Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
This is one of those movies that you’ll want to watch over and over again and you’ll never get tired of it. Rosanna Arquette plays Roberta, a rich, bored New Jersey housewife who loves to read the personal ads, especially the ones addressed to “Susan,” a woman who seemingly uses them to communicate with her paramour. One day one such ad mentions a meeting place, so Roberta (remember I said she was BORED with her life) hauls ass to Manhattan to catch a glimpse of the real-life Susan. Susan, of course, is played by Madonna (1985 Madonna, aka the best Madonna!) so of course Roberta is immediately OBSESSED with her. Obsession turns to “light stalking” as she follows Susan to a thrift store, where Roberta purchases the most EPIC jacket ever known to man with a SICK pyramid-eye thing (never has a jacket played such an important role in a movie ever) that Susan has just traded for something not as cool. This all leads to mistaken-identity high jinks spurred by—what else?—Roberta’s getting amnesia while wearing Susan’s old jacket (I’m telling you that jacket is literally the most important thing ever). From then on it’s all trading places, mobsters, guns, makeouts at movie theaters, eating Cheetos in backyards, and basically all the things that you wish your life was (or maybe all the things your life already is?), just made infinitely more glamorous because Madonna is awesome. This movie almost doesn’t make sense, except it finally barely does, and it’s just a rad time. Recommended for all who like fun, ’80s outfits, Madonna, ’80s New York, punk-rock cameos (Arto Lindsay and Richard Hell), and also cool jackets with pyramids on the back. —Laia

Smithereens (1982)
Before Susan Seidelman directed Desperately Seeking Susan, she made this indie classic, which follows Wren, a young Jersey girl who tries desperately to be part of the 1980s punk-rock scene. Unfortunately, the scene has moved to the West Coast, leaving Wren stranded in the city, trying to get a ticket to Los Angeles. She befriends a rocker named Eric (played by Richard Hell) and Paul, a young man from Montana who falls in love with Wren. Smithereens is about being so in love with a music scene that you’ll do anything to be a part of it. At one point Wren steals paper from her day job to make posters of her face with “WHO IS THIS?” written underneath, in an attempt to gain some sort of notoriety. Her clothes are also totally awesome. She’ll wear a pink faux-fur coat with a green leopard miniskirt; her beat-up old Converse are a staple of every outfit. Watching Smithereens is like taking a time machine back to one of the coolest eras in music. If I were Wren, I’d want in too! —Hazel

Saved by the Bell
1989-1993, NBC

Every enlightened human being who enjoys a little something called PURE FROTHY FREAKING ENTERTAINMENT (PFFE) should put their life on hold right now to watch all four seasons of Saved by the Bell. The first time I saw it I was five years old, sitting on the floor of my babysitter’s living room. I barely knew English, but I remember being mesmerized by the hair—the gloriously crimped, teased, pouffy-banged, side-ponytailed, big, big hair of the 1980s—and the clothes: bedazzled Canadian tuxedos, crop tops, poet sleeves and harem pants, velvet vests, dudes rocking all kinds of neon shirts with geometric squiggles, satin two-piece track suits, mock turtlenecks in every primary color tucked into hella high-waisted, hella acid-washed jeans. Later, when I was old enough to wear some of those clothes, but totally in the wrong decade, I still went ahead and dressed myself like Kelly Kapowski. I wanted my first boyfriend to be a charming, cunning bastard with a secret inner chamber of lionhearted kindness like Zach Morris. I searched high and low for someone who was exactly like AC Slater, a muscle-bound jock who excelled at several sports, had a military dad, was a wiz at cars, regularly told his feminist girlfriend that she should cook more, and was also somehow fucking awesome at dancing ballet and every other kind of dance (and would regularly rip off his clothes to reveal a full-body leotard and launch into some of the sickest dance moves I’ve ever seen). There’s just too much to love—the complete disregard of the time-space continuum, how Screech wore his suspenders so high that his torso literally looked five inches long, Mr. Belding’s cheesy dad jokes and the episode wherein we learn his brother is basically Michael Bolton’s doppleganger, and the “serious” episodes that SBTB attempted, like the one where Jessie becomes addicted to caffeine pills and famously tells Zach, “I’m so excited…I’m so scared…” and if your heart is not too blackened by the dark forces of ironic distance and Tumblr-meme saturation, then maybe you won’t laugh at me when I tell you that my heart genuinely swelled when Zach comforted her by reminding her of the time when they were kids and biked home in the dark and were so scared, but in the end, they were together and everything was OK. Or, whatever. Make fun of me and enjoy the LOLZ. —Jenny

Jem and the Holograms
1985-1988, in syndication

Jem and the Holograms may not be the most influential cartoon rock group of all time (that title obviously belongs to Mystik Spiral), but when I was a teeny tiny, late-’80s version of myself, the band was my world. Jem, the pink-haired lead singer of the Holograms, is actually an ordinary girl named Jerrica Benton. Her scientist father invented a computer called Synergy that projects a hologram onto her body, turning her into the “truly, truly, truly, outrageous” rock goddess Jem. Yeah, I don’t totally get the science behind it either (the show premiered in 1985, a time when people barely understood what computers were), but the holograms that Jem via Synergy is able to produce help the band navigate their way through all of the perilous situations that they find themselves in, episode after episode (and I can only assume that the whole Tupac hologram thing was conceived of by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre while the two were watching this show). Jem, the character, is someone that we can all look up to. Surely she could have used Synergy to rule the world, but instead she chose to make really awesome synth pop and take care of orphans in her spare time. The show has adventure and romance and is worth checking out, if only for wardrobe inspiration. —Amber

Nine to Five (1980)
This movie is nearly perfect. Not only is it a seriously pro-feminist movie, with three female office workers trying to break through the glass ceiling at work (hint: the glass ceiling is made of men), but it stars Dolly Parton and I love Dolly Parton and it’s 1980s Dolly Parton, my very favorite Dolly Parton. (Even though Dolly can do no wrong in my book in any era.) Good god, this movie is awesome. It’s like Office Space meets Kill Bill. The main characters get stoned (from weed one of their teenage sons gives them) and daydream hilariously, cartoonishly violent ways to kill their evil, misogynistic, bigoted boss, giggling their asses off the entire time. They’re not talking about having him fired, not dreaming of getting him to agree to leave leaving alone. No. They want to kill him, and they tell him off the entire movie, then make sure he gets a taste of his own medicine. For real, you guys: I love this movie. It’s so pro-women! And so fun! It also happens to have been shot during the exact time period (late ’70s) that gave birth to all the dresses at the vintage store that I’m obsessed with. Polyester? Bring it on. Strange filmy blouses with large loopy bows at the neck? I’m dying, I’m dying. —Krista

Working Girl (1988)
Melanie Griffith plays Tess, a secretary working on 1980s Wall Street who’s tired of dealing with the skeevy businessmen who keep trying to take advantage of her just ’cause she’s blonde and pretty. She thinks her luck has finally changed when she’s assigned to work for Katharine (Sigourney Weaver), a woman who’s charming and rich and comes to her with a message of “sisterhood is powerful.” Of course the whole thing turns out to be a sham when Tess shares an idea with Katharine and Katharine tells her it wasn’t well received but OF COURSE it WAS well received and Katharine is taking all the credit for it. Now HERE’S where stuff starts getting real good! Tess is all “FUCK IT” and decides to go ahead and get what’s rightfully hers. She sets up meetings with the important clients, crashes weddings and in the interim falls in love with her business partner Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford, so DUH). Oh and also Joan Cusack plays her best friend (always awesome) and there’s a lot of young shirtless Alec Baldwin (always hot) for good measure. This movie will leave you cheering and make you wanna believe in your dreams and also maybe try out a bit of ’80s makeup (over the top and fabulous). It was nominated for like a million Oscars too, but OF COURSE it did, because it is so, so good. —Laia

It (1927)
We are insanely lucky, in that we’ve grown up with the past 100 years or so locked on film, a luxury we take for granted but which allows us to see how people lived their lives long before we came into the world. This movie is wonderful for several reasons, the main one being its star, the original “It girl” herself, Clara Bow, who is hilarious, has the charisma of a million movie stars combined, and will totally make you want to bob your hair and follow Jane Marie’s makeup tutorial. But it’s also a marvelous time capsule, in that you get to watch Bow at her department store job, gossiping with the girls (“Hot socks!” is an expression that really needs to come back into the mainstream vernacular), standing on the city streets, going out to swanky ’20s restaurants, creating her own “fancy” dress, and going on a date that involves the types of carnival rides you’re both terrified of and wish still existed. It is a snapshot of the life of a working class girl in 1927 and how she overcomes all sorts of obstacles to get what she wants, and it’s so much fun to watch, mostly because Clara has the “It” that the writer Elinor Glyn (in a ridiculous cameo) describes in the film: “self-confidence and indifference as to whether you are pleasing or not.” Clara Bow herself, and she’s fantastic. —Pixie

Heathers (1988)
The other day my dad asked when and how I got such a dark sense of humor. I really think it was when I first saw Heathers. It’s a sweet little gem in which Winona Ryder and Christian Slater have kind of a Bonnie and Clyde situation and kill the popular people at school, framing their deaths as suicides. It was the first movie, I’m pretty sure, to delve into the mind of a girl who becomes the mean girl, kind of like in Mean Girls (which would not exist without Heathers and which, FUN FACT, was directed by the brother of Daniel Waters, who wrote Heathers). It took me like seven viewings before I realized that Veronica is kind of the worst of her whole mean-girl clique, because the rest of them are rude, but Veronica KILLS people! It is THAT twisted and fascinating and great at picking apart the power dynamics of the social world of high school. It’s also the MOST QUOTABLE. Waters wrote it when he was in high school, and you can tell because it is DRIPPING with angst. Anaheed says that when it first came out in theaters she and her friends couldn’t believe that other people, mainstream movie-making people, suddenly shared their sick and twisted sense of humor. I have had Heathers-Quotes Texting Wars. I also have two Heathers T-shirts and a cameo necklace of Veronica and JD, Christian Slater’s character. I LOVE THIS MOVIE. WATCH IT AND LOVE IT WITH ME. Thank you. —Tavi

Game of Thrones
2011-now, HBO

If I were to describe Game of Thrones to someone who was completely unfamiliar with the series, I’d probably start by comparing it to The Lord of the Rings, because it also has a fantastical element and a Medieval feel (there are kings, queens, castles). But that comparison fails to capture how cool this show, based on George R.R. Martin’s bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire book series, is. It’s grittier than anything J.R.R. Tolkien ever wrote, with morally ambiguous characters who plot and scheme and have tons of sex—which I can’t (and don’t want to) picture Frodo doing. The show is about a power struggle—rival kingdoms, opportunists, and deposed rulers all fighting to gain control of the “Iron Throne.” Even if this doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that you’d usually find appealing, the intertwining plots are filled with so much mystery, scandal, and human drama that it’s hard not to lose yourself in it all. Out of a pool of fascinating and inspiring characters, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), exiled daughter of Westeros’ former king, is maybe the most impressive. Dany begins the show’s first season timid and eventually becomes this strong-willed figure. Her transformation is actually so moving that just thinking about it gives me chills. —Amber

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
“You never watched a John Carpenter film?!” was my friend’s reaction when I picked up a DVD with a hilariously gory cover from his living room floor the other week. And seriously, after watching this movie I wanted to karate-kick myself for waiting this long to do it. Big Trouble has it all: ninjas, two love stories, monsters, and a young Kurt Russell. It’s a neon and cheap-special-effects extravaganza that ensures you will never look at a Chinese-restaurant menu the same way again. —Cynthia

The Class (Entre les Murs) (2008)
This is a luminous and heartbreaking film by Laurent Cantent, adapted from the autobiographical novel by a former schoolteacher, Francois Begaudeau, about his year teaching at an inner-city junior high in Paris. Cantent developed the script by spending nine months with a group of actual third-year collège students (the equivalent of ninth-graders in America) who had never acted before, and basically just hung out with them, observed them, and recorded their interactions, habits, and behaviors on camera. Begaudeau plays a fictionalized version of himself, and we watch him juggle the weird, intimidating position of being a person of authority while also being—like the rest of us—a completely flawed human. Subtle parallels are drawn between teacher and students throughout the entire movie, like how both can stoop to amazing levels of pettiness and vengefulness—for instance, when the moody, charismatic troublemaker Souleyman asks Monsieur Begaudeau if he likes men, or the moment when Begaudeau’s character insults two of his female students with a possibly sexist slur because he feels ganged up on. In the movie, all of the teachers are white, and most of the students are of North African or Arab origin. But don’t worry—this film never dips into the morally lazy trope of a white high school teacher who arrives to save the black and brown children from their horrible lives. No one is saved. No one is a hero for long, and neither is anyone a villain. No one comes out the other end radically transformed. Instead we get characters who really do try to be good people, but don’t always succeed. This movie is a beautiful antidote to the whitewashed fantasy of Paris as a place of baguettes and Amélie-style stone-skipping on the Canal Saint-Martin. In the span of two hours these teenagers will break your heart with their self-centeredness, and then break it all over again with their sensitivity, intelligence, powerlessness, and strength. —Jenny

The Last Picture Show (1971)
It was a beautiful day when I discovered this film on Netflix. Young Jeff Bridges (of The Big Lebowski) and Cybill Shepherd (from Taxi Driver) in a film about teenagers in the 1950s? Somehow I knew it would be perfect, and I wasn’t let down. Set in a small Texas town and shot in moody black and white, the film follows Sonny, Duane, and Jacy as they grapple with feelings of boredom, loneliness, romantic and sexual desire, and everything else that you can experience as a teenager even now! It is one of the most honest films I have ever seen about adolescence. Everything about it feels so real—nothing is sugarcoated, and all of the characters are complicated. Because, guess what? Like real people, they are HUMAN. —Tara

La Femme Nikita (1990)
I first saw this movie upon its release, probably by myself, at the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis in ninth grade. I was obsessed by the poster: spike heels and spiked hair. How better to communicate TUFF BITCH? Nikita, a junkie punk-rock (but only in the French pop-movie sense—she has a Meatloaf poster, so how punk can she be?) bad girl, becomes a lethal weapon for the French government, but only after shooting a cop point blank and stabbing another one through the palm with a Bic pen after he slaps her and treats her like a little girl. Could there be anything tougher, or badass-er than that? How about Nikita, later, in a body-con dress having a handgun bonanza while some beefy bodygaurds shoot rocket-propelled grenades at her?

I think perhaps my idea of feminist-lib action heroine was a bit underdeveloped and I missed the entire storyline of her being LOCKED INSIDE A COP-RUN TRAINING COMPOUND FOR THREE YEARS UNTIL SHE LEARNS HOW TO DRESS LIKE A SEXY GAL AND BE AN EXPERT WORD PROCESSOR AND ALSO LIVE IN A CELL…and love it! La Femme Nikita is really eightiesterrible™: the plinking-droplet-of-water effect on the super-MIDI’d-out soundtrack, the montage where Nikita’s a-ha moment of computer genius occurs via what appears to be a MacPaint program, a super-hot model babe wordlessly seducing a cashier dude on a filthy painter’s tarp, a montage of a romantic trip to Venice that includes our quirky heroine mugging it up in a man’s hat. It’s almost funny, but then it’s not. I feel retroactively embarrassed for my ninth-grade self, spending $12 in babysitting savings to see this twice, but you, you should totally dial it up on Netflix Instant right this instant. —Jessica

The Graduate (1967)
Benjamin Braddock has just graduated from college, and he finds himself in a bit of a pickle. He is having an affair with the wife of his father’s business partner! It all started with his famous, startled line “Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?” Mrs. Robinson is in control, to a point of manipulation, but then things get crazy when Benjamin meets her daughter, Elaine, and falls head-over-heels in love with. Benjamin is vulnerable, emotional, and confused. How weird that men can feel that way too! —Tara

River’s Edge (1986)
My teendom was River’s Edge in the VCR, a remote control, and me pressing “play” and “rewind.” Shot in 1986, this movie eerily foreshadows everything (depressing) that became GRUNGE. A group of (f’n cool) misfits/slackers discover that their friend has strangled his girlfriend (also their friend) down by the river. They spend the rest of the film trying to figure out how to deal with this tragedy—or NOT deal with it. Their reactions are almost as ambiguous and perplexing as the crime itself. It stars Keanu Reeves (in his best role), Ione Skye, many unknowns, and then Dennis Hopper as a creepy weed dealer named Feck. Yes, it’s all very disturbing, but it’s the kind of disturbing that I can handle, because there is still a lot of beauty in it: the visuals especially, and heartbreaking moments, and some hilarious moments—the kind where you’re laughing to keep from crying. River’s Edge is culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant. It has inspired a ton of my art. —Sonja
P.S. the heavy scene of Jamie’s body has haunted me for life in a Laura Palmer kind of way.

Control (2007)
This movie is the visual equivalent of a Joy Division record: it is haunting, exciting, and beautiful, and it ultimately breaks your heart. Sam Riley is perfectly cast as the late Ian Curtis, Joy Division’s singer and songwriter, whose short but legendary life is profiled in black and white by Anton Corbijn in a way that never feels cheap or easy. There are plenty of biopics about famous, doomed musicians, and many of them turn their subjects into caricatures; but Control finds a way to present Ian Curtis as both a rock star and a genuine human being, someone you desperately root for and want to reach through the screen to save, even though you already know how the story ends. —Pixie

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
The first time I came across Stephen Frears’s Academy Award-winning adaptation of the play Les Liaisons Dangereuses (which was itself an adaptation of an 18th century French novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos), it was on HBO and I decided that I was going to watch it only for a little while. You know, just long enough to find out how dangerous the liaisons really were. But the story was so riveting, the costumes were so gorgeous, the ’80s-era John Malkovich so strangely alluring, and yes, the liaisons so dangerous, that changing the channel became a physical impossibility. Malkovich is the Vicomte de Valmont and Glenn Close is the Marquise de Merteuil. They are former lovers, rivals, and schemers who callously use sex to control innocents. The pawns in their game: a naïve virgin (played by a teenage Uma Thurman), the music tutor she’s fallen for (Keanu Reeves), and an honorable married woman (Michelle Pfeiffer). Beneath all of the libertinism and duplicity is a pretty intriguing meditation on gender roles in 18th century France—Merteuil is a villain, but it’s through her conniving that she’s able to wield some power. Dangerous Liaisons is engrossing, bordering on hypnotic, and by the end of it all, you’ll probably know how to spell “liaisons,” which is kind of a tricky word. —Amber

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
It’s totally understandable to be burned out by the Goth Triangle that is Depp-Burton-Bonham Carter. Their work together isn’t really hit or miss as much as it’s hit or mehhh, and at times it feels like they’re just fucking with us by putting on elaborate costumes and building elaborate sets and then just kind of goofing around like that one mom in your neighborhood who always dressed up and did accents while handing out candy on Halloween, much to her children’s chagrin. However! When the pancake makeup falls the right way, this trio can make incredibly weird and wonderful things, which is the case with Sweeney Todd (it doesn’t hurt that they have Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the original musical, in their corner, either). It’s a dark film, visually and thematically, but Burton’s sensibility meets Sondheim’s score perfectly to create something that is both terrifying and delightful, which is not an easy feat. It’s not a film for the squeamish—if you hate blood, or if you’d like to continue eating meat pies, you should probably stay away. But the music is so great, the performances are on point (especially Bonham Carter), and it’s one of Burton’s better films of the past decade. It’s the kind of movie that makes you forgive the Goth Triangle for all past indiscretions, and that lights that little flicker of hope anytime Johnny Depp appears in a preview with ghostly pale skin and dark circles under his wild eyes. —Pixie

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
As far as ’80s high-school movies go, this one is the king of the castle. a freelance writer for Rolling Stone, Cameron Crowe went undercover at a California high school and wrote about his experiences. He turned that book into this delight of a movie, directed by Amy Heckerling (of Clueless fame). It has Jennifer Jason Leigh, the stoner surfer Jeff Spicoli, Tom Petty music, feather hair accessories aka “roach clips,” Pat Benatar clones, ticket scalping, side one of Led Zep IV, first-time sexual intercourse, a rare and killer Stevie Nicks track, fast food, checkered Vans aplenty, French braids (all the lady hairdos in this movie will INSPIRE YOU), Mr. Hand, pizzas delivered to classrooms, topless surfer dudes playing video games at the ARCADE, the mall, and—best of all—Nancy Wilson of Heart as “Beautiful Girl in Car” wearing an angora sweater and driving a hot rod. I won’t give away any more. Even the background graffiti is “awesome, totally awesome”—and, yes, Fast Times spawned that phrase for eternity. —Sonja