A Crash Course in Must See Eighties Movies
Kurt Russell showing us what Goldie Hawn first saw in him
Gay culture owes a lot to film with representation being a bugbear for as long as the medium has been around. Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood on Netflix depicted an alternate universe where race and sexuality weren’t taboo in old Hollywood. The reality wasn’t the case and queer culture has faced a lot of challenges over the years in movies.
Nowadays, platforms like Netflix have a whole LGBTQ+ section and gay stories win Oscars (albeit played by straight actors…for now). Speak to any gay worth his salt and he’ll site the 80s as a golden age of classic movies. The shoulder pads were as huge as the hair and the feel-good flicks were quotable and memorable. There’s a lot of them so we’ve boiled them down to 10 classics
Steel Magnolias (1989) – Coming out right at the end of the 80s, just reading the cast list of Steel Magnolias and you’ll know why it’s a gay classic. Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine and Sally Field make for a powerhouse of female leads going through love and life in a small southern town in America. By turns funny and moving, the performances are superb and you’ll want to stay there forever.
Private Benjamin (1980) – Goldie Hawn was nominated for an Oscar for this fish out of water comedy and it’s thoroughly deserved. Hawn has always been a gay icon and this is her at her kooky madcap best. Another feel-good female lead film, it’s hilarious and watchable and SO eighties.
Looking fresh faced, you'll recognise these ladies in Steel Magnolias
Working Girl (1988) – The epitome of power deals, bitchy comments and New York City style. Starring the legend Sigourney Weaver in full blown bitch mode with star turns from Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Joan Cusack who was nominated for an Oscar for her role. Pure 80s excellence, a love letter to NYC and a killer soundtrack from Carly Simon. Watch it now.
Overboard (1987) – Remade in 2018 with Anna Faris, there’s only one version of this fishing town amnesia rom com that’s worth its salt. With Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell in their prime (hello Kurt’s fit bod), the script is so sharp with wicked singers and has a heart of gold. Sure, the plot device might seem a little creepy in today’s society but hey, it was the eighties!
Big Business (1988)– One of the comedy classics of the eighties with two legends playing two sets of identical twins separated at birth. Lily Tomlin (Grace & Frankie) and Bette Midler star in this identity swapping comedy that’s double the fun with them both playing two parts. There's a gay couple that aren't stereotypes at all and with New York again a feature juxtaposed with back water America, it’s comedy gold with oodles of heart.
Labyrinth (1986) – anyone who’s seen this Jim Henson classic will have one takeaway, David Bowie’s bulge. A young Jennifer Connolly takes on Bowie’s Goblin King who’s kidnapped her baby brother, all set to his music and some killer tunes. How this hasn’t been turned into a west end musical we shall never know.
We wouldn't mind getting lost with these boys
Fame (1980) – So many films and TV series’ refence this classic which started as a movie and then spawned a TV show. Set in New York (again!) centring around the dance scene, it’s an atmospheric classic that needs to be seen.
Lost Boys (1987) – Vampire movies have always had varying degrees of quality over the years but this is up there with the best. Starring a young Kiefer Sutherland, this small-town-infested-by-vampires is a coming of age essential watch with a soundtrack to die for.
Return to Oz (1985) – With Fairuza Balk (The Craft) starring as a Dorothy Gale, this is a much darker sequel to the MGM classic with Judy Garland. Not a song or a Munchkin in sight, this is about mental health issues, triumph over adversity and finding friends in the strangest of places. Witches with exchangeable heads, a desert that turns you to sand and creatures with wheels for arms and legs, it’s a spooky ride that deserves your attention.
9 To 5 (1980) – The original and the best, starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda (who would later team up again for Netflix’s Grace & Frankie) and the one and only Dolly Parton. Office politics were a lot different in the eighties and this highlights that with precision, tunes and perfect script writing.
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