Let other decades toss around “best” while celebrating their movies. The 1980s flat-out own “awesome.” Consider the evidence: Tentpole movies dug their posts deeper in the ‘80s. Franchises began to boom. Saturday Night Live (SNL) cast members populated comedy after comedy. Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg came of artistic age, convincing us they would indeed be commanding our attention for decades to come. The dream factory was still minting and burnishing stars — not just celebrities: Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep. No decade amplified the woes and wows of the teenager and barely adult the way the Eighties did, giving a genre a pack of brats and its own auteur in John Hughes. And toward the decade's close, indie films were beginning their own ascent. So, here are 20 awesome — as in most excellent, amazing and, yes, sometimes even “best” — movies to stream.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
A sequel that bests its original, this second installment (alright, alright, alright ... fifth if you're following the space saga's epic arc) introduced the wee Jedi Master Yoda, who schools Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Force. And for that, ever grateful will we be.
9 to 5 (1980)
Four decades before Grace and Frankie got jilted by their gay hubbies, Jane Fonda, 82, and Lily Tomlin, 80, along with insta-screen star Dolly Parton, 74, were giving it to the Man (Dabney Coleman, 88, terrific as the sexist, harassing, bigoted boss) in this women's rights vs. office wrongs comedy (original title Nine to Five). All spunk and twang, the titular Parton-penned theme song went to Billboard's number 1 spot.
Raging Bull (1980)
What's black and white and red all over? Jake LaMotta's bloodied face. Director Scorsese's (now 77) sumptuous black-and-white, knockout adaptation of the boxer's memoir took two of his finest collaborations — with Robert De Niro, 76, and editor Thelma Schoonmaker, 80 — to new heights by limning the pugilist's depths.
The Shining (1980)
Nothing beats the “Redrum, Redrum” like director Stanley Kubrick's elegant take on Stephen King's novel (to the author's chagrin). Jack Nicholson, 83, is brilliantly unhinged as a writer under the influence of a horror cocktail: one part writer's block, one part cabin fever with a bracing shot of restless, relentless spirits.
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
For American audiences, this Aussie sequel was the true intro to Mel Gibson's (64) iconic — and perhaps too aptly named — character “Mad” Max Rockatansky. Director/cowriter George Miller's (75) grim, postapocalyptic desert action flick, with its lawless gangs and unglued protagonist, remains a classic of road raging thrills and dystopian chills.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
In introducing a guy named Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford, 78), this retro adventure set an example of the rewards (popcorn chomping and box office) in store for those adept at infusing old popular pleasures with contemporary sass. It's easy to trace the lineage of makers Spielberg, 73, and George Lucas, 76, as well as writer Lawrence Kasdan, 71, to contemporary mass-culture whizzes J.J. Abrams, Ryan Coogler and Jon Favreau.
Blade Runner (1982)
From composer Vangelis's first dissonant chords to the grime and neon of a future Los Angeles, Ridley Scott's (82) sci-fi classic — based on a Philip K. Dick novella — served up an atmospheric, noir-soaked dystopia. But it's the story of corporate exploitation and the question of AI/replicant self-consciousness that bedevils and touches even now.