Taking it Back Old School: ‘80s Movies We Love

By Adam Drake

The ‘80s had some spectacularly amazing movies. From my personal favorite, the perfectly crafted Back to the Future, to the latent homosexuality of Top Gun, the ‘80s created new genres of film, while improving upon those that already existed. Instead of telling you the best films of the ‘80s, we’re going to bring some flicks to your attention that you may have missed. (But seriously, if you haven’t seen Ghostbusters, Gandhi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, stop reading and go watch them.)



Nobody does atmospheric chaos better than director Terry Gilliam. His masterpiece, Brazil (1985), features the unhinged madness and quirky angles that are Gilliam staples. Set in a dystopian future where the world has grinded to a halt due to bureaucratic red tape, this science fiction film showcases the everyman as he struggles to find love, break free of convention, and escape Orwellian monitoring. Textured, zany, and with wonderful performances from Jonathan Pryce and Michael Palin, this is ‘80s excess taken to the extreme.

Better Off Dead…

Back in the ‘80s, you could safely get away with building an entire movie (1985) around the main character attempting multiple forms of suicide. When Lane Myer’s (John Cusack) girlfriend breaks up with him, he decides he can’t go on. He fails in his endeavors, all while he’s surrounded by some of the quirkiest characters ever to be featured on film. It’s funny, there’s a random saxophone-laced Claymation scene, and Lane’s best friend snorts Jell-o through his nose.

The Abyss

Sandwiched between James Cameron’s Aliens and Terminator 2, The Abyss (1989) suffered from having more style than substance. A tad over-long and over-stuffed, and with a convoluted ending that benefits from an extended edition re-release, The Abyss attempted too much. But James Cameron, the film’s director, attempted much more. This was before CGI — though the film features one of the first instances of the new technology — so, much of the film was actually shot underwater at an abandoned nuclear power station. The amazing visuals, and sheer undertaking of the cast and crew are worth the watch alone.


“Weird Al” Yankovic’s first (and only) film (1989) has him taking over a failing television station, and filling the channel’s lineup with insane shows (Wheel of Fish, Conan the Librarian, etc.). The premise was ripe for the parody style Yankovic was known for. Featuring a pre-Kramer Michael Richards as Stanley Spadowski — a janitor who just wants to find his mop and ends up becoming a wildly successful children’s show host — UHF has become a cult classic due to its relentless comedy, off-kilter writing, and mindless entertainment.

*Batteries Not Included

Imagine Transformers, but instead of alien robots engaged in galactic civil war, *Batteries Not Included (1987) gives us small flying metal aliens who want to better humanity. Also, there’s no Shia LaBeouf. Set in an apartment building on the Lower East Side, the film explores the relationships of the tenants in the building and how they deal with the neighborhood changing around them. The aliens show up and help improve the lives of these people by helping them fight off greedy developers.


Adam Drake is Creative Director for the Sweat Life, a former four-year varsity rower for the University of Miami, and currently rows for the Maritime Rowing Club. He is the co-founder of Kayak for a Cause, a charity event based in Connecticut. As a writer, Adam has developed television shows for Comedy Central, Bad Boy Worldwide, and Sky, written ad campaigns for clients such as Bacardi, Starbucks, Dove Men+Care, and HBO, and was a contributor to the pop culture site YesButNoButYes. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, boating, and working on his tremendous collection of unfinished novels.