Classic Science Fiction Movies

1980s Science Fiction

The 1980s continued the trend of more emphasis on Earth-based, "future life" science fiction movies. The only significant exceptions to this trend were the "Star Trek" series (1980 onwards), "Flash Gordon" (1980), "Outland" (1981), "Dune" (1984), and "The Last Starfighter" (1984). A new trend in this decade was an increasing amount of reliance on "action-adventure" plots with a coincidental "science fiction" setting. Among the more prominent of these were "Outland" (1981), "Blade Runner" (1982), "The Terminator" (1984), and "The Abyss" (1989). I'll have more to say on this topic in the 1990s directory. Again I was unable to cut my list down to only ten, so, I present my "Top 15" science fiction movies of the 1980s.

Movie Clip

Final Countdown
(1980 - 104 min) ****

Plot: A modern-day aircraft carrier is time-warped to the night before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and is given the opportunity to stop the attack before it happens. (Based on the novel by Martin Caidin.)

Kirk Douglas
Martin Sheen
Katharine Ross
James Farentino
Charles Durning
Directed by Don Taylor

Movie Clip

Flash Gordon
(1980 - 111 min) ***

Plot: Campy remake of the classic 1930's serial starring Buster Crabbe in the title role. The evil Emperor Ming wages instellar war on Flash and his friends.

Sam Jones
Melody Anderson
Max von Sydow
Omella Muti
Brian Blessed
Timothy Dalton
Directed by Mike Hodges

Movie Clip

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
(1980 - 145 min) ***

Plot: The Federation Starship "Enterprise" goes to investigate a powerful alien machine that is approaching Earth with possible deadly intent.

William Shatner
Leonard Nimoy
DeForest Kelly
James Doohan
George Takei
Walter Koenig
Nichelle Nichols
Stephen Collins
Persis Khambatta
Directed by Robert Wise


  • ST II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982 - 113 min) *****
  • ST III: The Seach for Spock (1984 - 105 min) ****
  • ST IV: The Voyage Home (1986 - 119 min) *****
  • ST V: The Final Frontier (1989 - 106 min) ***
  • ST VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991 - 109 min) ****
  • ST: Generations (1994 - 118 min) ***
  • ST: First Contact (1996 - 110 min) *****
  • ST: Insurrection (1998 - 103 min) ***
  • ST: Nemesis (2002 - 116 min) ****


  • Star Trek (2009 - 127 min) *****

    Movie Clip

    (1981 - 110 min) ***

    Plot: A future law officer uncovers a criminal conspiracy at a mining colony on one of Jupiter's moons.

    Sean Connery
    Peter Boyle
    Frances Sternhagen
    James Sikking
    Directed by Peter Hyams

    Movie Clip

    Blade Runner
    (1982 - 122 min) ***

    Plot: A 21st Century lawman tracks down superhuman androids who escaped enslavement. (Based on the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick.)

    Harrison Ford
    Rutger Hauer
    Sean Young
    Edward James Olmos
    Daryl Hannah
    Directed by Ridley Scott

    Movie Clip

    E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial
    (1982 - 115 min) *****

    Plot: A cute alien lands near a suburban community and is befriended by a boy who helps him "phone home."

    Dee Wallace Stone
    Henry Thomas
    Peter Coyote
    Drew Barrymore
    Directed by Steven Spielberg

    Movie Clip

    (1982 - 95 min) ****

    Plot: A computer jock finds himself trapped in a world inside a computer where he faces a life-and-death arcade game for his life. (One of the first and most extensive uses of computer animation combined with live-action.)

    Jeff Bridges
    Bruce Boxlietner
    David Warner
    Directed by Steven Lisberger


  • Tron: Legacy (2010 - 126 min) ****

    Movie Clip

    Twilight Zone: The Movie
    (1983 - 101 min) ***

    Plot: Remakes of a trio of classic episodes from the "Twilight Zone" TV series.

    Vic Morrow (killed during filming)
    Scatman Crothers
    Kevin McCarthy
    John Lithgow
    Directed by John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, George Miller

    Movie Clip

    War Games
    (1983 - 100 min) **

    Plot: A variation of "Fail-Safe" about a computer wiz-kid who hacks into a military early warning system computer and almost starts World War III.

    Metthew Broderick
    Dabney Coleman
    John Wood
    Ally Sheedy
    Barry Corbin
    Directed by John Badham

    Movie Clip

    (1984 - 140 min) *

    Plot: In the distant future a battle rages over control of an important desert planet. (Based on the novel by Frank Herbert.)

    Kyle McLachlan
    Francesca Annis
    Brad Dourif
    Jose Ferrer
    Linda Hunt
    Max von Sydow
    Patrick Stewart
    And many others
    Directed by David Lynch

    Movie Clip

    The Last Starfighter
    (1984 - 100 min) ****

    Plot: A teenager is recruited via his skills at an arcade game to fight real-life space battles in a distant galaxy. (All the spaceships are computer generated -- no miniature models.)

    Lance Guest
    Robert Preston
    Dan O'Herlihy
    Catherine Mary Stewart
    Directed by Nick Castle

    Movie Clip

    (1984 - 115 min) ****

    Plot: A grieving widow is visited by an extraterrestrial who assumes the form of her dead husband, and an unusual romance grows.

    Jeff Bridges
    Karen Allen
    Charles Martin Smith
    Richard Jaeckel
    Directed by John Carpenter

    Movie Clip

    (1984 - 108 min) ****

    Plot: A cyborg is sent from the future to kill a seemingly innocent woman who has an impact on the future.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger
    Linda Hamilton
    Paul Winfield
    Directed by James Cameron


  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991 - 136 min) ****
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003 - 109 min) ***
  • Terminator: Salvation (2009 - 115 min) ***

    Movie Clip

    Space Camp
    (1986 - 115 min) ***

    Plot: An unlikely accident results in a group of Space Camp cadets lifting off in the space shuttle and having to think their way back home safely.

    Kate Capshaw
    Lea Thompson
    Kelly Preston
    Larry B. Scott
    Leaf Phoenix
    Tate Donovan
    Tom Skerritt
    Directed by Harry Winer

    Movie Clip

    The Abyss
    (1989 - 140 min) ****

    Plot: A crew of deep sea oil-well riggers attempt to rescue a sunken nuclear submarine and unexpectedly encounters an undersea extraterrestrial civilization.

    Ed Harris
    Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
    Michael Biehn
    Leo Burmester
    Todd Graff
    Chris Elliott
    Directed by James Cameron

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    Last Updated: July 26, 2011