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15 Best '80s Movies On HBO Max

It's amusing and an example of things coming full circle that HBO-branded-and-affiliated streaming service HBO Max is the home to numerous classic movies from the 1980s. After all, this is the decade in which "Home Box Office," birthed in the 1970s during the initial and wild development of cable television, came into its own, offering around-the-clock airings of Hollywood hits... and then over and over for months on end. Certain films became classics and beloved cultural treasures in the 1980s because of their exposure and constant replay on HBO.

But then, in their own right, the movies of the 1980s are by and large a wonderful, memorable, quotable and well-made mix of crowd-pleasing comedies, dramas, thrillers, and family films. Here are the best films from the era of Reagan and aerobics currently available to stream on HBO Max.

Updated on January 5, 2022: HBO Max changes its selection regularly, so we'll keep this list updated to reflect the comings and goings in its streaming catalog. Be sure to check back each month for the '80s films that are, like, totally tubular.


The era of comic book superheroes taken seriously and presented as the dark, gritty, conflicted characters they are began in 1989 with "Batman." Conceived and thoroughly realized by quirky director Tim Burton, this "Batman" is far from the silly '60s TV Batman, with Gotham City a literally dark, crime-infested wasteland, lorded over by unhinged villains like the Joker and the heroic titular character, meting out vigilante-style justice to the bad guy and his loyal foot soldiers. But Batman is really wealthy industrialist Bruce Wayne in disguise, who's trying to date reporter Vicki Vale when he's not stopping the Joker's complicated and unabashed attempts to wreak havoc on Gotham. Of course, it's not like Burton's "Batman" is all darkness. While considered dark for its time, it also features plenty of zany moments, like an incredible scene of vandalism set to Prince music and a massive parade led by the Joker himself.

  • Starring: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Year: 1989
  • Runtime: 126 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

Blade Runner

So many sci-fi movies set in a dystopian future look exactly like the world of "Blade Runner" — darkly lit, always raining, with technology run amok. Such is the influence of Ridley Scott's film, one of the best (and most thought-provoking) science fiction movies ever made. Harrison Ford, already Indiana Jones and Han Solo, adds a third classic character to his repertoire as Deckard, a future cop tasked with hunting down four rogue Replicants — humanoid androids virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. However, his investigation gets complicated as he falls hard for a beautiful Replicant and realizes that maybe these machines aren't all that different from man.

The Dark Crystal

Jim Henson teamed up with fantasy art icon Brian Froud to make "The Dark Crystal," an epic mythological tale featuring some of the most sophisticated puppets ever made. Long ago, on the planet Thra, a magical crystal of life split in two, creating two rival cultures: the Skeksis (the evil ones) and the Mystics (the heroes). After learning he's actually the last survivor of the Gelfling race, a Mystic named Jen goes on a quest to locate a fragment of the crystal. If he succeeds, he'll bring peace and enlightenment back to Thra for everyone.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is just an elegant film — a classification that includes its beautiful settings in and around the French Riviera, its performances by master actors Michael Caine and Steve Martin, and the carefully crafted, complicated, and urbane plot line. 

Caine plays erudite Englishman Lawrence Jamieson, who keeps himself afloat by posing as a deposed prince, conning smitten female vacationers out of their savings. His entire operation is threatened when he butts heads with Martin's Freddy Benson, a small-time crook from America who Lawrence thinks is actually a notorious and mysterious con artist known only as "The Jackal." Along with teaming up for some scams and combining their individual talents for greater gain, Jamieson and Benson wager that whoever can bilk American soap heir Janet Colgate out of $50,000 gets the French Riviera as scam territory all to themselves.

  • Starring: Steve Martin, Michael Caine, Glenne Headly
  • Director: Frank Oz
  • Year: 1988
  • Runtime: 110 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

Fatal Attraction

"Fatal Attraction" explores an adulterous affair among Yuppies gone horribly wrong. Dan Gallagher is a hotshot New York lawyer with a good marriage and a young daughter at home. He throws it all away for a tryst with Alex, a charismatic editor. When Dan tries to end the affair and dismisses his connection with Alex as a tawdry dalliance, she takes offense and has a mental breakdown. Alex stalks Dan and terrorizes his family, forcing him to fight back and take responsibility for his mistakes.

Full Metal Jacket

War movies are generally patriotic affairs focusing on bravery and their underlying, noble political motivations. But more than a decade removed from the Vietnam War, which was opposed by large swathes of the Baby Boomer generation drafted into fighting it, master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick presented one of the first movies to show what war can really be like — a horrific, relentless nightmare of violence and indignities large and small. 

Centering on a platoon of American soldiers during basic training and battle, the men suffer through cruel drill sergeants, mentally scarring torture from their fellow soldiers, and realistically, terrifyingly rendered combat in a significant battle in the bloody, tide-turning Tet Offensive of 1968. "Full Metal Jacket" isn't an easy watch, but it's an important one.

  • Starring: Matthew Modine, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 116 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

The Goonies

Viewers of a certain age may look back on the 1980s and think of it as a time of riding around on bikes with their friends, seeking out grand adventures. Or maybe they just think that's what the '80s were like because that's the set-up of so many classic kid-friendly films of the era, such as "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" and "The Goonies." In the latter film, the group of colorful, tough, and witty kids who call themselves Goonies (who famously "never say die") live in the Goon Docks, a working-class neighborhood in the beach town of Astoria, Oregon. Faced with foreclosure on their homes, they come across an old pirate treasure map and head out in search of that problem-solving gold. They wind up in all sorts of perilous, wildly entertaining, and strangely enviable situations, including getting lost underground and upsetting the treasure-seeking Fratelli crime family.

  • Starring: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Year: 1985
  • Runtime: 113 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%


It's not easy to mix the usually dissonant tones of fantasy, horror, and comedy, but the filmmakers behind "Gremlins" managed that tricky balancing act, presenting a fun and mischievous film that's also a Christmas movie. Affable teenager Billy gets a very special present from his father, procured at an oddities shop from a reluctant seller: Gizmo, an adorable, furry dog-cat-creature thing with the high-pitched voice of '80s super comic Howie Mandel. However, this enigmatic mogwai comes with some steadfast rules — don't get it wet, don't let it in the sun, and don't feed it after midnight. Naturally, Billy lets all of those things occur, and before he knows it, he and his would-be love interest Kate are trying to save the town from a gaggle of evil, reptilian gremlins from laying waste, on Christmas Eve no less.

  • Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton
  • Director: Joe Dante
  • Year: 1984
  • Runtime: 106 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Lethal Weapon

"Lethal Weapon" laid out multiple elements of both the action comedy and "buddy cop" genres, but in spite of giving filmmakers a barrage of rapidly fired cliches, the original cannot be outdone. Detectives Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh are partners in the Los Angeles Police Department but, amazingly, have entirely different personalities and demeanors. Riggs is a wild card who plays by his own rules, while Murtaugh is a methodical, world-weary crank who often lets others know he's "getting too old for this s***," meaning dangerous police work. Despite their differences and clashing egos, they work great together in trying to take down a huge drug-smuggling operation, although Riggs' grief-triggered reckless abandon might get them both killed.


After two decades in the spotlight as a larger-than-life celebrity and singer with one of the most recognizable voices around, Cher proved she was an engaging and charming actor too, completely disappearing into her role (which won her an Oscar) as an aging, widowed Brooklynite living a small and unfulfilling life. She finally decides to marry her just-okay boyfriend, Johnny, only to have all of her passions ignited and life made big and spectacular again when she accidentally falls in love with her fiancé's long-lost, impetuous, and much younger brother, Cosmo (played with complexity and relish by Nicolas Cage).

  • Starring: Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis
  • Director: Norman Jewison
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 101 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Risky Business

Most everyone is familiar with the most famous scene in "Risky Business," that iconic piece of footage of young Tom Cruise dancing around a well-appointed suburban home in his underwear and a dress shirt, all while lip-syncing to Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll." That kind of youthful, do-anything energy permeates the film, even during its many dark and risqué turns. Cruise plays a high schooler named Joel who parties hard after his parents go away on a brief vacation. He winds up employing the services of a sex worker, and surprised at how much she charges — combined with a bill for his father's sports car that he crashed — Joel decides to turn his humdrum home into a den of ill repute.

  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano
  • Director: Paul Brickman
  • Year: 1983
  • Runtime: 99 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Summer School

There are plenty of powerful, inspiring dramas about underachieving students who fell through the cracks of the educational system but manage to succeed in school and learn to believe in themselves after a crusading teacher takes notice in them and instructs them in nontraditional ways. "Summer School" is that kind of movie, but it's a silly, laid-back '80s high school comedy where the kids are ridiculously woeful students and lovable losers while the teacher is a work-shirking beach bum of a gym coach named Shoop. At the risk of losing tenure if he doesn't teach remedial summer school, he sticks around, helps the kids through their problems, and romances the history teacher too.

  • Starring: Mark Harmon, Kirstie Alley, Courtney Thorne-Smith
  • Director: Carl Reiner
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 97 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 58%

Superman II

With superhero movie franchises, it's highly likely that the second film is going to be better than the first, which is usually overfilled with exposition and where the filmmakers find their voice and tone for the series. That's certainly the case with "Superman II," a sprawling, fun, funny, and daring movie that feels like a living comic book, leaving the first "Superman" far behind. "Superman II" begins with the Man of Steel throwing terrorists' nuclear weapons into space, and it escalates from there. The bombs explode and release three nefarious (but extremely campy) prisoners from Superman's home planet of Krypton. They come to Earth, seeking to destroy it, and Superman could save everything if only he'd suit up again. Instead, he just wants to live a quiet, regular life as Clark Kent, be a reporter, and hang out with Lois Lane.

When Harry Met Sally

"When Harry Met Sally" takes place over the course of nearly 20 years, tracking the glacially slow but warm, sweet, and hilarious coupling of two New Yorkers — arrogant Harry and weirdo Sally. At first, they can't stand each other. Then, they become friendly, and soon enough, they're best friends who support each other through numerous relationships that fail because neither Harry and Sally can see what everybody else does: They're perfect for each other. Written by rom-com expert Nora Ephron and directed by the masterful Rob Reiner, "When Harry Met Sally" is a gorgeously shot and friendly film, arguably the definitive movie about modern romance.

  • Starring: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher
  • Director: Rob Reiner
  • Year: 1989
  • Runtime: 95 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

The Witches of Eastwick

An event movie at the time, "The Witches of Eastwick" was an adaptation of a bestseller by John Updike that starred four of the most famous actors in the world: Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer. One of the few dark-romantic-comedy-supernatural-revenge-dramas ever made, the film must have been vicariously therapeutic at the end of the '80s, when gender roles began to be reconsidered and the liberated "singles scene" proved unsatisfying for so many people. Against a backdrop of the gorgeous Rhode Island town of Eastwick, three lonely adult women become friends ... until Daryl Van Horne moves to town and attempts to seduce the ladies. Nearly ruining their lives with magical acts of evil (Daryl just might be the Prince of Darkness), the women form a coven and use elaborate acts of voodoo to exact their revenge.