Retrocon 2024

5 Popular Movie Genres in the '80s

The '80s marked the beginning of a "golden age" for Hollywood, with studios focusing on high budgets and big-name stars. The idea was to create captivating and profitable blockbusters likely to draw in a large audience.

The beauty of it all was that the technology explosion enabled greater diversity in film genres. As a result, several of these films went on to become some of the biggest blockbusters in history. Below are some of the most famous movie genres in the '80s that took the film industry by storm.

AleXovit, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Teen Movies

These films often became very popular with audiences by taking a lighthearted and comedic approach to serious subjects. The character of Ferris Bueller, from the 1986 film of the same name, is a famous example. Here, the topic revolves around high school life through the eyes of teenagers. Another well-known example is Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Although these films were often comedic, they also became a way to show the growing cynicism of teenagers at the time.

Unfortunately, teens in this era tended to favor more dramatic stories. With the introduction of VCRs into many homes, teens could watch movies at home for the first time. Movie rental stores thrived during this period which explains why the genre largely died out in the late 90s as the teen audience shifted to other captivating genres.


Several popular films featuring gambling such as Color of Money and Rain Man were released in the '80s and the trend would continue into the '90s where gambling movies became extremely popular. The release of hugely successful films like Honeymoon in VegasMaverick and Casino led to other successful gambling films like Vegas Vacation and Rounders.

You may realize that these films often take place in Las Vegas and involve themes such as organized crime and heists. That is because the casino business spread its wings immensely in Las Vegas around the 1970s. Various aspects of gambling culture also spread to other corners of the world.

The silver lining is that some of the most successful modern slot games themes date back to pop culture. On that account, it is pretty nostalgic for gamblers who lived in the era to place their bets on a slot game that jots their memory. It is no doubt that betting at reputable sites like RapidCasino allows players to sample the exciting pop culture thanks to their broad diversification of games linked to the period.

Rodrigo Paredes from Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Slasher Horror Movies

The 1980s saw the rise of new movie genres, with "slasher" horror movies rising to popularity. On the heels of Halloween (1978), movies like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street all became significant hits in the genre and spawned many sequels. Some of these first-run films were so scary that mainstream audiences hadn't seen anything like this before. The unique aspect of these movies was their use of violence and gore to shock the audience.

The trend of increasing violence continued steadily throughout the decade. These new trends led Hollywood directors to produce increasingly violent movies, which some argue helped spark several high-profile tragedies in American culture. The most notable of these was the Columbine High School massacre — two students staged an attack on their school, killing 13 people and injuring 24 others. The massacre was blamed partly on the teenagers' obsession with violence in movies, which psychologists say led them to believe killing would bring them fame and recognition.

Sci-fi Films (Science Fiction)

Sci-fi movies were some of the most popular films at the time. They often had special effects that amazed audiences and kept them on the edge of their seats. Indisputably, producers used a tremendous amount of money on these effects. One of the most influential sci-fi movies was Star Wars (1977) which was the highest-grossing film in history up until that point. It made use of many special effects, including models, wirework, and blue screen technology.

Star Wars and its sequels in the '80s featured state-of-the-art specials effects for lasers, lightsabers, and planets that made the films even more realistic. Other popular sci-fi movies in the era include: Back to the Future (1985), Aliens (1986), and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).

Action Films

The action movies revolved around five iconic actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris and Bruce Willis. All five actors were involved in several films that feature similar themes, such as war and escape. They often fight for their lives to overcome the enemy and end up being victorious.

Some of the biggest action movies ever made were in the '80s like The Terminator and Predator and remain one of the most common genres of cinema today.

Bottom Line

While all these genres become increasingly popular over time, it is essential to remember that not all became immediately successful. In reality, some did not break into the mainstream until much later for various reasons. All said and done; the film industry witnessed one of its massive growths in the 1980s. Without a doubt, the huge progression in the era gave birth to modern film entertainment we enjoy now.

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