They Live and Star Wars sequels are among the best sci-fi films of the 1980s. Each year, we’ve selected the year’s top film.
It was during the late 1970s that blockbusters like Star Wars and Alien had a significant impact on the sci-fi film industry, and the follow-ups to those films were just as, if not more, satisfying.
Throughout the 1980s, technology advanced at a breakneck pace, transforming early digital effects into the computer-generated imagery (CGI) that moviegoers are familiar with today.
There were numerous sci-fi films released each year that we still remember fondly, but which ones stand head and shoulders above the rest? It’s impossible to deny that these sci-fi films, selected as the greatest of the decade, reflect how the genre has evolved over the course of the decade.
1980: The Empire Strikes Back
The Empire Strikes Back is still hailed as one of the best films of all time, proving that the cultural effect of the first Star Wars film series in the late 1970s was not a fleeting fad. One of the best plot twists in movie history, as well as one of the best lightsaber fights in the franchise, was delivered by this Star Wars movie.
Empire’s audacity helped Star Wars take over the early ’80s pop culture, even though Return of the Jedi wasn’t as popular as the other two films.
1981: Mad Max 2
Continuing the early-’80s trend of amazing sequels that not only lived up to but grew on their original movies’ best aspects, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior did not disappoint. In Mad Max 2: Fury Road, the titular antihero faces up against a savage tribe of post-apocalyptic barbarians. The film’s wasteland image has endured and can be observed in pop cultural phenomena like Rick and Morty.
Moreover, thanks to the film’s impressive action sequences, which were heavily influenced by Star Wars, it has held up better over time than many other high-concept sci-fi films.
A few automobiles speeding along a highway can look as dramatic as a war in a distant world thanks to the easy adjustment of perspective in Mad Max 2.
1982: Blade Runner
1982 was a fantastic year for science fiction films. Looking for a clear winner, classics like ET and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan are up against previously forgotten works like John Carpenter’s The Thing and Disney’s cult hit Tron. It’s a tough pick. While there are many films that have had an impact on popular culture over the years, Ridley Scott’s detective story about a man who hunts down rogue synthetic laborers in a rain-soaked dystopian setting of a future Los Angeles has been particularly influential.
An everlasting atmosphere was created when Vangelis’ melancholy score was paired with the spectacular futuristic graphics of concept designer Syd Mead. Blade Runner and its philosophical ideas have captivated sci-fi enthusiasts for decades, and the movie’s long-delayed sequel,Blade Runner 2049, has ensured that attraction continues into the present era.
Videodrome solidified David Cronenberg’s reputation as a major figure in the emerging body horror genre, thanks to the film’s grotesqueness and oddity.
Cronenerg’s The Dead Zone, a superb Stephen King adaption, was released in the same year as Videodrome, a film that delved into notions of organic substance and human existence fusing with technology. Searching for the film’s titular TV channel’s origins sparks a host of new questions for viewers about their own identities in an increasingly digital environment.
1984: The Terminator
The impact of James Cameron’s second feature-length film may still be felt in the sci-fi genre today. To genre filmgoers of the mid-1980s, the tale of a time-traveling killer robot dispatched to put an early end to human resistance to machines was a revelation.
Using a variety of effects and techniques, Cameron created something realistically small yet appeared to be on a grand scale. When it came to his future ventures, of course, Cameron would use this to his advantage, resulting in two of the highest-grossing movies ever made.
1985: Back to the Future
Back to the Future, a film beloved by fans of all ages, became a film that was endlessly ridiculed and duplicated, but never surpassed. Following an unexpected trip back in time to the 1950s, Marty McFly is on a mission to return to his own time period as a lazy high school student.
Composer Alan Silvestri’s iconic score worked nicely with the film’s usage of catchy pop music and the quintessential cinematic magic from executive producers Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis. Its more subdued themes of individual agency in the face of fate’s predetermination have always struck a chord with moviegoers, making it an optimistic slice of nostalgia that addresses the concept of nostalgia as a whole. As a result of Marty’s friendship with Doc Brown, subsequent pop culture hits likeRick and Morty have been influenced by it.
Following on from his success with The Terminator, writer and director James Cameron embarked on the next phase of his career with the 1979 sci-fi horror classicAlien, expanding on Ridley Scott’s original concepts and designs to create an even larger and more detailed world.
With all the exploding splendour and stunning detail that Cameron has subsequently been famous for, Alien franchise star Ellen Ripley goes back to the planet where it all went horribly wrong in the first film.
Even though Predator was only his second film as a filmmaker, John McTiernan had already changed the action genre with its horror-tinged sci-fi feel with his third effort, Die Hard, the following year.
With prey in sight, a team of heavily-armed commandos find themselves prey to an alien game hunter in the Central American rain forest.
In spite of its machismo exterior, the film taps into more vital and clever sci-fi topics than its machismo wrapping may immediately imply.
1988: They Live
The final film directed by John Carpenter, who established himself as one of the most influential filmmakers of the 1980s, became a cultural touchstone.
These eyeglasses allow him to observe aliens who dominate the human populace of Los Angeles through media manipulation and dictatorial authority in the 1980s parody “They Live,” which follows a vagrant who acquires the sunglasses.
Despite its cynical exterior, the film is remembered fondly by its audience as a pleasant experience, allowing it to rank among the more mainstream films of the decade, thanks in no small part to the film’s all-time great fight sequence between Roddy Piper and Keith David.
1989: The Abyss
James Cameron’s groundbreaking undersea tale of a squad of troops and deep-sea oil drillers searching for answers about a buried submarine capped off the decade.
The movie’s Oscar-winning special effects stole the show, as they introduced many audience members to computer-generated effects that would go on to become the norm for practically all big-budget filmmaking in today’s world.