The 1980s refers to the years from 1980 to 1989. This decade is often referred to as "the Me decade" or "the Greed decade", reflecting the economic and social climate of the period. Referring to the well-publicized rise of a new middle class which grew even more in Asia in the coming decade. College graduates in their late 20s/30s were entering the workplace in prestigious office professions, holding more purchasing power with which they purchased trendy, luxurious goods.

The late 1980s was different than much of the decade. It saw the withdrawal of Soviet troops at the conclusion of the Soviet-Afghan War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The era was characterized by the blend of conservative family values alongside a period of increased telecommunications, a shift towards liberal market economies and the new openness of perestroika and glasnost in the USSR. This transitional period also saw massive democratic revolutions such as the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in China, the Czechoslovak velvet revolution, and the overthrow of the dictatorial regime in Romania and other communist Warsaw Pact states in Central and Eastern Europe. It came to be called as the purple passage of the autumn of nations. These changes continued to be felt in the 1990s and into the 21st century.

The 1980s are also well known (and often ridiculed) for the popular culture of the time such as the over-the-top fashion, big hair styles and the commercialization of music and film.

The 1980s was also an era of tremendous population growth around the world which, along with the 1970s and 1990s, was among the largest in human history. This growth occurred not only in developing regions but also developed western nations, where many newborns were the offspring of Baby Boomers.

Social trends

  • Political correctness became a concern in mainstream politics.
  • Social attitudes of the White American majority toward African Americans eased, showing more tolerance for people of colour. The same went for other ethnic, racial and national minorities. Baby boomers, who first began to enter positions of power during the 1980s, likely did much to effect this change. During the 1980s, public bigotry became largely a thing of the past and racial prejudice lost moral acceptance; also during the decade, the popularized concept of multi-culturalism, particularly in advertising, first appeared.
  • Conservative talk radio started in 1984 when Rush Limbaugh began broadcasting from KFBK AM 1530 in Sacramento California. Also in the United States in California. In 1989 he moved to his flagship station, WABC in New York City. Limbaugh became nationally syndicated by 1989.
  • Gay issues entered public awareness through the tabloid talk show genre popularized by Oprah Winfrey, which gave gay, bisexual, and transgendered people an unprecedented degree of media visibility. Examples include the Bowers v. Hardwick Supreme Court decision, openly gay pop stars such as Boy George or Dead or Alive, and the increased perception of the AIDS epidemic as a "gay disease."
  • The role of women in the workplace increased greatly. Continuing the 1970s trend, more and more women in the English-speaking world took to calling themselves "Ms.", rather than "Mrs." or "Miss." A similar change occurred in Germany, with women choosing "Frau" instead of "Fräulein" in an effort to disassociate marital status from title. In most western countries, women began to exercise the option of keeping their maiden names after marriage; in Canada, legislation was enacted to end the practice of automatically changing a woman's last name upon marriage.
  • Child abuse gained public attention as alleged incidents of child molestation were reported, in particular at day care facilities in various parts of the United Statttes. Several court cases were followed by the media, including California (the McMartin Preschool case), South Carolina (the Little Rascals Day Care case) and New Jersey (the Wee Care Day Nursery case), spreading hysteria among parents and teachers. Similar large-scale cases were also reported in Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
  • Social welfare for handicapped children improved, and they were no longer ignored or forced into mental institutions.
  • No-Fault divorce laws paved the way for increased divorce rates, as depicted in the movie Irreconcilable Differences, and divorce became widely acceptable in western countries. Conservatives espousing "family values" responded by objecting to divorce, among other moral and cultural issues.
  • National safety campaigns raised awareness of seat belt usage to save lives in automobile accidents, helping to make the measure mandatory in most countries and U.S. states by 1990. Similar efforts arose to push child safety seats and bike helmet use, already mandatory in a number of U.S. states and some countries.
  • Alcohol education and drug education expanded, bringing about movements such as M.A.D.D., Nancy Reagan's Just Say No campaign and D.A.R.E.. By 1990, every state in the U.S. mandated the drinking age to be 21, the only country to ever do so.
  • Rejection of smoking, perceived as more unhealthy and deadly than in previous decades, increased among Americans following a 1984 reconfirmation of earlier studies into the risks of smoking by the U.S. Surgeon General. "Smoking" and "non-smoking" sections in American restaurants became common, state efforts to combat underage smoking (such as banning cigarette sales to minors) intensified, and acknowledgment of smoking-related birth defects became more common.
  • Opposition to nuclear power plants grew, especially after the catastrophic 1986 Chernobyl accident.
  • Environmental concerns intensified. In the United Kingdom, environmentally-friendly domestic products surged in popularity. Western European countries adopted "greener" policies to cut back on oil use, recycle most of their nations' trash, and increase focus on water and energy conservation efforts. Similar "Eco-activist" trends appeared in the U.S. in the late 1980s.
  • The U.S. support and pressure group Remove Intoxicated Drivers experienced rapid growth.
  • Research on alcohol and weight expanded.


The 1980s included the transition between the industrial and information age. The petroleum supply disruptions which had marked the 1970s were not repeated, and new oil-field discoveries boosted supply and helped keep energy prices relatively low during most of the decade. The 1980s saw rapid developments in numerous sectors of technology which defined the modern consumer world. Electronics such as the personal computer, electronic gaming systems, the first commercially available hand-held mobile phones, and new audio and data storage technologies such as the compact disc are all still prominent well into the 2000s. On the strength of their high-technology industries, the Japanese economy soared to record highs in the 1980s.

In personal computing and electronics, the bulletin board system (BBS) gained popularity, compact discs were introduced in 1983 and Walkmans, VHS videocassette recorders, and cassette players became popular in households in developed countries. Also in electronics, the first commercial hand-held mobile phone was released in 1983, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. The Apple Macintosh was introduced in January 1984 and became the first commercially successful computer to use a graphical user interface. Several other computers were introduced in the 1980s including the IBM PC, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST and BBC Micro. In software, Microsoft released the first versions of the Windows operating system, which would later dominate the operating system market through the 1990s and into the 2000s. New digital technology contributed to the popularity of synthesizers in electronic music.

In the United Kingdom, inventor Sir Clive Sinclair introduced the C5 electric transport vehicle in 1985, but it was a massive flop and a commercial disaster.

Interest in space exploration declined as the space shuttle took precedence. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 passed Saturn in 1980 and 1981 respectively. Voyager 2 went on to give the first up-close looks at Uranus (1986) and Neptune (1989). Japan and Europe had their first ventures into interplanetary exploration with the launches of Giotto, Sakigake, and others in the "Halley Armada." The first Space Shuttle mission, STS-1, aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia launched in 1981; and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred in 1986, the same year the Soviet Union launched the space station Mir.

The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the USSR occurred in April 1986, and became the world's worst nuclear accident.




In 1980, the US Olympic hockey team defeated the Soviet Union 4 to 3, bolstering many U.S. citizens' feelings of national pride in what was termed a Miracle On Ice.

In this decade, the West Indies established themselves as the unofficial world champions of cricket, though in a shock upset, they lost the 1983 Cricket World Cup to India. This victory is cited as the reason cricket is almost a religion in India.[citation needed]


Art exhibitions held in the 1980s included:


See also: 1980s in fashion

1980s fashion incorporated distinct trends from different eras, including ancient Egypt, early 20th century British royalty, Edwardian era buccaneers, and punk rockers from the 1970s. A conservative, masculine fashion look that was most indicative of the decade was the wide use of shoulder pads (similar to those worn by women in the 1940s and to those worn in ice hockey). While in the 1970s the silhouette of fashion tended to be characterized by close-fitting clothes on top with wider looser clothes on bottom, this trend completely reversed itself in the early 1980s as both men and women began to wear loose shirts (tucked in) and tight close fitting pants. One variation of this trend was to wear loose-fitting long-sleeve shirts or sweaters with the sleeves scrunched up to the elbows). Men wore power suits, an example of the greater tendency for people to display their wealth. Brand names became increasingly important in this decade, making Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein household names. Lauper made popular the colourful hairstyles and makeup.

Hairstyles are also well known from the decade. Big, messy hairstyles, similar to those worn by women in the 1940s, made popular with the introduction of glam metal, became all the rage throughout the entire decade. Shorter hairstyles also became more common for women. Colourful hair colours (made popular by singer Cyndi Lauper), were also used widely during the era. The eighties also made popular the well known mullet haircut for both men and women and the jerry curl, a wet curly hair style that was very popular in the African American community. The eighties also saw an interest in bright and colourful makeup as well as makeup used on men (as used by poodle rock bands of the era). The decade also saw the introduction and initial popularity of hair crimping.

In the United States, Madonna was known as the "Material Girl" and many teenage girls, sometimes referred to as "Madonna wannabes", looked to her for fashion statements. The popular movie Flashdance (1983) made ripped sweatshirts well-known to the general public. The television shows Dallas and Dynasty also had a similar impact. The television show Miami Vice influenced a whole generation of men by popularizing, if not actually inventing, the "T-shirt under Armani jacket"-style. The Crockett character played by Don Johnson also boosted Ray Ban's popularity by wearing a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers (Model L2052, Mock Tortoise). Crockett's perpetually unshaven appearance also sparked a minor fashion trend, inspiring men to wear a small amount of beard stubble, also known as five o'clock shadow or "designer stubble", at all times. The show's costume designer Gianni Versace provided the fashion sense. Pastel colours dominated the series in clothes. People were also known to wear acid-washed jeans and jackets.



  • American superhero comics underwent a new age, sparked by Alan Moore's Watchmen and Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, that paved the way for more independent and creative ideas. Many different genres other than superheroes were introduced to comics, along with the first translations of manga.
  • More adult-targeted comics featuring mature themes, strong violence, and strong language, like the examples cited above, began to become more widespread.
  • Comic collecting grew wildly in popularity during the decade.


See also: 1980s in television


Main article: 1980s in film
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The 1980s was a prosperous and extremely active decade for the film industry, seeing many box office hits. The industry began to put a greater emphasis on producing mass-market blockbusters in place of the more director-led approach of the 1970s. (Many film historians have pointed to the massive box office flop of Heaven's Gate in 1980 leading to studios wanting greater control of film production.) During the 1980s, much controversy arose over the colourization of black and white films.

Video cassettes became extremely popular in households. A videotape format war broke out between JVC and Sony over their formats, VHS and Betamax. VHS eventually became the new standard, despite offering initial poorer quality recordings. Only after many years did VHS eventually catch-up, although the format always provided a recording length advantage. The widespread popularity of video cassettes aided in the rise of video rentals, with the first Blockbuster opening in 1985. The Sundance Institute was set up in 1981 to help independent film-makers gain professional contacts and experience. The first Sundance Film Festival was held in 1986. The cross-over success of the film sex, lies and videotape in 1989 paved the way for the independent film boom in the 1990s.

The Crime and Gangster film genre was also active, with hits such as The Untouchables and the legendary Scarface, both directed by Brian De Palma.

The science fiction genre experienced a surge in popularity following the success of Star Wars. This is best exemplified by Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), which shattered records for box office gross receipts and became the decade's biggest earner both in the United States and United Kingdom. Popular/Cult sci-fi films of the decade also included Blade Runner, Aliens, Tron and The Terminator. The original Star Wars trilogy was concluded with The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). Tie-in merchandise became extremely common following the success of Star Wars tie-in products. Special effects become more sophisticated and advanced with films like Tron, Predator and The Abyss, paving the way for the CGI-intensive films of the 1990s. Also, Star Trek saw a resurgence of popularity for the original 1960s TV series with the release of a series of popular films in the 1980s, highlighted by Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Action movies, common since the 1950s, entered mass production, with actors like Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger helping to pioneer the genre. Among the most famous action movies were the Rambo series, RoboCop, Predator, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Escape from New York and Commando. Ghostbusters (1984, directed by Ivan Reitman) was very popular and successful, as was Back to the Future (1985), which captivated audiences with its youth-oriented time travel fantasy. Movie sequels became a trend as evidenced by Ghostbusters II and Back to the Future Part II (both 1989). Ronald Reagan frequently made references to Back to the Future and Rambo.

The Horror genre boomed with hit franchises including the Friday the 13th series, the Nightmare on Elm Street series and the Halloween series. Others include the Hellraiser films, Poltergeist and Evil Dead series', The Lost Boys, The Fly, The Shining and John Carpenter's The Thing. The splatter genre became popular with such films as My Bloody Valentine (film), Mortuary, Phantasm and The Hills Have Eyes. These films were often watched at home on video tapes rented from video rental stores. In addition, thriller films were also popular, especially those with strong sexual content. Notably Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill and Body Double, the hugley controversial art film Blue Velvet and the equally controversial Fatal Attraction about the consequences of infedility in marriage all caused strong commercial reaction.

The 1980s also experienced many infamous high-profile commercial flops, including Howard the Duck, Ishtar, Dune, Revolution, Inchon and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The most famous flop is Heaven's Gate which cost US$44 million to produce yet only grossed $3.4 million, leading the studio United Artists into bankruptcy. However, the success of The Little Mermaid (1989) heralded a renaissance for Disney and animated films in general after a string of commercial failures.

Teen films arose as a highly successful genre, most notably those of John Hughes who, with the so-called "Brat Pack", made such decade-defining films as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Pretty In Pink and Uncle Buck. Other teen films of the decade include The Sure Thing, St. Elmo' Fire), were quite contreversial in the country in their day. At the time, many claimed that the Hungerford massacre had been inspired by violent films. In the U.S., Red Dawn (1984) became the first film released with a PG-13 rating, and in the UK, Batman was the first to receive a 12 certificate.

Video games

Although popularity of video games and arcades began in the mid to late 1970s, it continued throughout the 1980s with rapid growth in video game technology throughout the decade. Space Invaders, developed in Japan in 1978, was first previewed at a UK trade show in 1979, making a huge impact on the early 80s gaming scene. Many other games followed including Pac-Man, creating a Pac Man fever craze early in the decade, especially in 1982 and 1983; Super Mario Bros. games became a highly successful franchise starting in 1985 and its popularity continues today.

In the 1980s, Atari failed to apply proper quality control to the software development process for its popular Video Computer System game console. The amount of low-quality software caused a massive collapse of the home console industry. The release of Nintendo's Famicom/NES console rectified the problem and revived home gaming by only being able to play games approved by the company. PC Engine and Sega Mega Drive were next generation game consoles that were released during the last years of the decade.

Home computers become popular in the 1980s and during that decade they were used heavily for gaming, especially the ZX Spectrum. The prevailing IBM PC standard was born in 1981 but had a status of a non-entertainment computer throughout the decade. Along with the IBM PC, the Commodore 64 (1982) was the most popular 8-bit home computer and its successor, the Amiga (1985), was the most popular 16-bit home computer.

International issues

In the United States

In Canada

  • The 1986 World's Fair, Expo '86 opened on May 2, 1986 and last until mid October. It brought huge international attention to Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada. The fair had an attendance of over 22 million and was considered a great success. The fair attracted many celebrities including the Prince and Princess of Whales, Margaret Thatcher, Vincent Price and George Bush Sr. The fair was also credited as showing that World Expositions were still a viable venture in the (then) modern day.
  • Political unrest in the province of Quebec which rooted from the many differences between the dominant francophone population versus the anglophone minority and the francophones rights in the dominantly English speaking Canada came to a head in 1980 when the provincial government called a public referendum on partial separation from the rest of Canada. The referendum ended with the no side winning majority (59.56 No, 40.44 yes)
  • During The Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau's term as Prime Minister of Canada (and under his oversight), Queen Elizabeth II signed the New Constitution of Canada on 17 April, 1982. This Act severed all Political Dependances of the United Kingdom in Canada.
  • In 1984, Progressive Conservative Party of Canada leader Brian Mulroney became Prime Minister of Canada; he remained Prime Minister until 1993, ending almost 21 years of rule by the Liberal Party of Canada.
  • The Meech Lake Accord, a package of changes and amendments to the constitution of Canada was created in conference and pushed ahead by Brian Mulroney for ratification from the provinces. The accord gave each province more immigration powers and gave Quebec the status of a "distinct society" and a constitutional veto. It was voted down and followed by another set of amendments which was also voted down in the 1990's. The creation of and eventual failure of the Meech Lake accords eventually, and the following Charlottetown Accords set the stage for another referendum in Quebec, in 1995.

In Europe

In 1981 there was an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter's Square. In 1986 Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was murdered.

In the European Community, after the first direct elections for the European Parliament in 1979, its enlargement continued with the accession of Greece in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986. At the end of the decade, the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 would be followed in 1990 by the German reunification.

In the United Kingdom

In Australia

In India

Natural disasters


Many people were influential in shaping the 1980s, including entertainers, sports figures and politicians.


Notable individuals and groups who provided entertainment in the 1980s are divided as follows.

Musicians and Bands

'''''''*John Farnham (Australian singer, You're The Voice, Pressure Down, Age Of Reason)'''''''

'''''''*Michael Jackson (musician, Thriller, Bad)'''''''



Sports figures

Political figures

See also

External links