You’ll Never Guess the Highest Grossing Films of the ’80s

Movies were never more captivating than they were in the 1980’s. From thrillers like Fatal Attraction to teen dramas like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, the movies were a place to come together with loved ones and escape the realities of the world. And yet, some of our favorite films like Raging Bull, Die Hard, and The Terminator didn’t top the box office during that decade.

In fact, the highest grossing films of the 1980’s might just surprise you. One thing we will say: Steven Spielberg ruled the world.

15. Three Men and a Baby, $167.78 million

Steve Guttenberg, Tom Selleck, Ted Danson in 'Three Men and a Baby'.
Three Men and a Baby | Buena Vista Pictures

’80s hotshots Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson in a movie with an adorable baby obviously brought people to the movie theaters in droves. Three New York City men in charge of a precious baby girl was basically movie gold when Three Men and a Baby dropped in 1987.

NextA film depicting a very strange brotherhood

14. Rain Man, $172.83 million

Tom Cruise talking to Dustin Hoffman, as Hoffman stares deadpan off into the distance.
Rain Man | MGM

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman teamed up for the 1988 flick, Rain Man. In the film, Cruise starred as a self-centered man who seeks out his autistic older brother when he learns his estranged father left him almost nothing in his will.

The film won four Oscars the next year.

NextA movie that brought Australia to NYC

13. Crocodile Dundee, $174.64 million

Crocodile Dundee is leaning to the side looking towards something in front of him.
Crocodile Dundee | Rimfire Films

Who knew that Americans would be so into the outback? Crocodile Dundee premiered in 1986, and it brought the infamous legend Mike Dundee (Paul Hogan) to New York City.

With a measly budget of $10 million, the film became a global phenomenon.

NextA beloved Dustin Hoffman film

12. Tootsie, $177.20 million

George Fields stands with her right arm over her chest.
Tootsie | Columbia Pictures

Sydney Pollack’s Tootsie is now one of the most beloved films of all time. The film debuted in 1982 and starred Dustin Hoffman as a talented actor named Michael Dorsel who can’t quite seem to snag any roles.

Taking drastic measures, Michael reinvents himself as Dorothy Michaels. Things take a turn when he wins a part on a TV series and falls in love with his co-star.

NextA Tom Cruise hit

11. Top Gun, $179.80 million

Tom Cruise on a ship in 'Top Gun'.
Top Gun | Paramount

24-year-old Tom Cruise in a leather jacket with aviator shades? We’ll take it. Cruise starred in the 1986 film Top Gun as a fighter pilot named Maverick with a chip on his shoulder.

Top Gun plus Risky Business, which earned Cruise his breakout role in 1983, propelled him into the spotlight. It also did some great stuff for the entertainment industry’s bottom line.

Next: One of Harrison Ford’s greatest works

10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, $179.87 million

A character wearing horns stands next to a heart.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom | Paramount Pictures

The second installment of the Indiana Jones series came out in 1984, and it was nearly as successful as the original. The Temple of Doom served as a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film caught everyone up on what went down in the year leading up to Indiana Jones’ massive adventure.

NextThe third installment of a beloved franchise

9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, $197.18 million

Indiana Jones holding up a black cross.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade | Paramount Pictures

The third installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, The Last Crusade, made more money at the box office than the second film. In 1989, Harrison Ford reprised his role with Sean Connery playing Jones’ father. Jones sets off to find the Holy Grail, but he discovers that the artifact is much more powerful than he thought.

NextThe first movie in a trilogy that took us back to the future.

8. Back to the Future, $210.61 million

Michael J Fox playing on a guitar on stage in 'Back to the Future'.
Back to the Future | Universal Pictures

Science fiction and fantasy dominated the movies in the 1980s while introducing the world to the gem that is Michael J. Fox. His breakout role in 1985’s Back to the Future put Fox on the radar and began a perfect franchise with ground-breaking special effects.

Next: The flick that made Eddie Murphy a movie star

7. Beverly Hills Cop, $234.76 million

Eddie Murphy smiling in 'Beverly Hills Cop'.
Beverly Hills Cop | Paramount Pictures

Fresh of his stint on Saturday Night Live, Eddie Murphy took on Hollywood with his first feature film. Beverly Hills Cop came roaring through the box office in 1984. In the film, Murphy stars as Detroit cop, Axel Foley who heads to Los Angeles to find out what happened to his murdered friend.

The film was a smash success and catapulted Murphy to the A-list in Hollywood.

Next: Who you gonna call?

6. Ghostbusters, $238.63 million

The gang emerges from an elevator.
Ghostbusters | Columbia Pictures

Who you gonna call? Movie lovers in the 1980’s were certainly obsessed with massive films. In 1984, Holywood delivered the perfect mix of comedy and horror with the stellar Ghostbusters.

In fact, with the help of Marshmellow Man and hilarious gadgets, it became the most successful comedy of the decade.

Next: The movie that put a beloved archeologist on the map

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark, $248.16 million

Indiana Jones looking straight ahead while wearing a hat and jacket.
Raiders of the Lost Ark | Paramount Pictures

The year before he gave us E.T, Spielberg introduced us to the beloved Indiana Jones. George Lucas let Spielberg borrow Harrison Ford for the adventure film, resurrecting the renowned archeologist from a 1930’s serial.

When it debuted in 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark was incredibly successful.

NextA dark and sultry Caped Crusader 

4. Batman, $251.19 million

Batman standing in front of a black background.
Batman | Warner Bros.

Tim Burton’s Batman certainly put a new perspective on the superhero flick in 1989. After all, Prince did the soundtrack for the film, so what’s better than that?

Batman presented us with Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne and Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Not only is the film dark and haunting, but it was also legendary.

Next: The time the empire struck back

3. Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back, $290.48 million

Han Solo and Princess Leia in 'The Empire Strikes Back'.
Star Wars: Episode V- The Empire Strikes Back | Lucasfilm

The box office in the 1980’s began with a bang. In 1980, the first sequel to 1977’s Star Wars came exploding into theaters. There was a ton of anticipation. After all, Star Wars had open moviegoers’ eyes up to a whole new world that they never thought was even possible. T

hough critics weren’t too thrilled with The Empire Strikes Back initially, in retrospect, it’s one of the greatest sequels of all time. It also brought in a ton of money, which never hurts.

Next: The third installment of the original space opera. 

2. Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, $ 309.13 million

Princess Leia lays in a gold bikini.
Star Wars: Episode VI- Return of the Jedi | Lucasfilm

The third installment in the original Star Wars trilogy is Return of the Jedi. Set one year after The Empire Strikes Back, the film follows the Empire under the rule of the evil emperor. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker is struggling to bring his father back to the light.

The film worked like a charm, grossing even more than The Empire Strikes Back.

Next: A little alien who changed the world.

1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, $435.11 million

E.T. and Elliott sitting in front of a window.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial | Universal Pictures

Spielberg’s masterpiece was the biggest film of the 1980s. Told from a child’s perspective, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial debuted in 1982 and introduced the world to a gentle alien and a boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) that loved him more than anything. It was a film that reminded the world of our humanity.

Luckily, the planned sequel, E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears, never saw the light of day because it probably would have ruined everything.

Follow Aramide Tinubu on Twitter @midnightrami.

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