10 Highest-Grossing '80s Movies Ranked Worst To Best

Great Scott!

Back To The Future
Universal Pictures

While it wasn't the most innovative decade in terms of advances in technology (that came both earlier and later), nor the most lucrative at the box office, the 1980s was a special lightning-in-a-bottle sort of period whose movies have fermented intoxicatingly like few other decades before or since.

Sure, other decades had stand-outs and seminal releases, but none have come to define whole stages of existence quite like Ferris Bueller's Day Off or The Breakfast Club or E.T. And that's precisely why generations who weren't even born can be obsessively nostalgic about the decade, as if it is some mythical, magical alien world. Looking back, that's sort of exactly what it was.

It was also a hell of a time to be a fan of blockbuster movies: it's where the idea of a franchise was basically born and where some of THE most iconic characters in all of cultural history were first unleashed. Where would cinema be without the names of McFly, Jones, Venkman, Bueller, McClane, Rambo...? This was a theatre of characters who would become brands: heroes and villains who would transcend even the limits of their own movies.

But what were the movies that '80s contemporaries loved most (those they flocked to cinemas most to see) and which of them stands up as the best 30 years on?

10. Beverly Hill Cop

Back To The Future
Paramount Pictures

Year: 1984

Box Office: $234 million

Probably the most surprising revelation of the 80s was the success of Martin Brest's action comedy, which kicked off a franchise that made Paramount a massive $735.5 million (for the time period at least) and gave the world Eddie Murphy as a solo leading man. It's not quite correct to say it launched his career, though, as he'd already made three major movies and was about as famous as Jesus Christ thanks to his SNL adulation.

Remarkably, considering he was cast only two weeks before filming commenced, Beverly Hills Cop feels like a Murphy vehicle (and not in the same sense as Norbit or Meet Dave would later). Axel Foley was an extension of the cocksure stand-up persona he'd developed to such success and that attitude worked as the perfect abrasive against the typically straight-laced cops of California. It's essentially Crocodile Dundee but Dundee is from Detroit and has a very loose interpretation of the rules of policing.

The comedy is great, the story compelling and the action exciting, but it's all about Murphy, who has rarely been this good or this charmingly obnoxious. Just imagine how different it might have been if Mickey Rourke had been allowed to film the role after initially being cast, or Sylvester Stallone, whose ideas for it were frankly terrifying. It certainly wouldn't be in this ranking, that's for damn sure.


WhatCulture's former COO, veteran writer and editor.