1980s in film

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 films were expected to be easily marketable and understandable. 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.

List of years in film
In television

Highest-grossing filmsEdit

List of worldwide highest-grossing films
Rank Title Studio(s) Worldwide gross Year Ref
1 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Universal Pictures $792,942,069 1982
2 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Paramount Pictures $474,171,806 1989
3 Batman Warner Bros. $411,348,924 1989
4 Rain Man Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $354,825,435 1988
5 Back to the Future Part II Universal Pictures $331,950,002 1989
6 Who Framed Roger Rabbit Buena Vista / Touchstone Pictures $329,803,958 1988
7 Look Who's Talking TriStar $296,999,813 1989
8 Coming to America Paramount Pictures $288,752,301 1988
9 Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi 20th Century Fox $252,583,617 1983
10 Crocodile Dundee II Paramount Pictures $239,606,210 1988
11 Dead Poets Society Buena Vista / Touchstone Pictures $235,860,116 1989
12 Beverly Hills Cop Paramount Pictures $234,760,478 1984
13 Ghostbusters Columbia Pictures $229,242,989 1984
14 Lethal Weapon 2 Warner Bros. $227,853,986 1989
15 Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Buena Vista/Disney $222,724,172 1989
16 Twins Universal Pictures $216,614,388 1988
17 Ghostbusters II Columbia Pictures $215,394,738 1989
18 Dirty Dancing Vestron Pictures $214.6 million 1987
19 Raiders of the Lost Ark Paramount Pictures $212,222,025 1981
20 Back to the Future Universal Pictures $210,609,762 1985
21 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back 20th Century Fox $209,398,025 1980
22 The Gods Must Be Crazy C.A.T. Films $200,000,000 1980
23 Rambo III Carolco $189,015,611 1988
24 The Little Mermaid Buena Vista/Disney $184,155,863 1989
25 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Paramount Pictures $179,870,271 1984
26 A Fish Called Wanda MGM $177,889,000 1988
27 Tootsie Columbia Pictures $177,200,000 1982
28 Top Gun Paramount Pictures $176,781,728 1986
29 Crocodile Dundee Paramount Pictures $174,803,506 1986
30 Cocktail Buena Vista / Touchstone Pictures $171,504,781 1988
31 Three Men and a Baby Buena Vista / Touchstone Pictures $167,780,960 1987
32 Fatal Attraction Paramount Pictures $156,645,693 1987
33 Beverly Hills Cop II Paramount Pictures $153,665,036 1987
34 Gremlins Warner Bros. $153,083,102 1984
35 Born on the Fourth of July Universal Pictures $161,001,698 1989
36 Big 20th Century Fox $151,668,774 1988
37 Rambo: First Blood Part II Carolco Pictures $150,415,432 1985
38 Die Hard 20th Century Fox $140,767,956 1988
39 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Paramount Pictures $140,000,000 1988
40 Platoon Orion Pictures $138,530,565 1986
41 The Karate Kid Columbia Pictures $130,000,000 1984
42 The Karate Kid Part II Columbia Pictures $130,000,000 1986
43 An Officer and a Gentleman Paramount Pictures $129,795,554 1982
44 Rocky IV Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $127,873,716 1985
45 Gandhi Goldcrest Films / NFDC India $127,767,889 1982
46 Rocky III Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $124,146,897 1982
47 Good Morning, Vietnam Buena Vista / Touchstone Pictures $123,922,370 1987
48 On Golden Pond Universal Pictures $119,285,432 1981
49 Shaolin Temple Chung Yuen Motion Picture Company $111,851,439 1982
50 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Paramount Pictures $109,713,132 1986
51 Terms of Endearment Paramount Pictures $108,423,489 1983

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.


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).[18][19]

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.[20] Film critic Kent Jones also shares this opinion.[21] 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.).[22]

Lists of filmsEdit

See alsoEdit



  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. ^ a b c d "1982 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "1989 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "1988 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  6. ^ a b "1983 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  7. ^ a b c d "1984 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  8. ^ a b "1981 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  9. ^ a b c "1985 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  10. ^ "1980 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  11. ^ Gorelik, Boris (12 July 2014). "Jamie se treffer: Met Uys, ja – die wêreld in". Rapport. Media24. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  12. ^ a b c d "1986 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  13. ^ a b c d "1987 Worldwide Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  14. ^ a b Hurlburt, Roger (3 July 1989). "Martial Arts Flick Loses Kick Third Time Around". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on 2019-03-26. Retrieved 27 January 2021. The Karate Kid (1984) and the sequel, The Karate Kid Part II, went on to gain critical acclaim and $130 million each at the box office
  15. ^ "Gandhi (1982) - Box Office Data, DVD and Blu-ray Sales, Movie News, Cast and Crew Information". The Numbers. Archived from the original on 7 April 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  16. ^ "Always (1989) - IMDb". IMDb.
  17. ^ "Tango & Cash - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
  18. ^ Breznican, Anthony (August 24, 2004). "PG-13 remade Hollywood ratings system". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  19. ^ "soap2day". Retrieved 10 April 2023.
  20. ^ 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].
  21. ^ 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...
  22. ^ 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.

External linksEdit