Disclaimer: I was 5 (and a half) in 1980 and 14 (and a half) when we rang in the new year in 1990. That stated, get comfortable, because there’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to 80s flicks.
I watched a fully rounded metric buttload (2.205 times larger than a SAE buttload) of movies as a kid, and as stated above, the 80s encompassed more than half of my childhood. Therefore, it’s understandable that I have a lot to say about my beloved childhood films, and even more obvious is the fact that I love to share those experiences with my kids.
Simply put, I watch a LOT of 80s movies with my children, often several nights each week. When we first started, I wasn’t sure how they would take them. After all, if my father had ever sat down to watch a movie with me during the 80s and busted out some black and white movie from the early 1950s, then, well, no offense to classic movie lovers, but that’s a hard pass. With that in mind, when I offered to watch my faves with my two youngest children, I feared they would view them with similar disdain.
Boy, was I wrong and glad to be so. Movie nights featuring films from the 80s are my kids’ favorites, so I’m offering an essential lineup of films to watch with kids, and in doing so, I am including three items for each film: 1) Quick quote (first one that came to my mind), 2) My take on the significance of the film, and 3) My kids’ reactions to the movies where applicable. I’ve also included links to IMDB.com for each movie in case you want to learn more about them. I briefly entertained the idea of putting age recommendations on when to watch them for the first time, but then I realized how the comments section would ignite once other parents realized how terrible an influence I apparently have on my own children.
The films below are ordered according to what popped into my mind first as I wrote, and as such, the order does not imply any system of ranking.
I’m sure I missed at least one of your favorites, and if I did, it’s only because I either have yet to watch these with my children (though there are some here that I haven’t shown them yet but wanted to bookmark for later), or it’s because I simply didn’t find them compelling enough for my list (48 Hours, Footloose, Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, or Tootsie, for example – forgive me).
That doesn’t mean they aren’t good.
Or, it maybe means their content was a bit mature for my kids at this time. Some movies are better enjoyed with a bit more maturity, such as Good Morning Vietnam, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, etc. Hey, those are all Vietnam movies. Hmm…
You’ll also notice a conspicuous absence of both Star Wars movies and horror movies. This is intentional, because both deserve their own guides, which I will write later.
Pursue the films in whatever order makes most sense for you and your child(ren), but without further ado, let’s begin…
Quick quote: “That’s what I said! I’m setting booty traps!”
My take: I saw this movie when I was 10, and there was something inspiring about seeing kids roughly my age act so brave without adult help that it convinced me I could do the same. This film influenced me so much that, recently, I got a tattoo of One-Eyed Willie’s skeleton key and a banner that reads, “Down here, it’s our time.” I feel that this story is my generation’s Tom Sawyer story. Also, this movie introduced, “Shame shame, know your name!” to our movie night tradition, whenever we see kissing or sex scenes.
Kids’ reactions: “Dad, can you help me make pinchers of peril?” “Dad, do we have any rich stuff in the attic?” “Dad, can we go to Astoria this summer?”
2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Quick quote: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
My take: Interestingly (or not), this movie was the very first DVD I ever bought when I made the leap away from VHS. This movie came out less than a week after my 11th birthday, and once I saw it, I set myself a goal to have a similar day off at least once a year. While I never had the guts to pull it off by skipping school, as a parent, I skip school with my kids at least once a year to make epic memories, like taking my son to his first concert (Fall Out Boy), and my daughter to her first (Pentatonix), both of which were a road trip to Seattle.
Kids’ reactions: I still hear “Bueller… Bueller… Bueller…” when the kids are trying to get my attention, and they still laugh hilariously when the principal flips off the flower delivery dude.
3. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Quick quote: “Large Marge sent me.”
My take: I’m not sure why this movie grabbed me like it did, but man, I watched the crap outta this VHS tape (totally copied off of a free HBO preview weekend)! All of Pee-Wee’s Bond-like gadgets on his bike, the adventure on the same plane as The Goonies, and the utter absurdity of it all were exactly what I needed as a kid.
Kids’ reactions: “Who was Mr. T, and why did he have his own cereal?” “Dad, can I have a bike like that?” “Dad, does the Alamo have a basement?”
Quick quote: Wadsworth: “I’m merely a humble butler.” Colonel Mustard: “What exactly do you do?” Wadsworth: “I buttle.”
My take: If you don’t recall because you were either too unfortunate to be a kid in the 80s or you spent the 90s destroying your memory, allow me to refresh you. This movie was released with multiple endings, and the theaters handed out Clue cards, just like in the game, so that you could keep track of who you suspected of being the killer. The different endings all had different killers, unless you were lucky enough to score the viewing with the multiple ending. This was brilliant marketing because it was one of the first non-Star Wars films I saw as many times as I could raise the money for.
Kids’ reactions: “Dad, I wanna play Clue now, even though it’s midnight.” “No way is that the same guy who played Pennywise!”
5. Airplane (1980) AND Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)
Quick quote: “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”
My take: This pair of movies taught me the art of horribly cheesy and slapstick humor, and it kicked off a lifetime of quips between my older sister and I. Literally EVERY SINGLE TIME we conversed, we had to begin with a reenactment of one of the scenes, kicked off by whomever thought of one first. RIP, sis, I miss ya.
Kids’ reactions: This pair of movies takes us approximately 3-4 hours apiece to watch, primarily because I have to rewind nearly every scene 2-3 times so that we can continue laughing and reliving those moments.
Quick quote: “I’m a mog – half man, half dog – I’m my own best friend!”
My take: If anyone could get away with lampooning my beloved Star Wars saga, it’s Mel Brooks, who provided us with quite possibly one of the most quotable movies of all time. One of John Candy’s greatest movies and other than Independence Day, probably Bill Pullman’s best.
Kids’ reactions: My youngest son was only 5 at the time, and we watched this right after introducing him to Star Wars. I wasn’t prepared for his horrified reaction to the dancing chest-bursting alien scene at the end. We had to shelve this one for about another 4 or 5 years before I was able to redeem my mistake.
Quick quote: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
My take: As I typed out the quick quote above, I may have actually teared up a little. With the obvious exception of the dead kid and the era, this movie was a microcosm of my childhood. These were my friends. Those were my experiences. I can think of literally no better coming of age film for a young boy, considering how this story deals with death, male bonding and friendly touch, and the need for a shoulder to cry on. Plus, I wore out the vinyl album I had of the film’s soundtrack, thus cementing my enjoyment of 50s tracks for life.
Kids’ reactions: “Suck my fat one, you cheap dime store hood” became the motto for standing up for a just cause.
8. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Quick quote: “I’ll… be… right… here.”
My take: Although I never really fell in absolutely love with this film, I still very much appreciate it for its deft storytelling (c’mon, it’s Spielberg!), choice of child actors, and of course, the vanguard special effects. This movie made me fall in love with Reese’s Pieces and the subsequent Atari 2600 game (which everyone else HATED).
Kids’ reactions: Note to self – NEVER show this to a sensitive six-year-old! My son cried SO FREAKING HARD at the end, when it appears that E.T. is dying. He was absolutely inconsolable, and to this day, refuses to see this one again. Even though E.T. comes back and it’s a happy Hollywood ending, he still won’t do it.
9. Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters 2 (1989)
Quick quote: “Back off, man. I’m a scientist.”
My take: Do this one as a double feature, without a doubt. You and your kids will appreciate 3+ hours of Murray-driven entertainment. This truly is Bill Murray at his greatest, and when you throw in Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, and Ernie Hudson, you really can’t go wrong.
Kids’ reactions: The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in one flick, Vigo the Destroyer in the next. ‘Nuff said.
Quick quote: “It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas.”
My take: I have to confess, I didn’t get “into” this film until I watched it with my kids. For whatever reason, I just avoided it, even though I heard people talking about it all the time. Maybe that’s why – perhaps I had heard toomuch. Today, I consider it one of the most fun and influential movies of the 1980s, if not of all time. This is Aykroyd and Belushi at their absolute finest.
Kids’ reactions: My daughter isn’t interested, but my son wants me and him to dress up as Jake and Elwood for Halloween, just so we can go trick-or-treating together, and when someone answers the door, we’ll say, “We’re on a mission from gad.” Sounds like a good time to me.
11. The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Quick quote: “Having a luck dragon with you is the only way to go on a quest.”
My take: This movie was responsible for a 10-year reading binge for me, and if a movie can make a 9-year-old want to devour books like they were Lemon Heads, it’s a damn good one.
Kids’ reactions: In much the same vein as E.T. above, don’t show this one to an overly sensitive child who also happens to REALLY love animals, because one of two things will happen. Either the kid will beg you for a Falcor until the day you pluck your own auditory nerves from your skull, or he’ll cry his eyes out at the part where the horse goes under. Either way, you’re playing a risky game when you show this one.
Quick quote: “You made a time machine? Out of a Delorean?”
My take: This movie was solely responsible for my love for all things Huey Lewis. That, and I thought I knew everything about plutonium and Libya after seeing this one. Note that I don’t include parts 2 and 3 here. Because they sucked.
Kids’ reactions: “Dad, do you have the soundtrack to this movie?” “Is time travel really possible” “What’s a gigawatt?”
Quick quote: “Ah, well, I attended Juilliard. I’m a graduate of the Harvard business school. I travel quite extensively. I lived through the Black Plague and had a pretty good time during that. I’ve seen the EXORCIST ABOUT A HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SEVEN TIMES, AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT! NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT YOU’RE TALKING TO A DEAD GUY! NOW WHAT DO YOU THINK?”
My take: This is one of Michael Keaton’s greatest performances, in my not-so-humble opinion, along with the next two films on this list. His character had me in stitches the whole time, and Tim Burton’s brilliant directing, combined with Danny Elfman’s composing debut, made for an instant classic.
Kids’ reactions: “DAY-O! DAAAAAAY-OH! Daylight come and me won go home.” But seriously, they sing this nonstop.
Quick quote: “Wait till they get a load of me…”
My take: In 1989, my dad took me to this movie, just him and I, and it represents the ONLY movie I ever watched alone with my father. I walked out of this movie slack-jawed and wide-eyed. I grew up watching the Adam West Batman, but Tim Burton’s interpretation, along with using Danny Elfman for music again, made this Batman rendition unforgettable. I instantly bought into the hype and started begging for shirts, stickers, shoes, jackets, etc., all with the new Batman logo on them.
Kids’ reactions: My youngest son converted from being a fan of Marvel to supremely loyal to the DC Universe after seeing this.
Quick quote: “You don’t feed a baby CHILI!”
My take: From a very young age and for a variety of reasons that go well beyond the scope of what I’m writing here, I wanted to become a dad more than anything. Michael Keaton’s heartwarming role here confirmed that for me, and to this day, I still get the warm fuzzies from this one.
Kids’ reactions: “Dad, why would anybody give a baby chili?” “Have you ever done home improvements with a chainsaw?” Me: “Yes, I have. Where do you think I got the idea?”
Quick quote: “Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?”
My take: I use this movie regularly in a communication theory class I teach for college juniors and seniors to explore small group dynamics, and it is because the story is nearly flawless, with the only regret being Emilio Estevez’s act of breaking the glass with a yell (you know what I’m talking about). In fact, this story is essentially an archetype of how kids treat each other throughout high school and even young adulthood.
Kids’ reactions: I won’t lie; I was hesitant to show this one to my youngest kids, 10 and 13 at the time, but they absolutely LOVED it. They understood the moral of the story about treating others with respect and shunning cliques in favor of showing compassion. Both kids say this is one of their favorite 80s movies of all.
17. Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
Quick quote: “Mopery is exposing yourself to a blind person.”
My take: Use your discretion when it comes to the age you want to start your kids on the racier movies, like this one or Porky’s. I saw this one when I was about 10 or so, and I remember it being one of the funniest damn things I ever saw, so I figured that, despite all the sex jokes, I could watch this one with my kids, seeing as how they’ve had “the talk” already. In fact, I think this movie is a great opportunity to talk about how to treat people with respect, whether “nerds” or women in general. This one generates some really great and surprisingly mature conversations.
Kids’ reactions: My youngest son threw up—yes, he actually vomited—from laughing so hard at the belching contest with Booger. We looked it up, and apparently the sound they used is a camel having an orgasm. Great. Now we can’t un-hear it.
Quick quote: Daniel: “Hey, what kind of belt do you have?” Miyagi: “Canvas. JC Penney, $3.98. You like?” (Bet y’all thought I was gonna use wax on, wax off, right?)
My take: This film introduced all us 80s kids to the crane kick, which became standard for each and every testosterone-fueled schoolyard fight from 1984-1990. To this day, when I see a pylon sticking out of the sand at the beach, I immediately go for the pose on one foot. Six months after seeing this, I was convinced I nearly had a black belt, but I am SO glad nobody ever decided to test that assertion.
Kids’ reactions: Sweep the leg. No mercy.
19. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Quick quote: “I never drive faster than I can see. Besides that, it’s all in the reflexes.”
My take: I can’t even remember where I saw this one first, but after seeing Karate Kid above, this movie literally had me convinced I not only knew Okinawan karate like Miyagi but also kung fu like the Wing Kong. This John Carpenter masterpiece (note: all original soundtrack music was also composed by John Carpenter) not only gave me some of my most used quotes ever, but also piqued my interest in Chinese and Japanese culture, and I set out to learn more about their history and people following this thrill ride.
Kids’ reactions: Next to The Goonies, this is one of the most oft-requested movies. Definitely a standby.
Quick quote: “I am your father, Luke. Give in to the dark side of the force, you knob.”
My take: I was first introduced to Bob & Doug Mackenzie by hearing their version of the 12 Days of Christmas (“Four pounds of back bacon… Five golden toques!”) on the radio, but then I caught an episode of Great White North on SCTV, which was playing on Nick at Nite. As soon as I found this movie in the rental store, I fell in love.
Kids’ reactions: My daughter thinks it’s insanely stupid, but my son can’t stop laughing. In fact, we’re watching it right now, as I write this – his choice. Take off, you hoser.
21. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Quick quote: “We’re not really violent people. This is our first gun.”
My take: Sometimes I wish I had experienced more than just the one family vacation (which was really just the move from SoCal up to Spokane during the summer of 1978) so I could identify with this story more, but damn, if Chevy Chase didn’t act like the absolutely perfect dad archetype in this series. However, I am separating them into different movies because I have different observations on each one.
Kids’ reactions: “Oh my god, Dad, this is us.” “Is this why you freak out about road trips so much, Dad?”
22. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Quick quote: “Honey, have you checked our shitters?”
My take: This one has my vote for greatest Christmas movie of all time, period. Sure, there are other great ones as well, but when the season kicks into high gear, this is my go-to film that immediately comes to mind. This film taught me how to be a dad around the holidays, and I’ve always wanted to Griswold my house with 10,000 little twinkling lights.
Kids’ reactions: “Dad, it’s almost November. Can we watch Christmas Vacation yet?” “Am I old enough to say the line yet?” (shitter’s full)
Quick quote: “And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He’d been climbing down the chimney… his arms loaded with presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died instantly. And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.”
My take: Sure, it’s a cute movie with little fuzzy creatures, but it’s also a monster movie with scary, scaly, toothy creatures. Hulu classifies it as a holiday movie, a comedy, an 80s movie, and believe it or not, a horror movie. It’s one of those genre-bending flicks that’s fun no matter what time of year it is (but I still say it’s a Christmas movie).
Kids’ reactions: My son will watch the entire Friday the 13th series and the entire Nightmare on Elm Street series (to be reviewed separately on a blog on essential horror movies for family movie nights), but this one still scares him. I think it’s a mental block.
Quick quote: “Hans! Bubby! I’m your white knight!” (that’s for you, Vik)
My take: Second greatest Christmas movie ever, behind Christmas Vacation, this movie enthralled me so much that I went around quoting the Yippy-kay-yay quote on a daily basis. It was my first love affair with the f-bomb. Then, I used a bunch of my leftover fireworks and recreated a diorama of Nakatomi Plaza, featuring everything tied to one fuse, where, when I lit it, the parking garage blew up first, sending Hot Wheels flying, followed by a series of explosions moving their way up the cardboard building, culminating with a fiery explosion at the top. It was the most epic 3 seconds of my summer that year.
Kids’ reactions: “Dad, why is this one of the best Christmas movies?” “Dad, I’m sorry we I doubted you about Die Hard being a Christmas movie. Can we open our presents now?” “Please, Dad, don’t cancel Christmas! I told you I will always call Die Hard a Christmas movie!” “Dad, can we build a fireworks diorama like the one you told me about when you were a kid?” Me: “No.”
Quick quote: “Chips, dips, chains, whips… You know, your basic high school orgy type of thing.”
My take: First of all, I grew up watching Mr. Wizard, so science was kind of my jam in the 80s. I made a record player out of construction paper and a sewing needle. Therefore, when this movie came out, I was thrilled by the title alone, but then when I saw it, I swear, John Hughes became my idol. This guy had his finger on the pulse of American youth in the 1980s, so it’s too bad he had to up and disappear from the scene. Man, I used to dream about being able to wire up a picture of something I wanted to create and then hooking it up to the computer I never had, just to bring it to life.
Kids’ reactions: “I’m glad I didn’t have an older brother like Chet.” “Isn’t it kinda creepy how this grown woman is making out with a 15 year-old?” “Shame shame, know your name!”
26. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Quick quote: “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”
My take: True story: So, you know the part where Damone tells Ratner to put on side two of Led Zeppelin IV on his date? Then, in the next scene, we see Ratner in the car with Stacy, where we hear Kashmir playing? Holy crap, I fell in love with that song, and I started looking for Led Zeppelin IV. I saved up enough money to buy the cassette from Sam Goody at the mall, plugged in side two, and alas, no Kashmir. I started asking around, but nobody I knew could tell me the name of the song, Kashmir, so I slowly started collecting Led Zeppelin albums, desperately seeking Kashmir. It took years, but I finally found it after talking to a DJ on the radio about what album it was on. Kids, this is your moral of the story: You all are spoiled as shit with your stupid “Siri, what song is this?” followed by immediately downloading whatever the hell you want.
Kids’ reactions: “Dad, I wanna order a pizza at school!” “Um, is that a young Forrest Whitaker?!?”
27. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988)
Quick quote: “Nice beaver!”
My take: After Airplane and Airplane II, I was craving me some Leslie Nielsen, and I’m thrilled and was thrilled by seeing him back in slapstick comedy again. The Zucker brothers are geniuses.
Kids’ reactions: Too much laughter to be able to speak. This one takes about twice as long as it should to watch (similar to Airplane) since I’m always rewinding and playing the funny parts 2-3 times.
Quick quote: “Two things I love to do is fight and kiss boys!”
My take: True story: The song, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship, which came packaged with this movie, was the song that was playing when I slow-danced with a girl for the first time. Her name was Kelly (probably still is, if I’m being honest), and I was in heaven. I still remember the smell of her perfume, the feeling of comfort as she wrapped her arms around me, and the way we moved to one of the crappiest songs of the 1980s, according to most music enthusiasts. But I’ll always love it because nothing can ruin that memory for me.
Kids’ reactions: We haven’t watched this one yet. I just wanted to tell the story of the slow dance. Sorry.
Quick quote: “You dirt-eating piece of slime! You scum-sucking pig! You son of a motherless goat!”
My take: I may have come close to herniating something in the theater when I saw this movie with a friend in 1986. We walked out quoting nearly every line and doing the little hip thrust thing over there —>.
Kids’ reactions: Two enthusiastic thumbs way the freak up, and this is evidenced by a scratched-to-all-hell DVD that’s been used and abused. We will fight like lions.
Quick quote: “He helped Joshua fight the battle of Jericho, he helped Daniel get out the lion’s den, he helped Gilligan get off the island.”
My take: Sexual chocolate. Eddie Murphy in multiple roles. Seeing black men and women in lead and supporting roles who are not stereotypes, but strong and self-sufficient. ‘Nuff said.
Kids’ reactions: This movie was the second time my son came close to puking from laughing so hard.
Quick quote: “That guy who spent six weeks in the bathroom got a 91.”
My take: I’m not sure what it is about this movie, because if I’m being honest here, it’s not that great, but I saw it in the theater along with the next movie on the list, and I remember that day with 4K clarity. For some reason, this movie left an impact on me, but more than that, it inspired me to watch Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which spawned an all-new love for horror movies.
Kids’ reactions: My son also wanted to watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre after this movie, and somehow, at 10, he talked me into it. He loved it just as much as I did.
Quick quote: “My friends call me dickface.”
My take: Okay, so this movie has only 4400 star ratings on IMDB. That tells us just how obscure this Sean Astin/Kevin Bacon movie really is. I haven’t seen it since that day in 1987, but I’ve been hunting for it. Actually, as I wrote this, I realized that I should use my Apple TV to look it up and found it on iTunes for only $4 to rent, so I may be watching this with my son soon.
Kids’ reaction: TBD
Quick quote: “I’m off like a dirty shirt.”
My take: Okay, time for the alleged John Hughes “chick flicks,” though I really enjoy them both and don’t really consider them as limited to a female audience, although I can see why some might feel that way, given the other testosterone-laden action movies of the 1980s. This movie does a fantastic job of relating to just about every single person watching, but more importantly, it teaches viewers how to deal with insecurity, jealousy, and many of the other issues that arise with a love triangle.
Kids’ reactions: I haven’t watched it with the boy yet, but for my daughter (14), this movie makes up the triumvirate of absolutely quintessential John Hughes movies.
Quick quote: “What’s happenin’, hot stuff?”
My take: Another love triangle, though mingled in with a much more diverse story line, this one had me pulling for The Geek almost the whole time. If I didn’t know better, I would almost be tempted to say that Anthony Michael Hall’s character in this was the same dude in Weird Science, though slightly matured.
Kids’ reactions: See above. This one is one of my daughter’s top 3, though I haven’t watched it with the boy quite yet. I think he’ll enjoy this one more than Pretty in Pink, given the presence of Long Duk Dong.
Quick quote: “So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, the Lama – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”
My take: Full disclosure here: I remember this being a gut-buster when I was a kid. Throughout my life, if I ever got anywhere near a golf or mini-golf course, I’d start quoting like my life depended on it. But, when I watched it as an adult with my kids, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed to learn that it wasn’t quite as funny as I recalled.
Kids’ reactions: The kids LOVED the quotable moments, but the dated portions fell flatter than a granite counter top. It was worth one or two viewings, but that’s all.
Quick quote: Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor.
My take: True story: When I saw this one in the theater, it kinda inspired me to pursue a doctorate, just so I could reenact the scene linked to the quote above. Twenty-eight years later, I found myself standing on the grass outside Gonzaga University with my peers doing just that. This movie is Chevy Chase at his best, next to the Vacation movies. Plus, Paul McCartney doing the theme song? Fuhgeddaboutit.
Kids’ reactions: The scene in the beginning, where Chevy Chase is trying to cheat on the exam provided my kids with belly-busting laughter. I told them not to get any ideas.
Quick quote: “By the way, the name is James St. John Smythe. I’m English.”
My take: Look, I know this one is one of the lowest rated and most hated Bond movies of all time, but it still holds a special place in my heart. This was the first Bond movie I ever saw, and I fell in love with it the moment I watched the “snowboard” scene in the opening action sequence when Bond busts the ski off a snowmobile and uses it to get down the mountain away from the baddies. Add in Grace Jones and Christopher Walken, and you have a recipe for one hell of a fun movie.
Kids’ reactions: They loved the snowboard scene too, so there.
Quick quote: “Juuuuust a bit outside!”
My take: Listen, I hate baseball. Sorry, fans of the most boring game on the planet next to cricket, but I just simply don’t like it. But I REALLY dig a good baseball movie, and this is one of them. Charlie Sheen before he went all tiger blood crazytown is amazing in this movie, but then add in Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, Rene Russo, and a cameo by Bob Uecker? Again, fuhgeddaboutit.
Kids’ reactions: My son hates baseball as well, and he loves this one.
Quick quote: “We’re gonna go to Uncle Nutzy’s Clubhouse. And boy-oh-boy, are we gonna have big fun today. We’re gonna have so much fun, we’ll forget about how miserable we are, and how much life sucks, and how we’re all gonna grow old and die someday.”
My take: This is a SUPER tough movie to find, so thank the universe for iTunes and an Apple TV! I have been a Weird Al fan since I can remember, and I watched his music videos religiously, so when I found out he was doing a full-length movie using his usual sarcastic, satirical lens, I may have actually jumped for joy. This movie is one of those dark horse flicks that you have to watch over and over to really let it sink in.
Kids’ reactions: Buying this one on iTunes tonight to watch it with the boy. Tune in later…
Quick quote: “I want my two dollars!”
My take: This movie introduced me to the magic of the blues, by way of the song playing when John Cusack’s character rolls out his 69 Camaro SS after finally finishing his restoration with the help of his French foreign exchange student girlfriend. This movie explores deep themes in addition to the humor, such as learning to love what is sitting in front of you, challenging yourself to be better, and coping with depression.
Kids’ reactions: To this day, we still do the two dollars bit!
Quick quote: “Come with me if you want to live.”
My take: Man, when I was a kid, I thought this was the most violent movie of all time. Looking at it today, well, I was a bit off. Still, the whole “I’ll be back scene” was one of the most epically cool and memorable scenes of all time.
Kids’ reactions: Of all the movies in the series, this one and T2 are their favorites, believe it or not.
Quick quote: The Colonel: “All that hate’s gonna burn you up, kid.” Robert: “Keeps me warm.”
My take: Watching this with my kids is a valuable history lesson. It allows me to explain things like the air raid drills we had in my school up until about 7th grade or so. It affords me the opportunity to explain the Cold War, the nuclear arms race, and why the USSR wouldn’t use nukes if they had wanted to take over the US. It also gave me the chance to explain Cuba’s ties to the USSR, what happened to the Soviet Union, and how I had a solid bugout bag/plan for the day when I was sure those commies were going to invade, thanks to this movie. I was going to be a Wolverine.
Kids’ reactions: Normally, kids don’t like history lessons at home, but in the words of my son (10), “I freaking LOVE this movie!” I think he’s just glad we don’t have a threat like that hanging over our heads anymore. Or do we?
43. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Quick quote: “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.”
My take: Speaking of history lessons at home, this movie provided a bit of a lighter series of topics than nuclear war and invasion. We had the chance to discuss who each of the historical figures were, which actually spawned the pursuit of a biographical research project at school!
Kids’ reactions: The project was on Lincoln, and he even managed to sneak in a Bill & Ted reference. Most excellent!
Quick quote: “I ain’t got time to bleed.”
My take: Looking at the cast list for this movie reads like a whos-who of 80s action superstars: Arnold, Jesse Ventura, Carl “Apollo Creed” Weathers, Bill Duke, and others. My brother took me to see this movie on a trip to a family reunion in the great state of Indiana. If I recall correctly, he had his well-built ’77 Monte Carlo at the time, and I remember getting onto the freeway sideways, as the tires were smoking up behind us. Anyway, I really enjoyed the bonding time with you that day, Dan. Thank you.
Kids’ reactions: My son won’t shut up about this one. The whole “Get to the choppa” line is so very overplayed now, but apparently, it’s a thing with the boys at his school. Needless to say, they love it.
Quick quote: “That’s right, Ice. I AM dangerous.”
My take: True story – In sixth grade, I was having the time of my life. I credit much of that to my amazing teacher, Mr. Ray, who I wrote about here, and during that year, Tom Cruise graced the screen with his aviators and swagger, inspiring me and all my friends to start up an exclusive Top Gun club. To get into the club, other kids had to pass an excruciating obstacle course that put the Marines’ Crucible to shame. In fact, I am flat-out surprised that nobody ended up with broken bones from doing it because it genuinely was brutal. Nevertheless, about 12 of us did pass the test to become pretend F-14 Tomcat pilots, and our jets were the swings. What a great year that was.
Kids’ reactions: “Dad, are they gay?” Me: “No kids, that was just the 80s. Men were a bit less concerned with being alpha males back then.”
Quick quote: “You’ve got my table, but you’re not getting my lobsters.”
My take: John Candy, rest his soul, was such an amazing actor. I mean, he wasn’t Oscar material, but he had a way of making you feel like he was your long lost uncle who would likely slip a 20 into every birthday card he ever gave you. This movie is one of the 80s true sleepers, and by the time Jack wins the sailing race, you’re off your feet and cheering for the underdog. John Candy plays such a great father figure in this movie; he’s one half Griswold and one half sitcom dad. As a dad, you can’t help but root for him the whole way through. You might even find yourself wondering if you could learn to sail.
Kids’ reactions: They cringed at the sunburn part, got angry at the restaurant scene, and cheered loudly during the sailing race. I’d say they liked it.
Quick quote: (Hands down, one of the greatest quotes of the 1980s) “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
My take: I didn’t have high expectations for this one originally, even though I was a WWF fan and really liked Rowdy Roddy Piper. I thought it would be a mindless action romp on the level of Arnold’s Commando, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much this one made me think. I felt like it got a bit forced and slow toward the end, but the reveal regarding the alien mind control was well worth the watch.
Kids’ reactions: 30 years later, this movie still blows the mind of anyone seeing it for the first time. In fact, my kids started checking sunglasses at the local dollar store to see if maybe they really would reveal hidden subliminal messages.
48. Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
Quick quote: “I’ve got the babysitting blues.”
My take: This was Chris Columbus’ directorial debut, and since he wrote The Goonies and Gremlins, there is no doubt this was destined to become a classic. In fact, the movie was so successful that they tried to spin off a TV series, and the pilot aired in 1989, but that was the only thing that ever saw air time. Check it out if you want.
Kids’ reactions: Confession – This may be a bit sexist (okay, it’s ashamedly sexist), but I thought my daughter would love this movie, and I thought my son would be like, “Meh…” I mistakenly assumed that, because there’s a female protagonist and the content of the movie is related to the traditionally female-dominated occupation of babysitting that it would drive my son away. However, this is one of his top 10 favorite 80s films! Usually, at the end of our Daddy-Parker movie nights, we fall asleep to a movie we’ve seen a hundred times, and this one gets requested almost more than any other. That’ll teach me to make sexist assumptions.
49. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Quick quote: “You want to talk to God? Let’s go see him together, I’ve got nothing better to do.”
My take: Okay, okay, it’s time to get into the REALLY good stuff. If you’ve already read this far or at least scrolled down this far, you deserve it. Other than The Goonies and my self-confessed Star Wars obsession, Indy had a full-throttle choke hold on my young heart. I started with Raiders, and I have to confess, the face melting scene scared the bejeezus out of me. I became infatuated (that word doesn’t do it justice – I was smitten) with archaeology, to the point where I was reading 10-12 books a month on various archaeological discoveries. This was in the days before all those cheesy Top 10 shows on Discovery Channel (prior to their transformation to a reality show network), so print was what I devoured. I would go out into the neighborhood, into a barren field with a shovel, and bury “artifacts,” then create treasure maps, complete with clues, just so my friends and I could pretend we were like Indy. I actually read the Bible to learn more about the Ark of the Covenant, the Israelites, and all the other biblical stuff Indy talked about. Like I said, infatuation doesn’t do it justice.
Kids’ reactions: Okay, they didn’t find the face melting as disturbing as I did, but they were interested enough to learn about how they did the effect by allowing me to watch the making-of documentary in the special features.
50. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Quick quote: “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.”
My take: This is far and away my favorite of the Indiana Jones trilogy (yes, I said trilogy – don’t even tell me I have to include that turd of a fourth one), and if you don’t agree, well, go write your own damn movie guide. All my infatuation with Indy boiled over with Temple of Doom. I still remember the video game based on the movie at my local 7-11, where I spent ALL my allowance each week on a Slurpee, a handful of Sour Patch Kids (they used to sell them loose for a penny apiece, but this was before everyone got super uptight about wrappers and germs and all that), and game time with Indy. I also made my own Sankara stones, followed by the previously mentioned burial and creation of an adventure map. In fact, this one was such a formative part of my childhood memories that my next tattoo is going to be an homage to Indy and this particular story. Side note, to this day, both the dinner scene and the scene with all the bugs still give me the willies (see what I did there?). Interestingly, this movie was where Spielberg met Kate Capshaw, fell in love, and got married, and they’re still together today.
Kids’ reactions: They were equally enamored by this one, but then again, excitement is contagious, so I probably influenced those attitudes with my giddiness to an extent.
51. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Quick quote: “I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne. Let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the sky.”
My take: Temple of Doom may be my favorite, but only just. I’d place Raiders and Last Crusade at a VERY close second, and I mean by a hair. In fact, the whole trilogy is pretty much tied with my beloved Star Wars saga for greatest of all time. Sean Connery as Indy’s dad? That could not have been cast any better, if even Jesus himself came down and selected the actor for that role. Connery and Ford sharing screen time was the miraculous moment of humankind’s salvation. I may have been in my mid-teens when I saw this, but it still made me feel like a much younger kid, and I may have still gone off and created a treasure map and obstacle course like the end of the movie, all leading up to the discovery of a “golden chalice,” which was really just a special edition Slurpee cup.
Kids’ reactions: I caught my son pretending a cup was the holy grail. That apple fell right next to the damn tree.
Quick quote: “Elephantitis is when something gets bloated and ugly like your ASS!”
My take: Yet another of my most formative memories, when I saw this movie, I became very interested in electronics, partly due to the dream sequence toward the beginning. I started studying wiring diagrams and drawing my own. I never did make anything of consequence, but it taught me how to read a diagram, which actually came in handy just last summer when trying to finish the engine swap on my son’s soon-to-be 74 Ford F100. Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix’s film debut, this movie was never finished, and was released as a work in progress when the studio bumped up the date and released the film as-is, telling director Joe Dante (Gremlins) that he was finished. We can only wonder how it would have ended if he’d been allowed to finalize it.
Kids’ reactions: My son loves this one just as much as I do, though he was never inspired to study electronics. He does, however, often wonder if we can create our own spacecraft out of junkyard materials, and once, we actually did. It didn’t work, though.
53. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Quick quote: “You wanna see something really scary?”
My take: Confession time – the story with the kid who can wish anything into existence? Good lord, that scared the freaking piss out of me as a kid. If you haven’t seen this one, it’s a compilation of four stories, all directed by different directors, book-ended by a couple of related vignettes. I took several “lessons” away from each story. I learned to not be a racist prick from the first story (Time Out), and I learned the value of remaining young no matter your physical age in the second tale (Kick the Can). On my first viewing of this film, in the third story (It’s a Good Life), when all those cartoon-like monsters start popping out and shaking, I screamed and ran out of the room. I had nightmares for days after that. As for the fourth story (Nightmare at 20,000 Feet), this was John Lithgow at his most golden, and to this day, if I’m flying at night, I will NOT look out the window at the wing!
Kids’ reactions: They laughed at me when I cringed in the third story, but then they wanted to go outside and try out kick-the-can.
Quick quote: “There are no happy endings because nothing ends.”
My take: How in the crystalline hell is this movie rated G?!? Like, seriously, how? When I saw this for the first time, I was like, “Whoa! Nudity in a cartoon? I didn’t even know that was possible!” Anyway, I was put off by the title at first because, you know, unicorns and all, but all my friends told me I HAD to see it, so I gave in and rented it. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not normally into medieval fantasy, but this one hooked me from the beginning (I briefly considered getting the flaming bull as a tattoo because that thing was badass), and it may have inspired a brief exploration into mythology via my library card for a few months. I have this movie to thank for me passing my college Mythology 101 course my freshman year. No kidding.
Kids’ reactions: They loved all of it but the nudity and the weird scene with the harpy’s three boobs and the even odder tree that grows giant boobs.
Quick quote: “We were able to retrieve your test results from the computer. And as I suppose you already know, YOU FAILED. God giveth, and the DMV taketh away. You mustn’t f**k with the Department of Motor Vehicles. We can make your life a living hell.”
My take: Regarding the quote above, I recite that in my head EVERY single time I have to go to the DMV. No kidding. So, this movie is ultimately a giant cheese sandwich, breaded with the two Coreys in their prime, but you also have a young Heather Graham playing the female lead, so how can you go wrong? Seriously, any 15-year-old about to go into driver’s ed should see this as required viewing.
Kids’ reactions: Totally unimpressed before starting driver’s ed.
Quick quote: “One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach; all the damn vampires.”
My take: Why it took me until #56 to think of this one, I don’t know, but the two Corys above reminded me of one of my top 10 favorite 80s movies. In all actuality, I’ll probably never write a top 10 80s movie guide, because narrowing it down to just 10 would be way too hard. Maybe a top 10 by genre? Who knows? Anyway, this movie inspired me to go out and buy my first pair of horn-rimmed sunglasses and wear them with pride. And weren’t those vampires just way too pretty? I started dressing like Corey Haim, with oversized unbuttoned tropical print shirts, Bermuda shorts, and a long coat over the top. Damn, I was so cool back then. This movie also confirmed my love and admiration for the two Coreys, which made their downfall all that much harder to take.
Kids’ reactions: Not only did they give this one two enthusiastic thumbs up, but they also beg on occasion to listen to the soundtrack, which is absolutely mint.
Quick quote: “Can you hammer a six-inch spike through a board with your penis?”
My take: I actually saw this one out of order, after having created my conception of Val Kilmer by watching him play Iceman in Top Gun, so seeing him in a much more lighthearted role was a bit jarring. However, I was won over by his charm and more to the point, by the overall message of the film, which is incredibly important, and that is that, no matter how important you become, don’t take yourself too seriously. Always take time out to play, even if that’s creating a skating rink in your dorm’s hallway.
Kids’ reactions: “Dad, is it even possible to explode a house with popcorn?” “I don’t know, kiddo, but if we ever get rich, we should totally try that.”
Quick quote: “Still lumpy.”
My take: As the prequel to Pixar’s Wall-E, this movie is absolutely an adorable feel-good piece. There is no way on Earth that anyone can watch this and not smile with the warm fuzzies, unless they don’t like fun things. How they were able to give something like a robot such a charming human-like personality is fascinating to me. In fact, I could probably write a paper on how they incorporated nonverbal symbolism to do so, like the “eyebrows,” the use of vocal tone and inflection, cocking the head to the side, etc., but I won’t do that. Some things are better left to enjoy than analyze.
Kids’ reactions: My kids STILL to this day will pick up an old egg beater in an antique or thrift store and shout out, “STILL LUMPY!”
Quick quote: “My philosophy is: sleep late, drive fast, and not take any of this shit seriously.”
My take: Another of the more obscure movies on this list (or not, maybe that’s just my perception), this one had me convinced that someday I was going to go to NASA’s space camp on my way to becoming a shuttle pilot. I don’t even know if space camp was or is a real thing, but damn if that didn’t sound like the coolest summer camp of all time! I haven’t seen it since the 80s, so I’ll come back and update this when I see it again with the little ones.
Kids’ reactions: TBD
Quick quote: Evil: “God isn’t interested in technology. He cares nothing for the microchip or the silicon revolution. Look how he spends his time, forty-three species of parrots! Nipples for men!” Robert: “Slugs.” Evil: “Slugs! HE created slugs! They can’t hear. They can’t speak. They can’t operate machinery. Are we not in the hands of a lunatic?”
My take: To be honest, I’ve only seen this 2 or 3 times, and I haven’t watched it since I was kid, but I remember loving it, so I’m going to have to find this one, test it out on one of our movie nights, and update this review.
Kids’ reactions: TBD
61: The Transformers: The Movie (1986)
Quick quote: “I’ve got better things to do tonight than die.”
My take: One of only two animated movies on this list, this one was one of my most anticipated films of my childhood, partly because I was SO infatuated with the cartoon series. This was back when Bumblebee was still a yellow VW Beetle and animation was cool. I remember being so unbelievably enthralled with the movie that I may have shed a tear or two, but then again, I cry pretty easily. Funny story though, I tried rewatching this with my son after having seen the more recent Transformers movies, and I was sorely disappointed. I could almost feel myself growing a mullet and fighting the urge to headbang. Seriously, the music in this film is SO reminiscent of bad 80s hair metal that it’s hard to sit through the rest of the story. Wow.
Kids’ reactions: My son gave me some serious side-eye because I boasted this film up so hard, only to be let down by my memory of what constitutes good film-making. Still, it’s a fun trip down memory lane.
Quick quote: “How about thermonuclear war?”
My take: This one is intensely fun to try to describe the early days of the internet to your kids and show them how we old folks used to do it. First, you get to explain why that phone has a cord and plugs into the wall, and then you get to discuss how and why the phone is used to connect the computer to a remote site. Good times. Either way, Matthew Broderick makes this movie nearly as fun as Ferris Bueller.
Kids’ reactions: “Seriously?” (their reactions to the history lessons detailed above)
Quick quote: “She’s Elora Danan, the future empress of Tir Asleen and the last thing she’s gonna want is a hairy chest!”
My take: In junior high (what kids today call middle school, but we only had 7th and 8th grade under one roof), I had the coolest science teacher, who, on the last day of the year, brought in a VCR and this movie. One of my top 10 most memorable moments of those two years is hanging out, munching on popcorn, and watching this movie in the science lab. Perhaps that influenced me to enjoy using movies in many of my classes. Who knows?
Kids’ reactions: TBD (yes, I know, I should be ashamed that I have not yet shown them this movie)
Quick quote: “Aaagh! I’m tweakin’, dude!”
My take: Okay, you may have noticed a conspicuous absence of horror films on this list, but that’s because the horror genre is too vast, especially for the 80s, that it deserves it’s own separate list, which will come later. However, I don’t consider this film a horror movie. It’s far too campy, even in the presence of other 80s horror movies, and I consider it more sci-fi than horror. Anyway, this is one of the worst movies of all time, but it’s so bad that it’s good. Charlie Sheen, who barely acts, Nick Cassavetes, who gets my vote for worst actor of all time, a smokin’ hot Sherilyn Fenn (who was dating Johnny Depp at the time), and a most awful performance (if you can call it that) by our favorite crazy uncle, Randy Quaid, makes this an unforgettable viewing experience.
Kids’ reactions: My son absolutely loves this one, and more to the point, this movie introduced him to Ozzy, so for that, I am grateful. We also love discussing the various cars in the film, and the one belonging to the Wraith, interestingly enough, was a concept car that cost about a cool million.
Quick quote: “You remind me of the babe.”
My take: Ah, David Bowie; Starman; Goblin king; Ziggy Stardust; gone far too soon. Also, Jennifer Connelly was an instant childhood crush after this movie (and still is, to some extent). Add to that the magic that Jim Henson was able to produce, and you have a mixture for one of the most beloved films of the decade.
Kids’ reactions: Instant classic for both kids.
Quick quote: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
My take: So, in 7th grade, in English class, we got our hands on the screenplay to this film, and we did a reader’s theater of it in class. Guess what part I got to play? Let’s just say that I had waaaaay too much fun with the quote above, making this film a highly memorable experience of my young life. What I love about the film is how it appeals to quite literally anyone and everyone. I mean, if you don’t like this story, perhaps there’s something horribly wrong with you, just saying. It has an 8.1 rating on IMDB with over 300K ratings, and that’s on par with the 8.3 rating for Return of the Jedi. Starring Cary Elwes, the actor with the least pronouncable name of all time, Kevin from The Wonder Years (you forgot he was in it, didn’t you?), and the great Andre the Giant, rest his soul, you can’t go wrong with this one, no matter the age or gender.
Kids’ reactions: One of our most quoted movies of all time, including “In-con-theeve-able!” and “Aaaaaaas yooooouuuu wiiiiish!”
Quick quote: Damon Killian: “There are still two stalkers out there. Dynamo and Fireball. Who do you think will make the next kill?” Elderly Lady: “Oh my. That’s a tough one. Damon Killian: “Come on, Agnes. You can do it. Who do you think?” Elderly Lady: “Alright, I think the next kill will be made by… Ben Richards.” Damon Killian: “No, no. Agnes, Richards is a runner. You have to pick a stalker.” Elderly Lady: “I can pick anyone I choose. And I choose… Ben Richards. That boy is one mean motherf***er.”
My take: This story, written by Stephen King as Richard Bachman, is more sci-fi than horror, which is why it makes this list. If I recall correctly, I think I saw this one with my older brother as well (thanks for this one AND Predator, bro). Not only does this have classic Arnold-esque quips and one-liners, but it has that Stephen King flair that I love oh-so-much. And after seeing where reality TV is heading, I don’t think we’re all that far off from this being more of a documentary.
Kids’ reactions: Laughter, some cringing at the more dated parts, and giggling at the part where Amber Mendez has to pay like $6 for a soda at the machine.
Quick quote: “Kumite” (sorry, there’s no good quotes – this is an all-action movie with crappy dialogue)
My take: This movie is Van Damme good. After seeing it, I researched ninjutsu and even started incorporating some of the training as part of my exercise routine. The story is awful, even though it’s based on a true story (and an interesting one at that, but the Wikipedia article actually tells the story better than this film). It’s the training sequences (you know, the splits) and the fight scenes that make this movie worthy of a watch. I’ll also throw down Kickboxer (1989) here, since it is essentially the same movie.
Kids’ reactions: Too violent for my daughter (she’s more story-driven), but just right for my son. He still cringes at the splits though.
Quick quote: “If you come back in, I’ll hit you with so many rights you’ll be begging for a left.”
My take: Although I liked Red Dawn a LOT more when it comes to xenophobic invasion movies, this is one of Chuck Norris’ better ones. Still, I can’t watch it without thinking about what a tool Norris is in real life. I kinda wish he hadn’t opened his mouth. I was willing to overlook his home gym infomercials, but everything else? Nah…
Kids’ reactions: “Dad, why was everyone in the 80s so paranoid?”
Quick quote: “On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy.”
My take: This movie doesn’t have that much of a story or dialogue (coming up with a quotable to lead this off wasn’t easy), but man, is it a visual feast for the senses! This movie was so bloody far ahead of its time when it came to special effects that I think the video game spawned from the film actually made more money than the movie itself. At least, I contributed a lot to that bottom line.
Kids’ reactions: I was surprised by this one, honestly. I thought they would judge the special effects as cheesy, but my son was watching this one wide-eyed with wonder, and he’s asked for it multiple times since.
Quick quote: “No ticky, no washy.”
My take: If memory serves me correctly, there used to be a cable channel that showed horrifyingly bad B movies late at night on the weekends, and this was where I was first introduced to Toxie. There’s something satisfyingly entertaining about a movie that sets out to be horrible and accomplishes that with glee.
Kids’ reactions: Totally didn’t get it at first, but slowly warmed up to it. Now, my son wants to be Toxie for Halloween some year.
Quick quote: “Listen to me, Hillary. I’m not the first guy who fell in love with a woman that he met at a restaurant who turned out to be the daughter of a kidnapped scientist, only to lose her to her childhood lover who she last saw on a deserted island, who then turned out fifteen years later to be the leader of the French underground.”
My take: Man, I remember this being a LOT funnier than it is today. *sigh*
Kids’ reactions: Okay, background context: My son hates musicals. HATES them! So, it’s not all that surprising that he ended up turning his nose up at this one, but he still appreciated the non-musical portions of the movie. Plus, he loves cows, so he forgave the musical numbers.
Quick quote: “Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?”
My take: Confession time – As a kid, I didn’t realize this was a “mockumentary.” I thought it was real, so I never watched it because I’d never heard of a band called Spinal Tap. Later in life, I finally recognized Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest, and it clicked. I watched it, fell in love, and the rest is rock history.
Kids’ reaction: So, I showed this one to my son too soon, and he didn’t really *get* the idea of a mockumentary, just like I didn’t as a kid. I’m going to wait and let this one sit for a while before trying again.
Quick quote: “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.”
My take: Okay, this is embarrassing, and despite my contention that this list isn’t organized by priority, one of the reasons I’ve waited so long to discuss this one is due to it being related to an idiosyncrasy of mine: I tend to fall asleep during movies – a lot. I’ve tried watching this one three times now, and I’ve never made it all the way through. I know it’s a beloved classic, and I know I’m dishonoring it as such, which is why I’m willing to try again soon. I own the movie, so I have no excuse. I’ll make coffee, prop my eyelids open, and stay vertical if I have to.
Kids’ reactions: Even more embarrassing is the fact that my kids LOVE this movie, but I can’t talk to them about why because I don’t want it spoiled for me.
75. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Quick quote: “Feed me, Seymour! Feed me!”
My take: My mom took me to see this one, and I fell in love. I walked out of that movie wanting a venus flytrap, but back then, you could only order them out the back of a comic book, and I never got around to trying. Still, some little part of me fears dentists because of Steve Martin’s acting in this movie.
Kids’ reactions: Remember when I mentioned above that my son HATES musicals? Hehehe, well, he loves this movie. It’s his singular exception, and he’ll probably kill me someday for outing him like this.
Quick quote: “OK… but I get to be on top.”
My take: I wasn’t as thrilled with this one as everyone else, but Tom Hanks, America’s dad, steals the show, and you can’t help but love it, thanks to him. Could you imagine being the child actor who starred alongside him? I mean, seriously! Also, what kid doesn’t dream of temporarily being a grown-up so they can be free and do all the things grown-ups get to do?
Kids’ reactions: Every bloody time we see one of those damn fortune telling machines. Every. Damn. Time.
Quick quote (so many, it’s so hard to pick just one): “That’s called the “quart of blood” technique. You do that, a quart of blood will drop out of a man’s body.”
My take: I felt a bit guilty watching this one as a kid. After all, my friends all told me about Eddie Murphy’s albums, “Delirious” and “Raw,” and I’d heard how raunchy he was. I knew my parents wouldn’t want me watching it — but I did anyway. How rebellious! Anyway, this is one of the funniest SNL-populated movies of the 80s, and I do so love returning to it. Plus, as horribly sexist as this sounds, it’s the only film of all time where Jamie Lee Curtis bared her boobs, so it feels extra naughty.
Kids’ reactions: Quotes in common parlance among me and my children – “Beef jerky time! You want some beef jerky?” “Looking good, Billy Ray!” “Feeling good, Louis!” “It ain’t cool bein’ no jive turkey this close to Thanksgiving.” “I’m a karate man! And a karate man bruises on the inside!”
Quick quote: “My dear sweet brother Numsie! Uh, I can see you’re busy. I’ll come back later.”
My take: I saw this back in my obsession with all things Eddie Murphy days of my teenage years, and although it’s most certainly not his best movie, I find it a really fun ride and a highly unique story that doesn’t fit with the usual stereotype stories Hollywood often cranks out. I mean, some producer took a BIG chance on this one. You don’t see this kind of creativity today.
Kids’ reactions: To this day, whenever my son and I see a Tibetan prayer wheel, we rotate it like we were scratchin’ DJs and say, “I… I… I… I want the knife.”
79. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Quick quote: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”
My take: Do you realize just how guilty I felt for feeling attracted to a freaking cartoon? Yes, Jessica Rabbit was drawn just a bit too well for a teenage boy. Anyway, the seamless blend of cartoon characters and real-life people was a vanguard development in special effects, and after a while, I forgot I was watching something that was manipulated to make me believe I was watching that. What a fun ride.
Kids’ reactions: Duh. It’s animated, so of course they love it.
Quick quote: “We’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re 10 and 1!”
My take: This is one of those classic Bill Murray/Harold Ramis/John Candy movies I forget about, but when I watch it, I’m oh-so-glad I did. This is the SNL alumni at nearly their best, and it is so quintessential 80s.
Kids’ reactions: I assumed that Bill Murray would carry this one for the kids, but they found the old-style pacing a bit too slow for their liking. However, the quips and one-liners are enough to make it worth at least one or two viewings.
Quick quote: “Jack Flack always escapes.”
My take: I honestly have no idea why I didn’t think of this one until #84, but this is further proof that there is no hierarchy implied by my counting here, because this is one of my favorite movies of the 80s. Featuring Henry Thomas (E.T.) and Dabney Coleman (WarGames & every TV series/movie of the 1980s), this story shows strong, independent kids (similar to The Goonies) ditching adults to save the day themselves. In 2018, I’m going to San Antonio for the Dad2.0 Summit, and I couldn’t be happier to finally get to see the setting for this movie in person. This movie left such an impact on me that I: 1) got the video game for my Atari, 2) begged for a set of walkie-talkies, 3) devised spy games to play with my friends that often involved secret “missions” where we would “infiltrate” businesses just to make it out with evidence without being seen, and 4) started studying the CIA and NSA with the intent of joining someday to become a spy. Worthy of note: The computer geek is played by a very young and very overweight William Forsythe.
Kids’ reactions: Highly similar to my first impressions – we started going out on our own secret missions, which I considered to be like the fountain of youth. It was glorious.
Quick quote: “The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity.”
My take: Ridley Scott (Aliens) directed, Tom Cruise and Mia Sara play the lead roles, and Tim Freaking Curry plays Darkness! How could this go wrong, and more to the point, WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT THIS GEM??? Seriously, this should be a cult classic. It has all the makings of a fantastic, classic light vs. dark story, and the makeup effects are absolutely stellar. Just look at Tim Curry in this getup! He had to wear a large structure atop his head with three-foot fiberglass horns supported by a harness underneath the makeup. The horns placed a huge strain on the Curry’s neck because they extended forward rather than up. They eventually came up with horns that were hollow and lightweight enough to help, but at the end of the day, Curry spent an hour in a bath just to liquefy the spirit gum. At one point, Curry grew impatient and claustrophobic, and he pulled the makeup off too quickly, tearing off his own skin in the process. Ridley Scott was horrified and immediately tried to find an easier way to include his character. Since he didn’t want Curry to put more make up on his torn skin, he shot around the actor for a week. He also realized this could add dramatic build-up for the character, and re-shot some of his opening scenes this way. Also, Tangerine Dream did the soundtrack, which to this day, is still some of my favorite ambient music to listen to when relaxing.
Kids’ reactions: Two horns way up for both kids. This one was an instant classic.
Quick quote: (Stephen King cameo, in the opening scene) “Honey, come on over here, sugarbuns. This machine just called me an a**hole.”
My take: Who Made Who, by AC/DC, was made specifically for this movie, thanks to writer and director, Stephen King, who was, at the time, a superfan of the group and had the money to make it happen. This was another movie I recorded off a free HBO weekend and another VHS tape I wore out because I watched it so frequently. Technically, I should put this into my essential horror movie guide, and maybe it will go in both, but it really wasn’t all that scary. Stephen King today admits that he was “coked out of my mind” the entire time he was making this picture and often didn’t know what he was doing. He remarked that he’d like to try directing again someday, this time sober. When asked why he hasn’t directed a movie since, King responded “Just watch Maximum Overdrive.” I don’t care what he or anyone else says. I freaking LOVE this film. On another note, about a year after the movie was released, the Green Goblin truck was taken to a junkyard in North Carolina. The jaw, lower teeth, tongue and tops of the ears were gone, and what was left was burnt severely. Some dude saw it there and purchased it but later had to sell it. The owner displayed it at his video store for years, until he sold the business. He moved it to his backyard for about 20 years, and it was then moved into his garage, where he started restoring it in 2011. He spent 2 years, nights, and weekends restoring the head. Now, he travels across the USA and Canada, taking it to horror & comic cons. Someday, I’d love to see it in person.
Kids’ reactions: My son is now a superfan of AC/DC, thanks to this film. He also wants to see the truck in person.
84. Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Quick quote: “The game is afoot!”
My take: Okay, I really freaking LOVED this movie! In fact, this movie inspired me, at 10 years old, to start reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I began with Hound of the Baskervilles, and soon after, I bought an oversized London Fog trench coat I found at a thrift store and started pretending I was a British detective. I ran across this in another list I was using to jog my memory, and now, I need to order this one off iTunes. Isn’t the internet grand? This is especially amazing, since my wife and I just finished the Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch.
Kids’ reactions: Honestly, the boy enjoyed it overall but never asked to watch it again. Maybe we’ll revisit it some other time…
Quick quote: “Only I didn’t say “Fudge.” I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word!”
My take: There’s a reason they show this one back-to-back for 24 hours leading up to Christmas Day; people really freaking love this movie, and I’m no exception.
Kids’ reactions: At least every other conversation from December 20-25 contains a subtle or not-so-subtle quote from this film. And that’s no exaggeration.
Quick quote: “You wouldn’t know a good time if it fell out of the sky and landed on your face and started to wiggle!”
My take: John Candy and Dan Aykroyd light up the screen with their chemistry in this SNL-meets-SCTV flick. Candy basically reprises the role from Summer Rental, while Aykroyd, well, does Aykroyd. I think he was born to play a haughty rich dude with an ego the size of a Cadillac.
Kids’ reactions: The bear scene at the end. Oh my word…
Quick quote: “She is the only evidence of God I have seen with the exception of the mysterious force that removes one sock from the dryer every time I do my laundry.”
My take: This is the John Hughes movie that nobody knows isn’t a John Hughes movie, but rather, Joel Schumacher (Flatliners)! However, it is done in a very Hughes-esque fashion, and the soundtrack is absolutely sublime. I STILL listen to the love theme from this movie on occasion. Also, who knew that Demi Moore would play a drug addict while battling a drug addiction? Talk about getting into the role! Interesting bit of trivia: Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, and Judd Nelson all portrayed college graduates in this film, the same year all three actors also portrayed high school students in The Breakfast Club. *sigh* I think I wanted so badly to have a friend group like them, but it never really materialized. We’ll always have St. Elmo’s.
Kids’ reactions: I haven’t shown this one to them—yet. I’m waiting until maybe the teenage years, seeing as how this one is more dialogue and story driven.
Quick quote: “I must break you.”
My take: This movie is what I watch when I need to inspire myself to, well, work out. As a teenager, I would put this on while lifting weights, and I would listen to the Vince DiCola soundtrack while running. About 8 years ago, I had knee surgery, and I once again turned to this soundtrack while undergoing
torture physical therapy. Seriously, there is no better movie for inspiring you to persevere than this movie, and I’m not entirely sure why (because it’s not all that great). But damn, was Stallone ripped.
Kids’ reactions: Pair this one with Red Dawn for the ultimate discussion of Soviet-American relations.
There you have it.
I fully realize Rocky IV is labeled 88, and I promised 89, but there’s actually 90 movies in the list. Problem is, “90 80s Movies” doesn’t have that same ring, so I fudged a bit. Forgive me.
If you set aside one movie night a week and watched just one movie off this list, you’d have nearly two years of memories to be made with your child(ren).
Double it up, and you have almost a full year.
I guarantee you’ll have the time of your life, and your kids will have memories to last the rest of theirs.
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