Fun 1980s movies: Top 12 best teenage films in the spirit of ‘Stranger Things,’ ranked worst to best, including ‘E.T.,’ ‘Back to the Future,’ ‘Ghostbusters’

The second season of the multi-Emmy-nominated Netflix series “Stranger Things” has now been released, and fans have been eating up the new series of adventures.

When the series first premiered, many critics praised the series, observing that the show’s tone of boyish adventure was very reminiscent of films from the 1980s and, in particular, those films in which Steven Spielberg had some kind of hand. When watching “Stranger Things” in that light, the comparison is apt, so we thought we’d look back in a new photo gallery at some of those most fun films from that decade that have appeared had considerable influence on “Stranger Things.”

We’ve had to be picky about what movies to include. Few films are more fun than “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and even though it’s Spielberg, it’s missing the kid/teen element that’s such a part of the series. So dust off your Schwinn bicycle and take a drive down 1980s memory lane.

12. THE LOST BOYS (1987)
Joel Schumacher’s mash-up of a teen vampire movie with elements of J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” hooked young audiences in 1987.  Two brothers from Arizona, Michael and Sam Emerson (Jason Patric, Corey Haim) move to a California beach town and encounter a group of teenage vampires led by biker David (Kiefer Sutherland).  The “lost boys” reference of the title refers to those boys in “Peter Pan” who vowed to “never grow up” and these vampires do the same.  The film’s mix of comedy and scares proved to be a fun combination that has only enhanced the film’s reputation.

11. GREMLINS (1984)
Like “The Lost Boys,” “Gremlins” mixed fun and scares to a project that could have seemed ludicrous — looking back on it, I consider it “homicidal Ewoks on a rampage” — but director Joe Dante keeps the cuteness in check and emphasizes the thrills in a film that was so successful that it spawned a 1990 sequel.  Inventor Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton), in a Chinese antique store is looking for a Christmas gift for his son Billy (Zach Galligan) when he comes across a cute furry creature called a mogwai, which the store’s owner refuses to sell to him.  However, the owner’s grandson secretly sells the mogwai to Randall but warns him not to feed it after midnight, don’t expose it to sunlight and never ever get it wet.  He gives it to Billy, and eventually the mogwai gets wet.  Uh-oh.

Thirty-five years later, there are still so many milestones that keeps “Fast Times” relevant today.  It marked the directing debut of Amy Hecklerling who later went on to direct the brilliant “Clueless” (1995).  The film was written by Cameron Crowe (“Jerry Maguire”) whose script was based on his experiences going undercover at a San Diego high school.  And perhaps most memorably, “Fast Times” featured Sean Penn in his his iconic role as the ultimate surfer dude Jeff Spicoli, who went toe to toe with his teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston) with hilarious results.

The success of Wes Craven’s original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” took the film industry by surprise and led to eight sequel films (and a 2010 remake) and a TV series.  The film walks a fine line between what is real and what is imaginary as a group of four teenagers are stalked in their dreams (and in reality) by the razor-fingered psychopath Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).  The fear of falling asleep where you could be killed is such a primal hook that the film proved irresistible to audiences, who improbably took Freddy Krueger to their heart and made him a cinematic icon.

One of the great high school comedies, John Hughes’ film brings together five students from different cliques who have to spend a Saturday in an all-day detention and are being carefully watched by the stern Asst. Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason).  The five — introvert Allison (Ally Sheedy), dweeb Brian (Anthony Michael Hall), jock Andy (Emilio Estevez), pampered Claire (Molly Ringwald) and wannabe hood Bender (Judd Nelson) — don’t know each other, but the more they spend that long Saturday together, the more they realize just how much they have in common.  One of Hughes’ best films.

7. THE GOONIES (1985)
“The Goonies,” directed by Richard Donner, may have a script by Chris Columbus, but it has a real Spielbergian feel to it, which is not surprising since Steven Spielberg wrote the story.  Set in the “Goon Docks” section of Astoria, Oregon, “The Goonies” follows a group of kids who, in trying to save their homes from demolition, find a treasure map that leads them to a quest to find the riches of a 17th century pirate.  From what sounds like a silly plot, Donner has created a rousing adventure to which audiences responded, particularly when it came to home video.

“They’re heeere.”  This Steven Spielberg-co-written and Tobe Hooper-directed scare classic about a ghost infestation of a suburban home delivers the scares as well as offering a witty performance by Zelda Rubinstein as a petite medium.  But what raises “Poltergeist” up from the usual horror film is how it also works as a blackly-comedic satire of life in suburbia, with row after row of identical-looking houses, but it’s this one particularly home in which the ghosts have chosen to set up shop.  Even better the second time around.

5. STAND BY ME (1985)
“When the night has come, and the way is dark, and that moon is the only light you see…”  OK, try and tell me when you hear those lyrics from the iconic Ben E. King song, you don’t think of this wonderful Rob Reiner film.  Four boys — Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman), and Vern (Jerry O’Connell) set out on a hike in order to find a missing body of another young boy.  Through various adventures, they finally complete their task, despite the threats of a local gang who wants to claim credit. Though its plotline is not conventional, audiences warmed to “Stand By Me,” and it remains as one of Reiner’s and, by extension, King’s most beloved adaptations of all time.

Almost the defining example of a fun 1980s film, this John Hughes creation stars Matthew Broderick as a high-school senior who decides to skip school one day and convinces his friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) who really is ill, to join him.  They conspire to bust their friend Sloane (Mia Sara) out of class, even though Dean of Students Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) is on to Ferris’ truancy and is determined to track him down.  The film’s celebratory tone might best be summed up with the famed line, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  Indeed.

One of the few films on this list that don’t feature kids or teens, “Ghostbusters” can still be seen as having a significant influence on “Stranger Things” as a team comes together to take on the supernatural.  As everyone knows, the film stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as a group of parapsychologists who start up a ghostbusting business and are surprised to find that there are ghosts all over Manhattan.  The film’s success led to a sequel in 1989, two animated series and a 2016 reboot featuring an all-female team of Ghostbusters.

In Robert Zemeckis’ 1985 classic, teenager Marty McFly, with the help of his new friend Doc Brown and his time machine (housed in a DeLorean sportscar, travels forward into the past to 1955 so that he can help his unhappy parents (Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson) in their first introduction and tries to change the future so that they can have happier lives together.  Zemeckis nailed the 1950s look of the film, and Fox is delightful in his most iconic film role.  The film, which was nominated for four Academy Awards (and won for Best Sound Effects Editing) spawned two sequels and an animated series.

Steven Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is one of those specials movies in film history that is both fun and a masterpiece.  The science-fiction/fantasy classic contains elements that have certainly been a major influence on “Stranger Things” — adventure-seeking kids on bikes, to begin with — but what both the film and the series share is something a bit more elusive — that is, a sense of wonder and awe at the mysteries of the universe.  That is something that is almost impossible to fake, which helps to make both “E.T.” and “Stranger Things” the real deal.

More News from GoldDerby