Eight 80s coming-of-age movies
With season three of Stranger Things having just hit our streams, all things teen and 80s are definitely in vogue.
Set in the mid 1980s it’s a series about a group of friends who find themselves confronting strange, supernatural forces, and has been one of the biggest TV hits of recent years.
The 1980s delivered a host of great movies about young people, so many in fact that it became known as the greatest decade of the teen movie. These were films that, like Stranger Things, featured memorable friendships, charted kids’ coming-of-age and told stories of great adventures that changed young people’s lives forever.
So, straight from the decade that also gave us Rubik’s Cubes, stone-washed jeans and legwarmers, here are eight of the very best.
Stand By Me (1986)
Adapted from the story The Body, by Stephen King, Stand By Me was a smash hit when it was released in 1986 and it still features at the top of loads of ‘best of the 80s’ lists.
Set in the summer of 1959 it tells the story of four school friends who set off along the railway tracks to find the body of a fifth pal, who has supposedly been killed by a train.
But the real joy of Stand By Me isn’t the plot, it’s the relationship between the boys as they bicker, make up and slowly realise that this might be the last great summer of their lives.
It’s a movie made even more bittersweet by the fact that one of its most dazzling young stars, River Phoenix, died a few years later of a drug overdose.
Bring plenty of tissues in any case. Sniff
Takeaway: The friends you have in your teenage years are some of the closest you have in your lives. So be good to them!
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Ever woken up on a sunny school day and just fancied faking a sickie and heading off for some fun? If you have (and frankly, who hasn’t?) then Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is definitely the movie for you.
Ferris is the coolest kid at Glenbrook North High School. After deploying the ‘clammy hands’ method to fake out his parents he takes nervy best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) on an unforgettable trip around Chicago, pursued all the while by his enraged high-school principal (Jeffrey Jones).
It’s an irresistibly optimistic story about how one great day can change lives, and an impossible movie to finish without finding yourself sporting a big goofy smile.
Takeaway: A great friend can help change your life for the better.
The prestigious New York City High School For The Performing Arts is the setting for this smash-hit musical from legendary British director Alan Parker.
It follows the lives of a diverse group of students at the, ahem, famed, school as they strive to make it big in the sometimes brutal, unforgiving world of dance, music and theatre.
Some of the subject matter is a bit mature for younger audiences, but you really get a feeling for what it’s like to be part of a group of friends starting out on a performing career, living, and struggling, in the spectacular city of New York.
Plus it has some of the greatest musical numbers in modern movies. All together now... Ahm gonna learn how to fly... high!
Takeaway: When times get tough having good friends around you can really make the difference.
The Lost Boys (1987)
When teenagers Sam (Corey Haim) and Michael (Jason Patric) arrive in their new hometown of Santa Carla, California they have all the usual stresses and strains of settling down. Starting a new school, making new friends... oh, and there’s also the small fact that the whole town is infested with vampires.
The Lost Boys was one of the first movies influenced by MTV and what were then the latest thing, ‘pop videos’, so this is a movie that’s all about the look. (It does make it a little dated – frankly sometimes the hair’s more terrifying than the bloodsuckers.)
Even better it features The Two Coreys (Haim and Feldman), two of the biggest teen stars of the entire decade. They were close pals in real life.
As the brilliant poster tagline had it: Sleep all day. Party all night. It’s cool to be a vampire.
Takeaway: Your friends help define who you are, so choose them carefully.
Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Bill and Ted are a loveable pair of slackers who want nothing more than to have a smash hit with their band Wyld Stallyns. The problem is, they’re terrible. Even worse they’re about to fail history class, in which case they’re off to military school, dashing their dreams of musical stardom.
But when a time-traveller arrives and tells the boys that the future of humanity depends on their musical success, they embark on a trip across the ages to put together the ultimate history report and save the world.
This is a movie all about the dudes, and how their enduring friendship sees them through an incredible adventure. In the process Bill and Ted delighted young audiences (and annoyed English teachers) with a whole new way of speaking that was bodacious, resplendent and totally atypical, dude.
Takeaway: Travelling with friends is fun (even time-travelling).
The Goonies (1985)
From a story by movie genius Steven Spielberg The Goonies is a thrilling old fashioned adventure movie that barely pauses for breath from its first frame to its last.
The Goonies (named after the Goon Docks neighbourhood where they live) are a group of mates who discover an old treasure map and, naturally, set off to find the gold. They’re pursued by the devious Fratelli crime family, who are determined to get to the loot first.
The Goonies features lots of spectacular action set-pieces, but the real appeal is the inventive, courageous gang of wisecracking kids, who even encounter a full sized ancient pirate ship during the course of their adventure.
Takeway: Working together with friends makes even the most daunting task seem achievable.
Pretty In Pink (1986)
The majority of teen movies from the 1980s featured male protagonists. But the legendary filmmaker John Hughes bucked the trend with two wonderful films: Sixteen Candles (1984), which he directed, and Pretty In Pink, which he wrote, both starring the brilliant Molly Ringwald.
Pretty In Pink has Ringwald as Andie Walsh, a feisty, self-confident high-schooler who happens to be from the poor side of town. Her greatest fear is that she won’t get invited to the senior prom. Her best friend ‘Duckie’ (Jon Cryer) won’t invite her because it’s just not the kind of thing that kids like them do.
So Andie is surprised when one of the few non-snobby rich boys, Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) does ask her. But as she begins to fall for him she faces resistance not only from Duckie but also from Blaine’s arrogant best friend Steff (James Spader). Dating outside her social circle turns out to be much more complicated than she thought…
Takeaway: You may move on in life, but try not to leave your old friends behind.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
One of the undisputed, crowd-pleasing classics of the decade, Dirty Dancing spawned a hit single, (Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life) and a brief, unfortunate, craze for blokes trying to swing their girlfriends above their heads on the dancefloor (which often ended in severe bruising . . .).
Set in 1963 the story has bored 17 year-old rich girl Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) reluctantly arriving at a dull holiday resort. Wandering around one day she discovers working-class Johnny (Patrick Swayze). He’s a handsome dance instructor who is an expert in, for the time, outrageously sexy dance-floor moves. Teenage romance, wild gyrating and oldster frowning inevitably ensue.
This is a feel good teen romance that’s as fresh and fun today as it was when it first came out. And remember, nobody puts Baby in the corner!
Takeaway: You can find friends in the most unexpected places.