When it comes to developing ideas for movies there are many options for filmmakers to explore – from fictional universes to stories that are set in an imaginary future here on earth or that wallow nostalgically in a shared past. An interest in exploring the 1980s is something that has been driving the makers of movies and TV shows over the past few years, whether because that generation is the target demographic for advertisers or because they are cashing in on a trend. Either way, we thought it would be interesting to look at some of the best 1980s-set movies.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

This tells the story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and is set in the late 1980s. This was a time when it was cool to make lots of money and flaunt your wealth and that is the sort of lifestyle it examines, although some critics thought it celebrated rather than critiqued it. The 1980s trappings are essential, because the sharp suits, shoulder pads and big hair embody the OTT excesses and obsession with wealth and status of that era.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Set in 1980, this ultra violent blend of Western and crime thriller from the Coen Brothers is a regular on best movie lists. It is an adaptation of a novel by Cormac McCarthy about a hitman sent to retrieve stolen money. It features a fantastic performance – and very bad haircut – from Javier Bardem as hitman Anton Chigurh. It also has a compelling and twisty storyline, but the 1980s aspect of the movie is not really that important a part of it.

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

At the opposite end of the scale is this lush Oscar-winning romantic drama from Italian director Luca Guadagnino that tells the story of 17-year-old Elio who finds himself attracted to the older Oliver during the summer of 1983. The movie does feature some music from the 1980s as part of its soundtrack, but again it could easily have been set in the modern era without really losing any of its emotional impact or anything essential to the coming of age story.

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Another recent movie that rode the 1980s retro trend was this mix of spy thriller and high octane action movie starring Charlize Theron. It was inspired by The Coldest City, a comic book from 2012, and the setting is Berlin in 1989. Unlike some of the other films on this list, the 1980s period is central to its story of a spy searching for a list containing the names of double agents during the Cold War. It also features great 80s songs like Blue Monday.

These are four great movies set during the 1980s, although the decade is much more important to the plots of Atomic Blonde and the Wolf of Wall Street than it is to Call Me by Your Name and No Country for Old Men.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle