Great love movies belong to no particular decade. If anything, you could argue the ’80s were a weak link when it came to classic stories of romance. We didn’t have a Bogie. But we had a Dobler. Take a closer look and you’ll find some real gems.
Stuck in the ’80s has compiled its own list of the 30 Best Romance Movies of the ’80s. We took into account other established lists (including the American Film Institute’s list). We thought about the chemistry of the stars, the engagement of the story lines and sometimes other factors including notable theme songs and great quotes. Movies that are primarily comedies, with a love angle thrown in, were discounted greatly. (Sorry, Sixteen Candles fans). And movies where the love stories were too forced also fared poorly. (Hence, no Pretty in Pink.)
We hope you take it for what it is: a fun diversion for Valentine’s Day week. Don’t forget this week’s podcast also honors “unrequited love” in the ’80s. And as always, send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
30 BEST ROMANTIC MOVIES OF THE 1980s:
30. Gregory’s Girl (1981): A Scottish coming-of-age tale about a teen boy who falls in love with the girl on his soccer (football, whatever) team, only to be stood up when they finally arrange a date. A simple and innocent film with a lot of heart.
29. Summer Lovers (1982): Peter Gallagher and Daryl Hannah are lovers on holiday in Greece who each find romance with another: a female French archaeologist (Valerie Quennessen). Best use of Chicago’s Hard to Say I’m Sorry ever. It won’t be the last time we see Hannah’s name on this list.
28. Ladyhawke (1985): An epic story about love that cannot be denied, but alas not a great movie. Hard to believe that just one year later, Matthew Broderick would become Ferris Bueller.
27. The Rachel Papers (1989): A group of overly sexed British teens on the loose! Ione Skye plans an American girl sought after by both James Spader and Dexter Fletcher. Sadly, sometimes you don’t still want someone after you get them.
26. Splash (1984): Daryl Hannah again, this time as a mermaid. Can you believe there was once a time when America wasn’t sure Tom Hanks and Ron Howard had futures in the movie biz? This film changed all that.
25. Romancing the Stone (1984): A romance novel writer (Kathleen Turner) sees her books come to live (and her heart swoon when she meets Michael Douglas) during a dangerous journey to Colombia.
24. Fire with Fire (1986): The first of a half dozen obscure picks for the list, Fire with Fire starred Craig Sheffer as a juvenile delinquent who falls for Catholic boarding school hottie Virginia Madsen.
23. Electric Dreams (1984): A love triangle between a woman, a man and his personal computer. Bonus points for the theme song by Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder.
22. Roxanne (1987): Sure, it’s remake of Cyrano de Bergerac, but this one has Steve Martin has the hero and Daryl Hannah as his muse.
21. About Last Night (1986): Would rank it higher, but it’s often more funny than it is romantic. Rob Lowe and Demi Moore show off the chemistry they started building in St. Elmo’s Fire.
20. Reckless (1984): Sadly forgotten among ’80s classic is this gem, starring Aidan Quinn as a high school loner who falls in love with cheerleader Daryl Hannah. Dark, moody and damn near perfect when Kim Wilde’s Kids in America plays over one really hot scene.
19. Endless Love (1981): Sorry, Brooke Shields, this is your only entry on the list. (No Blue Lagoon!) This movie makes it almost more for its theme song than the actual plot. Still Hollywood saw enough to remake it in 2014. (That version won’t make ANY list.)
18. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987): Despite my disdain for movies that take their titles from old songs (See: When A Man Loves a Woman), the appeal of geeky Patrick Dempsey can’t be resisted. For those wondering about the fate of his co-star Amanda Peterson, she passed away from an accidental drug overdose in 2015.
17. Something Wild (1986): Another love triangle between a man (Jeff Daniels), a woman (Melanie Griffith) and her violent ex-con hubby (Ray Liotta).
16. Out of Africa (1985): Maybe a little too highfalutin for some ’80s fans, but the Robert Redford-Meryl Streep film did win seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
15. Mannequin (1987): Loses points for sheer goofiness, but when the love of Andrew McCarthy (now a travel writer) for a mannequin is so strong, it brings her to life, well, we make exceptions. The Starship song Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now is the perfect sauce on this cheesy masterpiece.
14. A Room with a View (1985): Oh, English cinema! Repressed love! Italian scenery! A skinny-dipping priest! And three Academy Awards! Sorry for the excessive use of exclamation points.
13. 9 1/2 Weeks (1986): Not every romantic movie has a happy ending. Kim Basinger plays an art gallery employee whose sexual boundaries are pushed by quiet Wall Street tycoon (Mickey Rourke). Erotic food play, self-love, and cross dressing. What more do you need?
12. Dirty Dancing (1987): I know the ladies love DD, but I can’t get past the wimpy characters played by both Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. And the soundtrack is just grating to me now. Still, it has a place in pop culture lore.
11. Creator (1985): Not many of you have seen this, but it’s nearly the perfect movie. The wit of Peter O’Toole (so in love with his late wife that he’s trying to clone a copy of her) is matched with the manic, heart-pumping love of Vincent Spano, who falls for Virginia Madsen at first sight. Give this movie a chance.
10. Always (1989): Another love triangle. Richard Dreyfuss’ love for Holly Hunter. Brad Johnson’s love for Holly Hunter. And Steven Spielberg’s love for the 1943 movie A Guy Named Joe (of which Always is a remake).
9. Valley Girl (1983): The Romeo and Juliet storyline is predictable, but the real-life romance of Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman adds the spark that makes this movie more timeless than its goofball title. Modern English’s Melt With You became an anthem for romantics thanks to Valley Girl.
8. Moonstruck (1987): Nominated for six Oscars, this movie is one of many movies involving an unfortunate Nicolas Cage accent (this time Italian). Still, Cher (who won the Oscar for best actress) shows why she’s a better thespian than singer in this classic tale of forbidden love.
7. Princess Bride (1987): “Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT – mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe.”
6. Some Kind of Wonderful (1987): The movie can be summed up in two words: That kiss. Eric Stoltz and his tomboy BFF Mary Stuart Masterson leave Lea Thompson in the corner.
5. Sid & Nancy (1986): Oh, a dark flick for No. 5. Didn’t see that coming. But the true-life tale of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen is a cult classic. And let’s face it: Is there such a thing as a bad Gary Oldman film?
4. An Officer and a Gentleman (1982): Louis Gossett Jr. won the Oscar as the Marine drill instructor, but Richard Gere and Debra Winger fog up the screen as unlikely lovers both looking for better lives.
3. Say Anything (1989): “She’s gone. She gave me a pen. I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.”
2. Somewhere in Time (1980): Christopher Reeve plays an unlucky with love playwright who discovers his true soul mate (Jane Seymour) is waiting for him … back in the year 1912. The ending is scientifically constructed to tear your heart into two equal sized pieces.
1. When Harry Met Sally (1989): Maybe one of the best love movies of any decade. “I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
(This blog item was originally published in 2015)