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The Best Free '80s Movies You Can Watch On YouTube Right Now

The 1980s had the best everything: the best cars (from the DeLorean Motor Company), the best drink designed for human consumption (Hi-C Ecto Cooler), the best reason that a company went under and stopped making cars (also the DeLorean Motor Company). The decade also gave us some of the best movies — thanks in no small part to cinema's uniform willingness to set training montages to power ballads, and the liberal application of Casio keyboards in the construction of every film score. In '80s movies, the cops were more robo and the bodybuilders were oiler, and America was just beginning to realize that Arnold Schwarzenegger would, given the opportunity, be back.

In short, the '80s birthed some of the most quotable moments and re-watchable adventures in Hollywood history. Now, you can revisit some of the classic moments from this bygone era thanks to YouTube and its collection of over a thousand movies, available to watch for free right this minute. Here's a look at some of the best '80s films in the collection (available as of this writing, in April 2021).

The Terminator

With nothing but a shoestring budget, a dogged tenacity, and a naked Austrian weightlifter, James Cameron went from being the filmmaker behind "Piranha 2" to the director of one of the freshest, most terrifying pieces of science fiction horror in the history of cinema (and "Piranha 2").

Compared to the franchise entries that eventually followed it, "The Terminator" feels almost like a B movie. The special effects are clunky, with the skinless T-800 limping his way through the film's climax like a stainless steel "Clash of the Titans" skeleton. The plot is straightforward, and the sets and costumes are about as simple as they can be, so it's a little bit baffling to consider just how great the movie really is. For a time-travel story, "The Terminator" is uncharacteristically self-contained, marking one of the only times in "Terminator" history that a film didn't leave viewers with more questions than answers.


"The Terminator" wasn't the only slice of era-specific sci-fi cinema that was released in 1984. That same year, Michael Crichton — the mind behind "Westworld," "Jurassic Park," and "E.R." – took audiences into the not-so-distant future with "Runaway."

Picture a world in which robots do everything. They remove caterpillars from leaves, shuffle office equipment around the room, and in a particularly weird flex, they adjust your desk lamp for you. (Who knows? Maybe that's easier than making a desk lamp that adjusts itself.) In any case, from time to time in "Runaway," a robot will live up to the film's title and run away, calling the wrath of the Runaway Squad, a division of police officers tasked with bringing the hammer down on rebellious machines. When Sergeant Jack Ramsay (Tom Selleck) discovers some shady circuitry and uncovers a possible plot to turn robots into killing machines, all signs point to Dr. Charles Luther as the culprit, portrayed by KISS' own Gene Simmons. 

Basically, "Runaway" has everything. That it's free to watch on YouTube right now is all the better.


Moving out of the realm of robots and robot cops, we turn now to the world of cop robots with the 1987 masterpiece "RoboCop." If you're not familiar, we'll catch you up. Imagine a movie in which Kurtwood Smith, looking not at all dissimilar from the way he appears in "That '70s Show," plays a character who enlists a group of ne'er-do-wells to help him riddle a police officer with an alarming number of bullets for the better part of a minute. Further imagine that said police officer is cobbled back together by a shady, omnipresent corporation, and reborn as some sort of automaton law enforcement official. Picture lots of messianic imagery, over-the-top violence, and tongue-in-cheek social commentary. It doesn't get any better than that.

Or it didn't, but then YouTube offered up the TV edit of "RoboCop" – complete with funky substitutes for swear words and all the blood taken out — to watch on its platform free of charge. It might just be more satirically surreal than the original.

Over the Top

Between 1982 and 1987, Sylvester Stallone had beaten LA's criminal underground in "Cobra," communism in "Rocky IV," and conventional sequel titles in "Rambo: First Blood Part II." There was only one more arena in which he hadn't excelled: professional arm wrestling.

Enter "Over the Top," the story of a long-haul truck driver and aspiring world champion arm wrestler. His name: Lincoln Hawk (played by Stallone). His mission: reacquaint himself with his estranged son after a lengthy absence. His means: the sweet science, the sport of kings, America's favorite pastime — competing in the World Armwrestling Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada, where prizes include a fat wad of cash and an even nicer semi truck than the one Hawk already drives.

There are obstacles, no doubt about it. Hawk's old arm wrestling rival Bob "Bull" Hurley (Rick Zumwalt) is this year's favorite competitor, while Hawk is one of the smallest guys in the running (a rare position for the hyper-muscular Stallone to be in). Meanwhile, his estranged wife's manipulative father will do everything in his power to stop Hawk from fostering a healthy relationship with his child.


In the '90s, director Penelope Spheeris gained international attention with "Wayne's World. But before that, her early career — during which she worked with Albert Brooks amid the debut season of "Saturday Night Live" and created the 1981 documentary "The Decline of Western Civilization" – can perhaps best be described as a series of bold creative swings. Somewhere in the middle is "Dudes."

"Dudes," which received a limited release in 1987 before disappearing in a cloud of lawsuits over home media distribution rights, is an empirically weird piece of motion picture history. It's been called lots of things in varying combinations: a punk film, a Western, a comedy, an adventure. There's really no way of properly nailing down everything that the movie has to offer.

The basics: two punk rockers (played by Jon Cryer and Daniel Roebuck) set out on a revenge ride a malevolent gang leader (Lee Ving) kills their friend (Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers). What follows is a stone soup of genres featuring all the cameos you would expect from the filmmaker who would go on to direct "Wayne's World." Uneven and bizarre? For sure, but also unique. How often do you get to watch Ducky from "Pretty in Pink" avenge the bassist of a rock band?