The 1980s were a colorful period in American cinema. Before movie franchises became the norm, major Hollywood blockbusters were very different from what they look like today. The top-grossing movies of the 80s spanned multiple genres and themes, but still captivated audiences around the world.
Some of these top-grossing films have been the spark that ignited many beloved film franchises, while others are stand-alone marvels. A few even possessed enough enduring appeal to be deemed worthy of a remake. No matter which category they belong to, these 1980s films are still considered classics by modern audiences.
ten 1980: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back takes first place
Episode V Was the first star wars movie released on the big screen in the 1980s. It won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Picture and was the highest-grossing movie of 1980.
In order to retain full creative control of the film, George Lucas relied on profits from the 1977s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and a bank loan to fund the $30 million budget. Luckily, the film made over $549 million worldwide, so Lucas was more than able to repay the loan.
9 1981: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark launch a franchise
The fifth installment of IndianaJones The film series is slated for release in 2023, and fans are curious to see what awaits the iconic Doctor Jones in this new film. The long-running franchise owes much of its success to a strong start in 1981.
The Raiders of the Lost Ark grossed over $248,000,000 and is still one of the highest-grossing films in the film franchise (adjusting inflation). The film’s lead star, Harrison Ford, is set to reprise his role as the fearless adventurer in the upcoming new installment.
Steven Spielberg directed ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, which became a big hit with fans of all ages in 1982. The film won four Academy Awards. Additionally, it received a Best Picture nomination and earned Spielberg a Best Director nomination. If these distinctions were not enough, HEY also has the honor of being the highest-grossing film of 1982, grossing nearly $800,000,000 worldwide.
According to IMDB, HEY is the seventh highest-grossing film of all time, adjusted for inflation. Some special effects may seem dated now, but this beloved classic is still a thoroughly enjoyable movie for kids and adults alike.
Star Wars: Episode V was a big hit at the box office, and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi closely followed in his footsteps. The final installment in the original trilogy grossed $475.3 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film of 1983.
just like Episode V before that, Episode VI also picked up a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Movie. Many fans of the franchise still enjoy re-watching the original trilogy, and Return of the Jedi often ranks near the top of star wars fan favorite movie lists.
6 1984: The Beverly Hills cop beats the competition
Actor Eddie Murphy has been a beloved movie star and comedian for decades, but the ’80s were a major peak in his popularity. Beverly Hills Cop premiered in 1984, and fans immediately loved the catchy action-comedy.
The film became the highest-grossing film of 1984, surpassing $300,000,000 in profits. The film also won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Picture and became one of the actor’s many hits of the 80s and 90s. Beverly Hills Cop spawned two sequels, but neither grossed as much as the original film.
5 1985: Out Of Africa is a worldwide success
Outside of Africa was a romantic drama that featured stunning cinematography, especially for its time. The film stars two well-known actors from the 1980s: Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. Meryl Streep received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role in the film, which itself won the Best Picture Oscar.
In addition to this Oscar, Outside of Africa won several other accolades at award ceremonies around the world. The film was the highest-grossing film of 1985 and also performed well at domestic and international box offices, grossing $227.5 million.
4 1986: Top Gun is a resounding success for actor Tom Cruise
Before Top Gun: Maverick released in theaters in 2022, actor Tom Cruise won over many fans in the 1986 original Superior gun. Tom Cruise plays the same character in both movies, and his popularity in the original Superior gun helped spark interest in the sequel. The cinematography may not be as advanced as its modern sequel, but Top Gun’s the realistic visual effects were stunning at the time and have aged very well.
The film was the highest-grossing film of 1986, earning over $300,000,000 in gross profits. The film also won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Movie.
3 1987: Three Men and a Baby were fan favorites
movies like three men and a baby may not be box office winners in today’s cinematic landscape, but the ’80s were the perfect time for wacky feel-good comedies. The film stars Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg as three would-be bachelors trying to adjust to fatherhood. The popular actors delivered reliable laughs that kept audiences coming back for more.
The film grossed a respectable $160,000,000, which was enough to make it the highest-grossing film of 1987. A remake of the popular film is currently in pre-production for Disney+.
2 1988: Rain Man captivates theater audiences
Actor Tom Cruise starred in several iconic movies in the 1980s, and rain man was one of the actor’s biggest hits of the decade, both critically and commercially. The film stars Cruise as an independent car dealership who discovers that his estranged father left his estate to a brother he never knew existed.
Dustin Hoffman stars as Raymond, Cruise’s long-lost brother who also happens to be an autistic savant. rain man was one of the earliest examples of ASD spectrum depiction in a major Hollywood film, although some inaccuracies have come to light over the past three decades. Along with winning four Oscars, including Best Actor for Hoffman, the touching film won the title of highest-grossing film of 1988, grossing more than $354 million worldwide.
1 1989: Tim Burton’s Batman wins the box office
It’s no surprise that Tim Burton’s take on the classic DC Comics character, Batman, took No. 1 at the box office in 1989. After all, a phenomenon known as “Batmania” dominated the summer of 1989 in the months leading up to the film’s release and generated a lot of hype for the film, resulting in worldwide ticket sales of over $400 million.
In addition to the huge box office, Batman grossed over $750 million in merchandise sales thanks to clever marketing efforts by Warner Brothers. Although the gross of the film is far from that of Nolan Black Knight trilogy won in the years 2000-2010, it was very impressive for a superhero film at the time.
NEXT: 10 Best ’80s Sci-Fi Movies, Ranked