American cinema during the 1980s is generally remembered for its turn from the serious, auteur-driven work of the 1970s to big budget Hollywood blockbusters. These audience-friendly movies included major titles in the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Ghostbuster franchises.
This pivot toward studio-driven movies – for which box office profits were often more important than artistry – resulted in numerous flops and forgotten films. However, the decade also produced numerous classic movies, loved by audiences and critics alike.
To highlight the positive side of 1980s cinema, 24/7 Wall St. has determined the best films of the decade by creating an index based on user ratings from the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes.
There is a reason that audiences are drawn to major blockbusters. Such successful wide-appeal movies are often impeccably crafted, delivering effortlessly the humor, excitement, and spellbinding storytelling that people love. Examples of such films that appear on the list of best movies of the 1980s include “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and “Back to the Future.” Each of these films grossed over $200 million at the domestic box office and spurred numerous additional movies in their respective franchises.
The 1980s also marked a notable return to comedy – a genre that was somewhat neglected and looked down upon during the more somber period of cinema of the preceding decade. Over one-third of the 75 best movies of the 1980s are categorized as comedy by IMDb, including “Airplane!,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” and “This is Spinal Tap.”
The decade also produced numerous successful action franchises, including the Rambo, Lethal Weapon, and Predator films. While these films did not make the list, the excellent “Die Hard” and “The Terminator” both did.
While the average director did not retain the level of creative control directors had prior to the 1980s, a few filmmakers did. David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick both have two films on the list, and Rob Reiner, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg each have three. The always prolific Woody Allen has the most films on the list, with an impressive six titles featured.
To determine the best movies of the 1980s, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on each film’s Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes’ average audience rating, and Internet Movie Database average user rating. To be considered, each film had to have at least 10,000 total user ratings between IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes and 10 approved Tomatometer critic reviews.
We averaged the user ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and weighted by the number of votes for each. The combined user rating was then averaged with the Rotten Tomatoes critic rating. Box office data is from IMDb and is not adjusted for inflation.