the background we listen to that now cult musical theme. We probably wouldn’t have appreciated him so much had it not been for his historic voice actor Tonino Accolla.

beverly hills cop 80's cult film

Rambo (1982)

It took Sylvester Stallone to tell the story of a veteran and make it an 80s cult film like Rambo . A character that in the long run has become an action icon, with 3 sequels already released and a fifth chapter coming in autumn 2019. Yet the story of John Rambo began in 1982 as that of a veteran harassed by the police , but he just wanted to be left alone. Traps in the woods, a spirit of adaptation and that look of those who have seen so many have conquered us and made Rambo and his interpreter immortal.

rambo john

The Shining (1980)

If even Spielberg in Ready Player One took the trouble to remake The Shining in an already cult sequence, who are we not to consider it one of the most important films of the decade !? Someone said that there is a before and after The Shining and actually it is. Kubrick adapted Stephen King’s book in his own way (to whom the film never went down) and creates a psychological horror that is decisive for subsequent cinematography. The Shining is a journey into human madness, it is disturbing and you cannot fail to see it at least once in your life.

tv movie

Rocky IV (1985)

“I’ll split you in two”

True, Rocky IV is not exactly a big movie. Yet it remains not only a splendid sports metaphor of the Cold War, but also a reflection on the relationship between man and technology and on the importance of willpower in achieving any goal. Then it’s hard to forget that giant Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren) and what is probably the best soundtrack of a Rocky movie with 80s songs including: Burning Heart, Heart’s on Fire, Living in America and No Easy Way Out .


Blade Runner (1982)

“I’ve seen things you humans can’t even imagine …”

Approaching the top 10 films on this list, we find Blade Runner , Ridley Scott’s science fiction masterpiece. It was 1982 when bounty hunter Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) confronts replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). A dystopian future, nocturnal, cold atmospheres and characters never so ambiguous are the ingredients of this sci-fi thriller based on Philip K. Dick. A myth!

The Little Mermaid (1989)

Why a Disney animated movie right here? Well The Little Mermaid is the symbol of the rebirth of the House of Mickey Mouse, after more than a decade of cartoon undertone and sensational flops. But The Little Mermaid is also a film from the 80s, which understands the importance of music and rhythm and renews the figure of the woman. No more sleeping princesses waiting for the adventurer prince, but emancipated, curious and intelligent women who take their destiny in hand. At the bottom of the maaaar!

the little mermaid 80s cult film

ET The Extraterrestrial (1982)

What if aliens weren’t all that bad? An idea that Spielberg had already addressed in Close Encounters of the Third Kind , but which here makes it even better. The alien is no longer the threat of 1950s science fiction movies, he is almost one of us. The roles are reversed and the authorities become the real villains, while the ET alien is nothing more than a puppy who wants to return home. An epochal film that marked a generation. A fable that is also a story of friendship and acceptance.

et film from the 80s cult

The Blues Brothers (1980)

“That’s 126 miles to Chicago. We have a full tank, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re both wearing sunglasses “

The Blues Brothers is the inevitable touchstone for any musical film of the years after 1980. Perfect cult film of the 80s, this film derived from some sketches of Saturday Night Live consecrates the comedy of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi and enters the myth thanks to an absolutely extraordinary script, direction and soundtrack. It’s hard not to laugh at the duo’s jokes and refrain from dancing and singing with songs like Everybody needs somebody, Shake a Tail Feather, Think and many more.

The Goonies (1985)

How many kids who grew up between the 80s and 90s have dreamed of an adventure like that of the Goonies? Almost everyone who has seen this movie probably. The Goonies is not just a fantastic adventure of a group of kids, but also a beautiful parable about the importance of friendship, being in a group and cultivating one’s dreams. Ready to go in search of Willy the Patch’s treasure?

Aliens – Final Showdown (1986)

Difficult to take a masterpiece like Alien and make it an effective sequel. Yet James Cameron succeeds in the feat and creates a film almost as good as the original, but essentially very different. Aliens abandons the slow pace and Hitchcockian tension of the 1979 film and throws himself into action. In Aliens everything is “more”. Bigger, wilder, more more… Cameron’s film makes the final characterization of Ripley’s character, essentially a mother who wants to protect that daughter she never got to see growing up. Alienshas the brilliant idea of ​​contrasting this character with that of the Queen, a mythical figure that we will see again in the fourth chapter of the saga. Epic clashes, explosions and bullets make Aliens an 80s cult film, one of the best science fiction films of the decade and, perhaps, ever.

Aliens - Final Showdown

Ghostbusters – Ghostbusters (1984)

“Are you a God?”

Scientists, maybe scammers, but certainly good ghost catchers. And when New York is haunted who will you call? Ghostbusters is “THE” 80’s cult film, an unmissable mix of comedy, science fiction, horror and action that hasn’t aged a bit. The characters in this film by Ivan Reitman are irresistible, there are so many brilliant ideas. It’s hard not to love him. Ghostbusters is a triumph of 80s cinematography, the perfect example of how those years were rich in creativity and pushed the means to the limit.

ghostbusters ghostbusters

Terminator (1984)

Copied, replicated, filmed many times, but never as beautiful as the first (and second) chapter of Terminator . It is Arnold Schwarzenegger who gives body to the cyborg from the future to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of the future hero of the resistance against the machines. A very original plot, an incredible way of dealing with time travel (with what is one of the most beautiful cinematic time paradoxes ever), a film that is an absolute cult.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The challenge of Spielberg & Lucas? Creating a character similar to James Bond, but who is an adventurer similar to those of the exotic films of the 30s and 50s. Successful challenge. The two create, thanks to the charisma of Harrison Ford, one of the best movie characters ever. A name so important that we tend to include it also in this title of the first chapter of the adventures of Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Ark is pure adventure, fun and with a horror vein perfectly in line with other 80s cult films mentioned here. The wealth of ideas is incredible, so much so as to give us some of the most copied sequences in the next cinema. Absurdly beautiful!

Raiders of the Lost Ark 80s cult film

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

If it is probably precisely the first Star Wars that we owe the beginning of the 80s as a cinematographic age, it is difficult not to consider this sequel almost superior to the progenitor and perhaps the best Star Wars film. The Empire Strikes Back elevates all the ideas presented in the first chapter and definitively creates the mythology of the saga. The villain Darth Vader undergoes a very important transformation, as well as the relationships between all the characters. Looking at it today it seems incredible that this sci-fi fantasy was made in 1980. George Lucas hats off, we owe you a lot!

empire hits cult 80s movies again

Back to the future (1985)

Although this list is not a real order of preference, it is beyond question that at least the top 10 films were chosen voluntarily for the importance they had for modern cinema. But why Back to the futureis in the first place? The 80s cult film about the time travel of a young teenager up to the 50s certainly represents the summa (along with its sequel) of all that is 80s cinema and that they have left us. The cinematography of that decade accomplished a very important nostalgic operation by bringing back themes and settings of all pre-1960s Hollywood cinema (just as Hollywood is doing with the 80s and 90s nostalgia operation). America looks to the past to accept the enormous changes of the (then) present to prepare for the future. The technological advent is one of the fundamental themes of 80’s films, viewed with hope, but also with fear. Terminator, Blade Runnerand many others do not hide the fears for the possible consequences of robotics, while the same technology is used and pushed to the limit in the creation of increasingly refined visual effects. The other fundamental point is the increasingly marked use of music in films that increasingly resemble video clips (see Flashdance ). But the cinematic 80s are above all the age of dreams, a decade in which films seem to promise amazing things and in which adherence to reality is increasingly lost, even in the most “real” films.

Back to the future is the story of a son of these years who returns to an era in which, what is the order of the day in the 80s, everything is just science fiction. Back to the Future is the claim that two generations 30 years apart were actually not very different (despite the lies of the parents). It is an exceptional film for its ability to be covertly critical of past society, despite a pure entertainment system. It is the film that Delorean gave us as a time machine, the mad scientist Doc Brown, the temporal paradoxes deriving from the meeting with his parents and Marty McFly who plays Johnny B. Goode. Back to the future is the 80s.

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