The 1980s was a transformative era of film with classic movies that remain timeless gems to this day. From outrageous comedies to intense action thrillers, relive the nostalgia with DIRECTV.
So grab your popcorn and crank up the volume — it’s time to time travel back to the decade of neon leggings, big hair and sweet beats with DIRECTV.
Iconic ’80s Movies You Must Watch
From Darth Vader’s ominous breathing to Marty McFly’s madcap adventure — the ’80s was a decade of legendary films. Here are 10 classic 1980s movies from each year of the decade that you can watch with DIRECTV:
‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980)
“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
George Lucas and director Irvin Kershner kicked off the decade with one of the most anticipated, iconic and influential sequels of all time. After the global phenomenon of 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back brought Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia into a darker atmosphere and deeper plot than anyone was expecting.
Taking a closer look at the mystifying and terrifying dark side of the force, The Empire Strikes Back cemented the lore of villain Darth Vader as a pop culture icon, and introduced enduring characters like Yoda and Boba Fett, who still captivate fans today.
Unlike anything seen before it, The Empire Strikes Back opened the 1980s with a bang — and is still the standard by which many measure blockbuster sequels today.
‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981)
Steven Spielberg’s 1981 instant classic follows the daring exploits of Indiana Jones in his quest to secure the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can obtain it.
Raiders of the Lost Ark was one of the first genre-blending action-adventure movies, taking elements from horror, science-fiction and fantasy to create a story that was as thrilling to watch as it was groundbreaking. Along with its iconic soundtrack, witty dialogue and Harrison Ford’s swashbuckling heroics, Raiders of the Lost Ark took audiences on a wild ride that is still one of cinemas most memorable.
When thinking about this enduring classic, Indiana Jones said it best himself:
“It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage.”
‘Blade Runner’ (1982)
Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking dystopia still captures the imagination today. Set in dark and rainy Los Angeles, the epic follows Rick Deckard, a retired cop brought back to duty to hunt down rogue androids called replicants. The film explores the nature of what it means to be human, as well our reliance on technology and the future of society.
Blade Runner has had an enduring influence on popular culture, with its striking visuals, intense storytelling and innovative special effects. The film inspired countless sci-fi movies and TV shows and its impact extends as far as fashion, design and music. Blade Runner’s themes of humanity, artificial intelligence and morality continue to resonate with audiences, making it a prescient and relevant film, even to this day.
‘Terms of Endearment’ (1983)
Terms of Endearment is a 1983 American comedy-drama film that explores the complex relationship between a mother and daughter. Directed by James L. Brooks, this picture is known for its emotional depth, witty dialogue and exploration of family dynamics. Terms of Endearment won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress for Shirley MacLaine’s powerful performance as Aurora.
For those who grew up in the era, Terms of Endearment is a nostalgic reminder of the early ’80s, with its memorable soundtrack, fashion and setting. It remains a classic of American cinema, beloved by generations for its emotional resonance and timeless exploration of the complexities of family relationships.
“There’s more to life than macaroni.”
This is the enduring truth that the 1984 classic Gremlins has taught us all. Directed by Joe Dante, this comedy-horror film left an indelible mark on popular culture.
Gremlins struck a chord with audiences worldwide through its comedic parody of horror films while remaining itself, a genuinely terrifying thriller. The film solidified the horror-comedy genre, influencing countless others that followed in its footsteps.
1984 was an iconic year for cinema, with memorable works like Ghostbusters, and The Terminator all emerging in the same year. How many 1984 classics have you seen?
Find more ’80s classics in our 1984 Year in Review.
‘Back to the Future’ (1985)
“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”
Marty McFly and Doc Brown surely didn’t need them in Back to the Future, directed by Robert Zemeckis. This beloved cult classic follows Marty and Doc as they travel through time in an effort to save Marty’s future.
From Huey Lewis’ catchy soundtrack to the DeLorean’s flux capacitor, Back to the Future established itself as one of the most beloved films of all time. Its impact can be seen in everything from fashion to video games to this day, and the film’s memorable catchphrases have become staples of the English language. Great Scott!
‘Top Gun’ (1986)
A young Tom Cruise takes to the skies in one of the most iconic films of the decade, Tony Scott’s Top Gun. This 1986 action-drama cemented Cruise as a superstar and turned the Navy fighter pilot into an iconic figure in American pop culture.
Top Gun follows Pete “Maverick” Mitchell as he navigates the world of elite fighter pilot training. The story explores issues loyalty, courage, ambition and loss on the backdrop of thrilling aerial stunts and an iconic ’80s soundtrack.
As the year’s highest-grossing film, Top Gun grossed over $176 million at the box office. With the titular character and many of its iconic scenes still relevant today, 2022’s sequel, Top Gun: Maverick introduced a new generation of fans to this classic franchise.
‘The Princess Bride’ (1987)
“I told you, ‘To the pain.’”
Rob Reiner’s classic fairy tale film has enchanted audiences since its release in 1987. Featuring an all-star cast, including Cary Elwes, Robin Wright and Mandy Patinkin, the film tells the story of a young woman named Buttercup and her true love, Westley. Their love is put to the test as they encounter a variety of obstacles and adversaries, including an evil prince, a vengeful Spaniard and the fearsome Rodents of Unusual Size.
The Princess Bride balances adventure, humor and romance to tell a timeless tale of true love and friendship. Its quotable lines have become staples of pop culture and its enchanting universe continues to captivate audiences today.
‘Die Hard’ (1988)
Who could forget Bruce Willis’s electrifying performance as John McClane in 1988’s Die Hard?
Directed by John McTiernan, Die Hard is the first entry of this vaunted movie franchise and it remains one of the best action movies of all time.
Bruce Willis brings both humor and intensity to his role as McClane, a reluctant hero who is forced to battle against the odds in an effort to save his wife and outwit a band of international terrorists. The film’s iconic villain, Hans Gruber (played by Alan Rickman), is also one of the most memorable in cinema history.
Die Hard also packs impressive stunts, innovative production and a cleverly constructed plot to keep you on the edge of your seat for every minute of its two-hour runtime. If you haven’t revisited this classic in a while, then welcome to the party, pal.
‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989)
Rounding out the decade, 1989’s Dead Poets Society directed by Peter Weir is the classic coming-of-age story of a group of rebellious young men who form their own literary society. Led by their teacher, John Keating (played by Robin Williams), the students learn to explore their own voices and stand up for themselves in a society that often tries to mute their individuality.
The film became a cult classic due to its themes of personal freedom, self-expression and youthful rebellion. Its clever dialogue and nuanced performances make it a beloved classic that has stood the test of time and continues to inspire viewers around the world. If you’re stuck in a creative rut, throw on this classic for a dose of inspiration.
More Movies From the ’80s
The 1980s was a transformative decade of film. Apart from the 10 classics we mentioned above, check out the following ’80s movies list:
- E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
- Sixteen Candles (1984)
- The Breakfast Club (1985)
- Aliens (1986)
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
- Beetlejuice (1988)
- Rain Man (1988)
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
- When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Get the Best Movies and Shows from DIRECTV
Whether you’re most interested in sports, live TV or movies on demand — DIRECTV has options.
If you’re a movie buff with a soft spot for the ’80s, DIRECTV’s PREMIER™ package offers a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience. With an extensive collection of classic ’80s movies, you can dive deep into nostalgia and relive your favorite moments from this iconic decade like never before.
Use our quiz to pick the right package for your entertainment needs.
The content featured on https://www.directv.com/insider/ is editorial content brought to you by DIRECTV. While some of the programming discussed may now or in the future be available affiliates distribution services, the companies and persons discussed and depicted, and the authors and publishers of licensed content, are not necessarily associated with and do not necessarily endorse DIRECTV. When you click on ads on this site you may be taken to DIRECTV marketing pages that display advertising content. Content sponsored or co-created by programmers is identified as "Sponsored Content" or "Promoted Content."