10 Bizarre Movie Tropes That Were Totally Normal in the ’80s


They sure don’t make movies like they used to, by which I mean: they sure don’t work in some super-ridiculous plot devices and weird cinematic tropes like they used to. No one would call the ’80s a decade of groundbreaking cinema, but they did bring us a slew of craziness ranging from sudden dance breaks to E.T. rip-offs. Here are a few of our favorites.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkZ43zj01b0]


Big Business really paved the way for modern-day comedies based on classic Shakespeare plays, but this movie somehow made the plot of The Comedy of Errors even more complicated and impossible to explain in a single sentence. But shouldn’t there be more twin-and-mirror sight gags in modern-day cinema?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5le9sYdYkM]

Adorable Alien Best Friends

Steven Spielberg is responsible for sparking our cinematic love for adorably creepy alien friends, and Mac and Me is the best example of the legion of poor man’s E.T.s that tried so desperately to befriend us in the ’80s.

Puppets In Disguise

Look: I want to live in a world where it’s perfectly normal that bears and frogs and pigs and whatevers are walking around and talking and no one thinks it’s weird, especially since they’re made of felt and plastic. But I really want to live in a world where they can dress up as humans and all the actual humans are like, “Seems legit!”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksBE53CIT8E]

Misplaced Musical Numbers

Why did they randomly start rapping in Teen Witch? Who cares, it’s amazing. (And don’t forget about the Babysitting Blues.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwwk9__2qIM]

Summer Camp

On the one hand, you have Meatballs and Poison Ivy, proving that summer camp could be wacky and fun. On the other hand, there’s Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp. (Don’t forget about that other classic ’80s movie trope: transphobia.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Mkl9rtttog]

Martial Arts Competitions Held in Anonymous Asian Countries

To be fair, Bloodsport, the most obvious example to use this plot device, takes place in Hong Kong. But do not discount the hilariously awful Gymkata, which follows an Olympic gymnast who acts as a spy in the fictional country of Parmistan, where a deadly martial arts game (conveniently called “The Game”) takes place. Sure.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nR_WJ-SjctM]


Freaky Fridaying is a classic cinematic device, but it got super ’80s with Vice Versa starring Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGibIaY7MSY]


Way before Mrs. Doubtfire, there was the preposterous Just One of the Guys, where a high school journalist sets out to prove that she can overcome her sexist peers and, well, never mind the message, because she eventually shows her boobs, obviously. Think of it as a Victor/Victoria for horny teens.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6hDf5cCUJw]

Creepy Animatronic Animals

Ewoks may have stolen our hearts, but they also paved the way for Howard the Duck. George Lucas, you have so much to answer for.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow9cLss8HXE]


The ’80s really were just a decade-long It Gets Better video starring Anthony Michael Hall. Seriously, the bullying was really severe back then!