You're all done binging the hell out of Stranger Things 2 (obviously! it's been forever!) — so, now what? The 1980s-set show hits you right in the nostalgic feels, and there are plenty of movies that do just the same. Many films made well after the decade of excess have captured the feeling of the '80s perfectly, just like everyone's fav Netflix series did. Stranger Things is comedic, scary, and even sad at times and there are movies on this list to fill each of those criteria. Keep reading for the best movies set in the 1980s to keep that Stranger Things feeling going just a little bit longer!
New Line Cinema
This Adam Sandler movie stars the comedian as a 1980s wedding singer with some serious relationship issues. The movie captures the more eccentric parts of the decade with big hair, heavy makeup, and...
Billy Idol?! It's silly and romantic, and full of some of the greatest music from the decade. There were even two accompanying soundtracks full of '80s hits! Glorious.
This insane serial killer black comedy touches on the capitalistic, business world of the 1980s. Christian Bale stars as a literal lady killer on his way to the top on Wall Street. It displays the vanity and excess of the decade with everyone working towards getting more stuff, more drugs, and more success. More, more, more. Bale's Bateman is just a little more insane in his quest towards satisfaction than most people.
This Leonardo DiCaprio hit has him starring as real-life Wall Street bad boy Jordan Belfort. The biographical comedy has all the trademarks of the 1980s: drugs — specifically quaaludes, financial excess, and the biggest hair you can imagine. The movie is all about the financial boom of the '80s that informed the entire decade.
Set at a camp in 1981, Wet Hot American Summer is the ultimate '80s summer movie. A spoof on the lives of summer camp counselors, the movie riffs on all the rites of teen-hood. The "teens" (all played by full-fledged adults) spend the movie trying to lose their virginities and fall in love. Plus, there are so many pairs of spandex short shorts — worn by the guys, of course. This hilarious trip down memory lane will give anyone who's ever gone to summer camp so much nostalgia.
While most people were lapping in the excess of the 1980s, some weren't as fortunate. This true story stars Will Smith as Will Gardner, a broker who spent years struggling, and homeless, before he found success. While it shows the lows of the 1980s it also shows how hard work and determination could take you far during the decade — especially in the financial world. It's a rags-to-riches, "American Dream"-type story that you just don't see too much anymore.
The decade was known for colorful excess, but it had it's low points also. One such low point was the latter years of the Cold War. This film explores Soviet and United States relations during the late '80s and touches on the themes of espionage and wartime strategy during that time. The Russia craziness will be a touchstone between this film and Stranger Things 2, pulling you into the dark paranoia of the decade.
20th Century Fox
A group of guys settle down for a relaxing night in a hot tub together and the next thing they know they're transported back to the 1980s. Via the hot tub. Because it was a time machine. Stay with me, here. The guys realize they've been transformed to their younger selves and are surrounded by the people from their past. It's a silly ode to what you would do if you could relive your youth again. It's got plenty of ski-bunny, '80s goodness to go around including a kickass 1980s soundtrack.
Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are two too-cool-for-school theme park workers in this ode to the coming-of-age films of the 1980s. Dorky, virgin tries to get the super cool girl he likes to pay attention to him is like the entire plot of every '80s movie. Eisenberg and Stewart aren't known for their emotional range, but they sell the hell out of two young adults stumbling through life trying to figure it all out.
This dark comedy has a man hiring criminals to kidnap his wife so that he can extort ransom money from her dad. If you don't see where the "comedy" comes in, I don't blame you — but trust me, it's there. The film lambasts middle America in the '80s at a time where men were expected to provide at all costs. And when being a car dealer isn't enough, people can always turn to crime. The 1980s were also a powderkeg of bad decisions, apparently.
This dark science fiction film is one of Jake Gyllenhaal's first roles and he nails it. The film will definitely fill your Stranger Things void with its time traveling, sci-fi themes. Darko is a troubled teen tasked with knowing the world is going to end. It's deeply dark and emotional, like some of the best music of the 1980s — à la Joy Division and Tears for Fears.
Mark Wahlberg stars as a tribute band singer who manages to become the lead singer in his favorite band. It's wish fulfillment at its fullest. The movie deep dives into the fame and excess of heavy metal hair bands in the 1980s. It's fun, musical, and sometimes a little bit dark — much like the '80s themselves. Come for Wahlberg in a wig, stay for the bitchin' tunes.
This comedy evokes the tone of all the great films of the 1980s. The film pays homage to the decade without making fun of the trends and fashions that seem silly now. Topher Grace stars as Matt, a guy who has no idea where he's going in life but knows basically everything about the girl he has a crush on. The film plays like a love letter to classic '80s films about the nerdy guys getting the girls. It hits all the right nostalgic notes and will have you wanting to jump into a John Hughes movie marathon.
The '80s had a lot going for it — economic boom, popular culture expanding everywhere, and fashion trends that we still see to this day. But there was also the darker side, and one facet of that was the AIDS epidemic. This film stars Matthew McConaughey as real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodruff who was known for importing illegal, but highly effective, medications into the country to help treat the disease. His actions helped destigmatize the disease, but in the 1980s, there was no funding, no research, and no understanding of those who had HIV/AIDS. We've come a long way, but it's always good to look back in history so we don't repeat the same mistakes.
Richard Linklater created this spiritual sequel to his hit, Dazed and Confused, to give a glimpse into life in the '80s as he did for the '70s. The film focuses on a group of college baseball players in Texas in the 1980s playing ball, getting laid, and partying. It's fun, and not overly obsessed with the idea that it's the 1980s. The depiction of college kids is as relatable as ever, showing decades passing doesn't stop horny college dudes from only thinking about sex and parties.
If you're looking for something deeply emotional to watch, Precious is an ideal choice. This is another film that touches on the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s as well as life for the lower class. Precious, played by Gabourey Sidibe, is subjected to educational restraints, sexual abuse, and extreme financial hardship before she's even 16-years-old. She struggles and eventually thrives, working towards a better world for her kids and herself. It's heartbreaking, but the glimmers of hope make it worth watching.
You know what else boomed in the 1980s? Porn. Beginning in the '70s and carrying over into the next decade, porn was experiencing its big moment. Mark Wahlberg stars as Dirk Diggler, a porn star with some, ehem, big gifts. The partying atmosphere and excessive drug use of the '80s are on full display here as Diggler immerses himself in an opulent lifestyle. Wahlberg may regret the film now, but it's still a 1980s-set cult classic.
The sequel to Anchorman brings the gang into the 1980s, where the news world is vastly different than we know it to be today. The film totally hits on the fact that men in the 1980s didn't want to share their spotlight with women — and especially not women of color. Women and people of color were just beginning to be seen as "acceptable" in film and television in the 1980s. Sure, it's a comedy, but it touches on some very real issues that we still see today. The film also nails the '80s wardrobe. Because turtlenecks and suit jackets together are always a great choice... NOT.
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