10 Best 80s Dramas That Still Hold Up in the 2020s – Collider

The 80s are back and better than ever!
If there is one decade fans are obsessed with, it's the 80s. It's a time in American History that people can't seem to let go of. It was a decade infamous for neon headbands, androgynes pop singers, and huge hair. Like everything else in the 80s, its movies are distinctly different from any other decade.
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80's films are mostly known for their cheese, blockbusters, and the Brat-Pack. However, fans often forget how many timeless drama films came out during this period that shaped drama movies even to this day. Movies like Terms Of Endearment and Parenthood helped lay the foundation of what modern drama films would later become.
Debra Winger and Shirley Maclaine star in this tearjerker about a mother and daughter relationship spanning thirty years that will have fans in tears by its honest portrayal of its characters.
This classic is fearless in being gritty and authentic with its characters. The film lets its protagonist make huge mistakes, like Emma cheating on her husband and her mother Aurora skipping her wedding, yet the film doesn't judge them. Its imperfect characters make it feel almost current. Also, the cinematography often feels ahead of its time with how stylistic it is, with a lot more camera movement than was customary at the time. At its core, it's about how adults often feel they can't please their parents and how parents feel when they no longer have a say in their child's decisions making this film forever relatable.
This film about a rebellious army radio deejay who helps uplift the spirits of battle-weary soldiers in Saigon during the Vietnam War contains timely social messages that will, unfortunately, never get old.
Robin Williams shows his brilliance in this film by switching from funny to dramatic in the blink of an eye. He zings one-liners everywhere that are still funny thirty years later. However, the film still deals with the realities of war. The film makes the supposed heroes the US soldiers, hateful towards Vietnamese people and the Vietcong, morally ambiguous by endearing the audience to Tuan, who turns out to be the enemy. It's fair to say as long as racism and war exist, this film will be timely.
This 80s crime-drama about a Cuban immigrant's rise and fall in the drug trade was critically panned at the time but has become beloved by fans for Al Pacino's show-stopping performance.
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While some 80s action scenes can feel dated nowadays, Scarfacestill feels tense and unsafe. Scenes like Tony almost being chopped to pieces by a drug dealer with a chainsaw are still effective today. Pacino's performance also keeps this film from feeling aged. His iconic performance as Tony Montana manages to chew up every piece of scenery, making a ruthless drug dealer almost admirable and fun to watch.
Whoopi Goldberg stars in this period piece about a timid girl sold into an abusive marriage. This film will never be outdated because of its important message to women.
This story draws in viewers with its compelling and complex characters, who all have distinct views on relationships. The acting and characters are so immersive that fans feel like they are rooting for a sports team as Celie goes from a scared victim of her abusive husband to a confident woman who refuses to let any man mistreat her. The film stacks the odds against Celie, and viewers are on the edge of their seats to see how she will overcome her circumstances. By the film's end, audiences feel they've genuinely watched someone's life play out in front of their eyes.
This legendary film about a group of youths bonding during Saturday detention has resonated with teens for decades because of its realistic depiction of the pressure they feel from their parents and peers at school.
This 80s gem is still worth watching because the types of teens portrayed still exist in high schools today. From the jock to the class troublemaker, these archetypes have never gone out of style. Scenes like Andrews's monologue about the pressure he feels from his dad still evokes emotions after all these years because of how relatable the character's situation is. Most viewers can relate to at least one of the character's complex relationships with their parents. As long as there are high schools and parents, this film will always be powerful.
The Big Chill is about a group of college friends who reunite after the death of their beloved friend. This star-studded affair will make you think you're part of the gang as it entangles you in 20 years of underlying tension.
This ensemble film includes Hollywood greats like Glen Close, Kevin Klein, and Jeff Goldblum, who elevates the film with their subtle performances. Affairs, long-held grievances, and ten years of sexual tension are all simmering unearthed surfaces of this film. The characters don't come out and express their feelings, but they're slowly revealed as the movie unfolds, making this awkward and tension-filled film still hold up today.
This classic coming-of-age story is about four boys who find a dead body that will never cease to bring fans to tears with its sad story about growing up.
This classic is full of bittersweet moments that encapsulate childhood. Viewers have fun watching the boys constantly barely escape getting into trouble. However, the narrator makes it clear these boys one day will lose touch, and some will be in jail or dead, making the film heartbreaking as you see glimpses of who they'll become when they are still kids. By the film's end, viewers are left reflecting on their childhood friends and what has come of them.
This awards darling is about a selfish collectibles dealer who discovers he has a long-lost autistic older brother. The movie still holds up to this day because of Dustin Hauffman's once-in-a-lifetime performance and its moving story.
Haufffman's transformation into the autistic and genius Raymond makes this film one of the best films of any decade. Meanwhile, Tom Cruise's more understated performance emotionally satisfies viewers as they watch Charlie change from a selfish hustler to a caring brother after bonding with Raymond. Performances aside, the emotional revelation that Charlie's imaginary childhood friend Rain-Man was his brother "Raymond" is so cathartic viewers are as swept up in emotions as he is when they find out.
Ron Howard's dramedy about three different sets of parents who fear they're failing their children is as funny as it is, seriously making it the perfect film to reflect what real Parenthood is like.
Unlike most family-oriented comedies at the time, Parenthood shows imperfect families scrambling to get it together. This allows for this film to stand the test of time even after movies with cookie-cutter families went out of fashion. Parenthood resonates with audiences because nothing overly dramatic happens in the movie, but to the characters, like most viewers and their families, what they're going through is the most crucial thing in the world. That makes Steve Martin's character Tod fear that he's failing his son, who's asked to join special-education classes, simultaneously funny and sad. This mixture of humor and drama feels closer to real life than your average 80s comedy making these families easily recognizable to viewers.
Martin Scorsese's sports drama about a self-destructive boxer in the 1940s is a master class in characters and storytelling, explaining why it was nominated for eight different Academy Awards in 1980.
Scorsese's visually striking cinematography rivals even today's films, especially the innovative way he shoots his boxing scenes, which are almost dreamlike instead of fast-paced. This biopic on boxer Jake Lamatta doesn't try and put a halo on the celebrity, unlike most biopics. Scorsese portrays Lamatta as an insecure man whose insecurities about his impotence and masculinity lead him to use violence to alienate himself from everyone who loves him. He tries to prove to himself that despite his impotence, he is "the boss," which are the last words you hear him drilling into himself. This brilliant character study of a flawed man will always be worth the watch.
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