Top 10 Most Nostalgic 80s Movies

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Top 10 Most Nostalgic 80s Movies

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Who's up for a trip down movie memory lane? For this list, we'll be looking at various movies from the 1980s that generate intense feelings of nostalgia through their stories, costumes, music, and production design. Our countdown includes “Top Gun”, “Ferris Bueller's Day Off”, “Back to the Future", and more!
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Top 10 ‘80s Nostalgia Movies


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 ‘80s Nostalgia Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at various movies from the 1980s that generate intense feelings of nostalgia through their stories, costumes, music, and production design.

Which of these movies makes you the most nostalgic? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: “Top Gun” (1986)

This movie is like a greatest hits of ‘80s movie tropes, and we love every second of it. You’ve got loud, bombastic action sequences with deafening fighter jets. You’ve got young Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer strutting around as tough military guys trying to make their mark. And best of all, there’s the MUSIC. New wave band Berlin won an Oscar for “Take My Breath Away,” and nothing screams ‘80s excess quite like “Danger Zone.” Kenny Loggins is an icon of ‘80s movie soundtracks, and he’s in top form here. “Top Gun” was a huge commercial success, and it’s easy to see why: all the ingredients are here.

#9: “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)

Wes Craven’s masterpiece is timeless and still very effective. Think about it: the concept of being killed in your dreams will never not be scary because we’ll always have to sleep. That being said, the movie also oozes the 1980s - primarily in its style and sets. It starts with the outdated technology, like Glen’s headphones, his little bed TV with the massive antenna, and the computers that monitor Nancy’s sleep. There’s also the glorious ‘80s hair on display throughout, with many characters sporting that distinctive ‘80s poof. And talk about ‘80s fashion! If you want a visual representation of this era, looks no further. But let’s not bring Freddy’s fashion back, kay?

#8: “Ghostbusters” (1984)

Few movies can instantly transport ‘80s kids back to their childhoods quite like “Ghostbusters.” This was the cultural phenomenon of the time, complete with iconic merchandise like the Proton Pack. But, “Ghostbusters” is also just a very ‘80s movie in general: it’s got that gritty New York backdrop, the kind of casual onscreen smoking you rarely see nowadays, and it rides the line between comedy and horror in a way that any ‘80s baby will remember from their favorite childhood films. And of course, Ray Parker Jr.’s chart-topping song serves as maybe the most perfect theme song ever composed for a movie. Hot take? Fine, but “Ghostbusters” provides the 1980s in 105 glorious minutes.

#7: “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” (1986)

Yes, there are some elements of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” that look ‘80s. There’s the Ferrari, Ferris’s leopard print vest, and various pieces of technology that look hilariously out-of-date today. But it’s not the visual look of the movie that screams ‘80s; it’s more the general style. It’s very John Hughes, depicting a small group of teenagers having a good time in the city without the interruptions of cell phones, the internet, or any other 21st century invention. Their parents don’t know where they are, and they are free to explore Chicago at their leisure. “Ferris Bueller” has a very distinctive sense of freedom that no longer exists, and it’s more than enough to get the nostalgic juices flowing.

#6: “The Goonies” (1985)

In many ways, “The Goonies” encapsulates the 1980s. It was written by Chris Columbus with a story by Steven Spielberg. It was capitalizing on the adventure movie craze of the time, which was kickstarted by Spielberg’s own “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Best of all, it contains a number of notable ‘80s child stars. You’ve got Corey Feldman at peak popularity, not to mention teenaged versions of Sean Astin and Josh Brolin. The movie has that distinct Spielbergian charm that permeated the 1980s; large doses of heart, strong family values, and an unforgettable adventure with imaginative elements. It’s all there, and it’s all wonderful.

#5: “Sixteen Candles” (1984)

This was John Hughes’ directorial debut, and it instantly established his now-iconic style. One of the most notable teen movies of the ‘80s, “Sixteen Candles” is certainly a product of its time. Unfortunately, that includes some regrettable and outdated elements. But let’s look at the positives! The movie has a notable soundtrack that contains the likes of Billy Idol, Spandau Ballet, Oingo Boingo, and Wham!. You couldn’t compile a greater list of ‘80s artists. And of course, there’s the cast, containing Anthony Michael Hall and ‘80s queen Molly Ringwald. Ringwald would work extensively with Hughes throughout the decade, and they collaborated on another classic romantic teen comedy - 1986’s “Pretty in Pink.” Add Hughes and Ringwald together, and you have the perfect recipe for ‘80s nostalgia.

#4: “Die Hard” (1988)

The ‘80s were filled with loud action movies starring human Thors like Arnold Schwarzenegger. And then, in came this relatively realistic action film with a smart script, grounded elements, and the funny guy from “Moonlighting.” Bruce Willis’ everyman persona made him an instant movie icon and, ironically, action star. “Die Hard” is notable for being unlike anything else at the time. That has only made it more a product of its time. We remember “Die Hard” as a movie of the ‘80s because it defied the popular tropes of the decade and changed how action movies were made. It’s instantly nostalgic for anyone who was alive at the time.

#3: “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982)

Steven Spielberg was a defining director of the 1980s, and “E.T.” is arguably his masterpiece of the era. While Spielberg has directed many different types of movies, his name will forever be linked to a certain imaginative style - a style that defines most of his ‘80s work. And “E.T.” is that style personified. When shows like “Stranger Things” are compared to the work of Spielberg, they’re mostly being compared to “E.T.” It has the transportive power to shoot viewers back in time. Not only visually, but stylistically and thematically. ‘80s kids were raised on “E.T.,” as it was, quite literally, the most popular movie ever made at the time. It defines the early ‘80s in all the best and most nostalgic ways. And it always makes us want Reese’s Pieces.

#2: “Back to the Future” (1985)

You can’t think of the 1980s and not think about “Back to the Future.” The movie helped define the decade, and it’s still regarded as one of its greatest blockbusters. And it is gloriously ‘80s. Yes, most of it takes place in the ‘50s, but the movie is undeniably a product of its own decade. There’s Michael J. Fox at the height of his cultural dominance. There’s his puffy vest (sorry, life preserver), a DeLorean, references to Van Halen and loud glam metal, skateboarding aplenty and yes, Huey Lewis’ “The Power of Love.” Just as ‘80s viewers were basking in nostalgia for the ‘50s, so do we bask in nostalgia for the ‘80s. Look, we still think the ‘80s were like 20 years ago, don’t tell us the real math.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Flashdance” (1983)
Dancing Movies Were All the Rage in the ‘80s

“The Lost Boys” (1987)
A Late ‘80s Hair Metal Band as Vampires

“Risky Business” (1983)
Nothing Screams ‘80s Quite Like Tom Cruise’s Breakout

“Stand by Me” (1986)
Takes Place in the Late ‘50s But Full of ‘80s Icons

“Say Anything…” (1989)
Nothing Says ‘80s Quite Like John Cusack Wearing a Long Coat & Holding a Boombox

#1: “The Breakfast Club” (1985)

Somehow, “The Breakfast Club” is both timeless and the most perfect representation of the ‘80s imaginable. The entire point of the movie is that human issues are universal and transcend boundaries - presumably, those boundaries include time. The teens of the 25th century will face the same issues as the teens of the mid ‘80s. But man, does this movie take us back in time. The hair, the clothes, the dance sequence to a song whose lyrics are very on-the-nose… But perhaps the biggest nostalgia factor is the cast; this is peak Brat Pack era, after all. It has Emilio Estevez screaming and shattering a window. It has Judd Nelson triumphantly punching the sky. And, yes, it has a theme song you’ll have trouble getting out of your head.
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