Top Movies of the 1980’s
Something special happened during the 1980’s; consumerism was born; brands became more popular and pop-culture grew. The 80’s was the decade of the teen-movie, of the video-store; of Tom Cruise in his pomp; of Star Wars and Star Trek, of Spielberg dominance, and of Eddie Murphy. So the top films of the 80’s make for some interesting reading.
1980: Top grosser: The Empire Strikes Back. The best of the trilogy kicked off the decade with an enormous $209m take at the US box office. Its nearest rival was 9 to 5, starring Dolly Parton with a comparatively meagre $103m. This was the year of Airplane! And Stir Crazy, but was more of a continuation of the Seventies than a dawning for a new era, that wouldn’t happen until 1982.
1981: Top grosser: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones ran away with the year as George Lucas took top spot again. This time his nearest rival was On Golden Pond and Superman 2, but both fell way short of Dr Jones. This was also the year of the Cannonball Run, which mimicked the formula of Smokey and the Bandit. This is not seen as a great year for the movies.
1982: Top grosser: E.T. Spielberg’s alien weepie made a staggering $359m at the domestic box office; that’s brilliant in today’s numbers. This was the game-changer, with many studios following suit with the formula and proving that kids could sell movies. Dustin Hoffman also struck gold with Tootsie, which made an impressive $177m.
1983: Top grosser: Return of the Jedi. Star Wars took top spot again for the year as the series came to an end. Many studios kept a wide berth this time around, but what was noticeable of the year was the rise of Eddie Murphy, from nowhere in 48 Hrs from 1982 to Trading Places in ’83, both scoring good numbers and proving that he could open a film. He had a major challenge for his next movie.
1984: Top grosser: Beverly Hills Cop. Murphy vs Aykroyd again and the stars bagged to top two grossers with Cop just outdoing Ghostbusters. This was a good year, with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom also doing well, beating Gremlins into third place. Eddie Murphy was now a bone fide star.
1985: Top grosser: Back to the Future. It came from nowhere and had a tv sitcom actor as its star, but Back to the Future became the biggest film of the year with $210m, beating nearest rival Rambo by $60m. This was a good year for Sylvester Stallone, whose Rambo just beat Rocky IV into second place.
1986:Top grosser: Top Gun. Cruise hits the big-time and stays there for thirty years. The film had stiff competition from Crocodile Dundee but beat it by a mere $2m. Notable for this year was a top ten place for John Hughes teen movie Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, which took a very impressive $70m domestically. It would go on to be a huge hit on VHS video. ’86 also scored the highest grossing Star Trek film with The Voyage Home finally breaking the $100m barrier.
1987: Top grosser: Three Men and a Baby. Who would know that a movie about a baby, starring three b-movie actors and directed by Mr Spock could go on to be the biggest movie of ’87? Especially when it was up against Fatal Attraction and Beverly Hills Cop 2. Both those scored great numbers, but could not beat the magic of Selleck/Guttenberg/Danson. Whatever happened to Steve Guttenberg?
1988: Top grosser: Rain Man. Tom Cruise scored two top ten movies with Rain Man and Cocktail, but Rain Man won the day. Starring alongside Dustin Hoffman, it swept aside the likes of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Coming to America to score the biggest box office of the year. We now had two enormous movie stars in Eddie Murphy and Tom Cruise, and it seemed that everything they touched turned to gold. How long could it last though?
1989: Top grosser: Batman. The decade ended with something we have become very used to but then was a big risk, the comic-book movie. Tim Burton’s gothic extravaganza made a cool $251m, beating a host of sequels in the guise of Lethal Weapon, Ghostbusters and Back to the Future, as well as a third Indiana Jones helping.
The following year would be the bubble bursting for Murphy and Cruise, who dominated most of the decade, their films: Another 48 Hrs and Days of Thunder respectively, would fall far from expected grosses and saw the pair get a reality check for their popularity. It also taught us that it is not just star power that can provide a hit, but story, and the 1980’s is testament to that.
In this day of sequels and prequels, it says a lot about the decade that we are seeing re-boot after re-boot of films that originated and were sourced in the decade of glowing in the dark socks, leg warmers and perms.