Looking to travel back in time and revel in the glory of a bygone era? Each entry in this series will give you movies, music, and more for a nostalgia-filled night that will send you headfirst into your favorite decade!
The 1980s were responsible for some of the most well-loved movies of all time, music that ranged from hair metal to synthy pop, and fashion that somehow walked the line between classic and horrendous. While not every piece of ‘80s pop culture has survived the test of time, sometimes the poor aging process leads to even more powerful bouts of nostalgia. If the popularity of Kung Fury is any indication, nostalgia for the 1980s isn’t slowing down in the slightest. But why settle for cheap imitations of what made the ‘80s great when you can revel in the real decade itself?
However, everyone has his or her favorite aspect of the decade. Whether you want to relieve the ‘80s through classic action, romance, comedy, horror, or more, the following categories will give you everything you need for a night (or an entire week) that will make you relive this bygone neon-soaked era.
Read Part Two of Nostalgia Night: The ’80s for a focus on family, horror, and romance!
1980s action is all about tough guys, practical stunts, and witty one liners. But the best of the best of them throw all these together to create an experience that doesn’t succumb to clichés. Action in the ’80s could easily cross the line into the realm of being so over the top it becomes self indulgent, which happened with plenty of films during the decade. When blended with the nostalgia that comes from decades of aging, ’80s action is a trip back in time to another age of action, where the thrills and stunts were more genuine and often more rewarding. If you are looking to fill your night with the best action experience possible, use the following.
What to Watch
Die Hard (1988) – It’s one of the few quintessential action films of the decade that has barely seen any aging in the nearly three decades since. But it’s still emblematic of the era, with Bruce Willis in full force and big practical action set pieces. You can’t go wrong with Die Hard!
Big Trouble in Little China (1986) – Kurt Russell is truck driver Jack Burton, who is embroiled in a strange and mystical was within San Francisco’s Chinatown. The combo of John Carpenter and Russell is the best kind of ‘80s action you can ask for. Watch it now before the reboot ruins it!
RoboCop (1987) – Part action, part sci-fi, and all satire, the original Robocopby Paul Verhoeven is a one of a kind blend that skewers the excess of the decade while still putting forward a fantastic tale of its own. Firmly planted in the decade but still relevant today. And way better than the remake.
Lethal Weapon (1987) – A true distillation of action in the ‘80s, specifically the buddy cop genre, Lethal Weapon may have spawned three sequels and countless imitations, but it’s the original that is the classic. Catch phrases, great action, and ‘80s icons are all here in one great package.
What to Hear
If you want your night to be injected with equal parts adrenaline and cheese, there’s plenty to choose from, including the entire “Appetite for Destruction”album from Guns N’ Roses or “Back in Black” by AC/DC.
Special consideration also has to go out to the soundtrack album for The Transformers: The Movie, especially “The Touch” by Stan Bush. For a modern sound that feels ripped form the ‘80s, try retrowave artists Flash Arnold, Kavinsky, and Miami Nights 1984.
What to Wear
Tank tops, bandanas, and trench coats – they are all perfect standard wear for being an action hero in the ‘80s. After all, what’s a hero if he or she can’t show off those biceps? Also, bring a big toy gun to accent your look because bigger is always better when you save the day in the ‘80s. Depending on who you want to look most like, you’ll either want your hair to be really big or barely there. Your choice.
The 1980s produced some of the all-time classics when it comes to comedy. While the throwback style and effects of time have added another layer to it all, you can still have a great time filled with genuine belly-aching laughs. Comedy in the ’80s expanded the bounds of the genre through forays in everything from the mockumentary to the first movies to combine gore-filled horror with huge laughs. It’s the experimentation and creativity on display in many of the decades finest comedies that make them still powerful and relevant today. Think about your personal comedy preference, then expand your taste with these experiences.
What to Watch
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – While everyone has his or her personal favorite John Hughes movie, Ferris Bueller is probably the one comedy from the writer/director that can appeal to everyone. The stars, music, and clothes all scream ‘80s, but still bring the laughs today.
Vacation (1983) – The story of the Griswold’s misadventures on a summer vacation to Walley World is a classic comedy that seems to be less and less discussed today. But with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo in the leads of a Harold Ramis-directed and John Hughes-written story, it’s time for a revival outside of the upcoming reboot.
Ghostbusters (1984) – Yet another fantastic ‘80s film that is on the schedule for an unnecessary reboot, Ghostbusters is one of the very finest comedies that came from the decade. Whether you’ve never seen it or have every line memorized, Ghostbusters is always a good time.
This is Spinal Tap (1984) – Possibly the very first film in the mockumentary genre, This is Spinal Tap follows a fake rock and roll band on the road as these over the hill musicians struggle to stay relevant despite waning popularity, a history of terrible songs, and countless dead drummers.
What to Hear
Rather than go for music backing your ‘80s comedy night, go for a comedy album or two that show off what the decade has to offer. “Richard Pryor: Live on the SunsetStrip” finds the comedian at the height of his powers and shows what great comedy in the ‘80s was really all about, so long as you are ok with some foul language in your standup routines.
What to Wear
Simply dressing like it’s the ‘80s may be funny enough, but don’t slack when it comes to throwback garb! If you must dress up as a standup comedian from the decade, you’ll have to dress painfully, with loud ties, coats with big shoulders, and ill-fitting blouses for the ladies, which you may be able to find in a thrift store. So maybe it’s just best to dress up as your favorite ‘80s comedy character or just for the decade in general.
While great science fiction has been produced across the decades, resulting in a huge variety of high quality work, the 1980s truly produced some of the greatest works. Plus, there’s nothing quite like science fiction melded with an ‘80s sensibility. Even grim visions of the future are filled with people who wear neon-colored ties and live on streets that are more vibrant and alive than anything found in modern times. It’s the smashing and crashing together of thrilling sci-fi visions with ’80s style that make something very unique and powerful. Whatever your prefered form of science fiction may be, a night with the following will get you completely confused about whether you are in the recent past or far-flung future.
What to Watch
Aliens (1986) – The sequel to one of the greatest sci-fi horror films of all time, Aliens is just as amazing as the 1979 original. If you like your sci-fi to combine horror, action, and a kick ass female protagonist, Aliens is perfect for you.
The Road Warrior (1982) – Sci-fi in the ‘80s envisioned many different futures for mankind, but The Road Warrior gave us one that was a potent combination of the apocalypse and metal. Witness Max Rockatansky go head to head with The Lord Humongous on the roads of The Wasteland and love every minute of this adrenaline-injected extravaganza.
Blade Runner (1982) – One of the most influential sci-fi visions of the future, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner has only become more relevant and potent with age. But the neon lights, multi-colored wardrobe, and synth score make it a product of ‘80s style that will take over your world.
Back to the Future (1985) – Now hitting its 30th anniversary, Back to the Future is two 30 year trips to the past for one – the first being the then-modern setting of the ‘80s, the second being Marty McFly’s trip to 1955. Embrace the ‘80s without guilt, this is one of the best aged films of the decade!
What to Hear
Great science fiction is a fully immersive experience, which means that what you hear is just as important as what you see. So make your ‘80s sci-fi soundtrack count! For those looking for mood and depth, you can’t find better than Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack, which will cover at least an hour of your night.
What to Wear
Since there are so many different takes on science fiction during the ‘80s, what you where may be drastically different depending on your preferred futuristic vision. Want a bright and shiny Star Treklook? You’ll need primary colored velour shirts. To wander an apocalyptic wasteland, you’ll need shoulder pads, spandex, and a Mohawk. Of course, a good trench coat is a surefire way to fit many ‘80s sci-fi looks.