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"Margaret Thatcher (1979) and Ronald Reagan (1980) came to power ending the Trente Glorieuses. Major civil discontent and violence occurred in the Middle East, including the Iran–Iraq War, the Soviet–Afghan War, the 1982 Lebanon War, the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the Bombing of Libya in 1986, and the First Intifada in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Islamism became a powerful political force in the 1980s and many terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda started."--Sholem Stein

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The 1980s refers to the period of and between 1980 and 1989. In the United Kingdom particularly, this decade is often referred to as "the Me decade" and "the Greed decade", reflecting the economic and social climate. In the United States and UK, "yuppie" entered the lexicon, referring to the well-publicized rise of a new middle class within the upper economic strata. College graduates in their late 20s/30s were entering the workplace in prestigious office professions, holding more purchasing power in trendy, luxurious goods.

It was also known as "the purple passage of the late 1980s". The Autumn of Nations led towards the withdrawal of Soviet troops at the conclusion of the Soviet-Afghan War, fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Cold War. The era was characterized by the blend of conservative family values alongside a period of increased telecommunications, shift towards liberal market economies and the new openness of perestroika and glasnost. This transitional passage also saw massive democratic revolutions such as the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in China, the Czechoslovak velvet revolution, and the overthrow of the dictatorial regime in Romania and other communist Warsaw Pact states in Central and Eastern Europe. These changes continued to be felt in the 1990s and on into the 21st century.

The 1980s was also an era of tremendous population growth around the world, comparable only to the 1970s or 1990s to being among the largest in human history. This growth occurred not only in developing regions but also developed western nations, where many newborns were the offspring of the largely populated Baby Boomers.


Popular culture

The most prominent events and trends in popular culture of the decade include:


The decade saw the emergence of new wave, electronic music (e.g., synthpop) the use of the synthesizer, and the introduction of hip hop and sampling.

The decade began with a backlash against disco music and a movement away from the orchestral arrangements that had characterized much of the music of the 1970s. Music in the 1980s was characterized by electronic sounds accomplished through the use of synthesizers and keyboards, along with drum machines. The music channel MTV began the trend of the music video. The first video to be aired on MTV was Buggles's "Video Killed The Radio Star".

The 1980s saw two new developments, the demise of disco the rise of electronic dance music.

By the late 1970s many major US cities had thriving disco club scenes which were centered around discothèques, nightclubs, and private loft parties where DJs would play disco hits through powerful PA systems for the dancers. Some of the most prestigious clubs had elaborate lighting systems that throbbed to the beat of the music.

The largest world cities like New York (Paradise Garage, The Loft), Manchester (The Haçienda), Paris (Les Bains Douches), Ibiza (Pacha), Antwerp (Ancienne Belgique) played a significant role in the evolution of clubbing, DJ culture and nightlife.

New genres included New Wave, Synthpop, Hip Hop, House, Acid House, Techno, Rave, Freestyle, Electro, Eurodisco, Italo Disco, Hi-NRG, Balearic, jazz-funk, post-disco, Northern soul and 80s groove



The films of the 1980s covered many genres, with hybrids crossing between multiple genres. The trend strengthened towards creating ever-larger blockbuster films, which earned more in their opening weeks than any previous film, due in part to staging releases when audiences had little else to choose.

  • blockbusters - The decade started by continuing the blockbuster boom of the mid-'70s. The sequel to 1977's Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back opened in May of 1980 becoming the highest-grossing film of the year. The film is considered among the best of films of the decade (it being the highest rated '80s film on IMDb). It was followed by Return of the Jedi (1983) finishing the trio. It perfectly set the euphoric fanastical tone of many of the similar films to come. Superman II was released in Europe and Australia in late 1980 but not distributed in the United States until June 1981. It was directed by two directors creating a long controversy over the film that caused a second version to be released in 2006. Though now seen as campier over the original 1978 Superman, Superman II was received with a positive reaction. From the success of The Empire Strikes Back, creator George Lucas teamed up with director Steven Spielberg to create one of the most iconic characters in the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark starring Harrison Ford, who had also co-starred in The Empire Strikes Back. The story about an archaeologist and adventurer, Indiana Jones (Ford), hired by the U.S. government to go on a quest for the mystical lost Ark of the Covenant, created waves of interest in old 1930s style cliffhanger serials. It became the highest grossing film of 1981, leading to sequels all in the top-10 films of the decade. In 1982, Spielberg directed his family, fairy-tale science-fiction blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which shattered all records, earning 40% more than any Star-Wars film, and double or triple the renevue of 46 of the top 50 films.
  • westerns - A stylish form of western was evolving, with films such as Silverado (1985).
  • action-films - In the seventies, action films usually focused on maverick police officers, however, the action film did not become a dominant form in Hollywood until the '80s, when it was popularized by actors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis. Stallone continued the Rocky series and starred in 82's First Blood about a returning Vietnam War veteran fighting a small town sheriff and its sequel Rambo II. Vietnam War films grew in popularity in the '80s, from being a film subject which was still seen as a taboo in the '70s. Movies like Platoon and Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket made the war a subject. Chuck Norris starred in the Missing in Action trilogy (1984, 1985, 1988) about a Vietnam veteran going back to rescue POWs. Schwarzenegger starred in The Terminator (1984), Commando (1986), and Predator (1987). The 1988 film Die Hard was particularly influential on the development of the genre in the subsequent decade. In the movie, Bruce Willis plays a New York City police detective who inadvertently becomes embroiled in a terrorist take-over of a Los Angeles office block.
  • James Bond - The James Bond film series entered its third decade in 1981 with Roger Moore starring in the more realistic For Your Eyes Only after the outlandish excess of Moonraker in 1979. The decade saw the beginning of a new era for Bond since the previous decade's directors originally directed a 1960s Bond, the new director brought to the series, John Glen, criticized for a less stylistic and more "workman" style of direction, directed all the EON Bond films from 1981 to 1989. Moonraker was the last for regular Bernard Lee who portrayed Bond's boss M. For the eighties Bonds, a collection of numerous MI6 superiors would brief Bond on his missions. 1983 was a significant year for the series as a non-EON Bond was released, Never Say Never Again, directed by The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner with Sean Connery returning to the role for the last time since 1971's Diamonds are Forever; it was competing with the next EON film Octopussy at the box-office with media dubbing the situation 'The Battle of the Bonds'. Even lesser known in the same year was one-time Bond George Lazenby appearing in the TV-reunion movie The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. as a Bond-like character "JB". A View to a Kill (1985) was the last for Roger Moore before Timothy Dalton was chosen as the new Bond in 1987's The Living Daylights and lastly in 1989's Licence to Kill.


The very popular British Soap Opera Eastenders aired for the first time on BBC1 on 19 February 1985.

The 1980s was the decade of transformation in television. Cable television became more accessible and therefore, more popular. By the middle of the decade, almost 70% of the American population had cable television and over 85% were paying for cable services such as HBO or Showtime.

The 1980s was also the period of glory for primetime soap operas such as Dallas and Dynasty.

The popular animated sitcom The Simpsons debuted in 1989. There were also the TV talk shows that were increasing in popularity and some of the most viewed were the ones hosted by Geraldo Rivera or David Letterman.

Video gaming


  • The kitsch of the 1970s, while itself rejected, influenced the fashion of the 1980s – in the beginning of the decade marked by the New Romantic movement and later by fashion inspired by heavy metal bands, including teased hair, ripped jeans and neon clothing.

Significant fashion trends of the 1980s include:


  • BMX bicycles gained popularity amongst the youth in the early 1980s.
  • The Yo-yo gained popularity amongst the youth in the beginning of the decade as well.
  • Fast food chain restaurants such as McDonald's and Burger King experienced a strong increase circulation.
  • Rubik's cube became a popular fad throughout the decade.


See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "1980s" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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