So you love the 80s? I suppose that sentiment never left (when it comes to movies), but it’s come back in a big way thanks to Netflix’s 1980s self-aware sci-fi series, Stranger Things. That series references many films from the 80s, and obsessives have compiled all the references. From its Evil Dead poster on the wall, to its Stand by Me band of friends on a quest to find a body (this one alive) and the musical score that would fit easily into a John Carpenter film. And beyond.
There are many more references, but those have been detailed all over the Internet. Many of the referenced films are indeed classics and deserve to get Valentines from modern filmmakers (though, for me, Stranger Things is less a love letter and more of a late night text barrage). However, we’re beginning to look at 1980s cinema with blinders on, only referencing certain directors and certain films. If the 70s were a decade under the influence, then the 80s are a decade of our current influences. From major political commentary to major action films, to envelope-pushing horror and exploitation films—with many midsummer sex comedies and sci-fi spectacles thrown in—it’s a great decade to mine from. Let’s just not lose focus of some films that haven’t been getting a lot of nostalgic shine lately.
If the films of Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner and Ridley Scott and Tony Scott are the shinier things, then these 15 films are the less showier things. The great 80s movies that time forgot.
I feel an eye roll coming for that title, but the method for making the final list was first created by coming up with magnificent films that aren’t mentioned with great frequency and/or haven’t received the Criterion treatment or a big splashy rerelease recently. And then that list was whittled down to only include films that have received less than 10,000 ratings on IMDb. For what better barometer do we have of what’s becoming forgotten than stagnant database pages? (For the interested, the last few cuts were The Changeling, Brian De Palma’s Body Double and surprisingly, the psychosexual terror of Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession, R.I.P.).
Now that you know the method, my 15 selections (featuring at least one for each year) are listed below. Sound off on some of your favorites, what you think was missed (with that methodology) and what sounds intriguing enough to give a shot.