The decade of the 1980s in Western cinema saw the return of studio-driven pictures, coming from the filmmaker-driven New Hollywood era of the 1970s. The period was when "high concept" films gained popularity, where movies were to be easily marketable and understandable, and, therefore, they had short cinematic plots that could be summarized in one or two sentences. The modern Hollywood blockbuster is the most popular film format from the 1980s. Producer Don Simpson is usually credited with the creation of the high-concept picture of the modern Hollywood blockbuster.
The decade also saw an increased amount of nudity in film and the increasing emphasis in the American industry on film franchises, especially in the science fiction, horror and action genres. Much of the reliance on these effect-driven blockbusters was due in part to the Star Wars films at the advent of this decade and the new cinematic effects it helped to pioneer. The teen comedy subgenre also rose in popularity during this decade.
In the US, the PG-13 rating was introduced in 1984 to accommodate films that straddled the line between PG and R, which was mainly due to the controversies surrounding the violent content of the PG films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins (both 1984).
Some have considered the 1980s in retrospect as one of the weaker decades for American cinema in terms of the qualities of the films released. Quentin Tarantino (director of Pulp Fiction) has voiced his own view that the 1980s was one of the worst eras for American films. Film critic Kent Jones also shares this opinion. However, film theorist David Bordwell countered this notion, saying that the "megapicture mentality" was already existent in the 1970s, which is evident in the ten highest-grossing films of that decade, as well as with how many of the filmmakers part of New Hollywood were still able to direct many great pictures in the 1980s (Martin Scorsese, Brian de Palma, etc.).
The following are the 10 top-grossing films of the decade:
In the list, where revenues are equal numbers, the newer films are listed lower, due to inflation making the dollar-amount lower compared to earlier years.
The films of the 1980s covered many genres, with hybrids crossing between multiple genres. The trend strengthened towards creating ever-larger blockbuster films, which earned more in their opening weeks than any previous film, due in part to staging releases when audiences had little else to choose.
Blockbusters: The decade started by continuing the blockbuster boom of the mid-1970s. The sequel to 1977'sStar Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, opened in May, 1980 becoming the highest-grossing film of the year. The film is considered among the best of films of the decade (being the highest rated 1980s film on IMDb). It was followed by Return of the Jedi (1983) finishing the trio. Superman II was released in Europe and Australia in late 1980 but not distributed in the United States until June 1981. Though now seen as campier over the original 1978Superman, Superman II was received with a positive reaction. From the success of The Empire Strikes Back, creator George Lucas teamed up with director Steven Spielberg to create one of the most iconic characters in the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark starring Harrison Ford, who had also co-starred in The Empire Strikes Back. The story about an archaeologist and adventurer, Indiana Jones (Ford), hired by the U.S. government to go on a quest for the mystical lost Ark of the Covenant, created waves of interest in old 1930s style cliffhanger serials. It became the highest-grossing film of 1981, leading to sequels all in the top-10 films of the decade. In 1982, Spielberg directed his family, fairy-tale science-fiction blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which shattered all records, earning 40% more than any Star-Wars film, and double or triple the revenue of 46 of the top 50 films.
Thriller: The 1980s saw an immense amount of thriller films, many being of an erotic nature, including Fatal Attraction (1987) and Body Heat (1981). Perhaps two of the most influential examples of 80s thriller films were David Lynch's bizarre cult classicBlue Velvet (1986), which dealt with the underworld of a seemingly idyllic American suburbia, a subject which has spawned many inferior imitations well into the first decade of the 21st century and Stanley Kubrick's horror/thriller The Shining (1980). Outside of film, Michael Jackson was inspired by the genre to create the extremely successful album Thriller in 1983.
^Ebert, Roger; Bordwell, David (2008). Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert (Paperback ed.). Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. p. xvii. ISBN978-0226182018. Retrieved 2016. In his pluralism, [Roger] Ebert proved a more authentic cinephile than many of his contemporaries. They tied their fortunes to the Film Brats and then suffered the inevitable disappointments of the 1980's return to studio-driven pictures.
^Fleming, Charles (1998). High concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood culture of excess. Doubleday. ISBN978-0-385-48694-1.