Oh, the '80s! While the decade is widely remembered for its bold fashion and even bolder hairstyles, it also served up some quality films… especially of the musical variety. One such movie? "The Blues Brothers" starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as two brothers who get their band back together in an effort to save the orphanage they grew up in. The John Landis film — which is available to watch on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video — is as heartfelt as it is downright hilarious. In celebration of the iconic film's 40th anniversary on June 20, 2020, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at the best musical movies of the '80s. Keep reading for more…
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"Little Shop of Horrors" on Hulu & Amazon Prime Video
What doesn't "Little Shop of Horrors" get right? Rick Moranis stars as socially awkward shopkeeper Seymour, who finds himself in deep water after a plant he found and named Audrey II begins to crave one thing: human flesh and bones. As the once struggling shop begins to pick up in business after Audrey II's arrival, Seymour must figure out how to protect those he cares for from the tyrannical, bloodthirsty plant. Despite being more than three decades old, "Little Shop" remains a go-to for any musical aficionado. From "Somewhere That's Green" to the iconic "Suddenly, Seymour," there's no shortage of great songs in this 1986 horror musical.
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"Dirty Dancing" on Hulu & Amazon Prime Video
Nobody puts Baby in a corner! Starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, 1987's "Dirty Dancing" is a modern classic that tells the story of Frances "Baby" Houseman, a young woman who falls for her dance instructor, Johnny Castle. As it charts Baby's progression from awkward and uncomfortable to confident and smooth, the film includes some epic, totally '80s dance montages. It goes without saying… but that iconic lift scene is absolutely everything. Seriously, ask Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone à la "Crazy Stupid Love" — it's the ultimate date move.
"Beat Street" on YouTube & Pluto TV
Led by Guy Davis and Rae Dawn Chong, "Beat Street" is a 1984 musical that focuses on Kenny Kirkland, a struggling DJ who, with the help of choreographer and composer Tracy Carlson, brings his dream of showcasing his talent beyond the South Bronx area to fruition. Set in the '80s, the upbeat film highlights early New York City hip-hop culture and features cameos from pioneering groups like the Treacherous Three, Rocky Steady Crew, Soulsonic Force and more.
"Purple Rain" on Amazon Prime Video
Just like the album of the same name, 1984's "Purple Rain" was a beloved film led by none other than Prince himself. The legendary rocker stars as a troubled Minneapolis musician who, in an effort to escape his toxic home life, spends most of his time performing at a local nightclub. The musical romance was an absolute hit with fans thanks to tracks like "Let's Go Crazy," "Take Me With U" and "The Beautiful Ones." It earned two Academy Awards for best original musical and best original song score in 1985.
"The Little Mermaid" on Disney+
"The Little Mermaid" is a fantastic film and even greater musical movie for many reasons. From Ariel's desire to become human and live a life of freedom and mobility to her adorable friendships with Flounder and Sebastian, the 1989 flick certainly has heart. And with songs like "Under the Sea," "Part of Your World" and "Kiss the Girl," the Disney animated flick was packed with catchy, infectious tunes from start to finish. While there have since been a slew of other Disney musical movies, "The Little Mermaid" remains a standout of the bunch, regardless of the decade.
"Flashdance" on Amazon Prime Video
Starring Jennifer Beals, "Flashdance" centers on Alex Owens, an aspiring performer who works at a steel mill by day and dances at a bar by night. The film explores her journey as she works toward her big dream of becoming a professional ballerina and getting accepted into an esteemed dance conservatory. Michael Nouri and Lilia Skala also star in the 1983 dance-themed mega-hit. A memorable moment? When Alex is (dramatically) showered with water mid-performance. Iconic!
"Xanadu" on Hulu & Amazon Prime Video
While the premise of this one is certainly out there, 1980's "Xanadu" is still worth watching, if only for its campiness alone! After spotting a beautiful, anonymous woman in the background of one of his photographs, artist Sonny Malone (Michael Beck) revisits the place where the photo was taken. There, he finds the mystery woman — a Greek muse named Kira (Olivia Newton-John) who, with the help of Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly), convinces him to create a roller-skating disco. Although the cult classic was considered a total box office failure, the soundtrack went on to go double platinum in the United States. The song "Magic," which was recorded by Olivia for the film, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Fame" on YouTube & Amazon Prime Video
While "Dirty Dancing" and "Flashdance" were widely popular dance films of the decade, it's important to remember the one that started it all. Set in New York City, "Fame" focuses on a group of students at the High School of Performing Arts as they prepare for and go on auditions all while going through the motions of high school. The teen musical drama, which debuted in 1980, stars Irene Cara, Debbie Allen, Gene Anthony Ray, Lee Curreri and more. "Fame" went on to earn two Academy Awards for best original song and best original score. It's also spawned musicals, television series and a 2009 film remake.
"Annie" on Google Play & Amazon Prime Video
It's a hard knock life… for us! Set during the Great Depression, "Annie" tells the story of an orphaned little girl who ends up living large after being selected to move in with big-time billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Based on the 1977 Broadway musical of the same name, the 1982 feature film adaptation went on to win two Academy Awards in 1983 including best original score. With iconic songs like "Tomorrow," "Maybe," "Little Girls" and "We Got Annie," it's no wonder this hit Broadway musical received the Hollywood treatment!
"Grease 2" on Amazon Prime Video & Google Play
"Grease" was the highest grossing musical movie of all time — so a sequel made sense, right? Well, not exactly. "Grease 2," which debuted in 1982, follows English exchange student Michael Carrington (Maxwell Caulfield) as he attempts to catch the attention of the beautiful and newly single leader of Rydell High School's Pink Ladies, Stephanie Zinone (Michelle Pfeiffer). While this follow-up pales in comparison to its predecessor, to its credit, "Grease 2" is fun because of its campiness. With a few catchy tracks like "Back to School Again," "Score Again," "Who's That Guy?" and "Cool Rider," the film still makes for a worthwhile watch.
"A Chorus Line" on Google Play & Amazon Prime Video
Based on the 1975 Broadway musical of the same name, the 1985 film "A Chorus Line" tells the story of Cassie (Alyson Reed), a former star who, after failing to land gigs for over a year, wants desperately to join a new production being directed by her former flame (Michael Douglas) — even if it's just as part of the chorus line. The musical focuses on the competitive 17 Broadway hopefuls who audition for spots in the chorus line. Despite being a box office failure, "A Chorus Line" had a plethora of catchy songs from "One" and "I Can Do That" to "What I Did For Love" and more.
"Footloose" on Google Play & YouTube
Kevin Bacon found fame starring as Ren McCormack, a suave Chicagoan who moves to a conservative Midwestern town where rock music and dancing are illegal. Along with pals Willard Hewitt (Christopher Penn) and Ariel Moore (Lori Singer), Ren tries everything he can to shake things up in the rigid town — though with a powerful man like Ariel's father (John Lithgow) so resistant to change, it's easier said than done. With toe-tapping songs like the film's title track, 1984's "Footloose" is a definite musical-dance classic.
"La Bamba" on YouTube & Amazon Prime Video
With the release of his ballad "Donna," which he wrote for his girlfriend whose parents didn't want her dating a Latino man, teenager Ritchie Valens (Lou Diamond Phillips) skyrocketed to fame as a promising, young musician. The 1987 biopic "La Bamba" explores the teen's tumultuous (and ultimately tragic) life as he continued to rise up the ranks in the rock 'n' roll scene — from his strained relationship with his jealous half-brother (Esai Morales) to his fear of flying and recurring nightmares about a plane crash that took his best friend's life. The film has been recognized for its cultural and historical significance: In 2017, it was chosen for preservation at the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
"Staying Alive" on Crackle & Amazon Prime Video
1983's "Staying Alive" — the sequel to the wildly successful phenomenon "Saturday Night Fever" — follows a (slightly) more mature Tony Manero (John Travolta) as he works in New York City as a dance teacher with dreams of making it big on Broadway. However, after his girlfriend, Jackie (Cynthia Rhodes), gets him an audition for a new show, Tony becomes infatuated with a Broadway star named Laura (Finola Hughes). Although the sequel didn't quite live up to the first installment, the song "Far from Over," which was featured on the film's soundtrack and recorded by director Sylvester Stallone's younger brother Frank Stallone, peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.