Best 80s Movies on Netflix Right Now (November 2022)

by Susan Ryant

Grab yourself a New Coke, throw on your brightest leg warmers, and travel back to the future with a home entertainment system that, like, beams in movies from, like, outer space or something. It’s called “Netflix,” and it’s, like, a video store in the cloud. Far out, right?

If you’re finding yourself scrolling through Netflix in need of a retro fix — or if you’re a big Stranger Things stan and want to see some of its influences — we’ve got you covered on some of the greatest movies available to stream from the decade. Strap yourself in and enjoy the best 80s movies on Netflix.

For more recommendations, check out our list of the best 90s and 2000s movies on the platform.

Editor's note: This article was updated November 2022 to include Road House, The Color Purple, Risky Business, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Labyrinth.

She's Gotta Have It (1986)

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Run Time: 1 hr 24 min | Genre: Black-and-White Comedy Drama | Director: Spike Lee

Cast: Tracy Camilla Johns, Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell, Spike Lee, Raye Dowell

She’s Gotta Have It is the fascinating debut of Spike Lee ’s singular filmmaking voice. A black-and-white dissection of sexual identity, the patriarchy, slut-shaming, and the undue pressures put on black women. It features a terrific lead performance from Tracy Camilla Johns, a stunning deconstruction of male-crafted “Hollywood endings,” and a worldview so ahead of its time in 1986 that it was readapted for a two-season Netflix show in 2017. It also -- and here I will give a content warning for sexual assault -- features the worst scene Lee has ever committed to celluloid: and those are his words, not mine. At one point in the narrative, one of the three male suitors desperate to lock Nola (Johns) down into a form of oppressive monogamy, the most performatively “nice” of the three, rapes her.

Lee, speaking to Deadline, had this to say about this scene: “If I was able to have any do-overs, that would be it. It was just totally…stupid. I was immature. It made light of rape, and that’s the one thing I would take back. I was immature and I hate that I did not view rape as the vile act that it is. I can promise you, there will be nothing like that in She’s Gotta Have It, the TV show, that’s for sure.” If you’re willing to contextualize this depiction as an artifact of the shortcomings of historical perspectives, or even read it as being in dialogue with the rest of the film’s chaotic renderings of progressive ideals (i.e. monogamy can never work under our patriarchy because of horrible senses of entitlement and trauma like this), She’s Gotta Have It remains an alive arrival of a lively filmmaker. — Gregory Lawrence

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When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When harry met sally

Run Time: 1 hr 36 min | Genre: Romantic Comedy | Director: Rob Reiner

Cast: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby

When Harry Met Sally is an iconic ‘80s rom-com for a reason. Set over 12 years, this movie follows the relationship of Sally Albright ( Meg Ryan ) and Harry Burns ( Billy Crystal ) as they meet, reconnect, become friends, and eventually fall in love. They start loathing each other as they drive from Chicago to New York City together after their college graduation, hoping to never see the other person again once they arrive at their destination. Harry is dating Sally’s best friend, and they soon realize that they have nothing more in common. But as the universe continues to bring them together in unexpected ways over the years, they develop a deep friendship and understanding of each other that leads to something more. The chemistry between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal helps their enemies-to-friends-to-lovers journey feel real and keeps you invested in their relationship from beginning to end. Even though the fashion is clearly from the ‘80s, Harry and Sally’s story feels timeless. - Brynna Arens

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Labyrinth (1986)labyrinth Run Time : 1 hr 41 min | Genre : Musical Fantasy | Director : Jim Henson

Cast: Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie, Brian Henson, Frank Oz

There aren't many movies in any genre more bursting with imagination than Labyrinth , Jim Henson's high fantasy puppetry extravaganza. Sixteen-year-old Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly) is frustrated with watching her baby brother...until the child is carried off by a pack of goblins, led by the Goblin King (David Bowie, just astonishingly iconic in this role). Sarah descends into a jaw-droppingly vibrant maze of monsters and mayhem to find her brother, encountering everything from a helpful dward named Hoggle (Brian Henson) to the Bog of Eternal Stench. Labyrinth is so dang impressive on a technical level that it's a must-watch for pretty much any age, but it's especially an irreplaceable gem as something to show a generation raised on CGI. This movie proves you can actually create magic with your hands. --Vinnie Mancuso

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Steel Magnolias (1989)

steel magnolias Image via Tri-Star Pictures

Run Time: 1 hr 58 min | Genre: Comedy Drama | Director: Herbert Ross

Cast: Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis

Steel Magnolias is a staple of the chick flick genre – and for good reason. A beautician ( Daryl Hannah ) moves to a small town in Louisiana, where she befriends a group of women. Over the years, these six women see each other through the highs and lows of life. The ensemble of powerhouse women rounding out this tight-knit of friends includes Sally Field , Dolly Parton , Shirley MacLaine , Olympia Dukakis, and Julia Roberts ; this film actually helped launch Roberts’ career. Steel Magnolias celebrates the power of female friendship through the melodrama of small-town life, making it a great pick for a movie night with friends. - Meredith Loftus

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Police Academy (1984)

police academy Image via Warner Bros.

Run Time: 1 hr 36 min | Genre: Comedy | Director: Hugh Wilson

Cast: Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall, Bubba Smith, George Gaynes

A film so successful that it spawned six sequels, Police Academy explores what happens when there’s a shortage of police officers and the department is required to take on any recruit – no matter what their skill level. The police chief (George R. Robertson) is so outraged that he vows to make the program as difficult and painful as possible to weed people out. Among this group is Carey (Steve Guttenberg), a criminal who has the option to either go through the program or end up in prison, and Karen ( Kim Cattrall ), another cadet he eventually falls in love with. If you’re in the mood for some crude, slapstick humor, look no further. – Taylor Gates

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Hard Lessons (1986)

hard lessons Image via CBS

Run Time: 1 hr 33 min | Genre: Biography Drama | Director: Eric Laneuville

Cast: Denzel Washington, Lynn Whitfield

Also known as The George McKenna Story , Hard Lessons is another inspiring teacher flick. Denzel Washington stars as the principal of George Washington Preparatory High in South Los Angeles, who attempts to rid the school of gangs, drugs, and violence. Despite its low budget, Hard Lessons is a beautiful movie about a determined principal. Denzel Washington’s grounded and powerful performance sets it apart from other made-for-TV movies of the time. – Taylor Gates

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Road House (1989)

road-house-patrick-swayze Image via United Artists

Run Time: 1 hr 54 min | Genre: Action Thriller | Director: Rowdy Herrington

Cast: Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliott

Patrick Swayze ( Dirty Dancing ) dominates in Road House , a late 80s action thriller about toxic masculinity and unfettered violence. Swayze plays the tough and unencumbered Dalton, a man with expert martial arts training who is summoned to Missouri in hopes of cleaning up The Double Deuce, a sleazy bar preferred by troublemakers. Director Rowdy Herrington lives up to his name in Road House – a film crowded with fist-fights, explosions, and brawls. Although the attempt to include romance and thrills is dramatically overshadowed by the exciting action, Road House attempts to make room for story, along with highlighting Swayze’s undeniable magnetism. – Yael Tygiel

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The Color Purple (1985)

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Run Time: 2 hrs 34 min | Genre: Drama | Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery

The Color Purple , directed by Steven Spielberg , is a coming-of-age period drama written by Menno Meyjes, based on Alice Walker’s raw and profound book. Starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, The Color Purple garnered critical acclaim and 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Goldberg. Speilberg’s approach to The Color Purple is with a delicate touch, especially when handling subject matters such as abuse and sexuality. Although it didn’t win any Academy Awards, The Color Purple is still considered a tremendously groundbreaking film from the last century, even with a modern eye that easily recognizes its flaws. – Yael Tygiel

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Risky Business (1983)

Tom Cruise Risky Business

Run Time: 1 hr 39 min | Genre: Comedy Crime Romance | Director: Paul Brickman

Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano, Curtis Armstrong, Bronson Pinchot

Raunchy comedy Risky Business allowed writer/director Paul Brickman to bring to fruition a handful of pre-teen male fantasies with a story about a mischievous teenager in Chicago left without parental supervision for the weekend. Starring a young Tom Cruise as the responsible and trustworthy Joel and 80s icon Curtis Armstrong ( Revenge of the Nerds ) as his best friend Miles, Risky Business unfolds as Joel’s joyride in his father’s Porsche leads him on a wish-fulfillment adventure featuring hot, street-smart young women. With Brickman at the helm, Risky Business invites audiences on an 80s-style coming-of-age romp. – Yael Tygiel

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National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

National Lampoon's Vacation Image via Warner Bros.

Run Time: 1 hr 38 min | Genre: Road Trip Comedy | Director: Harold Ramis

Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid

Coming from a couple of legends, National Lampoon’s Vacation is brought to life with a script by John Hughes and directed by comedy great Harold Ramis . Starring Chevy Chase ( Community ) as the Griswold patriarch, National Lampoon’s Vacation is the original film in the series and a quintessential road trip film that would go on to influence generations of comedies. Establishing the Griswold family, including matriarch Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), National Lampoon’s Vacation is overflowing with comedy so successful it would produce a handful of sequels, including National Lampoon's European Vacation and the holiday favorite National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation . – Yael Tygiel

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Quiet Victory (1988)

Screen Shot 2022-07-25 at 5.41.44 PM Image via CBS

Run Time: 1 hr 40 min | Genre: Biography Drama | Director: Roy Campanella II

Cast: Pam Dawber, Michael Nouri

Another superior made-for-TV movie affair is Quiet Victory: The Charlie Wedemeyer Story , which follows a high school teacher and football coach who refuses to give up after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. Though he’s only given a year to live, Charlie (Michael Nouri) continues coaching the team, as he’s determined to help them win their first championship. Quiet Victory is definitely a tear-jerker and a great addition to the sports movie genre. – Taylor Gates

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