Summer Movie List: 19 Great '80s Movies You Should Binge This Summer
It's getting more expensive and time-consuming every year to keep up with the new crop of summer movies. At some point you have to question why do it at all, especially since everyone knows that summer movies peaked during the '80s. From "Ghostbusters" to "Empire Strikes Back," here are the essential vintage summer flicks you gotta watch when you're not running to the theater.
Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers crafted what may well be the most quotable comedy of all time in "Airplane!". And Shirley, we're very serious about that. It's a movie that never seems to lose its appeal even after nearly 40 years, as well as one that paved the way for a number of terrific Leslie Nielson comedies to come.
2. 'The Empire Strikes Back' (1980)
"The Empire Strikes Back" is pretty much the perfect sequel. It retains everything fans love about the original "Star Wars," but shakes up the formula with bigger set-pieces, new worlds to explore and a darker tone that puts Luke Skywalker and friends on the defensive.
'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (1981)
Steven Spielberg really wanted to make a James Bond movie at one point. And when that didn't work, he and George Lucas cooked up Indiana Jones instead. We think the world is better for it "Raiders of the Lost Ark" has no trouble holding up to modern scrutiny, as long as you don't ask pesky questions like "How did Indy survive that submarine ride?".
'The Road Warrior' (1981)
Sure, George Miller is the darling of the action movie world after "Mad Max: Fury Road," but it's not as if he hadn't already proven himself on this particular franchise. 1981's "The Road Warrior" is basically Fury Road 1.0. It's not quite as polished, but Miller's incredible eye and flair for complex choreography was already on full display.
4. 'Blade Runner' (1982)
No other sci-fi movie has painted such a compelling yet frightening portrait of humanity's near future. "Blade Runner" shows us a world falling into decay, one where an overpopulated city toils beneath a never-ending fountain of rain and an endless sea of neon-drenched advertisements. Other than the life-like robots, this movie pretty much nailed life in the 21st Century.
7. 'E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial' (1982)
"E.T." remains Steven Spielberg's crowning achievement in the sci-fi realm. It contains pure movie-making magic, making us fully believe in the unlikely friendship between a young boy and an ugly, rubbery puppet.
1982 was a good year to be a Steven Spielberg fan. Spielberg didn't officially direct this haunted house movie, but his DNA is all over it. That's no doubt why "Poltergeist" has stood the test of time where so many other horror movies have fallen by the wayside.
'Rocky III' (1982)
In a lot of ways, "Rocky III" is the most well-rounded movie in the franchise, striking a balance between the moody underdog boxing hero formula of the first two movies and the campy excess of "Rocky IV." Few things are more satisfying than watching Rocky Balboa claw his way back from defeat and deliver an epic beatdown on Clubber Lang.
'The Thing' (1982)
The '80s gave us a wealth of great John Carpenter movies, and none greater than this claustrophobic horror classic. In an age before flashy CGI monsters, the frightening creature designs and sound effects made "The Thing" a nail-biting experience. But even those scares can't compare to the sheer dread of not knowing which characters are human and which have been replaced.
'National Lampoon's Vacation' (1983)
No summer movie marathon is complete without a good road trip comedy, and they don't come any better than "National Lampoon's Vacation." We never getting tired of following along with the Griswold family as they embark on the most spectacularly disastrous family vacation ever endured by man.
The true test of a good comedy is how well it holds up on repeat viewings. Does it still entertain when you know all the jokes and gags by heart? In the case of "Ghostbusters," the movie more than delivers on that.
9. 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Time travel can be a tricky subject, as it creates all sorts of rules and restrictions that need to be followed. "Back to the Future" showed us that time travel can just be a fun gateway to a great story. Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly is the hero we all needed back in the '80s, one who just wanted to play a little rock music, get back to the present and avoid making out with his mom in the process.
"Aliens" is a very different film from its predecessor, and that's a good thing. It retains just enough of the claustrophobic horror that makes "Alien" so great but throws in a bunch of trigger-happy space marines and a lot more action. If only the franchise had kept this momentum going in subsequent sequels…
'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' (1986)
Summer is the time when you just want to break free of school or work and find a little adventure. On the other hand, it's also really hot and smelly outside. So maybe the better option is to fire up this beloved comedy and live vicariously through the antics of precocious teen hero Ferris Bueller. Hey, it worked for Cameron.
'Stand By Me' (1986)
The '80s were full of Stephen King adaptations, some of them much better than others. "Stand by Me" ranks among the best in any decade, and its very premise makes it a perfect summertime movie. It also features a who's who cast of up-and-coming '80s teen stars, making it a great nostalgia throwback.
'Dirty Dancing' (1987)
If there is anything better than this Patrick Swayze classic, we don't wanna know about it.
"Predator" is a movie that brings together some of the toughest badasses in Hollywood and turns them into cannon fodder for an invisible alien hunter. What's not to love about that? It's a brutally simple and efficient action movie, and none of the sequels and spinoffs have managed to recapture those essential qualities.
'Die Hard' (1988)
The '80s were a golden age of musclebound, wisecracking action heroes. But at some point even the most hardcore action movie lover starts to crave a hero who's a little more grounded in reality. That's where "Die Hard" came in, establishing an entirely new franchise on the back of blue collar everyman John McClane.
'Weekend at Bernie's' (1989)
Who would have thought that a movie about men desecrating the corpse of their boss would be so silly and entertaining. "Weekend at Bernie's" makes for a perfect end-cap to an '80s movie marathon, showing just how much mileage you can get out of one great gag.