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Top 10 Movies that are Iconic to 80s Kids

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Garrett Alden Movies that have stood the test of time and become iconic to children of the 1980s as a fond part of their childhood memories. WatchMojo presents the top 10 movies that are beloved to Eighties kids. But what will take the top spot on our list? E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, or Back to the Future? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: Big thanks to MattW128 for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out our suggest page here: WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Movies+that+Are+Iconic+to+80s+Kids

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These movies made the 1980s a great time to be a kid. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies That are Iconic to ‘80s Kids.

For this list, we’re looking at films that came out between 1980 and 1989 that helped define the childhoods of the children born during the same period.

#10: “The Breakfast Club” (1985)

Teenagers are kids too, and John Hughes was the king of teen movies in the 80s. The writer/director had plenty of films that just barely missed the cut for this list, like “Pretty in Pink,” but “The Breakfast Club” stands out thanks to its excellent mix of comedy and drama. The five teens in detention play off each other in ways that are both funny and very real. Despite being archetypal characters, each of them is given depth rarely seen in contemporary films, and their struggles to meet their parents’ expectations are highly relatable for young audiences. All in all, it’s a movie ‘80s kids won’t “forget about” any time soon.

#9: “The Princess Bride” (1987)

Given that the majority of its plot is a fairytale read to a sick young boy, is it any wonder this is so many 80s kids’ comfort movie? The story of Westley and Buttercup is one that can be enjoyed in sickness and in health, though. Chock full of harrowing action, romance, and oh-so-many quotable, hilarious, and legendary lines, “The Princess Bride” has a little something for everyone, and it knows it too. If you don’t love this movie, you may want to check your pulse, because you’re probably at least “mostly dead!”

#8: “The Karate Kid” (1984)

All things Asian began to gain huge traction in the West during the 80s, and karate was no exception. While martial arts act as a nice backdrop and means for the plot to advance, it’s the young protagonist Daniel and his story that really drew in kids of the time. Daniel’s experience with bullying is something many young people experience, and his journey of self-improvement ultimately allows him to stand up for himself. This spoke a lot to 80s kids, much in the same way “Rocky” spoke to adults in the ‘70s, right down to the cheesy montage music, which is fitting, since both films had the same director.

#7: “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)

Few things were more synonymous with adventure in the 80s than Indiana Jones. Older viewers loved the movies for their celebration of pulp adventure serials, but for kids, they were often their first introduction to the genre. Our pick had to go to “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” since it began the series so well. The film is an iconic piece of work all around with director Steven Spielberg packing nearly every scene full of charm, humor, and action, tying it together with one of cinema’s greatest heroes – and soundtracks, for that matter.

#6: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)

While “The Breakfast Club” may be John Hughes’ most mature work, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is pure adolescent fantasy. Many kids dream of skipping school for the perfect day out in the real world, and Ferris Bueller has the wit and guile to realize their desires onscreen in this impeccable high school caper. When you’re young, it can feel like your sibling or your teachers are out to get you, so even the antagonists feel like they’re lifted straight out of a kid’s mind. With its relatability, hilarious humor, and unforgettable music, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is a movie ‘80s kids love to revisit.

#5: “The Goonies” (1985)

Continuing the theme of portraying kids’ fantasies, this film sees a group of misfits on a quest to save their neighborhood by finding a pirate’s treasure. While the Goonies’ adventure, which sees them facing mobsters in a race to acquire the legendary gold, may be fantastic, the kids themselves are firmly rooted in reality and they all feel identifiable. Because they seem like real kids, this made the young audiences of the time engage all the more in the Goonies’ local treasure hunt, and probably inspired them to have adventures in their own backyards.

#4: “Ghostbusters” (1984)

“Ghostbusters” was a smash hit, especially with children. While most of the film’s dry and witty humor went right over their heads, there was still plenty of broad humor, entertaining action, and creepy cool effects (that still hold up by the way), all of which kept them enthralled and singing right along with that catchy theme song. Perhaps the biggest impact of it, though, was the way it fired their imaginations: kids love pretending to be Ghostbusters – it’s like being a fireman, but instead of putting out fires, you’re capturing ghosts… with streams!

#3: “Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

It was only a matter of time before we got to “Star Wars.” Of the two movies in the original trilogy to come out during the 80s, we have to give the edge to “Empire.” The film has a darker atmosphere and higher stakes than “Return of the Jedi,” and for a lot of kids who grew up during the decade, it was their initial exposure to more serious storytelling, not to mention their first plot twist. The “Star Wars” movies are pretty iconic in general, so the only reason this isn’t higher on our list is that we feel the following entries managed to capture ‘80s childhood a little better.

#2: “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982)

If a plot about a young boy discovering an alien, taking care of it, and helping it return home sounds familiar, that’s because “E.T.” influenced a lot of movies and other media that followed it. However, this Steven Spielberg film had a certain magic and charm that profoundly impacted ‘80s kids. The recurring ‘80s movie motif of children understanding things in ways adults can’t, and having adventures of their own, may have gotten its start here. Young Elliott makes for a fantastic and empathetic child protagonist, and his friendship with E.T. tugs at your heartstrings no matter what age you are.

Before we get to our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:
- “Gremlins” (1984)
- “Beetlejuice” (1988)
- “Stand by Me” (1986)

#1: “Back to the Future” (1985)

The logic of time travel can give some people headaches, but this film is far from “heavy.” It may seem strange that a movie set mostly in 1955 is topping our list of films iconic to ‘80s kids, but rest assured “Back to the Future” had a tremendous influence on that generation and many others. The story of Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s quest to get Marty’s parents together and return him to his proper time made time travel accessible to, and beloved by, everyone. With its likeable heroes, quality storytelling, hysterical comedy, and infectiously grandiose music, “Back to the Future” is simply a timeless movie experience.

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