80s Cult-Classic, Adventure Movies
“Tales of typically normal excitable youngsters going on epic adventures that lifted the heart stirred the soul and haunted our dreams. But it was the palpable sense of adventure that really convinced, giving us youngsters an achievable sense of daydream adventure” — Oliver Pfeiffer
For those who were young in the 1980s, the decade’s movies hold a special place in their hearts. CGI was just coming into its own on the silver screen and fantasy adventures were a staple for children and teenagers alike.
Oliver Pfeiffer takes us back to those halcyon days with his list of the “Top 10 Cult Classic 80s Fantasy Adventure Flicks.” We’ve added IMDb plot summaries as well as a bonus list of movies we thought deserved recognition as well.
- The Goonies (1985): A young teenager named Mikey Walsh finds an old treasure map in his father’s attic. Hoping to save their homes from demolition, Mikey and his friends Data Wang, Chunk Cohen, and Mouth Devereaux runs off on a big quest to find the secret stash One-Eyed Willie.
- Return to Oz (1985): Dorothy Gale has recently come back to Kansas from the land of Oz is now almost back to perfect health since the incident of the tornado, only she cannot get that wonderful place out of her head. She talks frequently about it and cannot get any sleep at night. Her Aunt Em worries about her health/well-being. Thinking that her niece is suffering delusional depression and acute insomnia, she decides to take Dorothy to see a special doctor in another town. While the doctor tries to treat little Dorothy with electro-shock treatment and take away those nasty dreams from her head, Dorothy is rescued by a mysterious girl who leads her back to the land of oz for a new adventure.
- Labyrinth (1986): Grown angry about the fact that she must watch over her little brother Toby, Sarah (Jennifer Connely) wishes the child to the goblins. They translate this careless statement into action: The Goblin-King Jareth (David Bowie) announces that soon Toby will mutate into a goblin. There is only one hope: Sarah has to find the way to Jareth’s castle – through a dangerous labyrinth – where she will find strange creatures.Young Sherlock Holmes (1985): Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson meet as boys in an English Boarding school. Holmes is known for his deductive ability even as a youth, amazing his classmates with his abilities. When they discover a plot to murder a series of British business men by an Egyptian cult, they move to stop it.
- Explorers (1985): Ben Crandall, an alien-obsessed kid, dreams one night of a circuit board. Drawing out the circuit, he and his friends Wolfgang and Darren set it up, and discover they have been given the basis for a starship. Setting off in the ThunderRoad, as they name their ship, they find the aliens Ben hopes they would find… but are they what they seem?
- The Lost Boys (1987): Financial troubles force a recent divorcee and her teenage sons Mike and Sam to settle down with her father in the California town of Santa Carla. At first, Sam laughs off rumours he hears about vampires who inhabit the small town. But after Mike meets a beautiful girl at the local amusement park, he begins to exhibit the classic signs of vampirism. Fearing for his own safety, Sam recruits two young vampire hunters to save his brother by finding and destroying the head vampire.
- The Dark Crystal (1982): Another planet, another time. 1000 years ago the Dark Crystal was damaged by one of the Urskeks and an age of chaos began. Now the time of the great conjunction of the three suns is near. If the crystal is not healed now the control of the evil Skekses will last forever. Jen the last of the Gelflings nearly exterminated by monsters controlled by the Skekses starts his dangerous journey to find the missing shard of the crystal. Will he be able to heal the crystal and restore order on the planet?
- Flight of the Navigator (1986): A 12 year old boy goes missing in 1978, only to reappear once more in 1986. In the eight years that have passed, David hasn’t aged. It is no coincidence that at the time David ‘comes back’, a flying saucer is found, entangled in electricity cables.
- Highlander (1986): After centuries of dueling to survive against others like him, an immortal Scottish swordsman faces his final opponent: a bloodthirsty barbarian who has chased him across time to 1985 New York City, where they fight for the Prize: the spiritual ability to know everything.
- Repo Man (1984): Otto is working at the grocery when he loses his temper and quits. Befriended by a Repo Man, Otto sees vehicle repossession as a kind of modern buckaneering. He is attracted by the adventure and the ‘who gives a damn’ attitude of the other Repo men. At the same time a package is taken from a government lab that has strange effects on anyone who sees it. It is hidden in a car which the government lists for reposession with a hefty reward.
And our list of note-worthy additions:
- E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982): A group of aliens visit earth and one of them is lost and left behind stranded on this planet. The alien is found by a 10 year old boy, Elliot. Soon the two begin to communicate, and start a different kind of friendship in which E.T learns about life on earth and Elliot learns about some new values for the true meaning of friendship. E.T. wants to go home, but if Elliot helps him, he’ll lose a friend.
- The Princess Bride (1987): When the lovely Buttercup is kidnapped by a ghastly gang intent on fermenting an international incident they find they are pursued by the Dread Pirate Roberts who just might be Westley, her one true love. Also after everyone is nasty Prince Humperdinck to whom Buttercup is now betrothed but who seems to care little for her continued survival. The stage is set for swordfights, monsters, and tortures – but will Grandpa be allowed to finish telling the story with all these kissy bits?
- Krull (1983): An indescribable monster and its army (the Slayers) attack the planet Krull. In order to stop the invaders, two hostile nations decide to join their forces by the marriage of Princess Lyssa and Prince Colwyn. During the ceremony, the Slayers attack the palace, kill both kings, wound Colwyn and kidnap Lyssa. The next morning, the wise Ynyr seeks and finds Colwyn. With Ynyr’s help, Colwn gains possession of a magic weapon, a five bladed sword, and together they go on their quest for the indescribable monster’s black fortress to free Lyssa.
- Unendliche Geschichte, Die/The Neverending Story (1984): An unhappy boy is bullied by older youths and seeks sanctuary in a bookstore. The owner gives him a magic book in which he is able to follow the adventures of a boy who is everything he believe he is not, brave, strong, successful. He begins to understand that he is a part of the story and that the survival of the world about which he has been reading is in part up to him.
- TRON (1982): Hacker/arcade owner Kevin Flynn who is digitally broken down into a data stream by a villainous software pirate known as the Master Control and reconstituted into the internal, 3-D graphical world of computers. It is there, in the ultimate blazingly colorful, geometrically intense landscapes of cyberspace, that Flynn joins forces with Tron to outmaneuver the Master Control program that holds them captive in the equivalent of a gigantic, infinitely challenging computer game.
- The Last Starfighter (1984): This is the story of a videogaming boy, named Alex Rogan who lives in a remote trailer court where his mother is manager and everyone is like a big extended family. Meanwhile, Alex becomes the top player of Starfighter, a stand-up arcade game where the player defends “the frontier” from “Xur and the Kodan armada” in a space battle. After achieving his best score, he is approached by the game’s inventor, Centauri. Stepping into Centauri’s vehicle, he is seemingly doomed to stay at his trailer park home all in his life, he finds himself recruited as a gunner for an alien defense force when Centauri is a disguised alien who whisks him off to another planet.
- Liquid Sky (1982): Invisible aliens in a tiny flying saucer come to Earth looking for heroin. They land on top of a New York apartment inhabited by a drug dealer and her female, androgynous, bisexual nymphomaniac lover, a fashion model. The aliens soon find the human pheromones created in the brain during orgasm preferable to heroin, and the model’s casual sex partners begin to disappear. This increasingly bizarre scenario is observed by a lonely woman in the building across the street, a German scientist who is following the aliens, and an equally androgynous, drug-addicted male model. (Both models are played by Anne Carlisle, in a dual role.) Darkly funny and thoroughly weird.
- Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared Syn (1983): A seeker named Dogen rescues Dhyana after her father is murdered by the evil Jared-Syn. To avenge her father’s death, Dogen must find Jared-Syn’s hideout in the mysterious “Lost City”, but the only person who knows where it is an aging, burned-out seeker named Rhodes. Along the way, they will need to do battle against the hunter Baal and his Cyclopean minions for engaging Jared-Syn in a final encounter.
- The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984): Neurosurgeon/Rock Star/Superhero Buckaroo has perfected the oscillation overthruster, which allows him to travel through solid matter by using the eighth dimension. The Red Lectroids from Planet 10 are after this device for their own evil ends, and it’s up to Buckaroo and his band and crime-fighting team The Hong Kong Cavaliers to stop them.
- Willow (1988): Willow, a small farmer/apprentice magician, meets Madmartigan, a great swordsman, and together they journey through a war-torn land of magic and monsters, to save a baby princess from death at the hands of an evil queen.
- Time Bandits (1981): A young boy’s wardrobe contains a time hole. Through this hole an assortment of short people (i.e. dwarfs) come while escaping from their master, the supreme being. They take Kevin with them on their adventures through time from Napoleonic times to the Middle Ages to the early 1900s, to the time of Legends and the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness where they confront Evil.
- Excaliber (1981): The myth of King Arthur brought once again to the screen. Uthur Pendragon is given the mystical sword Excalibur by the wizard Merlyn. At his death Uthur buries the sword into a stone, and the next man that can pull it out will be King of England. Years later Arthur, Uthur’s bastard son draws Excalibur and becomes king. Guided by Merlyn, Arthur marries Guenivere and gathers the Knights of the Round Table. Arthur’s evil half-sister Morgana sires a son with him, who may prove his downfall.
- Beetle Juice (1988): Adam (Baldwin) and Barbara (Davis) are a normal couple, who happen to be dead. They have given their precious time to decorate the house and make it their own, but unfortunately a family are moving in, and not quietly. Adam and Barbara try to scare them out, but ends up becoming the main attraction to the money making family. They call upon Beetlejuice (Keaton) to help, but Beetlejuice has more in more in mind than the just helping.
- Short Circuit (1986): Number 5, one of a group of experimental military robots, undergoes a sudden transformation after being struck by lightning. He develops self-awareness, consciousness, and a fear of the reprogramming that awaits him back at the factory. With the help of a young woman, Number 5 tries to evade capture and convince his creator that he has truly become alive.
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988): The fantastic tale of a 17th century aristocrat, his talented henchmen and a little girl in their efforts to save a town from defeat by the Turks. Being swallowed by a giant sea-monster, a trip to the moon, a dance with Venus and an escape from the Grim Reaper are only some of the improbable adventures.
- The Ice Pirates (1984): In the far future water is the most valuable substance. Two space pirates are captured, sold to a princess, and recruited to help her find her father who disapeared when he found information dangerous to the rulers. A real Space Opera with sword fights, explosions, fighting robots, monsters, bar fights and time warps.
- Clash of the Titans (1981): Perseus is the favored son of the god Zeus, but he has unwittingly ticked off the sea goddess Thetis. Just to make things worse, Perseus falls in love with the lovely Princess Andromeda, who used to be engaged to Thetis’s son. Soon Perseus is off on one quest after another, with Zeus helping, Thetis hindering, and lots of innocent bystanders getting stabbed, drowned, and squished.
- *batteries not included (1987): A group of tenants in an apartment block are being forced to move out so that it can be demolished. The tenants are reluctant to move, so the developers hire a local gang to ‘persuade’ them to leave. Fortunately, visiting alien mechanical life-forms come to town. When they befriend the tenants, the aliens use their extraterrestrial abilities to defeat the developers.
- The Beastmaster (1982): Dar, is the son of a king, who is hunted by a priest after his birth and grows up in another family. When he becomes a grown man his new father is murdered by savages and he discovers that he has the ability to communicate with the animals. After that, Dar begins his quest for revenge in this Conan-like movie.
- Cloak and Dagger (1984): 11-year-old Davey, whose mother is dead and whose father doesn’t spend nearly enough time with him. So the boy loses himself in video games–and even has an imaginary friend, a super-resourceful secret agent. When he accidentally comes into possession of a spy group’s secret plans, and winds up on the run from them, he must learn to rely on himself and his imaginary pal to save his skin. But, in the end, Dad proves to be his real hero.
- Big Trouble in Little China (1986): Jack Burton, trucker and king of the road meets his friend Wang as Wang’s fiance is kidnapped as a potential bride for a cursed Chinese magician. They also steal Jack’s Truck. Martial arts, gunfire, and magic ensue as Jack and Wang try and rescue her.
- Battle Beyond the Stars (1980): In yet another film patterned on The Seven Samurai, a band of diverse heroes in outer space are assembled to defend a planet of peaceful colonists from an armada of aggressors. If the special effects look familiar, it is because you’ve the same space sequences recycled in other low budget SF films.
- Mio min Mio (1987): A young boy named Bosse lives in misery with his cruel old aunt and uncle, until one night, he is whisked away to the magical land of Faraway. He finds that his real father is the king, and he is Prince Mio. Along with his friend JumJum, he sets out to defeat the evil knight Kato, and free the children that Kato has enslaved.