See how well you remember the movies of the 1980s -- in all genres -- with our quiz!
The Reagan era might have been "morning in America," but frankly, a lot of us missed it -- because we were up too late the night before at the multiplex, watching comedies like "The Breakfast Club" and tearjerkers like "An Officer and a Gentleman"! With VCRs barely on the scene, 1980s movie lovers saw their favorite films in all their big-screen glory ... which is definitely the way action epics like "Top Gun" were meant to be watched. (Besides which, ducking into a darkened theater was the only way to avoid seeing everyone's loud, color-blocked warm-up jackets and Swatch wristwatches).
But the cinema of the '80s wasn't all easy laughs, light romance and flashy action movies. There were, surprisingly, touches of seriousness, too. Remember, for example, the gorgeous foreign films made by producing duo Merchant-Ivory? Or "Platoon," the first of a series of socially conscious historical films by writer-director Oliver Stone? Then there was 1987's "The Last Temptation of Christ," made by Martin Scorsese. It generated a good bit of controversy, and foreshadowed Mel Gibson's equally eyebrow-raising "The Passion of the Christ" years later.
Whatever your personal tastes in movies, take a trip back with us to the smash hits and rare gems of 1980s cinema. Don't worry, we'll spend plenty of time reminiscing about the Brat Pack and "Ridgemont High," but with a few high-quality flicks thrown in, just to mix things up. So pour yourself a New Coke to wash down your popcorn, and test your knowledge on the classic movies of the 1980s.
"Empire" holds a place in many "Star Wars" fans' hearts as the best movie of the first trilogy (possibly even the series). Han and Leia began to fall in love, Luke learns a bombshell revelation, and nothing was resolved, leaving everyone waiting anxiously for the next installment.
A lot of American movies expressed fear of the military might of the USSR. After the fall of the Soviet Union, we learned they had to make dummy missiles for those military parades in Red Square. (Boy, were we embarrassed!)
Maybe you found this one easy -- they're both sons of famous actor Martin Sheen. But some people are still confused by the different last names. Charlie, born Carlos Estevez, took his father's stage name. Emilio liked the alliterative sound of his birth name and never changed it.
Child actor Culkin was too young to be part of the Brat Pack, who were teen actors when they earned that name. They went on to make some new-adult/coming-of-age films like "St. Elmo's Fire."
Writer David Blum penned an unflattering article about Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe and Judd Nelson, after spending time with them for his piece. We're not sure whether Blum gets the credit for the title, "The Brat Pack," as titles/headlines are often written by magazine editors, not the writers themselves.
Frank Sinatra and his acting pals were called "the Rat Pack." So "Brat Pack" was an unflattering version of that nickname.
Technically, "Oxford Blues" came out before "Princess Bride," but the latter film was when the lunchbox really landed for this British actor. (And yes, we know that Elwes has male fans too).
Barrymore didn't actually debut in "E.T." She'd had a small role in "Altered States" two years before. But Barrymore did her first significant acting in the Spielberg film, which started her on a path to stardom.
Thomas is not a very well-known name, especially compared to his younger co-star Barrymore. But he has worked consistently, and also plays in a band.
In this 1984 film, there were three rules to owning a "mogwai." Never expose it to bright light, never get it wet and never feed it after midnight. Naturally, the rules get broken, and mayhem ensues.
"Beverly Hills Cop" is a fish-out-of-water story in which a cop from back East comes to L.A. to avenge a friend's death. It made a star of Eddie Murphy.
It's likely that Detroit was chosen because it was the grittiest possible contrast to glossy Beverly Hills. It's a counterpoint that would still work today.
The 1980s weren't all Brat Pack comedies and Steven Spielberg boys-in-suburbia adventures, and for that we have Ismail Merchant and James Ivory to thank. They brought a number of British novels to glorious life on the big screen, like the E.M. Forster book "A Room With a View."
The first film was called "Raiders of the Lost Ark." After the Jones character became a household name, all the other films would start with "Indiana Jones and ..." The others were "The Temple of Doom," "The Last Crusade," and "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."
This came out in the third movie, in which Sean Connery played Indiana's father. When he learns his son's nickname, he scoffs about that being the dog's name, and Indiana's longtime sidekick has a good laugh about it, too.
Sallah was Egyptian, but played by a Welsh actor. Nowadays, casting a white actor as a north African might raise eyebrows, but back in the 1980s, it was still fairly common practice.
The "forest moon" the Ewoks inhabited was called Endor. The Galactic Empire had an outpost there that had to be destroyed if the rebels were to stop the construction of a new Death Star.
The original film debuted in 1980, and a sequel followed nearly every year through 1989's "Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan." So which years was it safe to go back to the movies? 1983 and 1987.
"Repo Man" was an offbeat sci-fi comedy that came out in 1984. We could tell you more, but ... just watch it already.
Ringwald was in show business from early childhood, when she sang with her father's jazz band. We can't blame her for leaving Hollywood after her huge successes in "Breakfast Club" and "Pretty in Pink" -- she probably needed to get away (though she did act in French movies while overseas).
Grey was a year away from her biggest hit, "Dirty Dancing," which would drop in 1987. Toward the end of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," she finally unwinds enough to get caught kissing a young hooligan, played by Charlie Sheen, whom she meets in a police station lobby.
"The Outsiders" was a who's who of hot young male actors, also including C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, and Tom Cruise. But it only had one significant female role, that of Cherry. That role was played by Diane Lane.
The other three were also in the adaptation of the beloved teen novel. They played Two-Bit Mathews, Darry Curtis and Johnny Cade, respectively.
Some critics suggested the Navy should just have a recruiting booth in theater lobbies, and the US Navy itself reported a spike in recruitment. (Apparently, no one paid attention to Goose's tragic death).
Freddy Krueger proved so popular that Hollywood was still making sequels in 2003. However, by that time, it was the very tongue-in-cheek "Freddy vs. Jason." Sadly, we lost "Elm Street" creator Wes Craven in 2015.
This movie was based on a novel that had also generated a bit of controversy, but movies always draw more fire than books. The main problem with "Last Temptation," for the devout, was that it depicted Christ as having sexual fantasies.
Bowie had done some previous acting. However, casting the ethereal blond rock star as a Roman magistrate in Palestine took some real out-of-the-box thinking on Martin Scorsese's part.
Dafoe played Sgt. Elias, who was "fragged" by another officer, played by Berenger. This was another serious movie that provided a palate cleanser to all the action movies and teen comedies of the 1980s.
This 1980 film made a few reputations. Firstly, Richard Gere's; he'd only had small roles to that point. But secondly, it put Giorgio Armani on the map. The designer outfitted Gere's character, male escort Julian Kaye.
"Top Secret!" was a parody of action and spy movies, with Val Kilmer in the lead. We'd like to say it skewered "Top Gun," but despite the similarity in the names, the naval-fighter-ace movie hadn't come out yet.
Yup, Penn got his breakthrough as Jeff Spicoli, the stoner/surfer without a care in the world. Which is ironic, because Penn is known for his serious views on social justice and global poverty.
Cage is part of the well-known Coppola family of writers, directors, actors (and to some extent, winemakers). He took the name "Cage" in part because he liked Marvel Comics character Luke Cage.
One of the film's producers hated the song and tried to have it cut from the soundtrack. Similarly, Richard Gere thought the film's ending, the factory-floor scene, was too sentimental for the rest of the film. Combined, they turned out to be the most memorable part of "Officer and a Gentleman."
"Cat People" was a 1942 noir film about the power, and danger, of repressed sexuality. Kinski, a pinup goddess of the 80s, played the lead in the remake.
These lines come at the end of "Trading Places," with Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd. In this 1983 movie, a street hustler and a stock trader unwillingly swap lives, as part of an experiment on the part of unscrupulous millionaire brothers.