24 Highest Grossing Box Office Movies of the 80s


When you think of the ‘80s, most of the things you’ll remember are all about fun. It’s because this decade was filled with wacky styles of creativity and plenty of timeless classics. There are lots of wonderful music, fashion, and movies that the ‘80s brought the world. And when it comes to movies, the ‘80s is one of the most productive years in the history of the seventh art or cinema. If you are wondering what the movies in the ‘80s were all about, then you’re in the right place. Today, we are giving you 24 of the highest-grossing box office movies of the ‘80s.

1. E.T. The Extraterrestrial

E.T. The-Extraterrestrial is a sci-fi film in 1982 which was produced and directed by Academy Award-winning director, Steven Spielberg. This movie is considered to be one of the finest of its generation. Critics claimed this movie to be a timeless story of friendship. It has captivated audiences of all ages as it follows the unforgettable journey of a lost alien and the 10-year-old boy it makes friends with.

You can now watch this fantastic movie again with this DVD. It is digitally remastered with enhanced picture and sound, made especially for the 30th anniversary of the film. This DVD also comes with special features such as deleted scenes, an interview with Steven Spielberg, a look back, and the E.T. Reunion as well.

2. Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi is also known as Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. It’s an American epic space-opera film in 1983 that was directed by Richard Marquand. This film is the third installment in the original Star Wars trilogy. It is where the Empire prepares to crush the Rebellion with a more powerful Death Star. It is also where Luke Skywalker confronts Darth Vader in a final duel.

Return of the Jedi grossed between $475 million and $572 million worldwide. If you want to watch this movie again, you can stream it on the link above. It also includes bonus features that were not shown in theaters before. 

3. The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back is Star Wars: Episode V. It is an American epic space-opera film in 1980 that was directed by Irvin Kershner. This episode is the middle installment of the original Star Wars trilogy and also the 5th episode in the nine-part Skywalker saga. This film was the highest-grossing film of 1980, and it has earned more than $538 million worldwide. This was the film that was followed by Return of the Jedi in 1983.

4. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

This is an American action-adventure film that was directed by Steven Spielberg. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the 3rd installment in the Indiana Jones franchise. The film was about archaeologist Jones and his father when they raced the Nazis to the Holy Grail. It was released in North America on May 24, 1989, and it earned $474.2 million worldwide. It also won an Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing. 

5. Batman

Batman (1989) is an American superhero film that was directed by Tim Burton. It was based on the DC Comics character, Batman. This film is the first installment of Warner Bros.’ initial Batman film series. This movie starred Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman. It takes place early in the title character’s war on crime where he battled with his opponent the Joker.

This film was a critical and financial success because it earned more than $400 million in box office totals. In fact, this movie was the 5th highest-grossing film in history when it was released. It also won nominations in Saturn Award and Golden Globe and won an Academy Award as well. This film has influenced the modern marketing and development techniques of Hollywood when it comes to the superhero film genre. 

6. Rain Man

Rain Man was an American comedy-drama in 1988, and Barry Levinson directed it. This film is about an abrasive, selfish young wheeler-dealer who discovered that his estranged father has died and willed all of his multi-million-dollar estate to his other son, whose existence he does not know.

This film was the highest-grossing film of 1988, and it also won four Oscars at the 61st Academy Awards. The awards this film won include Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Dustin Hoffman. Aside from that, it also won the Golden Bear at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival. 

7. Raiders of the Lost Ark

This is an American action-adventure film in 1981 that was directed by Steven Spielberg. It’s the first installment in the Indiana Jones franchise. This film stars Harrison Ford who played as archeologist Indiana Jones and battled a group of Nazis looking for the Ark of the Covenant. Raiders of the Lost Ark was 1981’s top-grossing film, and it remains one of the highest-grossing films. In 1982, this film was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won for Film Editing, Sound, Best Direction, and Visual Effects with a fifth Academy Award. 

8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an American live-action/animated comedy film in 1988 that was directed by Robert Zemeckis. This film was based on Gary K. Wolf’s novel in 1981 titled, “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?” This movie is set in 1947, in theform of Hollywood where cartoon characters and real people co-exist. The story follows Eddie Valiant, a detective who must free Roger Rabbit, a cartoon character accused of murdering a wealthy businessman.

Disney released this film on June 22, 1988, and it became a blockbuster hit. This film also won three Academy Awards for Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Film Editing, and Best Visual Effects. 

9. Top Gun

This is an American action-drama film in 1986 which was directed by Tony Scott. This film was inspired by an article published in California magazine three years earlier titled, “Top Guns”. It stars Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Tom Skerritt, and Anthony Edwards. It’s about a young naval aviator who boarded the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. There, he was given a chance to train at the US Navy’s Fighter Weapons School at Naval Air Station Miramar in California.

Top Gun was a huge commercial hit, and it grossed $356 million. It was able to maintain its popularity over the years, and it even earned an IMAX 3D re-release in 2013. This film also won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Take My Breath Away”. 

10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

This is the second installment of the Indiana Jones franchise and also a prequel to the 1981 film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. This film was directed by Steven Spielberg, and it was released in 1984. The story revolves around Indiana Jones finding a mystical stone and rescuing children from a Thuggee cult practicing black magic and child slavery in honor of the goddess Kali. The release of this film also has financial success, but it also received mixed reviews due to its dark tone.

11. Back to the Future Part II

This film is a sequel to the 1985 film, Back to the Future, and the 2ndpart in the Back to the Future trilogy. It is an American sci-fi film directed by Robert Zemeckis. The film was released in 1989, and it starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F. Wilson, and Lea Thompson.Back to the Future Part II received varied reviews from critics, but it was able to gross more than $334 million worldwide that made it the 3rd highest-grossing film of 1989. 

12. Crocodile Dundee

Crocodile Dundee is an action-comedy film in 1986 which was set in the Australian Outback and New York City. This film stars Paul Hogan who played as the weather-beaten Mick Dundee. The true-life exploits of Rod Ansell inspire this movie.It was the highest-grossing film in Australia and the second highest-grossing film in the United States in 1986. Then, it went on to become the highest-grossing film worldwide at the box office. 

13. Fatal Attraction

This is an American psychological thriller film in 1987, and it was directed by Adrian Lyne. The movie is from a screenplay by James Dearden, which was based on his 1980 short film, Diversion. This film is about a married man who has a weekend affair with a woman who’s obsessed with him. Fatal Attraction received positive reviews from critics, and it became a huge box office success. It grossed more than $320 million and became the highest-grossing film of 1987 worldwide. 

14. Beverly Hills Cop

This is an American action-comedy film in 1984 that was directed by Martin Brest. It stars Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley, a street-smart Detroit cop who’s trying to solve the murder of his best friend in Beverly Hills, California. This film was able to earn $234 million at the North American domestic box office, and it became the highest-grossing film released in 1984 in the United States. This film also won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture. 

15. Rocky IV

This is an American boxing sports drama film in 1985 which was written, directed by, and starring Sylvester Stallone. It was the highest-grossing sports movie for 24 years and the most financially successful entry in the Rocky film series. It was about Ivan Drago who wants to take on World champion Rocky Balboa in the Soviet Union to take vengeanceon the death of his friend and defend the honor of his country. Rocky IV was able to earn $300 million. Due to its success, it had a fifth entry release on November 16, 1990. 

16. Rambo: First Blood Part II

This is an American action-thriller film in 1985 which was directed by George P. Cosmatos. It is a sequel to First Blood in 1982 and the second installment in the Rambo franchise. It was about when Rambo was released from prison by federal order to document the possible existence of POWS in Vietnam. Under the belief that Rambo will find nothing, enabling the issue to be swept under the rug by the government. Rambo: First Blood II received some negative reviews, but it still became a major worldwide box office blockbuster, having around 42 million tickets sold in the United States. 

17. Beverly Hills Cop II

Beverly Hills Cop II is the sequel to the 1984 film Beverly Hills Cop. It is also and the second installment in the Beverly Hills Cop series. In this film, Axel Foley, Detroit police detective, reunites with Beverly Hills detective to stop a robbery and gun-running gang after Captain Andrew Bogomil was shot and wounded.

This sequel made less money compared to the first film, but it was still a box office success. It earned $153.7 million domestically. It was also nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song for Shakedown by Bob Seger. 

18. Look Who’s Talking

This is an American romantic-comedy film in 1989 that was written and directed by Amy Heckerling. It starred John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. This film was a surprise hit as it earned $12 million in its opening weekend. Eventually, it grossed over $140 million domestically and more than $296 million worldwide. This is Travolta’s most successful film in eleven years since Grease, and it is also the 4th highest-grossing movie of 1989. 

19. Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters is an American fantasy-comedy film in 1984, and it was directed by Ivan Reitman. This film is about a trio of eccentric parapsychologists who begin a ghost-catching business in New York City. When this film was released, it became a cultural phenomenon. It was able to earn $282.2 million during its initial theatrical run, making it the 2nd highest-grossing film of 1984. When the film was further released, it had a total gross of about $295.2 million, which made it the most successful comedy film of the 1980s. 

20. Coming to America

This is an American romantic-comedy film in 1988, which was directed by John Landis. This film was based on the original story created by Eddie Murphy, who’s also the lead role in this movie. In this film, he played Akeem Joffer, the crown prince of Zamunda who went to the United States to find a woman to marry.

Coming to America was a commercial box-office success worldwide. It earned more than $288 million and became the highest-grossing film in 1988 for the studio and the 3rd highest-grossing film at the United States box office. 

21. Crocodile Dundee II

This is the sequel to Crocodile Dundee in 1986. This film was directed by John Cornell, and it was released in 1988. Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski repeat their roles in this film as Mick Dundee and Sue Charlton opposing a Colombian drug cartel. This film grossed more than $109 million at the domestic box office. It was the 2nd highest-grossing Paramount film in 1988 and the 6th highest-grossing film at the U.S. box office. It earned more than $240 million worldwide. 

22. Out of Africa

This is an American epic romantic drama film in 1985. It was directed by Sydney Pollack, and its story is based on the autobiographical book, “Out of Africa”, written by Isak Dinesen. The film starred Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. It was also a box office movie that earned $227.5 million. Aside from that, Out of Africa also won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Sound. It also won three Gold Globe Awards. 

23. Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society is a drama film in 1989 directed by Peter Weir. This film starred Robin Williams as it tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students through the poetry he teaches. This movie received critical acclaim and was a box office success. It earned more than $235 million at the worldwide box office, and it is the 5th highest-grossing film for 1989. 

24. Lethal Weapon 2

This is a buddy cop action-comedy film in 1989, which was directed by Richard Donner. It is a sequel to the Lethal Weapon film in 1987. It starred Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Patsy Kensit, Joss Ackland, and Derrick O’Connor. The film was about two LAPD officers who protect an irritating federal witness while taking on a gang of South African drug dealers. This film received positive reviews and was able to earn over $227 million worldwide. Aside from that, it was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.

These are the 24 highest-grossing box office movies of the 80s. Watching these movies again will take you on a trip down memory lane and will make you remember the times when you watched them in the cinema back in the 80s. If you’re looking for more 80s movies, you can also check out our Top 9 Crime Movies and Thrillers of 80s for more options.

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