The 80s produced many great things, leg warmers, the Rubik’s cube, the Walkman. No one can argue that 80s science fiction and fantasy movies were fantastic, possibly the best in over 40 years. But to get a real perspective on things, we complied the user ratings from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes (just the public votes) and the scores from Letterboxd users to find out what the viewing audience has been rating as the best movies of the genres. So here is the definitive list of the top 100 sci-fi and fantasy movies of the 80s.
100 – Dune (2021)
Action | Adventure | Drama | Science Fiction
Directed by: David Lynch
In the distant future, the known universe is ruled by Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV. The most important substance in the empire is the drug known as melange or “the spice”. It has many special properties, such as extending life and expanding consciousness. The most profitable and important of its properties is its ability to assist the Spacing Guild with Fold space, which allows safe, instantaneous interstellar travel.
99 – The Final Countdown (1980)
WAR | ACTION | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: Don Taylor
A Pacific aircraft carrier enters a time warp and finds itself transported from 1980 to 1941 – just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The captain is forced to decide whether to strike at the approaching Japanese fleet and change the entire course of the World War II.
98 – Moonwalker (1988)
FANTASY | MUSIC
Directed by: Jerry Kramer
A movie that starts out with the “Man in the Mirror” music video, it then changes to a montage of video clips of Michael’s career. Next comes a parody of his Bad video by children, and then Michael is chased by fans in a fantasy sequence. 2 more videos are shown, and then a movie in which Michael plays a hero with magical powers. In it he is chased by drug dealer Mr. Big and saves three children. Videos included in the movie are “Smooth Criminal” and “Come Together”.
97 – Night of the Comet (1984)
COMEDY | HORROR | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: Thom Eberhardt
Two girls from the Valley wake up to find that a passing comet has eradicated their world and left behind a mysterious red-dust and a pack of cannibal mutants. With the help of a friendly truck driver, the girls save the earth from a villainous “think tank,” karate chop their way through flesh-eating zombies, and, of course, find time to go to the mall.
96 – Ghostbusters II (1989)
COMEDY | FANTASY
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Five years after they defeated Gozer, the Ghostbusters are out of business. When Dana begins to have ghost problems again, the boys come out of retirement to aid her and hopefully save New York City from a new paranormal threat.
95 – Death Watch (1980)
DRAMA | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: Bertrand Tavernier
In a future world where the disease has been finally defeated and everything can be sold, even the crude spectacle of death, the rare case of a dying woman becomes the morbid theme of a revolutionary reality show, broadcast through the curious eyes of a peculiar camera.
94 – Cocoon (1985)
COMEDY | DRAMA | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: Ron Howard
Oscar-winning fantasy in which the residents of a Florida rest home get a new lease of life when they stumble across an alien “fountain of youth” in a disused holiday home. Unbeknown to them, aliens have been using the swimming pool in the house to store their cocooned brethren, giving the waters a powerful, rejuvenating quality.
93 – 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)
THRILLER | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Brave explorers are headed for the far reaches of the galaxy in the continuation of the story that began with “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Their destination is Jupiter, where the Russian and American astronauts will conduct their investigation. Drs. Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider), Walter Curnow (John Lithgow) and R. Chandra (Bob Balaban), along with shipmates Tanya (Helen Mirren) and Dave (Keir Dullea), aim to uncover what led to disaster for the deceased astronauts who preceded them.
92 – The Toxic Avenger (1984)
SCIENCE FICTION | ACTION | COMEDY | HORROR
Melvin Ferd (Mark Torgl) is a nerd who works as a janitor at a health club in the fictional town of Tromaville, New Jersey. The customers—harass him constantly. His tormentors get more and more violent, even deliberately killing a young boy on a bike with their car and taking photos of the carnage afterwards. One of their pranks ends up with Melvin landing in a drum of toxic waste. The chemicals cause him to transform into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength.
91 – The Running Man (1987)
SCIENCE FICTION | ACTION | THRILLER
Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser
In the year 2019, America is a totalitarian state where the favorite television program is “The Running Man” — a game show in which prisoners must run to freedom to avoid a brutal death. Having been made a scapegoat by the government, an imprisoned Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has the opportunity to make it back to the outside again by being a contestant on the deadly show, although the twisted host, Damon Killian (Richard Dawson), has no intention of letting him escape.
90 – The Blob (1988)
HORROR | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: Chuck Russell
Remake of the 1958 horror sci-fi about a deadly blob which is the spawn of a secret government germ warfare project which consumes everyone in its path. Teenagers try in vain to warn the townsfolk, who refuse to take them seriously, while government agents try to cover up the evidence and confine the creature.
89 – Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
SCIENCE FICTION | ACTION | ADVENTURE | THRILLER
Directed by: Leonard Nimoy
Adm. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) has defeated his archenemy but at a high cost. His friend Spock has been killed, the USS Enterprise is being scrapped, and starship physician Dr Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley) has taken ill. McCoy’s odd behaviour is evidence he’s harbouring Spock’s katra, or animating spirit, and Kirk seeks to bring the Enterprise back to the Genesis Planet and find his friend. Rebuffed, Kirk takes dramatic action that results in war with deadly Klingons.
88 – *batteries not included (1987)
SCIENCE FICTION | COMEDY | FAMILY | FANTASY
Frank (Hume Cronyn) and Faye Riley (Jessica Tandy) are an elderly New York City couple living in a depressed part of town. There, they run a diner as well as an apartment building, which is home to a poor but friendly group of people. One day, Frank and Faye learn that a property developer wants them to sell the apartment. When they refuse, their diner is vandalized. However, Frank, Faye and their tenants are aided by mysterious flying saucers, which help them repair the diner and fight back.
87 – The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
COMEDY | FANTASY | HORROR
Directed by: George Miller
Three small-town friends, Alexandra (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon) and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer), each having lost the man in their lives, are feeling unfulfilled — until a furtive stranger, Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson), arrives and begins courting each of them in turn. Eventually, Daryl tells them that they are witches. But as the three friends spend more time at his mansion, enjoying themselves and learning about their powers, they begin to worry about Daryl’s ultimate intentions.
86 – The Man with Two Brains (1983)
COMEDY | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: Carl Reiner
When brilliant brain surgeon Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin) accidentally hits gold-digger Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner) with his car, he takes it upon himself to save her life using his own surgical technique. The two are soon married, but no sooner are the rings on their fingers than the marriage begins to fall apart. While honeymooning in Vienna, Hfuhruhurr is introduced to reclusive scientist Dr. Alfred Necessiter (David Warner), who practices some rather unorthodox procedures.
85 – Dragonslayer (1981)
FANTASY | ADVENTURE
A terrible dragon is terrorizing the medieval land of Urland in the 6th century. Representatives from the kingdom seek the wizard Ulrich’s assistance (Ralph Richardson) to immediately defeat the dragon — Urland has been delivering virgins to appease the dragon, and their princess (Chloe Salaman) has rigged the lottery system they use to sacrifice herself next. But when Ulrich is killed, the task to confront the dragon falls to Galen’s wizard’s apprentice (Peter MacNicol).
84 – Explorers (1985)
FAMILY | SCIENCE FICTION
The visionary dreams of three curious and adventuresome young boys become an exciting reality in Explorers, the action-fantasy from director Joe Dante, who combines keen humour, warmth and fantasy with unexpected twists. In their makeshift laboratory, the boys use an amazing discovery and their ingenuity to build their own spaceship and launch themselves on a fantastic interplanetary journey.
83 – Short Circuit (1986)
COMEDY | FAMILY | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: John Badham
When one of an experimental range of military robots is hit by lightning, it is given consciousness. It escapes from the military and befriends a young woman, Stephanie Speck. Its creator, Newton Crosby, is desperate to find it, or his entire project may be scrapped.
82 – Weird Science (1985)
COMEDY | ROMANCE | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: John Hughes
Teen misfits Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) design their ideal woman on a computer, and a freak electrical accident brings her to life in the form of the lovely, superhuman Lisa (Kelly LeBrock). She outfits Gary and Wyatt in cool clothes, surprises them with a Porsche and helps them stand up to jerks Ian (Robert Downey Jr.) and Max (Robert Rusler). But, all the while, the boys must hide Lisa’s existence from Chet (Bill Paxton), Wyatt’s nightmare of a big brother.
81 – The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (1984)
COMEDY | SCIENCE FICTION | ADVENTURE | ROMANCE
Directed by: W.D. Richter
Buckaroo Banzai is caught with his trusted allies, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, in a battle to the death between evil red aliens and good black aliens from Planet 10. Led by demonic dictator John Whorfin, who has taken over the body of Italian scientist Dr. Emilio Lizardo, the aliens try to get the Overthruster back from Buckaroo Banzai. But the good black aliens are willing to destroy Earth rather than let these renegades return to their planet.
80 – Electric Dreams (1984)
MUSIC | COMEDY | DRAMA | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: Steve Barron
Miles buys himself a state-of-the-art computer that starts expressing thoughts and emotions after a having champagne spilt down on him. Things start getting out of hand when both Miles and Edgar, how the computer calls himself, fall in love with Madeline, an attractive neighbour.
79 – Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
FANTASY | MYSTERY | THRILLER | FAMILY | HORROR
Directed by: Jack Clayton
In a small American town, a diabolical circus arrives, granting wishes for the townsfolk, but twisted as only the esteemed Mr. Dark can make them. Can two young boys overcome the worst the devil himself can deal out?
78 – Heavy Metal (1981)
ANIMATION | SCIENCE FICTION | ADVENTURE | FANTASY | MUSIC
Directed by: Gerald Potterton
From Adventures in deep space to futuristic New York, and beyond. The presence of the Loch’nar dominates each world and story — the sum of all evils manifest as a glowing green sphere whose power infects all times, all galaxies, all dimensions. To some, it appears as treasure, a green jewel they must possess. Others worship it as a god. Few escape it. Even in death and through death, its powers continue. From war to war and world to world, it seems invincible.
77 – Flash Gordon (1980)
Directed by: Mike Hodges
Although NASA scientists are claiming the unexpected eclipse and strange “hot hail” are nothing to worry about, Dr Hans Zarkov (Topol) knows better and takes football star Flash Gordon (Sam Jones) and travel agent Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) with him into space to rectify things. They land on planet Mongo, where the despot Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow) attacks Earth out of pure boredom. With the help of a race of Hawkmen, Flash and the gang struggle to save their home planet.
76 – Legend (1985)
ADVENTURE | FANTASY
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Darkness (Tim Curry) seeks to create eternal night by destroying the last of the unicorns. Jack (Tom Cruise) and his friends do everything possible to save the world and Princess Lili (Mia Sara) from the hands of Darkness. Enter a world of unicorns, magic swamps, dwarfs and rainbows.
75 – Innerspace (1987)
ACTION | COMEDY | SCIENCE FICTION
A scientifically miniaturized marine unexpectedly finds himself floating around the body of a hypochondriac, and trying to outwit saboteurs who want the device that shrank him. Attempts by his colleagues to retrieve the little man – protected inside a tiny submersible – are hampered by the would-be thieves.
74 – Tron (1982)
SCIENCE FICTION | ACTION | ADVENTURE
Directed by: Steven Lisberger
When talented computer engineer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) finds out that Ed Dillinger (David Warner), an executive at his company, has been stealing his work, he tries to hack into the system. However, Flynn is transported into the digital world, where he has to face off against Dillinger’s computerized likeness, Sark, and the imposing Master Control Program. Aided by Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) and Yori (Cindy Morgan), Flynn becomes a freedom fighter for the oppressed programs of the grid.
73 – The Last Starfighter (1984)
ADVENTURE | SCIENCE FICTION | ACTION
Directed by: Nick Castle
After finally achieving the high score on Starfighter, his favorite arcade game, everyday teenager Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) meets the game’s designer, Centauri (Robert Preston) — who reveals that he created Starfighter as a training ground for developing and recruiting actual pilots to help fight a war in space. Whisked away from the banality of his trailer park life to a distant alien planet, Alex struggles to use his video game-playing skills to pilot a real ship, with real lives at stake.
72 – Scanners (1981)
SCIENCE FICTION | HORROR
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Scanners are men and women born with incredible telepathic and telekinetic powers. There are many who exercise the benefits of their special gifts in a safe and judicious manner. However, there is a group of renegade scanners who plan to create a race that will rule the world.
71 – Enemy Mine (1985)
DRAMA | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen
During a war between humans and the reptilian Drac race, spaceship pilot Willis Davidge (Dennis Quaid) ends up stranded on an alien world, along with enemy fighter Jeriba Shigan (Louis Gossett Jr.). While both Willis and his Drac counterpart can breathe on the planet, the environment and its creatures are relatively hostile, forcing the two to work together to survive. As time goes by, Willis and Jeriba become unlikely friends, though their unique relationship faces considerable challenges.
70 – Clash of the Titans (1981)
ACTION | ADVENTURE | FAMILY | FANTASY
Directed by: Desmond Davis
Perseus (Harry Hamlin), son of the Greek god Zeus (Laurence Olivier), grows up on a deserted island. His destiny is to marry Princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker), who will someday rule the city of Joppa. But as long as the satyr Calibos (Neil McCarthy) — who uses a giant vulture to kidnap Andromeda’s soul every night — is alive, no one can marry her. Perseus travels to Joppa, where he must defeat Calibos and other mythological monsters to rescue Andromeda.
69 – The Quiet Earth (1985)
DRAMA | SCIENCE FICTION | THRILLER
Directed by: Geoff Murphy
When everyone around him vanishes overnight, scientist Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) finds himself seemingly the only person on the planet. The isolation initially drives him to the brink of suicide, but eventually Zac adapts to a day-to-day routine. After meeting two other survivors, Joanne (Alison Routledge) and Api (Peter Smith), a Maori, the trio roams New Zealand trying to understand what caused everyone else to disappear, why they remained behind — and whether disaster will strike again.
68 – Return to Oz (1985)
ADVENTURE |FAMILY | FANTASY
Directed by: Walter Murch
Dorothy finds herself back in the land of her dreams. When she finds her old friends have been turned into stone, new friends Tik Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead and the Gump help her battle dangerous new enemies, including the creepy Wheelers, the head-hunting Princess Mombi and the evil Nome King. Can Dorothy save her old friends and restore the Emerald City?
67 – Bad Taste (1987)
ACTION | COMEDY | HORROR | SCIENCE FICTION
Directed by: Peter Jackson
A team from the intergalactic fast-food chain Crumb’s Crunchy Delights descends on Earth, planning to make human flesh the newest taste sensation. After they wipe out the New Zealand town Kaihoro, the country’s Astro-Investigation and Defense Service (AIaDS) arrive to deal with the problem. Things become complicated due to Giles, an aid worker who comes to Kaihoro the same day to collect change from the residents. The aliens capture him, and AIaDS stages a rescue mission that quickly becomes an all-out assault on the aliens’ headquarters.
66 – The Day After (1983)
TV MOVIE | SCIENCE FICTION | DRAMA
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
In the mid-1980s, the U.S. is poised on the brink of nuclear war. This shadow looms over the residents of a small town in Kansas as they continue their daily lives. Dr Russell Oakes (Jason Robards) maintains his busy schedule at the hospital, Denise Dahlberg prepares for her upcoming wedding, and Stephen Klein (Steve Guttenberg) is deep in his graduate studies. When the unthinkable occurs, and the bombs come down, the town’s residents are thrust into the horrors of nuclear winter.
65 – The Company of Wolves (1984)
HORROR | FANTASY
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Wolves and werewolves lurk throughout the dreams of young Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson), who imagines that she must journey through a dark forest to live with her grandmother (Angela Lansbury). When Rosaleen meets a rugged hunter in the woods, she discovers that she has an animal-like attraction to him, leading to a macabre turn of events. The lupine-centric film also features stories within the main tale, told by Rosaleen and her grandma, all of which have a supernatural bent.