Most watched 80s Movies on Netflix

The 1980s were a great decade for movies because it was a time when storytelling was paramount

Many of the most iconic films of the era were driven by strong plots, well-developed characters, and memorable dialogue.

Filmmakers relied on practical effects and practical stunts to create thrilling action sequences, and this often resulted in more believable and immersive movies.

Additionally, the 1980s saw the rise of the blockbuster film, which led to more investment in high-quality productions and helped to elevate the art form of cinema. Overall, the decade produced many of the most beloved and influential films in history, and it remains a golden age for cinema.

If you’re finding yourself scrolling through Netflix in need of a retro fix we’ve got you covered on some of the greatest movies available to stream from the decade. Strap yourself in and enjoy the best 80s movies on Netflix.

For more recommendations, check out our list of the best 90s and 2000s movies on the platform or the best shows and movies on Netflix.

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club is a 1985 teen comedy-drama film directed by John Hughes. The movie tells the story of five high school students who are required to spend a Saturday together in detention. Each of them comes from a different social group and initially, they have nothing in common, but as the day progresses, they begin to bond and understand each other.

The characters include the popular girl Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), the athlete Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), the nerd Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), the rebellious John Bender (Judd Nelson), and the introverted Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy).

Throughout the movie, the characters discuss their personal lives, share their secrets, and confront their issues. They discover that they are not so different from each other and that the stereotypes they have been labeled with are not accurate.

The Breakfast Club has become a classic of 80s cinema and is widely regarded as one of the best high school movies ever made. It is remembered for its honest portrayal of teenage life and its exploration of social issues such as peer pressure, family dynamics, and the challenges of adolescence.

She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

Run Time: 1 hr 24 min | Genre: Black-and-White Comedy Drama | Director: Spike Lee

Cast: Tracy Camilla Johns, Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell, Spike Lee, Raye Dowell

She’s Gotta Have It is the fascinating debut of Spike Lee’s singular filmmaking voice. A black-and-white dissection of sexual identity, the patriarchy, slut-shaming, and the undue pressures put on black women. It features a terrific lead performance from Tracy Camilla Johns, a stunning deconstruction of male-crafted “Hollywood endings,” and a worldview so ahead of its time in 1986 that it was readapted for a two-season Netflix show in 2017. It also — and here I will give a content warning for sexual assault — features the worst scene Lee has ever committed to celluloid: and those are his words, not mine. At one point in the narrative, one of the three male suitors desperate to lock Nola (Johns) down into a form of oppressive monogamy, the most performatively “nice” of the three, rapes her.

Lee said “If I was able to have any do-overs, that would be it. It was just totally…stupid. I was immature. It made light of rape, and that’s the one thing I would take back. I was immature and I hate that I did not view rape as the vile act that it is. I can promise you, there will be nothing like that in She’s Gotta Have It, the TV show, that’s for sure.” If you’re willing to contextualize this depiction as an artifact of the shortcomings of historical perspectives, or even read it as being in dialogue with the rest of the film’s chaotic renderings of progressive ideals (i.e. monogamy can never work under our patriarchy because of horrible senses of entitlement and trauma like this), She’s Gotta Have It remains an alive arrival of a lively filmmaker.

Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing is a 1987 romantic drama film directed by Emile Ardolino. The movie takes place in the early 1960s and tells the story of Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey), who is on vacation with her family in the Catskills. There, she falls in love with Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), a dance instructor at the resort. The two come from different backgrounds and face several obstacles, but ultimately find a way to be together.

Labyrinth (1986)

Run Time: 1 hr 41 min | Genre: Musical Fantasy | Director: Jim Henson

Cast: Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie, Brian Henson, Frank Oz

There aren’t many movies in any genre more bursting with imagination than Labyrinth, Jim Henson‘s high fantasy puppetry extravaganza. Sixteen-year-old Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly) is frustrated with watching her baby brother…until the child is carried off by a pack of goblins, led by the Goblin King (David Bowie, just astonishingly iconic in this role). Sarah descends into a jaw-droppingly vibrant maze of monsters and mayhem to find her brother, encountering everything from a helpful dward named Hoggle (Brian Henson) to the Bog of Eternal Stench. Labyrinth is so dang impressive on a technical level that it’s a must-watch for pretty much any age, but it’s especially an irreplaceable gem as something to show a generation raised on CGI. This movie proves you can actually create magic with your hands.


Footloose is a 1984 musical drama film directed by Herbert Ross. The movie tells the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), a teenager from Chicago who moves to a small town where dancing and rock music have been banned by the local authorities. Ren rebels against the strict rules and rallies his classmates to fight for their right to dance and express themselves. Along the way, he falls in love with the minister’s daughter, Ariel (Lori Singer).

Hard Lessons (1986)

Run Time: 1 hr 33 min | Genre: Biography Drama | Director: Eric Laneuville

Cast: Denzel Washington, Lynn Whitfield

Also known as The George McKenna Story, Hard Lessons is another inspiring teacher flick. Denzel Washington stars as the principal of George Washington Preparatory High in South Los Angeles, who attempts to rid the school of gangs, drugs, and violence. Despite its low budget, Hard Lessons is a beautiful movie about a determined principal. Denzel Washington’s grounded and powerful performance sets it apart from other made-for-TV movies of the time.

As Good As It Gets

As Good As It Gets is a 1997 romantic comedy-drama film directed by James L. Brooks. The movie stars Jack Nicholson as Melvin Udall, a misanthropic and obsessive-compulsive writer who forms an unlikely friendship with a gay artist named Simon (Greg Kinnear) and a waitress named Carol (Helen Hunt). As the three navigate their personal and professional challenges, they learn to understand and support each other in unexpected ways. The film was praised for its performances and won several Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Nicholson and Best Actress for Hunt.

Fletch (1985)

Run Time: 1 hr 38 min | Genre: Mystery Comedy | Director: Michael Ritchie

Cast: Chevy Chase, Joe Don Baker, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson

Based on the popular Fletch novels by Gregory Mcdonald, the 1985 film follows the titular character, a reporter played by Chevy Chase, as he is offered an enormous amount of money to kill a millionaire — by the millionaire himself, as he has just received a terminal cancer diagnosis. However, things get more complicated when he discovers the man isn’t ill, and his investigation puts his own life at risk. The film was a critical and commercial success, noted for its sharp comedy and excellent performance by Chase.


Labyrinth is a 1986 musical fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and produced by George Lucas. The movie tells the story of Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly), a young girl who wishes her baby brother away to the Goblin King Jareth (David Bowie). She then has to navigate a treacherous maze filled with strange creatures and obstacles to rescue her brother before he is turned into a goblin forever.

Along the way, Sarah meets a host of colorful characters, including Hoggle, a grumpy dwarf who helps her navigate the maze, Ludo, a gentle giant who becomes her ally, and Sir Didymus, a chivalrous fox-terrier who aids her in her quest. Together, they face numerous challenges and must outsmart Jareth and his minions to save Sarah’s brother.

Labyrinth is known for its inventive puppetry, creative visuals, and catchy musical numbers. It has since become a cult classic and is beloved by generations of fans. The film is also notable for featuring David Bowie in the role of the enigmatic and charismatic Goblin King, who delivers a memorable performance and sings several of the movie’s iconic songs.

Parenthood (1989)

Run Time: 2 hr 4 min | Genre: Comedy Drama Family | Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Steve Martin, Tom Hulce, Rick Moranis, Martha Plimpton

Legendary director Ron Howard helms Parenthood, a funny, heartfelt, and relatable film about three adult siblings and the various struggles they go through raising their children. There’s Gil (Steve Martin), a sales executive who learns his kids need therapy while his wife becomes pregnant with another child; divorced Helen (Dianne Wiest), whose ex wants nothing to do with the childrearing; Susan (Harley Jane Kozak), who clashes with her husband on the decision regarding whether to grow their family; and Larry (Tom Hulce), the youngest sibling with a gambling problem who discovers he has a child from a one-night stand. The film was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for Dianne Wiest.

Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop is a 1984 action-comedy film directed by Martin Brest and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The movie stars Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley, a Detroit cop who travels to Beverly Hills to investigate the murder of his friend.

Once in Beverly Hills, Foley teams up with two local detectives, Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and John Taggart (John Ashton), and together they uncover a complex web of corruption and crime. Along the way, Foley uses his street smarts and quick wit to outsmart the bad guys and get to the bottom of the case.

Beverly Hills Cop was a massive commercial success and established Eddie Murphy as a leading Hollywood star. The film’s mix of action and comedy proved to be a winning formula, and it spawned two sequels, Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) and Beverly Hills Cop III (1994). The movie’s memorable soundtrack, which features the hit song “Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer, also became a pop culture phenomenon.

Road House (1989)

Run Time: 1 hr 54 min | Genre: Action Thriller | Director: Rowdy Herrington

Cast: Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliott

Patrick Swayze(Dirty Dancing) dominates in Road House, a late 80s action thriller about toxic masculinity and unfettered violence. Swayze plays the tough and unencumbered Dalton, a man with expert martial arts training who is summoned to Missouri in hopes of cleaning up The Double Deuce, a sleazy bar preferred by troublemakers. Director Rowdy Herrington lives up to his name in Road House – a film crowded with fist-fights, explosions, and brawls. Although the attempt to include romance and thrills is dramatically overshadowed by the exciting action, Road House attempts to make room for story, along with highlighting Swayze’s undeniable magnetism.

The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid is a 1984 martial arts drama film directed by John G. Avildsen and produced by Jerry Weintraub. The movie tells the story of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), a teenage boy who moves from New Jersey to California with his mother. He quickly finds himself the target of a group of bullies who study karate at the Cobra Kai dojo, led by their ruthless sensei John Kreese (Martin Kove).

Daniel receives help from an unlikely source, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), the maintenance man at his apartment complex. Miyagi agrees to train Daniel in karate and teaches him the principles of discipline, respect, and inner strength. Daniel then enters a karate tournament to face his bullies and prove himself as a skilled martial artist.

The Karate Kid became a cultural phenomenon and inspired a generation of young people to take up martial arts. It spawned three sequels, The Karate Kid Part II (1986), The Karate Kid Part III (1989), and The Next Karate Kid (1994), as well as a spin-off TV series, Cobra Kai (2018-present). The film is known for its iconic scenes, including the “wax on, wax off” training sequence and the climactic “crane kick” during the tournament.

Quiet Victory (1988)

Run Time: 1 hr 40 min | Genre: Biography Drama | Director: Roy Campanella II

Cast: Pam Dawber, Michael Nouri

Another superior made-for-TV movie affair is Quiet Victory: The Charlie Wedemeyer Story, which follows a high school teacher and football coach who refuses to give up after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Though he’s only given a year to live, Charlie (Michael Nouri) continues coaching the team, as he’s determined to help them win their first championship. Quiet Victory is definitely a tear-jerker and a great addition to the sports movie genre.

Stand By Me

Stand By Me is a 1986 coming-of-age film directed by Rob Reiner and based on the novella “The Body” by Stephen King. The movie is set in the summer of 1959 and tells the story of four friends from a small town in Oregon who set out on a journey to find the body of a missing boy.

The main characters are Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman), and Vern (Jerry O’Connell). As they travel through the countryside, they encounter various obstacles and confront their fears and insecurities. Along the way, they also bond and develop a deeper understanding of each other.

Stand By Me was a critical and commercial success, and it is now considered a classic of the coming-of-age genre. The film is known for its strong performances, evocative soundtrack, and memorable scenes, including the boys crossing a rickety bridge over a treacherous river and their final confrontation with a gang of older boys. It also features a voice-over narration by Richard Dreyfuss, who plays an older version of Gordie. The film’s themes of friendship, loss, and nostalgia continue to resonate with audiences today.

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