Amazon Prime Video is a great place to look for a potential movie night selection. The platform features hundreds and hundreds of films and TV series, all available to either buy or rent. Some of them are even free to watch for subscribers of Amazon Prime, including some recently-released blockbusters and timeless classics.
When it comes to great movies throughout history, a few decades have as many wholesome classics like the 1980s. Those who are unacquainted with the filmography of this era can enjoy dozens of options on Amazon Prime Video. Even those who grew up in movie theaters of the 80s will find some nostalgia in these picks.
This 1981 film is a hallmark of the fantasy genre. Directed by Matthew Robbins, who is known for his work with directors such as Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro, Dragonlayer was a controversial film at the time. Despite being released by Disney, audiences were shocked at the amount of violence and nudity displayed in the film.
Regardless, this movie certainly holds up according to fantasy experts. Game of Thrones author George RR Martin even regards it as one of the best fantasy films of all time. The highlight of this film, however, is its score, which earned it a nomination at the Oscars. Unfortunately it lost to Chariots of Fire.
9 Mr. Mom
Amazon Prime subscribers can check out Michael Keaton’s breakout role for free on the platform. Prior to his iconic turn in the Tim Burton-led Batman films, Keaton was known for being a goofy comedy actor. He certainly shines in a film like Mr. Momwhich finds Keaton playing a stay-at-home dad in a parody of gender norms.
The concept of Mr. Mom has certainly aged by 2022, but Keaton does a good job of selling the difficulty that comes with being a fish out of water. Plus, it’s an interesting notch in the filmography of John Hughes, who was known for teen dramas like The Breakfast Club. A sequel series to the film also debuted on Vudu in 2019.
8 Stop Making Sense
Stop Making Sense is a pretty unconventional movie, given that it’s a concert film by popular new wave band Talking Heads. However, it’s quintessential watching for anybody who’s a fan of David Byrne’s group. For non-Americans who are interested in the group, it’s luckily available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
Released in 1984, Stop Making Sense is an ambitious performance, featuring many of the band’s greatest hits up until that point. Its most striking feature is its lead singer, David Byrne, who can make anybody fixed with his magnetic stage presence. In 2021, it was even selected for preservation in the Library of Congress.
7 Rocky IV
There is much to be said about the iconic Rocky franchise, which debuted in 1976 from a script written by its star, Sylvester Stallone. Its second-most popular entry is probably Rocky IV, released in 1985, and directed by Stallone. This is one of the biggest films of the 80s, as it perfectly captured the mood of the ongoing Cold War.
The film finds Stallone’s titular Rocky Balboa face-to-face with his most dangerous opponent yet: Soviet boxer Ivan Drago, played by Dolph Lundgren. The film was a box office success, which many critics attributed to being blatant Cold War propaganda. Still, it’s hard not to be amazed by the patriotism displayed in this film.
There aren’t many successful films based on iconic board games. However, Clue, which was released in 1985, may be the exception. This comedy-mystery was written and directed by Jonathan Lynn and features an all-star cast of 80s icons. This cast includes names like Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, and Eileen Brennan.
What’s also significant about this movie is how true it stays to the spirit of the board game it’s based on. When Clue was released in 1985, the film was edited to have three possible endings sent to theaters at random. Home releases, like on Amazon, feature all endings sequentially, but nothing beats the thrill of seeing this at the time.
5 Pretty In Pink
The second half of the 1980s saw John Hughes’ filmography truly begin to capture the tone of the decade. One of his best would be Pretty in Pink, starring Molly Ringwald, a frequent collaborator of Hughes. The film finds Ringwald playing Andie, a girl who falls in love with a nerdy, childhood friend.
Aside from Ringwald, the film also features an excellent supporting cast, including Jon Cryer, Annie Potts, and James Spader. It’s a perfect example of a Hughes-written film that takes a simple premise and injects it with heart. Of course, most of that is thanks to a wonderfully charismatic performance by Ringwald.
4 Die Hard
It may be hard to come to a consensus on whether the first Die Hard film is a Christmas movie. However, it’s easy to agree that it’s a defining film of the late 1980s. The film made an action star out of Bruce Willis, who up to that point was known as the wise-cracking Detective Addison on the show Moonlighting.
Its story is often the topic of screenwriting books and classes. Willis stars as the now-iconic John McClane, a man whose marriage is on the rocks, who is given a chance to save it when a Christmas party is ambushed by terrorists. It also spawned a decades-long franchise for Willis, with its most recent installment debuting in 2013.
3 A Fish Called Wanda
By the time 1988 rolled around, the comedy troupe known as Monty Python had little to prove. The British comedians were a hallmark of 70s pop culture with their show Monty Python’s Flying Circus. They only further cemented their legacy with films like Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian.
A Fish Called Wanda was written by John Cleese, with a supporting role from fellow Python Michael Palin. It also featured an award-winning comedy turn by scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. For those who love slapstick, surreal comedy, A Fish Called Wanda is essential viewing, as it defined British comedy films for decades.
Steve Martin was a bona fide movie star of the 1980s, with appearances on Saturday Night Live and films like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. In 1989, Martin continued that streak with a role in Parenthood, directed by Ron Howard. The film finds Martin as the patriarch of an extended family with some pretty hefty co-stars.
Martin shines the most in this film, but the supporting cast is just as strong, with actors like Rick Moranis, Dianne Wiest, and Mary Steenburgen. Not only is it a classic comedy, but it’s also extremely heartfelt. Even against some of Howard’s best films, Parenthood is a timeless look at family dynamics.
1 Dead Poets Society
When it comes to comedy films, there was perhaps no greater star than Robin Williams. He was known for balancing hysterical, gut-busting comedic chops with heartfelt sincerity in drama. One of his greatest films showcasing that is Dead Poets Societywhere Williams plays an unconventional boarding school English teacher.
Not only is this film also a jumping-off-point for the career of Ethan Hawke, but it’s also a marvelous display of Williams’ charisma as a leading man. It’s hard to not get emotional during the iconic ending scene. After Williams’ Mr. Keating is fired, his students protest, declaring “O Captain, My Captain!” as they stand on their desks.
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