We love 80s cinema

With ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ embracing eighties culture – we look at the period of big hair, pop-socks, shoulder pads and parachute pants.

If, like me, you were only knee-high to a grasshopper for the bulk of the 1980s, then your foggy memories of the decade probably comprise Soda Stream, Glenroe and wearing some wretched dickie-bow/cardigan ensemble for your First Holy Communion.

Those of us not old enough to have properly experienced those times must therefore look to entertainment for a second-hand, heavily mediated approximation for actually being there.

The rom-com ‘Take Me Home Tonight’, released this week and starring Topher Grace and Anna Faris, is set in 1988 and, like the recent Hot Tub Time Machine before it, revels in the period detail, viewing those big-haired, pop-socked, shoulder-padded, parachute-panted years through a particularly nostalgic hue.

However, if you’re looking for the movies that best distil and capture the 1980s, then it might be worth (re)visiting some of these classics from the era. In no particular order:

*Wall Street/Working Girl:

These two should be watched as a double bill as they both epitomise the rampant spirit of the trickle-down Reaganomics of the period: the unabashed greed and ruthlessness of Oliver Stone’s drama on one side of the coin, and the plucky, can-do, work-your-way-to-the-top-with-guile-and-cunning message of Mike Nichols’ delightful comedy on the other. Plus, in the case of the latter, no movie from the decade can match Melanie Griffith’s and Joan Cusack’s gravity-defying bouffant hair-do’s.

*Sixteen Candles/Pretty in Pink/The Breakfast Club/St Elmo’s Fire/About Last Night:

Brat Pack ahoy! Molly Ringwald (ask your older brother), the late John Hughes, Rob Lowe pre-sex tape, power anthem soundtracks, teen angst, and, in About Last Night, soft-core bath nookie involving Demi Moore, who looked older then than she does now. What else do you need?

*Say Anything:

One of Cameron Crowe’s earliest and most beloved romances sees underachieving student John Cusack attempting to woo brainbox Iona Skye while her father looks on disapprovingly.

If the words “standing outside window with boombox” mean nothing to you, then you’ve missed out on one of the most iconic moments of ‘80s pop-culture.

*Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:

In the role that, to this day, continues to define his career, Matthew Broderick (pre-SJP) plays the wiseacre teen trying to dodge his school principal, parents, and rat of a sister (Jennifer Grey, pre-Dirty Dancing and nose job) while mitching off school. Plus you learn something too: “Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Deep, man.


Two movies that proved that tales about critters and spirits could be spooky and funny. Gremlins, in particular, is one of the blackest Christmas movies from that or any other decade.


In the former, a teenage female welder (hey, it was the 80s!) wants to escape her rut by dancing her way into a prestigious ballet school, while in the latter, Kevin Bacon plays a tap-happy city boy railing against constraints in a small town that has banned dancing and rock music. The lasting legacy of both seems to be their soundtracks: what would tampon adverts do without the backing track to ‘What a Feeling!’? Meanwhile, the title track to ‘Footloose’ still grants all of us permission to act the eejit on dancefloors at weddings.

*Crocodile Dundee/Romancing the Stone:

Having re-watched the both of these back-to-back one day last Christmas, I now classify them together under the heading “80s Career Woman-Cum-Hapless Damsel in Distress Needs Rescuing by a Wild Man”. Both movies are great fun in their own right. Ignore the abominable Dundee sequels, and approach Stone sequel Jewel of the Nile with caution (warning: there’s a famous Billy Ocean song played over the end credits. Run children! Run for your lives!)

*The Goonies:

This doesn’t need explanation, okay? And if you think it does then we’re going to have some serious words. Something of a flop on its initial release in 1985, this adventure flick continues to be held in the highest of affectionate esteem today (plus it has a young Josh Brolin in shorts. All the better!).

*ET: The Extra-Terrestrial:

I could lie and say that this is the only movie from the decade that makes me cry to this day, but I’d be lying. I also shed a tear (then and now) during Harry and the Hendersons and Driving Miss Daisy. I’ll be over in the corner, hanging my head in shame, if anyone needs me.

*Top Gun:

High-concept, high-octane, and high-gay, this brash, tacky, cheesy, brain-dead blockbuster is considered one of the decade’s most defining movies. If you haven’t already, head to “the YouTube” to watch Quentin Tarantino’s deconstruction of Top Gun’s homoerotic (sub)text from the 1994 movie Sleep With Me.

*Any and all movies starring the 80s muscled-beefcake-action Gods Arnie, Sly, Dolph and Jean-Claude:

But if you’re looking for specifics, you could do worse than The Terminator, Commando and Predator (Arnie); First Blood and Rocky IV (Sly); Masters of the Universe (Dolph); and Blood Sport (Jean-Claude).

*Die Hard:

The action movie of the decade, and the moment Bruce Willis graduated from Moonlighting to movie stardom.

*Back to the Future:

With every year that passes, and every viewing of this ingenious and deeply, admirably weird time-travel adventure, I become more convinced of, and vocal about, my contention that Back to the Future is the film of the decade for the 1980s (Raging Bull, how are ya!). Discuss.

Words – Declan Cashin 

*Take Me Home Tonight is now showing in Irish cinemas!