Quentin Tarantino's List of 80s Movies Actually Worth Watching

Quentin Tarantino's List of 80s Movies Actually Worth Watching
Image credit: MGM, Legion-Media

Although the filmmaker dislikes 80s cinema, he praises these period films to the skies.


  • Quentin Tarantino is one of the most important filmmakers of the last few decades, skillfully incorporating pop culture symbols into his work.
  • He understands filmmaking like no one else, having reviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of films.
  • One of his favorite film periods is the 1980s, but there are some very worthy representatives among them as well.

Regardless of whether you like Quentin Tarantino's frantic and undeniably distinctive style, his work represents a digested concentration of American and global pop culture.Tarantino has incorporated the best aspects of the cinema of his time into his own work, constructing his independent movies around quirky dialogue and brutal action scenes that allude to familiar clichés and tropes.

Despite his unbridled love for movies, Tarantino has entire decades on his list that he considers the worst in the history of cinema. One of those decades is the 80s, because of the dramatic increase in empty, purely commercial productions.

'Everything was cynical, then all of a sudden in the 80s all that was washed away and the most important thing about a character was that they were likeable… Every character had to be likeable and the audience had to like everybody,' he shared on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast in 2021.

Nevertheless, Tarantino believes that even in such a period, some filmmakers managed to present quite good movies. Let's take a look at the movies of the 1980s that Quentin Tarantino himself considers worthy.

1. Breathless (Jim McBride, 1983)

IMDb rating: 5.9/10

One of Tarantino's favorite films of this period is the 1983 neo-noir thriller Breathless, starring Richard Gere and Valérie Kaprisky, which is itself a remake of the equally popular 1960 film of the same name by Jean-Luc Godard (who was once one of the filmmaker's idols before he criticized Pulp Fiction).

Breathless tells the story of the forbidden love between a petty criminal and an architecture student, and contains all of Tarantino's 'obsessions – comic books, rockabilly music and movies.'

2. Manhunter (Michael Mann, 1986)

IMDb rating: 7.2/10

Another of Tarantino's favorites is Michael Mann's thriller Manhunter, the first film adaptation of the Hannibal Lecter novels by Thomas Harris. Starring William Petersen, the film tells the story of a former FBI criminal profiler who returns to work to hunt down a dangerous serial killer, but as events unfold, the difference between cop and criminal begins to blur.

Manhunter is unique for its visual style, which influenced the filmmaker's own cinematography.

3. 8 Million Ways to Die (Hal Ashby, 1986)

IMDb rating: 5.7/10

Quentin is one of the modern masters of the thriller, and that is evident in this list of 80's movies. Starring Jeff Bridges, Rosanna Arquette and Andy Garcia, 8 Million Ways to Die tells the story of a former sheriff's deputy who tries to stop a drug ring and human trafficking crimes being covered up by a private gambling club.

4. Flesh and Blood (Paul Verhoeven, 1985)

IMDb rating: 6.7/10

Flesh and Blood is an epic historical movie that does not shy away from the brutality and immorality of its time. Italy, 1501, a group of mercenaries are betrayed by the lord who hired them. The mercenaries, led by Rutger Hauer's character, intend to take revenge by kidnapping the lord's beloved son.

5. Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987)

IMDb rating: 6.9/10

If anything influenced Tarantino's love of wild genre mashups, it's Near Dark, a neo-Western horror that follows a regular Midwestern guy who gets mixed up with Southern vampires who roam across America in stolen cars.

6. Year of the Dragon (Michael Cimino, 1985)

IMDb rating: 6.8/10

His love of orientalist motifs in his films was influenced not only by Kurosawa, but also by the obsession of 80s American pop culture with such things. Year of the Dragon follows a detective played by Mickey Rourke as he tries to stop the criminal activities of the Chinese Triads in New York City.

Source: The Joe Rogan Experience, The Quentin Tarantino Archives.