I may have been born in 1990 (which is sadly nothing like as young as it used to be), but every time I consume a piece of 80s pop culture, be it music or a movie, I feel this strange wave of nostalgia washing over me, as if I’m pining for the decade of my youth. I don’t really understand it; I just know that I love 80s movies. I love the cheesy soundtracks. I love the often questionable fashion. I love the physical look of an 80s movie frame. I love the Zeitgeist. When you watch a movie from the 80s, it just feels like everything’s going to be okay.
Unless you’re watching Jason Voorhees murder teenagers or The Terminator try to keep the apocalypse on track, of course. But when I’m not waist-deep in the decade’s trashy horror movies or superlative sci-fi, I enjoy little more than being in the warm, comforting glow of those joyful “it’s raining outside, let’s watch a movie” classics from filmmakers like Joe Dante, John Hughes and Tim Burton.
Here’s a few times the 80s just got it right.
5. Twist and Shout, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
It’s hard not to envy Ferris Bueller. Overlooking his uncanny skill at skipping school convincingly (which my 16-year-old self continues to envy) and getting practically the entire state to raise funds for his well-being, it’s his ability to lift the day to extraordinary, memorable heights at every turn with a cool, fun, collected demeanour that really gets the jealously boat moving.
I wish I could live just one day the way Ferris lives his – like hopping on a parade float and joyously lip-syncing The Beatles’ ‘Twist & Shout’ with the entire city.
4. School Dance, Footloose (1984)
Remember back in the 80s when someone like Kevin Bacon could play the attractive young lead? Footloose is a result of a time when acting ability trumped traditional good looks – and Bacon is great as Ren McCormack, the new guy at school who loves dancing in a town where – uh oh – dancing is forbidden.
At the risk of spoiling a 30+ year old movie, Ren eventually convinces the town elders that dancing is right on, and the kids proceed to have a bouncing school dance that would make a stone want to get up and start moving. Seeing a young Chris Penn getting his groove on is pretty great, too.
3. Piano Dancing, Big (1988)
Tom Hanks is the coolest guy on the planet and pretty much anything he does is uplifting in some way or another. One of his most endearing performances is in Penny Marshall’s Big, where he plays Josh, a young boy who makes a wish to be big, only for it to come true the next day when he wakes up in an adult’s body.
The predictable grown-up acting like a kid gags ensue, with much hilarity. Then, one day, he finds a walk-on piano, and perfect things happen.
2. Cathartic Dancing, The Breakfast Club (1985)
John Hughes’ second film sees five disparate school seniors serving detention on a Saturday for various misdemeanours. It’s really quite a moving and provocative film at times, but while in general it deals with more serious and reflective matters than the rest of those on this list, it’s far from afraid to have fun; Judd Nelson’s antagonistic John Bender is one of the most quotable movie characters in history.
The uplifting nature of this scene makes more sense within the context of the film, but it’s still fun to watch a bunch of 80s kids groove like crazy people.
1. Day-O, Beetlejuice (1988)
Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice is a mad, rambunctious caper in the macabre. It feels even madder to choose a great scene from the film that doesn’t include Michael Keaton’s effervescent performance, but then there’s this wonderful dinner sequence.
In an attempt to scare the new inhabitants from their house, two recently-deceased ghosts possess a table of dinner guests to dance to Harry Belafonte’s ‘Day-O’, and it’s fucking marvellous.
As a bonus, because I love it, I’m adding The ‘Burbs. The whole damn thing.