10 Underrated Cult Classic Movies from the 80's Every Fan Should Watch
The 80's were a golden era of big hair, even bigger shoulder pads, and arguably some of the most delightfully eccentric movies ever made.
1. Repo Man (1984)
Emilio Estevez starred as Otto, a young punk rocker who inadvertently ends up working as a repo man. The storyline turns a touch sci-fi when a Chevy Malibu with some hot (radioactive hot!) cargo in the trunk comes into play.
Bizarre, hilarious, and punk to its core, Repo Man ended up being a box-office dud, earning less than $3 million. However, its unique fusion of sci-fi, comedy, and social commentary won it a cult following. Estevez and co-star Harry Dean Stanton did actual car repossession training for the film.
2. After Hours (1985)
Next, we step into the bizarre world of Martin Scorsese's After Hours. This black comedy, focusing on one chaotic night in the life of Paul Hackett (played by Griffin Dunne), can be a true revelation for those used to Scorsese's crime dramas. A trip to SoHo turns nightmarish as Hackett's attempts to get home are thwarted at every turn.
Despite Scorsese winning Best Director at Cannes, this film remains a lesser-known gem even amongst fans. Its budget was under $5 million, a far cry from Scorsese's later extravaganzas. Yet the comedy of errors narrative and eclectic characters made it a cult favorite.
3. Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
Before the MCU made multi-genre films the norm, there was Buckaroo Banzai. Part sci-fi, part comedy, part action, this movie was an ambitious venture that didn't quite land with mainstream audiences, being, perhaps, way ahead of its time. However, it did garner a dedicated following.
Peter Weller played Buckaroo Banzai, a physicist/neurosurgeon/test pilot/rock musician (and no, we're not kidding) who saves the world from inter-dimensional invaders. Although it only grossed $6.2 million against a $17 million budget, this film's wacky plot and larger-than-life characters cemented its status as a cult classic.
4. The Last Dragon (1985)
Blending martial arts with a Motown soundtrack, The Last Dragon was a box-office success but largely flew under the radar. It follows the story of Bruce Leroy (Taimak), a martial artist on a journey to achieve the ultimate level of martial arts mastery known as The Glow. His path crosses with video DJ Laura Charles (Vanity), and they team up against the villainous Sho'nuff (Julius Carry).
The film's 59% Rotten Tomatoes rating doesn't do justice to its unique style and vibrant characters. It's a pure joyride of 80's cheese, martial arts action, and unforgettable music. Seriously, go check out that OST.
5. House (1985)
House is a horror-comedy film that featured TV stars William Katt and George Wendt battling it out against various ghoulish creatures in a haunted house. Katt plays a horror novelist who moves into a haunted house to write his next book and finds himself in a real-life nightmare.
House blends scares with laughs, resulting in a film that's equal parts creepy and hilarious. On a budget of just $3 million, the film was a modest success, grossing over $22 million.
6. Miracle Mile (1988)
The Miracle Mile is all about making a wrong call, or rather, answering one. Anthony Edwards stars as Harry Washello, a jazz musician who unwittingly picks up a payphone call warning of nuclear apocalypse.
The call throws him into a chaotic and frantic search for his new love interest, Julie, played by Mare Winningham, amid the panic-stricken streets of LA. But there's always a nagging question: was the call a prank, or is the end really nigh?
This movie, with its unexpected twists and turns, provides a darkly comedic yet grim take on the end of the world scenario.
7. Night of the Comet (1984)
Ever wondered what would happen if almost everyone on Earth turned into dust or, worse, into zombies due to a passing comet? Well, Night of the Comet is here to quench your oddly specific curiosity. Sisters Regina and Samantha, played by Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney, are two of the few survivors who must navigate this post-apocalyptic nightmare.
Battling zombies, dodging sinister scientists, and dealing with the absence of regular TV broadcast, this duo adds a whole new dimension to sisterly bonding. The film didn't break box office records but slowly accumulated a cult following that appreciates its unique blend of horror, sci-fi, and teenage comedy.
8. Withnail and I (1987)
Although not an American film, Withnail and I is a British black comedy that undoubtedly deserves a spot on this list. The film presents the tale of two unemployed actors, Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and I (Paul McGann), as they decide to escape their squalid London flat for a vacation in the English countryside.
From failed fishing attempts to uncomfortable encounters with Withnail's lascivious Uncle Monty, their misadventures quickly take a dark and comedic turn. Despite its initial box office failure, Withnail and I's sharply witty script and fantastic performances make it a must-watch.
9. They Live (1988)
John Carpenter's They Live is another masterful blend of genres, combining elements of sci-fi, action, and political satire. The film's plot follows a drifter, played by Roddy Piper, who discovers a pair of sunglasses that reveal the world is controlled by disguised aliens exploiting humanity.
The film offers a critical commentary on consumerism, media manipulation, and the economic disparity prevalent in society. Despite its clear metaphoric narrative and today's prevalent nostalgia for the 80s, They Live still flies under the radar for many film enthusiasts. It's about time we reevaluate it.
10. Better Off Dead (1985)
Better Off Dead is a dark comedy that gives an outlandish spin on the teen rom-com genre.
John Cusack plays Lane Meyer, a teenager who becomes suicidal after his girlfriend dumps him for the school's ski jock. His attempts to win her back involve tackling a dangerous ski slope, dealing with his bizarre family, and evading a relentless paperboy who just wants his two dollars.
The film failed to make a significant impact at the box office, but its eccentric humor, memorable quotes, and Cusack's engaging performance have garnered it a loyal fanbase.