For many, especially the Comic Book Men, the 1980s were a golden age for science fiction and fantasy films. It was a decade brimming with creative new worlds — and merchandise from those worlds still captivates collectors, like Walt and the gang at the Secret Stash, today. Check out our list of 10 standout films in the fantasy/sci-fi genre from the ’80s — some of which have had items that made it into the Stash:
1. The Princess Bride, directed by Rob Reiner
The Princess Bride has become a timeless classic in the genre – a charming, delightfully witty postmodern romance dressed in fantasy garments. The lasting appeal of the film is its self-awareness in the fact that it’s a tale as old as time – a damsel-in-distress story filled with pirates, giants and evil princes. It never takes itself too seriously while somehow still delivering something fresh, exciting and emotionally affecting.
You can see a model of Inigo Montoya’s sword in Episode 10, “Royal Romita.”
2. Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott
Blade Runner has become a cult classic and a pop culture phenomenon. Though the film received less-than-stellar reviews at the time of its release for its slow pace, its oldest advocates found themselves on the right side of history. Blade Runner is thoughtful, grim and visually sumptuous. It’s often credited as being the father of the cyberpunk genre, and its influence on science fiction cinema as a whole cannot be overstated.
3. The NeverEnding Story, directed by Wolfgang Petersen
An epic fantasy piece, The NeverEnding Story is one of the best examples of ’80s inventiveness: it’s bizarre, beautiful and charming. The story follows a young boy who enters a magic book and must save that world — with the help of an unforgettable cast of creatures — from a dark force called the Nothing. Beneath all of its oddities, The NeverEnding Story stands the test of time through heart and charm.
You can see a set of bootleg toys, including Falkor the Luckdragon, in Episode 11, “Insta-Ming.”
4. Gremlins, directed by Joe Dante
Like the best movies of the decade, Gremlins balances science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy in a way that would likely spook away modern financers. Gremlins tells the story of Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and his pet “mogwai,” Gizmo, who eventually spawns other creatures that transform into small, destructive, evil monsters. The cast of creatures in Gremlins has become iconic, and soon after the monsters arrive, the plot swings into a violent, comedic fairy tale.
See the guys at the Stash marvel at some of the most iconic Gremlins in Episode 10, “Tell ’em, Jim Lee!
5. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, directed by Irvin Kershner
The Empire Strikes Back has become the most critically-acclaimed chapter in the Star Wars cinematic universe. Empire introduced a dark story very unlike the charming A New Hope. The film is filled with iconic moments, from the opening battle on Hoth to Han Solo being frozen in carbonite to one of the most famous lines in cinema: “I am your father.”
6. Labyrinth, directed by Jim Henson
Labyrinth is an adventure story, a musical and a fantasy, filled with the sort of bizarre puppet creatures emblematic of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. The film follows Sarah (a young Jennifer Connelly) as she attempts to reach the center of a massive, otherworldly maze to save her brother from Jareth, the Goblin King, iconically played by David Bowie. This brand of bizarre, heartwarming fantasy is emblematic of the best fantasies of the ’80s, and films with this caliber of eccentricity are hard to find.
7. Ghostbusters, directed by Ivan Reitman
Ghostbusters was lauded as a classic from the moment of its release, and for good reason. Infectiously fun and often hilarious, the film is also a special effects spectacle with an enormous budget. It’s brimming with strange creatures, ghosts and giant marshmallow men, and features an ensemble of charming protagonists to boot. All of that, plus one of the most iconic theme songs in film, makes for cinematic gold.
8. The Terminator, directed by James Cameron
One of the top cinematic spectacles of the decade, The Terminator astonished audiences with its frenetic action sequences and rapid pacing. The Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is exemplary of the ’80s science sci-fi/action genre, and while the first Terminator is often overshadowed by its even more spectacular sequel , the film was selected to be preserved in the American National Film Registry for its enduring cultural significance by the Library of Congress in 2008.
9. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Steven Spielberg
Beneath all of the spectacular special effects, E.T. is a timeless story about friendship, and you’d be hard pressed to find even the staunchest anti-sci-fi viewer who isn’t touched in some way by the bond between Elliott (Henry Thomas) and his extraterrestrial friend. An instant classic, E.T. held the record for the highest grossing film of all time for 11 years.
10. Back to the Future, directed by Robert Zemeckis
The often dysfunctional relationship between Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and their quest through time is charming, hysterical and endlessly inventive. A quintessential ’80s classic, Back to the Future blends comedy, romance, sci-fi and adventure into a unique narrative that is symbolic of the best (and most fun) films of the decade.
You can see a signed replica of the flux capacitor in Episode 9, “Suburban Cowboys.”