Movies

19 Old Sci-Fi Movies of the 80s That Somehow Still Hold Up in 2024

19 Old Sci-Fi Movies of the 80s That Somehow Still Hold Up in 2024
Image credit: Legion-Media, globallookpress.com, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures

From dystopian visions that predicted our gadget-addicted reality to interstellar adventures that make you wonder why no one's built a lightsaber yet, these movies had it all.

Surprisingly, their predictions, tech, and storytelling dodge the laugh test today (well, mostly), holding their ground with a mix of nostalgia and timeless themes.

1. Altered States (1980)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

A scientist conducts experiments on himself with sensory deprivation and psychedelic drugs, aiming to unlock different states of consciousness; his obsession leads to physical changes, regressing to primitive forms of life and questioning reality. The experiment's effects spiral out of control, blending his visions and physical reality in unexpected ways.

2. Mad Max 2 (1981)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

In a post-apocalyptic world, Max, a lone wanderer, stumbles upon a group of survivors hoarding a precious fuel supply – they're besieged by a brutal gang seeking the fuel. Max reluctantly helps defend the compound, leading to a desperate battle for survival and resources on the wasteland's highways.

3. Outland (1981)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 54%

On Jupiter's moon Io, a federal marshal investigates mysterious deaths at a mining colony; discovering a lethal drug smuggling operation, he finds himself targeted for assassination. With no backup, he prepares to confront the hired killers alone, leading to a tense showdown in the isolated, deadly environment.

4. Tron (1982)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 73%

A computer programmer is digitized into a computer where he discovers a digital world ruled by a tyrannical program – joining forces with the security program Tron, they navigate through deadly games and rebellious programs to stop the dictator and escape back to the real world.

5. Blade Runner (1982)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

In futuristic Los Angeles, a blade runner is tasked with hunting down rogue replicants—bioengineered beings nearly indistinguishable from humans; his mission challenges his perceptions of humanity and morality as he tracks down the replicants, who desperately seek to extend their own lifespans.

6. The Thing (1982)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

A remote Antarctic research station uncovers an alien life form capable of assimilating any creature it touches; as the entity mimics the crew members, paranoia escalates, leading to a desperate struggle to identify and destroy it before it escapes to the wider world.

7. Starman (1984)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

An alien crash-lands on Earth, adopting the appearance of a young widow's deceased husband – together, they embark on a journey to his extraction point, evading government forces. Their journey explores human emotions and connections, against the backdrop of a chase across America.

8. Terminator 1 (1984)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

In 1984, a cyborg assassin is sent from a post-apocalyptic future to kill Sarah Connor, whose unborn son will lead a resistance against machines; a human protector also arrives to defend her, leading to a relentless pursuit through Los Angeles to safeguard humanity's future.

9. Ghostbusters (1984)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

Four scientists start a ghost-catching service in New York City; as paranormal activity increases, they encounter a gateway to another dimension, threatening the city. The team must use their technology and knowledge to close the portal and defeat a powerful entity seeking to invade Earth.

10. Buckaroo Banzai (1984)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 66%

Dr. Buckaroo Banzai, a physicist, neurosurgeon, and rock musician, discovers an alien plot to conquer Earth – with his eclectic team, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, Banzai navigates interdimensional threats and a complex scientific conspiracy, aiming to save the world from an extraterrestrial invasion.

11. The Last Starfighter (1984)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 76%

A teenager, recruited by an alien defense force based on his video game skills, is thrust into an interstellar war; tasked with defending the galaxy from an invasion, he transitions from gaming to actual combat, realizing his gameplay has prepared him for real-life heroics.

12. Highlander (1986)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 71%

An immortal Scottish swordsman must confront the last of his immortal opponents, a murderously brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled "Prize" – their centuries-long conflict culminates in modern-day New York City, with flashbacks revealing their long history of battles and the immortals' secret existence.

13. Aliens (1986)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Ripley, the sole survivor of an alien attack, returns to the planet with a team of marines when contact is lost with the colony there; they encounter an army of the creatures, leading to a desperate fight for survival against the overwhelming alien horde.

14. RoboCop (1987)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

In a crime-ridden Detroit, a critically injured cop is transformed into a powerful cyborg law enforcer – as he cleans up the city, he uncovers corruption within the police force and the corporation that created him, leading to a quest for justice and revenge.

15. Predator (1987)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%

A special forces team on a mission in a Central American jungle finds itself hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior; as team members are picked off, they face the ultimate predator in a deadly game of survival, using their combat skills against an unseen alien foe.

16. The Running Man (1987)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%

In a dystopian future, a falsely accused man is forced to participate in a deadly game show where convicts run for their lives against professional killers – he must survive the game, expose the government's lies, and lead a rebellion against the oppressive system.

17. Inner Space (1987)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%

A cocky pilot participating in a miniaturization experiment is accidentally injected into a hapless store clerk; together, they must retrieve the technology before falling into the wrong hands, leading to a unique partnership and a battle against industrial spies from within the clerk's body.

18. They Live (1988)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

A drifter discovers special sunglasses that reveal the world is controlled by aliens disguised as humans, manipulating society through subliminal messages – he joins a rebel group aiming to expose and overthrow the alien overlords in a fight for humanity's freedom.

19. Akira (1988)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%

In post-apocalyptic Tokyo, a teen biker gains uncontrollable telekinetic powers after a military experiment goes wrong; his abilities threaten the city's stability, leading to a clash with government forces and his own biker gang, exploring themes of power, corruption, and friendship amidst chaos.