10 Underrated '80s Movies You Might Have Forgotten
By Mat Elfring on
When you think about movies from the '80s, there are a few that come to mind, like the Indiana Jones franchise, Back to the Future, Goonies, Batman, Die Hard, and many others. However, the decade produced a plethora of fantastic movies ranging from comedies to adventures to even horror.
Because this was the '80s, the era of VHS rental was on the rise but hadn't reached its peak yet. So while renting movies at your local video store was gradually becoming more and more popular, it hadn't reached levels that it did during the '90s. Additionally, because of this, if you didn't see a movie in the theater, there was a better chance you'd forget about it.
However, we live in an age where you can watch almost any movie from any decade by simply downloading it onto your phone or tablet. We have thousands of movies available with just one click. That means you can catch up on movies from the past you might have originally missed.
So while you can check out Escape From New York, The Thing, Tango & Cash, or whatever Kurt Russell movie fits your fancy, you could also check out these underrated movies from decades past that deserve a second look.
Just One of the Guys (1985)
The '80s were filled with movies about someone switching identities. Just One of the Guys was one of the best ones in the genre. A young high school woman is applying for an internship at a local newspaper, but her work gets passed by, and she's convinced it's because of sexism. She wants to get the job, so she dresses up as a guy and enrolls herself at another high school in order to resubmit her application. It's still funny and an entertaining watch, even if we are seeing William Zabka play a bully--to perfection--for the millionth time.
In 1993, the tables were turned and Corey Haim starred as a bullied teen who goes undercover as a girl in the cleverly titled Just One of the Girls. It was hot garbage.
Do yourself a favor. Sit down and watch UHF, even if you've seen it before. It is such a wonderfully weird movie, which is fitting since it was written by and stars "Weird Al" Yankovic. The movie follows a daydreamer who becomes a manager at a local TV station. He creates a bunch of bizarre shows, and the station becomes a success, which rivals a local network. It's still funny, almost 30 years later, and for some reason, Yankovic playing Rambo is still one of my favorite moments in '80s cinema.
The Burbs (1989)
Have you ever heard of this actor named Tom Hanks? In 1989, hot off the heels of Big--easily his best movie of the '80s--Hanks starred in The Burbs, a mystery/comedy that doesn't get the recognition it deserves. The movie follows the Peterson family living in the suburbs. One day they get new neighbors who are a little weird., and Ray Peterson thinks they've murdered someone else from the neighborhood. It's a fun and smart movie, part murder-mystery, part Rear Window, and Hanks has a fantastic performance.
The Last Dragon (1985)
Am I the meanest? Am I the prettiest? Am I the baddest mofo lowdown around this town? If you're confused by all of that, then please do yourself a favor and watch Barry Gordy's The Last Dragon. The movie follows Leroy Green, who is also called Bruce Leroy and wants to become as great at martial arts as his hero, Bruce Lee. On his quest to obtain the martial arts master ability, "The Glow," Leroy takes on Sho'nuff, The Shogun of Harlem. The Last Dragon is such a fun and entertaining movie and one of the best martial arts movie of the '80s, outside of Karate Kid. Plus, Sho'nuff is one of the most charismatic villains in '80s cinema.
Summer Rental (1985)
The late John Candy has appeared in a ton of great comedies like Uncle Buck, Spaceballs, Home Alone, Cool Runnings, and more. His resume is nothing but fun movies. However, one of the most overlooked films in his career is Summer Rental. Candy stars in this film about a man trying to take his family on vacation. They rent a house on the beach, but through a series of wacky mishaps, the vacation becomes a nightmare. It's an incredibly solid "nothing can go right" comedy, which ends with a yacht race, because why not?
Big Trouble In Little China (1986)
In the grand scheme of things, Big Trouble In Little China is the least underrated film on this list, but it still doesn't get the respect it deserves. Kurt Russell stars a Jack Burton--who may as well be Snake Pliskin before the world went to hell--who gets caught up in an adventure in San Francisco's Chinatown with friend Wang Chi. John Carpenter's action-adventure crosses over so many different genres that it stands out from the rest of the movies of the time. Sure, it's campy at times, but it's very aware of that. It's also one of Carpenter's most underrated movies.
Three Amigos (1986)
Three Amigos has such an incredible concept for a plot that was made even better by casting Martin Short, Chevy Chase, and Steve Martin in the lead roles. Three silent movie actors, who are known for their playing the "lone gunman" roles in movies, are invited to a Mexican village to do a performance. However, they quickly find out they're not supposed to perform; they were hired to stop a gang of bandits. Even more than 30 years later, this movie still holds up. It's funny, silly, and utilizes all three of those stars in a way we haven't seen since.
Top Secret (1984)
Years before Val Kilmer became Batman, he starred in Top Secret. The movie was directed by the team of Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker--ZAZ for short--the minds behind Naked Gun, Airplane, and Hot Shots. Top Secret follows Nick Rivers (Kilmer) a '50s rock and roll singer who becomes a part of the French Resistance while in Germany. It's a fantastic spoof of WWII spy movies and old Elvis films, as the ZAZ team did parody--at the time--exceptionally well. If you've ever watched an Elvis movie and thought, "This is kinda cheesy," then Top Secret will be right up your alley.
The Last Starfighter (1984)
There are plenty of movies about video games and gaming in general, and we're not talking about movies based on video game properties. Tron is a prime example of this. However, many folks forget about The Last Starfighter. The movie follows a video game expert named Alex Rogan who finds out that a game he mastered is actually an alien recruitment tool. If you're great at the game, you get transported into space to fight in an intergalactic war. The movie has a great sense of adventure, comparable to other films of the time like The Goonies. Plus, a lot of the jokes in Hulu's Future Man make a whole lot more sense if you've seen Last Starfighter.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
The third Halloween movie gets a lot of flack because it doesn't have Michael Myers in it. However, originally, Halloween was originally supposed to be an anthology horror series, revolving around the holiday, not so much a masked killer (via BirthMoviesDeath). Season of the Witch follows a mask company named Silver Shamrock. The masks they make kill those who wear them after a commercial on TV plays, as part of an ancient Celtic ritual. It's a weird but refreshing horror film, as it was different than the typical faire: a masked madman slashing people to death. Give it another shot, and if it helps, just call it Season of the Witch and forget about Michael Myers.