Culture / Entertainment

All the ’80s Movies I Made My Teenager Watch During the Coronavirus Social Distancing

Which Films Stood Up and Which Classics Flopped

BY // 06.10.20

My 14-year-old son usually has a busier schedule than I do. Baseball practice, baseball games, study groups, after school meetings, sleepovers, video game tournaments at friends’ houses, etc, etc, etc. . . It became a sometimes seemingly endless list, requiring plenty of shuttling about.

The coronavirus pandemic changed all that and presented one great opportunity — a chance to educate him on ’80s movies. The best movies rightly ever made, of course. There is just something about a good ’80s flick that vaults them into a whole other category.

I already do most of my TV watching with my son. Shows like Upload (very underrated and worthy of watch beyond its Greg Daniels parentage), Homecoming (it’s hard to beat a Sam Esmail conspiracy even without Julia Roberts and the criminally underrated Shea Whigham in Season 2) and Westworld Season 3 (my son enjoys it — I’m still not sure how many Doloreses there are or what timeline we’re on now). But coronavirus stay-at-home constraints provided a rare chance to stray from current TV to the most important genre of movies ever. ’80s movies of course.

Here are all the ’80s movies I’ve forced my teenager to watch during the pandemic:

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Streaming on Netflix

Probably my son’s favorite movie of the entire bunch, Ferris Bueller still holds up remarkably well 34 years after its 1986 release. My son loves to rag on ’80s movies for their outdated technology, but even the glacier aged answering machine in Ferris’ house didn’t bother him that much because it’s so masterfully used in the story. Borrowing the Ferrari, the day game at Wrigley Field, the Von Steuben Day parade scene, the conniving principal, the feeling that your parents are clueless. . . it all still speaks to a teen in 2020.

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Ferris Bueller museum
Ferris Bueller still delights teenagers in 2020 for good reason. Its fun is timeless.

Die Hard

Streaming on HBO

Maybe I gleefully touted this as the second greatest Christmas movie ever made 10 or 15 times too many (only behind A Christmas Story of course), or maybe Mission Impossible — Fallout simply makes ’80s Bruce Willis look impotent by comparison to all but nostalgic dads, but Die Hard turned out to be a surprising near flop. My son thoroughly enjoyed making fun of Die Hard, but he definitely never became drawn into the larger universe of John McClain.

The prospect of watching Die Hard 2 received a hard no.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Streaming on Netflix

Bruce Willis’ loss turned into Harrison Ford’s gain. Raiders of the Lost Ark captivated another generation a good 39 years after the giant boulder chasing Indiana Jones fascinated my elementary school self in a movie theater.

It turns out that Harrison Ford’s wisecracks and whips are timeless. Ford is as cool as many dads tragically mistake themselves for being these days.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
A young Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark still commands imaginations.

Do the Right Thing

Available for rent for $3.99 on Amazon Prime

Spike Lee’s 1989 masterpiece is still just as powerful today (which reflects both the greatness of this movie and society’s failings on fighting systematic racism). My son and I actually sat down to watch Do the Right Thing weeks before George Floyd had the life choked out of him by a Minneapolis police officer on the pavement. We’d watched Spike’s BlacKkKlansman and my 14-year-old became interested in seeing more of Lee’s movies.

Even beyond the underlying themes that resonate with more force than ever, this is an incredible movie and rewatching — or first watching — experience. Everything from the New York pizza banter to Mookie wearing the Jackie Robinson jersey to the stepped on Air Jordans scene to. . . well, almost everything. . . is perfectly done.. Spike Lee didn’t just make one of the most important movies of any time in the late ’80s. He made one of the absolute best.

Do the Right Thing
Spike Lee’s masterpiece, Do the Right Thing, is just as powerful and great today.

Say Anything

Streaming on Hulu

This one surprised me. I absolutely loved this Cameron Crowe classic as a high schooler. But my soon-to-be ninth grader could not really get into it. He felt the John Cusack character was more creepy than charming, raised boombox to the window and all. He didn’t buy that the brilliant valedictorian girl in the movie — Iona Skye as Diane Court — would ever need Lloyd to accompany her to England either. No way she lets Lloyd tag along, he reasoned.

Top Gun

Available for rent for $1.99 on Amazon Prime

Tom Cruise truly may be timeless. Fighter jets definitely are when it comes to teenagers who like cool things. I probably never get my son to watch Top Gun if we hadn’t seen the trailers for Top Gun 2 (aka Top Gun: Maverick) back when going to the movies in a theater required no second thought. But buzzing the flight tower, riding a motorcycle with Kelly McGillis and bantering with Val Kilmer’s Iceman still make for a highly enjoyable watch in 2020.

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