Big hair, synthesizer-heavy music, pastel clothes, Reaganomics, and the fall of the Iron Curtain…What a mashup the 1980s were. For a peek at how the styles and events of the era were reflected in popular culture, consider the biggest box office hits of that decade.
After the rise of independent filmmaking and the so-called New Hollywood in the 1960s and ‘70s, blockbusters were the big story of the ‘80s. Action flicks pulled in big bucks as major franchises grabbed hold of audiences and began to forge strong, emotional connections with the public. Science fiction proved to be lucrative for movie producers, as moviegoers were drawn to the escapism of the “Star Wars” films and other fantasies. (These are the 23 best sci-fi movies about time travel.)
To identify the biggest box office hits of the 1960’s, 24/7 Tempo reviewed box office data from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by consulting firm Nash Information Services, as updated in April 2021. Rankings for box office success were out of 4,230 movies for which data was available. The actors and directors for each movie come from IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon.
Some comedies did well in the era (“Coming to America,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”) as did some distinctly different views of the Vietnam War (“Platoon,” “Good Morning, Vietnam”). And as a harbinger of things to come, a couple of comic book characters began to make successful crossovers to the movies.
Interestingly, from an economic perspective, only the top three movies on this list earned receipts (not adjusted for inflation) that would have put them on a par with the biggest box office hits since 2000.
Nonetheless, these were the undisputed box office champions of their time.