15 Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies Of The 1980s

No decade did it trashier.

Joysticks 1983

With the Academy Awards only days away, debates rage left and right about what constitutes great, important cinema in this day and age - and damn, it doesn't half get tiresome.

Okay, there's a lot to be said in favour of intelligent, sophisticated filmmaking, featuring fine actors at the top of their game, tackling complex themes. But does cinema of this nature always show us a good time?

The term 'guilty pleasure' might be deemed a little (pardon the buzzword) problematic; it comes from an aloof position, making assumptions about what should or should not be deemed to have cultural value.

As Tommy Wiseau learns in the final scenes of The Disaster Artist, if the audience is entertained, then the film has done its job, come what may. Surely neither the filmmaker nor the viewer need feel any guilt in the process.

Every bit as much joy can be taken from a 'good-bad' film as any more conventionally worthy work of cinema; in fact, one 2016 study concluded that devotees of trash movies tend to be more intelligent.

And if it's trash cinema you're looking for, surely no time period did it better than the 1980s. This was the decade of neon, spandex, hairspray, pop socks, synthesizers, power ballads; the era positively oozed with cheese.

Here, in roughly chronological order, are 15 of the most phenomenally cheesy, gaudy, ridiculous big screen spectaculars which trash cinema aficionados have to thank the 1980s for.

15. Megaforce

Joysticks 1983
20th Century Fox

Revered stuntman Hal Needham broke into directing in a big way with 1977 hit Smokey and the Bandit, and continued his winning streak with 1981's The Cannonball Run - so hopes were clearly high that when he ventured into sci-fi adventure territory with 1982's Megaforce, the results would be similarly successful.

No such luck, as the $20 million movie (a huge price tag at the time) co-produced by 20th Century Fox and Hong Kong's Golden Harvest bombed on release. But all these years later, it stands up as a prime example of the kind of bananas filmmaking that could only have come out of the 1980s.

Megaforce are a futuristic super-army equipped with state of the art weapons and vehicles, sent out to resolve a conflict between two fictitious desert nations. Heading them up is Ace Hunter (Barry Bostwick, best known as Brad in The Rocky Horror Picture Show), a grinning, white-teethed warrior clad head to toe in spandex with a headband and a flying motorcycle.

If it all sounds rather like a toy advert, that's no accident: Mattel were heavily involved in the production, including the designs. Tie-in toy lines were launched, no doubt in the hope of replicating the success Kenner Toys had recently enjoyed with Star Wars. Again - no such luck.

Still, Megaforce is a thoroughly endearing oddity, blending camp humour with large scale, fuel-injected battle scenes on the kind of scale we wouldn't see again until the last few Fast & Furious movies.

And in its own way, Megaforce was ahead of the curve: high-tech military vehicles were the focal point of several hit TV shows in the years ahead, most notably Airwolf and Knight Rider.

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Ben Bussey hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.