Guide to the ‘80s Impact on Pop Culture


The 1980s is the decade that saw major socioeconomic change due to advances in technology. This decade, for many people, is both awesome and horrible at the same time. If you grew up in the ‘80s, you know what a glorious time it was to be alive. But if you’re from a younger generation, you might be curious about how it feels living in this decade. 

The ‘80s were a time of great pop culture, including some of the best music, television shows, movies, and toys of all time. This decade is also often associated with nostalgia. Even today, the memories of the 1980s continue to live on. If you’d like to learn more about this decade, especially its effect on pop culture, read on as we’re giving you a guide to the ‘80s impact on pop culture. 

1980s Music

a cassette tape

Music back in the ‘80s was heavily produced more than anything. The classic 1980s sound includes huge reverbs of snare drums, electronic rhythms, synthesizers, and lots of delay on the vocals. This decade brought so much new variety when it comes to music, together with new genres. Until then, pretty much everything has been rock-based. 

In the ‘70s, heavy metal became more prominent, and pop music has always been in the mix. However, the ‘80s brought the world some new categories and variations that people haven’t heard before. When you think of the ‘80s music, most will think of Michael Jackson, who ruled over it all. In addition to that, you also think of Madonna and U2. 

The 1980s was also the era where Hip-Hop was introduced. It gave people New Wave music and Devo. It was also the time when we began seeing more house music, and as well as the growth of punk rock. Aside from that, Metallica and Death Metal also became popular in the ‘80s. 

Even though disco has long been dead, we still hear more synthesizer-based music and more electronic production. The ‘80s also still featured classic bands, such as Queen and the Rolling Stones, who found a new generation of fans. 

Music Television, or MTV, was launched in 1981, which forever changed the way society consumed music. Bands and artists adapted to this new way to present themselves in the new visual medium. Back in those days, album sales meant everything to artists, and it was where they really earn. 

If you’d like to learn more about music in the 1980s, here are some helpful links that you might want to check out:

1980s Television

There was a bunch of classic sitcoms that came out in the ‘80s. Certain nights like Thursdays and Fridays became must-watch nights for a lot of people because that is when they would stack a bunch of top shows together. If you’d like to know what everyone was talking about, you would not want to miss these nights. 

Some of the most popular TV shows in the 1980s include “Growing Pains,” “Family Ties,” “Full House,” “ALF,” “The Wonder Years,” “The A-Team,” “Knight Rider,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” and so much more. In addition to that, the ‘80s also had arguably the best cartoons of any decade. Some of these include “Transformers,” “G.I. Joe,” and “She-Ra,” to name a few. 

From 1985 to 1990, the number one show was the Cosby Show. In the present time, the highest-rated sitcoms at their very best can do about 15 to 18 million viewers. But that would not even put them in the top 30 back in the 1980s. With this, we can say that watching television is indeed one of the top trends in the ‘80s. 

If you’re looking for more references about television in the 1980s, here are some of the links to our articles about ‘80s television:

For a deeper understanding of how television molded the 1980s’ unique cultural landscape, check out our article on the Influence of Television on Pop Culture of the 80s. This piece sheds light on the era’s television shows, music videos, and fashion trends that continue to resonate today.

1980s Movies

VHS tapes

When it comes to movies, the 1980s is probably its golden age. It is the decade that gave the world some of the biggest movies of all time and gave popularity to the blockbuster. During these times, both story writing and special effects were improving at the same time, which gave everyone an awesome time. 

It is quite challenging to make a list of movies from the 80s. In fact, even a top ten list is quite impossible to make. It’s because there are just so many great movies in almost any category in the 1980s. One example is Star Wars. Its momentum and fandom took shape in the 80s with Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. 

The ‘80s can also be referred to as the “Spielberg era” because of the classics like ET, which was the highest moneymaker of the 80s movies, The Goonies, and the epic Indiana Jones movies. Aside from that, time travel movies were also on-trend in the ‘80s, such as Back to the Future and its epic sequel. 

With this, we can say that many movies today are inspired by the classic movies that were released in the ‘80s. We cannot list all the amazing movies of the ‘80s here, but if you’d like to learn more about them, you can check out these links to our articles about movies in the 1980s:

1980s Fashion

woman wearing 80s fashion

Among the decades in the past, there isn’t any other that gets mocked as much as the 80s do for fashion. It’s because when you think of the ‘80s, most people think about lots of fluorescent greens and pinks. During these times, there were lots of velvet scrunchies that are holding crimped hair. 

Converse high tops were still very popular in the ‘80s, as well as any white high-top basketball sneakers. The decade also had the epic acid wash jeans movement, and everyone seems to be wearing a belt pack of some sort. 

Other fashion trends in the ‘80s include bike shorts, leg warmers, and lots of spandex. People also wore baggy clothes, white Adidas shoes, and big gold chains popularized by RUN DMC. In addition to that, Cyndi Lauper popularized the punk style. It made almost everyone wear blazers and blouses with giant shoulder pads in them.

The 1980s were also defined by bright-colored accessories, such as hoop earrings, sunglasses, and bangles. Society’s love for the brand was also characterized in the 80s by wearing Coca-Cola brand clothing in 1987. 

If you’d like to learn more about fashion in the 1980s, here are a few links that might help:

1980s Sports

In the 1980s, sports were dominated by a few names, which will ring on in sports history forever. Some of these names include Joe Montana, who’s possibly the best quarterback of all time, Mike Tyson, the most feared boxer, and Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird, the best rivalry when it comes to sports. 

Baseball also had quite a variety of champions. Two of the best hitters in the game were George Brett and Robin Yount, while the most promising young pitcher since Bob Gibson was Dwight “Doc” Gooden. 

For amateur basketball, the 1980s was a decade of many different number one teams. These include Indiana, Duke, and DePaul. For professional basketball, some of the most prominent teams include the Los Angeles Lakers, the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, and the Boston Celtics. 1980 was also a year for young talent. Even though Magic was great, the Rookie of the Year Award was given to Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics. Jerry West, Oscar P. Robertson, and Jerry R. Lucas were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980. 

The 1980 Summer Olympics was also controversial. It was hosted by the Soviet Union in Moscow but was boycotted by many athletes and their countries. Jimmy Carter and the U.S. led sixty-five countries to refuse to participate in protest of Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. With this, there were only 80 countries that participated. 

If you’d like to get more information about sports in the 1980s, here are some interesting articles that you might want to read:

1980s Gaming

the Nintendo Entertainment System

Did you know that there was a time in the early 1980s when video games died, and no one wanted to be involved in their production? The early ‘80s were ruled by Atari. However, that leads to the great video game crash of 1983. It was because Atari had no control over the video games that were being released. It resulted in a lot of garbage that flooded the market. There were lots of awful games that turned off kids from playing them. With that, they became more interested in the new home computer that was introduced in the market, which was the Commodore 64.

In a few short years, the video game industry went from earning around 2 billion dollars to only 100 million. This made the video game industry crash, and companies dissociated themselves from anything related to video games. 

In 1889, Nintendo, which was an upstart company from Japan, entered the scene. It started as a trading card company, moved to electronics, and then into video games. In 1986, the company released the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which became the best-selling console of its time. This has changed the video game industry forever. 

In addition to NES, other gaming consoles were also introduced in the ‘80s, such as the Sega and Sega Genesis, along with some amazing games. Some of the best-selling video games of the ‘80s include Super Mario Bros., Tetris, Duck Hunt, Super Mario Land, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario Bros. 2, Pac-Man, The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and Excitebike and Pitfall.

You can learn more about gaming in the 1980s by reading the articles from these links:

1980s Travel

The 1980s was also a decade when postcards, pocket maps, and limitless packing were all the rage. It was quite difficult to imagine a time when people have the option to bring more than one bag to check-in. Back in the ‘80s, many airlines did not limit the amount of luggage that passengers can take on board. This means that you are allowed to squeeze your whole summer or winter wardrobe into three bags without worries. 

In the ‘80s, smoking was also allowed in airplanes. There were smoking and non-smoking areas on planes. However, even though they are restricted to a specific area, the smoke still managed its way through the whole aircraft. That’s why it is now banned. 

Suitcases back then also do not usually have wheels. This means that you need to carry them around when you travel, which does not make unlimited baggage allowance very appealing. Also, flying in the 80s was significantly more expensive compared to the present time. This means that boarding a plane back them was an extravagant affair. This is why most people who ride planes at that time only wore smart attire. 

Travelers’ cheques were also the cutting edge of technology in the 1980s. All you need to do is sign on the dotted line and collect your holiday money easily. This saved people from carrying bulky wallets. Also, paper maps were an actual thing in the 1980s. Unlike today that most people rely on GPS and maps on their smartphones, people back in the ‘80s used physical fold-out road maps when they travel. And if they fail to understand the map, asking for directions from other people was the next best option. 

If you’d like to learn more about traveling in the 1980s, here are a few articles that might help you:

1980s Technology

VHS player

The 1980s were also an interesting time when it comes to technology. In fact, it is a decade often remembered for its noteworthy contributions in shaping the tech of the future. Some of these include the rise of Sony Walkman and Trinitron TVs. It was also the decade when the Casio calculator watch became popular, and as well as the craze for the Video Home System or VHS. 

It was also in the ‘80s when Steve Jobs first revealed the Macintosh, which was how Apple told the world how to make a mass-market personal computer. We have also mentioned earlier the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES. In addition to that, Nintendo also released the very first Game Boy in 1989, and it shook up the video games market. 

The roots of the most popular computer operating system in the world can also be traced back to the ‘80s when Windows 1.0 was released in 1985. The start of the smartphone boom can also be seen in the 1980s with Motorola’s DynaTac 800x, which was released in 1983. It was probably the most famous among the early handsets. 

Also, for those who did not have a Walkman to play cassettes, there was a new breakthrough technology of CDs to keep people entertained. CDs were launched in 1982 following joint development by Philips and Sony. After this, CDs became the preferred format for music, entertainment, gaming, and storage. 

If you are interested to learn more about 1980s technology, here are some interesting articles that you might want to check out:

Interesting Facts About the 80s

The ’80s ushered the birth of many things commonplace in our lives: personal computers, music videos, cell phones, and more. It’s made quite a mark in history as it brought us big hair, neon colors, shoulder pads, Air Jordans, Pac-Man, Cold War – the list is endless. If you’re feeling nostalgic about the strange yet magical decade, here are some fun facts about the 80s that will take you down memory lane.

The 80s was the decade of the personal computer

Before the 1980s, computers were usually machines that took up entire rooms and were used predominantly by scientists, astronauts, and the government. By the 1980s, personal computers were gaining traction in homes around the world. Companies like IBM and Apple were launching their own mass-market PCs. In 1982, Time magazine named the personal computer “Machine of the Year,” which was two years before the Apple Macintosh was released in the market.

Cell phones were huge (literally and figuratively) in the 80s

The first analog cellular phone system was introduced in Japan during the late 1970s, but it wasn’t until 1983 that Americans could get their hands on these devices. The first commercial cellphone in the US, the Motorola DynaTac 8000X, was 10 inches long and weighed 2.5 pounds. Released in 1983, this phone had a waiting list of thousands of people long despite its low functionality and high price point. It was the first mobile telephone that could connect to the telephone network without a mobile operator and could be carried anywhere by the user.

Microsoft Word was introduced during the ’80s

In 1983, Microsoft released the universal word processing program “Word.” This indispensable tool for students and employees alike is 40 years old. Former Xerox programmers first developed “Word” and were hired by Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen. It was even older than Microsoft Office, which was launched in 1985.

MTV was launched in 1981

MTV is part (or has been part) of our lives for decades, but most 80s kids will remember tuning into its first broadcast in 1981. The first music video they played was very fitting: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. After its debut, the channel became a massive hit by playing music videos. MTV became the go-to channel for teenagers, and for two decades, audiences relied on it as a gateway to new music, fashion, experimental film, and visual effects.

Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” is the most popular song of the decade

Fresh from Grease’s fame, Olivia Newton-John became a chart-topping artist in 1981 when her hit song “Physical” was released. In the ’80s, you could hardly turn on the radio, go to the mall, or tune into MTV without hearing or seeing this song. In fact, “Physical” was the year’s most popular song, spending ten weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100, beating out Diana Ross/Lionel Richie’s megahit “Endless Love” and Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes.”

Michael Jackson was the most popular artist of the decade

While Newton-John may have had the most popular song of the 80s, her popularity was still trumped by Michael Jackson. Throughout the decade, the King of Pop maintained his spot on the top of the Billboard Charts for 27 weeks, beating his next closest competitor, Lionel Richie, who stayed on top by a full six weeks. In 1982, Michael Jackson released one of the biggest albums of all time: Thriller.

The 80s brought us “Hey Mickey,” the cheerleader anthem

Thanks to the music video, Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey” became a cheerleader anthem. Since then, it has been played in every school and university. The singer was more than a few years out of high school, though – Basil was 38 when the song was recorded. Another fun fact: the song was originally called “Kitty,” but the producers changed it so it would be about a man.

Leg warmers were a hit during the 80s

When we think of fitness and the 80s, memories of Jane Fonda’s workout videos with people wearing colorful leotards would usually come to mind. But besides the leotards, leg warmers became really trendy during the decade – credits (or blame) to Jane Fonda. She wore them in her very first workout video, encouraging people to wear them also so they can feel like athletes.

A billion people tuned in to watch Princess Diana and Prince Charles get married

Royal and celebrity weddings are still a bit hit to this day, but they all pale compared to Diana and Charles’ wedding in July 1981. Over a billion people around the world tuned in to watch.

Gameboy was launched in the late 80s

In 1989, Nintendo first rolled out the Game Boy in Japan and brought it stateside just a few months later. However, the games were very limited – only five games were available to users in the US, such as Super Mario Land, Tetris, Tennis, Baseball, and Alleyway.

Those without cable only got three channels

Cable television rapidly became popular in the 80s, but those without paid service had little to watch. In many markets, people who didn’t subscribe to cable just got the “big three” channels: ABC, NBC, and CBS.

Waterbeds were a popular luxury item

In 1987, waterbeds comprised 20% of all mattress sales in America. The waterbed market back then was worth $2 billion.

The world first heard of AIDS in the 80s

The 80s weren’t all about fun and games. Though the first verified case of HIV dates back to 1959, the United States saw an outbreak of the disease in 1981, prompting the CDC to release an official report on what would come to be known as the AIDS epidemic (both conditions soon became connected to one another). Unfortunately, though the spread of HIV/AIDS was tormenting the country, Reagan wouldn’t address the disease publicly until 1985.

The 80s was also a decade of pioneering surgery

In 1982, doctors officially and successfully performed the first artificial heart transplant surgery. The patient was 61-year-old Barney Clark, who was too old for eligibility for a human heart. He lived for 112 days more on a permanent artificial heart.

McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets debuted in the 80s

Not everyone can imagine a life without Chicken McNuggets, but it existed. Mcdonald’s introduced it into the menu in 1981, and it has been a hit since.

The 80s left us with an iconic puzzle toy: the Rubik’s cube

When it first hit the market in 1977, the toy was called the Hungarian Magic Cube. But when they decided to make the name catchier, they changed it to Rubik’s Cube. It sold millions, with many other toy manufacturers creating their own versions. The toy’s inventor, Erno Rubik, also struggled to solve it since it took him a month to finally complete the puzzle.

In 1984, customs agents seized 20,000 counterfeit Cabbage Patch dolls

The Cabbage Patch doll craze hit the 80s to the point that parents were getting into fights with each other at malls across the country to buy their kids one of those chubby-cheeked toys. The trend became so huge that 20,000 fake dolls were seized by Customs agents before Christmas in 1984. As parents scrambled to find Cabbage Patch Kid dolls in stores, the FBI hunted down counterfeit versions that sold cheaply and contained volatile compounds. As it turns out, a massive operation made these dolls and shipped them from Canada to Michigan.

Emojis have come a long way since the 80s

Remember before smartphones, when we all used emoticons in our text messages? The descendant of the emoji – the smiley emoticon – was first used in 1982 by computer scientist Scott Fahlman. He suggested using them to help distinguish between jokes and serious posts on message boards at Carnegie Mellon.

It was in the 80s when Canada officially became free

Surprisingly, Canada did not have official independence from the United Kingdom until 1982, when Queen Elizabeth II authorized the Canada Act.

24-hour news was launched only in 1981

It may seem like we’re constantly overwhelmed by the news today, but this wasn’t always the case. 24-hour news only exited when media mogul Ted Turner launched the first-ever 24-hour news network, Dubbed Cable News Network (which was later shortened to CNN). The cable channel was also the first to show news programming exclusively.

Science took big leaps in human modification during the 80s

The 80s was also a pivotal decade for genetic science and human modification. It was only in 1984 that the genetic fingerprint was invented by British genetic scientist Alec Jeffreys. Later on, it became the key to modern gene analysis, making scientists able to perform the first genetic modification of adult humans during a gene tagging experiment. Also, it was in 1985 when the first successful surrogate pregnancy of an unrelated child was performed.

You could buy a home in America for under $100K in the 80s

Millennials are collectively struggling financially, let alone being able to afford a house. But back in the 1980s, getting your hands on a piece of property was a relatively inexpensive proposition. In 1985, the average cost of a house in the US was just $92,800. In contrast, the average house bought in the country will cost $428,700 in 2022. And the situation is generally the same in other countries.

The first minivan hit the road in 1984

It’s typical of soccer moms to drive minivans, and they are still the go-to rides for multi-children families today. But the kids of the 1980s saw their very first iteration when Chrysler launched its first minivan in 1984: the Dodge Caravan. This minivan was a boxy behemoth that offered configurations that could seat either five or seven passengers.

Crack cocaine debuted in the 80s

It was in 1983 when crack cocaine was first synthesized and produced. It all started in the Bahamas, and it didn’t take long for it to spread north into the US and around the world.


The 1980s decade was indeed very interesting. There were lots of trends back then that has major effects on the pop culture we have today. No wonder a lot of things from the ‘80s still hold up, most especially movies. The ‘80s music also seems to be even better than you remember. We hope this helps you learn more about the ‘80s impact on pop culture. To further provide you with information, here are some links to more articles about the 1980s:

In the 1980s, music was a central part of popular culture, shaping trends and lifestyles. Our post, How Did People Listen to Music in the 80s? explores the unique ways people enjoyed their favorite tunes during this iconic decade.

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