Culture Movies/TV

The 16 Best 80s Movies to Stream on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Beyond

I’ve always been a little jealous that I didn’t grow up in the 80s.  It might have been the oversized sweatshirts and leg warmers, Rob Lowe in everything, MTV being the premiere channel for music videos or those cool transparent telephones with the color inside.  Or it could be that my parents always made it seem like such a cool decade with classics that we still watch today. 

With a million different streaming services to choose from, there are endless 80’s movies you can watch, but here are 16 gems to get you started. 

Warning: there’s going to be a lot of John Hughes.

1. ‘Big’

Think of this movie as the original 13 Going on 30. When 12-year-old Josh wishes that he was no longer a kid and finally “big,” he wakes the next day to find his wish has come true.  He gets an apartment, finds success at his job, and even holds down a romance before he finds himself longing to be a kid again. As someone who has been a full-fledged adult for a while, let me say: I feel you, Tom Hanks. I feel you.

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2. ‘Dirty Dancing’

I sing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” at least once a week, and this movie is the reason.  Taking place in a resort in the Catskills, young Frances “Baby” Houseman, and her family vacation during the summer as she learns how to dance by a super cool Patrick Swayze. This movie is the classic of all classics, and while the budget was only $5M, it made a cool $215M at the box office. It also led to a prequel and a made-for-TV remake in 2017 (which my boyfriend was in, so check it out), but the original is such a joy and full of lines you’re still quoting in 2021. 

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3. ‘The Breakfast Club’

Often referred to as the blueprint of the coming-of-age movie, John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club introduced the world to the Brat Pack, a group of good-looking young actors who played in a series of similar movies in the ’80s. Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, and Ally Sheedy comprised the core of the group, with The Breakfast Club being one of two movies this five actors starred in together. The movie takes course over an afternoon when five very different students are forced to spend Saturday detention together. As they share stories and bond, they discover that “a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal” have more in common than they initially thought. 

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4. ‘Risky Business’

The movie that launched thousands of college girls wearing button-up shirts and long socks as a Halloween costume! When rich kid Joel’s parents go away for the weekend, he treats himself to a prostitute who ends up robbing him.  Hilarity ensues! Okay, maybe not hilarity but shenanigans that involve a pimp, a Porsche that sinks into a lake, Tom Cruise turning his parents’ home into a brothel, and displays of white privilege at every turn! Risky Business is considered one of the best films of the 80s and holds a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 

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5. ‘Beetlejuiice’

A fantastical cult favorite, Beetlejuice’s cast is full of stars you’ll recognize… but 33 years younger. Alec Baldwin (you might know him as Former Spanish Person Hilaria Baldin’s husband) and Geena Davis play a deceased couple who find themselves haunting their house after the Deetz family (Winona Ryder, Jeffrey Jones, and Catherine O’Hara) move in. In an attempt to get them out, they summon Beetlejuice, a sneaky poltergeist who has a different idea of what help looks like. 

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6. ‘Stand By Me’

Arguably the quintessential kids-going-on-a-quest movie, this Stephen King film revolves around four young boys looking for the body of a recently deceased child somewhere in town. Yeah, that’s kind of a gruesome plot, but what else could you expect from Stephen King? What makes this movie unique is how it goes one step further into each of the boys’ traumas, grappling with some pretty heavy adult stuff, but always comes back to the strong friendship that carries the story. 

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7. ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’

Another classic starring a different configuration of the Brat Pack (take out Ringwald and Hall, add dreamboat Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, and Mare Winningham), we meet a  group of recent college grads figuring out adulthood. Yeah, this is a pretty common trope, but did I mention a super attractive Rob Lowe is in it?

My parents love St.Elmo’s Fire. Ask your parents. They probably love it, too.

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8. ‘Footloose’

Sometimes you’ve got this feeling that time’s just been holding you down. You’ll hit the ceiling or else you’ll tear up this town. Now you gotta cut loose.

No movie from the 80s used music quite so efficiently as Footloose.  Kenny Loggin’s “Footloose”, Deniece William’s “Let’s Hear It For the Boy”, Foreign’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You”, Moving Picture’s “Never” and Mike Reno and Ann Wilson’s “Almost Paradise’” (you know the song from Bachelor in Paradise, and I’m embarrassed for you.) 

The premise: Ren, a teenager from the big city, moves to a small town where dancing and rock music have been banned. Watch to see how he turns things around.

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9. ‘Eddie Murphy: Raw’

My dad hates watching movies with me that include any raunchy behavior or language. He still views me as his little girl, and I can feel his body cringe when there’s even something SLIGHTLY uncomfortable on the screen. However, my father made an exception for Eddie Murphy’s Raw because it’s that good. This 1987 blockbuster shows Murphy at his best, nailing impression after impression and securing his place in comedy history.

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10. ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’

A whole generation was reintroduced to Fast Times at Ridgemont High last year when Dane Cook pulled together an impressive amount of stars to do a table reading for COVID relief efforts. The actual movie is a coming-of-age (I know, I know, another one) film about a group of high schoolers in Southern California and is probably best remembered for Sean Penn’s performance. 

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11. ‘Heathers’

Heathers, like many other movies of this era, is about high schoolers and their daily lives, but that’s where the similarities end.  Intended to be the antithesis of the popular John Hughes coming-of-age films, this movie centers around a popular clique of girls who attend a school where people start dying.  

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12. ‘School Daze’

One of the most iconic movies to shed light on Greek life in historically black colleges, Spike Lee based some of this movie on his own collegiate days at Morehouse University. Featuring a very young Lawrence Fishburne and Tisha Campbell, School Daze grappled with race, colorism, college politics, beauty standards, and identity (to name a few.) Even in 2020, this movie doesn’t feel dated. 

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13. ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’

Another John Hughes classic, Matthew Broderick plays an unmotivated high schooler Ferris who skips school one day by playing sick. The Vice-President of his school does not believe him and spends the majority of the movie trying to catch him, which in hindsight, seems like a lot of effort to bust one kid. The movie’s charm comes from the unique breaking of the 4th wall to hear Ferris’ thoughts; it went on to be one of the top-grossing movies of the year.

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14. ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’

The movie that launched a thousand sequels (okay, it was just a few) is one of those sweet and warm films that you watch years later, and somehow, it still manages to hold up. When an inventor shrinks his kids, as well as the neighbor’s kids, they have to navigate the much larger world in hopes of getting back to normal size.

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15. ‘The Goonies’

Something about the ’80s bred groups of misfit kids going on adventures. The children in The Goonies find themselves in possession of an old map that leads to a treasure hunt, complete with pirates, caves, monsters, and skeletons. 

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16. ‘Princess Bride’

If you like fairy tales (especially modern takes), The Princess Bride will quickly be a favorite. The story is told through the narrative stylings of a grandfather telling his grandson a bedtime story; the bedtime story revolves around a farmhand and the hurdles he must go through to be with the one he loves

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