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.
- 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.
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.
- The Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome was detected in a group of American homosexual men and entered global consciousness in June 1981. By 1985–1986 it was declared a pandemic as it spread across sub-Saharan Africa.
- The W and Z bosons were discovered at CERN.
- The scanning tunneling microscope was developed by Colin Mullins and Heinrich Rohrer.
- The Carbon allotrope fullerene was discovered.
- Geneticist Dr. Alec Jeffreys developed DNA fingerprinting, a technique of significant benefit in criminal investigations.
- American chemist Kary Mullis discovered polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which became the basis of genetic fingerprinting and one of the key tools for many areas of work within the field of genetics.
- In the early 1980s, the first generation of computer graphics in arcade games produced the popular Space Invaders arcade game (first released in 1978), followed by Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Frogger. Towards the end of the decade, home video game consoles began to outstrip the arcade game. The Japanese Famicom was released to the American public as the Nintendo Entertainment System (also known as the NES) in 1985 and renewed public interest in video games following a brief decline caused by the Video Game Crash of 1983.
- Computer technology began to enter mainstream culture and appeared in movies such as Tron (1982) and WarGames (1983), using then-state of the art special effects that would go on to have a major impact on movie making.
- Rubik's Cube, Cabbage Patch Kids, "Baby on Board" signs, Teddy Ruxpin, and Trivial Pursuit fads captured the interest of the American and British public.
- Many cartoon characters such as Smurfs, Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, My Little Pony, GI Joe, Garfield, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, Voltron, and Transformers appeared in the media and on merchandise, becoming huge trends of the 1980s. Many of these reappeared about twenty years later in slightly updated versions.
- Martial arts and Ninja mania swept North America due to the popularity of Kung Fu Theater and ninja movies. The Karate Kid became a blockbuster hit film, and raised interest in karate. The emergence of self-styled martial arts experts gave rise to the so-called "McDojo" and "Bullshido" trends. The cartoon characters Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became a widely mass-marketed pop culture phenomenon in the late 1980s.
- "Raybans" or sunglasses became popular "must-wear" items, as well as Nike sneakers, Members Only jackets, men's shorts and other athletic wear such as sweats and jerseys for an active generation of young people.
- Aerobics surged in popularity. The fad reached across exercise videos, fashion, and music trends as seen in Olivia Newton-John's music video (Let's Get) Physical, the 1983 movie Flashdance that inspired legwarmers as a fashion trend, and the popular Jane Fonda workout videos.
- Americans became more health-conscious and sought a lighter diet, with "Lose weight", "Low-Cal", "Low-Salt", "Sugar-free", "No cholesterol" and other phrases becoming common buzzwords for modified foods and beverages. Fad diets became popular.
- MTV, an all-music television station, debuted in the United States in 1981.
- Australian pop culture introduced new trends in the U.S. throughout the 1980s to enhance the continent's cultural image. Examples include celebrities Olivia Newton-John, Jacko and Yahoo Serious, musicians INXS, Midnight Oil and Men at Work, the Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max movies, the Roos shoe brand and Koala Blue chain within the fashion segment, and tastes such as "shrimp on the barbie" and Foster's Lager.
- Rap music began to break into the mainstream, resulting in a string of breakdancing movies such as Beat Street, Breakin', and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Boom boxes became widespread among inner city music listeners and especially breakdancers, for which the device became a vital element to the ritual. "Breakdance battles" were a more peaceful alternative to gang fights and became popular in music videos.
- In the U.S., Spanish-language television and radio stations built two major networks (Univision — 1985 and Telemundo — 1986) to carry shows and music for the U.S. Latino audience, believed at the time to have been left out of the mainstream media.
- The De Lorean debuted in 1981, and was produced for three years before the company declared bankruptcy in 1983. The car was later popularized in the 1985 film Back to the Future.
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.
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.
- The decade began with a backlash against disco music and a movement away from the orchestral arrangements that had characterized much of the music of the 1970s. Music in the 1980s was characterized by unheard of electronic sounds accomplished through the use of synthesizers and keyboards, along with drum machines. This made a dramatic change in music. The music channel MTV had just began so many very creative music videos were being made alongside songs. The very first video to be aired on MTV was Buggles- Video Killed The Radio Star. This video heavily showed off the use of synthesizers as they were new to many people and the sounds they produced had been unheard of!
- Michael Jackson revolutionized music with his best-selling album Thriller. Thriller, released in 1982, is the world's all-time best selling album with over 104 million sold copies. His mannerisms and trends were copied repeatedly, from the single-glove, to the various jackets he wore, and the now-famous moonwalk.
- In the United States, MTV was launched and music videos began to have a huge effect on the record industry. The first video aired was Video Killed the Radio Star by the British band The Buggles, and it proved oddly prophetic. Bands such as Duran Duran made lavish music videos which made MTV a cultural phenomenon. Early eighties groups such as Devo and Haircut 100 were pioneers. Pop artists such as Madonna and Michael Jackson mastered the format and turned it into big business.
- New Wave and Synthpop were developed by artists such as The Cars, Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls, Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, Japan, Soft Cell, Bananarama, New Order, and Tears for Fears, and become popular phenomena throughout the decade, especially in the early eighties.
- Heavy metal, Big Hair Bands and Glam metal, experienced extreme popularity in 1980s, becoming one of the most dominating music genres of the 1980s with artists such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Van Halen, Kiss, Twisted Sister, Aerosmith, Poison, Ratt, Skid Row, Hanoi Rocks, Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Queen, Whitesnake, Quiet Riot, Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, AC/DC, and Rush, all receiving extensive airplay.
- Thrash metal appeared and became an underground sensation originating mostly in the Bay Area (San Francisco), and New York City. A few of these acts, such as Metallica, Megadeth (formed in Los Angeles), Anthrax(formed in New York) and Slayer (formed in Huntington Beach), managed to achieve mainstream exposure (especially during the early 1990s), and were frequently seen as alternatives to the poppier "glam metal" bands of the day.
- Extreme metal began, with bands such as Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Death, Possessed, Morbid Angel and gained prominence in the underground.
- House music was a new development in dance music mid-way through the decade, growing out of the post-disco scene early in the decade and later developed into acid house, a harder form of dance often associated with the developing late 1980s drug culture.
- Hip hop and rap music, introduced by urban youths of predominantly African American descent, debuted in the pop culture scene as early as 1979, with the Sugar Hill Gang's single release Rapper's Delight. MTV picked up on this movement with "Yo! MTV Raps", a one-hour show dedicated to hip-hop music videos.
- The Hip hop scene evolved to become a powerful musical force, bringing with it several dance styles. As hip hop artists such as Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow and N.W.A. gathered mainstream attention, hip hop's influence began to spread outside of Los Angeles and New York City, eventually taking off into America's shores during the 1980s in 1986.
- Alternative rock appeared as a then-aptly titled alternative to the mainstream rock trends of the day, with American bands such as R.E.M., The Replacements, Sonic Youth, They Might Be Giants, Camper Van Beethoven, the Violent Femmes and the Pixies, and British bands such as The Cure, The Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen, as pioneers. This style of music was widely popular with college students and received almost all of its airplay from college radio stations, to the extent that it was known as college rock in the US for much of the decade.
- Top-charting artists of the 1980s include Pat Benatar, Billy Idol, Guns N' Roses, Robert Palmer,New Kids on the Block, The Police, Lionel Richie, Bananarama, The Go-Go's, Dire Straits, Duran Duran, Van Halen, Foreigner, John Farnham, Phil Collins, Huey Lewis and the News, Wang Chung, Tears for Fears, Poison, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, Heart, Juice Newton, Culture Club, The Eurythmics, Def Leppard, Deacon Blue, Bryan Adams, Queen, Depeche Mode, U2, Simple Minds, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Cher, Rick Springfield, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Rick Astley, Olivia Newton-John, Prince, Michael Jackson (the best-selling artist worldwide in the entire decade), Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Aerosmith, Beastie Boys, Kim Wilde, Laura Branigan, The Cars and Bon Jovi.
- Records in aid of Ethiopian famine relief, by Band Aid ("Do They Know It's Christmas?") and USA for Africa ("We Are the World") topped the charts, while the Live Aid famine relief concert in London and Philadelphia attracted thousands of attendants and millions of television viewers. Other artists pushed for nuclear disarmament, racial harmony (Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney in a 1981 duet release: Ebony and Ivory), and AIDS awareness.
- American singer Prince, French band Indochine ("3e sexe"), Canadian singer Norman Iceberg ("Be My Human Tonight"), Spanish band Mecano ("Mujer Contra Mujer") became part of a worldwide movement of artists writing innovative lyrics filled with sexual innuendos reflecting the then-popular and highly fashionable androgynous style.
- In the U.S., contemporary Christian music gained popularity in the mid-80s with such crossover artists as Amy Grant, Kathy Troccoli, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Michael W. Smith, Stryper, and Petra.
- With increased commercialization of popular music, thousands of new bands from all over the country sprang up in opposition by performing aggressive, stripped-down punk rock with an even larger amount of political and social awareness injected into the lyrics. Known as Hardcore punk, it would go on to influence and create other musical genres well into the 21st century. Popular bands included Dead Kennedys in San Francisco, Minor Threat in Washington DC, Black Flag in Los Angeles and Reagan Youth in New York City.
- El General recorded a first album and reggaeton was born in Panama.
- Prince was credited with jump-starting the Minneapolis sound.
- Power Ballads became popular with bands such as Heart and Bon Jovi.
- The Hardcore Punk movement was started as a completely underground music including bands such as Minor Threat, The Dead Kennedys, and Husker Du. Hardcore also served as the springboard for indie rock as the independent network of record labels, publications and venues it developed quickly grew to encompass widely divergent styles of music made by like-minded artists.
- Weird Al Yankovic started his career, singing songs like Dare to Be Stupid (song) and Eat It.
- 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
- The Cosby Show debuts in 1984 and is rated number 1 in the Nielsen Ratings in the United States for five consecutive TV seasons.
- The decade began poorly for minorities and gays. Music videos featuring minorities were not played by MTV and gays were portrayed poorly by the media, especially by a widely seen homophobic documentary (which aired in 1980) about gays in San Francisco. With the rise of AIDS, shows which portrayed gays or gay friendly characters were quickly pulled off the air (Three's Company, Bosom Buddies).
- Now regarded as an icon of the 1980s, Miami Vice (1984) redefined the cop show genre, combining film-like production values with MTV style music videos.
- The Oprah Winfrey Show hit the U.S. scene, shattering 20th century taboos and creating confession culture. According to a Yale study, the tabloid talk show genre popularized by Oprah Winfrey's success provided much needed high impact media visibility for gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, and transgender people, allowing them greater entry into mainstream culture.
- Brandon Tartikoff became an executive at NBC and is credited with turning around NBC's low prime time reputation with such hit series as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, ALF, Family Ties, The Cosby Show, Cheers, Miami Vice, The Golden Girls, Knight Rider, The A-Team, St. Elsewhere, Night Court, Hunter, Highway to Heaven, Matlock, Remington Steele, A Different World, 227 and Empty Nest.
- The Fox network was launched. CNN became the first 24-hour news channel. The growth of cable television with hundreds of new cable networks of a certain field or interest, such as The Weather Channel which debuted in 1982, offered television viewers a much expanded menu from which to choose.
- In the UK, two rival satellite television services launch in 1989. British Satellite Broadcasting and Sky Television offered viewers up to five extra channels, but both failed to gain the success enjoyed by cable television in North America. The two companies would later merge.
- Punky Brewster, reflecting many trends and fads of the 80s, captured the interest of younger viewers.
- Soap operas gained popularity among high-schoolers and college students in the United States, thanks in part to the supercoupling of Luke Spencer and Laura Webber on the most popular soap of the day, General Hospital. High-budget evening soap operas are also popular with Dynasty (TV series), Knot's Landing, and Dallas (TV series) running for most of the decade in the 10PM time slot.
- The gay community received an upsurge in popular exposure, with U.S. prime time ratings giants Dynasty and The Golden Girls and UK soap operas Brookside and EastEnders, featuring either regular or recurring gay characters throughout their long runs. These shows were highly influential in increasing the visibility of regular gay characters on television.
- The music-based cable networks MTV and MuchMusic first appeared on the airwaves, and became major pop cultural influences with music videos and in-depth coverage of musicians and trends among North American youth.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the first animated children's television program built exclusively around a toy line, started a new trend of increasing the connection between children's programming and toy advertising, alarming many parents and watchdog organizations; an explosive number of toy tie-in cartoons follow, most notably (for the era) Transformers, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Dino-Riders.
- Animation in the United States and elsewhere saw a dramatic improvement in production values and saw a resurgence of mainstream appeal, both in feature films and on television. Star Blazers, Battle of the Planets, Voltron, and Robotech helped to develop the first wave of organized anime fandom in North America.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation, regarded by some as the pinnacle of the Star Trek series, made its syndicated debut in 1987.
- Murder, She Wrote became a smash hit with audiences.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 debuted on the Minneapolis UHF station KTMA in 1988; the following year it was picked up by the fledgling Comedy Channel, which later became Comedy Central.
- On February 1 1982, David Letterman became the host of NBC's Late Night with David Letterman, which remained on the air until 1993 when Letterman left for CBS.
- On December 6 1989, the once extremely successful and popular British science fiction series Doctor Who came to an end after more than 26 years and 703 episodes.
- The #1 shows on American network television throughout the decade:
- The Simpsons shorts debuted on the The Tracey Ullman Show. The Simpsons would go on over the next 2 decades to become the longest-running American sitcom in history.
- Main article: 1980s in film
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 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.
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.
In the United States
- Ronald Reagan was the President of the United States from 1981 to 1989.
- American schoolgirl Samantha Smith visited the Soviet Union after writing to Yuri Andropov and became involved in the growing peace movement between East and West before her death in 1985.
- John Lennon was assassinated in 1980.
- An attempt was made on the life of Ronald Reagan, 1981.
- A Crack Cocaine epidemic occurred in urban areas of the U.S., such that violent crime and drug trafficking soared to record levels in most large American cities. Crime and drug use rates began to fall toward the end of the decade.
- Riots took place in the poor section of Miami in May 1980 and January 1989.
- A poverty rate of 40% African Americans, 30% Hispanic and 20% White.
- An unemployment rate of 10% overall.
- 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 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
- Margaret Thatcher held the office of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990.
- The Falklands War from 2 April 1982 - 14 July 1982 against the Argentinians over the Falkland Islands off the East Coast of Argentina.
- Bob Hawke was Prime Minister of Australia for most of the 1980s.
- Most Australian states decriminalized homosexuality.
- Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi were prime ministers of India respectively, as the Ram Mandir movement spread and the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party scaled newer heights
- Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington, U.S. on May 18, 1980 — one of the biggest volcanic events ever recorded. Sixty-five people were killed, there were massive mudflows to the west, and ash fell to the east (in Yakima, Washington and Spokane, Washington).
- The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1989 World Series, gaining worldwide attention. Seventy-two people were killed and thousands injured, with major structural damage on freeways and buildings and broken gas-line fires in San Francisco, California. The cost of the damage totalled $10 billion.
- Other natural disasters: The 1982–1983 El Nino brought destructive weather to most of the world; the 1985 Mexico earthquake registered 8.1 on the Richter scale and devastated Mexico City and other areas throughout central Mexico; the 1985 Nevado del Ruiz mudslide in Colombia; the 1986 Lake Nyos toxic cloud in Cameroon; and the 1988 Armenian earthquake rocked the Caucasus region of the USSR
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
- AC/DC (music band, Back in Black, For Those About to Rock We Salute You, Who Made Who, Blow Up Your Video)
- A-ha (musician band, Take On Me,The Sun Always Shines On TV)
- Aerosmith (music band, Done With Mirrors, Permanent Vacation, Pump)
- Amy Grant (singer)
- Annie Lennox (singer from Eurythmics)
- Asia (music band)
- Bon Jovi (music band, Bon Jovi, 7800 Fahrenheit, Slippery When Wet, New Jersey)
- The Cars (music band, Shake It Up, You Might Think, Drive)
- Chaka Khan (singer)
- Chrissie Hynde (musician from Pretenders)
- Cliff Richard (musician)
- Corey Hart (pop singer, Sunglasses At Night)
- Corrosion of Conformity (musicians, Eye For An Eye)
- The Cure (music band)
- Culture Club (music band)
- Cyndi Lauper (musician, She's So Unusual, True Colours, A Night to Remember)
- David Brooks (country singer)
- David Bowie (musician, Let's Dance)
- Dalida (singer & actress)
- DeBarge (music band) (song) Rhythm Of The Night
- Debbie Harry (musician from Blondie)
- Def Leppard (music band, Pyromania, Hysteria)
- Depeche Mode (music band)
- Duran Duran (music band, Duran Duran, Rio, Seven And The Ragged Tiger, Notorious, Big Thing)
- Elton John (musician)
- Europe (music band)
- Eurythmics (music band)
- Garth Brooks (musician)
- Genesis (music band)
- George Michael (musician from Wham!)
- Grandmaster Flash (musician)
- Guns N' Roses (music band, Appetite for Destruction, G N' R Lies)
- Hall & Oates (pop singers)
- Heart (music band, Heart, These Dreams, What About Love)
- Howard Jones (singer/songwriter and musician, New Song, Pearl In The Shell, What Is Love, No One Is To Blame)
- INXS (music band, The Swing, Kick)
- Iron Maiden (music band, "The Number Of The Beast")
- Janet Jackson (musician, Control, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814)
- Journey (music band, Escape, Frontiers, Raised on Radio)
- Judas Priest (music band, British Steel)
- Kate Bush (singer/songwriter, Never for Ever, The Dreaming, Hounds of Love, The Whole Story, The Sensual World)
- Kenny Rogers (musician)
- Kim Wilde (pop singer)
- King Diamond (musicians, Them)
- Laura Branigan (pop singer)
- Loose Ends (R&B Band, Hangin' On A String (Contemplating), Magic Touch, Slow Down, Watching You)
- Luther Vandross (singer)
- Madness (music band, Our House, My Girl )
- Madonna (musician, also known as Material Girl), Madonna, Like a Virgin, True Blue, Who's That Girl Soundtrack, You Can Dance, Like a Prayer)
- MC Hammer (musician)
- Megadeth (music band, "Killing Is My Business, "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?")
- Menudo (music band)
- Metallica (music band, Kill 'Em All, Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning, ...And Justice for All)
- Mötley Crüe (music band, Shout at the Devil, Theatre of Pain, Girls, Girls, Girls, Dr. Feelgood (album))
- Nena (German singer 99 Luftballons)
- New Edition (pop/r&b group)
- New Kids on the Block, (Please Don't Go Girl, Hangin' Tough)
- New Order (music band)
- Nine Inch Nails (Industrial rock band formed in 1989 by Trent Reznor)
- Nik Kershaw (singer/songwriter and musician, Wouldn't It Be Good, The Riddle, When A Heart Beats, I Won't Let the Sun Go Down on Me)
- NWA (rap music group, Straight Outta Compton, Fuck tha Police)
- Olivia Newton-John (pop singer)
- Ozzy Osbourne (musician, Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman, Bark at the Moon, The Ultimate Sin, No Rest for the Wicked)
- Paula Abdul (musician, Forever Your Girl)
- Petra (Christian rock and roll band)
- Phil Collins (pop singer, from the music band Genesis, In The Air Tonight, Against All Odds, Sussudio, Take Me Home)
- Pink Floyd (music band, The Final Cut, A Momentary Lapse of Reason)
- Poison (music band, Look What the Cat Dragged In, Open Up and Say...Ahh!)
- Prince (musician Purple Rain, Sign 'O' the Times)
- Queen (music band)
- Quiet Riot (music band, Metal Health)
- Red Hot Chili Peppers (music band)
- Robert Palmer (rock musician, Riptide)
- Run-DMC (musicians, Raising Hell)
- Rush (music band, Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, Signals, Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, Hold Your Fire, Presto)
- Sheena Easton (pop singer)
- Sheila E (band drummer)
- Simple Minds (music band, Once Upon a Time , Live in the City of Light, Street Fighting Years)
- Simply Red
- Slayer (music band, Show No Mercy)
- SOS Band (music band, Just Be Good To Me, The Finest, Borrowed Love)
- Stryper (Christian heavy metal band)
- Supertramp (music band, It´s raining again),(Logical Song)
- Teena Marie (musician)
- The Jacksons (music band) (songs) Body Can You Feel It
- The Police (music band, Zenyatta Mondatta, Ghost in the Machine, Synchronicity)
- Tiffany (singer) (musician, Tiffany (album))
- Tom Petty (musician, Hard Promises, Long After Dark, Southern Accents, Full Moon Fever)
- Toto (music band, Africa, Rosanna)
- U2 (music band, War, The Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum)
- Van Halen (music band, Women and Children First, Fair Warning, Diver Down, MCMLXXXIV, 5150, OU812)
- Whitesnake (music band, Slide It In, Whitesnake, Slip of the Tongue)
- ZZ Top (music band, Eliminator, Afterburner)
- Andrew McCarthy (actor, St. Elmo's Fire, Pretty in Pink)
- Anthony Michael Hall (actor, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science)
- Arnold Schwarzenegger (actor, The Terminator, Predator, Conan the Barbarian)
- Bo Derek (actress)
- Bruce Willis (actor, Moonlighting, Die Hard, Look Who's Talking)
- Brat Pack (actors)
- Charlie Sheen (actor)
- Dennis Hopper (actor, Blue Velvet, Hoosiers)
- Eddie Murphy (actor, Saturday Night Live, Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places)
- Emilio Estevez (actor, The Breakfast Club, The Outsiders, Young Guns)
- Harrison Ford (actor, Indiana Jones series, Star Wars series, Blade Runner, Witness)
- Jack Nicholson (actor, Terms of Endearment, The Shining, Batman, Prizzi's Honor, Ironweed, Reds)
- Jodie Foster (actress, The Accused)
- John Candy (actor, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Uncle Buck)
- Matt Dillon (actor)
- Matthew Broderick (actor, WarGames, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Glory)
- Meg Ryan (actress)
- Mel Gibson (actor, Lethal Weapon series, Mad Max series)
- Meryl Streep (actress, Ironweed, A Cry in the Dark, She-Devil)
- Michael Keaton (actor, Batman, Mr. Mom, Night Shift)
- Michael J. Fox (actor, Family Ties, Back to the Future series, Teen Wolf)
- Michelle Pfeiffer (actress, Grease 2, Scarface, Dangerous Liaisons)
- Molly Ringwald (actress, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink)
- Pat Morita (actor, The Karate Kid)
- Patrick Swayze (actor, Dirty Dancing)
- Paul Hogan (actor, Crocodile Dundee)
- Phoebe Cates (actress, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Gremlins)
- Richard Gere (actor, American Gigolo, An Officer and a Gentleman)
- Sean Penn (actor)
- Sigourney Weaver (actress, Working Girl)
- Sylvester Stallone (actor, Rambo series, Rocky III, Rocky IV)
- Tom Cruise (actor, Top Gun, Rain Man, Risky Business, The Color of Money)
- Tracy Chapman (singer, Tracy Chapman)
- Whoopi Goldberg (actress, The Colour Purple, Jumpin' Jack Flash)
- David Cronenberg
- David Lynch (The Elephant Man, Dune, Blue Velvet)
- George Lucas (Indiana Jones series, Star Wars series, Captain Eo)
- James Cameron (Terminator series)
- John Hughes (film director)
- Oliver Stone (director)
- Ridley Scott (Bladerunner)
- Spike Lee (director)
- Steven Spielberg (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,The Goonies)
- Andre The Giant (U.S. wrestler)
- Alexis Arguello (Nicaraguan boxer)
- Marco van Basten (Dutch soccer player)
- Wilfred Benitez (Puerto Rican boxer)
- Larry Bird (U.S. basketball player)
- Serge Blanco (French rugby union player)
- Allan Border (Australian cricket captain/batsman)
- Ian Botham (Somerset & England cricket all-rounder)
- Mike Brearley (Middlesex & England cricket captain/batsman)
- George Brett (U.S. baseball player)
- Peter Brock (Australian Motorsport legend)
- Bill Buckner (U.S. baseball player)
- Warwick Capper (Australian football player)
- David Campese (Australian rugby union player)
- Julio Cesar Chavez (Mexican boxer)
- Jose Canseco (U.S. baseball player)
- Errol Christie (England boxing captain, European champion)
- Roger Clemens (U.S. baseball player)
- Roberto Duran (Panamanian boxer)
- Dale Earnhardt (NASCAR hall of fame driver)
- Paulo Roberto Falcão (Brazilian soccer player)
- Ric Flair (U.S. wrestler)
- Mark Gastineau (U.S. football player)
- Mike Gatting (Middlesex & England cricket captain/batsman)
- Sunil Gavaskar (India cricket opening batsman)
- Dwight Gooden] (U.S Baseball Player)
- Wilfredo Gómez (Puerto Rican boxer)
- Gordon Greenidge (West Indies cricket opening batsman)
- Wayne Gretzky (Canadian ice hockey player)
- Florence Griffith Joyner (U.S. track and field athlete)
- Richard Hadlee (New Zealand cricket fast bowler)
- Marvin Hagler (U.S. boxer)
- Alan Hansen (Liverpool & Scotland footballer))
- Thomas Hearns (U.S. boxer)
- Rickey Henderson (U.S. baseball player)
- Keith Hernandez (U.S. baseball player)
- Hulk Hogan (U.S. wrestler)
- Larry Holmes (U.S. boxer)
- Iron Sheik (U.S. wrestler)
- Bo Jackson (U.S. American football and baseball player)
- Imran Khan (Pakistani cricketer)
- Jahangir Khan (Pakistani squash player)
- Earvin "Magic" Johnson (U.S. basketball player)
- Michael Jordan (U.S. basketball player)
- Jarmila Kratochvílová (Czech track and field athlete)
- Mario Lemieux (Canadian ice hockey player)
- Greg LeMond (U.S. cyclist)
- Ivan Lendl (Czech/U.S. tennis player)
- Sugar Ray Leonard (U.S. boxer)
- Carl Lewis (U.S. track and field athlete)
- Wally Lewis (Australian rugby league player}
- Gary Lineker (English footballer)
- Ronnie Lott (U.S. American football player)
- Saleem Malik (Pakistani cricketer)
- Diego Armando Maradona (Argentine soccer player)
- Malcolm Marshall (West Indies cricket fast bowler)
- Don Mattingly (U.S. baseball player)
- John McEnroe (U.S. tennis player)
- Mal Meninga (Australian rugby league player}
- Mark Messier (Canadian ice hockey player)
- Javed Miandad (Pakistani cricketer)
- Joe Montana (U.S. American football player)
- Dale Murphy (U.S. baseball player)
- Eddie Murray (U.S. baseball player)
- Martina Navrátilová (Czech/U.S. tennis player)
- Jack Nicklaus (U.S. golfer)
- Walter Payton (U.S. American football player)
- Nelson Piquet (Brazilian racing driver)
- "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (U.S. wrestler)
- Michel Platini (French soccer player)
- Kirby Puckett (U.S baseball player)
- Alain Prost (French racing driver)
- Jerry Rice (U.S. football player)
- Vivian Richards (West Indies cricket batsman)
- Ian Rush (Welsh soccer player)
- Nolan Ryan (U.S. baseball player)
- Ayrton Senna (Brazilian racing driver)
- Sergeant Slaughter (U.S. wrestler)
- Ozzie Smith (U.S. baseball player)
- Neville Southall (Welsh soccer player)
- Michael Spinks (U.S. boxer)
- Darryl Strawberry (U.S. baseball player)
- Lawrence Taylor (U.S. American football player)
- Isiah Thomas (U.S. basketball player)
- Daley Thompson (English track and field athlete)
- Mike Tyson (U.S. boxer)
- Dave Winfield (U.S. baseball player)
- Dwight Yorke (Trinidadian footballer)
- Steve Young (U.S. football player)
- Zico (Brazilian soccer player)
- United States President Ronald Reagan
- First Lady of the United States Nancy Reagan
- Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau, 1980 - 1984; John Turner, 1984; Brian Mulroney, 1984 - 1993.
- Spouses of the Prime Ministers of Canada, Geills Turner and Mila Mulroney
- British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
- General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev
- General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev
- Diana, Princess of Wales
- Martin Kippenberger
- Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua president and Cold War Leader
- Indira Gandhi Prime Minister of India.
- The 80s Exchange
- American Cultural History 1980–1989
- 80s Nostalgia.com
- The 80s Were Better
- 80s Rewind.net
- Popular, Well-Known Eighties Music and Playlist
- 80's ROCKS
- Interactive Timeline of the 80's
- Early Xer: Things that early Gen Xers grew up with
- "Remember the '80s: Social Movements between Woodstock and the Web" - Zoltan Grossman, Counterpunch, Jan. 3, 2008