Top 10 Films of the Decade: The 80's -

87 Comments | Add


Rate & Share:


Related Links:



  • Series:

Top 10 Films of the Decade: The 80's

80's Best Mania Movies

By Rob Vaux     December 30, 2009

Top 10 Films of the Decade: The 80's
© Mania/Bob Trate


The 1980s saw the rise of the personal computer, the end of the Cold War, the culture of "greed is good," and some of the goofiest fashions since… well, since the 1970s. But it also saw the rise of the blockbuster, precipitated by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and ultimately engulfing the whole of Hollywood. That proved a boon for genre films, which thrived under higher budgets and the studios' insatiable desire to produce the next Star Wars. They also benefited from the rise of home video, which allowed box office disappointments like Blade Runner and The Thing to find their audience. While corporate dominance kept most of them rigidly formulaic, a number of unique, innovative and just flat-out cool genre films still left their indelible stamp on cinema. Let's count down Mania's list of the 10 best genre films of the 1980s.

10. Predator

Big budget Hollywood may not have possessed copious amounts of originality, but they can still make formulaic pictures hum like a T-Bird's engine. Case in point: John McTiernan's 1987 Alien revamp, featuring a jungle-bound space lizard hunting human soldiers for sport. Arnold Schwarzenegger continued to flex his star muscles as the Über Bad Ass targeted by the creature for its trophy wall. He also made the first slow steps away from the hero-as-unstoppable-killing-machine template which dominated action movies before it. As tough as his character is, he's out of his league against the monster, and ultimately has to think his way to victory instead of just pounding the bad guy flat.

9. Ghostbusters

When it first appeared in 1984, Ivan Reitman's horror movie spoof nearly drowned in its own hype. Incessant quoting, mountains of t-shirts and the omnipresent Ray Parker, Jr. theme song on the radio turned it into a marketing monster run amuck. Only after the cacophony dimmed did the film's joys truly emerge, allowing us to appreciate what a funny, clever and delightfully enduring roller coaster it is.


8. Time Bandits

Terry Gilliam took his first big steps away from Monty Python with this dark child's fantasy that some feel he has yet to top. The rollicking trip through human history--viewed from the perspective of a lonely English boy (Craig Warnock)--encompassed God, the Devil and everyone in between. Though coated in absurdist humor, it already showed signs of Gilliam's auteurial stamp: a mistrust of technology, an embrace of imaginative misfits, and a keen grasp of how banal and ordinary true evil can be.

7. Robocop

In some ways, Paul Verhoeven's blood-soaked satire of 80s corporate greed is as dated as keyboard ties. In other ways, however, it might have been made yesterday. Regardless of subtext, it remains a gleefully grown-up comic book actioner, as Peter Weller's resurrected policeman cleans up the streets of Detroit and the various ne'er-do-wells who inhabit it.

6. The Thing

Released in the wake of E.T., The Thing died an ugly death at the box office: its themes of paranoia and doom just didn't jibe with Steven Spielberg's feel-good cuddliness. Even more surprising was the universal critical condemnation, which branded it one of the worst movies ever made. Time has shown its true strengths however, elevating it not only to the ranks of director John Carpenter's very best films, but also to the ranks of the best horror films ever made. The effects which brought its shapeshifting monster to life remain as horrifying today as they were in 1982 (unlike E.T., whose creations apparently needed a crude CGI update), while the gritty paranoia underlying its story still packs one hell of a punch.

5. Aliens

Sigourney Weaver deserved the Oscar for her definitive portrait of Ellen Ripley--sent back into space with a contingent of Marines to wipe out the species which first menaced her in the original Alien. Not only do director James Cameron's crackerjack action scenes continue to hold up in an era saturated with onscreen explosions, but the film's core connection between Ripley and the little girl (Carrie Hewn) she vows to save shifted the perceptions of women in action films forever.

4. The Terminator

Aliens wouldn't have happened, however, had Cameron not scored an unexpected hit with a low-budget sci-fi thriller about a robot who comes back in time to destroy the future. So far has The Terminator's influence spread (four movies and a TV show to date) and so high does it stand in the annals of science fiction that it's easy to forget how little the filmmakers had to work with and how much they accomplished with nothing more than grit and a belief in their story. It also starred this guy Schwarzenhoozit, who I'm led to understand went on to a rather successful career.

3. Blade Runner

Like The Thing, Blade Runner suffered for its dystopic vision in an era when fuzzy optimism was the order of the day. But Ridley Scott's post-industrial sci-fi noir has since become an uncontested masterpiece--studied by generations of film students and leaving a stamp on every dark future movie to come along since.


2. The Empire Strikes Back

Now this is pod racing. Star Wars had already blown the world's socks off, but with the much-anticipated follow-up, George Lucas single-handedly raised the bar for what a sequel could do. Empire broadened his space-opera universe by leaps and bounds, aided by Frank Oz's wondrous puppetry and a revelation from Darth Vader that has remained a pop-culture buzzword for over three decades. (More subtle but perhaps of even greater importance was the presence of screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who--unlike Lucas--actually knows how to write clever dialogue.)

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark

In a decade drenched with blockbusters, it took the genre's two masters to show everyone how it was done. While there may be better movies than Raiders, none capture the essence of popcorn fun so completely, or give us a hero so winning as Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones. The secret lies in the character's quiet vulnerability--the mistakes he makes as much as the skin-of-his-teeth escapes--and in the fact that no matter how many thousands of Nazis he bashes, you still get the feeling that he never quite gets a break.
Honorable mention goes to E.T., The Princess Bride, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Fly, Big Trouble in Little China, Brazil, Wings of Desire, The Road Warrior, Labyrinth, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Also Read Mania's Top 10 Movies of:

Top 10 Movies of the 1970's

Top 10 Movies of the 1960's


Become a Facebook Fan: HERE

Follow Mania on Twitter


Showing items 1 - 10 of 87
1 2 3 4 >  >>  
hanso 12/30/2009 4:10:55 AM

Back to the Future isn't in here?  ET out of the top 10!?  No honorable mention for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Gremlins, Poltergeist?  WTF is going on!!!?

I'm giving a honorable mention to Teen Wolf!  Sure it has the worst basketball played in film history but damn it Teen Wolf is cool.

Chopsaki 12/30/2009 4:37:44 AM

I'd drop Time Bandits & Robocop and replace them with Big Trouble In Little China & Star Trek 2 & I gotta agree with hanso, Back to the Future as well as Batman should at least get honorable mention. Lastly even though it might not fall under "genre" I'll give a shout out to Die Hard. Yippe Kai Yay Mutherfuker!

jppintar326 12/30/2009 5:18:59 AM

I agree with Back to the Future, Batman, ET, and Star Trek II.  Also, no love for the underrated The Abyss.  What about Superman II?  I figured this list was going to controversial because some films such as the overrated Blade Runner and The Thing (sorry the 1951 version was so much better) would make the list.  I would also drop Time Bandits and Predator. 

Wiseguy 12/30/2009 5:24:09 AM

I'd drop Time Bandits also and Ghost Busters and add Star Trek 2 and Batman. How the eff is Batman not on this list, the movie started the movement towards comic book films after Superman 3 and 4 had brought it to a screeching halt.

I guess these lists will get more difficult and controversial because the movement towards genre really started picking up in this decade IMO, at least good, credible and good f/x genre films

Darkknight2280 12/30/2009 5:30:20 AM

Chop ur tarded! Robocop rules!!!! I would replace time bandits with BTTF though. And Empire should be #1 DAMMIT!!!!!!

EagleManiac 12/30/2009 5:50:47 AM

Having a "10 Best" limitation on this era makes this list incomplete. Those that have chimed in have posted films that deserved to be mentioned in this eras best. The 1980's was a great decade of original movies, and even some that weren't so original, but took the ideas and ran with them! And to not have one of the weirdest movies ever made, and one that has no equal in weirdness in the 80's, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The 8th Dimension not even being mentioned shows as much as how this list is incomplete as any movie mentioned so far!

bjordson 12/30/2009 6:05:16 AM

the 90's looks really difficult with the influx of Pixar films.  Still I'm going to put my early stamp with Jurassic Park, Men in Black , The Matrix, Toy Story, Addams Family, Terminator 2, The Fifth Element, Galaxy Quest,  Twelve Monkeys, Gattaca

noahbody 12/30/2009 6:20:39 AM

Way too many great movies to  limit to ten.

But here is my  $0 .02.

Get rid of....

Time Bandit


The Thing

Blade Runner

While I enjoyed them I think they don't rate that high.


Add to the list....

Star Trek II

Superman II




Switch Raiders and Empire!

egoist 12/30/2009 6:25:27 AM

Harrison Ford with the top 3 hat trick baby! Damn and to think Tom Selleck almost donned the fedora.

kissstation 12/30/2009 7:01:02 AM

I would drop Ghostbusters and Time Bandits.

Replace with Start Trek II and Batman.

As for E.T. - it may have been big for the time and prob should be here, but to watch it today...ugghhh.  At least the others are still entertaining.

For honorable mention - definately The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzi.  One crazy flick!

1 2 3 4 >  >>  


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Please click here to login.