The Best Of… the 80’s Forgotten Films

I’m probably one of the few people who didn’t go see Top Gun when it originally opened in theatres in 1986. Yes, it was a blockbuster, yes it had a great soundtrack, and it had, you know, that guy. But not every movie is a good fit for every person. That’s why we’ve decided to post a list of some of the great films released in the 1980s that a lot of people overlooked during their original theatrical releases. Most, if not all, are readily available to buy in physical format or on any number of streaming services.

  • Alligator (1980) John Sayles writes and Lewis Teague directs this horror classic.
  • The Beyond (1981) Lucio Fulci directs this batshit crazy movie about… about…
  • Big Business (1988) Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin star as switched-at-birth twins who reunite.
  • The Blob (1988) Screenplay by Frank Darabont & Chuck Russell, and directed by Russell.
  • Blow Out (1981) Brian De Palma’s taut thriller starring John Travolta and Nancy Allen.
  • Brazil (1985) Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam co-writes and directs this epic starring Jonathan Pryce.
  • The ‘Burbs (1989) Tom Hanks and delightfully underused Carrie Fisher in Joe Dante’s creepy comedy.
  • The Changeling (1980) One of the best ghost stories ever filmed.
  • C.H.U.D. (1984) Cannabalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. Need we say more?
  • Clue (1985) The delightful Tim Curry co-stars with Madeline Khan and a great ensemble cast.
  • Day of the Dead (1985) George A. Romero’s third LD movie; intense, claustrophobic, unnerving.
  • Dead & Buried (1981) Alien’s Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Shussett wrote and directed this little-known shocker.
  • Demons (1985) Lamberto Bava’s first of two in a series; nonsensical bloody hijinks in a movie theatre.
  • Dolls (1987) Stuart Gordon is gone, but his legacy lives; Dolls is deceptively light but intense.
  • Eating Raoul (1982) Paul Bartel’s little-known black comedy about how to pay the bills.
  • Fitzcarraldo (1982) Werner Herzog’s epic, set in Peru, about how to move a steamship over a mountain.
  • The Fog (1980) John Carpenter’s gorgeous ghost story, a worthy successor to his epic Halloween.
  • From Beyond (1986) Stuart Gordon strikes again with this outrageous story of parallel worlds.
  • Full Metal Jacket (1987) Stanley Kubrick’s brutal war epic deserves your attention.
  • Hellraiser (1987) Clive Barker writes and directs this bloody classic, from his own novella, The Hellbound Heart.
  • Hellraiser II (1988) An equal, not just a sequel, H2 expands upon the original film’s concepts with pastiche.
  • How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989) A hilarious black comedy about an advertising exec and his two heads.
  • The Hunger (1983) Look for lots of billowing curtains in this art-house horror film from Tony Scott.
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) More comedy than horror, these klowns aren’t kidding…they’re killing!
  • The King of Comedy (1982) Martin Scorsese’s comedy about celebrity, with Robert De Niro and Sandra Bernhard.
  • The Lady in White (1988) Frank LaLoggia’s moving ghost story ranks as one of the best – don’t miss it!
  • The Last Emperor (1987) Bernard Bertolucci’s sprawling epic about China’s Pu Yi, China’s last emperor.
  • Lifeforce (1985) Tobe Hooper succeeds with this story of intergalactic vampires arriving on earth.
  • Lust in the Dust (1985) Divine’s second last movie, and one of the funniest. With Lainie Kazan. Hilarious!
  • Maurice (1987) This sombre adaptation of E.M. Forster’s 1971 novel; a gorgeous gay history lesson.
  • Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) David Bowie & Ryuichi Sakamoto star in this unsettling war drama.
  • My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) Stephen Frears’ tale of interracial gay love and unhappy relatives .
  • My Bloody Valentine (1981) One of Canada’s best horror efforts hasn’t lost any of its heart or spark.
  • Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) The best in the series, before Freddy became a comedian.
  • One Dark Night (1982) Director Tom McLoughlin’s little known horror gem with Meg Tilly and E.G. Daily.
  • Polyester (1981) John Waters’ unexpected hit comedy stars Divine. With or without Odorama, it’s a blast!
  • Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) Larry Cohen’s most intriguing films with a great performance from Michael Moriarty.
  • The Quiet Earth (1985) New Zealand takes a post-apocalyptic world with only one…two…three people left alive.
  • Raging Bull (1980) Everybody knows about Raging Bull. But have you seen it lately? You should.
  • Re-Animator (1985) Stuart Gordon’s best work, adapted from the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
  • Repo Man (1984) Director Alex Cox’s cult action/thriller is still inspiring sequels and spin-offs. See the original.
  • Return of the Living Dead (1985) Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Dead & Buried) writes and directs this horror comedy hit.
  • Santa Sangre (1989) Alejandro Jodorowsky’s cult film is too complex to explain in one line. Music by Simon Boswell.
  • Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (1989) A lovely swan song from director Paul Bartel.
  • Shock Treatment (1981) A follow-up to the escapades of Rocky Horror’s Brad & Janet; a great, twisted musical.
  • Society (1989) Brian Yuzna directs this body horror classic about a strange cult for affluent families.
  • Stop Making Sense (1984) One of the best concert films ever.
  • Strange Behaviour (aka: Dead Kids) [1981] Co-written with Bill Condon, Michael Laughlin’s minor classic has legs.
  • Strange Invaders (1983) Look up! Another fantastic “little” film from Michael Laughlin.
  • The Stuntman (1980) Peter O’Toole and Jessica Harper. That should be enough for most of you.
  • The Thing (1982) Still inspiring after all these years, John Carpenter’s remake has legs, and arms, and…?
  • Videodrome (1983) David Cronenberg skewered fledgling Toronto network CityTV in his body horror classic.
  • Withnail & I (1987) A surprisingly intense and yet tender dark comedy about two blokes in need of shelter.
  • Wolfen (1981) Albert Finney stars in this little-known urban werewolf tale with Gregory Hines.