There are lots of things that I like from the Eighties. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, G.I. Joe and a number of great cartoons that still managed to influence me in my formative years wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the 1980s. It was the peak time for video game arcades, something I wish I could have been around for more of. And let’s not forget the massive list of movies that made the decade so unique. But these lists aren’t necessarily about nostalgia. No, this is me, someone born in 1988, on the outside, looking back in.
Top 10 Albums of the 1980s
Honestly, I’ve never been that big on 1980s music. In fact, I’ve listened to more new albums since 2009 than total albums from that entire decade. That is not to say I think Eighties music is bad, it’s just that I prefer the music that evolved from what was going on back then to that actual music. However, these next ten albums are totally tubular.
10. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)
Look, it had to be on the list. I tried to fight it, but no, you cannot deny Thriller. It is the Eighties, as well as one of the most important albums in pop music history. Plus, who wouldn’t prefer having an Eighties MJ around today, instead of Beaver Fever? Beaber? Bieber?
9. Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms (1985)
“Walk of Life” is pretty much the reason why I ever listened to this album. But I’m also a huge fan of “So Far Away,” “Money for Nothing” and, well, the rest of the record. I don’t know why, but when I think of this album, I just think “yeah, that’s boring.” And then I’ll listen to it again and remember it kicks ass. The reason why is so far away from me.
8. Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980)
This is pretty much my toss-up spot. The Replacement’s Let It Be, Beastie Boy’s Paul’s Boutique and The Smith’s The Queen is Dead and several other albums were all in contention. Ultimately, I give it to Remain in Light because it’s so distinct. I can appreciate that. Also, “Once in a Lifetime.”
7. AC/DC – Back in Black (1980)
Without this album, what would the Iron Man trailers be like? A lot more Black Sabbath, that’s what. Fortunately, we don’t have to live in that world, because AC/DC rocked are asses away back in 1980. I’m not a fan of the schoolboy uniform shtick, however. Gross.
6. The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
What are they the cure for? Boredom? A world full of bad music? The mainstream? Does anyone know? Anyway, after years of not really giving a crap that everyone told me I should listen to The Cure, I finally hit up Disintegration and found myself enjoying it thoroughly. Who knew?
5. De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
De La Soul delivered what is basically my favorite hip hop album in 1989. What does that say about my hip hop credibility? Not much good. But I just love that in the era of gangster rap, these three guys put together a fun, positive album that pretty much anyone could enjoy. Kevin, if you read this, “Eye Know” is that song that samples Steely Dan’s “Peg.”
4. New Order – Power, Corruption & Lies (1983)
I few weeks back Colin played some tracks off Power, Corruption & Lies much to my chagrin. Except “Age of Consent” is amazing. Who knew you could do a song driven by crazy drums and bass? Now I have to listen to it all the time. And there are some other pretty fucking outstanding songs on this bad boy, such as “The Village” and dance hit (?) “Blue Monday.” Whoosh!
3. Big Country – The Crossing (1983)
OK, we all know “In a Big Country” is basically the best song in the history of music. So you can imagine how happy I was when I put this record on and was treated to the longer cut of the song leading off the LP. The rest of the songs can’t quite live up to it, but don’t begrudge them that. They’re pretty good. Well, some are pretty forgettable. But it’s good. There’s a reason these guys were far from a one-hit-wonder in Europe.
2. U2 – Joshua Tree (1987)
I’m not certain about this, but Joshua Tree might be my favorite U2 album. That is perhaps because the first four tracks make one of the best starts to any album I’ve ever heard. But don’t let me be misunderstood, every song on this album is a triumph. If you asked me a few weeks ago if there was any Eighties albums worth getting, this would be the first one I’d bring up. Well, except for the next album on this list.
1. The Pixies – Doolittle (1989)
It took me a while to get Doolittle. I had listened to it a few times, but what really helped me along the way was when Colin, John and I played through the whole album in Rock Band. Since then, it has become one of the few albums I always keep on my iPhone, indeed, one of my go-to records. From Kim Deal’s intro to “Debaser” all the way through “Gouge Away,” Doolittle is an experience that went on to influence pretty much all the music I like.
Top 10 Video Games of the 1980s
The Eighties were the heyday of the arcade game. Starting in the late 1970s, we had years of awesome titles until Nintendo came along and ruined it for everyone by putting out the Nintendo Entertainment System. Except the NES also birthed some of the most beloved games of all time. Games like Mega Man, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid were omitted because I haven’t played nearly enough of them. I’m sorry! I wasn’t born yet!
10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)
I’m iffy on this pick, since TMNT just set up the formula for what would be the greatest beat-em-up of all time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. But a lot of what makes that game great is present in the original, plus this gave me a way to get the Turtles on one of my lists. I love those guys.
9. Frogger (1981)
I love how simple games in the Eighties were. You play as a frog, and you’ve got to get across that road. I guess it probably should have been a chicken, but then you wouldn’t get the tricky cross the pond, eat the fly, get in the cave part of the game. That’s where all the real action is.
8. Joust (1982)
So you’re this jouster guy. And you ride an ostrich. And you have to knock the other ostrich-riding jousters into the lava below. Yeah, that all makes a lot of sense. Joust was one of my dad’s favorite arcade games, so I guess it’s genetic.
7. BurgerTime (1982)
This makes you hungry, Colin? You want a giant burger that a chef’s been running over? BurgerTime is kind of like a lesser Lode Runner, except it’s awesome. What does level four look like? I’d love to know.
6. Galaga (1981)
I thought I could throw Space Invaders on this list, but apparently that classic came out in the Seventies. So instead I give you Galaga, which is basically Space Invaders but better in every way. I am serious.
5. Tetris (1985)
Funny story about Tetris: the Russian guy who invented it? He basically gets no money for it thanks to Russia being kind of messed up and also Nintendo screwing him. Poor fella. Oh, also, they gave you this for free if you bought a GameBoy. And I had to play the Russian folk son that you probably associate with this game is my junior high guitar class recital. Yup.
4. Contra (1987)
If it wasn’t for Contra we wouldn’t have some of the most important concepts in gaming. The Konami code, the spread gun, and some other third thing. Yeah, it’s a hard. Suck it up. Like a straw. Or a vacuum. Or the 2010 Seattle Mariners.
3. Donkey Kong (1981)
We’ve got a kill screen coming up! Originally titled Monkey Kong, the game got accidentally renamed and thus one of gaming’s most legendary characters was born. I guess the Donkey Kong we know today is actually supposed to be Donkey Kong, Jr., which is probably why he just goes by DK. Doesn’t wanna live in his dad’s shadow.
2. Pac-Man (1980)
Paku-Man was translated into Puck-Man, but Namco figured putting out arcade units labeled “Puck-Man” would make it too easy for vandals to rename the game “Fuck-Man.” Which would have been awesome, let’s all face it. The Pac-Man table is one of my favorite arcade cabinet designs, very classy. Paku-paku, bitches.
1. Super Mario Bros. (1985)
Hey, wow, sweet, what a big surprise. Yeah, you could argue the formula was perfected by Super Mario Bros. 3, but that didnt’ even come out in the U.S. until 1990. I, for one, did not import it from Japan when I a baby. And you know what, Super Mario Bros. is video games. Everyone loves it. It just doesn’t get more classic than this. It’s simple and yet deep, challenging and rewarding. It’s right up there with Pong in contention for the most important video game ever made.
Top 10 Movies of the 1980s
Movies were definitely to hardest to narrow down to just ten. Without looking at a list or anything, I was able to come up with around 30 films that I thought were worth being on a top 10 list. I had to make some deep, painful cuts, but here is my final top ten of the Eighties.
10. Robocop (1987)
Robocop‘s got it all. Action, one-liners, hilariously over-the-top villains, real social themes, and an interesting take on the dystopian future. It’s so good I refuse to watch the sequels, since I don’t want to know what they do to the franchise.
9. Airplane! (1980)
I know this should be my number one, just pretend this is a typo. It’s rare to find a movie so loaded down with puns. There’s basically this and other Eighties comedy juggernaut The Naked Gun. And some other movies too. I don’t really know where I’m going with this. Funny movie!
8. Major League (1989)
The hardest question Flick Chart never asked me: Bull Durham or Major League? It’s a close call, that’s for sure. And if the umps had instant replay, maybe we could be more certain. But instead I’m gonna have to call what I saw, and instinct says Major League is more fun. Tough call, though.
7. Back to the Future (1985)
I think when most people think about Eighties movies, they think of Back to the Future. It’s kind of a miracle a movie like this works, since the plot is surprisingly complex, I mean, even the title is confusing if you haven’t seen the movie. Too bad the sequels couldn’t quite live up to the original. I’m not one of those fanatics that watches this all the time, but I always enjoy it when I can catch it.
6. Raging Bull (1980)
There are few movies better than Raging Bull. But this is not the list of the best movies of the 1980s. These are my favorites. And as much as I was blown away by Raging Bull, I haven’t even gone back and watched it a second time. A Hell of a film, though.
5. Die Hard (1988)
My top five are all films I’ve seen like a million times. Die Hard is definitely on my short list for greatest action movie of all time. John McClane is simply one of the best protagonists in action movies, and Hans Gruber is a terrific antagonist. It’s kind of becoming a Christmas tradition in my family, too.
4. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
It’s even quotable. “You’ve managed to kill everyone else, but like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target.” “From Hell’s heart I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.” “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” Star Trek: The Motion Picture is kind of a joke. Khan is undeniable.
3. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Do heroes get any cooler than Indiana Jones? I guess you could argue for McClane, or Han Solo, but come on. A teacher who spends his free time traveling the world collecting presumably long-lost magical artifacts? Plus, he uses a whip. Anyone else would make that seem really weak. Not Indy.
2. Ghostbusters (1984)
Another comedy movie with a oddly complex plot. I’m not even sure I get the whole thing, like, why does Gozer need to transform? Just to fuck with them? Ah well, this is one of the funniest movies ever made, and I wish I was watching in right now.
1. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Can you dig it? Star Wars is certainly the most important film franchise in my life; I’ve enjoyed the whole series since I was but a boy. Empire Strikes Back gave us Yoda, Lando, Hoth, a real lightsaber fight, a shocking revelation, a long-awaited romance and almost killed C-3PO. How you gonna beat that?