Grab yourself a New Coke, throw on your brightest leg warmers, and travel back to the future with a home entertainment system that, like, beams in movies from, like, outer space or something. It’s called “Netflix,” and it’s, like, a video store in the cloud. Far out, right?
If you’re finding yourself scrolling through Netflix in need of a retro fix — or if you’re a big Stranger Things stan and want to see some of its influences — we’ve got you covered on some of the greatest movies available to stream from the decade. Strap yourself in and enjoy the best 80s movies on Netflix.
Editor's note: This article was updated October 2023.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Run Time: 1 hr 30 min | Genre: Comedy | Director: Amy Heckerling
Cast: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold
A coming-of-age comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High follows a selection of Southern California high school students who tackle the typical challenges young people face at the gateway to adulthood. With a story that moves at lightning pace, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was a pioneer of an eighties-centric genre that has influenced so many after it, with Cameron Crowe’s superb script managing to find the perfect amount of angst and awkwardness a teen comedy needs. A great cast is headed by Sean Penn as stoned surfer Jeff, with his subsequent career only adding to the laugh-out-loud hilarity of this role. Heaps of fun and sometimes poignant, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of its genre’s most iconic films. - Jake Hodges.
Stand By Me (1986)
Run Time: 1 hr 26 min | Genre: Adventure, Comedy | Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: River Phoenix, Will Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland
Based on Stephen King’s novella The Body, Stand By Me recounts one man’s memories of his childhood adventures following the death of a friend. Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Stand By Me is a poignant feature that shot its young stars into mainstream focus. The likes of River Phoenix, Will Wheaton, and Kiefer Sutherland give performances well beyond their years in a coming-of-age narrative. These stars shine thanks to Rob Reiner’s excellent direction, pushing the emotional limits of a story that relies so heavily on its young cast. Hailed by many as one of the eighties' most influential films, Stand By Me is a rollercoaster from start to finish, touching the yearning pain and fondness nostalgia brings to all of us. - Jake Hodges.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Run Time: 1 hr 43 min | Genre: Comedy | Director: John Hughes
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara
Eighties comedy king John Hughes writes and directs Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the story of the titular Ferris (Matthew Broderick) who, with the help of his friends, goes to heist-like lengths to get away with taking the day off school. As perhaps Matthew Broderick’s most famous role, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’s cast bursts with energy in every scene, driving the movie at maximum speed towards its hilarious climax. A classic Hughes script throws wit and teenage angst into every line, with the movie endlessly quoted by its millions of fans. Consistently funny with an important message to tell about our attitudes to life, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a feel-good romp from start to finish. - Jake Hodges.
Field of Dreams (1989)
Run Time: 1 hr 47 min | Genre: Fantasy, Drama | Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Cast: Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, James Earl Jones, Amy Madigan
A disbelief-suspending fantasy film for the whole family, Field of Dreams follows Kevin Costner’s Ray Kinsella, who, after hearing voices, is encouraged to turn his cornfield into a baseball field, which in turn recruits the ghosts of baseball past. Nominated for the coveted Best Picture accolade at the Academy Awards, Field of Dreams revels in its strong cast that also includes the likes of Amy Madigan, Ray Liotta, and James Earl Jones. Telling a poignant tale of the importance of family, Field of Dreams is ultimately feel-good, finding the most precious emotions of its viewers and speaking directly to them. Full of personality, the film is rightfully considered one of the best family movies of the eighties. - Jake Hodges.
Uncle Buck (1989)
Run Time: 1 hr 40 min | Genre: Comedy | Director: John Hughes
Cast: John Candy, Macaulay Culkin, Jean Louisa Kelly, Amy Madigan
When the unreliable titular Uncle Buck (John Candy) comes to look after his brother’s kids, all hell expectedly breaks loose — until an unlikely friendship between them seems to form. John Hughes’ typically witty script provides humor through brilliant dialogue and over-the-top set pieces, with legendary comic actor John Candy relishing every scene. Candy’s character arc throughout the film evolves, as does his relationship with the kids, with the film oozing the ability to mellow the soul of its characters and its audience. Endlessly chucklesome, Uncle Buck has a heart of gold synonymous with the work of its cast and crew. - Jake Hodges.
The Karate Kid (1984)
Run Time: 2 hr 6 min | Genre: Action, Drama | Director: John G. Avildsen
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue
A movie that has spawned many money-making spin-offs, The Karate Kid follows the down-on-his-luck and endlessly bullied Daniel (Ralph Macchio), who teams up with martial arts master Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) to learn self-defense and, more importantly, self-confidence. John G. Avildsen powers this underdog story with the same direction style that worked so effortlessly in his work on Rocky, with The Karate Kid feeling like a quintessential tale of rising from the ashes. Pat Morita is iconic in his role as Mr. Miyagi, with the story molding him almost as a mythical being — his relationship and on-screen chemistry with Ralph Macchio’s Daniel is the real highlight of the movie. Action-packed but tender, The Karate Kid will make you believe you can achieve your dreams. - Jake Hodges.
The Money Pit (1986)
Run Time: 1 hr 31 min | Genre: Comedy | Director: Richard Benjamin
Cast: Tom Hanks, Shelley Long, Alexander Godunov
Starring a perfectly cast Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, The Money Pit follows young couple Walter and Anna as they try desperately to renovate their new home as it falls apart around them. A remake of the 1948 Cary Grant comedy Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Tom Hanks is superb, showing off the comedic talent that would turn him into the dramatic icon we know and love today. Thriving in its sometimes farcical nature, The Money Pit brings David Giler’s riotous script to the screen, with the story satisfyingly resolving itself in the most idealistic way. Brimming with hilarity, The Money Pit is a shining example of why so many consider the eighties to be a decade dominated by the comedy genre. - Jake Hodges.
Hard Lessons (1986)
Run Time: 1 hr 33 min | Genre: Biography Drama | Director: Eric Laneuville
Cast: Denzel Washington, Lynn Whitfield
Also known as The George McKenna Story, Hard Lessons is another inspiring teacher flick. Denzel Washington stars as the principal of George Washington Preparatory High in South Los Angeles, who attempts to rid the school of gangs, drugs, and violence. Despite its low budget, Hard Lessons is a beautiful movie about a determined principal. Denzel Washington’s grounded and powerful performance sets it apart from other made-for-TV movies of the time. – Taylor Gates
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Run Time: 1 hr 57 min | Genre: Comedy, Romance | Director: Herbert Ross
Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field
Director Herbert Ross (Play It Again, Sam) adapts the Robert Harling play of the same name, bringing in an all-star cast including Sally Field (Norma Rae), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman), and even Dolly Parton (9 to 5). Steel Magnolias is a Southern slice-of-life comedy following a tight-knit group of women in a small Louisiana town as they navigate through their turbulent lives. The film moves in and out of a home salon run by Parton’s Truvy Jones, making it a relaxed affair that has the down-to-earth feel of a hometown salon filled with regulars who know every morsel of each other’s business. It’s a charming film that uses its female-led cast to show the issues they deal with from all different angles. – Tauri Miller
Rocky III (1982)
Run Time: 1 hr 39 min | Genre: Sports, Drama | Director: Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young
Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone (Creed), Rocky III takes place five years after the previous film and starts with Rocky Balboa as a world champion whose fame and money have people thinking he’s gone soft. When a young, vicious fighter arrives on the scene and challenges him to a match, Rocky has to seek the guidance of his rival Apollo Creed to get back the eye of the tiger — otherwise, he risks losing everything he has. This film is a breakout performance for Mr. T (The A-Team) as the smack-talking Clubber Lang, and he is by far the best part of the film, injecting a welcome new energy into the franchise. – Tauri Miller
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Run Time: 1 hr 37 min | Genre: Comedy, Drama | Director: John Hughes
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald
Writer/director John Hughes (Ferris Bueller's Day Off), a pioneer of the modern teen movie, crafts an iconic coming-of-age film about a misfit group forging an everlasting bond over the course of a weekend detention. The Breakfast Club brings together a collection of high school archetypes — the popular girl (Molly Ringwald), the jock (Emilio Estevez), the nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), the goth (Ally Sheedy) and the outcast (Judd Nelson) — and breaks them out of their simplified boxes to explore the real person hiding underneath the perception. Hughes manages to capture an authentic teenage experience that feels relatable and serves as a great reminder that we’re more than the labels people slap onto us. – Tauri Miller
Quiet Victory (1988)
Run Time: 1 hr 40 min | Genre: Biography Drama | Director: Roy Campanella II
Cast: Pam Dawber, Michael Nouri
Another superior made-for-TV movie affair is Quiet Victory: The Charlie Wedemeyer Story, which follows a high school teacher and football coach who refuses to give up after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. Though he’s only given a year to live, Charlie (Michael Nouri) continues coaching the team, as he’s determined to help them win their first championship. Quiet Victory is definitely a tear-jerker and a great addition to the sports movie genre. – Taylor Gates