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My Top 5 Favorite 1980s Movies

Updated on February 19, 2015

The 1980s: The Heyday of Family Cinema

I’m a child of the 1980s so naturally I love all things from that decade, especially the early 80s. I love the films, the family fare that mom, dad, and kids could all enjoy together. When I was a kid, there were films that had enough action for the boys, enough romance for the girls, enough humor for everyone, and a story good enough to keep everyone interested.

These days it seems that that majority of films are focused on a certain demographic which means there are fewer films that my entire family can enjoy. Being a grownup now and having my own kids, it is hard for my family (myself, my wife, and my two daughters) to find a movie that we all like.

So in this post I will take us back to the glory days of yesteryear, when Amblin and Lucasfilm were in their prime, when there was no such thing as a PG-13 rating, and when you went to the cinema to see films.

Before I became a serious film fan who picks movies apart, before I was concerned about who wrote and directed the film, before I cared about camera angles and lighting, before VHS, or DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix and Hulu, way back when I was mainly concerned with eating popcorn and letting the dark cinema transport me to another world.

Today, we go Back to the 1980s to look at my top 5 favorite films from my childhood:

An iconic scene: E.T. and Elliot in flight
An iconic scene: E.T. and Elliot in flight | Source

5. E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982)

It is rare to find a film such as this which is funny, engaging, and a little scary (to an eight year-old anyway) that the entire family can enjoy. E.T. does have all of those things and so much more.

Being about the same age as Elliot made it so easy for me to imagine myself in his shoes. After all, what kid, at one point or another, hasn't dreamed of having something like this happen to them?

4. Raiders of Lost Ark (1981)

While Indiana Jones was not a kids’ movie per se, it was still one that my parents took me to see. Like the others in this list, the adventures of Dr. Jones were enthralling. I was hooked from the first minute. And the thrill ride that followed was too much fun.

Every kid that I knew wanted a bullwhip after seeing Dr. Jones whip his around. And it showed the world that history and archeology aren't really all that boring after all.

What's your favorite?

Which movie from the 1980s do you love most?

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Gremlins theatrical trailer

3. Gremlins (1984)

Like the thrills of E.T., Gremlins was just scary enough for the elementary school crowd without being a full blown horror film. With the right mix of thrills, laughs, and heroics, Gremlins is a bonafide kids’ classic.

I remember that my dad took my sister and I to see it while my mom stayed at home. I was so stoked after seeing this film that I ran into our house, up to my parents bedroom, and told my mom about the entire movie from beginning to end.

A long time ago...
A long time ago... | Source

2. Star Wars (1977)

In so many ways, Star Wars is a masterpiece of filmmaking. It will forever be one of the the standards against which all other films are judged. It has everything you could want in a film - an engrossing story, interesting characters, action, romance, etc.

If you it compare to the films of the digital age, with all their slickness and computerization, it is easy to judge Star Wars too harshly. However, comparing it to other films of its era, it is a marvel, a true breakthrough in cinema. And as much as I love Empire and Jedi, the real magic for me is in the original.

I first saw it in the cinema when I was four years old. I was captivated by it, mesmerized by it. The franchise had a huge impact on me as a child of the 80s. There was the ubiquitous marketing which meant action figures, lunch boxes, and underoos. Like so many other kids, I immersed myself in the world of Star Wars and spent long hours recreating scenes from the movie with my action figures.

The magic of Star Wars and its sequels is only surpassed by one film, my single my favorite film from my childhood, The Goonies!

1. The Goonies (1985)

Goonies never say die! This is the only film from my childhood that could possibly eclipse Star Wars. I was 11 when The Goonies came out, about the same age as most of the kids in the film. And just like when I saw E.T. in second grade, seeing The Goonies in 5th grade made me wish that I could have adventures like Mikey and the gang were having.

At the time, it may have been the greatest movie I had ever seen (besides Star Wars). The kids in the movie had adventures that I could only dream of I having. At some point in my childhood, I recorded it from TV and watched at least twice a week. At one time in my life I could recite nearly the entire movie. I basically wore the VHS tape out.

As an adult I can watch the film and appreciate so much about it - the witty dialogue, the extremely quotable lines, the kids' performances, the elaborate sets, the pacing, everything. However, the characters are really what makes this film. Who could ever forget Data and his gadgets, Mikey and his inability to use the right words, Mouth and his mouth, Chunk and the truffle shuffle. And who could ever forget Sloth?

All of these reasons, and so many more, make The Goonies my favorite film from my childhood.

The Goonies: All Grown Up

Some of The Goonies have gone on to be in some of my favorite films:

  • Sean Astin (Mikey) - Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings
  • Josh Brolin (Brandon) - No Country for Old Men
  • Corey Feldman (Mouth) - Stand By Me (honorable mention for favorite films of the 1980s), The Lost Boys


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    • Discordzrocks profile image

      Gavin Heinz 2 years ago from Austin TX

      I'll say you forgot Back to the future

      Otherwise great list, check mine out also

    • RachelJ1031 profile image

      RachelJ1031 3 years ago

      Wonderful List! I had so much trouble answering that poll question because I couldn't decide! Lumping all of the Star Wars movies into one is not fair either, since the first one came out in the 70s, I think Return of the Jedi was the only one in the 80s, but I would have to check my facts on that one. I personally couldn't limit it to only 5 though, so kudos. Maybe 10 or 20. Ghostbusters! Beetlejuice! Stripes, well anything with Bill Murray :D All of those classics that epitomize the 'chick flick'. Pretty in Pink, Say Anything, Breakfast Club. This was a great first read for the day! I think I shall watch Gremlins now. :)