11. Weird Science (John Hughes, 1985)
Whenever John Hughes films are discussed, usually his more popular ‘80s teen films The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off get mentioned. Weird Science seems to be somewhat of an odd inclusion on Hughes’ filmography, incorporating science fiction with his usual teen comedy shtick. Despite this, the film is actually hilarious.
When two teenage nerds want to improve their social standing, especially with the girls, they use their knowhow of computers, girly magazines, and a Barbie doll to create the perfect woman. Of course, things get out of hand when the perfect woman becomes too much for the boys and all sorts of havoc ensues.
No one could ever dispute that Weird Science was made in the 1980s. With all the very ‘80s fashion, the dated “advanced” computer technology, the awesome soundtrack (including Oingo Boingo’s catchy theme song ‘Weird Science’), and an over the top and perhaps unnecessary inclusion of a Mad Max parody, Weird Science screams 1980s.
12. Summer School (Carl Reiner, 1987)
The IMDb plot description for Summer School describes the main characters as a “bonehead English class for misfit goof-off students”, which really sets the vibe for the slack Californian teens the unwitting teacher has to put up with during the summer. Not only do the kids not listen to the teacher and cut class, but he has to put up with the scheming Vice Principal.
These teens are of the “dude” and “cowabunga” variety, and it is exactly what viewers would expect of such a 1980s comedy like this. But teacher Freddy Shoop (Mark Harmon) does not want to spend his summer in a classroom either, opting to take the students to amusement parks, the beach, and other fun places.
Unlike an actual summer school, the film is good fun to watch with likeable characters who are just out to have a good time while they pass school.
13. Revenge Of The Nerds (Jeff Kanew, 1984)
The old jocks versus nerds story is nothing new, and this blatantly stereotypical depiction of nerds and jocks would be considered ridiculous by today’s standards. Revenge Of The Nerds is a film that could only have been made in the 1980s.
When a college fraternity of nerdy types are constantly bullied by a jock fraternity simply for being nerds, the nerds decide to no longer take the type of abuse they copped in high school. This leads to all sorts of schemes and mayhem from the nerds, and viewers will laugh along the way.
While some viewers may criticise the film for being over the top, especially in its stereotyping, this exaggeration is what makes Revenge Of The Nerds so fun, and perhaps a bit of a wish fulfilment fantasy for nerdy types out there.
14. Joysticks (Greydon Clark, 1983)
Joysticks is the most lowbrow film on this list, but it is so much fun to watch. It has everything that you would expect from a film with old school video games mixed with teenage sexual hijinks (hence the double entendre of “Joysticks” that the teens play with).
Joysticks has the clichéd plot of teens getting together to stop business people from destroying their beloved hangout, in this case a video game arcade. The teens are not doing their schoolwork as they are spending all their time on games and with each other in the bedroom. The businessman and his nephews try all sorts of schemes to close down the arcade, but the gang keep on top of it all.
It is amusing to see video games, something that is often associated with geekdom, being combined with so much sex and nudity, especially female nudity. Joysticks is a very funny film that cannot be taken seriously, and it even ends with a video game contest that determines if the arcade stays open or not. Classic ‘80s cheese right there.
15. License To Drive (Greg Beeman, 1988)
Getting a driver’s license is a big deal for a teenager, as it is not only a means of transportation, but also a status of one’s maturity and, depending on their car, coolness. That idea forms the basic premise of License To Drive, a delightful teen comedy with the two Coreys that were a big deal in the 1980s.
Californian teen Les (Corey Haim) is certain that he will pass his driving test and will be able to take his dream girl Mercedes Lane (Heather Graham) on a date with a car. However, when he fails the test, it seems like his dream is over until he decides to risk it all by borrowing his father’s Cadillac without permission. Their date is far from smooth and all sorts of chaos happens.
Ultimately, License To Drive is a simply story of a boy trying to impress a girl, but it is so much fun to watch! The two Coreys are a perfect embodiment of ‘80s teen stars, and are very entertaining actors to lead through a film like License To Drive. Along with its nice poppy soundtrack, this film is a smooth ride of entertainment.
16. Three O’Clock High (Phil Joanou, 1987)
High school can be tough for anyone, but it is even worse when you know at the end of the day someone is out to get you. That is essentially the plot of Three O’Clock High, where nerdy kid Jerry (Casey Siemaszko) speaks with Buddy (Richard Tyson), the new kid at school, to interview him for the school paper, but the psychopathic Buddy then aims to fight Jerry for bothering him.
Three O’Clock High could be considered to be like a high school version of the classic western High Noon genre, where the film counts down to the big showdown at the end. Jerry does all sorts of things to avoid the fight, from stealing money from the school, paying someone to bash Buddy, and other funny nonsense. It is a very charming ‘80s teen comedy.
17. Better Off Dead (“Savage” Steve Holland, 1985)
Better Off Dead is often mentioned when movie buffs speak about 1980s teen comedies, and it certainly does stand out among the pack. It is a wacky comedy in a bizarre world with kids eager to solve maths problems in class, vengeful paperboys, and a big ski race in the usually not-so-snowy California. All of this happens while the film deals with the grim plot of a teenage boy wanting to commit suicide after his girlfriend leaves him for the popular ski champion.
This is the film that put its star, John Cusack, on the map, and rightfully so. Cusack shows off his charisma as a movie star. The weird animated visuals seem to almost come out of nowhere, giving Better Off Dead a sense of manic comedy to it, especially in the scene where Cusack works at a burger joint and imagines a male and a female burger dancing romantically.
18. Fast Times At Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982)
Another 1980s teen movie that is still popular is Fast Times At Ridgemont High. The film does not really have much of a plot as such; it covers the day-to-day lives of a couple of students of the titular Ridgemont High who go through typical teen interests like sex, drugs, and partying.
While the film may not cover new ground, it is very entertaining and is as ‘80s as a film can get. From the kids talking about musicians like Blondie and Van Halen as if they were current acts, old fashions, and classic surfing and skateboarding culture, Fast Times has everything that comes to mind with 1980s era California. There is an abortion subplot towards the end of the film, but it does not really take away from the good vibe throughout the rest of the film.
It was also the launching pad for stars like Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, and Forest Whitaker. To this day, Penn’s performance as stoner Jeff Spicoli is still one of his most famous roles, despite having mostly done dramatic films since.
19. Can’t Buy Me Love (Steve Rash, 1987)
As the title, which is a reference to a Beatles song, suggests, you cannot buy love, but you can certainly buy popularity. High school nerd Ronald (Patrick Dempsey) is desperate to improve his social standing at school and become one of the cool kids, and naturally he has a crush on the most popular girl in school, Cindy (Amanda Peterson).
Ronald’s scheme is to pay Cindy $1,000 to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month, only to perhaps predictably end up liking him for real and for all sorts of comedic mishaps happen to Ronald and Cindy.
The plot might seem cheesy these days, but since Can’t Buy Me Love was made in the 1980s, it fits perfectly with that decade and it is full of laughs.
20. Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989)
Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure is one of those movies that is pure entertainment, and it certainly does excel at this. Like many of the aforementioned films on this list, it has many qualities that made it obvious that it was made in the 1980s, in a good way.
Two airheaded teens, Bill (Alex Winters) and Ted (Keanu Reeves), are on the verge of failing their history class. But Rufus (George Carlin) comes from the future with a telephone booth time machine for the boys to use to travel through time to gather famous historical figures to do a very impressive history report.
The premise is zany, especially with its wacky depiction of historical figures, such as Napoleon, Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, Billy The Kid, Sigmund Freud, Ghangis Khan, Beethoven, and Joan of Arc. Combine that with a time travel plot, a rocking soundtrack, and “dude humour”, and this is one of the most fun movies ever made.
Author Bio: Matt Wilson is a professional writer from Melbourne, Australia. His passion for cinema has always been a part of him and he aspires to be a screenwriter or a novelist. He particularly enjoys the films of Michael Cimino, Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Verhoeven, David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino.