1980s in film  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The decade of the 1980s in film involved many significant films.

1 Events
2 Top Grossing Films
3 Trends
4 List of films: # A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.


The 1980s saw the continued rise of the blockbuster, an increased amount of nudity in film and the increasing emphasis in the American industry on film franchises, especially in the science fiction, horror, and action genres. Much of the reliance on these effect-driven blockbusters was due in part to the Star Wars films at the advent of this decade and the new cinematic effects it helped to pioneer.

The teen comedy sub-genre saw its popularity rise during this decade.

The PG-13 rating was introduced in 1984, to accommodate movies that straddled the line between PG and R.

Top grossing films

The following are the 50 top-grossing films of the decade:

  1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), $435 million
  2. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983), $309 million
  3. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), $290 million
  4. Beverly Hills Cop (1984), $234 million
  5. Batman (1989), $150 million
  6. Ghostbusters (1984), $130 million
  7. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), $115 million
  8. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), $115 million
  9. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), $109 million
  10. Back to the Future (1985), $104 million
  11. Tootsie (1982), $92 million
  12. Rain Man (1988), $86 million
  13. Three Men and a Baby (1987), $81 million
  14. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), $81 million
  15. Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), $80 million
  16. Gremlins (1984), $79 million
  17. Top Gun (1986), $79 million
  18. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), $79 million
  19. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), $78 million
  20. Rocky IV (1985), $76 million
  21. Back to the Future Part II (1989), $72 million
  22. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), $72 million
  23. Crocodile Dundee (1986), $70 million
  24. Fatal Attraction (1987), $70 million
  25. Platoon (1986), $69 million
  26. Rocky III (1982), $66 million
  27. Superman II (1981), $65 million
  28. Coming to America (1988), $65 million
  29. Working Girl (1988), $64 million
  30. On Golden Pond (1981), $61 million
  31. 9 to 5 (1980), $59 million
  32. Stir Crazy (1980), $58 million
  33. The Karate Kid, Part II (1986), $58 million
  34. Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), $58 million
  35. "Crocodile" Dundee II (1988), $57 million
  36. Twins (1988), $57 million
  37. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), $56 million
  38. An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), $55 million
  39. Porky's (1982), $54 million
  40. Terms of Endearment (1983), $50 million
  41. The Color Purple (1985), $47 million
  42. The Karate Kid (1984), $43 million
  43. Out of Africa (1985), $43 million
  44. Arthur (1981), $42 million
  45. Airplane! (1980), $40 million
  46. Any Which Way You Can (1980), $40 million
  47. Stripes (1981), $40 million
  48. WarGames (1983), $38 million
  49. Superman III (1983), $37 million
  50. The Untouchables (1987), $36 million

In the list, where revenues are equal numbers, the newer films are listed lower, due to inflation making the dollar-amount lower compared to earlier years.


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.

List of films




















Reckless (1984)









See also

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

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