Looking Through Time: 1985 Movies

Story posted October 16, 2020 in

The CommRadio Arts & Entertainment staff revisits some of the most influential films of 1985.

“The Breakfast Club”

“The Breakfast Club” is a renowned 1985 film filled with a dramatic and comedic story about spiteful high schoolers' friendships, love, hate, guilt and truths. Memorable actors including Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy collaborated to create one of the best movies of the ‘80s. 

This John Hughes film is credited to be his most recognizable piece of work out of the nearly 40 films he directed.

Just as hundreds of other movies left their mark on history, “The Breakfast Club” left its audience with a closing scene of Nelson, as John Bender, walking out of detention to Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” for a spectacular and monumental ending that no one has forgotten.

For its time, “The Breakfast Club” was the ultimate teen movie and a masterpiece for the screen in the 80s. The realistic high school experience, isolation between friend groups and slow bonding stood out to teenagers, which led to a perfect movie of the year.

The relatable aspect of “The Breakfast Club” was not all that led to its success. Although the film was comedy filled, there was still room left for serious situations.

The truthful scene of the teens sitting on the floor of the library expressing their truths, which was primarily improvised, made for a dramatic, realistic and on the edge of your seat scene that drew the audience’s attention.

“The Breakfast Club” is still a well-known nickname for Saturday detentions across the country in modern day. Nowadays, children and teenagers who did not grow up with this movie acknowledge its significance in history and recognize its groundbreaking contribution and evolution to the film industry in the ‘80s. — Savannah Scarborough

“Return of the Living Dead”

Although the ‘80s had a slew of iconic horror films, one that deserves to be watched is the punk zombie cult film “Return of the Living Dead.”

A sequel to the 1968 zombie film that started it all, “Night of the Living Dead” provides viewers with all the wild practical effects and classic campy horror B-movie thrills they could ever need.

A dramatic shift from its predecessor, this film attempted to appeal to a younger audience base and elicited help from a soundtrack composed of punk bands such as The Cramps in order to achieve their mission.

“Return of the Living Dead” was a watershed moment for the zombie narrative. This film includes the first instance of zombies wanting to eat brains, a fairly consistent staple of the genre ever since.

The zombies speak and are actually strategic in how they attack people too. They are also no longer just aimlessly strolling around, they are running and they are competent.

Another interesting distinction is that the zombies can not be killed once they are reanimated. This leads to an extreme and dynamic battle between humanity and the dead that quickly spirals out of control.

Although the film rarely takes itself seriously, it was actually a massive stepping stone for the emerging horror comedy genre. This film showcased how a horror film can deliver memorable laughs and thrilling action while consistently fulfilling its mission to evoke comedic tension.

A perfect movie to watch for any Halloween party with friends, this cult classic never disappoints. — Scott Perdue

“Back to the Future”

Even though this is a list of the most influential movies from 1985, it’s safe to say “Back to the Future” would’ve been a shoo-in for this list if it were to encompass the 1980s in general.

The number one grossing film of the year, and arguably the most enduring, “Back to the Future” has been able to withstand the test of time and is still so beloved by a variety of cinema viewers, many of whom were born well after the film’s release.

Released at a time when the highest grossing comedies often appealed to more adult humor, “Back to the Future” was a comedy that had something for everyone. Kids could find themselves hooked into the storyline, full of 50s references that connected with adults.

Even with a great screenplay, original concept and special effects that were unparalleled at the time, the film would be nowhere near where it is today without the acting performances delivered in the film.

Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd seem to be born to play the roles of Marty and Doc. The two have such great chemistry that the idea of a friendship between a teenager and an older mad scientist doesn’t raise any questions among the viewer.  

So what exactly elevated “Back to the Future” into becoming the quintessential film of the 1980’s?

Was it the refreshing script that felt innocuous compared to previous high grossing comedies such as “Animal House” and “Porky’s?” Or was it the effects that amazed in the ‘80s and still hold up today? Could it be Fox’s likability that brought Marty to life and impossible to root against?

Sometimes, the questions to what makes a movie so great and enduring are unimportant. For truly great films, such as “Back to the Future,” the specifics don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

What does matter is the emotion and joy it brings out in the viewer, and “Back to the Future” is just like a ride in the DeLorean. It’s flashy and it goes fast, so buckle up and enjoy the ride. — Paul Martin

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun”

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is a spunky, musical comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt and Lee Montgomery.

Directed by Chuck Russel, the film was inspired by Cyndi Lauper’s hit song “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” However, Lauper said she did not want to be featured in the film or have her original version of the song used — awkward.

This film is a classic ‘80s teenage romcom and represents the innocent Catholic schoolgirl who meets crazy public schoolboy stereotypes. It is filled with adventure, practical jokes and revenge. It has a “Footloose,” “Dirty Dancing” and “Saturday Night Fever” feel all captured all in one movie.

The story follows Janey Glenn, a talented shy dancer who moves to Chicago with her family due to her father's job. She has aspirations to become a professional dancer on television, but a strict Army colonel father who does not support her ambitions. She meets a couple of new friends who help her along the way and disobey her father for the first time in her life.

The colorful hues, rad outfits and big updo hairstyles exemplify what it means to grow up in the prime of the ‘80s.

This cult flick still attracts an audience today. — Courtney McGinley

“The Goonies”

“The Goonies” perfectly emulates the spirit of adventure movies that were so popular in the 1980s. With a mix of comedy, romance, action and adventure, there’s something that everyone can enjoy in this cult classic.

The film is centered around a rag-tag group of kids living in a small town in Oregon. After learning that one of their homes is facing foreclosure, they discover a treasure map that leads them to a legendary pirate’s fortune.

They are also chased by a band of criminals who also want the treasure. Along the way, the kids’ friendships grow closer and, as cheesy as it is, they realize the true treasure was each other all along.

Released in June 1985, “The Goonies” grossed $9 million in the U.S. during its opening weekend alone. It was second on the charts that weekend, behind “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” However, “The Goonies” ended up being the ninth highest grossing film of 1985, earning more than $61 million in North America that year.

This film also launched the careers of many young stars. The lineup includes Sean Astin as Mikey, Josh Brolin as his brother Brand, Jeff Cohen as Chunk, Corey Feldman as Mouth, Kerri Green as Andy, Martha Plimpton as Stef and Ke Huy Quan as Data.

The story of “The Goonies,” created by the legendary Steven Spielberg, is one that many generations can enjoy. The soundtrack is uplifting and fun, mirroring the adventurous tone of the film. The cinematography is very well done, depicting the group’s adventures in a creative way throughout the film.

“The Goonies” has a cult following and is remembered fondly by many 80s kids, as well as those from other generations. The film was even selected for the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2017 due to its cultural significance. — Sarah Simpson

“Rambo: First Blood Part II”

1985 was a fantastic year for movies, with one among them being the classic “Rambo: First Blood Part II.”

Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film was a major worldwide blockbuster, selling an estimated 42 million tickets sold in the US alone. It has become quite a symbol for the series as well, being considered one of the more memorable installments in the “Rambo” series.

The film depicts Rambo’s return to Vietnam after the war to investigate the possibility of existing American POWs being held in spite of the war being over. With orders to survey and not rescue, Rambo disobeys them almost right away by saving a soldier left to suffer.

With enemies on every side, and no chance of American extraction, the movie sets itself up to be a thrilling tale of Rambo’s heroism.

As Sylvestor Stallone’s second installment in one of his most popular series of works, the movie is everything the audience expected it to be. The action cemented Rambo’s place in the halls of action heroes in spite of critics calling him no more than a muscled berzerker in this installment.

No matter how the audience interprets this film and development choices, fans of the idea of a classic action movie should all agree that “Rambo: First Blood Part II” is a perfect representation of what an action film should be.

Without a doubt, Rambo, as a character, has remained popular even today. “Rambo: Last Blood” was released in 2019 and is believed to be the last of the Rambo series. The character has also seen his fair share of comics, video games, and television.

As a recent testament to the sheer popularity of the classic character, John Rambo will be featured as a guest character  in the fighting game “Mortal Kombat 11.” — Colton Pleslusky


Chevy Chase stars in the 1985 adaption of Gregory Mcdonald’s book series, “Fletch.”

Directed by Michael Ritchie, the film is centered around Chase playing Irwin M. “Fletch” Fletcher, an investigative journalist for a Los Angeles newspaper.

While posing as a junkie at the beach to investigate the recent drug trafficking problem, Fletch is offered thousands of dollars to kill a millionaire, Alan Stanwyk, with terminal cancer so his wife can collect the insurance money. Taking a break from the drug investigation, Fletch grows suspicious and decides to look into Stanwyk’s case.

While investigating, Fletch dresses up in several different costumes and pseudonyms as a doctor, plane mechanic, and more. He can’t help but find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Fletch does a great job of balancing the comedy and mystery, which keeps audiences entertained throughout the entire duration of the film. The tone is slightly darker than Chase’s other films, which allow the audience to take it more seriously.

Chase is perfect for this role as his relaxed, smart-a-- temperament is hilarious and he delivers several memorable one-liners as well. 

The ending ties the whole story well together, and themes of injustice and wealth disparity will leave viewers with several takeaways — both serious and comedic.

The movie received mostly positive reviews with some reviewers having mixed feelings. Unfortunately, “Fletch” was overshadowed in both Chevy Chase’s discography, and 1985 with movies such as “Back to the Future” and “The Breakfast Club” becoming blockbuster hits.

Fletch certified Chevy Chase as one of the best comedic actors of the decade and the film serves as a classic to this day. It is fun, quotable, meaningful and easily one of the best pictures of the year. — Caelan Chevrier


Savannah Scarborough is a freshman majoring in Digital Media and Journalism. To contact her, email at svs6992@psu.edu.  

Scott Perdue is a senior majoring in secondary education. To contact him, email rsp5246@psu.edu.

Paul Martin is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email at phm5095@psu.edu

Courtney McGinley is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email cbm5861@psu.edu

Sarah Simpson is a junior majoring in film-video. To contact her, email sus816@psu.edu.

Colton Pleslusky is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email csp5289@psu.edu.

Caelan Chevrier is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email cjc6789@psu.edu.

About the Contributors

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Scott Perdue

Senior / Secondary Education

Scott Perdue is a student studying secondary education at Penn State University. He is passionate about voice and conversation mediums. He believes that music and film are an important form of communication and enjoys constructively criticizing an artist’s work.

Colton Pleslusky's photo

Colton Pleslusky

Fourth-Year / Telecommunications

Colton S. Pleslusky is a fourth-year from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania majoring in telecommunications at Penn State. He is a director and writer for the CommRadio Arts & Entertainment Department as well as the host on Nittany Stories and a co-host on Nittany Record Club alongside Emily McGlynn. He does behind the scenes tasks, including directing, producing, programming and more for the Centre County Report. To contact him, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Paul Martin's photo

Paul Martin


Courtney McGinley's photo

Courtney McGinley

Sophomore /

Courtney McGinley is a Sophomore from Pittsburgh, PA, and is majoring in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Business. She serves as a News Reporter for CommRadio. In addition to CommRadio, she is a Field Reporter for PSNtv and an Entertainment Reporter for the Nittany Lion Red Carpet Network. Her twitter handle is @court_mcginley.

Savannah Scarborough's photo

Savannah Scarborough

Freshman / Digital Media and Journalism

Sarah Simpson's photo

Sarah Simpson

Senior / Film-Video

Sarah Simpson is a senior from Irwin, Pennsylvania majoring in film-video, and minoring in Journalism and Spanish at Penn State. She is a member of Centre County Report. She is also the president of Penn State Network Television (PSNtv), Penn State’s student-run television network, as well as the director for PSNtv’s weekly news broadcast PSN News. She has interned with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as a photo/video intern and Penn State Athletics as a live video production intern. If you’d like to contact her, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Caelan Chevrier's photo

Caelan Chevrier

Third Year / Marketing & Journalism

Caelan Chevrier is a third-year student in the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University studying marketing and broadcast journalism with the goal of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in four years. His career goal is to spread informative, meaningful, and entertaining content across various platforms and to be a positive impact on the community. He has also spent time working at WWE in the communications department and writing for The Westport Local Press in his hometown of Westport, CT. If you’d like to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).