11 Extremely Weird And Very Awesome 80s Movies On Netflix That You Can Watch Tonight

So bad it’s good? Nope – these 80s cult classics may be trashy, dated, bizarre, disturbing, juvenile, and violent, but they’re also some of the most enjoyable films ever made.

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1. Miami Connection

Weirdness Scale: 10/10

Well, the opening sentence of its Wikipedia plot summary is, “A cocaine deal in Miami is interrupted by a group of motorcycle-riding ninjas led by Hashito, who steal the drugs and ride back to Orlando to party.” That gang of motorcycle-riding ninjas eventually do battle with our heroes, an 80s rock band made up of ninja college students. Generally unseen since its original release, Miami Connection had essentially disappeared until it was resurrected by Drafthouse Films and rereleased in theaters in 2012. It appears to have been written, filmed, and performed by people who had, at best, a tenuous relationship with human civilization.

Awesomeness Scale: 7/10

By any plausible measure, this is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. The acting is unimaginable; the dialogue is alien to human ears; the fight scenes are sub-awful; and the long, choreographed music scenes – yes, the long choreographed music scenes – are… well, they’re freaking awesome. In fact, this whole movie is amazing. The cast has an admirable sense of positivity in the face of their glaring inadequacies, and, although I think the filmmakers weren’t totally “in on the joke” per se, they obviously didn’t take themselves too seriously, either. Miami Connection ventures into a bizarre level of audacious badness that can’t be ignored.


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2. Evil Dead II

Weirdness Scale: 10/10

Presumably, if you’re the type of person to check out a list like this, you’re more than casually familiar with Evil Dead II. On the off-chance you aren’t, this sequel to 1981’s Evil Dead has a far different vibe than its predecessor. Whereas the original was a piece of nightmarish terror, director Sam Raimi essentially created a live-action cartoon with his follow-up. Evil Dead II is hilariously gory slapstick – profoundly original and wonderfully perverse.

Awesomeness Scale: 10/10

This is really one of the most daring, entertaining, and inspired films to come from the 80s. Raimi’s anything-goes spirit creates some unforgettable sequences and his camerawork is consistently inventive and kinetic. The film moves at a Looney Tunes pace and features some great effects, as well as some that show the limitations of the budget – but the proceedings are far too fun for anyone to care. I wish I could commit to anything in life the way that Bruce Campbell commits to his starring role.


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3. The Toxic Avenger

Weirdness Scale: 9/10

Troma is an indie film studio that combined gory horror with juvenile humor to surprising success, starting with their cult hit The Toxic Avenger. Kind of like Frankenstein meets Beauty and the Beast meets Superman, but updated for the 80s generation (in other words, more aerobics gear, bad music, occasional nudity, and horrible jokes), the Toxic Avenger is a bullied nerd who gets dropped in a vat of nuclear waste and turns into a deformed freak who battles crime and falls in love. Enjoy the type of gleeful bad taste only found in movies where drunken teenagers intentionally run over a child’s head for laughs.

Awesomeness Scale: 7/10

Did you read that last sentence? This was Troma’s quintessential achievement, an ode to offensive humor and low-budget gore that serves as one of the most entertainingly cheesy exploitation flicks ever made. This is the dark side of the 80s that Reagan didn’t want you to know about. If you dig it, I recommend another Troma favorite on Netflix – Class of Nuke ’Em High.


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4. Dead Heat

Weirdness Scale: 9/10

The gist, via The L.A. Times: “Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo play a zombie cop and his jocular partner, up against a shadowy scientific syndicate that revives corpses and undead hooligans for its criminal endeavors.” The plot literally makes no sense at all, but this is the picture for you if you’ve ever wanted to see the LAPD fighting off reanimated animal corpses in a Chinese butcher shop.

Awesomeness Scale: 6/10

A film destined for cult status if there ever was one, this is one extremely entertaining action/comedy/horror/sci-fi/buddy cop film. Shamelessly over-the-top in its excesses (although also occasionally satirical of its genre influences), Dead Heat’s joys include wonderfully gory make-up and effects; the comedy is uniformly awful (Joe Piscopo is just unspeakably bad), but even that is oddly appealing.


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5. Visiting Hours

Weirdness Scale: 6/10

Do you love Michael Ironside, perpetually terrifying villain from Paul Verhoeven trash classics Total Recall and Starship Troopers? Are you excited and possibly aroused at the prospect of watching him play a seriously deranged cross-dressing, misogynistic, custodian/murder? Did I mention William Shatner?

Awesomeness Scale: 7/10

This unexpectedly effective low-budget Canadian slasher drips with dread-inducing suspense. The thrills are gratuitous, the spirit vilely nihilistic, and the plot holes gaping, which is just the way I like it. But there’s also legitimate skill involved: the performances far exceed expectations (including two great female leads), Michael Ironside makes a memorably horrifying stalker/killer, and the attempt to provide a backstory for the villain elevates this film above its peers. Several scenes are almost unbearably tense.


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6. 8 Million Ways to Die

Weirdness Scale: 7/10

A mere plot description of this crime-thriller starring Jeff Bridges as an alcoholic, disgraced former cop would sound pretty pedestrian. But, that plot description would probably leave out the following tantalizing details: Andy Garcia as a Scarface-wannabe gangster who serves snow cones out of his car trunk, a gorgeous mid-80s Rosanna Arquette vomiting on Bridges’ crotch, and the line of dialogue, “The streetlight makes my pussy hair glow in the dark.”

Awesomeness Scale: 6/10

The final film from underrated director Hal Ashby (who supposedly encouraged the actors to adlib everything and was fired after filming), I find 8 Million Ways to Die endearingly daft. Opening with one of the most ambitious tracking shots I’ve ever seen, the movie remains fun throughout, including a ridiculously over-the-top shootout towards the end between a bunch of screaming morons. The plot is completely illogical and threadbare (what the hell happens to Bridges’ family?), but, if not quite a hidden gem, this is certainly a worthwhile curiosity.


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7. Dead End Drive-In

Weirdness Scale: 8/10

Pretty weird, even as far as the apocalyptic Australian action-punk genre goes: we follow the plight of a couple who find that what they thought was a drive-in theater is really a government-sponsored concentration camp for wayward youths. They become trapped in the drive-in, forced to deal with the gangs of degenerate punks that inhabit it like prisoners.

Awesomeness Scale: 9/10

Dead End Drive-In blew me away the first time I saw it. Director Brian Trenchard-Smith creates a vivid alternate universe with the kind of incredible detail and visual skill only found in celebrated classics like Blade Runner (admittedly, Dead End Drive-In is very derivative of Road Warrior, but it’s also much quirkier and offbeat). The narrative has its flaws, but the visual style is wonderful: its simultaneously grungy and beautiful, packed with visual flourishes involving crazed punks, graffiti, bizarre costumes, and junk – after all, the drive-in looks like the chaotic parking lot of a Misfits concert. This is gutter art.


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8. The Running Man

Weirdness Scale: 7/10

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Ben Richards, a cop framed for mass murder in a futuristic society that condemns felons to compete on a game show where they are hunted and slaughtered. As far as I can tell, The Running Man is ever-so-loosely based on a Stephen King novel (written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) and more heavily based on a bong hit I took during my junior year of high school. There are opera-singing villains, chainsaw murders, exploding heads, Jesse Ventura, and the line of dialogue, “I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your goddamn spine!”

Awesomeness Scale: 7/10

As an unapologetic Schwarzenegger junkie, I’d argue that there’s A-List Arnie fare (Terminators 1 and 2, Total Recall, Predator, Conan the Barbarian, perhaps True Lies) and his cheesier B-Movie fare. Of the latter, The Running Man is his finest offering this side of the unfortunately-not-streaming Commando. Richard Dawson is great as the archetypical sleazy game show host and the movie provides some second-rate dystopian fervor alongside the action and one-liners. Suffice it to say I own this movie on Blu-ray and I don’t even have a Blu-ray player.


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9. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Weirdness Scale: 7/10

I’ve written before about how this vastly underrated Nightmare sequel is really a potent allegory about closeted teen Jesse coming to terms with his orientation, with none other than Freddy representing his repressed homosexuality (as Jesse so eloquently reminds us, “He’s inside me!!!”). Even as far as slasher flicks doubling as gay youth parables go, this film is pretty unusual.

Awesomeness Scale: 8/10

It’s also so great and so, so underappreciated. The film’s surprisingly weighty subtext keeps your brain occupied while you enjoy all of the visceral thrills and cheap scares associated with the series. It also justifies the atmospheric dream sequences in which the Nightmare franchise specialized (in later sequels, these scenes became little more than opportunities for gratuitous set pieces (not that I’m complaining)). Of course, Nightmare 2 is also incredibly cheesy and hilariously dated, but if that sort of thing dissuades you, what the hell are you still reading this for?


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10. Re-Animator

Weirdness Scale: 9/10

The titular reanimation refers to the walking undead, and not, like, Madagascar 2 or something, so this movie is plenty weird and plenty gory. Next to Evil Dead II, this is the most well-known horror flick on this list, and for good reason: I mean, where else are you going to see a severed head get to second base on a college co-ed?

Awesomeness Scale: 9/10

I mean, Re-Animator is really just the bee’s knees: outrageously gruesome and darkly humorous, the film expertly walks the same tight-rope between horror and slapstick comedy that my love life usually balances. The cast is great, the direction inspired, and there’re enough naked, decaying corpses to last you a lifetime (well, at least a three-day weekend).


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11. Conan the Destroyer

Weirdness Scale: 8/10

If your memory of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s two Conan flicks is hazy and interchangeable, let me lend you a hand: the first (Conan the Barbarian), is the grim, self-important (albeit highly entertaining) affair in which Arnold at one point gets crucified. The second, Conan the Destroyer, is the completely bat-shit insane and silly one that has Wilt Chamberlain riding a horse and Andre the Giant in a rubbery monster suit that makes him look like an amphibious sex organ.

Awesomeness Scale: 7/10

Again, 7’1” Wilt Chamberlain on a horse and Andre the Giant in a rubber lizard suit! Conan and a series of goofy sidekicks straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon cross swords with a series of increasingly strange villains in this sequel. If you love when Arnold is in wacky, B-movie mode, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this goofy flick. TC mark

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