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!
Everyone has something they love about the ‘80s. If you’re tired of modern media and style, it can be extremely refreshing to escape the present and travel into the past, even if for only one night. Specifically, the ‘80s is home to some of the greatest movies of all time, tons of classic music, and eye sore fashion style that is instantly recognizable. If you are looking to get away from modern times and indulge in a night full of neon-accented and synth-driven fun, the following tips will help you create a time travelling night with friends and family. For those interested in exploring the ‘80s through a horror, romance, or family friendly lens, the following ideas are your ticket to a great night.
For more ideas on how to hold your own ‘80s night, read Part 1 of Nostalgia Night:The ‘80s, where I explored how to revisit the decade through action, comedy, and science fiction.
All-ages movies produced in the ‘80s are a very special breed. While every decade has featured some amazing family friendly films, none are quite like those that were made in the ‘80s, where real peril, big scares, and even harsh consequences were mixed in with thrilling adventures and magical journeys. While there are plenty of action and adventure films like the Indiana Jones series that appeal to all types of viewers, many of them are timeless and are not defined by their decade of origin. However, there are many quintessential family films and other experiences that reek of the ‘80s while still being fantastic decades later. Sit back and have a a great night with everyone with these suggestions!
What to Watch
The Goonies (1985) – Richard Donner’s tale of kids going on an underground adventure is not the high quality movie everyone may remember, but it’s far better through nostalgia-tinted lenses. But that’s what this is all about, right? Watch it without criticism and have fun!
E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982) – One of the biggest hits of the ‘80s, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. blew up 1982 and left everything in its dust. It still enchants kids today and has the classic quality that makes everyone love it even decades later.
The Princess Bride (1987) – While Rob Reiner and William Goldman’s The Princess Bride is a bonafide classic now, it still feels very much like the ‘80s, despite taking place in the ancient realm of Guilder. The laughs, action, romance, and heart are just as powerful today.
The Secret of NIMH (1982) – When it comes to animated films, no cartoons contain the magical quality of the ‘80s like the movies of Don Bluth. The Secret of NIMH has the laughs, darkness, adventure, and heart that make ‘80s kids movies so unique.
What to Hear
When it comes to a family friendly soundtrack for your ‘80s night, there are plenty of directions you can go, most of which simply depend on personal taste and lack of sexual references. So have fun with it! For me, essential ‘80s music includes “Wake Me Up” by Wham!, “Take On Me” by A-Ha, “Africa” by Toto, and “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds.
But most importantly, Songs from the Big Chair by Tears for Fears is the best of the best when it comes to ‘80s pop. “Shout,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Head Over Heels” and more are all right here. It’s like an immediate time warp to a fun and happy version of the ‘80s where cocaine wasn’t rampant and nuclear war with the USSR wasn’t imminent!
What to Wear
So you and the kids and the family pet want to hold an ‘80s night that’s great for everyone involved. It’s definitely time to dress up for the part! Thankfully, there are plenty of guises for fans of all ages when it comes to family-friendly ‘80s nostalgia. Have the kids dress up like their favorite Goonie or Elliot from E.T. Or maybe even Daniel from The Karate Kid! Better yet, your son or daughter can be Marty McFly while one of the parents is Doc Brown. Whatever you want to do, the options are endless.
Who doesn’t love a classic ‘80s romance? They have well-loved lines of dialogue, amazing soundtracks featuring songs that stand on their own, and terrible, terrible ideas about the true nature of love. Also, really bad clothes. What do you like best in your romance? People falling in love while they dance? People falling in love in high school? People falling in love while they dance in high school? It’s all here! Even adults sometimes fall in love! Usually, two people fall in love insanely fast, then there’s some huge misunderstanding followed by a giant declaration of love that makes everything better. It’s a solid formula. But seriously, don’t form ideas about love and what it means to be in a healthy relationship from ‘80s romances.
What to Watch
Dirty Dancing (1987) – Cheesy? Check. Romantic? Check. Infamous lines? Double Check. Patrick Swayze? Triple Check. The story of two people who fall in love through dancing just seems to speak to generations despite one of them being named Baby. It’s still a must watch.
When Harry Met Sally (1989) – A classic outside of its ‘80s nostalgia, When Harry Met Sally really is one of the best romantic comedies of all time thanks to leads Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. It also has some timeless scenes and hilarious lines that still hold up today.
Say Anything (1989) – One of several John Cusack romances of the ‘80s, Say Anything is all teen drama, trench coats, boom boxes, and Peter Gabriel. For those looking for wackier Cusack romance, try Better Off Dead instead.
Pretty in Pink (1986) – Is Pretty in Pink actually a good movie? Depends on who you ask. Does it have a good message about its female lead? Probably not. But not every movie watched out of nostalgia has to be legitimately good. And this romantic comedy is most certainly dripping with the 1980s look, sound, and feel.
What to Hear
Quintessential ‘80s love songs to include in your ‘80s romance night include “I Melt With You” by Modern English, “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths, “Lovesong” by The Cure, “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson, “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, “True” by Spandau Ballet, “Kiss” by Prince, “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, and “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner. The list could really go on and on, but you can add your own ideas in alongside these.
What to Wear
There’s not really a set style of outfit that should be worn for an ‘80s romance night. So really, this is just a chance to go crazy with a full blown 1980s outfit! Whether you are specifically emulating a look from your favorite ‘80s film or are just throwing together a bunch of clashing weird stuff to fit in with the decade, you can do whatever you want here. And why not? This is about having fun! So grab a trench coat or weird tie or whatever you can find in your parents’ closets and go crazy.
When it comes to horror, the 1980s may have the top spot when it comes to not only sheer volume of films, but also in producing some of the most iconic of the genre. Audiences seemed to really eat up slasher films, which had only just started by the end of the ‘70s and only got bigger throughout the ‘80s. But it wasn’t just Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers who took over the big screen. Visionaries like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Clive Barker all revolutionized the genre while directors like Sam Raimi created some of horror’s greatest works. Altogether, an ‘80s horror night is sure to shock, surprise, and scare in a way like none other.
What to Watch
The Thing (1982) – John Carpenter’s The Thing is a masterpiece of body horror and unbearable suspense. Following the story of an arctic science team that is infiltrated by a shapeshifting alien, viewers are taken on a horrifying and thrilling game of cat and mouse. Easily one of the decade’s greatest horror films, the practical effects and outstanding cast make The Thing a must see.
Evil Dead II (1987) – Like some unholy combination of gore-filled horror and a Looney Tunes cartoon, Evil Dead II is one of the most stylish and potent horror films ever made. This is Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell at their heights. No need to see the original, Evil Dead II is the complete experience.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – While lumped in with slashers like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a far superior and more interesting piece of horror. You’ll laugh at the outdated clothes, jump at the terrifying notion of Freddy Krueger, and marvel at young Johnny Depp in his first ever film role.
The Lost Boys (1987) – A fun throwback ride and part of the great subgenre of ‘80s horror comedies, The Lost Boys wears the decade loud and proud. Vampires, ‘80s fashion, weirdo throwback soundtrack, and silly one liners. Come for The Two Corey, stay for the sexy sax man!
What to Hear
This is easily the strangest section of the entire list. Songs specific to the ‘80s that have a horror theme to them? That’s a tough find. Of course, there’s always the soundtrack to your favorite ‘80s horror movie, with Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street both having iconic sounds.
The rock songs from The Lost Boys will do the trick as well, specifically “Cry Little Sister” by Gerard McMann. “Who Made Who” by AC/DC was made for the Stephen King-directed Maximum Overdrive and is certainly better than the movie. “Pet Semetary” by The Ramones is also pretty awesome, as is “Cat People” by the one and only David Bowie. Yeah, this is a weird playlist.
What to Wear
First things first, who are you going to be, hero or villain? While horror villains are often the most memorable characters in their movies, the ‘80s was probably the era of the strongest horror villains, like Ash Williams from Evil Dead or MacReady from The Thing. That means your options are open if you want to bring ‘80s horror to life for a night! Whether you want to be on the side of good or bad, fake leather usually works for whatever outfit you want to put together and don’t forget the fake blood! Red food dye mixed with karo syrup should do the trick. Just remember to wash thoroughly as soon as you’re done!