Synth-scored, plastic and rocking their upturned collars, the best ’80s movies will always trigger nostalgia – even if you didn’t live through them in the first place (we see you, Stranger Things fans).
The ’80s was a decade that perfected the action movie and the summer blockbuster and we’ve rounded up our favourites that are available to stream in the UAE across Amazon Prime, Netflix MENA and OSN.
Available on Amazon Prime
Director: Jon Davison
Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty
Gag after gag, line after line, there's no more unhinged comedy in the whole of American movies than this genius invention, crafted by director-screenwriters Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker. You may still hope that your seatmate speaks jive, or that your co-pilot worked harder on defence.
Back to the Future (1985)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
The elements here are instantly iconic: Michael J. Fox's time-traveling teen, the sleek DeLorean, Christopher Lloyd's Einstein-esque “Doc” Brown. But return to the film (which has lost none of its charm) and you'll also recognise a breathtakingly perfect model of screenwriting.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Henry Thomas
Spielberg’s childlike wonderment has no better conduit than this magical adventure, the essence of the director's way into an audience's heart. More subtly, E.T. is not simply a film about believing in dreams and wishing on stars. It's a tale concerned with learning how to say goodbye and own your pain: Elliott is a young man by the end.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Director: Sergio Leone
Cast: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern. Joe Pesci
The great Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) capped off his career-long inquiry into the nature of violence with this epic gangster film starring Robert De Niro and James Woods. Fans hold it as highly as The Godfather, but the film is its own animal, beautifully evocative of the immigrant experience.
Available on Netflix MENA
Blade Runner (1982)
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young
In a doomy 2019 Los Angeles, Harrison Ford is the chilly dispatcher of android “replicants” many of whom have more soul than he does. The forefather of this authenticity paranoia is source author Philip K. Dick, who saw Ridley Scott’s film shortly before his death and approved. But credit the director (and key collaborator Vangelis, who stirred the synths) for envisioning it all in a glinting, glitzy valley of self-regard.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Director: John Hughes
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara
We imagine 40-something Ferris (Broderick) himself today, overvaluing his worth, his glory days in the past. In every teen flick there are those kids hitting life peaks at 18. They’re typically the villains, jocks, cheerleaders and leg-sweepers, but Bueller is the rare self-aware popular-kid hero who realises senior year is as easy as it gets, even for the brainy good guys. And Hughes depicts adolescence as a theme park as much as a source of anxiety. Though only a Chicagoan would spot it, the series of activities that Ferris, Sloane (Sara) and Cameron (Ruck) accomplish in one afternoon is temporally and spatially impossible. His day off is pure fantasy. The point is to try. You will remember playing hooky more than those economics lectures. Economics is for realtors.
Director: Ivan Reitman
Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis
When New York is invaded by ghastly ghouls, who you gonna call? You know the answer: four self-styled Ghostbusters ready to dash in and zap the spirits into oblivion. Much of this sci-fi-comedy’s charm lies in its have-a-go-heroes: these underdogs are thrown into the spotlight with delightful results. Bill Murray’s deadpan, womanising scientist is an undoubted highlight, while Rick Moranis brings crazy character humour as the dork living in the most haunted building in Manhattan.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Director: John Hughes
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy
The best high school movie of all time? The Breakfast Club is definitely up there. Five kids trapped in the library during Saturday detention have eight hours to ponder the error of their ways. They’re from all different walks of high school life: jock (Estevez), goth girl (Sheedy), prom queen (Ringwald), bad boy (Nelson) and science geek (Hall). But they have one big thing in common: they are teenagers, at the mercy of peer pressure and their parents’ expectations.
The Shining (1980)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers
From a certain perspective, all of Stanley Kubrick’s movies are horror films: 2001’s terrifying cosmic loneliness, Dr. Strangelove’s cheery annihilation, and the death duels from Barry Lyndon. Which is all a way of saying that when the director finally got around to making a proper thriller, he paradoxically produced the ultimate comic satire on the American family. With blood in elevators. Essential.
Available on OSN
Blue Velvet (1986)
Director: David Lynch
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper
The most significant movie of the 1980s turned its viewers into secret detectives sniffing out the seedy underbelly of American suburbia. David Lynch’s surreal adventure felt utterly fresh in its moment. It also inspired TV's landmark Twin Peaks and enabled the most daring director of his generation to pursue his wildest dreams.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, Michael Caine, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Barbara Hershey, Dianne Wiest
Woody Allen had a late-period resurgence with movies like Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris, but looking back over his pre-scandal career, there was no other filmmaker on the planet who, during the ’80s, blended high and low comedy with such confidence. This one is as towering as Annie Hall: a serious inquiry in neurotic Manhattan lifestyles, touched by philosophical grace and punk spirit.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman
Steven Spielberg spent the early part of his career honing the template for the blockbuster. As perfect as 1975's Jaws is, it's Raiders of the Lost Ark where all the pieces come together in an unparalleled action classic. The movie's DNA is taken from Hollywood's forgotten cliff-hangers, but the spirit is wholly modern: Keep up with this guy in the hat if you can.
Raging Bull (1980)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci
Is it Martin Scorsese’s finest film? It’s certainly a strong contender, and there’s little doubt that Robert De Niro’s performance is one of the all-time greats – and not just for the remarkable physical transformation.
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