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Favorite 80s Movies- Sorry John Hughes but you are sitting this one out

Updated on September 26, 2013
John Cryer and Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. Source: love Maegan, flickr creative commons, CC BY 2.0.
John Cryer and Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. Source: love Maegan, flickr creative commons, CC BY 2.0.

The 80s are synonymous with a lot of things- materialism and the material girl, the Reagan Administration, and the fall of Berlin wall. But for many of us mention the 80s and our minds immediately go to Cheesy 80s movies. The term Cheesy preceding '80s movies' may even be redundant to some. I mean no offense to the late and great John Hughes; he wrote the book on films portraying teenagers struggling through the misery that is high school. His movies define the genre, any film focused on teenagers made after 1984- the year he brought us Sixteen Candles- directly or indirectly borrows from the master, John Hughes. But this is an article of my particular preferences, my hidden gems, and because of that Molly and crew are not on this list.

1. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)- I have an idea for a hub that I will write some day about stars who I have loved before they became household name and Patrick Dempsey will never be McDreamy to me, he will always be Ronald Miller. Can’t Buy Me Love is hands down my favorite movie made in the 80s. It is a tale as old as time, a geek who wants to make a change his senior year and hang with the cool kids. He finds his ticket in with the head of the cheerleader squad, Cindy Mancini, bribing her with money- to replace an awesomely bad 80s white leather outfit, complete with fringe, that she borrowed from her mom and ruined at a party. One of the things I love about this movie is on additional viewing you really pick up on the subtle things- how Ronald goes from a nice geek, to a grateful geek, to a full-of-himself cool kid and all the way back again. And how Cindy falls for the nice geek, despite her football star boyfriend (away at his freshman year of college), but Ronald doesn’t notice because he is too caught up in his newfound popularity.

Favorite quote

Patty- Didn’t you like, used to mow our lawn?

Ronald- Yes and you have the nicest pair of rhododendrons in town!

Clip from 'Can't Buy Me Love'

2.Troop Beverly Hills (1989)- I know at the time Shelly Long stirred up a lot of confusion when she left the hit TV show Cheers to pursue her movie career, a decision which reminds us that for every George Clooney there is a David Caruso. I’m ok with her transition because, one I was a little young to enjoy Cheers during its first run-through so its appeal is lost on me, and two Long made both Troop Beverly Hills and Hello, Again in this time. But going with favorites for this list- Hello, Again doesn’t make the cut. Troop Beverly Hills on the other hand does- it is about a couple, played by Long and Craig T. Nelson (love him), who have a rags-to-riches story and the Beverly Hills lifestyle got the best of Long and drove them apart. Their daughter, played by the eternally cool Jenny Lewis, who also started in The Wizard and now has a successful indie-music career, needs a new troop leader for her girl scouts knock-off troop.The troop is filled with awesomely bad stereotypes of rich girls, including Carla Gugino and Kellie Martin, and they are mocked by the ‘real’ troops and troop leaders. It is the definition of awesomely bad.

Favorite Quote

Annie-You can’t put wine in Hobo stew.

Phyllis (Long’s character)- Why not? What goes better with hobos than wine?

3.Back to School (1986)- You really can’t go wrong when you put Rodney Dangerfield and a very young Robert Downey Jr. in a movie together. The far-fetched premise, which may be the basis for Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison, casts Dangerfield as a very wealthy businessman who goes back to school, to college, alongside his son who is planning on dropping out. Downey Jr. plays the son’s eccentric best friend, his only friend really. Father and son rule the school, throwing outrageous parties and dominating on the swim team.

Supporting cast All-Star- Sally Kellerman, a professor who can’t help but fall for Dangerfield’s goofball.

A clip from 'Back to School'

4. How I got into College (1989) - This is probably one of the lesser known films on my list but I love it. It chronicles senior year of high school and focuses on the stressful experience of applying to and getting into college. The lead character, who I was surprised to see is still acting according to IMDB, is a quiet, average guy who harbors a major crush on the head cheerleader, played by Lara Flynn Boyle. A recurring bit involves two characters acting out typical SAT math questions, if person A rows a boat at X speed while person B rows at Y speed and so on. It’s a quirky comedy, maybe not for everyone, also closing out the 80s so it’s not a quintessential 80s movies- but it makes my list.

Supporting cast All-Stars- The college-prep team played by Nora Dunn and the late Phil Hartman.

5 Back to the Beach (1987) - Although I never saw Annette Funicello on the Mickey Mouse Club or Frankie Avalon in his movies or the pair together in Beach movies from the 60s I love this 80s flick where they play a married couple with two kids- the oldest, a daughter, played by Lori Loughlin of Full House fame and a younger son, an angry Goth. They go to visit their eldest at her beach house and the clichés ensue- a dance party at the beach breaks out and Annette teaches everyone in the film (and the audience) to do a new dance, there is surfing (of course) and a turf war on the beach with the gang more into leather than singing Kumbaya peacefully around the bonfire. It is tongue-in-cheek and utter cheesiness and I love it.

Supporting cast All-Star- The always beautiful Connie Stevens, an old flame of Avalon’s who gets Funicello jealous.

6. She’s Out of Control (1989)- I almost forgot about this one, haven’t seen it in a while but it embodies cheesy 80s flick. Tony Danza stars as a widow raising two studious, well-behaved teen-aged daughters. He has the cool dad job (top radio station), a cool dad car, all is well. Until his girlfriend agrees to give his eldest daughter (played by Micky Dolenz’s daughter Ami Dolenz) a make-over converting her from an invisible geek to a babe all the guys want to date. Danza loses grip on his daughter, his radio station’s ratings, and ultimately his sanity.

Supporting cast All-Star-Wallace Shawn as the shrink attempting to help Danza stay in control.

Favorite quote

Doug (Tony Danza) to Katie when her grades start to slip- ‘A mind, a good mind, is a terrible thing to waste.’

Bonnie (the younger sister)- ‘So’s a good body.’

7. Grease 2 (1982) - I’ll admit it; I honestly like this one better than the original. The songs are so awesomely bad you can’t help but sing along- I think back to singing all the words to ‘Reproduction’ set in Rydell High’s sex education class, obviously having no idea as a young kid what I was singing along too. The premise is the classic 'turn an original movie on its head by changing the genders of the leads'. This time the cool kid is a Pink Lady-Stephanie- played by Michelle Pfeiffer, and it is Maxwell Caulifield, playing Michael, who is the nerdy overseas transplant trying to win her over. All of the T-Birds unknowingly contribute to Michael’s motorcycle fund by buying essays off of him, while he infuriates them with his riding skills while his identity remains a mystery (he is, of course, completely unrecognizable with a helmet and goggles on). The songs are what get me I love the bowling alley song and dance and Stephanie’s yearning for a ‘Cool, Cool, Cool, Cool Rider’ to name a few.

Supporting cast All-Star- Adrian Zmed, granted he may not be as well-known as the other all-stars on the list but he steals most of his scenes as the slightly neurotic leader of the T-Birds.

Grease 2 song and dance number 'Score Tonight' (yes pretty much every song in the movie is innuendo-packed)

8. Summer School (1987)- What’s not to love, a young pre-NCIS Mark Harmon, plays a stereotypical gym teacher heading out on the last day of school for vacation. He gets sucked into teaching summer school to a group of misfits- including a day-dreaming Courtney Thorne-Smith, some dumb jocks, and two AV geeks obsessed with horror movies. At first he starts out sleeping through his classes, then realizes he can take the students on field trips- to theme parks- but then of course he rallies, becomes a great teacher, everyone passes the big exam, and even the students teach him something about himself.

Supporting Cast All-star- Kirstie Alley plays a straight-laced, serious teacher who eventually comes around to Harmon.

Favorite quote

Pam: You want us to study?

Shoop (Harmon): The thought did cross my mind.

Denise: Well, what’s in it for us? What do we get out of it?

Shoop: Literacy?

'Summer School' Trailer- definitely not in HD!

9. Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989)- There are a lot of great John Candy movies in the 80s, arguably better than this one- but it’s my list so it’s my call. I love this one, Candy plays a clueless investigator who lucks into solving the mystery of a kidnapped daughter of the millionaire Downing. At Candy’s side is Nikki, Downing's other daughter who helps him out- bonus points for this actress- Shawnee Smith- for appearing in this and Summer School, also on my list. There is a lot of physical comedy as well as Candy dressing up in ridiculous disguises throughout.

Supporting cast All-Stars- Jeffery Jones, as Candy’s boss and friend of the family, and Annie Potts as the gold-digging wife of Downing.

Honorable mention goes to The Wizard (1989) - only giving it an honorable mention nod because I haven’t seen it in a while and I can’t do it justice in a recap. It stars Jenny Lewis and Fred Savage and involves Nintendo. The real question is why haven’t I seen it recently? Also Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985) starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt, and Shannen Doherty. I just discovered this one a few years back. It is so 80s-Parker and Hunt are trying to get on a teen TV dance show. The writing and acting are pretty terrible but isn’t that essential to the best cheesy 80s flicks?

Well what about you out there in Hub-land, brave enough to confess your 80s guilty pleasures in the comments section?


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