The Best 1980s Content on Disney+
From the Princess Bride to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; Disney+ is a great place for fans of the 80s
Disney+ is really changing the way stories can be told.
We of course will still want to go to the theatre to see the big releases, but it’s also nice to know you can watch them at home and pause to go to the bathroom.
But what I love is that franchises like the MCU and Star Wars can expand their storytelling through Disney+. They can connect more of the worlds together, and we don’t have to wait for a theatrical release.
So not only is the original programming at a whole other level on Disney+, their throwback stuff is really great, too. Especially if you love the 1980s.
I’m going to focus on mainly live-action stuff and not the cartoons that came out in the decade.
P.S.: The content can always change, but here’s a list of the best 80s content I’ve dug up as of the time of writing this.
BIG is the movie that I feel really launched Tom Hanks into the full mainstream. BIG is another classic coming of age story about a kid who wished he could be a grownup.
This simple premise is pretty timeless and could have worked well in any era.
I’m kind of surprised we haven’t had a remake or reboot of this yet.
BIG came out in 1988 and was an instant hit. The piano dancing scene quickly became one of the most iconic in movie history.
Made on an $18 million budget, BIG pulled in a pretty astounding $151 million dollars. Converted for today, that’s about $340 million, which is pretty massive for a comedy.
2. Flight of the Navigator
The beloved 1986 film always felt a bit more like Back to the Future than a Disney-style movie.
That’s because Disney had nothing to do with it.
A Norwegian company that ended up going bankrupt produced Flight of the Navigator. Disney then stepped in to distribute the film.
The premise is still awesome: an alien spacecraft kidnaps a 12-year-old boy and drops him off years later. Everyone around young David has aged-but he hasn’t. He then has to risk going back to his original home.
Flight of the Navigator made great use of a very early CGI and also had Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman cameo (uncredited) as the voice of MAX.
I’ve got a full blog that goes into way more detail about this incredible movie here.
3. Wall Street
Never forget: “Greed is good.”
These were the famous words spoken by Gordon Gekko. Wall Street is a movie about greed, power, and the changing nature of stocks and investing in the 1980s.
They set the movie during a time of the insider-trading scandal, and it deals with that very hot-button at the time issue.
I love Wall Street and still watch it all the time. Some of it is much cheesier than you may remember, and some of the dialogue is eye-rolling.
When Wall Street came out in 1987, it became a massive influence on many future investors, and a new generation dreamed of becoming Gordon Gekko.
4. The Ewoks Cartoon
I’m not going to include the original Star Wars trilogy as everyone is already aware of its existence on Disney+.
I also see Star Wars more of a timeless series than a 1980s-specific one.
But these next few entries will all be Star Wars-based. Disney+ has very quietly rolled out a new category called “Star Wars Vintage,” and it’s got some pretty stellar content on it if you like the 80s and the work of George Lucas.
First up is the epic Ewoks cartoon. I’m curious why they didn’t put up the equally great “Droids” cartoon — but we can’t always get what we want.
The Ewoks cartoon came out in 1985 and ran for two seasons. It also features one of the most well-known cartoon intro theme songs ever.
5. Ewoks: Caravan of Courage
These next two entries were a big deal to me when they first came out. The live-action, made-for-TV Ewok movies were the first real-life Star Wars content we got that wasn’t in theatres.
Well, except for one other entry which we’ll get to in a moment…
There was a ton of hype for these specials when they were announced, and I remember planning weeks ahead to watch it.
It was also amazing because this was new Star Wars content that was on during prime time. It also featured the Ewoks, which were a massive hit after Return of the Jedi.
Caravan of Courage was up first and came out in 1984. A family crashes onto the forest moon of Endor, and the two kids get separated from their parents.
The rest of the 90 minutes is them trying to reunite with them while traveling with the Ewoks.
This was a bit too much for younger viewers, and I recall it being a little disturbing.
If you go back and watch it now, it doesn’t hold up super well. But you have to put yourself into the shoes of a little Star Wars crazed kid in the 80s to know how great it was.
6. Ewoks: Battle for Endor
Battle for Endor came out in 1985 and is based around Wicket — the most popular Ewok. Actually, I think he’s the only one whose name we actually knew.
Battle for Endor is much more in the fantasy realm, and the story involves Wicket and Cindel having to escape the evil Marauders. We meet some new characters including Noa and Teek.
I’m still not sure If I ever got over hearing an Ewok speak English…
7. The Story of the Faithful Wookiee
If you’ve never heard of the “Star Wars Holiday Special,” then we have a lot of ground to cover.
This was the first attempt by George Lucas to put free Star Wars content on TV in between movies.
The Star Wars Holiday Special came out in 1978 and was a way for George Lucas to continue to capitalize on the popularity of “A New Hope.” He didn’t want people to forget about Star Wars, and they would release a holiday special in November.
What aired on the night of November 17, 1978, was not just the worst entry in the Star Wars universe (which is sadly a competitive category now) but one of the worst things ever shown on TV.
The one redeeming part of the special was a 9-minute cartoon that was shown about halfway through. It features the main cast (who all provided voices) and is the very first appearance of Boba Fett.
What’s interesting here is that everyone connected to the Star Wars Holiday Special refused to acknowledge its existence.
The closest we’ve got is mentions to the Wookiee holiday “Life Day” in the first season of the Mandalorian, and similar connections with the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.
This cartoon is shown on Disney+ with no context, and they actually have the audacity to say that it was released in 2021. But now you know better. The fact they are featuring this is pretty astounding and hopefully, we are close to a full, re-mastered release of the original special.
Here’s my full blog that I highly encourage you to read all about the Holiday Special.
8. The Great Muppet Caper
I have to say that I think the Great Muppet Caper is Jim Henson’s best work. It is also my favorite of anything connected to the Muppets.
This is also the only Muppet movie that Jim Henson directed — and you can definitely tell.
This is Henson at its finest with a great crime story, mixed into a musical. It really capitalizes on the format of the Muppet Show. It’s fun, lively, hilarious, and completely absurd.
The Great Muppet Caper came out way back in 1981. They filmed it in England, as the Muppet Show had also been filmed there for its entire run.
This is one of my favorite movies from growing up, and it’s awesome to have it available on Disney+.
Side note: Check out the great “Muppets” show (also on Disney+) that aired on ABC in 2015. This is such an underrated and brilliant show that so many people missed out on. It only ran one season but is really exceptional. It has a more adult tone to it, and was created by some of the people who made “The Office.”
9. Turner & Hooch
I loved Turner & Hooch. This was an era where there were still movies made for families that weren’t cartoons.
This is another Tom Hanks classic. When you pair a popular actor with a dog: you can’t miss. This one is kind of like Three Men and a Baby where a man has his world turned upside down when he has to take care of a new companion.
Turner and Hooch came out in 1989 and is part comedy, part crime, and a “buddy cop” movie, I guess?
Holy crap, how much Tom Hanks content is Disney+ giving us? I guess we can’t complain, as Splash was another one of his breakout roles.
This time around, Tom Hanks plays a workaholic who is worried he’ll never fall in love.
In what seems like a warmup for “The Little Mermaid,” he meets a real-life mermaid played by Daryl Hannah, who we just saw in Wall Street.
Directed by Ron Howard, Splash came out in 1984 — which is longer ago than I realized. The cast of this movie is also pretty stellar as it stars John Candy and Eugene Levy.
Splash was a pretty decent hit when it came out and was nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay. Splash is also notable because it’s the first film released by Touchstone Pictures, which was Disney’s new film label to target adult audiences.
Willow is pretty awesome. I always thought of this movie as being from earlier in the 80s — but it came out in 1988.
Willow stars Warwick Davis who we saw as Wicket in Return of the Jedi and the Ewok movies.
Also directed by Ron Howard, Willow is the story is about young Willow Ufgood who I also think played right wing for the Czech national hockey team.
He finds a baby girl and finds out she’s kind of like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz: she’s destined to end the reign of a wicked queen. Willow has to protect the baby and teams up with Val Kilmer.
Willow is still a very creative fantasy movie and worth checking out if it’s been a while. I had forgotten this, but George Lucas produced Willow and he had the idea for it as far back as 1972.
Sneak peek: The word on the street is Disney+ is creating a Willow series to debut in 2022. Sign me the F up for that.
12. The Princess Bride
Many people call The Princess Bride the perfect movie.
I know I’ll get canceled for this: but I would personally say that I don’t agree. Don’t get me wrong: I like the Princess Bride — I just don’t love it to death. But that doesn’t make it any less epic.
But it doesn’t matter what I think. The Princess Bride is an undeniable classic and has been since it came out in 1987. It is extraordinarily creative and imaginative and also stars Andre the Giant — so that makes it even more epic.
Fun fact: Mr. The Giant had really bad back problems at the time and had to be lowered onto a horse with super-strong guide wires while drunk.
13. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
If you’re looking for the definitive, live-action family movie to define the 80s: it’s probably Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
It was every kid’s fantasy come to life: shrink down, and go on an adventure in your own backyard. The movie went through several names including “The Backyard,” and even “Teeny Weenies.”
But Disney wanted to let people know this wasn’t a movie for little kids and went with the grammatically incorrect, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (it should be “shrank”).
What’s interesting about this movie is it actually has some horror elements to it. It’s quite violent at times and was directed by a horror film producer. The premise is also someone morbid too: children have to spend the movie not being killed.
A new development is supposedly in the works but let’s just keep our fingers crossed.
14. National Geographic: The 80s — The Decade That Made Us
This is a pretty interesting series that I hadn’t seen before. It’s a docuseries that came out in 2013. This series covers all the relevant topics of the 1980s including:
- The changing landscape of entertainment
- The new era of money and entrepreneurs (relates pretty well to Wall Street)
- Fashion and the influence of Madonna
- The Cold War
The series is made up of 6 episodes, and since you’re reading an article about the 80s; you’ll probably enjoy it.
15. Three Men and a Baby
Even the title makes me laugh! (shoutout Patton Oswalt.) Three Men and a Baby was a monster hit when it came out in 1987, and it felt like everyone saw this movie.
It’s the story of three roommates who have their lives turned upside down when a baby shows up where they live.
This seems more like the premise of a sitcom, but it worked on the big screen. Starring Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenberg, Three Men and a Baby was the highest-grossing movie of 1987.
It’s also notable as it was believed to have an image of a ghost captured on film. The word-of-mouth about this phenomenon spread quickly, leading to massive video rentals and purchases.
It turns out that it was just a cardboard cutout on the balcony. But for a short time, this was an enormous deal. Trust me!
This movie was pretty mind-blowing to a kid growing up in the 80s. Tron came out all the way back in 1982 and made use of early computer graphics.
It’s the story of a video game maker who gets accidentally transported into the mainframe of the computer he is working on.
Tron stars Jeff Bridges, who has to bring peace to the digital world he finds himself in. The concept of the movie is great and would work in many eras of film.
The — then-groundbreaking — CGI of course looks dated, but I dare say it holds up. The technology was used as a showcase to reveal what this new medium was capable of. But it also still serves the story.
Tron is definitely a video game come to life and is even more impressive when you realize this film is nearly 40 years old.
Originally published at https://www.everything80spodcast.com on May 11, 2021.