Only in the 80s: Five upbeat 80s films you may not have seen

Inner SpaceWhether you think back on 80s cinema favourably or not, it can’t be denied that one of the distinct characteristics of films from this decade is “fun”. Even the more challenging or serious 80s films, like Blue Velvet (1986) or The Shining (1980), had more colour or were, somehow, easier to watch. The stories were zanier, genres were broader, but the vibe was upbeat.

Let’s try an experiment. Can you think of one upbeat Hollywood film that was released in the last five years that’s not one of the following:

  1. a remake?
  2. based on a true story?
  3. a sequel?
  4. a homage to older cinema?
  5. or some kind of self-parody?

I’m sure there are a few, but you can be sure they’ll be obscure!

So before you turn your back on 80s cinema, just ask yourself if you are sick of just how ridiculously serious “great films” are today. All the upbeat films of today are either indie-comedy-dramas, which all tend to be the same, screwball comedies, kids films or part of a franchise (and even then most of them are quite dark). I’m not against dark films, I just want a bit of variety in my life and the boldness of the 80s is something that doesn’t ever have to date. Maybe if the film industry paid more attention to the film’s of this era, there would be less of a separation between audience demographics, and our cinematic selections would be richer.

And so, in the spirit of staying upbeat while the 80s slowly fade away, here are five upbeat 80s films you may not have seen…

The Sure Thing (1985)

Love John Cusack? Wait until you see him in his best role!

 Inner-Space (1987)

This crazy sci-fi adventure is a guaranteed two hours of rich entertainment. This is introspective cinema of an entirely different kind.

After Hours (1985)

Martin Scorsese tries his hand at comedy and delivers yet another gem. It’s incredible that this film isn’t more widely appreciated. Watch out for Cheech and Chong!

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

A magical high school comedy starring Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage – need I say more?

They Live (1988)

Trashy John Carpenter sci-fi action starring wrestler Roddy Piper as a drifter who finds a pair of sunglasses that reveal which people are actually aliens! This is almost too much fun.

I’m a skinny little bugger (with a growing pot belly) who’s obsessed with movies and cries lots during the soppy bits. I hope that one day I can make YOU cry with my own movies. Read more about my obsession at

12 thoughts on “Only in the 80s: Five upbeat 80s films you may not have seen

  1. “They Live” is probably one of the best 80’s SciFi movies that doesn’t get enough credit or attention. It’s so 80’s with it’s over-the-top characters and (now) cheesy effects, it can be held up as a prime example of 80’s films.

  2. “They Live” is an upbeat movie?
    Thought it was an alien invasion thing. Now I’ve got to find the darn thing and watch it.
    And I think InnerSpace is a lost classic. Fantastic movie.

  3. They Live is pure brilliance and very underrated (like a lot of Carpenter’s movies). I haven’t seen Peggy Sue Got Married but I liked After Hours, The Sure Thing, and I sort of liked Innerspace.

  4. “They Live” is–for me–one of the greatest movies of all time. Sure it’s flawed, but I think it’s a brilliant piece of social commentary. Plus, it gave the world the infinitely quotable line, “I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m all out of bubble gum.” Preach it, Rowdy Roddy Piper!

  5. You wrangled some of my favourites here CK. Peggy Sue/They Live/After Hours, all great stuff, and desperately under-rated too. Good casts and scripts, sharp dialogue, slick acting, they have it all. Innerspace was fun at the time, but it is shown almost daily on TV, so I am a bit jaded with that one. I have never got to Sure Thing, so must remedy that one day.
    I do miss John Cusack, James Spader, and Kathleen Turner, all doing what they do best, instead of straight to video fodder, or TV mini-series..
    Good recommendations, and I hope that readers who have not seen them take you up. If I had to choose one, it would of course be After Hours, because of Terri Garr, one of my favourite American actresses.
    Regards from England, Pete.

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