17 Cool Things About The 80's

With so many shows, games, movies, and paraphernalia that greatly influenced the world as we know it today, the 80’s were surely some of the greatest years we humans have seen in terms of cultural evolution. Now, are you ready for another nostalgia trip? Here are 17 cool things about the 80’s:

1. Seinfeld

Undoubtedly, Seinfeld has been one of the most influential and popular sitcoms ever shown on television. One reason why Seinfeld was so popular could be because of how different the characters were in comparison to characters from other sitcoms. At the time, every other show revolved around generally likable characters. 

However, Seinfeld turned the tables by creating characters that were selfish, and characters that would do borderline criminal things to other people in the show. Oddly enough, these unlikeable characters became the main reason why so many people loved the show, and characters like Seinfeld himself, have served as an inspiration for many other sitcoms to follow. 

Seinfeld was truly a genius show, with its uniqueness, wit, and epic storyline. It has shared with the world how hilarious comedy like this can be. Read our full post, Why Seinfeld Is The Best Sitcom Of All Time.

Image of Seinfeld in 10 cool things about the 80's
No learning and no hugging, apparently
Image of Pac-Man in 10 cool things about the 80's
Pac-Man pioneered basic AI in games

2. Pac-Man

Is there seriously anyone on this earth who doesn’t know Pac-Man? In Pac-Man, you play as the hero, seeking to consume all of the dots on the screen, all while being chased by ghosts. This simple concept took the world by storm, and before anyone knew it, Pac-Man became a worldwide sensation.

If you aren’t convinced at how big Pac-Man actually was, here are 3 fun facts:

  1. In 1982, an estimate of 30 million US citizens spent more than 8 million dollars playing Pac-Man, weekly.
  2. Some cities had to create ordinances that would keep arcades a certain distance away from schools, to prevent students from cutting class and playing Pac-Man instead.
  3. In the 80s, cartoons, shows, and merchandise all hopped on the Pac-Man train. In fact, a song was even created about Pac-Man, Pac-Man Fever, which reached Number 9 on Billboard’s Top 100 songs.
Read our full post, The 40 Years Of Pac-Man
Image of Donkey Kong in 10 cool things about the 80's
Donkey Kong took the world by storm and still does

3. Donkey Kong

Before he was named Mario, he was Jumpman, and Jumpman had a pet named Donkey Kong. Up to this day, we can still see the impact Donkey Kong has had on modern gaming.

Released in 1981, Donkey Kong revolutionized platform gaming and gave birth to the concept of a damsel in distress. These two major factors set the stage for a wonderful decade of gaming. 

In this game, you play as Jumpman, trying to save Pauline, the damsel in distress. The catch is that you have Donkey Kong throwing things at you to stop you from reaching your goal. 

Donkey Kong truly was the beginning of a whole new era for gaming. As one of the first games with an actual plot, a lot of games soon followed by integrating more complex plots which revolved around similar concepts.

Read our full post, How Donkey Kong Changed The Gaming World

4. The Goonies

The Goonies, an adventure, comedy film produced in 1985, told the story of some kids who went on a crazy treasure hunt to find a lost fortune in order to save their own homes from foreclosure. It’s a wild ride the whole way there because they’re competing with a villainous family who is searching for that exact same thing.

This adventure movie certainly made the 80’s a lot better. The show was so loved because, aside from all the comedic adventure, the underlying themes of being an outcast, being able to control what happens in your life, friendship, and family really added layers of meaning to this seemingly simple kids movie.

Read our full post, Is The Goonies The Best Kids’ Movie Ever?

Image of Mikey in The Goonies in the post 10 cool things about the 80's
Sean Astin long before his Hobbit days
Image of the A-Team in 10 cool things about the 80's
These guys were a big part of my childhood

5. The A-Team

Soldiers of fortune, Mr. T, good comedic moments and a whole lot of action! Any takers? The A-Team was a very popular show that ran from the years 1983 to 1987. The show was about a bunch of war veterans who were convicted of a crime that they didn’t commit. 

The series really hits home hard because, even though it had a lot of lighthearted, quaint moments, there are also darker, more sinister themes at play wherein you can really feel the effect of war on a seasoned vet. Through these characters, you get some understanding of how damaging war is to the individual psyche.

Read our full post, The A-Team – An 80’s Mega Show.

6. Garbage Pail Kids

Back in the 80’s, The Cabbage Patch Kids were iconic. Topps Company saw this as an opportunity and released trading cards called the Garbage Pail Kids. This served as a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids and each of the trading cards featured a rather strange character. It’s something you really have to see for yourself to fully understand. 

Much to Topps Company’s delight, the Garbage Pail Kids was a hit. In fact, schools even had to ban these trading cards from their grounds because it was too distracting for students. 

Releasing the Garbage Pail Kids was a very bold move by a company known for their baseball cards, but little did they know, they created a product that truly captured the bad-boy attitude of the 80’s.

Read our full post, The Crazy World Of Garbage Pail Kids

Image of the Garbage Pail Kids in 10 cool things about the 80's
The irreverence of these cards gave them mass appeal

7. Atari 2600

Originally known as the Atari Video Computer System, the Atari 2600 was a video game console that changed how video games would be played forever. Before this invention, video games were in fact built into the consoles. This means that back in the day, if you bought a gaming console, you could only play the games that were already preinstalled into the hardware. 

The Atari 2600 introduced cartridges and this allowed people to choose which games to purchase. Likewise, Atari 2600 owners would not have to be limited to what came in the system by default. As you can already probably imagine, this technology was received very well by the market and thanks to the Atari 2600, all of our gaming consoles now in our modern time, use this same technology in one way or another.

Can you imagine what gaming would be if you could only play preinstalled games?

Image of Atari 2600 in 10 cool things about the 80's
South Africa was a bit slow in getting these
Image of Rubik's Cube in 10 cool things about the 80's
Still haven't solved it

8. Rubik’s Cube

To all the 80’s kids out there, you’ll probably remember those days in your childhood, when you were trying to solve one of the world’s most famous puzzles, the Rubik’s Cube. 

Before all the tech and gadgets that we have today, there was a time when things were much simpler. The Rubik’s Cube grew in popularity back in the 80’s, and understandably so. The puzzle is definitely an amazing one at that, and the bright colorful stickers make solving the puzzle look like child’s play, when in fact even most adults can’t solve it. 

The 80’s saw the Rubik’s Cube grow in popularity and this simple toy has taken puzzles to all new heights ever since.

9. Walkman

The Walkman was truly a step in the right direction. Invented in 1979, this gadget was the first to allow people to listen to cool tunes on the go. Back then, anyone who was anyone had to have one. A simple walk down the street showed just how popular this invention really was. 

If it wasn’t for the Walkman, we might have never seen the rise of other popular portable music listening devices. Simply said, the Walkman was the first to allow people to bring the magic of music everywhere they went.

10. Blade Runner

Blade Runner was another gem that came out of the 80’s. Released in 1982, this sci-fi movie tells the story of how humans are bio-engineered to do work for a corporation. It was a movie way ahead of its time, with complex themes, hidden messages, religious symbolism, and the like. 

Although not very popular at first, it ended up earning itself a cult following due to the movie’s overall eerie feel, futuristic theme, and melodramatics. In addition to this, the overall dark vibe and out-of-this-world ideas of Blade Runner served as an inspiration for countless other science fiction films and games to follow.

Read our full post here, The Blade Runner Legacy.

Image of Walkman in 10 cool things about the 80's
I had the gray one
Image of Blade Runner in 10 cool things about the 80's
Blade Runner is in my top 3

11. The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back, released in 1980, is the episode V or middle chapter of the classic Star Wars trilogy created by George Lucas. For many fans, The Empire is the best film in the entire franchise; thanks to the massive character development of the protagonists, the enriched narrative, big revelations, and a more profound explanation of The Force.

A lot of the scenes in The Empire became iconic and definitive of Star Wars, such as Han’s carbonite freezing, Luke and Darth Vader’s lightsaber duel, and Vader’s famous “I am your father” scene. Episode V also introduced new characters such as Boba Fett, Lando Calrissian, and of course, Master Yoda.

The Empire is considered as the “dark” Star Wars movie, but it’s also perhaps the most pivotal one. The film opened a lot of possibilities for the next installment, which definitely helped establish Star Wars as the supreme space fantasy epic.

Darth Vader in the Empire Strikes Back in the post 17 Cool Things About The 80's
One of the most epic revelations in film story
Indiana Jones in Raider of the Lost Ark in the post 17 Cool Things About The 80's
Indy playing it cool

12. Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark premiered in 1981 and was the first one released in a series of Indiana Jones movies. It introduced us to the funny, smart, handsome, and adventurous archeology professor, Dr. Jones, who remains iconic up to this day. Who could forget him with his bullwhip, leather jacket, and the fedora hat that never seems to fall off his head?

This film was inspired by classic serials and another famous character — James Bond. The idea for this movie was first conceived while its producer George Lucas was on a vacation in Hawaii with its director Steven Spielberg. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a true masterpiece but it’s a bit funny how the aim of Spielberg while filming it was to just create a good B+ movie, with a budget that’s as cheap as possible and in the shortest amount of time. Up to now, this blockbuster movie is still a staple in the action-adventure genre and continues to gain a following. 

For more on Raiders, read our article 10 Cool Things About Raiders of the Lost Ark

MacGyver in the post 17 Cool Things About The 80's
The original MacGyver, Richard Dean Anderson

13. MacGyver

MacGyver is a 1985 TV series that aired until 1992. It follows Angus MacGyver, a covert superspy working for the US government, whose best weapon is his brain. He is a refreshing action hero because unlike the others who use force and violence in defeating their opponents and escaping dangerous situations, MacGyver relies on his wits and even detests the use of guns. On top of that, he also has an interesting signature look that makes him stand out even more.

He is best known for engineering contraptions and using ordinary objects in creating them. MacGyver is a cool guy who has extensive scientific knowledge, which comes in handy every time he gets in trouble. His improvised gizmos also seem plausible in real life, which is probably why a lot of kids in the 80’s loved this show. Trying out his do-it-yourself tools and concoctions is just hard to resist.

Read our full post, How MacGyver Mesmerized Us Kids Of The 80’s.

14. U2's The Joshua Tree

The Joshua Tree is the fifth studio album of the Irish rock band, U2. It came out in 1987 under Island Records and was eventually ranked by Rolling Stone as the 27th in its list of 500 greatest albums of all time. This exceptional album was inspired by American literature and politics. It turned out insanely big, with over 25 million copies sold and at one point, even became No. 1 around the globe.

The Joshua Tree may not be the greatest album of all time due to its rather underwhelming Side B, but it is nevertheless a massive success and even won Album of the Year at the Grammys. It has a brilliant three-song starter, which includes Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and With or Without You. To this day, these three songs remain to be among the greatest singles that the band has ever released.

The Joshua Tree image in the post 17 Cool Things About The 80's
Those first 3 tracks of Joshua Tree are sublime
Image of Tetris blocks in the post The Age of Tetris
The very addictive Tetris

15. Tetris

Created by computer engineer Alexey Pajitnov and made available to the public in 1986, Tetris swept the world with its simple yet addictive gameplay. It’s the sort of game that’s meant to be played in short bursts as it does not really have a storyline and clear end goal, but once you start getting busy with stacking up the blocks, it’s quite difficult to stop.

The game was inspired by the Pentominos block puzzles, but instead of using five blocks, Pajitnov’s brainchild had seven different blocks called Tetriminos. One doesn’t need to have expansive gaming skills to enjoy Tetris and the game’s uncomplicated nature was probably what made it widely appealing.

While Tetris peaked in the 80s through 90s, we can still see its influence in the newer puzzle games, such as Bejewelled and Candy Crush. Even Tetris itself is still being played at present and it’s now available across different types of devices. It is indeed a breakthrough game that can be enjoyed both by kids and adults, anytime, anywhere.

Read our full post, The Age Of Tetris.

16. Back To The Future

This 1985 blockbuster directed by Robert Zemeckis is the perfect blend of comedy, sci-fi, romance, drama and action; no wonder it still has its legendary status. It has a somewhat predictable time-travel movie plot — teenage boy Marty McFly accidentally travels to the past using a machine created by eccentric scientist Dr. Brown. Marty meets the young version of his parents and has to make them fall in love so that Marty and his siblings will keep existing in the “future.”

The narrative is pretty simple, but what makes this movie sensational and hard to replicate is the fact that it’s not trying to be anything but fun. It just wants to give the audience a satisfying cinematic experience, which it successfully did. The uncomplicated story also gave it leeway to tackle important themes such as family, self-esteem, ambition and second chances. And it brought those issues to light without putting too much emotional weight on the audience.

17. Sledgehammer

This 1986 hit song is the lead single of Peter Gabriel’s fifth album; incidentally, it is also his career’s biggest commercial success. The track stayed on the top spot in Canadian charts for four weeks, reached the 4th spot in the UK and also became No. 1 in the US Billboard Hot 100. The music video for Sledgehammer, directed by Stephen Johnson, was equally impressive as it won 9 awards in the MTV Video Music Awards.

Sledgehammer had the influence of soul and blues, which were the types of music that Peter Gabriel grew up with. In creating this song, Gabriel also had the chance to work with his favorite singer, Otis Redding. As an homage to those musical genres, it was inevitable that Sledgehammer would have an irresistible rhythm, infectious groove and an overall slick vibe. A couple of seconds into the song and you’ll probably be ready to dance away.

Read our full post, Peter Gabriel Is A Legend.

Back to the Future image in the post 17 Cool Things About The 80's
A Michael J Fox classic

The 80’s was definitely a decade that left a lot on the table. It showered us with little gems that have greatly influenced the world as we know it today. Undoubtedly, there are many more great things I’ve missed, but these 17 cool things about the 80’s are simply the ones that stick out to me the most.

What cool things from this decade resonate most with you? Let me know in the comments section below.

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10 thoughts on “17 Cool Things About The 80’s”

  1. Nice. I was born in the 80s, so half of this content sounds foreign to me. I still have my Atari and Walkman though. I used to borrow tapes from my friends (I cannot afford it), just so I could get updated with the latest tracks! I even record FM radio songs from my Walkman, just so I could skip ads, and play on repeat mode. 

    This is a very nostalgic, at the same time a cool post about a very vibrant era! I think it’s such a good idea to have these “archival” stuff posted around the internet, just so it comes alive until forever! Any kind of spin-off too will never beat old school creations. I am a fan of New Wave music up to today. Thank you for this! 

    Cheers,

    A

    1. Thanks for your comments A. I’m a 70’s kid so was just old enough to get the gist of the 80’s. As you say, it was a very vibrant decade and we’re still enjoying it’s legacy today.

  2. Hello, 

    This was a fun read. 

    The 80s were well before my time but my parents always said the best movies came out then. 

    I am a big fan of Blade Runner. It really is a modern classic. I did enjoy the 2049 movie but the original is still the best. 

    Another great movie from the 80s is Indiana Jones Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I think I must be a Harrison Ford fan.

    Even watching it now it hasn’t aged and is still as exciting as ever. 

    Best wishes, 

    Cameron

    1. Yes, Cameron, Raiders is another awesome movie from the same decade. Harrison Ford is my all time favourite actor. Blade Runner is in my top 5 as is Raiders and The Fugitive. 

  3. Your feature image got my attention straight away as a guy who lived through the same generation and oh boy those years had to be the best for music, TV, movies, hobbies, games etc.  I smiled as I read your interesting article, a journey of nostalgia for me personally and the inclusion of familiar images.  Obviously there were a lot more than ten cool things about the 80s and I saw by your article you’ve featured a small mixed bag, not just the one topic you could really squeeze and ring out.

    What a great niche to explore and certainly a lot of opportunities for affiliate links and product reviews and recaps.  Wish I had thought of this niche to be honest as it has a lot of scope for the future.  If you haven’t already, check out Bandersnatch on Netflix, an interactive episode of a lot of 80s culture and memories, a great story and journey with an interesting twist on what Pac-Man was really about. 

    I also enjoyed reading about the Garbage Pail Kids, a topic that I featured in an article on my website relating to Top Trumps and something that I too, remember well and collecting – I do recall “Heavin’ Steven” was the closest to myself.  Great article, liked it a lot.  How can I follow you on the Wealthy Affiliate platform, which I assume you’ve used?

    1. Hi Steve, thanks for your very insightful comment. It’s always good to share experiences with folks who have been there. I’ll definitely check out Bandersnatch – it looks super interesting. Regarding nostalgia as a niche, well, it’s not very common that’s for sure. It does have room for growth and I would like to find more sights like it, but so far, I guess since it’s only 3 months old, the commissions haven’t exactly been rolling in. Hopefully in time they will. 

  4. Hi, I love these trips down memory lane. For me the most memorable thing about the 80ies was the music – I was a huge Madonna fan at the time complete with the right outfit, jewelery etc. ( although I was only 10 in the mid 80s). In terms of TV shows it must have been Dynasty and Dallas that left the biggest impression on me. Me and my 2 siblings always knew, when it was “Dallas” night, as my parents loved the show and we were only every allowed to watched it until “JR laughed for the first time” – his signature laugh I suppose :). Other than that, being a girl – Anne of Green Gables was a big one for me 🙂 In terms of games: the rubics cube and tetris.Thanks for sharing this trip down memory lane, such great fun!

    1. Thanks for sharing your most nostalgic memories, Drea. My folks wouldn’t let me watch Dallas unfortunately because they didn’t feel that it instilled good moral values. Yup, they were pretty prudish. Thanks for reminding me about Madonna, perhaps she should be a future article. 

  5. I wasn’t born in the 80s but I can be grateful for so many inventions that got borne during that period. It’s grate to learn about them. It’s also very sweet to see that Pac-Man came at that time and even during those years, it made a whole lot of money and till now, is still making more. It’s wonderful stuff. And yeah, I still haven’t fixed the Rubik’s cube. I get frustrated when I try thanks to the 80s. Haha. Thank you for informing me about all this.

    1. Yeah Pac-Man was an awesome addition to the world of gaming. Wasn’t my favourite game at the time, but I love the period it represents. Mr. Do was always my game. 

      Regarding the Rubik’s game, I’m gonna save mastering that for my retirement. 

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