Just as Hot Tub Time Machineis about to whip us back into the days of 1986, it certainly isn’t the first movie to flash us back to the times of shoulder pads, permed hair and when CDs were still a big deal.
There’s plenty to love about the 80s, especially when it comes to film – everything from John Hughes toFast Times at Ridgemont High made growing up as a teenager in the totally tubular days so much more fun.
So with a vault full of 80s lexicon and cinema (most of which was watched on mouldy VHS), here are the five best movies from the 80s that represent what was so great (and not so great) about life in the mix. This is cinema that defined a decade culturally, movies that’ll tell anthropologists from the future, “Oh so that’s why Cyndi Lauper was SO unusual.”
The Breakfast Club (1985)
2010 marks The Breakfast Club’s 25th anniversary but it’s still a seminal teen movie that’s as insightful now as it was a quarter of a decade ago. No other film quite reflects the youth culture of 80s as honestly or unflinchingly. Everything from the portrayal of social divisions to the antiquated fashion (“Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?”) is so illuminative of that era - and yet despite the aesthetic peculiarities, its underlying themes of alienation and acceptance still rings true.
Wall Street (1987)
During America’s economic boom of the 80s, Oliver Stone’s Faustian tale of the corruption that flourished amidst abundant wealth is scarily prognosticative of Wall Street’s eventual collapse. Wanton misconduct comes with territory, it’s just a shame no one took heed from yesteryear’s trading scandals. This entry is also timely because Stone’s Wall Street sequel will be released this year. As much as big robots are fun, this time Shia LaBeouf will be facing something even more destructive - Gordon Gekko’s greed.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Hot Tub Time Machine featured a lot of great 80s metal from Van Halen to Poison. Indeed the decade rocked with great riffs but the days of these aging bands were numbered, they were just too delusional to see it. This Is Spinal Tap is one of the funniest movies ever made but it’s also a really sad depiction of one such slumping band, clinging on to their glory days for dear life. Rob Reiner’s dead-on take on 80s metal also famously birthed the now oft-used mockumentary format.
Say Anything... (1989)
John Cusack hilariously lampoons his own 80s image in Hot Tub Time Machine and one of the characters responsible for that romantic, sensitive guy pigeonhole was Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything. Cusack was a 80s teen heartthrob by virtue of being overwhelmingly endearing. He was Gen X’s Michael Cera and Say Anything was the one of the best rom-coms of the 80s. The iconic image a guy holding a boombox over his head blasting Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" outside a girl’s bedroom window originated from this movie.
“Hey, hey, what's this I see? I thought this was a party. LET'S DANCE!” Featuring a great soundtrack, tight pants and plenty of leg warmers - Footloose was the definitive expression of an 80s party much like how Saturday Night Fever defined the 70s. No other movie has made me want to foot tap to the beat of the 80s more than Kevin Bacon’s groove and his non-pansy necktie. If you’ve seen it, then don’t bother denying that you’ve re-enacted the movie’s opening foot tapping dance sequence somewhere, at some point in time.