Being the elder statesmen of Walk West, I’m often quoting the great movies of the 80s, only to realize that no one in the room knows what in the world I’m talking about.
To help continue the cultural education of my Millennial colleagues, I’ve comprised a list of the top 16 movies worth seeing to better understand where Gen X is coming from, and more importantly, that we’re not just crazy when we say, “Blue Horseshoe loves Anacott Steel” or “Looking good Lewis” in normal conversation.
Some of these are Oscar winners, some are most certainly not. They all made their mark on the generation before you. In no particular order.
1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – 1986
Matthew Broderick is more than SJP’s husband and a guest star on 30 Rock. As Ferris “Bueller…[long pause]…Bueller” he was the epitome of cool. He was/is Gen X’s Fonzie. The “Sausage King of Chicago” had the coolest girlfriend in Sloane (Mia Sara), and inspired a love for the Ferrari 250 GT California with an entire generation. Take a look at the small role for a young Charlie Sheen that’s quite prescient of the future. One of many John Hughes movies that defined the decade. Danke schoen.
2. WarGames – 1983
Way before Anonymous, WikiLeaks and F-Society, there was a hacker named David who had to endure a dial-up modem. Also starring Matthew Broderick, WarGames showed us computers were going to rule our world and that thermonuclear war was not that far-fetched in the Cold War climate of the time. The novelty of seeing a roomful of computers that probably couldn’t run a game of Words with Friends is pretty entertaining as well.
3. The Breakfast Club – 1985
The best description of high school in the 1980s. Everyone saw themselves, at least in part, in some character in the movie. Also a John Hughes movie.
4. Wall Street – 1987
What can I say that could possibly top Gordon Gekko’s infamous speech. It’s also worth seeing Charlie Sheen before the Tiger Blood kicked in. See also: Platoon
5. The Karate Kid – 1984
Featuring the all time best 80s movie bad guy in Billy Zabka, and a can’t miss Joe Esposito soundtrack classic, “You’re the Best Around”, this was the true 80s underdog story. It might also clue you in on why every Halloween there’s a bunch of 40-year-old dudes dressed in black karate uniforms. “Sweep the leg.”
6. The Princess Bride – 1987
GoT SPOILER ALERT! Before Jon Snow was brought back to life by Melisandre, Billy Crystal did the same for Westley (Cary Elwes pre-Saw franchise) in order to save his dearest Buttercup (Robin Wright way before House of Cards) with Andre the Giant and Mandy Patinkin (way before Homeland). Yes, Mandy Patinkin is both Saul Berenson and Inigo Montoya.
7. The Outsiders – 1983
Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, C. Thomas Howell, and Diane Lane, with Francis Ford Coppola directing. “Stay golden Pony Boy.”
8. Top Gun – 1986
I wanted to be a pilot after seeing Top Gun. So did most every 13-year-old boy in America. Navy enlistments requesting to be Naval aviators were up 500% after the movie’s release. This movie is why we wear aviator sunglasses. Cue the Kenny Loggins.
9. Risky Business – 1983
“Sometimes you gotta say ‘What the F–k’, make your move. Joel, every now and then, saying ‘What the F–k’, brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.” You can translate this quote directly into Richard’s Branson business philosophy of “Screw it. Let’s do it.” This movie is why we wear wayfarer sunglasses.
10. Airplane – 1980
Trying to find quotes from Airplane that I can put through the modern PC filter was quite challenging. I would say 1980 was a very different world.
11. Scarface – 1983
A decade later, this movie was quoted on a daily basis during my freshman year of college and there were probably a dozen Scarface movie posters on my dorm floor alone. Excessive violence and drug use, and a 24-year-old Michelle Pfeiffer.
12. Rocky IV – 1985
Possibly the best training montage of any movie ever. Also, another glimpse into the 80s Cold War as seen by Hollywood. “I will break you.”
13. Caddyshack – 1980
“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion.” Greatest golf movie ever. Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield and Chevy Chase just as they were hitting their stride. It’s definitely worth seeing “Back to School” too for more Rodney Dangerfield at his best.
14. Fast Times at Ridgemont High – 1982
The official trailer says it all. After watching that, it might be hard to believe that four different cast members are Oscar nominated.
15. Heathers – 1988
This was a high school movie that came out while I was in high school. Like The Breakfast Club, it captured what life was like for an 80s teenager, albeit in a much more dramatic and stylized way. See Winona way before Stranger Things and Christian Slater pre-Mr. Robot.
16. Secret of My Success – 1987
My real name is Brantley Foster. I actually work in the mailroom here at Walk West.
Five more for your Netflix Queue:
- The Lost Boys – Our vampire movies are way better than yours.
- Sixteen Candles – More John Hughes goodness.
- The Natural – Best baseball movie ever.
- Hoosiers – Best basketball movie ever. Based on a true story makes it even cooler.
- Blade Runner – In one way or another, this film has inspired every great sci-fi movie since.
And just because I couldn’t leave these off the list: Beverly Hills Cop, Spies Like Us, The Goonies, Revenge of the Nerds, Vacation, Red Dawn, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Untouchables, Coming to America, Die Hard, Terminator, Full Metal Jacket, Pretty in Pink, Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Weird Science, The Blues Brothers, Stand by Me, and of course, Back to the Future.
Also for good measure, 70s cinema classics like Rocky (3 Oscars including the 1977 Best Picture), Rocky II, Alien, The Godfather and Godfather: Part II, Star Wars (Yes, someone at this office has not seen it), and Animal House are all required viewing.
I can feel the workplace synergy flowing. Now go stream some great movies and make sure to watch the originals. I can’t be held responsible if you watch the Jaden Smith version of Karate Kid. Feel free to let me know what I left off the list.