According to a pie chart in the Statistics page of my Blu-ray.com Blu-ray Collection, 17% of the movies I own were produced and released in the 1980s. That’s the third-largest percentage overall (eclipsed only by the 2000s [23.5%] and 2010s [22.4%] and the biggest wedge of movies made in the 20th Century.
For me, the Eighties and Nineties were the Golden Age of my moviegoing; I started high school in late 1980 and ended my attempt to earn a college degree in December of 1989. And in that 10-year-period, several factors came into play that made going to the movies easier than in the previous decade.
- I had friends who now were old enough to drive, had licenses, and could either borrow their parents’ cars or were first-time car owners
- New theaters opened close to my Fountainbleau Park area neighborhood that were either within walking distance or a short bus ride away
- I was self-employed – at least periodically – and had disposable cash to spend
Like any decade, the 1980s had their fair share of awful movies; the worst one I saw with a group of friends was John Derek’s Bolero (1984), a laughably bad erotic melodrama starring Derek’s statuesque but rather wooden wife Bo. How bad was Bolero? It was so bad that my friends and I ended up walking out well before the end of the movie.
But the Eighties were the decade that gave us Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Carmen, Gremlins, Taps, Splash, Big, The Freshman, The Sure Thing, The Outsiders….In short, if you liked movies as a teen or young adult, the 1980s was the best time to go to the local multiplex and catch a new flick.
The 1980s also saw the emergence of home media releases of theatrical films as the videocassette recorder (a gadget invented as long ago as the late 1950s but not widely available to John and Jane Doe, average consumers, till the late 1970s and early 1980s.Because studio-released VHS tapes were pricey (I paid $79.99 for my tapes of Raiders and The Empire Strikes Back, and $81 for a used rental copy of Star Wars), most people rented instead of owned until prices started coming down circa 1990. I normally bought VHS tapes (which almost always presented the films in pan-and-scan re-edits) of movies I’d watched in theaters, but every so often I bought tapes with films I had missed – Das Boot, Empire of the Sun, The Princess Bride, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit – for one reason or another.
In this edition of On Movies, I’ll feature my favorite films from the 1980s. With a few exceptions, I saw most of them in theaters, although I did have to resort to watching some of the titles below either on videotape or on cable TV. (These aren’t necessarily the best 1980s films, mind you. But they are my personal favorites.
So, without further delay, away…we…go!
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- The Shining (1980)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
- Creepshow (1982)
- Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)
- E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982)
- Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
- Red Dawn (1984)
- The Terminator (1984)
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
- Back to the Future (1985)
- Witness (1985)
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
- Aliens (1986)
- Stand By Me (1986)
- Platoon (1986)
- Empire of the Sun (1987)
- The Princess Bride (1987)
- Full Metal Jacket (1987)
- Die Hard (1988)
- Working Girl (1988)
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
 I bought my first VHS tapes late in 1983 – the year I graduated from high school – before I even had a VCR. My friend Betsy Matteis was one of the few people I knew who owned one, so I’d watch my movies (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Raiders of the Lost Ark at her house every so often until I bought my own VCR – an American Home Video machine – for $400 in the summer of 1984.