×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

21 Best '80s Movies On Amazon Prime [December 2021]

On the whole, the 1980s was a wonderful period in filmmaking. Some of the most innovative, iconic, and beloved movies Hollywood would ever produce hit theaters during the decade, bending genres, delighting audiences, and making A-list stars out of likable actors. And beyond just the quality and content of the movies, the 1980s witnessed several great leaps forward in technology that allowed for easier and more convenient viewing. The rapid spread of cable TV and the widespread adoption of the VCR made watching movies at home (and rewatching them over and over again) very simple and relatively cheap.

The next evolution in content dissemination, after cable and home video, was streaming services. And Amazon's Prime Video portal offers the retail giant's customers thousands of movies at the push of a button, all included in the price of a site-wide subscription. Lots of those offerings date to the go-go 1980s, and here are the best, most memorable, and most '80s of those '80s movies currently available on Amazon Prime Video.

Updated on November 29, 2021: Amazon regularly changes up its streaming catalog, and each month, many movies disappear from the site while plenty more arrive. With that in mind, we'll keep this list up to date, so check back each and every month for the most totally radical and wicked awesome '80s movies on Amazon Prime.

Heathers

Attending an American high school — particularly in the superficial and socially stratified 1980s — can be a brutal, destructive thing, and "Heathers" amplifies that idea, along with calling out the relentless marketing of anything and everything to impressionable teenagers. 

A showcase for two of the era's most captivating and left-of-center talents in Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, "Heathers" is set at Westerburg High, ruled over by a popular clique consisting of three cruel and self-absorbed girls named Heather. Highly intelligent Veronica (Ryder) abandons her nerdy friends to live amongst the Heathers but realizes they kill her soul, and so she willingly takes up with the cool, wisecracking, new misanthrope in town, Jason Dean (Slater), in his series of pranks that quickly turn deadly. Their romance becomes even more complicated as the body count grows and as Westerburg High becomes ground central in a nationwide exploitation of teen angst and grief.

Something Wild

"Something Wild" is very much a product of its time in that it's got a premise that would only make sense in, and be created by, the culture of the 1980s. Charles is the typical movie yuppie of the era — a buttoned-up, serious, wealthy investment banker, but he doesn't know what he really wants to do with his life. A vivacious, punk-adjacent kook named Lulu picks him up after he skips out on a meal without paying, bringing him into her cool downtown world of slightly risqué adventures. Charles starts to lighten up thanks to cool Lulu's influence, but his gifts of being serious and uptight come in handy when he and Lulu have to flee the latter's unhinged husband, heretofore unknown to Charles.

  • Starring: Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith, Ray Liotta
  • Director: Jonathan Demme
  • Year: 1986
  • Runtime: 113 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

Raising Arizona

With "Raising Arizona," writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen confidently established a new type of movie that others have attempted but never re-created — the surreal, complicated, bumbling low-level crime comedy peppered with violence and populated with strange and unforgettable characters. And here, the Coens introduce us to H.I., a habitual offender who has such great chemistry with the booking officer he keeps running into that they get married. Unable to conceive a child naturally, slow-talking, well-meaning H.I. sets out to make his wife happy via criminal means: He'll just kidnap one of the quintuplets born to an obnoxious local furniture magnate. Before long, every nasty character in Arizona is after H.I., including the fearsome bounty hunter known only as "The Lone Biker of the Apocalypse."

  • Starring: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson
  • Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 94 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

Bad Boys

Prison movies used to be a much more visible and viable genre, offering a usually sensationalized and violent look at life behind bars. Subtly functioning as a warning to young viewers to live upstanding, crime-free lives, "Bad Boys" also showed the world the intense, compelling, and dramatic heights of which Sean Penn was capable. 

Here, Penn plays a teenage criminal named Mick, who runs around with a gang and goes too far when a drug deal goes awry and he accidentally runs over and kills the young brother of a rival gang leader. Mick is sent to a juvenile detention facility where life is even more difficult and violent, while back home, the gang leader he wronged exacts revenge for the death of his brother on Mick's loved ones.

  • Starring: Sean Penn, Reni Santoni, Ally Sheedy
  • Director: Rick Rosenthal
  • Year: 1982
  • Runtime: 123 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

Bagdad Cafe

Warm, low-key, and very light on plot, "Bagdad Cafe" is a meandering, slow-moving character study about a developing friendship set at a tiny truck stop in the middle of the California desert. During an argument on a road trip with her husband, German tourist Jasmin runs away and finds respite at a diner-motel combo operated by no-nonsense Brenda. Jasmin rents a room, and the pair become friends, hosting a revolving assemblage of quirky characters, like an old Hollywood craftsman and a tattoo artist, whom Jasmin entertains with her wonderful magic tricks.

  • Starring: Marianne Sagebrecht, CCH Pounder, Jack Palance
  • Director: Percy Adlon
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 91 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Dead Ringers

From David Cronenberg, the pioneer and chief practitioner of body horror in films like "Videodrome" and "The Fly," comes "Dead Ringers," a movie comprised of suspense and horror of the psychological variety. Jeremy Irons plays two roles in the film, twin gynecologists Elliot and Beverly. Elliot frequently romances and seduces his patients, growing bored after his conquests, and then has Beverly, much kinder and soft-hearted, step in — the women none the wiser. But the plan, the practice, and Beverly's sanity all start to crack when one of those tricked patients, Claire — whom Beverly's fallen in love with — does him wrong. Now, he's off on a mind-bending descent into chaos and madness.

La Bamba

Arguably the first modern, mold-setting, rock star biopic, "La Bamba" tells the little-known and tragic story of Ritchie Valens, one of the original American rock stars, one of the few 1950s celebrities of Latin-American descent, and a passenger on the most famous ill-fated flight in music history. 

Lou Diamond Phillips is electrifying and charismatic as Valens, portraying him as a fresh-faced teenager who just wanted to make music, romance his idealized girlfriend, Donna, and who quickly shoots to fame on the back of jaunty hits like "Come On, Let's Go" and "La Bamba," a frenetic rock version of a traditional Mexican folk song. Valens would ultimately and sadly become a legend before he really got going, boarding a plane in 1959 with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.

  • Starring: Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Danielle von Zerneck
  • Director: Luis Valdez
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 108 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

Explorers

"Explorers" just might be the ultimate 1980s youthful sci-fi space fantasy, the place where "WarGames," "Flight of the Navigator," and "The Last Starfighter" converge. Tweenage Ben loves to consume things that would've derisively been labeled nerdy in the '80s — science fiction, comic books, and video games — to the point where he literally dreams about technology. Enlisting the help of science-minded pals Wolfgang and Darren, Ben is inspired by his vivid dreams and builds the imagined tech for real, creating a sophisticated spaceship that they pilot into the deep reaches of space where they meet some very friendly but very odd aliens with a deep love for disposable Earthling pop culture.

Hellraiser

Horror in the '80s was all about iconic villains, as long-running franchises built themselves around strangely charismatic agents of chaos, evil, and unspeakably gory violence. Joining the ranks of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees came the master of a race of ghoulish monsters called the Cenobites, referred to as "Pinhead" for his shocking appearance that included a ghostly, pale, hairless head with a bunch of needles sticking into it. 

In the first of many "Hellraiser" films, Pinhead and the rest of the Cenobites are inadvertently set loose on the human realm after a man named Frank buys a Pandora's Box-type device and opens a gateway to the underworld. The Cenobites kill Frank quickly and thoroughly, but then he comes back to life — only he's evil — and convinces his ex-girlfriend to bring him the blood of strangers to rebuild himself, fully and horribly. Making things more complicated, Frank's innocent niece, Kirsty, finds herself drawn into the tale when she accidentally discovers all the nasty happenings going down in Frank's home.

  • Starring: Andrew Robinson, Ashley Laurence, Doug Bradley
  • Director: Clive Barker
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 93 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%

Highlander

A rollicking tale of adventure, mythology, and swashbuckling fight sequences, "Highlander" started a whole fun franchise about a seemingly unkillable, mystical warriors. In the 16th-century Scottish highlands, the mighty Connor MacLeod recovers from an otherwise fatal battle wound and then teams up with a rogue sword fighter named Ramirez, who tells him how he recovered so easily — like him, he's immortal and can only be killed by decapitation. Apparently these immortals all roam around the world fighting each other over the centuries, but ultimately, "there can be only one," and that isn't decided until "the Gathering" in New York City in the mid-1980s, where MacLeod will finally go head to head with his rival, the wicked Kurgan.

House

"House" works as a straightforward horror movie, but it differentiates itself from other '80s scary flicks with an undercurrent of humor, as the screenwriters clearly want the audience to laugh at the absurd circumstances of the characters, in addition to being terrified. 

As for the plot, Roger Cobb is a successful horror novelist looking forward to a new project — a memoir of his time as a soldier fighting in the Vietnam War. Those plans get put aside when his son disappears, his celebrity actress wife divorces him, and he goes to live at the beautiful and stately home he's just inherited from his aunt, who also died in the house ... which is also very clearly haunted. That's a standard haunted house movie setup, sure, but the titular house also just might harbor a secret gateway to an evil dimension, which only serves to interrupt Roger from his work even more.

  • Starring: William Katt, George Wendt, Kay Lenz
  • Director: Steve Miner
  • Year: 1985
  • Runtime: 92 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 57%

The Elephant Man

A plea for understanding and a harsh reminder that people are layered, complicated human beings beneath their simplistic and easy to judge superficial traits, "The Elephant Man" is based on the true story of Joseph Merrick, a man in 19th-century London born with such pronounced facial deformations that he's kept in a traveling carnival show and presented as a sideshow attraction, abused and treated as a monster. A doctor rescues him from the carnival and takes him home, where in his short but remarkable life, he becomes a hit with upper-crust society, shows off his insatiable knowledge and taste in the fine arts, and romances a sweet actress.

Prom Night

Solidifying her status as an all-time "scream queen," Jamie Lee Curtis took a break between the first two "Halloween" installments to make "Prom Night," a movie very much in the vein of that classic horror franchise. The premise is as dark as the violence that will soon play out. High school teacher Mr. Fenton grows romantically obsessed with Donna (Curtis), one of his students, and in the throes of obsession, he kills the girl's entire family. He's sent to prison but resurfaces years later at the end of Donna's childhood, on her high school prom night. The rampant killing of innocents begins anew, and only Donna can stop it.

  • Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens
  • Director: Paul Lynch
  • Year: 1980
  • Runtime: 92 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%

The Beastmaster

A classic and gloriously cheesy B-movie that seemed to air constantly on burgeoning cable TV systems in the 1980s, "The Beastmaster" is a medieval swordplay-and-sorcery film featuring live-action He-Man action figure Marc Singer. Here, he plays the musclebound Dar, son of King Zed, sent into hiding after nearly being murdered by a witch, who in turn was sent by the evil, crown-seeking Maax. When he grows up, Dar learns of his true identity and destiny to protect his father's kingdom and vanquish Maax, which he's fully capable of thanks to his Doctor Doolittle-like powers of being able to communicate with and command the many beasts of nature.

  • Starring: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn
  • Director: Don Coscarelli
  • Year: 1982
  • Runtime: 114 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%

Heartburn

In addition to classy romantic comedies like "Sleepless in Seattle," Nora Ephron wrote the novel "Heartburn," a very sad relationship story about the slow, brutal end of the marriage between New York food writer Rachel and Washington, D.C. political columnist Mark. It's a thinly veiled account of Ephron's relationship to Carl Bernstein, and she adapted her own book to film, starring Meryl Streep as an optimistic, romantic woman who quickly falls hard for the funny, confident, charismatic D.C. power player. Slowly, their marriage crumbles through constant fighting, the birth of two children, and Mark's relentless, unabashed infidelity.

Hiding Out

Three genres are closely associated with the '80s: sensitive teen dramedies, edgy crime dramas, and films about yuppies manipulating the stock market. "Hiding Out" ambitiously combines all of those disparate styles, and almost inexplicably, it totally works, reshaping itself into a weird romantic comedy of sorts. 

Jon Cryer, not far removed from his roles as a teenager in '80s high school movies, plays stockbroker Max Hauser, who runs a sideline selling bonds for the mob. When his criminal connection stands trial, the other mobsters put out a hit on Max, so he runs away and lays low, and he enrolls in high school where he becomes a lovable bad boy, strikes up an innocent relationship, and considers running for student body president ... until the bad guys find him out.

  • Starring: Jon Cryer, Annabeth Gish, Keith Coogan
  • Director: Bob Giraldi
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 99 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 43%

The Princess Bride

"The Princess Bride," based on William Goldman's fourth wall-breaking novel, is the greatest, most action-packed, fully loaded fairy tale ever told. And it simultaneously works as a loving send-up and deconstruction of fantasy stories. 

Presented as only "the good parts" of a longer story set in the medieval kingdoms of Florin and Guilder, told by a grandfather to his sick grandson, "The Princess Bride" presents the harrowing series of circumstances that prevent true love between the beautiful Buttercup and farmhand Westley from taking root. It's one thing after another, from Westley's torture, death, revival, and stint as a pirate to confrontations with giant rodents and the executors of a fiendish royal plot to dealing with a trio of quirky kidnappers that includes the super strong but sweet Fezzik and dashing swordsman Inigo Montoya, who's in the middle of a side quest to avenge his father's death.

  • Starring: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin
  • Director: Rob Reiner
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 98 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

Platoon

Oliver Stone became one of the most influential filmmakers of the 1980s and beyond with "Platoon," a feature-length exploration, analysis, and reckoning of America's involvement in the Vietnam War. "Platoon," which won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, is one of the most stark, brutal, and immersive war movies ever made, demonstrating to viewers the stress and horrors faced by Army infantry soldiers fighting in Southeastern Asia in 1967. The film is primarily told through the eyes of Chris Taylor, a pro-war idealist who grows jaded and disgusted the more he fights and the more he watches his fellow troops mistreat civilians.

  • Starring: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe
  • Director: Oliver Stone
  • Year: 1986
  • Runtime: 120 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

Stop Making Sense

Talking Heads were one of the most popular and acclaimed bands of the '80s, but they were more of a brainy, artsy performance art troupe than a straightforward rock n' roll operation. "Stop Making Sense" captures the band at its commercial and creative peaks. It's a patient, casual, and unflinchingly shot documentary of a Talking Heads concert — or rather elaborately choreographed (and very comic and dramatic) stage show. Some of the group's greatest hits, musically and visually, show up in "Stop Making Sense." Frontman David Byrne starts the show with a drum machine and acoustic guitar performance of "Psycho Killer" on a bare stage that leaves him pantomiming a gunshot death, after which more and more band members join him for bigger and bolder renditions of stuff like "Burning Down the House" and "Girlfriend Is Better."

Three Men and a Baby

"Three Men and a Baby" is a sweet story about man-children finally growing up, as well as a landmark of '80s comedy. A remake of a popular French movie and the highest-grossing film of 1987, "Three Men and a Baby" is what its title promises. Three arrogant party-boy bachelors living in a giant New York apartment find their lives turned around when one of their former flames leaves a newborn baby on their doorstep. They have no idea how to care for an infant, and quickly team up to learn. Together, they succeed — not counting the time they accidentally give the kid away to drug dealers.

  • Starring: Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, Ted Danson
  • Director: Leonard Nimoy
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 102 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%

Dead Poets Society

"Dead Poets Society" is arguably the definitive inspirational teacher movie, as well as one of the best prep school films ever made. Robin Williams, primarily known as a frenetic stand-up comedian when this film was released, demonstrates his gifts for layered dramatic performance as John Keating, a rebellious, passionate, and instantly controversial English teacher. He uses new and exciting techniques to make the great authors and poets come alive for his students, spurring them to try new things, live their lives for themselves, and otherwise fulfill his motto, "carpe diem," or "seize the day."

  • Starring: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke
  • Director: Peter Weir
  • Year: 1989
  • Runtime: 128 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%