1980s in film

List of years in film
In television

The decade of the 1980s in Western cinema saw the return of studio-driven pictures, coming from the filmmaker-driven New Hollywood era of the 1970s.[1] The period was when "high concept" films gained popularity, where movies were to be easily marketable and understandable, and, therefore, they had short cinematic plots that could be summarized in one or two sentences. The modern Hollywood blockbuster is the most popular film format from the 1980s. Producer Don Simpson[2] is usually credited with the creation of the high-concept picture of the modern Hollywood blockbuster.


The decade also saw an increased amount of nudity in film and the increasing emphasis in the American industry on film franchises, especially in the science fiction, horror and action genres. Much of the reliance on these effect-driven blockbusters was due in part to the Star Wars films at the advent of this decade and the new cinematic effects it helped to pioneer. The teen comedy subgenre also rose in popularity during this decade.

In the US, the PG-13 rating was introduced in 1984 to accommodate films that straddled the line between PG and R, which was mainly due to the controversies surrounding the violent content of the PG films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins (both 1984).[3]

Some have considered the 1980s in retrospect as one of the weaker decades for American cinema in terms of the qualities of the films released. Quentin Tarantino (director of Pulp Fiction) has voiced his own view that the 1980s was one of the worst eras for American films.[4] Film critic Kent Jones also shares this opinion.[5] However, film theorist David Bordwell countered this notion, saying that the "megapicture mentality" was already existent in the 1970s, which is evident in the ten highest-grossing films of that decade, as well as with how many of the filmmakers part of New Hollywood were still able to direct many great pictures in the 1980s (Martin Scorsese, Brian de Palma, etc.).[6]

Highest-grossing films

List of worldwide highest-grossing films
RankTitleStudiosWorldwide grossYearRef.
1E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialUniversal Pictures$792,942,0691982
2Indiana Jones and the Last CrusadeParamount Pictures$474,171,8061989
3BatmanWarner Bros.$411,348,9241989
4Rain ManMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer$354,825,4351988
5Back to the Future Part IIUniversal Pictures$331,950,0021989
6Who Framed Roger RabbitBuena Vista/Touchstone Pictures$329,803,9581988
7Look Who's TalkingTriStar$296,999,8131989
8Coming to AmericaParamount Pictures$288,752,3011988
9Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi20th Century Fox$252,583,6171983
10Crocodile Dundee IIParamount Pictures$239,606,2101988
11Dead Poets SocietyBuena Vista/Touchstone Pictures$235,860,1161989
12Beverly Hills CopParamount Pictures$234,760,4781984
13GhostbustersColumbia Pictures$229,242,9891984
14Lethal Weapon 2Warner Bros.$227,853,9861989
15Honey, I Shrunk the KidsBuena Vista/Disney$222,724,1721989
16TwinsUniversal Pictures$216,614,3881988
17Ghostbusters IIColumbia Pictures$215,394,7381989
18Raiders of the Lost ArkParamount Pictures$212,222,0251981
19Back to the FutureUniversal Pictures$210,609,7621985
20Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back20th Century Fox$209,398,0251980
21Rambo IIICarolco$189,015,6111988
22The Little MermaidBuena Vista/Disney$184,155,8631989
23Indiana Jones and the Temple of DoomParamount Pictures$179,870,2711984
24A Fish Called WandaMGM$177,889,0001988
25TootsieColumbia Pictures$177,200,0001982
26Top GunParamount Pictures$176,781,7281986
27Crocodile DundeeParamount Pictures$174,803,5061986
28CocktailBuena Vista/Touchstone Pictures$171,504,7811988
29Three Men and a BabyBuena Vista/Touchstone Pictures$167,780,9601987
30Fatal AttractionParamount Pictures$156,645,6931987
31Beverly Hills Cop IIParamount Pictures$153,665,0361987
32GremlinsWarner Bros.$153,083,1021984
33Born on the Fourth of JulyUniversal Pictures$161,001,6981989
34Big20th Century Fox$151,668,7741988
35Rambo: First Blood Part IICarolco Pictures$150,415,4321985
36Die Hard20th Century Fox$140,767,9561988
37The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!Paramount Pictures$140,000,0001988
38PlatoonOrion Pictures$138,530,5651986
39An Officer and a GentlemanParamount Pictures$129,795,5541982
40Rocky IVMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer$127,873,7161985
41Rocky IIIMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer$124,146,8971982
42Good Morning, VietnamBuena Vista/Touchstone Pictures$123,922,3701987
43On Golden PondUniversal Pictures$119,285,4321981
44The Karate Kid Part IIColumbia Pictures$115,103,9791986
45Star Trek IV: The Voyage HomeParamount Pictures$109,713,1321986
46Terms of EndearmentParamount Pictures$108,423,4891983
47Superman IIWarner Bros.$108,185,7061981
48Porky's20th Century Fox$105,492,4831982
499 to 520th Century Fox$103,290,5001980
50Stir CrazyColumbia Pictures$101,300,0001980

In the list, where revenues are equal numbers, the newer films are listed lower, due to inflation making the dollar-amount lower compared to earlier years.


The films of the 1980s covered many genres, with hybrids crossing between multiple genres. The trend strengthened towards creating ever-larger blockbuster films, which earned more in their opening weeks than any previous film, due in part to staging releases when audiences had little else to choose.

Lists of films

See also


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger; Bordwell, David (2008). Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert (Paperback ed.). Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. p. xvii. ISBN 978-0226182018. In his pluralism, [Roger] Ebert proved a more authentic cinephile than many of his contemporaries. They tied their fortunes to the Film Brats and then suffered the inevitable disappointments of the 1980s return to studio-driven pictures.
  2. ^ Fleming, Charles (1998). High concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood culture of excess. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-48694-1.
  3. ^ Breznican, Anthony (August 24, 2004). "PG-13 remade Hollywood ratings system". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  4. ^ Shamsian, Jacob (24 August 2015). "Here's why Quentin Tarantino isn't worried about the influx of franchise films". Business Insider. Retrieved 27 June 2016. Back in the ’80s, when movies sucked—I saw more movies then than I'd ever seen in my life, and the Hollywood bottom-line product was the worst it had been since the ’50s—that would have been a great time [for Superhero films].
  5. ^ Jones, Kent (2004). The Last Great American Picture Show: New Hollywood Cinema in the 1970s: "The Cylinders Were Whispering My Name". Google Books. Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 9789053566312. Retrieved 27 June 2016. This was the beginning of the 1980s, the worst decade ever for American movies...
  6. ^ Bordwell, David (20 November 2008). "Observations on film art : It's the 80s, stupid". David Bordwell's website on cinema. David Bordwell & Kristin Thompson. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e "1982 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "1989 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "1988 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  10. ^ a b "1983 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  11. ^ a b c d "1984 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  12. ^ a b c "1981 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  13. ^ a b c "1985 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  14. ^ a b c "1980 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  15. ^ a b c d e "1986 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  16. ^ a b c d "1987 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  17. ^ "Always (1989) - IMDb". IMDb.
  18. ^ "Tango & Cash - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-07-24.

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