Films from the 80s

10 movies not to miss from 1984

#10 – Gremlins

Directed by Joe Dante. Starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates & Hoyt Axton.

You’re about to find out that 1984 was the year of the iconic 80s film. You’d probably guess when this is number ten!

Gremlins is a hilarious supernatural horror-comedy about the cheeky but nefarious little Gremlins: adorable creatures that transform if you feed them after midnight. This gave me nightmares as a kid.

It has become a cult classic and was part of a huge marketing campaign selling the adorable version of the Gremlins as toys – and you can definitely see why. The film is fun and quite cheeky, and a good way to introduce the younger audiences to horror.

Steven Spielberg was on board this project as a producer – so when he’s not directing successful blockbusters, he’s still in the credits somewhere!


#9 – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw & Amrish Puri.

Speaking of Spielberg, he was back in action as usual with the prequel to the success that was Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom sees Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones on the search for a mystical stone and on the run from a ritualistic cult in India. A much more mature and developed adventure than the original, it actually played a part in the ratings system for movies being changed in America to be more lenient for such blockbusters.

Although not as well-received as the other two Indiana Jones films, Temple of Doom still carries a lot of weight as a blockbuster classic, including the iconic and frequently-parodied heart removal scene above.

The original version of the film was only 1 hour and 55 minutes long, but Spielberg and George Lucas sat down and completely flipped it in editing to be a longer, slower burn.


#8 – Footloose

Directed by Herbert Ross. Starring Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer & Dianne Wiest.

Rule number one of making an 80s film: an iconic soundtrack is always a winner. Rule number two: Kenny Loggins is a good choice.

Footloose, to quote a much later film, is a story about a town of people with sticks up their butts. Kevin Bacon plays Ren McCormack, a teenager bent on overturning the ban on dancing from a local minister.

Critically, the film is a flop, but I think there’s a subgenre of 80s musical films that critics hated and that immediately became classics, and this one is the king of them all. It’s a catchy and infectious movie that deserves its cult status.

Australia even gets a nod in this one, with our very own Moving Pictures contributing to the soundtrack.


#7 – The NeverEnding Story

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Starring Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver & Tami Stronach.

From the incredible mind of Wolfgang Petersen comes a film that traumatised every childhood ever since.

The NeverEnding Story is the epitome of the childhood fantasy genre, following a boy who happens upon a magic book that tells the story of a young warrior tasked with stopping the sinister Nothing. It could only be done by a mind like Petersen’s.

Few films accomplish world-building quite on the scale that this one does. With characters like Atreyu, Falkor and Gmork becoming vivid memories in many childhoods, it quite simply is one of the greatest fantasy adventures ever told.

Better enjoy this one as much as you can: apparently, the rights to the story are basically inaccessible, so we won’t be seeing any further exploration of this incredible fantasy world, unfortunately.


#6 – Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Starring Sumi Shimamoto, Goro Naya & Yoji Matsuda.

Welcome to 1984. You’re in Studio Ghibli’s territory now.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, one of Ghibli and Miyazaki’s earliest successes, is an epic Japanese fantasy-adventure about Nausicaa, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, embroiled in a struggle with Tolmekia, a kingdom using an ancient weapon to eradicate a jungle of giant insects.

I will probably sing these same two praises every time a Ghibli film makes the countdown, but here goes: the animation is the best you will ever see full stop, and the imagination behind the stories is staggering. Nothing takes you away to another world like a Ghibli film.

If you can, avoid the English re-release. There’s something about hearing the original voices, even if it means using subtitles.


#5 – A Nightmare on Elm Street

Directed by Wes Craven. Starring John Saxon, Ronee Blakley & Heather Langenkamp.

Another theme of the 80s so far has been the birth of the slasher. Well, here’s its peak.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is indisputably the greatest slasher ever made, the haunting neural horror story of Freddy Krueger, a supernatural murderer with a bladed glove who travels through nightmares.

The brilliant performance of Robert Englund is the gem in the crown of this film. Freddy is one of the most haunting villains in horror movie history, inspiring a future generation of films featuring supernatural psychopaths. He is absolutely, chillingly brilliant.

Few films have the ability to toy with your perceptions like this one. Just don’t watch it before going to bed…


#4 – The Karate Kid

Directed by John G. Avildsen. Starring Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita & Elisabeth Shue.

When you realise this is number four, you’re starting to comprehend just how good 1984 was for movies.

The Karate Kid is the story of teenager Daniel, a teenager taught by the famous Mr Miyagi to defend himself and compete in a karate tournament against his bullies. It’s a famous story we all know very well.

What you might not know is that the film was hailed as a masterpiece from the very outset. Morita was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Mr Miyagi, and honestly, I wish he’d won it.

For a dark horse for the greatest martial arts movie ever made, look no further. It’s a lot of fun and action-packed.


#3 – Once Upon a Time in America

Directed by Sergio Leone. Starring Robert de Niro, James Woods & Elizabeth McGovern.

From one of the great martial arts films to one of the great gangster films. Sergio Leone turns from his success in Westerns to gangster movies in one of the greatest films ever made.

Once Upon a Time in America follows a group of Jewish ghetto youths who rise to become powerful gangsters in New York City’s world of organised crime. The second in Leone’s Once Upon a Time trilogy, and arguably the best, it’s a brilliant display of what the director can do.

Interestingly, the film was initially a huge flop because the studio shortened the film from 3 hours and 49 minutes to 2 hours and 19 minutes without Leone’s knowledge or consent. The result was critically panned, until the longer version was released and praised by critics, who immediately hailed Leone and harshly condemned the changes.

And, of course, Robert de Niro. What more do you want in a gangster movie?


#2 – Ghostbusters

Directed by Ivan Reitman. Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd & Sigourney Weaver.

Who you gonna call? The greatest supernatural comedy ever made!

Ghostbusters features the brilliant leading trio of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as the renowned parapsychologists who start their own ghost-catching business in New York City. If that cast isn’t enough for you, check out the soundtrack!

The film immediately became a cultural phenomenon, praised for its blend of comedy, action and horror. It would be the pinnacle of the career of Bill Murray, today renowned as one of the greatest comedians ever to grace the silver screen.

Don’t forget to listen to the podcast of Way Back When 1984 on Tune!FM to hear Ben play Ray Parker Jr.’s smash-hit theme song (against his will)!


#1 – The Terminator

Directed by James Cameron. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn & Linda Hamilton.

To top a year like 1984, you’d need to be one of the greatest films ever made. Well, here we are.

James Cameron’s The Terminator is not only the beginning of the brilliant career of one of the great blockbuster directors but also of the career of the icon that is Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film follows Sarah Connor, who is targeted for termination by an android from the future, where her son is the hero of a rebellion against the rule of machines.

This is everything that makes a brilliant science-fiction film: a simple premise that requires minimal explanation, a tangible, realistic threat and a whole lot of incredible action and performances. It’s a roller coaster from start to finish.

Imagine making a film so good that you get to meet the President. Well, Schwarzenegger soon found himself shaking hands with Ronald Reagan after this piece of cinematic brilliance.