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Top Ten Coming of Age Movies from the Eighties

The Essential Eighties Movie Guide

Today we’re going to talk about movies. I don’t mean just any movies, I’m talking about Hollywood’s mini-golden age. That’s right, the ‘eighties, the age of Ringwald and Sheedy, Estevez and Sheen. You are all laughing now, but that’s fine, you’re just unenlightened. Once you have been exposed to my list of fifteen absolutely cannot miss movies, well, the cards and letters will just pour in, thanking me for saving your dreary little lives. The following films are not in any particular order and I don’t have any thoughts on which you ought to see first, though seeing them all at once might be interesting. At any rate, here we go kids, and as the old joke says, hold onto your hat we may wind up miles from here.

Valley Girl : The one that started it all. My first eighties romantic comedy. Not to mention the finest work Nicholas Cage has ever done, forget Leaving Las Vegas, his portrayal of a New Wave kid with bad hair puts him in the pantheon of eighties greats. I could easily fill the entire column raving about this one, but that wouldn’t be fair to the others. So let’s…crush…that…fly!

Say Anything : John Cusack, cinematic God or mere mortal with extraordinary talent? You be the judge. You have to love a movie where the hero’s main goals consist of becoming a kickboxer and a house-husband, in no particular order. So many scenes, so little time.

Can’t Buy Me Love : My first experience with the ‘nerd gets the girl’ concept of filmaking. This movie crushed a lot of worlds when nerds actually went after girls. The film has it all, though – comedy, romance and biting social commentary as well. The last scene when Amanda Peterson puts on the hat is well worth the price of admission all by itself.

About Last Night : All I can say about this one is that is one of two Rob Lowe movies I can stand to watch (the other being Youngblood). Since I couldn’t very well have an eighties list without Rob and I never got to see his home videos, About Last Night gets the nod.

Better Off Dead : This one made it because of the trailer. In it, John Cusack (hallowed be thy name) attempts suicide by jumping off an overpass. He lands headfirst in a passing garbage truck. The tree trimmer looks at him and says, “Now that’s a damn shame when folks be throwin’ away a perfectly good white boy like that.” On top of that, the object of his affections is French, nuff said.

The Secret of My Success : The only Michael J. Fox movie to make the cut, though I have to give a special nod to Family Ties. The best bit of romance ever seen on television was that one glorious season of Alex and Ellen. To make it even more perfect, he wound up marrying her in real life. Oh, the movie rocked as well.

The Sure Thing : To be honest this isn’t one of my faves, but my friends would kill me if I left it off the list. Besides, John (the Ironman) Cusack stars as, guess what, the nerd who gets the girl (OK, so she’s a girl nerd, but she’s hot).

Sixteen Candles : Molly Ringwald in a ‘nerd gets the guy’ story. Anthony Michael Hall at the pinnacle of his career (and don’t think that doesn’t depress the hell out of him). The panty scene, the parking lot scene, the party scene, the hair scene, one of the best of it’s kind. And yes, John Cusack, shows up again.

The Breakfast Club : Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emelio Estevez, Ally Sheedy and Anthony Michael Hall. Congrats kids, you made the finest movie in which the infamous brat pack ever appeared. Funny, great music, and just a little romance. The final scene of Judd on the football field still puts a lump in my throat.

Dream a Little Dream : The fact that Corey Haim and Corey Feldman made this list should tell you how good this movie is. It’s not a romance, it’s not a comedy, it is a twisted little story, but thoroughly enjoyable. Meredith Salenger as the love interest will make you forget Amanda Peterson. And remember, “If you have mousse…use it.”

Mannequin : Made after the eighties had peaked, but still, Andrew McCarthy is cool in a nerdish sort of way and Kim Cattrall, yikes! It also had that eighties sensibility, that romance shouldn’t let a little thing like reality get in the way.

Racing with the Moon : Sean Penn (you knew he had to be on here) and Nicholas Cage. I think that I am the only person to actually see this movie. It’s half goofy comedy, half romance and half dark look at life in pre-WWII America. I know that’s one and a half, but it’s a strange movie.

Red Dawn Forget about Rambo, this is the prototypical Reagan era fantasy. The Russians invade and a pack of high school kids whip their ass. USA…USA…USA!

Risky Business : Tom Cruise in the movie that started it all for him. The reason I love trains so much. Who among can forget the immortal lines of Guido the killer pimp, “You know sometimes Joel, you just gotta say what the f*k.”

Footloose : I know that it’s a bad movie, but honestly, you thought it was cool the first time you saw it. Besides, it is the forerunner of the movie as music video era and I had to get Kevin Bacon’s name in here somehow.

As far as the quintessential eighties actor and actress, the actor would have to be Judd Nelson. I know he was only in one of the top fifteen, but have you seen him since the eighties? The woman’s spot would probably go to Molly or Ally, neither one of them have had any kind of career since the eighties. And that’s what the award is all about really, the performers that are inextricably linked to their decade. So much so in fact, that when the decade fizzled, so did they.

That’s the list folks, I know I left some beauties off of it. But that’s really my point isn’t it? I’m sure that I will receive a host of additions and subtractions to my list. People have a right to their opinions after all, just so long as you realize that your opinion is wrong.