What is it with the 80s?

Okay, so my big question for today is: why the 80s? Well, that’s a very big question, so let me give you some context.

The 80s. A span of 9 years from January 1, 1980 to December 31, 1989 that is known for its outrageous slang, style, music, and (of course) its feature films. I could write pages and pages about the radical slang or the tubular music, but I’m here to focus on the movies from the 80s (hence the name of my independent study).

I grew up watching 80s movies, like many people my age did, because our parents loved them and wanted to educate us on the glory of their youth. Little did they now, they were slowly turning us into 80s robots who became nostalgic for a period of time that we didn’t even live through.

I still have a hard time putting into words what I love about 80s movies so much, but I can identify one thing that they all have in common which may be the reason we all keep turning back to them. Keep reading to find out.

Nowadays, we see films and shows taking set around the time of the 80s all of the time. And most of them become extremely popular. Like REALLY popular. Take Stranger Things for example. From my understanding, The Duffer Brothers, the creators of the show, had no idea that the show set in 1983 would take off as much as it did. Fans went crazy over the show and before anyone could say “demogorgon” the show was seen by millions all over the world. Stranger Things is now on to shooting it’s fourth and possibly final season, to the disappointment of many fans. So, why did this show take off out of all the available options on Netflix in 2016? While some say it is because of the excellent casting, great sense of mystery, or even the fact that there is only eight-ish episodes per season (which I agree with), I believe that the true reason is simple: nostalgia. While referencing classic items and ideas of the 80s, Stranger Things just has the feel of something that actually happened in the 80s, it is totally immersive to the viewer.

A Stranger Things(2016-) reference to Ghostbusters (1984).

Obviously the Duffer Brothers and other crew members had to get their inspiration from somewhere, so they turned to the best primary source: 80s movies themselves. Throughout the series, the audience sees references or nods to Ghostbusters(1984), Stand by Me (1986), Star Wars V (1980), and more (which I think is another great method for keeping the audience engaged). I decided to take a tip from the Duffer Brothers and also look at the primary sources themselves to see what was so intriguing about them.

For the past few weekend I watched all the 80s movies I could with my family with one catch: while enjoying the movie itself, I would try to identifying certain aspects of why the movie resonated with me (and many others). Although it was difficult to try to not get sucked into the movies, I have a few ideas why these movies touch so many people and are still loved generations after they were made.

  1. Escapism

Over the past few years, the word ‘escapism’ and its correlation to moviemaking has been brought to my attention. Why do people go to see movies? Is it because they just want to watch something or is it because they want to escape their own reality? That is a very broad question to think about, but I believe that every time we watch a movie or a show, a little piece of us wants to escape our own world, our own body, and try and walk in someone else’s life. After all, life is made up of different experiences, why not and try to experience someone else’s life?

2. A New Perspective

Similar to what I ended the paragraph above with, I think that many of us enjoy watching TV because we get a chance to look into someone (or something) else’s life or worldview. We love the idea of this new experience because someone else is living it and we get to come along for the ride.

3. The Culture

Let’s face it, the 80s was a weird time. With the constant underlying threat of a nuclear war that would end all life on the earth, the 1980s were bound to be a weird time for everyone. On top of all that, there were some major cultural shifts in many different areas all occurring simultaneously. That’s a lot for one decade, so it makes sense that the 80s were a memorable time. Not to mention, the 80s were a ‘great’ time for fashion.

I believe that the culture of the 1980s provided a great working space for filmmakers to provide a brilliant new perspective to their audience which ultimately resulted in some form of escapism for them. Wow that was a mouthful. Anyways, after my limited research, this is why I think that we remember the 80s the way we do. There are obviously some more reasons though, comment down below what you think!

From all my research and countless hours of sitting on the couch and watching these classic movies, I have one takeaway from all of these 80s shows that I will try to focus on in my upcoming films: give your film a profound and clear ambience. When people see your film, they should really feel like they were there in that universe with the actors/people. I think that I really love 80s shows and movies because of this. When I am watching them, I really feel like I am in that time period and I’m living through what the characters experienced. I want to take that idea with me.

Thanks for reading, share if you enjoyed!