Last Updated: January 9th
Films from the 1980s often get a bad reputation, culturally dominated as they were by family-friendly films (E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, Short Circuit), the rise of blockbuster franchises (Back to the Future, Star Wars, Indiana Jones) and lots of Reagan-era excess: Big hair, terrible fashion, and synthesizer music that’s done more to date good ’80s movies than telephone technology. It obviously wasn’t all bad, of course, or the 1980s wouldn’t be such a rich resource for remakes and reboots.
Below are 10 of the best ’80s movies on Netflix streaming to watch tonight. Some highlight the excesses of the decade. Others flaunt formula and subvert topes made famous by other 1980s films. Still, others are singular achievements that would stand out in any decade.
Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Run Time: 115 min | IMDb: 8.5/10
The Indiana Jones franchise has been housed on Amazon Prime for a while now but it’s finally making its way to Netflix with the streaming platform hosting all four feature films. Of course, nothing beats the original, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and as far as travel and adventure go, this movie has everything you could possibly want. A hero with a love for archeology and whips? Check. An adventure to recover a stolen artifact with destructive powers? Check check. Harrison Ford beating up Nazis while uttering sarcastic one-liners and with a twinkle in his eye? Did movies even exist before this?
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Run Time: 103 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
You can’t think of classic ’80s teen comedies and not include Matthew Broderick’s rebellious school comedy in those musings. Broderick brought Ferris Bueller, a smart-mouthed kid with a flair for the dramatic, to life in this beloved movie that also stars Alan Ruck and Jennifer Grey. Bueller goes to extreme lengths to skip school with his best friend and girlfriend, leading them on an adventure that includes a musical parade in the city and a brush with the law. Being bad never looked so fun.
Red Dawn (1984)
Run Time: 114 min | IMDb: 6.4/10
Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen star in this ’80s action flick that capitalized on our collective post-Cold War fears by pitting a group of teenagers against an invading Soviet army. Swayze plays Jed Eckert, older brother to Sheen’s Matt, and the two along with their group of friends hide up in the Colorado Rockies, launching guerilla warfare against Soviet and Cuban troops who have begun their occupation. The rebels name themselves the Wolverines after their high school mascot and become key players in the war against the Russians.
Run Time: 106 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
Bill Murray and John Candy star in this war comedy about a couple of bros unhappy with their regular work lives who decide to enlist in the army for fun. Murray plays John, a cab driver who doesn’t assimilate to bootcamp easily and Candy plays his best friend Russell, who goes along with his increasingly crazy schemes which end with their platoon being captured in Czechoslovakia and them launching a rescue mission.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Run Time: 127 min | IMDb: 8.2/10
Set five years after Temple of Doom, The Last Crusade marks Indiana Jones’ journey to rescue and reunite with his estranged father, a historian who goes missing after searching for the Holy Grail. Harrison Ford returns to play the swashbuckling archeologist while Sean Connery — most famous for his role as James Bond at the time — plays Indy’s absentee father. Most of the fun in this film can be chalked up to the pair’s chemistry. Indy and his dad don’t get along and their bickering, even as they’re avoiding assassins and tracking down ancient relics, is played up for laughs, rightly so.
Eddie Murphy: Delirious (1983)
Run Time: 69 min | IMDb: 8.2/10
Eddie Murphy pivoted from his more sanitized skits on Saturday Night Live with this televised comedy special, his first, that touched on everything from ice cream trucks to Reaganomics, racism, and AIDS. Murphy got a lot of flak for his use of profanity during the set — he would later apologize for using homophobic slurs — but despite his filthier tirades, the comedian produced some of his best work here, giving us a stripped down version of his unique brand.
La Bamba (1987)
Run Time: 108 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
Lou Diamond Phillips stars in this biopic about the life and tragic death of rock and roll icon Ritchie Valens. Valens died at age 17 in a plane crash along with his friends Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, but the film retraces his promising career before that terrible event as he finds success with songs like “La Bamba” and “Donna.” The movie also covers Valen’s complicated relationship with his brother, Bob which serves as the heart of the story.
Raging Bull (1980)
Run Time: 129 min | IMDb: 8.2/10
Robert De Niro stars in this boxing drama from Martin Scorsese playing famed fighter Jake LaMotta. LaMotta succeeded in the ring because of his infamous temper and violence but those same traits are what led him to ruin away from the mat. De Niro plays LaMotta with a kind of swagger and ruthlessness that’s magnetic on screen, even though the character see-saws between hero and villain in his own story.
She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
Run Time: 84 min | IMDb: 6.6/10
Before you tune into the Netflix revival, check out the original Spike Lee-directed drama about a young black woman exploring her sexuality and finding herself in the big city. Nola Darling is a carefree Brooklynite enjoying affairs with three different men before her suitors find out about each other and force her to choose between them. Nola confronts her own complicated feelings about monogamy and love but the film is less about relationship drama and more about female empowerment.
The Natural (1984)
Run Time: 138 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Robert Redford and Robert Duvall star in this ’80s sports drama about a divinely talented baseball player who rises up the ranks in miraculous style. Redford plays Hobbs, a talented athlete whose dreams of playing in the major leagues are sidelined early in his career. Decades later, he returns to baseball to help a struggling team make it to the World Series and is forced to confront his wasted potential and the life he left behind.
Recent Changes Through January 2020:
Removed: An American Tail, The Dark Crystal, Rain Man, Rocky IV
Added: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Natural, Red Dawn, La Bamba