The 80’s were a great time for geeky movies, as some of the most beloved classics first aired then. These movies pretty much shaped the modern conception of the geek. Suddenly, every kid was interested in robots, time traveling, and the supernatural, and seriously, who could blame them. These movies were just so kickass and everlasting that even today they are recommended as some of the best, most fun movies ever shot.
Movies back then seemed particularly fresh and special, innocent on one hand, packed of awesome, witty dialog and cool scenes on the other. By then, special effects were more of a novelty than they are now, and watching some of the things going on in these movies were simply unbelievable. That, added to some very unique aesthetics and looks made the movies become pop culture icons. Well, if you feel as strongly about these movies as we do, you’ll probably enjoy this next list, Walyou’s Essential Geek Movie List: 80’s Edition.
The Terminator (1984)
The first movie in the Terminator series (which took a long hiatus, but it’s back on track and going strong now) is sort of a modern classic. The movie is probably more charming now than it was when it first came out, and seeing young Arnold Schwarzenegger play his most iconic role ever instead of the “governator” of California is simply awesome. Yet, part 2 of the movie was so good and successful that this first (very raw) gem is often over-looked because the special effects don’t look as sharp and as cool as they did on the second one (“Judgement Day” was a revolution when it first came out, back in 1991). “The Terminator” plays as a horror movie where the killer, instead of a random psycho is a murderous cyborg from the future, so it’s closer to horror movies and its clichés than sci-fi movies of the time.
“The Terminator” tells the story of a post-apocalyptic future where humans are at war with machines. In order to finish the war before it even starts, a robot code-named T-800 travels to the past to assassinate Sarah Connor, mother of John Connor, leader of the human rebellion preventing machines from their ultimate take-over. Humans aren’t just gonna let the Terminator have its way, so they also send their best soldier, Kyle Reese, to protect Sarah. From then on, it’s a succession of awesome chase scenes where the terminator keeps receiving damage and nothing seems to stop it.
Back To The Future (1985)
“Back to the Future” (known as “Back to the Future 1”, nowadays) is another classic movie that spawned a long-running saga. So far, three movies have come out depicting Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s adventure through time. The movie’s take on time traveling is packed with a heavy dose of comedy, irony, and trying to avoid paradoxes or getting the most of of the resulting outcomes from their actions through time. The coolest part about these movies is how everyone now knows exactly what a Delorean looks like, or how important it is to travel at 88 miles (around 142 kilometers) per hour once you have a flux capacitor installed on your car.
In the fiction, Marty McFly is your typical run of the mill teenager living a boring life in a boring town in California. One night, Marty meets his friend “Doc” Emmet Brown . who has been working on a time-travelling DeLorean. In order to build the time machine, Doc stole some uranium from group of terrorists (he should have known this was a terrible idea, right?), so these guys show up before they can make their first travel and gun Doc down. Marty then tries to escape in the DeLorean only to end misplaced in time, in 1955, around the time his parents were still in high school. The rest of the movie is about Marty trying to protect Doc and trying to find his way back to 1985.
Another movie saga that made its way into the hearts of the geeks of that time was Ghostbusters, particularly the first movie of the two. Sure, most young readers might know more of the theme song than the movie itself, but everyone that watches it is converted into a fan instantly. The movie was one of the several productions of the time that put Bill Murray with Rick Moranis, and rounded up the cast with Sigourney Weaver and Dan Aykroyd, but this one is probably the funniest one, as every character is insanely witty and eccentric, so basically every line is gold and quotable.
The movie follows three parapsychologists who lose their position at a prestigious New York City university. The eccentric trio decides to start a business catching ghosts, as the paranormal activity in New York has seen a drastic increase, and even hire a fourth member. The team starts out slow, with some simple cases, but begin building a reputation and eventually take on a huge case involving a Sumerian Demi-god named Zuul, servant of Gozer the Gozerian.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Star Wars doesn’t need a presentation. The movie series has captivated generations, and spawned a multimedia empire with productions for each conceivable piece of media. If we count the expanded universe, videogames, books, tv shows and what else, it’s one of the biggest series ever created. Yet, by the time Empire Strikes Back was first released, it was only the second movie of the series (although the titles DID specify it was Episode V of the series), and received mixed reviews. With time it became one of the most cherished movies of the franchise, and a fan-favorite.
Episode V takes place 3 years after the events depicted on “A New Hope”, and shows the war between the Rebels and Empire, and the constant chase the rebel side endures. After a battle in an icy planet of the Hoth system, Luke and the rest of the team (Leia, Han, Chewie and C-3PO) split, and while Luke sets off to train with the Jedi master Yoda, the rest look for refugee in the cloud city of Bespin, where a friend of Han rules. The empire follows Leia and her crew, and eventually Luke has to decide whether to finish his training or go help his friends before Darth Vader has his way with them.
Blade Runner (1982)
Blade Runner, often considered one of the best and most influential sci-fi movies ever created is the product of Ridley Scott loosely adapting Phillip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. The movie was not an instant hit with audiences, and became sort of a cult thing, with its dark aesthetics and mood, although by now its influence can be seen in lots of productions like movies, anime or video games. Blade Runner is basically credited for pioneering the cyberpunk genre on its own with its dystopian, bleak vision of the future, and is often cited in movie courses for its unique narrative and visual style.
The movie tells the story of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a retired police officer who is asked back into service in order to detect 4 very advanced robots, practically indistinguishable from humans who have entered Earth illegally, disguised as humans, and pretend to have their life expectancies extended. Deckard soon finds out that his former method for identifying and separating robots from humans (the Voight-Kampff empathy test) is not enough and some extra measures are required in order to complete his mission.
Aliens, the sequel to the 1979 masterpiece Alien, is one of the first movies directed by James Cameron (the first one was “The Terminator”, mentioned above). This sequel focuses less on the mood, and is more action-oriented. While still really dark, the crew is no longer confined to a minuscule ship where the Alien creature hides, but have a whole mini-planet to explore, and big guns to defend themselves from the hordes of hungry creatures that wouldn’t mind having them for lunch. Also, Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Ripley, one of the strongest female characters in movie history, which is always fantastic.
The second movie of this long-running franchise starts with Ripley waking up from stasis 57 years after the events of the original movie. She has finally been rescued, but when asked about what happened to her ship, she’s met with skepticism as there’s no physical evidence of the existence of an Alien. In order to prove her superiors wrong, Ripley agrees to travel to the mini-planet where they originally found the Alien egg, which is now undergoing a process of terraforming so a human colony can be established. The problem is that, obviously, the place still reeks of aliens.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
The Wrath of Khan was the second Star Trek movie in a series that is going strong even today (although the most recent productions are a reboot, even if they technically fit the continuity). The movie had a troubled production, with endings changing on the go, and the team having to re-use models or sequences in order to stay in budget. Still, the movie accomplished certain landmarks like having one of the first and best entirely CGI sequences in movie history. After the relatively lukewarm response of the first movie, this one became an instant fan favourite and is hailed as the best movie in the franchise even today.
The movie’s main antagonist is Khan, a man product of eugenic experiments who is meant to be a super-soldier. Khan blames the Enterprise’s captain, Kirk, for the death of his wife and is set on getting revenge. This serves as a direct sequel to an episode of the original series where Khan and his group were first introduced. Also, the events depicted in the ending are some of the most talked about events of sci-fi ever.
Akira was one of the first anime movies that made its way to the west, and along with some other productions is credited with making the American market aware of the animated Sci-Fi genre in Japanese productions. The movie got mostly positive reviews on this side of the pond, and is often cited as one of the best animated films of all time, and along with Battle Angel Alita and Ghost in the Shell form the holy trinity of classic Sci-Fi anime movies. Akira shows a post-apocalyptic future where Tokyo has been wiped out, but the reasons for that are unclear. The youth is nihilistic, and the aesthetics a clear example of cyberpunk.
For a movie titled Akira, the viewer really doesn’t see a lot of the character. The film centers on Tetsuo and Kaneda, two members of a gang of outlaw bikers. Tetsuo gets hurt on a fight with a rival gang, as he gets distracted by the sight of a weird looking boy, and is hospitalized. Turns out, the boy is an esper with psychic powers and has visions of the (potential) future. What’s more, Tetsuo seems to be developing powers similar to those of Akira, another esper boy who lived 30 years ago and was responsible for destroying Tokyo when he lost control of his powers.
Gremlins is an oddity on this list, for not being so hard on the Sci-Fi/geeky aspect and having a strong component of comedy. The movie depicts an invasion of mischievous little creatures called Gremlins. These dark and chaotic creatures are contrasted to the Christmas theme seen throughout the movie, which adds a lot to the over-all effect. The movie was criticized for being too violent despite it’s comedic nature, and after its release and by Spielberg’s suggestion (who produced the movie), the MPAA rating system was revised.
The plot of the movie involves an inventor named Randall Peltzer who is looking for a Christmas gift for his teenage song. He ends up entering a store in Chinatown, and finding a creature called a Mogwai. The owner doesn’t want to sell it because “having a Mogwai is too much responsability”, but his son finally agrees to because he needs the money. Randall takes his Mogwai home (now baptized “Gizmo”), and tells his son to take three precautions: never expose it to sunlight (it kills them), do not feed them after midnight (turns them into a gremlin), and don’t wet it (it multiplies them). These rules, obviously, end up broken and chaos ensues.
Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (1989)
We want to start this final bit apologizing to the fans of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, but we absolutely prefer “The Last Crusade”. This movie was the last chapter of the Indiana Jones saga until the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out, and is where Indy was at his best. Dr. Jones was as charming as ever in this entry of the saga, but even wittier than before, and thanks to the inclusion of Dr. Jones senior, his father, a new layer of depth was added to the character… and let’s be fair here, Sean Connery was absolutely fantastic in his role, and as hilarious as Harrison Ford himself.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade shows a race between the Nazis (who are genuinely frightening this time, and not goofy idiots like in “raiders”) and Indy to find the Holy Grail. In order to find it, Indy needs the help of the most prestigious Grail investigator, who happens to be his father. Oh, and his father is also a prisoner of a high Nazi officer in Germany. The movie takes Indy and his father throughout a big chunk of Europe (Italy, Germany, and Middle East, to name some locations) and leads up to a fantastic climax.
After reviewing these movies, we feel that we might have forgotten a bunch of great titles, so we’re open to suggestions on the comments sections, feel free to discuss the list!