Top 10 Most Influential Films of the 80s


10) Die Hard (1988)- this action packed neo-western took the action genre to a new level of entertainment including a flawed yet charming protagonist, a witty sense of humor, and brutal action realism that makes John McTiernan’s Die Hard a must see action thriller. This film that is both constantly referenced and mimicked has acted as a guideline for most memorable action films that have followed in its path.


9) Full Metal Jacket (1987)- Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket was his last, as critics are concerned, credibly good film that highly expressed his unique and cynical delivery, this time using the controversial topic of the Vietnam War. Filmed in 4:3, television format, to creatively portray how the War was captured, Kubrick’s demented vision accentuates the horrors of the war with a nuanced directing style that the infamous filmmaker was known for.


8 Brazil (1985)- this dark Orwellian comedy about the struggle of a bureaucrat trying to break free from an overbearing government lifestyle dictated for him by patriarchic forces is one of the most original displays of a filmmaker’s imagination. Never appealing to the normal standard of filmmaking, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is another monument of originality that will serve as a testament to individuality and the open expression of even the most bizarre of imaginations.


7) The Terminator (1984)- when this doomsday science-fiction action film was released, no one had seen anything else like it. The Terminator, with its dauntingly futuristic plotline and it’s frighteningly original apocalyptic portrayal of the consequences of nuclear war, pushed James Cameron to the forefront of cinematic innovators.


6) Back to the Future (1985)- known for its energetic and fresh take on the usual conventions from the science-fiction genre, Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future is not only a fast paced entertaining spectacle of technological innovation, that still holds in comparison to special effects today, but its also has an unforgettable cast of characters that are distinctive and amusing.


5) E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)- the charming and out of this world tale of an unusual friendship between an alien and a young boy is one of the more memorable and significant films of all time, allowing the limits of our imagination to meet the callousness that can be reality. E.T. is boundless in its ability to connect with audiences of all ages, creating an originally delightful story that will stand the test of time.


4) Amadeus (1984)- Milos Forman’s epic adaptation of Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus is a passionate tale of music, jealousy, and murder. With expressive performances from F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce, the bitter rivalry between the ever spiteful and ambitious Antonio Salieri and the immature yet brilliantly talented Wolfgang “Amadeus” Mozart takes magnificent shape making Amadeus a riveting drama for the ages.


3) Blade Runner (1982)- the vast influences of science-fiction had established itself as a genre worthy of artistic expression and when Ridley Scott took on the incredibly deep and intricate view of the post-apocalyptic future in Blade Runner, the final result was a poetic and pessimistic outlook on man’s technological impact in the future. Mixing the profound atmosphere created by the 40s noir settings and themes along with the philosophical depth in science-fiction, Blade Runner stepped passed the conventional bounds of its own genre and made it a symbol of how cinema can be intellectual and inventive.


2) Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)- practically the definition of adventure films, Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark is an iconic piece of entertainment known for its style, energy, and its infamous protagonist brought charmingly to life by Harrison Ford. This vigorous action adventure will be remembered throughout cinema for its unique mixture of history, including archeology and theology, and action turning it into an exceptionally original concept that has yet to be repeated successfully.


1) Raging Bull (1980)- Martin Scorsese’s prosaic biopic about boxer Jake LaMotta, played poignantly by Robert De Niro, is one of the defining pieces of cinema for sports dramas as well as being one of the most vastly artistic expressions of the filmmaking art in history. Currently ranked fourth on the AFI top 100 films ever made, Raging Bull combines subjective brutality and individual disillusionment creating a spellbinding cinematic tour de force.

Honorable Mentions (no particular order): This is Spinal Tap, Platoon, Tootsie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ghostbusters, Aliens, Blue Velvet, The Empire Strikes Back, The Princess Bride, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Let me know what you think.

7 Responses to “Top 10 Most Influential Films of the 80s”
  1. Mario G says:

    Good list, good reasons. I would have liked to see Ferris on there, but I get that there are too few spaces for so many great films.

  2. Kayla Laws says:

    ive only seen 10, 6, 5, and 2

  3. tommy holden says:

    This is a fantastic list. Brazil is what made me want to major in film.

    • octavarium08 says:

      That’s funny because Brazil was the exact same movie that put me on the path to majoring in film as well.

  4. Justin says:

    Good to see Blade Runner on the list. A movie which, when it debuted, was panned by moviegoers and critics who couldn’t appreciate a cerebral sci-fi movie that was more than a few IQ’s ahead of the popular Star Wars genre of its time. Blade Runner is not only a sci-fi classic now but it’s look, special effects, and style has stood the test of time.

  5. Michael J says:

    I love how half of these films are action. What a bias list. How can you not even have the most talked about film of 1989 on that list? Do The Right Thing. That’s a film that’s still showed in college film classes today and strikes up debates every time you watch it. Can you say that about Back to the Future, Die Hard, and ET?

    • octavarium08 says:

      You’re right…it’s biased. This list was a quick way to generate traffic to the site, and it worked.

      I did do updates to these lists: 80s-
      And I would dispute the idea that Do the Right Thing is influential. Sure it’s played in college courses, but so are Killer of Sheep and The Player, both of which are extremely overrated. Spike Lee doesn’t have a unique style that other filmmakers through the 80s advanced or acquired, such as McTiernan for Die Hard (launching modern action alongside John Woo). Do the Right Thing only strikes up debates because it’s filled with blatantly exaggerated characters and illogical reasoning…therefore it incites reaction.
      Here are others from the 80s that didn’t make my list that I would consider long before Do the Right Thing (which is simplistic, crass, and conceptually ignorant): The Elephant Man, Airplane, The Last Emperor, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Kagemusha, Fanny and Alexander, Last Metro, Broadcast News, The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa, Platoon, and The Road Warrior.

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