The 1980s was a good decade for movies, no matter what genre. Even if the world was undergoing many changes in many fronts and areas back then, the movies always gave us constant connections to culture to keep things real, linkages that we badly need sometimes.
The movies of the '80s served that same purpose, of course. It was still the height of the communal theatrical experience, even though video was already around the corner, and VCRs started to enter the scene. Even if people can already rent movies and watch them in the comfort of their homes, nothing still beats hanging out inside a dark cinema, eating popcorn and sweets and hanging out somewhere after the movie with friends, to discuss what you just watched.
Thus, watching family movies in this manner also became a sort of family bonding time for many people. Saturdays were identified as the key day for showing family-friendly movies during the matinee and the night screening, too. And it's such a hoot to reminisce about those films now.
So, do you think you can still identify those cool feel-good family-friendly movies of the '80s? Take this quiz and find out!
It's great that scientists were protagonists in many '80s family movies, since it gave this profession an equal chance of inspiring children to pursue it when they grow up. So while the kooky-themed "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids" movie gave us laughs, the 1989 movie also highlighted the benefits of scientific thinking. Good job, Rick Moranis!
When you mention time traveling and the '80s, only one movie comes to the minds of many: "Back to the Future." This great 1985 comedy starred Michael J. Fox as a high school teen who accidentally traveled back to the time when his parents were also still in high school, and still not a couple. Imagine that!
Henry Thomas became widely known in the '80s as that kid who befriended an alien in the movie "E.T. The Extra Terrestrial." The "official birth" of product placement marketing strategy also debuted in this film, wherein The Hershey Company was specifically solicited for the prominent use of Reese's Pieces in the movie, after Mars, Incorporated turned down the moviemaker's first choice of M&Ms -- so of course history happened there for film advertising.
Back in the '80s, every movie-loving kid knew who Atreyu, Bastian, Falkor and the Empress were -- characters of the beloved film "The Neverending Story." The fantastic 1984 classic film was based on German children's book writer Michael Ende's novel of the same title, which was published back in 1979.
"The Goonies" had a very interesting soundtrack that reflected the '80s sound, especially the theme song entitled "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough," sung by Cyndi Lauper. The 1985 kiddie adventure film featured an ensemble cast featuring Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Martha Plimpton and Jonathan Ke Huy Quan, to name a few.
Daniel-san! Mr. Miyagi! Cobra Kai! The crane kick! These terms were very familiar to many kids back in the '80s, since they came from the very popular 1984 film called "The Karate Kid." Who could ever forget the errands-slash-training terms of Mr. Miyagi: "Wax on, wax off!"
Perhaps the best example of an '80s film that heralded scientists as hero figures is the 1984 film "Ghostbusters." It helps that the cast had stellar performers in the leads, namely Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis who co-wrote the film, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson who added laughs, and Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis who were great supporting cast.
Penny Marshall directed the 1988 hit film "Big," featuring Tom Hanks in the lead. The film is about this 12-year-old boy who makes a simple wish to become big, only to get "resized" with the full-grown body of a 30-year-old man the morning after.
Novelist William Goldman, who penned the 1973 novel "The Princess Bride" as well as the script for its 1987 film adaptation, died in early November of 2018. Fans are thankful for this wonderful contribution, especially since many love the movie version starring Cary Elwes and Robin Wright.
The 1986 adventure film "Flight of the Navigator" has a great premise for a story: A 12-year-old boy gets abducted by the aliens and is lost for eight years, but he returns to earth later without aging a day, as he still thinks he was only gone for a few seconds. The time-warped tale is a Disney production which starred child actor Joey Cramer, who actually got convicted in Canada for bank robbery in 2016.
The wacky character of Ernest P. Worrell was originally a fictional character created to appear in TV commercials in the 1980s. But Jim Varney's portrayal of him proved to be a popular hit, so he had a TV series and appeared in feature films as well, such as this 1987 family movie called "Ernest Goes to Camp."
The great director John Huston actually directed the movie musical version of "Annie," released in 1982. Aileen Quinn starred in the titular role, and pursued a career doing musicals and stage plays after successfully making that film.
The sci-fi family film "Short Circuit" tells the tale of a secret robot made by the military that suddenly "comes alive" in a human-like way upon being hit by lightning. So of course, the robot meets humans who "input" him with "human data" that makes it behave more human-like.
One of the most memorable films that featured The Peanuts Gang is "Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!)" released in 1980. The gang previously got featured in three feature films prior to this '80s flick, as well as in other notable TV specials and newer films.
"The Empire Strikes Back" was the highly anticipated 1980 sequel to the popular 1977 original called "Star Wars." It was followed by another sequel that completed the original trilogy, entitled "Return of the Jedi," shown in 1983.
The funny 1989 film "Troop Beverly Hills" featured a rich shopaholic Beverly Hills mom, played by Shelley Long, who becomes the adult head of her daughter's Girl Scout troop. It's interesting to note that the kids featured in this film include younger versions of Tori Spelling, Emily Schulman and Carla Gugino.
The 1988 film "The Land Before Time" had a very memorable story about species-based prejudice in prehistoric times. But it had a more memorable theme song called "If We Hold on Together" which was sung by no less than Diana Ross, which became a big hit.
The 1984 family film called "Cloak & Dagger" features an interesting story about an 11-year-old boy who's obsessed with an espionage roleplaying video game and acts out playful scenarios in real life, with the help of his adult imaginary spy friend. But all of this pretend play suddenly becomes real when the kid finds himself in the middle of an espionage trial as he witnessed a real spy being killed.
Prior to appearing as the teenage goth Wiccan girl in "The Craft," Fairuza Balk got her first leading role playing wholesome Dorothy in "Return to Oz." The film's story is still based on a couple of L. Frank Baum's novels about Oz, and is recognized as a kind of sequel to the classic 1939 Judy Garland film.
"Tron" was the very impressively shot sci-fi film about a computer programmer who somehow gets transported inside a computer software, which he tries to escape. The 1982 film starred a young Jeff Bridges in the lead, and the 2010 sequel called "Tron: Legacy" also featured Bridges, both in his current age and as a CGI version of his younger 1982 self.
The interesting 1986 animated film called "An American Tail" tells the curious story of anthropomorphized immigrant mouse characters. They are a family of mice from Ukraine, when it was under Imperial Russia, so they decided to move to America for a better life, but they undergo challenges as they pursuedthis dream.
The moviemakers of the '80s sure loved to mix military secrecy, child-like science experiments, and humanity in their films, and "D.A.R.Y.L." is a good example of this. The 1985 sci-fi family film is about an experimental robot that looks like a boy, who gets released to society, where it/he tries to adapt to human ways when he was mistaken for an orphan.
The 1989 animated family film called "All Dogs Go To Heaven" featured Hollywood heavyweights as the voices of the animals in the story. The lead dog is voiced by Burt Reynolds while Dom DeLuise voices another one, under the direction of prolific animation director Don Bluth.
Puppet master creator Jim Henson also directs, and musical genius David Bowie also acts, and this 1986 film is the proof of that! "Labyrinth" features a teenager Jennifer Connelly who faces off with Jareth, The Goblin King, which put her baby brothr in the middle of a labyrinth, a maze that she has to conquer to save her bro.
Joel Schumacher directed the very campy-serious 1987 film called "The Lost Boys" about a group of wandering older teenage vampires in the town of Santa Carla in California, and the new kid in town they recently infected. Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, and Jami Gertz are featured as the older teen vampires in conflict while the younger teens Corey Haim and Corey Feldman also appear as newly formed friends turned vampire killers.
The 1989 wacky film called "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" featured high school slacker characters played by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, who were assisted by a prominent figure from the future so they can pass a very important and crucial history report. The adventure involved time traveling with the use of a telephone book, dialing the phone book entry of an era where they wanted to go. Cool, dude!
Renowned director Terry Gilliam helmed the 1981 fantasy family film called "Time Bandits," which was the first in his collection of films termed as the "Trilogy of Imagination." The second film in that trilogy is the 1985 film "Brazil," and the third one that completes it is the 1988 film "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen."
"Willow" is the 1988 costume fantasy film which featured a very long-haired Val Kilmer as one of the leads, but the narrative centered on the character played by Warwick Davis. The story came from George Lucas' imagination, Ron Howard helped helm it through the directorial chair, and James Horner added interesting melodies for its soundtrack, to complement the visuals by cinematographer Adrian Biddle.
The 1983 Matthew Broderick starrer, WarGames, is an example of Hollywood's subtle/not subtle depiction of Cold War themes, in particular how the USA fights the USSR and wins. In this story, a teenager accidentally hacks inside a military computer simulation which he thinks is a game, but actually has the capacity to design nuclear war tactics that could jumpstart World War III.
Tim Burton had to start somewhere, and this was where he did -- by directing his first feature-length film called "Pee-wee’s Big Adventure." Released in 1985, it starred Paul Reubens, a movie vehicle for the popular children's TV star, but his reputation got tarnished somewhat when he was found guilty of obscenity charges in the early '90s.
Tom Cruise is the star of this dark mystical family film called "Legend," released in 1985. Famed director Ridley Scott is the filmmaker behind this huge budget production, which sadly was a box office flop at the time of its release.
Would you believe that in Australia, there's a popular actor named Yahoo Serious, who also directs now as well as makes musical scores? Yep, that's his name, and he was the star of the highly successful 1988 Australian family film "Young Einstein," but it was not such a huge hit in the USA, though.
Fans of the popular animated TV series called "The Care Bears" were delighted to see their favorites on the big screen, in the 1985 full-length film called "The Care Bears Movie." Just like in the TV series and specials, the differently colored teddy bears utilized their special "powers" to help two orphaned kids, and the Care Bears Cousins also lend a helping hand here.
"SpaceCamp" is the 1986 family adventure film featuring younger versions of Tate Donovan, Leah Thompson, Larry B. Scott, Kelly Preston and Leaf Phoenix, whom we now know as Joaquin Phoenix. While the space-themed adventure was supposed to be fun and inspiring, its theatrical release was a bit off, since the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster happened nearly half a year before they released this flick, so of course the reception was lukewarm.
"The Muppet Christmas Carol" is the 1992 retelling of the famous Charles Dickens tale "A Christmas Carol" featuring the iconic character Ebenezer Scrooge. The film continued the happy legacy left by master creator Jim Henson, who died in 1990, before this film was released.
The 1985 Christmas-themed family movie called "Santa Claus: The Movie" could actually be seen as Santa's "origin story" since the film explored how a man became the Santa that we know. The film also explores many things that involve an origin story plot, such as how the reindeers could actually fly, or how and when the future Santa and his wife got transplanted to their future home in the North Pole.
"Batteries Not Included" is the interesting PG-rated 1987 family film about a group of aliens helping elderly and disenfranchised people from being kicked out of their apartment block. The aliens featured here are small spaceship-looking gadgets that have the ability to fix broken things, hence they were dubbed as "The Fix-Its" by the appreciative apartment residents.
While "The Toy" sounds like a family movie, and was primarily written and shot like one, the 1982 film poses a lot of problematic premises in its storyline as it was read then, and especially now. For one, the premise is about a rich spoiled white kid who asks his father to "have" the goofy character of Richard Pryor as his Christmas gift. Even if the film tried to teach that humans should have a relationship based on friendship and not on ownership, no amount of Pryor's cinematic antics could save this film from being criticized a lot.
The 1986 coming of age film "Stand By Me" featured the teenage versions of River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, jerry O'Connell, and Corey Feldman. This great dramatic film carried an interesting mini-adventure that's not fantastic nor farfetched, but remained grounded in reality, as the story is based on a novella penned by Stephen King.
"Little Monsters" is the 1989 film that starred one of the hottest young stars back then -- Fred Savage. This simple film tells the tale of how a boy discovers a secret world of monsters by accidentally discovering one underneath his bed.