As we move into our third phase in The Daily Fandom‘s retro series, we find ourselves exploring the 1980s. The 80s were a fascinating time in the world of comics and pop culture. One could make the argument that these were the years the comic book industry was at its finest.
It was nearly impossible to narrow this list down to 10 of the best books, movies, or television shows. With that being said, to make it a bit easier, we kept the list to only series or movies that originated in the 80s. For example. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back will not be on this list as Star Wars first came out in the 70s. Without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Whether you read them in the comic books or have seen them on television, everyone knows who these pizza-loving turtles are. Making their first appearance in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird the Turtles have been icons ever since.
Making their debut on the television screen in 1987. The producer’s made a change from the dark comic books to a more lighter tone series aimed at children. This would open up a toy line for the characters and they never looked back. The Ninja Turtles have had multiple television shows and have also made their way to the big screen on many occasions.
2. Alan Moore
Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen‘
Alan Moore is one of the most influential comic book writers the industry has ever seen. To save space on our list we gave Alan his own spot. Moore had a wave of incredible work throughout the 80s. His most famous work is without a doubt, Watchmen. Watchmen changed the way comic books were written for years to come. Moore presented a much darker version of the DC universe; creating a dark, violent world.
Examining the question of ‘What would superheroes actually be like in the real world?’ Watchmen is known as one of the most famous and important comics ever written. A book that was nothing like anything else on the shelves at the time. An epic, yet tragic story on what it would be like being a superhero in the real world, and also what being a superhero would do to you as a person.
V For Vendetta
Another one of Alan Moores’ best hits was the series V for Vendetta. Main character V begins his own revolution against the fascist state while convincing the rest of the world to join. The Guy Fawkes Mask worn by V has become a symbol across the globe. Protestors have been known to wear the mask.
Batman: The Killing Joke
Another of Alan Moores’ most famous piece’s of work: Batman: The Killing Joke. One of the most famous Batman and Joker stories ever told. Containing some iconic moments such as The Joker shooting Barbara Gordon, and the controversial ending; whether or not Batman killed The Joker.
3. Batman (The Film)
Michael Keaton took over the role of the caped crusader to bring the hero to the big screen for the first time. With the general audience being accustomed to the fun and goofy Adam West version of the character, Tim Burton’s take was closer to the recent dark tones the books were using.
With Jack Nicholson quickly becoming an iconic version of The Joker, it made for a fascinating contrast between Jack and Keaton. The First Batman movie set the tone for the future films to soon follow and continue adaptation. Batman (1989) could not be left off the list for so many reasons.
An action and comedy phenomenon from 1984. Ghostbusters was a huge success when it released. Captivating the audience with great visual effects, amazing humor, and an incredible cast led by Bill Murray.
The chemistry of the cast made the movie what it was. Above all else, the sarcasm and jokes made this movie a must watch. Not only has the movie been a classic ever since its release; it contains one of the most iconic theme songs ever. The success of Ghostbusters opened the door to toy lines, comics, and a few lackluster sequels. Ghostbusters is one of those movies that gets better with time.
5. Back To The Future
This movie is a special story about a young man who travels back in time to save his future. The amazing cast and fun dialogue make this movie virtually timeless (pun intended). Time travel was not a new concept at the time this movie was released in the 80s. Yet, the overall plot of the movie made it appealing to all fans of science fiction and fantasy.
With Michael J. Fox portraying Marty McFly, he was able to create a name for himself. The sequel, Back To The Future 2, took the cast to the year 2015. At the time this was a fascinating way to fantasize what the world will be like 30 years in the future. It allowed them to imagine how people would dress, think about if cars would fly, and analyze how different the music and pop culture would be. The Back To The Future franchise is without a doubt an all-time classic hit that will travel through time forever.
6. Frank Miller
Just like Alan Moore, the one-man army of Frank Miller was such an influence in the comic book industry in the 80s that we gave him his own spot. Frank Miller throughout all of his books created a much more dark and violent world. A strong advocate to the idea that comics were not for kids anymore. Dealing with heavy topics such as drugs, sex, and hardcore violence, Miller instantly became a legend in the comic industry.
The Dark Knight Returns
His work on The Dark Knight Returns is one of the most famous comic stories of all time. Creating an older 55-year-old Bruce Wayne who has given up the mantle of Batman. Bruce returns from retirement to continue to fight crime and ends up going up against the U.S government. Superman, who works for the government in this world Miller created is asked to put a stop to Batman. Leading to an epic final battle.
The Dark Knight Returns has been a huge influence on the industry. Not only comics but films as well. Batman VS. Superman: Dawn of Justice, was heavily influenced by Miller’s story.
Batman: Year One
The Dark Knight Returns wasn’t Miller’s only famous Batman story. Batman: Year One, was a story showing Bruce’s first year dawning the cowl. The story showed Batman and Jim Gordon’s first encounters with one another, and begin to build the partnership they have today.
After training in martial arts and science for a period of time, Bruce Wayne returned to Gotham City and began his fight on crime. Year One has been used as Batman’s origin story for years in many different platforms.
Frank Miller’s work didn’t end there, his run on Daredevil is arguably his most influential work ever. Miller put not only Matt Murdock, but all supporting characters through a brutal amount of punishment. With characters getting hooked on drugs, prostitution, bankruptcy, and loss of homes.
Frank Miller brought on new characters into Daredevil’s world such as Elektra, The Hand, and Daredevil’s mentor Stick. Daredevil was created by Stan Lee, but most people would agree Frank Miller really created the character to his fullest form.
His impact on the character can’t be denied with how influential it was to the successful Netflix series that is about to have its third season. Frank Miller had so many more comics we could talk about such as Ronin, which we could talk about forever. Let’s just say Frank Miller’s run in the 80s is one of the greatest we have and will ever see.
Art Spiegelman created Maus based on the conversations he had with his father who was a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. Spiegelman drew the book using cats to depict Nazi’s and mice to depict the Jews.
The book was drawn in black and white and simple styles to increase the impact of the content within. The graphic novel ended up winning a Pulitzer Prize causing the public to see that comics could be a serious platform. Maus is considered to be one of the greatest comics ever written. Spiegelman explores his father’s stories and the struggles he and his mother had as well.
8. X-Men Days Of Future Past
Written in 1980 the story begins in the future – taking place in 2013 – where Mutants are being kept in concentration camps. In 2013, America is under control of sentinels who are out hunting down all the Mutants. We see an older version of Kitty Pryde at one point walking by a set of gravestones for famous X-Men and Marvel characters.
The most surprising part of this story is that it virtually came out of nowhere. Completely unrelated to what had previously been taking place in the book, this story took the readers for a dark turn. Kitty Pryde sends her conscious back to her present day (1980) teen self. Informing her fellow mutants of the future. With the plan to prevent the assassination of an anti-Mutant politician and stop the sentinel take over.
The story goes back and forth between the present and future. The future Mutants attempt to fight off the Sentinels and fail miserably. Reader’s witness brutal death’s to some of their favorite characters. Kitty Pryde ends up preventing the assassination and her mind goes back to her future body.
Though, we never get to see the future X-Men again in the story, leaving the question, did they save the future? We will have to wait and see. One of the most famous X-Men stories ever written without a doubt.
9. The Terminator
With almost nobody believing the movie would be a success, including the people involved, The Terminator became one of the most famous franchises ever made. Turning into a science fiction hit and sending Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting career into the sky. Arnold has 18 lines in the movie, yet exceeds expectations in portraying the silent cyborg he had to portray.
Arnold played The Terminator, a cyborg assassin from the future, sent back in time to assassinate a woman named Sarah Connor. Sarah’s son will lead a resistance in the future against an army of cyborg’s. The movie is a great example of what the future may hold. The battle between man and technology. There have been four sequels since The Terminator, with a 5th on the way in 2019.
10. Indiana Jones
An entire article could be written on how Indiana Jones has influenced pop culture and the movie industry. Harrison Ford portrays two of the most iconic characters ever created. Han Solo, and, of course, Indiana Jones. Everyone knows who he is. Wearing his trademark hat while holding his whip, there aren’t many characters more recognizable.
Following the adventures of an archaeologist, the Indiana Jones movies are filled with action and thrill. Bringing the viewers into the field of archaeology. Jones – also a professor knows multiple languages helping him greatly on his adventures. Another element that makes people attracted to Jones is the fact he makes mistakes.
Making him human and relatable. With three movies coming out in the 80s alone, the adventures of Indiana Jones has had an influence on many movies and books that have come since.
The 80s As a Whole
The 80s were an incredible period in time for the pop culture scene. Whether it be movies, comics, or television, it feels as though some of the most famous franchises ever created came in each year of the decade.
With popular topics like ninjas and samurais, the multiverse, drugs, sex, magic, and hardcore violence, it seemed as though the pop culture scene got more diverse. There are so many amazing stories and films that were created in the 80s, it’s not possible to narrow that list down to 10.
Comment some of your favorite moments from the 80s that we may have missed. We will see you next month when we talk about the 90s!