Ah, the 1980s. It’s a decade filled to the brim with pop-culture and political nostalgia. 30 years on from one of the most impactful decades in recent history, what is it we remember most?
Some of the best films of all time were brought into the world back then, with their impact still being felt today. We’ve collected some of the best movie quotes from the 1980s to kickstart your nostalgia. Groovy!
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
“I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” – Jessica Rabbit
When Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit? hit our screens, audiences couldn’t believe how realistic the merge of human and cartoon had become when performing together. The film still holds up today as an enjoyable film with plenty of moments containing our favorite characters. It’s Jessica Rabbit’s famous quotation, however, that stays in our minds as one of the most ‘sexy’ parts of the otherwise children’s film.
Top Gun (1986)
“You can be my wingman anytime.” – Iceman
This was one of the biggest films of the decade and swiftly turned Tom Cruise into the star we still know today. The movie is unabashedly pro-America, pro-masculinity, and doesn’t shy away from lavish chase and action scenes. There are many moments that make this movie rewatchable, and quotes like this are what make the bromances so strong. A sequel is currently in the works for younger audiences to enjoy.
First Blood (1982)
“They drew first blood, not me.” John Rambo
Our first meeting with Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo also brought us one of his most memorable lines. By 1982, Sly was already a star after having risen to fame with Rocky. Now, he plays the action war hero who is determined to save the world. Another franchise still going strong, a fifth Rambo film is currently in development for a 2019 release. It also has spin-offs and animated shows popular with young people.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” – Johnny
This now-famous quotation was first uttered by Patrick Swayze’s Johnny in the dancing film from 1987. Funnily enough, it has become so famous that it stands as an expression on its own merit. There have been countless references to the saying in the 30 years since its release, with some young people unfamiliar with its origins. Today, people use the phrase to describe someone being prevented from fulfilling their potential.
“There can be only one.” – MacLeod
This famous quote holds the meaning to the entire Highlander mythos among the immortals and how they must fight until the very end. Today, people use the saying in the online gaming community where the last-man-standing approach to gaming is still popular among players. Even though the film has taken a modest place in film history, its most popular quotation still lives on. In 2007, there was an animated version of the film.
“Gizmo caca!” – Gremlins
These fellas haunted our screens in the 1980s during the Gremlins franchise that dominated screens across America. The language between the gremlins is never quite explained or translated, so it is impossible to know what it means. Nonetheless, it became an iconic sound that resonates with audiences 30 years later. Rumor suggests that the castmates invented the expression while the film was in production. It is used mainly for the gremlins to express their dislike of Gizmo.
“He slimed me.” – Dr. Peter Venkman
Quite possibly one of the most quintessential films of the 1980s, Ghostbusters treated us to a sci-fi comedy with Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Rick Moranis. It was the first time audiences saw such a large-scale ghost comedy and it instantly became a classic. The cultural phenomenon is still felt today, despite a failed gender-swapped remake hitting screens in 2016. We generally forget that ever existed, and leave the classic lines to the original team.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
“Snakes! Why’d it have to be snakes?” – Indiana Jones
In the 1980s, Harrison Ford was everywhere. During one of his most prominent roles, he played the brave, clever, charming Indiana Jones for three films. In true Hollywood fashion, all heroes need a weakness, and Jones met his terror in the first outing. The quote has become a trope in and of itself, with many people using it in modern day speech. A fifth Indiana Jones film is currently in the works.
“Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?” – The Joker
The first serious outing for Batman hit our big screens in 1989 with Jack Nicholson portraying the crazy Joker. The famous question is asked by Jack (the character) as he makes his first transition to the famous villain. Tim Burton’s production was a welcomed change from the campy Adam West production audiences were used to, and helped bring in a new era of comic book films.
The Karate Kid (1984)
“Wax on, wax off.” – Miyagi
The main idea behind the famous ‘wax on, wax off’ instructions from Miyagi teaches us the importance of value in the mundane. The famous scene was such an iconic lesson in hard work that it since became a trope in films that aim to teach a lesson – or pass on wisdom. 30 years later, The Karate Kid still has a cultural impact today. There was a remake in 2010 which failed to capture the heart of the 1984 original.
The Shining (1980)
“Here’s Johnny!” – Jack Torrance
The 1980s sure kicked off with a bang with another Jack Nicholson performance that is still referenced today. Younger audiences may not recognize the expression from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, but almost everyone has heard someone scream the famous quotation while entering a room! The Stanley Kubrick horror film still scares audiences nearly 40 years after its initial release. Much has been documented about the director’s treatment of Shelley Duvall and the impact of the production on her.
Back To The Future (1985)
“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” – Doc Brown
These famous last words were muttered just moments before the iconic Delorean (and time machine!) flew up into the sky and transported Marty and the gang to 1955. Back To The Future has some of the most popular scenes and action sequences still referenced today. Young people may be used to seeing flying cars on screens, but back in 1985, it was something to marvel at.
“Say hello to my little friend!” – Tony Montana
This moment in Scarface is frequently listed as one of the most iconic quotes in film history. It can be easily applicable to any gadget, car, pet, partner, or anything else that needs an introduction. Today, young people may reference the line without explicitly knowing its origins. Pacino’s stellar performance only makes it more relevant in the 21st century. Although receiving negative reviews upon its release, the film is now a cult classic.
“They’re here!” – Carol Anne
In what other cases can any two words become as iconic as this? This 1982 original supernatural thriller was part of the ‘Spielberg Summer’ since it was released so close to E.T. The film was an instant hit and spawned sequels and remakes up all the way until 2015. Poltergeist became the highest-grossing film of 1982 and the simple quote ‘they’re here’ became an instant classic. It has been referenced in pop culture ever since.
Sudden Impact (1983)
“Go ahead, make my day.” – Harry Callahan
This famous expression was first spoken by Clint Eastwood and has risen to prominence as an everyday expression ever since. It has been referenced by then-President Regan and even helped lay legal groundwork for new laws. Today, it is consistently named as one of the greatest and most recognizable film quotes still referenced today. It refers to Callahan’s pleasure in shooting an armed robber if he dared makes a move.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
“I’ll have what she’s having.” – Random Woman
One of the best lines in film history belongs to When Harry Met Sally. The 1989 romantic-comedy gave birth to the genre and gifted the world with strong performances by Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. The line is a reference to ‘that scene’ in Katz’ in New York, when Sally explains how women can, ahem, fake it. The scene became one of the most famous parts of the film and most memorable moments in film history.
Die Hard (1988)
“Yippee-ki-yay, mother f***er!” – John McClane
Even though it only makes contextual sense in the first outing, Bruce Willis was so convincing in his portrayal as madman McClane that it became a famous expression. When referring to Hans and whether he can stop his evil plans, Willis makes it known that no one will ruin this man’s Christmas! The Die Hard franchise has since grown into five successful films. There is often debate on whether this is a Christmas film – what do you think?
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
“No, I am your father.” – Darth Vader
The quote to end all quotes! This is one of the most famous plot twists and cinematic climaxes in history. Of course, the ending is so known today that it seems difficult to remember what an epic moment this originally was. The twist was such a secret that voice actor James Earl Jones never actually said it – it was edited in post-production. A common misconception is that he said ‘Luke’ at the start, when this is actually incorrect.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
“E.T. phone home.” – E.T
Continuing the age of the 1980s summer blockbuster. E.T captured hearts and minds with its revolutionary tale of everyone’s favorite alien. The famous saying ‘E.T phone home’ was spoken across the world as the iconic saying gave us his motivations and character traits. Today, it is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. Steven Spielberg dominated the cinematic landscape in the 1980s and many of his films are home to the best quotes in cinema.
The Terminator (1984)
“I’ll be back.” – The Terminator
This iconic line almost didn’t make it into the film! Due to his thick accent, Arnold Schwarzenegger had trouble pronouncing the ‘I’ll’ – even asking director James Cameron if he could change it. Thankfully, he practiced over several takes and the rest is, quite literally, history. Since then, the catchphrase has appeared in each Terminator film and even appeared in Schwarzenegger’s other films. It has become synonymous with the actor and has a rightful place in cinematic history and popular culture.