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Hugh Scott

25 '80s Movies That Don't Get Enough Love

John Lithgow in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

The 1980s were a special decade for movies. It established franchises like the Indiana Jones movies that are still going today, and saw the continued rise of now-legendary filmmakers like Steven Spielberg. There were a lot movies made, and there are many underrated '80s movies that film lovers should see, so here is our list of 25 films that just don’t get enough love from the go-go decade. 

(Image credit: Disney / Fox)

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984)

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension is a pretty ridiculous title for a pretty silly movie, but somehow both just work. If you’re going to make an over-the-top movie, you might as well go way over the top. It’s campy and absurd, but it’s grounded in a pretty cool plot based around Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, and the actors, especially John Lithgow as the alien in charge, do a fantastic job keeping it real. It’s a movie that begs for a second life, maybe in animated form

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Midnight Run (1988)

The chemistry between Robert DeNiro and Charles Groden in Midnight Run is something special, but it’s just as much about the side characters as it is about the protagonists. Director Martin Brest took four years to follow up his hit, Beverly Hills Cop, and it’s worth the wait. It's too often overlooked, though it was a hit at the time. There's a steady cult following, so much so that the late Yaphet Kotto, who played Special Agent Alonso Mosely, told IGN it’s the movie he was the most asked about, noting, "I hear a lot about Alien, but more for Midnight Run."

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Dead Calm (1989)

Dead Calm is a psychological thriller that has been most remembered for being Nicole Kidman’s breakout role, but it should be recalled for so much more. Billy Zane’s performance as the psychotic villain is terrifying and Kidman’s attempts to outwit him, including one very steamy sex scene, make for the kind of movie that will keep you up at night, in the best way. 

(Image credit: Paramount)

The Burbs (1989)

As the decade was coming to a close, it became clear that Tom Hanks was ready to jump from his comedic roles into more serious ones. It was in The Burbs when many saw just how good Hanks is at being both funny and serious, as he did each brilliantly in this now-cult classic. As a bonus, it's another great role for Carrie Fisher

(Image credit: DEG)

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

AC/DC’s soundtrack is only part of what makes Maximum Overdrive so hilariously weird and pretty great. It was written and directed by Stephen King, based on his own short story called “Trucks,” and while it certainly isn’t the finest example of achievement in film, it's a really fun popcorn chomper that should get more credit as a first rate B-movie. 

(Image credit: Orion Pictures )

F/X (1986)

It’s surprising that 1986’s F/X isn't more remembered. Not only was it an unexpected minor hit, it spawned a sequel two years later and a short-lived TV show in the late ‘90s. Brian Brown, Brian Deheney, and Jerry Orbach star, so it’s not lacking in the acting department either. It also features the big-screen debut of Angela Bassett. This should be a beloved classic, instead of a forgotten gem. 

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Broadcast News (1987)

Broadcast News may look like a rom-com on the surface, as Holly Hunter’s Jane is stuck in a love triangle with Tom (William Hurt) and Aaron (Albert Brooks), but its message runs deeper. Like the '70s movie, Network, it’s really a commentary on the dumbing down of the news, which makes it not only more interesting than a standard rom-com, but scarily prophetic, as well. 

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

They Live (1988)

Another chillingly prescient movie from the ‘80s warning against the influence of mass media, especially subliminal advertising, was the cult classic They Live starring “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Director John Carpenter is at his best in this under-appreciated action horror movie, and the back alley brawl between Piper’s character and Keith David’s is one of the best fight scenes in movie history, and is worth watching for that alone. 

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Top Secret! (1984)

The production team of the Zucker brothers (David and Jerry) and Jim Abrams had huge hits in the '80s with Airplane! and Naked Gun. In between, they made a movie with the same surrealist comedic vibe called Top Secret! which, somehow, despite being just as funny as the others, flies much further under the radar. It also happened to be Val Kilmer’s film debut and he’s outstanding in the lead. 

(Image credit: MGM)

UHF (1989)

You can’t talk about surrealist '80s humor without talking about “Weird Al” Yankovic. After landing a bunch of MTV hits, he was ready for his silver screen close-up. In true Yankovic fashion, he co-wrote and starred in UHF, a bizarre, yet lovable flick about a persistent loser who finds his calling as the manager of a local UHF TV station, something that only people alive in the ‘80s would even be able to understand. Watching it again will make you yearn for the days of low-budget local TV. 

(Image credit: Touchstone Pictures)

Stakeout (1987)

The buddy cop genre reached it’s zenith in the 1980s with movies like Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs., so it’s not surprising that another great one would be overshadowed. In this case, the film is Stakeout, which sees Emilio Estevez team up with Richard Dreyfuss on, you guessed it, a stakeout. A funnier moment is during a game of trivia, when Estevez’s character is quizzing Dreyfuss’ on movie quotes and asks him who said “This is no boating accident,” to which Dreyfuss answers he doesn’t know. If you don’t know – it was Dreyfuss in Jaws

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Gotcha! (1985)

Truly one of the most underappreciated movies of the 1980s is Gotcha!, starring Anthony Edwards and Linda Fiorentino, about a hapless college student (Edwards) who gets caught up in a spy ring in East Germany. It’s peak Cold War entertainment, when we all thought of East Berlin as some kind of exotic other-world filled with Commie villains and devoid of Burger Kings. It’s so unfairly unloved that it’s almost impossible to find anywhere. 

(Image credit: Orion Pictures)

No Way Out (1987)

No Way Out was a moderate hit at the box office in 1987, and considering just how popular Kevin Costner is, and just how good the movie is, it’s amazing it wasn’t one of the biggest hits of the year. This is a movie that holds a 91% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and yet hardly gets talked about on most lists of great action flicks. That’s a shame. 

(Image credit: Orion Pictures Corporation)

Eight Men Out (1988)

There are certain movies you just have to stop and watch when you’re flipping around looking for something on TV. The Right Stuff and The Hunt for Red October spring to mind, and so should Eight Men Out. With a stellar cast including Charlie Sheen, John Cusak, and D.B. Sweeney, it tells the true story of the 1919 “Black Sox” Scandal and it’s one of the greatest baseball movies of all time. 

(Image credit: Embassy Pictures)

Eddie And The Cruisers (1983)

The success of Eddie and the Cruisers is one that could have only happened in the ‘80s. The movie was panned by critics and bombed at the box office. But, a song from the film, “On The Darkside” played by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, became a hit on the radio, then the movie gained popularity on cable TV. It eventually even lead to a sequel, Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!, though that one definitely doesn’t qualify for this list. 

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Harlem Nights (1989)

Eddie Murphy was one of the kings of the box office in the ‘80s with hits like Coming To America and Beverly Hills Cop, two films that are still so popular they’ve seen revivals in this decade. On its surface, Harlem Nights seems like a rare misstep for Murphy, but when you watch, you realize that maybe it was just ahead of its time. The movie, with a cast of legends like Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, and Della Reese, is hysterical and deserves way more love. 

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Gallipoli (1981)

Gallipoli assembled a fantastic core of talent early in their careers, like Mel Gibson and director Peter Wier, to make something very rare, an exciting and intriguing World War I movie (which is difficult, because the war was so static). It’s rare for a filmmaker to figure it out, so to speak, like Sam Mendes did brilliantly in 1917. Gallipoli is equally anxiety-inducing. 

(Image credit: Paramount)

Explorers (1985)

Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix both made their film debuts in 1985’s Explorers, and while the movie bombed, it found a loving audience after its VHS release. That’s about as ‘80s as you can get. Sure, it’s partly Gen X nostalgia to remember a movie about what it could be like if you built a spaceship in your backyard as a kid, but the movie’s heart is in the right place and it’s impossible not to appreciate that. 

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

The Last Starfighter (1984)

Ok, the graphics have not really held up over the years, but The Last Starfighter is still an important movie that should get more love. It was one of the very first films that used extensive CGI in its production and while Tron is far better remembered and has had a greater legacy (no pun intended), this was just as big a deal back in the day. 

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Bachelor Party (1984) 

If you’ve never seen those zany comedies of Tom Hanks' early career, Bachelor Party is the one you should start with. It's a quintessential ‘80s comedy that should be ranked with Caddyshack and Animal House, yet somehow it’s been mostly forgotten. Maybe that’s the price it had to pay for Hanks’ decades of later success. 

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Innerspace (1987)

Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, and Meg Ryan all star in a film that won an Oscar and yet is barely remembered today. 1987’s Innerspace is the perfect example of what this list is all about. Short is at his physical comedy best, Quaid was born to play a serious, by-the-book naval aviator, and Ryan knows a thing or two about playing the significant other of one, even if she wasn’t in Top Gun: Maverick. It even won an Academy Award for best special effects. 

(Image credit: Warner Bros. )

Spies Like Us (1985)

The Cold War was omnipresent in the 1980s, and even the comedies mined it for great content. Take, for example, Spies Like Us. Directed by John Landis and starring Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd, it was guaranteed to be a hit, and was, but was then promptly forgotten by many. It’s overshadowed by Fletch, Vacation, and Ghostbusters, but it’s every bit as funny and far more politically biting. If you've never seen it and you love ‘80s comedy, put this at the top of your list. 

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Cannonball Run (1981)

This comedy is on this list for one reason. Somehow, despite being a huge hit, and having some of the biggest stars of all time in it, including Burt Reynolds, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore, and Jackie Chan, this movie is nowhere to be found on any streaming service! Not even to buy or rent! It’s a travesty! 

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Less Than Zero (1987)

The first Bret Easton Ellis book made into a movie, Less Than Zero doesn’t quite have the re-watchability of American Psycho, but it's just as disturbing. In one of the more upsetting scenes, Robert Downey Jr.’s character dies from drug abuse in a car on his way to get sober. It’s something that could’ve been imitating real life, given the Iron Man star’s struggles at the time. Thankfully, Downey survived, just as this film should in the hearts of more people. 

(Image credit: Warner Bros. )

Empire Of The Sun (1987)

You wouldn’t think a Steven Spielberg movie would be an ‘80s film that doesn’t get enough love, but Empire of the Sun, starring John Makovich and a very young Christian Bale, fits that bill. It’s a beautiful film less dependent on action and more on character growth. That may be why it doesn’t seem have the same cache as Jaws or Indiana Jones, and it’s not as culturally important as The Color Purple, but it’s easily just as good as any of Spielberg's films and deserves far more love. 

There are dozens more '80s movies that could fit this list, but if you’re looking for something to watch after getting a streaming service deal, consider one of these. You won’t be disappointed. 

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