If there’s one year in pop culture history everyone is aware of, it’s definitely 1985. Many talented artists performed at Live Aid to raise money for the Ethiopian famine. Basketball legend Michael Jordan was named “Rookie of the Year.” Mike Tyson made his debut as a professional boxer at just 18 years old. Those were incredible moments in history, and no one’s likely going to forget about them anytime soon. However, if there’s anything from 1985 that’s given us a lasting impression or has impacted us in some way, it’s the movies.
Whether you prefer traveling back in time in a Delorean, searching for treasure with your best buds, or possibly making new friends in a library somewhere, there’s something for everybody. The level of entertainment is boundless and the amount of inspiration you can take from these films is seemingly endless.
These are the best movies of 1985.
1. The Goonies
Director: Richard Donner
Set in Oregon, The Goonies tells the story of a group of friends who are losing their homes to foreclosure. Since they’d likely lose touch over time, they decide to go on one last adventure together after finding an old treasure map.
It may sound corny by today’s standards, but it’s absolutely fun and Richard Donner couldn’t do a better job directing it. The cast, featuring Sean Astin, Corey Feldman and Josh Brolin, are terrific in their roles, as the script gives each character enough to do. Oh, and that Cyndi Lauper track? Pure gold.
2. Weird Science
Director: John Hughes
Weird Science stars Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Kelly LeBrock. The story’s basically that these two nerdy outcasts magically create an attractive woman using a computer.
As simple and peculiar a premise as that is, Weird Science is thoroughly entertaining and isn’t exactly how it sounds. More than anything, Kelly LeBrock’s character, Lisa, helps Gary and Wyatt. Look for Bill Paxton and Robert Downey Jr. in fun supporting roles. As far as John Hughes movies go, it’s definitely one of his top 10, maybe even top 5.
3. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Directors: George Miller and George Ogilvie
Although Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome would be Mel Gibson’s last time portraying Max Rockatansky, it’s one of his finest performances. Starring alongside him is Tina Turner, who plays Aunty Entity, the strong and clever ruler of Bartertown.
This Australian epic offers action, depth and tremendous characterization. When I first watched it, I was impressed by Tina Turner. There is a lightheartedness to the film not present in either of the first two.
4. Just One of the Guys
Director: Lisa Gottlieb
Before Ladybugs and She’s the Man, Just One of the Guys took the idea of a person pretending to be the opposite sex in order to pursue their passion. Joyce Hyser stars as Teri Griffith, an aspiring journalist who, because of her looks, isn’t taken seriously. She enrolls in another school as a male and, in doing so, learns a few lessons herself.
It’s entertaining and well acted, and the characters are actually likable. It might not be as popular as the aforementioned two, but it’s definitely worth a watch.
5. Back to the Future
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Back to the Future is an all-time classic, beyond any measure or argument. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are incredible as Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown. The supporting cast, set design, cinematography — everything about this movie just works to full effect.
No film is perfect, however Back to the Future comes pretty damn close. At the risk of sounding like a bad commercial, Back to the Future is fun for the whole family. There’s nothing too inappropriate for younger viewers and there’s nothing overly mushy for the older crowd. Simply put, it’s brilliant.
6. Secret Admirer
Director: David Greenwalt
Secret Admirer is distinctly different from the other sex comedies of its era. There’s a hint of romanticism thrown in with its whaky, outrageous brand of humor.
On the last day of school, Michael (played by C. Thomas Howell) finds an anonymous love letter he believes the popular Deborah (Kelly Preston) wrote. In response, he begins penning her letters, totally unaware his friend Toni (Lori Loughlin) likes him. The letters manage to find their way into other people’s hands, and things get a little crazy.
Jam Hammer’s score is a highpoint of the film, and the acting is very good for this type of movie. The supporting cast includes Fred Ward and Dee Wallace.
7. Private Resort
Director: George Bowers
In his first starring role, Johnny Depp plays Jack Marshall, who along with best friend Ben (Rob Morrow), are weekend guests at a summer resort. It’s there they find themselves getting in trouble with a jewel thief and causing some disturbances, much to the manager’s annoyance.
For whatever reason, Private Resort is the Johnny Depp movie no one seems to remember, and it’s a shame. It’s a fun movie with a great cast and it’s still wildly entertaining. There’s an unmatchable energy, specifically in the third act that captures part of what makes 80s comedy so great.
8. The Return of the Living Dead
Director: Dan O’Bannon
The Return of the Living Dead is the first movie to acknowledge zombies eat brains. Anything prior to that is less specific. This comedic horror film stars Clu Gulager and Thom Matthews, and features an energetic supporting cast.
All hell breaks loose after Frank takes a new employee for a tour of the facility and unleashes a secret military gas. I won’t give anything away, you just have to watch how this plays out. The makeup effects are awesome and you’re sure to love The Tarman whenever he’s on screen.
9. Vision Quest
Director: Harold Becker
Based on the 1979 novel, Vision Quest tells the story of a high school wrestler named Louden, played by Mathew Modine. Although his teammates express their disapproval, Louden sets a goal to drop two weight classes to fight the state champion, risking his health along the way.
As all of this is happening, he loses sight of his goal, falling in love with a boarder named Carla (Linda Fiorentino) his father takes in. Vision Quest is a wonderful, often inspiring movie with a great cast and a fantastic soundtrack, and it doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves.
10. The Breakfast Club
Director: John Hughes
Easily one of John Hughes’ best films, The Breakfast Club explores what could happen when five high school students from different cliques are forced to spend a Saturday detention together.
The cast, referred to as members of “The Brat Pack”, do a remarkable job bringing their characters and struggles to life. John Hughes finely crafts and balances both of the film’s comedic and dramatic moments, seemingly with ease. Even as time changes, The Breakfast Club is still one of the greatest high school movies ever produced.
The number of motion pictures that were released in 1985 is overwhelming, especially because so many of them are creative and filled with recognizable scenes. I can’t prove it, but I’m willing to bet everyone has at least one movie from that year in their collection. How many in this list do you own?
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