Essential '80s Movie Collection To Introduce To Your Teen

Essential '80s Movie Collection To Introduce To Your Teen
The best '80s Movies to watch with your teenagers

As a movie buff who came of age in the 1980s, I have fond nostalgia for the films of that era. The big hair, quirky styles, and synthesiser soundtracks may seem outdated now, but the stories and characters resonate across generations. I've curated a collection of my favourite films that shaped my teenage years to share with today's young viewers.

Beyond the big hair and quirky style, these coming-of-age comedies, emotional dramas, and edge-of-your-seat action flicks have timeless stories. Join me on my personal nostalgia trip back to the 1980s and experience the iconic movies that shaped my love of cinema. From laugh-out-loud funny to tear-jerkingly sad, this collection covers all the essential flicks of the decade. Let's fire up the VCR and journey back 30+ years!

Disclaimer - Please use you own discretion with regards to suitability for your child's age when choosing a film from this list. Remember the 80s Age Rating was fairly "loose" to say the least🤪

Before we begin on this epic journey, I'd just like to say that I have tried not to include obvious choices. Everyone knows we need to watch: Top Gun, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, The Goonies, Back to the Future and the likes. Occasionally however, some gems just can't be put in the corner!

Teen Comedy

The Breakfast Club (1985)

    • Director: John Hughes
    • Cast: Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, and Judd Nelson
    • Overview: Five high school students from different walks of life endure a Saturday detention together.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

    • Director: Amy Heckerling
    • Cast: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold
    • Overview: A group of Southern California high school students are looking for love and freedom.

Lucas (1986)

    • Director: David Seltzer
    • Cast: Corey Haim, Kerri Green, Charlie Sheen
    • Overview: A small, shy 14-year-old boy has a crush on the older girl next door.

Say Anything (1989)

    • Director: Cameron Crowe
    • Cast: John Cusack, Ione Skye, and John Mahoney
    • Overview: An optimistic graduate falls in love with a valedictorian despite her father's disapproval.


The Karate Kid (1984)

    • Director: John G. Avildsen
    • Cast: Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, Elisabeth Shue
    • Overview: A martial arts master agrees to teach karate to a bullied teenager.

Die Hard (1988)

    • Director: John McTiernan
    • Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, and Bonnie Bedelia
    • Overview: A police officer must rescue his wife and other hostages taken during a Christmas party at a Los Angeles skyscraper.

The Terminator (1984)

    • Director: James Cameron
    • Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, and Michael Biehn
    • Overview: A human soldier is sent back in time to 1984 to stop an almost indestructible cyborg killing machine, sent from 2029, that has been programmed to execute a young woman.

Good Morning Vietnam (1987)

    • Director: Barry Levinson
    • Cast: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker
    • Overview: A radio DJ is sent to Vietnam, where he makes irreverent broadcasts that inspire soldiers but infuriate his superiors.

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

    • Director: Martin Brest
    • Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, and John Ashton
    • Overview: A freewheeling Detroit cop pursues a murder investigation in Beverly Hills.

First Blood (1982)

    • Director: Ted Kotcheff
    • Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, and Brian Dennehy
    • Overview: A veteran Green Beret is falsely accused of a crime, so he flees into the mountains and wages a one-man war against the sheriff and his deputies.

RoboCop (1987)

    • Director: Paul Verhoeven
    • Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O'Herlihy
    • Overview: In a dystopic and crime-ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg, haunted by submerged memories.

Predator (1987)

    • Director: John McTiernan
    • Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, and Elpidia Carrillo
    • Overview: A team of commandos on a mission in a Central American jungle finds themselves hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior.
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator

48 Hrs (1982)

    • Director: Walter Hill
    • Cast: Eddie Murphy, Nick Nolte, and Annette O'Toole
    • Overview: A hard-nosed cop is forced to team up with a wisecracking criminal temporarily paroled to him in order to track down a killer.

The Untouchables (1987)

    • Director: Brian De Palma
    • Cast: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Robert De Niro
    • Overview: Federal Agent Eliot Ness sets out to stop Al Capone; because of rampant corruption, he assembles a small, hand-picked team.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

      • Director: John Carpenter
      • Cast: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun
      • Overview: An All-American trucker gets dragged into a centuries-old mystical battle in Chinatown.

For More Info on Each Film


Beetlejuice (1988)

    • Director: Tim Burton
    • Cast: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, and Michael Keaton
    • Overview: A couple of recently deceased ghosts contract the services of a "bio-exorcist" in order to remove the obnoxious new owners of their house.

Heathers (1988)

    • Director: Michael Lehmann
    • Cast: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, and Shannen Doherty
    • Davis, and Two girls in high school attempt to take down the cool kid clique until a rebellious outsider takes things too far.

Spaceballs (1987)

    • Director: Mel Brooks
    • Cast: Bill Pullman, John Candy, Mel Brooks
    • Overview: A spoof of popular Sci-Fi movies of the time, including Star Wars, Alien, and Star Trek.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

    • Director: Rob Reiner
    • Cast: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan
    • Overview: Harry and Sally debate whether a man and a woman can ever just be friends.

Tootsie (1982)

    • Director: Sydney Pollack
    • Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, and Teri Garr
    • Overview: An unemployed actor disguises himself as a woman in order to land a role on a trashy soap opera.

Police Academy (1984)

    • Director: Hugh Wilson
    • Cast: Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall, and G.W. Bailey
    • Overview: A group of good-hearted misfits enter the police academy and promptly run afoul of the overbearing lieutenant in charge.

Moonstruck (1987)

    • Director: Norman Jewison
    • Cast: Cher, Nicolas Cage, and Danny Aiello
    • Overview: Loretta, a widowed Italian-American woman, falls in love with her fiancé's estranged brother.

After Hours (1985)

    • Director: Martin Scorsese
    • Cast: Rosanna Arquette, Griffin Dunne, Linda Fiorentino
    • Overview: An ordinary word processor goes on a strange night time odyssey through SoHo and the East Village when he is mistaken as holding a large amount of cash.

Crocodile Dundee (1986)

    • Director: Peter Faiman
    • Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski
    • Overview: An Australian outdoorsman is brought to New York City by a reporter after she learns that he may have been shot by what he claims was a crocodile.


Mask (1985)

    • Director: Peter Bogdanovich
    • Cast: Cher, Eric Stoltz, Sam Elliott
    • Overview: A teenager with a massive facial skull disorder and his mother forge an unusual relationship with a drug addict.

Stand by Me (1986)

    • Director: Rob Reiner
    • Cast: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman
    • Overview: In 1959 Oregon, four 12 year-old friends set out on an adventure to find the body of a missing teenager.

The Outsiders (1983)

    • Director: Francis Ford Coppola
    • Cast: C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon
    • Overview: The rivalry between two gangs, the poor Greasers and the rich Socs, only heats up when one gang member kills a member of the other.

Footloose (1984)

    • Director: Herbert Ross
    • Cast: Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow
    • Overview: A city teenager moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned.

Dead Poet Society (1989)

    • Director: Peter Weir
    • Cast: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, and Ethan Hawke
    • Overview: English teacher John Keating inspires his students to look at poetry from a different perspective of authentic knowledge and feelings.

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

    • Director: Bruce Beresford
    • Cast: Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, and Dan Aykroyd
      Overview: An elderly Jewish widow and her African-American chauffeur in the American South have a relationship that grows and improves over the years.

Rain Man (1988)

    • Director: Barry Levinson
    • Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino
    • Overview: The story of an abrasive, selfish young wheeler-dealer who discovers he has an autistic older brother who has inherited his estranged father's fortune.
Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man

My Left Foot (1989)

    • Director: Jim Sheridan
    • Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Ray McAnally
    • Overview: The story of Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy into a poor Irish family and could only control movement in his left foot. He learns to paint and write using his left foot.

Out of Africa (1985)

    • Director: Sydney Pollack
    • Cast: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer
    • Overview: In 20th century colonial Kenya, a Danish baroness/plantation owner has a passionate love affair with a free-spirited big-game hunter.

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

    • Director: William Friedkin
    • Cast: Willem Dafoe, William Petersen, John Pankow
    • Overview: A fearless Secret Service agent will stop at nothing to bring down the counterfeiter who killed his partner.

The Mission (1986)

    • Director: Roland Joffé
    • Cast: Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Ray McAnally
    • Overview: 18th century Spanish Jesuits try to protect a remote South American tribe in danger of falling under the rule of pro-slavery Portugal.
For a huge Nostalgia kick play track 2: Falls


Legend (1985)

    • Director: Ridley Scott
    • Cast: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, and Tim Curry
    • Overview: A young warrior must stop the Lord of Darkness from both destroying daylight and marrying the woman he loves.

Willow (1988)

    • Director: Ron Howard
    • Cast: Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, and Warwick Davis
    • Overview: A reluctant dwarf must play a critical role in protecting a special baby from an evil queen.

Labyrinth (1986)

    • Director: Jim Henson
    • Cast: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly
    • Overview: Babysitting infant brother Toby on a Saturday night isn't young Sarah's idea of fun. When Toby cries, Sarah inadvertently summons the goblins to take him away to the castle of Jareth, the Goblin King.

The NeverEnding Story (1984)

    • Director: Wolfgang Petersen
    • Cast: Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, and Tami Stronach
    • Overview: A troubled boy dives into a wondrous fantasy world through the pages of a mysterious book.

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

    • Director: John Milius
    • Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Max von Sydow
    • Overview: A young boy sells his soul and becomes a killing machine in this adventure story based on the pulp magazines of the 1930's. Seeking revenge against the warlord who massacred his village, Conan learns to harness his rage as he undergoes training to liberate the world from tyranny.

Red Sonja (1985)

  • Director: Richard Fleischer
  • Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brigitte Nielsen, Sandahl Bergman
  • Overview: A young warrior woman sets out to avenge the death of her sister and destroy the evil queen and the magical device that killed her.

Ladyhawke (1985)

    • Director: Richard Donner
    • Cast: Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rutger Hauer
    • Overview: A thief helps a knight and a lady escape an evil bishop's curse that causes them to change into animals at different times of day, only allowing them short moments together.

Highlander (1986)

    • Director: Russell Mulcahy
    • Cast: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown
    • Overview: An immortal Scottish swordsman must confront the last of his immortal opponent, a murderously brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled "Prize".
This next one is an unusual pick! I was born in South Africa and in the 80s and we didn't see many "African" based films, so I guess that is what sparked my interest... nothing else... apart from Tanya Roberts in loin cloth!😇

Sheena (1984)

    • Director: John Guillermin
    • Cast: Tanya Roberts, Ted Wass, Donovan Scott
    • Overview: Sheena's white parents are killed while on Safari. She is raised by the mystical witch woman of an African tribe. When her foster mother is framed for the murder of a political leader, Sheena and a newsman, Vic Casey are forced to flee while pursued by the mercenaries hired by the real killer, who hopes to assume power.
Tanya Roberts as Sheena: Queen of the Jungle (1984)


War Games (1983)

    • Director: John Badham
    • Cast: Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, John Wood
    • Overview: A young computer hacker unwittingly taps into a Defense Department supercomputer and accesses a computer game which could start World War III.

Blade Runner (1982)

    • Director: Ridley Scott
    • Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young
    • Overview: In a dystopic Los Angeles in 2019, a blade runner must pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth seeking their creator.

Inner Space (1987)

    • Director: Joe Dante
    • Cast: Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, Meg Ryan
    • Overview: A hapless store clerk is accidentally miniaturized to 1 mm in height and accidentally injected into a man's body.

The Abyss (1989)

Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in The Abyss (1989)
    • Director: James Cameron
    • Cast: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn
    • Overview: A civilian diving team is enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and discovers an alien aquatic species.

Cocoon (1985)

      • Director: Ron Howard
      • Cast: Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn
      • Overview: A group of aliens return to earth to retrieve cocoons of their people they left behind from an earlier trip.

Repo Man (1984)

      • Director: Alex Cox
      • Cast: Emilio Estevez, Harry Dean Stanton, Tracey Walter
      • Overview: Young punk Otto becomes a repo man after helping to steal a car, and stumbles into a world of wackiness as a result.

Starman (1984)

      • Director: John Carpenter
      • Cast: Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith
      • Overview: An alien takes the form of a young widow's husband and asks her to drive him from Wisconsin to Arizona.

And that wraps up our tour through the totally excellent cinematic landscape of the 1980s! From iconic teen comedies to sweeping science fiction epics, this collection highlights the landmark films that made the '80s such a memorable decade for movie fans. Through coming-of-age stories, thrilling adventures, and plenty of big laughs along the way, this essential movie list captures the spirit of the times.

So fire up the VCR, microwave some Popcorn for the full '80s immersion, and enjoy the wonderful strangeness of this totally awesome movie era. We still haven’t made all the jump, danced all the dances and loved all the loves these classics have to offer. And something tells me we never will.

Game over, man! Game over!