Films from the 80s

10 iconic movies from 1987

#10 – Lethal Weapon

Directed by Richard Donner. Starring Mel Gibson, Danny Glover & Gary Busey.

Of all the action films that the 1980s produced, this one probably tops the lot.

Lethal Weapon follows a pair of mismatched LAPD detectives (Gibson & Glover) who have to work together as partners. It spawned multiple sequels and became a box office smash-hit of the late 80s.

Being made on a budget of $15 million, it grossed over $120 million, eventually being made into three more sequels and a TV series. It brought Mel Gibson to worldwide fame and critical acclaim, and is known for its high energy and blend of comedy and action.

If you’re a fan of the action-thrillers of the 80s and 90s, you might as well start with the best!


#9 – Innerspace

Directed by Joe Dante. Starring Dennis Quaid, Martin Short & Meg Ryan.

Riding on the wave of success from Star Wars came an onslaught of sci-fi comedies of varying levels of success.

One of those is Innerspace, a goofy comedy that follows Lieutenant Tuck Pendleton (Quaid), who volunteers for a miniaturisation experiment after retiring from the navy.

When a movie labels itself as a “rip-off”, it’s normally a bad sign, but Innerspace is praised for its manic energy, quirkiness and charm. It’s a lot of fun for the whole family.

It brought another family together, too: Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan would later marry after meeting on the set of this film.


#8 – The Untouchables

Directed by Brian de Palma. Starring Kevin Costner, Charles Martin Smith & Andy Garcia.

It’s Brian de Palma with Robert de Niro, Kevin Costner and Sean Connery. What more do you want?

The Untouchables is the true story of Eliot Ness (Costner), the man who formed the Untouchables team to bring Al Capone (de Niro) to justice during Prohibition.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, with Connery winning Best Supporting Actor. It’s typical De Palma, a gripping and complex crime-thriller that critics still laud today.

Interestingly, the producers were surprised when 50% of the opening weekend audience were female – drawn to the redemption and relationships in a film that they expected to market towards men.


#7 – Dirty Dancing

Directed by Emile Ardolino. Starring Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey & Jerry Orbach.

Who could forget that iconic lift? This film really will give you the time of your life.

Dirty Dancing is the story of a young woman (Grey) who falls in love with her dance instructor (Swayze) at a holiday resort. It was based on screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein’s own childhood and is one of the most iconic music-based films of all time.

It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and became a smash hit worldwide, making over $214 million from a $5 million budget. A stage version has had sellout performances around the globe, including in Australia.

Go on, watch that final scene without getting literal chills. I bet you can’t.


#6 – Predator

Directed by John McTiernan. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers & Kevin Peter Hall.

What do you get when you combine the success of Arnold Schwarzenegger with the 70s and 80s horror vibes of Alien?

The answer is Predator, the terrifying story of an elite paramilitary rescue team who encounter a deadly technologically-advanced alien who hunts them down in the Central American jungle.

Initially met with mixed to negative reviews, it has since been revised as a classic of the action genre following its tremendous box office success, spawning sequels and crossovers with the Alien franchise.

Get ready for a horror film packed with peak Schwarzenegger.


#5 – RoboCop

Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Starring Peter Weller, Nancy Allen & Daniel O’Herlihy.

Here’s another icon of Hollywood cinema that is considered one of the all-time greats.

RoboCop is set in a crime-ridden futuristic Detroit, and follows police officer Alex Murphy (Weller), who is revived by a tech megacorporation after being murdered by a gang of criminals.

Cited as one of the best films of 1987 and still a fan-favourite today, RoboCop is an excellent example of 80s Hollywood dealing with the issues of corporatism, greed and technology.

The film would win five Saturn Awards and an Oscar – not bad for a box-office blockbuster.


#4 – Empire of the Sun

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson & Nigel Havers.

Spielberg can just do no wrong, and this time he takes on a cross between a coming-of-age film and a war film.

Empire of the Sun is set during Japan’s invasion of China in World War II, and follows a young boy who goes from living in a wealthy British family in Shanghai to becoming a prisoner of war.

You might not realise it at first, but that young boy is played by a young Christian Bale, and his performance is astounding. He was so well-received, in fact, that he was the first child actor ever to be bestowed with a special citation from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

It’s one of Spielberg’s most ambitious films and definitely an underrated gem from him.


#3 – Good Morning, Vietnam

Directed by Barry Levinson. Starring Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker & Tung Thanh Tran.

Get ready for Robin Williams at his very, very best.

Good Morning, Vietnam stars Williams as a radio DJ on the Armed Forces Radio Service who proves hugely popular with the troops, but infuriates his superiors.

It’s based on the experiences of radio DJ Adrian Cronauer, and Williams’ performance is among his best. He gets the opportunity to improvise and experiment with the role, resulting in the Robin Williams comedy that we all know and love.

It’s been labelled the best military comedy since M*A*S*H, which is very high praise indeed.


#2 – Full Metal Jacket

Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin & Vincent D’Onofrio.

Stanley Kubrick just absolutely nailed it in a whole lot of genres, and war films are no exception.

Full Metal Jacket is Kubrick’s take on the Vietnam War, following a platoon of US Marines through their boot camp training and eventual deployment to Vietnam.

The film is best known for the performance of Lee Ermey as abusive drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. The performance has become iconic, mainly because Ermey was a drill instructor himself and used his experiences to ad lib much of the dialogue.

The film is intense and at times, darkly humorous, and is regarded as among Kubrick’s best works.


#1 – The Princess Bride

Directed by Rob Reiner. Starring Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin & Chris Sarandon.

Rob Reiner just absolutely nailed it with this one – a classic of absurdist humour that might be one of the most unique and hilarious comedies ever made.

The Princess Bride is the story of a farmhand named Westley, who journeys to rescue his true love Princess Buttercup from the clutches of Prince Humperdinck.

According to IMDB, it ranks as the most quotable movie in history, ahead of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It features goofy characters, the best-written dialogue this film lover has ever seen and pure hilarity from start to finish.

I’m stunned at the number of people who haven’t seen this film, so treat yourself. It’s guaranteed to be a brand new favourite.

BONUS: Some of Hollywood’s finest recently reenacted the film from isolation to raise money for charity. Check out the finished product on YouTube once you’ve seen the original – it’s just as hilarious!