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Unintentional Period Piece / The '80s

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    Anime and Manga 
  • AKIRA takes place after a nuclear bomb starts off World War III, and while society does rebuild, clothes, hairstyles, and technology show progress didn't really get past the '80s.
  • Bubblegum Crisis is a show set in the distant future that still screams the '80s. The fashions are enough for it to make this trope, but when you combine it with Priss' musical acts... ugh! You'd think you were watching a Cyndi Lauper concert!
  • City Hunter is definitely set in the eighties. Clothes, hairstyles and technological level all scream The '80s. In some stories, Ryo imitates Japanese politicians, actors and musicians who were popular when the manga was running. In another story, Ryo compares one of the Mooks with Commando since "Terminator is too old now". And in another arc, Kaori asks a child whether she wants to play with a Nintendo Entertainment System.
  • Cipher is very much a product of the 80s with its fashion and hairstyles, and the OVA features several American songs that were popular at the time. The Twin Towers are also frequently shown in both the manga and the OVA, which dates the series even further.
  • Dirty Pair has become this with Kei's poofy hair, some of the fashions, music, and even the plots being similar to 80s sci-fi/action-adventure. Some say it's the reason there hasn't been a reboot attempted in a long time. The franchise is so quintessentially 80s!
  • Fist of the North Star took place in a post-apocalyptic late 20th century (more technically, 199X), but with fashions, character designs, and the overall setting inspired by 1980s culture.
  • Kimagure Orange Road: Everything in this show -the fashions, the hairstyles, the music, even the video games the characters play in the arcade- shows it was made in The '80s.
  • New Mazinger: The story begins several centuries after the outbreak of World War III between America and Soviet Union, making obvious that the story was written before the fall of the Communism.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross. It took place in the then-far off world of 2009; but 1980s influences are everywhere.
  • Maison Ikkoku. The show is a coming of age story that is without a doubt set in the decade in which it was made. It could almost be a nostalgic time capsule in some ways. The fashions, the cars, the technology, the sensibilities: all 80s.
  • Mega Zone 23 just screams the 80s, especially Yui's aerobic dance numbers complete with leotards, headbands and legwarmers. Also, many of the characters display flashy colorful makeup and hair reminiscent of Jem and the Holograms with tight jeans and letterman jackets. Most of these exaggerated designs apply to the first OVA. The second was more gritty and realistic, still feature more 80s fashions and characters hanging out at the arcade. Oh and the music! One scene from the original is particularly Harsher in Hindsight after Japan's Lost Decade of the '90s: when Shogo asks the Artificial Intelligence Eve why the eponymous Generation Ship was built to emulate Japan, she responds that after analyzing history, it was found to be "the best time to be alive."
  • Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ has some unmistakably 80s fashion and hairstyles, despite being set in the future. Special shout-outs to Chara Soon and Elle Vianno, neither of whom would look out of place in an episode of Jem and the Holograms.
  • Stop!! Hibari-kun! is noticeably set pre-New Millennium by the technology and atmosphere. Hibari's attire can be extraordinarily 1980s and she's sported big hair.
  • Dragon Ball may be set on a fictional, futuristic version of Earth, but the tech and building designs for the cities are distinctly 80s, as is the fashion. This combines with the WWII-style military tech and the Ancient China locales for a rather unique aesthetic for the world. And, as the show evolves, the tech does too, which itself will fall into this trope as Technology Marches On.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure becomes this starting with Part Three, Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Stardust Crusaders. After two sections set decades before the present, Stardust Crusaders was set during the time the manga was being released. The following Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable follows the same course, emulating early-90's fashion and trends even when the series was technically set in the future of 1999."

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which was written in 1986, strongly features an exaggerated satire of the then-contemporary political and social climate. Back then, it was a deliberate contrast to the typical world of young Batman. Now it reads like a deliberate period piece. The sequel, written 15 years later, was written based on the political and social climate of the early 2000s and is already showing shades of this as well, and will undoubtedly read like a period piece in ten years.
  • A Death in the Family touches on a lot of social and political issues of the time it was published (1988), such as the Lebanese Civil War and the Ethiopian famine. The Joker making an alliance with Ayatollah Khomeini is a major plot point.
  • Justice League International: Fire dresses like a dancer from a Mötley Crüe video, while Black Canary and Ice look like they're on their way to a jazzercise class. Much emphasis is placed on the tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and one of the new members of the League is a proud Russian communist. There are also a lot of then-contemporary political and pop culture jokes that probably fly over the heads of many modern readers. Like several other examples on this page, most of the attempts at reviving the series since then have proven less successful, partly because of the way it's so tied to the 80s.
  • The Man of Steel: Women jog and jazzercise in legwarmers and spandex, the villain is a Corrupt Corporate Executive, computers are important but huge, boomboxes appear...
  • The Adventures of Olivia was absolutely doomed to this, given that it debuted in 1989 and style-wise would've fit more in '84-85 with the big hair that would've made Jem proud and fur coats belonging on an episode of The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous before getting into the cultural jokes of The Simpsons as a cutting-edge ratings juggernaut, neon spandex gym culture and especially Sandy Shores. However, unlike other examples, this can be forgiven, as Bob Outlaw was dying of diabetes and it stayed the '80s well into 1994 via guest artists out of respect for him.
  • In Super Mario Adventures, Peach uses the phrase "What's your damage?" in the English translation.
  • Iron Man circa 1987 gave us Tony Stark's perm. And having moved to Southern California at the time, many of the women in his life sported '80s hair.
  • During the '80s run of Suicide Squad there were quite a few times where then contemporary politics were referenced. An early story arc involved the Squad being sent into Soviet Russia. Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. were also explicitly depicted as the presidents throughout the series.
  • The DC profile book series Who's Who dates its publication very clearly, since in between its beginning and ending, the Continuity Reboot Crisis on Infinite Earths happened. This is evident in certain profiles: Batman had two profiles for his Earth-1 and Earth-2 incarnations, but Superman's profile (which came in a later issue due to coming later in alphabetical order) exclusively describes his Earth-2 and Post-Crisis incarnations, with no mention of the version that had been in comics for 40 years by that point due to Crisis having written that version out of continuity.

  • Many of John Hughes' teen movies are practically welded into this decade.
    • One little detail that can make it easy to identify The Breakfast Club as a product of the 80s is when the rich Alpha Bitch Claire is eating sushi for lunch and Bender, who comes from a lower class background, has no idea what it is. By the time the 2000s rolled around, most Americans, regardless of economic class, at least knew what sushi was even if they've never eaten it.
  • The Wizard. It will forever be a symbol of the time when the Nintendo Entertainment System was the dominant force in video games, featuring many of the games that were popular at the time, a scene where the kids call the Nintendo Power hotline for game tips (Nintendo Power ceased publication in late 2012), and the final challenge of the movie being SUPER! MARIO BROS.! 3!
  • The Karate Kid (1984) features scenes in an arcade, which have been almost completely replaced by home video game systems. This was excused in the 2010 remake taking place in China where arcades live on like Japan. Also, the presentation of karate as the ultimate self defense martial art in an otherwise realistic setting is obviously made in an era before Mixed Martial Arts, which demystified traditional martial arts.
  • TRON. Kevin Flynn being an arcade owner and arcade game pioneer is a surefire product of the 1980s. The sequel, TRON: Legacy, released 28 years later, makes a point of Sam Flynn returning to the arcade for the first time since he was a kid; and panning over all the still working arcade games wrapped in plastic and covered in dust, with Journey's "Separate Ways" playing on the jukebox. (The soundtrack even doubles as Mythology Gag given Journey contributed tracks to TRON.)
  • WarGames is also very much of its time — June 1983 — what with Cold War nuclear paranoia, the theme of the emergence of home computers and video games (there is also the obligatory arcade scene), and computing technology like acoustic-coupler modems combining. This was actually already outdated when the film was made, and put in purely because it looked cooler than the newly introduced modems.
    • This also applies to WarGames director John Badham's Blue Thunder, which was released the month before, when it comes to its technology (a Plot Coupon is a VHS tape, for instance) — but its story reflects both lingering distrust of the U.S. military and government post-Vietnam and the tough-on-crime policies that were being introduced in this decade, particularly in minority neighborhoods. The cover story for the Government Conspiracy involves security for the then-nigh 1984 Summer Olympics. It's also easy to peg all this to the early '80s in that the protagonist is not a nigh-invincible Sylvester Stallone type or a jovial everyman like Bruce Willis, the two dominant action hero types of the back half of the decade, but a grizzled Vietnam veteran played by Roy Scheider. An early scene outside a movie theater has Mommie Dearest up on the marquee, a giveaway to the film being shot over late 1981-early '82.
  • Back to the Future is very strongly '80s, to the point where the sequence introducing the "present day" of 1985 is now counted as an unintentional "Mister Sandman" Sequence like the introductions to 1885, 1955 and 2015. The over-the-top portrayal of 2015 also demonstrates a particularly '80s flavor of Zeerust (though this was entirely intentional). And within that part, the '80s theme cafe is rather uncannily prescient about which pieces of pop culture would remain firmly identified with the decade.
  • Manhunter was directed by Michael Mann, creator of Miami Vice. It shares that show's fashions and emphasis on synth-rock and eighties-era AOR.
  • The Al Pacino version of Scarface. The fashion, the politics and the cocaine explosion all point to an early 80s setting.
  • Wall Street actually became a period piece before it was released; developments related to the prosecution of Ivan Boesky for insider trading caused the film's setting to be explicitly turned back to 1985.
  • Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, in which the far future is based on hair metal that would actually go out of style only a few years after the film's release.
  • National Lampoon's European Vacation where the family travels to Europe on Pan Am Airlines and visits West Germany (which reunited with East Germany in 1990).
  • Real Genius could only have existed when the Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star Wars") was a pressing concern.
  • Spies Like Us: Cold War espionage and SDI.
  • To Live and Die in L.A. contains neon-colored titles, pumping Wang Chung soundtrack, and overt reference to then-President Reagan, all of which place it firmly in the eighties.
  • Do the Right Thing features a character who seems to do nothing but walk around carrying a boombox blaring Public Enemy's "Fight the Power", and makes reference to several contemporary well-publicized hate crimes, making it a perfect period piece of its late '80s release date (it was released in 1989).
  • Red Dawn (1984) could only have been filmed during the period of staunch anti-Communist rhetoric in the early Reagan administration, between the détente of the 1970s and the final thaw of Soviet-American relations in the late Reagan and Bush Sr.'s administrations.
  • In his commentary for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, director Nicholas Meyer says that all works are inevitably the product of their time period when it's pointed out how Khan and his followers look like the entourage of a hair metal band.
  • Much of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home takes place in then-current 1986 (the year of the film's release); punk rock and exact-change buses abound, placing it in that time forever. Also, the clear irony of Chekhov asking a police officer where the "nuclear wessels" are based before getting caught on a U.S. Navy ship whilst the Cold War was obviously still going on, a newspaper discussing nuclear arms talks (again referencing the Cold War, and perhaps very specifically SALT II) Kirk's communicator getting mistaken for a pocket pager (not a mobile phone) and Scotty's attempts to get to grips with a Macintosh Plus ("just use the keyboard"!) also date the film. It's at least partially justified by the fact that the characters have explicitly time-travelled to 1986.
  • RAD. And a noteworthy case where the title itself is dated.
  • The Transformers: The Movie. Vince Di Cola's synthesizer and heavy metal soundtrack, as well as Daniel Witwicky's monogrammed tracksuit place it heavily in the 1980s. That's to say nothing of Soundwave and Blaster still being depicted as cassette players in 2005.
  • Revenge of the Nerds: Now that the terms geek and nerd have been appropriated willy-nilly by the mainstream as something trendy to label yourself. Also, the nerds' supposedly cutting-edge understanding of technology has also become dated, such as the "spy-cam" they used to spy the girls' dorm.
  • Labyrinth is perhaps the most 1980s of 1980s fantasy films: There's the extensive use of special effects techniques (matte paintings, puppets and animatronic costumes, bluescreen, early CGI) that were largely abandoned by Hollywood once CGI became high-quality and commonplace in the next decade, a synthesizer-heavy underscore, and a serious case of '80s Hair on the villain. David Bowie, whose international popularity peaked in this decade, plays the villain and wrote the musical numbers.
  • Crocodile Dundee, which, among other things, has the World Trade Center in almost every establishing shot of New York. Many of the city-dwellers can also be seen dressing in characteristically '80s fashions. One character is caught snorting cocaine, a drug that peaked in the 1980s.
  • Basket Case, and its depiction of the era's ultra-seedy Times Square.
  • Troop Beverly Hills is a major show of late '80s fashions, as well as exercise trends. It even shows car phones to be something only rich people had.
  • Flashdance, from the music constantly playing to the absolutely '80s outfits most of the characters wear to the dancing that would seem weird today to the frizzy hair on every woman's head. "What a Feeling" and "Maniac" got popularized thanks to this movie and are widely seen as representative of the decade. And the main character is a woman working at a steel mill, which was a surprise back then and, while uncommon today, is no twist. (Nowadays, the twist would be the idea of anyone working at a steel mill.)
  • Airplane! falls into this with separate sections for smokers and nonsmokers on flights and preachers in airports. It is intentionally a send-up of 1950s disaster movies, but also of 1970s disaster movies, and it lampooned the genre so well that it basically killed it, to the point where modern-day viewers may not recognise what it's parodying.
  • The Stuff. It's got kids playing the Atari 2600, Return of the Jedi shower curtains, mocking the Wendy's slogan "Where's the Beef?", etc.
  • Die Hard. So, so much.
    • The references to VCRs, and the fact that John McClane seems really uncomfortable using the touch screen computer monitor at the front desk of Nakatomi Plaza.
    • Neither John nor anyone else in the building can call out after the bad guys cut the building's phone lines, because no one has a cell phone.
    • When Sgt. Powell responds to dispatch about John's call from the Nakatomi Plaza, you can see a gas station price sign in the background: Unleaded 77 cents, Regular 74 cents. Even the existence of Regular leaded gasoline is itself an example after the banning of leaded automotive gasoline in the 1990s.
    • One from early in the film is when John's neighbor on the airplane sees that John has a service pistol with him on the flight. This was legal until 1994, and subsequent world events have only tightened just what someone can bring onto a commercial airplane.
  • The Thing (1982), featuring very '80s hair (most notably on Kurt Russell), loads of Cold War paranoia, and a plot that mirrors the AIDS crisis.
  • St. Elmo's Fire features a character who is almost constantly doing cocaine, a couple who when they break up argue over who gets to keep the Bruce Springsteen, the Police, and the Pretenders albums, and a passing reference to the Cold War as an unbridgeable stalemate. Oddly, the portrayal of gay people is fairly '70s, with Jules believing that Kevin is gay because he was never interested in her he was actually interested in her roommate, who was dating her best friend, and trying to set him up with her decorator next door neighbor. Despite coming out in 1985, there are no references to the AIDS crisis — possibly because AIDS was widely considered a "gay disease", not something mainstream America had to worry about.
  • The Lethal Weapon movies aimed to be topical, and are now firmly in this trope. First film establishes that Murtagh and Riggs are both Vietnam War veterans, as are the villains, and Lethal Weapon 2 centers around South Africa still being an apartheid state.
  • Stripes:
    • Besides the Cold War setting, during the scene at the Army recruiting center, John and Russell are specifically asked whether either one is homosexual, which points itself to pre-1994, before "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" first allowed LGBT people into the military.
    • The film's irreverent look at the military is a product of being set during the Cold War, when conventional warfare was considered a bit beside the point when nuclear weapons are the most likely result of a major war. Once The War on Terror began, audiences would never believe that two losers would join the military expecting to slack off.
  • RoboCop (1987) is very '80s in both its look (especially some of the fashions and the crappy computer graphics) and themes (consumerism, the War on Drugs, free-market capitalism run amok) which make it a biting satire of the Reagan era. Of course, those themes are just as applicable today when viewed in the context of the late 2000s economic crisis and the failing auto industry, rising unemployment and high crime rate in Detroit.
  • The documentary All American High was filmed over the course of a full school year at Torrance High School, near Los Angeles, during 1984. In a review for the Austin Chronicle of the 30th anniversary reissue, the writer cites the "pleats, the argyle, the faux Ray-Bans, the keyboard neckties, and those criminally short shorts worn at the time by young men cannot be scrubbed from the eyes once seen." The reissue added a whole host of "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue interviews, which very much puts the 1980s fashions in perspective.
  • Red Heat (1988), with its plot about a Soviet cop teaming up with an American cop to catch a Georgian drug lord that has fled to America, could only have been filmed in the period where Soviet-American relations improved in the late 80s but before the collapse of the USSR. There is a scene that stands out even more than the rest, when we are shown that the Georgians "made it to America": they wear American clothes, sit on an American car and American music sounds in the background. Nowadays, this scene feels like "the Georgians made it to the '80s": they wear '80s clothes, sit on an '80s car and '80s music sounds in the background. Even the scenes set in the Soviet Union look less dated.
  • The Rambo franchise:
    • Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) showcases the resurgence of militarism and anticommunism in the early Reagan years. The Vietnam War is no longer something to be ashamed of (this was a year before Oliver Stone's Platoon) and the American soldiers are heroes and victims, not nutbags and baby killers as in The '70s. Rambo's rescue of the enslaved servicemen left behind - actually an Urban Legend that the film popularized - serves as a proxy way for America to win the war retroactively. It's been said that Rambo II was the movie America needed to watch to finally get over Vietnam.
    • Rambo III (1988) was criticized as an Unintentional Period Piece right as it hit theatres. The anticommunism goes Up to Eleven in a time when the Cold War was actually melting down, and worst of all, the Soviet Union acknowledged defeat and began to withdraw from Afghanistan ten days before the movie's release. Post-9/11 audiences find additional hilarity in the treatment of Afghan mujahideen as sympathetic Proud Warrior Race guys allied to the United States.
  • Teen Witch features recurring rap and hip-hop songs (sung by white people, no less) from when the genre was still in its infancy. Louise also gets some fantastic '80s Hair and fashions after she casts a popularity spell on herself.
  • Running Scared (1986) features two thugs who drive a pristine muscle car but can only scrounge up a .22-caliber revolver and a zip gun to do their muggings. The heroes even mock their lousy guns. Since The '90s, the streets have been flooded with cheap, quality firearms. There's also a scene in a bar prior to the climax where Gregory Hines laments that the state of Florida doesn't have any baseball except during spring training. Billy Crystal soon retorts that Florida also doesn't have pro basketball either. Eventually, Florida would gain two professional baseball franchises (the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays) as well as two basketball teams (the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic).
  • Scrooged:
    • A couple refers to Leroy Nieman painting a mural on the Berlin Wall as well as a mention that the Christmas Carol live broadcast is also being shown in West Berlin, and Grace has an anti-Apartheid poster in her apartment. The Berlin Wall would fall within a year and Apartheid would crumble not long after.
    • The idea of a VCR as a premium gift strikes audiences today as a little amusing!
    • Special guest stars for the Show Within a Show include Mary Lou Retton (a star gymnast of the 1984 Summer Olympics) and the Solid Gold Dancers.
  • Rocky IV is just seething with Cold War-era patriotism and anti-Communist sentiment of the mid-1980s. The U.S. and Soviet Union would begin to improve relations with each other within a few years.
  • D.C. Cab has several references to Johnny Carson, as well as the fact that it's a plot point that one of the characters is a big fan of Irene Cara (whose biggest hits come from two other UPP movies, Fame and Flashdance).
  • Cloak & Dagger is entirely based on Cold War espionage and Atari console video game cartridges.
  • Oliver & Company is one of the few Disney Animated Canon films set in "present day". It's so very 80s, to the point where it feels like a period piece rather than a film written about a contemporary era. Even the dogs have '80s Hair.
  • Superman III, aside from the vintage computers in the office scenes, has a number of other very, very Eighties elements. Jimmy's hair manages to look both geeky at the time of release and Eighties today, the amount of money Gus steals via Penny Shaving would look like a routine clerical error in the 2010s, and a bunch of women at Gus's workplace are seen swapping their high heels for canvas running shoes in preparation for the walk home. It can even be pegged to the early end of the decade, because every older car is a 1970s model, while Gus's new Porsche screams '80s.
  • The "Smooth Criminal" segment of Moonwalker, which involves a gangster's Evil Plan is to get every kid in the world hooked on drugs, could only have been made at the height of the "Just Say No" movement.
  • In The Beach Girls, Uncle Carl's shown talking on a Motorola DynaTAC 8000X which was the first handheld cellular phone.
  • Escape from New York, an extrapolation of The Big Rotten Apple into a dystopian 1997 where Manhattan Island has been evacuated of its law-abiding residents and turned into a maximum-security prison.
  • The documentary short Heavy Metal Parking Lot is a perfect time capsule of May 1986. People going to see Judas Priest at a time when Hair Metal was still seen as dangerous and scary, metalheads with no piercings (and maybe one tattoo) wearing zebra-print, 18-year-olds legally drinking (the National Minimum Drinking Age Act raising the age to 21 had only been passed two years prior, and enforcement was slow to come into effect), the particular drugs talked about (PCP is well out of fashion, and cocaine isn't popular with the same people who do weed and acid any more), Graham (of Pot) ranting about marijuana legalisation and the evils of the War on Drugs, and the 'Central Casting' metalhead behaviour that most people will only recognise as its caricatured version in This is Spın̈al Tap, Wayne's World, and Beavis And Butthead — most of which were made after the time when people sincerely acted this way.
  • Fright Night (1985). Beyond just the obvious fashions, there's also its meta-comedic portrayal of the horror genre, especially vampire films, with its reference point being the Hammer Horror films of The '60s rather than Anne Rice, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Twilight. Peter Vincent is a former B-Movie star (his name a portmanteau of Peter Cushing and Vincent Price) turned late-night Horror Host, and he is portrayed as a relic of an earlier age in the genre, his show struggling to stay relevant in the face of the new wave of violent Slasher Movies. For modern audiences, shows like Peter's haven't been popular since The '90s (with Joe Bob Briggs probably the last big-name horror host), while the films he starred in and featured on his show have gone from "retro" in The '80s to "classic" (or simply "old") today, hence why the film's 2011 remake updated the character to a Stage Magician based on Criss Angel. Likewise, the villainous Jerry Dandridge is an old-fashioned Classical Movie Vampire (albeit one dressed in contemporary '80s clothes) rather than a more modern take on the idea, hence why Charley turns to Peter for help in fighting him.
  • Blow Out, released in 1981, stars a B-Movie sound technician who realizes he may have accidentally recorded a political assassination while recording ambient sound and tries to uncover the truth. This partly involves syncing the audio he recorded with photos published of the apparent car accident in a magazine, which are stills from a film that he can replicate (albeit crudely). As he only has early-80s technology, he does this by cutting out the stills and making a film reel using them in his producer's animation studio, and then specially marking sections of his audio tape in his studio so he can match the exact instant the car hits the water with the sound thereof using lots of Rewind, Replay, Repeat and find where the gunshot came from. If the film took place decades later, when the process of film recording and editing became fully digital, all of this would have been much faster and easier to do and would have made disposing of the evidence impossible.
  • The opening sequence of Fast Times at Ridgemont High so fixes on film what was cool and happening at the average Southern California mall ca. 1980 that it's the purest unintentional "Mister Sandman" Sequence from today's perspective.
  • Licence to Kill is an interesting example: it's a classic example of a very '80s genre, the "lone cop out for revenge who doesn't play by the rules" movie. It's just that here, the lone cop is James Bond. It could have been worse, though; Bond fights a South American drug empire specifically because the filmmakers weren't sure that the Soviet Union would stay around for very long, and therefore decided to play it safe.
  • Heathers, a deconstructive Black Comedy take on the '80s teen films of John Hughes et al. Not only are the fashions on display and the tropes it's satirizing immediate indicators of the time in which it was made, but so are many key story details, to the point where many have described it as a film that would be flat-out impossible to make at any point after the Columbine massacre — and a reminder of how flippantly teen violence was treated before then. Today, JD's Establishing Character Moment, in which he pulls a gun on two Jerk Jock bullies in the cafeteria and fires blank rounds at them in order to scare them, would've ended with him getting expelled and sent to reform school, if not juvenile hall or prison.
  • Trading Places: A lot of what goes down at the commodities market in this movie is not possible now thanks to computers, and the loopholes exploited have been closed up by new laws, one of which is informally known as "The Eddie Murphy Rule" thanks to this film. The film also shows the sad state of a few blocks of Philly that would eventually be revitalized, most notably the block of South Street Ophelia lives on.
  • Purple Rain, and not just because it starred Prince. The film's opening scenes are a solid depiction of Los Angeles at the time of release in 1984, and the people in the opening concert scene are rife with many examples of the period's fashion; complete with varying degrees of '80s Hair. There's also the throwaway gag of Apollonia ditching her taxi because of the expensive fare — one relatively standard in today's money.
  • Footloose features so many hits from the '80s that it seems like it would have to have been made after the fact, looking back on the decade. In reality, it was made in 1984, and most of those songs were written specifically for the film.
  • Wings of Desire was filmed in the '80s and it shows due to the fashions and hairstyles of the people that appear in the movie. There are other things that date it like the appearance of record players and old cars, but the most notable is that the Berlin Wall prominently appears - the Wall would be demolished in the early 1990's.
  • In addition to all of the now-obsolete technology featured in Real Genius, there's the fact that the plot focuses around the use of a laser platform as an assassination tool and why it's a "moral imperative" (the film's words) to prevent such a use of technology as a possible escalation of the Cold War, as a proxy for the Strategic Defense Initiative and a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Edward Teller as the villain.
  • Downplayed with The Fly (1986). While there's a lot aesthetically marking it as a 1980s film — video cameras (Beta ones at that), audio and video cassettes, Geena Davis's Unlimited Wardrobe, the '80s Hair on her and Jeff Goldblum, two of the three principals being smokers, etc. — the plot wouldn't have to be changed all that much to incorporate modern technology, or even changes in journalism (i.e. the rise of online media over print). Part of this stems from the film's Minimalist Cast and limited number of settings. Steven Benedict's podcast suggests that the reviews from 1986-87 have become straight examples of this trope because so many critics interpreted this film as a metaphor for the AIDS crisis or illicit drug addiction, rather than the general metaphor for aging and death that David Cronenberg intended.
  • In the 1984 Talking Heads Concert Film Stop Making Sense, the band jogs in place during their performance of "Life During Wartime". In the 1999 DVD commentary, lead singer David Byrne remarks that this represents the popularity of jogging during the 1980s.
  • Rachel Phelps' scheme to move the Cleveland Indians to Miami in Major League became a moot point as soon as Miami received their own expansion Major League Baseball franchise in the form of the Marlins in 1993. The Indians ultimately have to face off against their Eastern Division rivals, the New York Yankees in a one-game playoff. Since 1994, the Indians have been in the Central Division, after Major League Baseball went to a three-division alignment.
  • The Naked Gun starts with Frank Drebin attacking a group made up of leaders of governments hostile to the United States, including Gorbachev, Gaddhafi, Khomeini, Castro, Arafat and Idi Amin. All of these men have since died. Gorbachev also claims that he's tricking the West into thinking he's a nice guy; well, the "trick" must have paid off, since he later earned the Nobel Peace Prize because his reforms led to the peaceful collapse of Communism in Europe.
  • Earth Girls Are Easy is so cheerfully, intentionally steeped in the bright colors, vapid pop music, and unhinged perms of mid-1980s Los Angeles that it plays like a Popular History Period Piece despite being shot in 1987 (plus some reshoots in early '88).
  • Death Spa is so steeped in late 80s gym culture that it could not have been made at any other time. The gym clothes, the aerobics routines, gyms as the hip hangout and pickup place,the health bar serving veggie shakes and carob coffee, etc. And then there's the computer technology and hairstyles. And capping it off, a character, who is implied to be gay, tells a woman who is hitting on him that they are incompatible by saying "You're VHS and I'm Beta".

  • What does PLO stand for? Push Leon Overboard.
  • Have you heard of this new drink, the Klinghoffer? It's two shots and a splash.
  • The 1980s marked the dawn of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Unfortunately, it was initially pegged as a gays-only disease by the masses, and with homophobia still entrenched in mainstream culture a lot of cruel jokes made at the expense of AIDS victims made the rounds. As homophobia became less acceptable and the true nature of the disease and its transmission became widespread knowledge, such jokes passed into Dude, Not Funny! status.
    • An early stretch of Eddie Murphy's concert special/album Delirious pokes fun at the crisis).
    • "Why haven't they found a cure for AIDS yet? They can't get the lab rats to buttfuck."
    • Rock Hudson was a heartthrob of the 1950s and '60s. He was the first major celebrity to die from the disease, and his homosexuality, which he had worked hard to keep quiet, came out when he was diagnosed with AIDS.
    • What do you call Rock Hudson in a wheelchair? Rolaids.
    • Why is Prudential insurance going out of business? No one wants a piece of "the rock".note 
    • What do Rock Hudson and Len Bias have in common? They both died from bad crack.
    • Say what you will, but the Celtics are the most un-Biased team in the NBA.
    • Q: Why did they bury Rock Hudson face down? A: So his friends would recognize him.
    • Q: What`s the difference between Staten Island and Rock Hudson? A: The first is a ferry terminal, the second a terminal fairy.
    • There's one joke that may well have been in part responsible for the public shift in perception of the AIDS epidemic:
      Q: What does Magic stand for?
      A: My Ass Got Infected, Coach
    • Likewise, HIV/AIDS at the time was associated with the "4 H's" (Heroin users, Hemophiliacs, Homosexuals and Haitians) and tasteless jokes associated with the other categories soon emerged.
      • Q: What`s the worst thing about getting AIDS? A: Convincing your parents you're Haitian.
  • Did you hear, they found the Challenger's flight recorder? The pilot's last line was: "And now that we are out of danger, let's allow the woman to take the wheel..."note 
  • What does NASA stand for? Need Another Seven Astronauts.
  • Q: How many astronauts can you fit in a VW beetle? A: 11. Two in the front, two in the back, and seven in the ashtray.
  • Have you heard about Waldheim's Disease? It's when you get old and forget you were a Nazi.

  • Kim Newman has acknowledged that his Sally Rhodes stories have become unintentional period pieces; the character is just as tied to The '80s (or very early nineties) as Edwin Winthrop (an intentional period piece) is to The Roaring '20s. "Organ Donors" features references to the poll tax, seven satellite TV channels, the ITV bidding war, and a "portable phone" as being a big deal.
  • Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis.
  • Annie on My Mind has a few elements that date it. It's mentioned that Eliza can't legally drink until she's 18. The book is from 1982 and was written earlier. The year it came out NY's drinking age was upped to 19. In 1985 it was raised again to its current 21. Annie comes from the Wrong Side of the Tracks and, while these sort of situations still exist in modern day NYC, it was more prevalent in the 70s and 80s before the city started cleaning its image up. Eliza uses a payphone a few times and she tries to learn about being lesbian through magazines and encyclopedias, not the internet like a modern teen would (the part about her reading books however is still common). To a degree, the amount of ostracism the girls feel due to their relationship also counts. While things like that still happen, overall views towards gay couples are a lot better than they were in the early 80s. The writer has even noted that if the book took place in the 2000s or 2010s, Annie wouldn't have so much distress over being gay and probably would have even headed a GSA at her school. The subplot over being expelled for being lesbian also wouldn't have occurred.
  • The Babysitters Club began in the late 1980s. Not only does the fashion and technology show its age, but the very premise itself dates it. American parents are much less likely to allow a bunch of middle schoolers to babysit their kids than in the 80s.
  • The first Dirk Gently book (published 1987) by Douglas Adams has some specific technology references that place it firmly in the 1980s. Part of the plot revolves around an answering machine cassette tape, and one character trying to reach a telephone. The protagonist in the first book is a wealthy 'early adopter' computer programmer and electronic-music whiz, so his flat is filled with then-high tech Apple computer hardware, and 1980s synthesizers and electronic instruments. In the second book (from 1988) an important setting is the long-abandoned Midland Grand Hotel at London's St. Pancras railway terminal. One of the themes of the book is how humanity abandons things from the past it no longer requires and the rotting hulk of a Victorian railway station would have been an apt metaphor for this in 1988. Since then a huge amount of gentrification has gone on in the UK and in 2011 the Midland hotel was renovated and reopened. There is also a bit of a Running Gag about the impossibility of getting pizza delivered in London. UK pizzerias started delivering in the nineties.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (published 1979):
    • The book is centered around an electronic book. This book was a standalone one-purpose device that acted as a database for everything that was known about the galaxy. It would be supplanted by newer editions periodically making the version that Arthur and Ford traveled with obsolete very early in the series (Ford's version did not contain the update on Earth's entry). This indicated that the book was more like an old-style electronic dictionary. Today, such a device would be supplanted by a multipurpose device such as a smartphone or tablet with access to a galactic version of the internet. And the guide itself would either be an application software or better yet, a website. By So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984), the Guide periodically updates itself over the SubEtha. The idea that such a device would constantly update itself (ie, download the latest version of any entry once you wanted it) was still too futuristic for even Adams to realise, though.
    • The book's very first line says that Earth was populated by ape-descendants "who still thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea". When the book was first published, they were pretty neat, but as of the new millennium, it sounds ridiculously dated. (The radio adaptation of the later books [2003-4] replace them with "novelty ringtones" ... which is also a bit dated now. During discussions of the comic book adaptation [1993], Adams defended the original line on the grounds he felt digital watches were just fundamentally pointless, and the line worked as well as a description of an unnecessary technology we all take for granted as an exciting novelty.)
  • Neuromancer:
    • In regards to politics and general culture, it's a 1980s-masquerading-as-future novel.
    • When Gibson describes actual technology in detail, it's more 1980s than 2030s. He does however manage to be vague enough to make many aspects of technology use sort of timeless, and as the last paragraph of the introduction on the work page notes, the language he uses to a large degree became the language of the future as writers and scientists adopted it.
    • There's a scene in an airport where an entire bank of payphones starts ringing. Gibson even apologizes for it in his 25th anniversary edition forward.
    • The book's famous first line, "The sky was the color of a television set tuned to a dead channel." This referred to analog TVs displaying grey static, evoking a dreary, overcast sky. Ironically, a TV turned to a dead channel these days displays a pure sky blue.
  • Ender's Game (1985) dates itself through its depiction of world politics and technology. The first print of the book had a subplot of Russia and the Warsaw Pact making aggressive motions toward war, to which a post-Cold War printing retconned to the "Second Warsaw Pact". As for computers, Valentine and Peter manage to warn the world of war by posing as adults and making their voices heard as demagogues on the Internet. Nowadays we would call this "anonymous blogging" and the two would be unheard through the massive deluge of new Internet content. Lastly, it's treated as a big deal by his teachers when Ender plays a video game and kills an in-game giant rather than play his mini-game. Today that would be called "attacking an NPC," which virtually every bored video game player has done.
  • Northwestward is accidentally dated because a key piece of information is from Pop Culture; Northwest Airlines, as well as the fact that its central conceit is that the Batman comics were based on the exploits of a real person, who is the one to ask the heroes for help. (And similarly, that one of characters remembers when Superman debuted on newsstands.) If Bruce Wayne had been real, and fought crime starting in 1939, he’d be a centenarian now.
  • Tea with the Black Dragon, published in 1983, has a plot driven by what was then cutting-edge computer crime. The computer technology is all very much of the time (especially the scene that revolves around starting up a word processor on an 8080 microcomputer with a tape drive). The architecture, interior designs, clothing fashions, and cultural references are also very dated; some of them are exactly the kind of thing a modern writer would add to make sure the reader knew it was Set In The Eighties.
  • Ellen Conford's If This Is Love, I'll Take Spaghetti contains a story about a girl named Elizabeth who spends too much time on the only phone in her family's house. With social media and the Internet being a frequent way to keep in touch with friends who live far away and most people having their own cellphones, such a premise would not make much sense to a modern audience.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Miami Vice exemplified some of the most prevalent trends of the era (and created several of them), including a heavy focus on synth-rock and popular songs of the time, the usage of pastel colors in their clothing and many instances of Technology Marches On. One could likely fill an entire page detailing all the dated examples found throughout the series. The second season opener, "The Prodigal Son", is of particular note. Among other things, it has music from Billy Ocean and Huey Lewis and the News, a woman wearing a dress with massive shoulder pads and a climax that takes place at the World Trade Center.
  • The Golden Girls did this, both with the ladies' fashion choices and with a lot of their pop culture references (which they wisely kept to easily ignored asides, as much of today's Periphery Demographic is far too young to appreciate the endless stream of jokes about Donna Rice or Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker).
  • Family Ties revolved around an inversion of The Generation Gap, with the liberal, ex-hippie Baby Boomers Steven and Elyse Keaton having to deal with their Reagan Republican son Alex and materialistic Valley Girl daughter Mallory. The show is also a reflection on how different the Democratic and Republican parties were in the 1980s. Creator Gary David Goldberg stated that Alex, who was a small-government, pro-capitalist libertarian at heart, would not fit in with the alt-right and Christian fundamentalist politics of today's conservatives, and would likely be disaffected with both major political parties. Mark Hill, writing for Cracked, held a similar opinion, noting that the stereotype of young conservatives had shifted from go-getter yuppies and businessmen like Alex in The '80s to basement-dwelling internet trolls and mass shooters in The New '10s, to the point that a show with a similar premise today would be seen as horrifying and get canceled (in every sense of the term) after one season.
  • Cheers is soaked in '80s style and culture.
    • In the pilot, Diane predicts that her (ex-)fiance Sumner Sloan will be on the cover of Saturday Review someday - unlikely, considering that it ceased publication that very year (1982).
    • The first season is set against the backdrop of the early 1980s recession - Norm, an accountant, spends most of the season unemployed. On the other hand, Cliff, a postal worker, enjoys the kind of job security that could only come in the days before the union-busting of The '80s and The '90s, followed by the rise of the internet as an existential threat to the very idea of postal service.
    • Many of the politician and pro athlete guest stars quite firmly date the episode in which they make their appearance:
      • Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, made a cameo in a first-season episode (a writer later joked that he was the biggest star the low-rated show could attract at the time), firmly setting it before he retired in 1987. (Fun fact: Cheers - or rather, the Bull and Finch - was actually physically located within his constituency, making him one of the more plausible celebrity guests.)
      • Gary Hart's cameo in the fourth season finale (which aired on May 8th, 1986) really stands out here. When starstruck Diane meets him, she exclaims that he "could have been President" (a reference to his second-place finish in the 1984 Democratic primaries). Then she remarks that he "could still be President", and indeed he was considered a front-runner for the 1988 nomination... until the Donna Rice scandal broke out just over a year after the episode aired. (Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, who also appeared on Cheers, won the nomination instead.)
    • One episode begins with Frasier proudly showing the bar his briefcase phone, the cutting edge of technology!
    • A running theme in the Rebecca years (though established right in the first season) is that Sam is completely computer illiterate, and therefore needs to rehire Rebecca, neurotic and incompetent though she may be, because she can work a computer.
  • The Beiderbecke Affair is like a time capsule of Leeds in the early '80s, and in particular of the British education system before the National Curriculum.
  • British sitcoms and sketch shows of the 80s were near-inevitably focused on mocking Thatcher's Britain; even period-piece comedies like Blackadder weren't immune.
    • The Young Ones features several bands performing who have since split up or lost members, like Dexys Midnight Runners or The Damned. And then there is an episode, "Nasty", where the characters rent a Video Nasty. Most viewers nowadays have probably no clue what a "video nasty" is supposed to be. They also have jokes parodying the over-the-top PIF about reckless driving, made by a now-defunct government board and the T.V Times' old advertising slogan, a hamster named after the Special Patrol Group, which was disbanded in 1987, and outdated tech, from their analogue T.V to the VCR to the BBC going off air after 10 o'clock, to Rik's record player and Vyvyan's Ford Anglia. (Although if anyone in the modern day would be enough of a self-satisfied hipster to own a vinyl record player, it would be Rik.)
    • Not the Nine O'Clock News also made a lot of jokes about Thatcher and Reagan. As well as Prince Charles' then-recent marriage.
    • A Bit of Fry and Laurie featured a lot of sketches about yuppies, most notably John and Peter.
      • And then there's the final sketch of the series, the Modern Britain, which may or may not be timeless.
  • Red Dwarf
    • The first two series are instantly recognisable as '80s British sitcoms because of their low production values, their focus on a limited range of sets, the comedy mostly being based around two characters arguing, and the fact that there are barely any influences from American comedy. Subverted in that Season 3, made in 1989, clearly reverses all of these, and led to the series becoming far more popular.
    • Series I, II and III all have a lot of references to 1980s pop culture, which nowadays seem somewhat out of place in the futuristic setting. Starting with Series IV, they toned this down a lot.
    • In the Series II episode Parallel Universe, the characters briefly talk about "masculinists", which gender-swap stereotypes associated with second-wave feminism, rather than third-wave feminism common today.
    • "Krytie TV" is a pretty specific parody of the prank TV shows that were around in the mid-late 1990s.
  • Rockschool, a miniseries on The BBC and later broadcast by PBS, was a show (in fact, two separate miniseries), the first (concerning a guitar-bass-drums Power Trio) of which lasted in 1984, and the second one (which added a keyboardist to the trio) in 1987, attempting to teach kids the basics of playing and singing in a rock band. Not only were the computer graphics used in the show, along with the hair and fashion styles of the four teenage presenters/musicians dated to the '80s, but naturally the special guests the show interviewed in segments, as well as the music technology the show demonstrated. Along with the still very useful information the show presents, the use of what would now be considered very crude and outdated (currently vintage) synthesizer, sampler, guitar-synthesizer, sequencer, MIDI and drum machine technology in particular scream 1987 in the second series. (E-mu Emulator II! Moog Memorymoog!! Fairlight CMI!! Yamaha DX-7!!).
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation tried hard to avoid being an Unintentional Period Piece (the music avoided any style that had been popular since the end of The Jazz Age, for example), but the hairstyles, the spandex costumes ("spacesuits" as the cast called them), the set design (especially the oft-criticized "hotel lobby" look of The Bridge and the infamously bland beige and rust carpeting and wall paneling), the "Dustbuster" phasers and the presence of a psychotherapist as a command-level officer firmly fix the early seasons of the series in the 80s. Later seasons went to a wool gabardine two-piece spacesuit, a more angular and weapon-like phaser and modified Counselor Troi's duties in an effort to try to bring the show out of the 80s, but some of the more aggressively period-fixing design choices were stuck through the entire show.
  • You Can't Do That on Television, certainly during the early 1980s, has references to General Hospital and dated video arcade games (and the occasional period sociopolitical issues) in various episodes. The clothes and hairstyles of the teen cast members often betray their '80s origins almost as much as their accents and certain phrases they use betray their Canadian origins.
  • Whiz Kids had a heavy focus on computers at a time before the existence of the Apple Macintosh or the Windows operating system. Home computers existed but were not common, and laptops were even rarer (as well as being large and clunky).
  • thirtysomething featured adults (obviously in their 30s) that had veered away from their days at the anti-war demonstrations.
  • Mork & Mindy, among other things, when Mork ran out onto Denver's (original) Mile High Stadium as a member of "The Pony Express". The Denver Broncos Cheerleaders only used that name from 1977 to 1980.
  • Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, a PBS miniseries featuring the late Carl Sagan, definitely dates to 1980, thanks to its Cold War anxieties, production values, spacy, analog-synth-driven music by Vangelis, Sagan's hairstyles and clothing, and the datedness of Sagan's "Starship Of The Imagination". The science, on the other hand, holds up surprisingly well. When PBS did a Cosmos Update edition with a scientific postscript in the early Aughts, they found that very few changes were needed to cover the discoveries in the interim.
  • Spitting Image: This puppet show spoofed many celebrities of the 1980s and 1990s, which would make it outdated in itself anyway, but there are also countless references to stuff that was in the news during the week of transmission. Some can be looked up in any chronicle of the decade, but other events are far more obscure, with direct references to advertisements, TV shows, media news stories,... Then there are the appearances of puppet celebrities who were considered more innocent back in the day, but have gotten more controversial as Time Marches On and nowadays would probably not be referenced so matter-of-fact, like TV presenter Jimmy Savile and politician Cyril Smith, who after their deaths became notorious for sex scandals with minors. Jokes at the expense of celebrities who since then have died (in tragic events), like Robert Maxwell and Princess Diana, can also leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
  • Punky Brewster: If the fashion doesn't clue you first, you'll nail the year when the Very Special Episodes about the Challenger disaster and saying no to drugs roll in. There's also the time when R&B/New-Wave group De Barge made a guest appearance on the show. Which is funny when you consider that the group had been falling from relevancy by that time.
  • Charlie's Angels exemplified the start of the craze for men's butts among Western women which began with the publication of photographer Christy Jenkins' photo book A Woman Looks at Men's Buns in 1980 during the fourth and fifth seasons (1979-1981). During the fourth season, Kris and Tiffany visually assessed men's buns in both the "Love Boat Angels" and "Toni's Boys" episodes; during the fifth season, Julie stared at a guy's butt in the "Mr. Galaxy" episode, while Kris is seen checking out guys' butts in both the "He Married an Angel" and "Angel on a Roll" episodes.
  • Sesame Street had a Muppet band, How Now Brown and the Moo Wave, whom performed two songs in 1984: "Wet Paint" and "Danger's No Stranger". The 80s new wave MTV music video stylings really show, and the segments were naturally dated within several years, but continued to be rerun until after the late 90s.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • As it was made in 1985, the ending of "A Little Peace and Quiet" is dated to the time of the pre-glasnost, pre-fall of the Berlin Wall cultural fear of a nuclear World War III between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The same is true of the apparent outbreak of World War III in "Shelter Skelter".
    • In "Aqua Vita", which was made in 1986, the television anchor Christie Copperfield reports on anti-apartheid demonstrations in Cape Town, the US government considering imposing further economic sanctions on South Africa and fighting between Sandinistas and Contras outside Nicaragua's capital Managua.
    • In "Private Channel", which was made in 1987, Mr. Williams is able to smuggle a bomb aboard the plane under his shirt. The airport clerk also asks Keith Barnes, who gains his telepathic powers from a Walkman, if he has a smoking or a non-smoking seat.
  • The Fall Guy could be seen as this through the theme song alone. It name checks a number of celebrities who were popular around the show's debut (1981), specifically Farrah Fawcett, Sally Field, Bo Derek, and Robert Redford in the first verse, Cheryl Tiegs, Raquel Welch, and Clint Eastwood in the second verse, and Burt Reynolds in the shortened version. Many of these have since fallen out of public consciousness or no longer do the kind of roles requiring a stunt double. As of 2020, two of these (Fawcett and Reynolds) have passed on.

  • A lot of '80s production techniques are very tied to their time period. For instance, reverbed drums mixed upfront in the mix (common in 1980s 12-inch mixes), slap bass, fretless bass and prominent synths. They were considered very in vogue at the time, but haven't been since, and as such many songs from this period are instantly recognizable as such. Even 80s revivalists like electropop groups rarely use reverbed drums.
    • The Yamaha DX7's preset sounds were extensively used, due to the complexity of programming it. Most notable is the electric piano preset which became a cliché of 1980s soft rock recordings.
    • The Linn LM-1 drum machine was a staple of many early-mid 1980s recordings, before more advanced models such as the Simmons SDS quickly made it dated. The SDS itself went on to sound dated after the 1980s ended.
  • Alphaville's "Forever Young" is about the "live for the moment" mindset that occurred in the 1980s due to fear of nuclear annihilation. Needless to say, The Great Politics Mess-Up means that it hasn't aged all that well.
  • Obviously, Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" only covers historical events up to 1989. In fact, it was released at a point in that year when the Tiananmen Square massacre had happened ("China's under martial law"), but the fall of the Berlin Wall had not (and it would surely be significant enough to be mentioned). Therefore, the song is dated to between June and November of 1989.
  • Lou Reed's 1989 album New York name checks several controversial personalities and events of the decade, including Kurt Waldheimnote , Pope John Paul IInote , "Iron Mike" Tysonnote , Jesse Jacksonnote , Bernard Goetz, Jimmy Swaggart, the Howard Beach riots, The Last Temptation of Christ, and ozone depletion.
  • The premise of Sammy Hagar's hit "I Can't Drive 55" is a protest against the National Maximum Speed Law, a federal law that mandated speed limits no greater than 55mph. The law was overturned in 1995.
  • The music video for Bobby Brown's "On Our Own", from the Ghostbusters II soundtrack, firmly plants it in late-1980s culture. Aside from the gratuitous cameos like Christopher Reeve (pre-riding accident) and Malcolm Forbes (the former publisher of Forbes magazine, who died a year after the video's release), it has contributing vocals from the 1980s incarnation of The Raelettes (Ray Charles' backup singers) and a cameo from his fellow New Edition members. And that's not including the shots of the World Trade Center. It's so '80s it hurts.
  • Kurtis Blow's "Basketball". The song cashes in on the rising popularity of the NBA in the 1980s and mentions some of the biggest draws of the time, such as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The music video even throws in some martial arts for good measure, which was also rising in popularity at the time.
  • Nolan Thomas's song "Yo' Little Brother". The synthesized notes and thickly cheesy Totally Radical lyrics with an anti-drugs message subtle as a peacock could not come from anywhere else. But what takes the cake is the video, which was intentionally made so silly it distracted from the song's morals, complete with child impersonators of the popular celebrities of its day. It feels like nostalgic parody of the 1980s, only it was made in 1984!
  • Metallica's And Justice For All album frequently references The Cold War, which would end roughly one year after the album was released.
  • Frank Zappa: Much of Zappa's music has outdated references, but apart from We're Only in It for the Money never so blatant as with his music released during the eighties, with countless direct attacks at the Ronald Reagan administration, the Irangate scandal, George H. W. Bush, Michael Jackson, MTV (back when it still aired music videos) and the dominance of the Moral Majority in politics.
  • Many punk bands of this era directly attacked Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan - or more specifically, their policies and economic measures. Compare "Let's Start a War (Said Maggie One Day)" from the Scottish band The Exploited to the New York based Ramones' "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg".
  • Jethro Tull's 1984 album Under Wraps may count, not only in its very 1980's production style and sound (most of the album was programmed on a then-state-of-the-art Fairlight CMI sampling workstation, and all of the drum tracks are programmed on a Linndrum drum machine), but due to the songs' then-very relevant Cold War/espionage themes (Ian Anderson was inspired by the novels of John le Carré).
  • Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley's 1984 hit "Where's the Dress" is about two men who, amused by Culture Club lead singer Boy George's androgynous image, decide to adopt it for themselves. Anyone who didn't grow up in that era may not get the joke.
  • The Faith No More song "We Care a Lot" is a jab at 80s charity songs such as "We Are The World" that attempted to bring awareness to global problems such as starvation. The song shows its age by mentioning then-current events such as the Challenger disaster, as well as toys such as Garbage Pail Kids and Transformers (though the latter would come back in later decades). The chorus, on the other hand, lives on as the theme for Dirty Jobs.
  • Ora Tokyo Sa Iguda is a Japanese song about how this hillbilly guy wants to get out of his backward village to move to Tokyo. At one point of the song, the singer asks "Who is Laser Disc?" In the 80s, it would've shown just how his village was away from civilization. In the 2010s? It sounds more like What Are Records? being played straight.
  • Petra's Witch Hunt may be the most 80s Christian rock song ever. The subject matter is about fundamentalists "looking for evil" (still somewhat happening, but not to the extent as in the 80s), the song itself is full of 80s style effects, and there's even a Mr. T reference at the end.
  • The Judas Priest video "Freewheel Burning" takes place at a video arcade (alternating with shots of the band onstage), where several 1980s video games can be seen (most prominently Pole Position).
  • Loverboy's "Hot Girls in Love" includes the line "she likes her tapes on 10", a reference that became dated when compact discs took over, and even moreso when MP3s became the dominant format.
  • The song Computer Obaachan, by Ryuichi Sakamoto, which has been performed by Yellow Magic Orchestra, covered by Polysics, and remixed for pop'n music, includes a verse about how the singer's Grandma was born in The Meiji era. As the years go by, the odds of anyone's living grandma, yet alone that of a young child like the song originally depicted, being born in that era become slimmer and slimmer. They would already have to be a centenarian to have even been born in the year Emperor Meiji died. As of 2020, there are fewer than thirty Japanese people (of both sexes) who were born before 1912 still alive.
  • At least three known examples are related to the Chicago Cubs:
    • "Go, Cubs, Go", written in 1981 by diehard Cubs fan Steve Goodman, is now the team's official victory song. It contains the line "You can catch it all on WGN." At the time, WGN carried all Cubs games on the radio and most Cubs games on TV. It's not true any longer; WGN's local TV station (not to be confused with WGN America, now a general entertainment cable channel) now carries only 45 Cubs games a year, and WGN-AM no longer carries Cubs games at all.
    • In that same year, "Don't Wait on Me" by The Statler Brothers included the lyrics "When the lights go on at Wrigley Field" as an example of an implausible situation. At the time, Wrigley was the only MLB park without lights. The song became a period piece when lights were installed in 1988. The Statlers responded by changing that line to "When they put a dome on Wrigley Field", with their 1989 album Live–Sold Out featuring the revised song.
    • In 1984, Goodman wrote "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request", which included the line "But the last time the Cubs won a National League pennant/Was the year we dropped the bomb on Japan." As of October 22, 2016, this is obsolete.
  • Bob Rivers' "The 12 Pains of Christmas" references popular things about Christmas from years past that aren't as common anymore, like the Transformers craze. Though Transformers would make a comeback as a franchise, they have never regained the status as the hot toy for Christmas that they had in the 80s, particularly since the live-action film series' toy lines peak in the summertime, when the films get released.
  • The video for "Land of Confusion" by Genesis is a jaw-dropping hodgepodge of '80s pop culture, and can easily be confused for something deliberately made to be nostalgic.
  • Tank's "It Fell from the Sky" is dedicated to the Challenger disaster, including at the end a fragment of Ronald Reagan's speech after the accident. After the retirement of the space shuttle fleet it's not the same.
  • "Master Blaster (Jammin')" by Stevie Wonder joyfully declares "Peace has come to Zimbabwe," betraying that it was written before Robert Mugabe was revealed to not be the unifying hero many had hoped he would be.
  • Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" could only have come out between 1988-89, with lines like "A thousand points of light - For the homeless man," referring to one of George H. W. Bush's speeches in the 1988 presidential campaign, and references to the ozone layer and a kinder, gentler machine gun hand (again a reference to Bush Sr.'s campaign).
  • In the music video for "Stop to Love" by Luther Vandross, the hairstyles alone would be enough to place it firmly in the 80's, but then we see a gas station in the background priced at 65 cents a gallon.note 
  • Black Flag's Damaged was released in 1981. The song "TV Party" includes a long list of television programs that were on at the time. Only Saturday Night Live and Monday Night Football are still on the air.
  • The anti-Apartheid protest song "Sun City" by Artists United Against Apartheid (organized by Steven Van Zandt) is so 80's it hurts, with appearances by artists such as Run–D.M.C. and Peter Wolf, and the song's genre being a mish-mash of hip-hop, R&B and hard rock. The line "I, I, I, I, I, I, ain't gonna play Sun City!" became ironic once the Apartheid policies was repealed and Sun City began being used as a concert venue more, and the line bashing then-President Ronald Reagan's policy of "constructive engagement" dates it further. No wonder most of the artists involved aside from Van Zandt rarely seem to bring it up today.
  • The film clip of Midnight Oil's "The Dead Heart" prominently shows Uluru, with a number of people walking on it in a couple of shots. Climbing the rock has been banned since 2019.
    • The film clip for "The Power and the Passion" shows a lot of ads and TV promos from the time, including some logos that haven't been in use for decades.
  • "Funky Cold Medina" by Tone Lōc features the line "This is the Eighties, and I'm down with the ladies."
  • Alfred J. Kwak creator Herman Van Veen once made a song from 1983 called De bom valt nooit (The Bomb Never Drops) which is about a bomb that never drops. The song was made during the height of the cold war and uses footage of the Soviet Union. The music video ends with news footage about an Atomic Bomb that was being developed at the time.
  • The Scorpions song "The Zoo" is about the red-light district in and around Times Square in Manhattan, infamous for its prostitution, pornographic theaters and video stores, and drugs... which was completely "cleaned up" by the mid-late 1990s. Today Times Square is best known for harboring large numbers of Broadway plays and tourists, and the New Year's Eve ball drop.
  • "I Lost on Jeopardy" by "Weird Al" Yankovic really shows its age by naming Art Fleming as the host of Jeopardy!. Anyone born during the Alex Trebek era will likely ask "Art who?"

    Newspaper Comics 

  • Bloom County, for all its surrealism, got hit with this hard due to its very prominent political element and a cornucopia of pop-culture gags (such as a story arc spoofing the 1983 US Festival). It was for this reason that a complete series collection was put off for years. Berke Breathed was positive no one would get most of the jokes. The Complete Library was eventually released with historical commentary next to relevant strips and two-page spreads featuring then-recent newspaper headlines.

  • Though it was released in 1990, Rollergames is heavily influenced by its eighties aesthetics, particularly the women's use of '80s Hair, animal-skin uniforms for the men, neon and pastel colors everywhere, and, of course, the roller derby fad resurgence.
  • This was an unavoidable side effect for Hollywood Heat, given its unabashed aping of the Miami Vice style.
  • Also released in 1990 was Dr. Dude and His Excellent Ray. Even its name screams out "Bill & Ted." It's about a formerly uncool nerd who was into computers, who built a device that could make him cooler, one of the components being The Power of Rock. This game has a fascination with strange technology that can impart weird effects onto people. Dr. Dude himself has angular sunglasses, huge '80s Hair, and a leopard-print jacket, and talks like a Ninja Turtle. The table is covered in 80's slang and the decade's characteristic bright geometric shapes.
  • The skateboarding-themed Radical! also was released in 1990. The name itself says enough.
  • Bally's 1987 Heavy Metal Meltdown looks and sounds exactly like one would expect a game from that year with that name to look and sound. Features a guitarist with long '80s Hair on the backglass, and a Hair Metal sound package.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: While the technology side tends to fall firmly under zeerust, theres still plenty of other things that remind players that this game is the "future of the 80s." For one, artwork from the original sourcebooks depicted outfits and hairstyles that were firmly rooted in that decade. Artwork for characters in later game eras changed their looks, but new books set in the 4th Succession War era (the time period when the game started out) establishes that in the early 31st Century, 80s fashion was definitely in. There's also a reference in a sourcebook to a Soviet Civil War occuring in the 21st Century.

  • Despite the numerous (and, by most accounts, unsuccessful) attempts to modernize Starlight Express, the show remains firmly grounded within the 1980s. The disco-tinted score, neon-colored costumes, and references to DOS programming as if it were futuristic have been toned down or removed since the musical's inception, but the musical's premise and choreography require that the performers wear old-fashioned roller skates, so it can't avoid representing its decade. Some fans argue that if the show had declared itself an intentional period piece at the beginning of the 1990s, it would be more popular today.
  • Angels in America is grounded firmly in the 1980s by its focus on the height of the AIDS crisis and surrounding politics.
  • Seeing as Chess has a plot so focused on the Cold War and was first staged in 1986 - with the original concept album done in 1984 - this trope was practically nipping at its heels with each new production. By 1991 it didn't have much choice but to accept its new status as a period piece, and it's been played that way ever since.
  • It's debatable how much the original male Odd Couple belies that it premiered in 1965, but the female version written in the early-mid 1980s is very much an unintended showcase of the 1980s, from the titular duo and their friends playing Trivial Pursuit instead of poker to the arguable oversaturation of contemporary references. If you're reading most Samuel French copies of the play, this trope is turned Up to Eleven as it usually includes a guide for the costuming and set decoration from the time.
  • Tell Me on a Sunday premiered in 1980 and now shows its age, mainly due to the girl sending letters in the mail to communicate with her mother back home. Some of the more recent productions will truly make it into a period piece, pointing out that the story is set in the 1980s to explain the lack of modern technology. Ironically, the updated 2003 version is falling into this as well; the protagonist's use of a laptop to send emails would now be considered outdated with texting on smartphones now being the norm.

    Video Games 
Video games from this era are obvious examples, due to 8-bit technology (and later in the decade, early 16-bit technology) - or at least used to be, as with the modern wave of "retro" indie games that intentionally try to emulate an 8-bit and 16-bit look, (e.g. Shovel Knight or Retro City Rampage) it can become almost impossible to tell a thirty years old game from one released this decade; sometimes, like with Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril, they are even made to run on the original hardware, blurring the lines even further.

Games from this era are also Unintentional Period Pieces for other non-technology reasons:

  • Any game with a then-current Cold War setting:
    • Raid Over Moscow.
    • Communist Mutants from Space
    • The When Superpowers Collide strategy game series: Germany 1985, RDF 1985, Baltic 1985: Corridor to Berlin and Norway 1985.
    • War Room.
    • Not one but two games named SDI, involving you protecting the USA from Soviet missiles using the Strategic Defense Initiative satellites.
  • The setting of Paperboy is general enough to remain timeless, but the titular job the game is built around somewhat dates the game. Paperboys are a rather uncommon sight in modern times, when newspapers are usually delivered by people in cars and vans - or read virtually on tablets and smartphones. It doesn't hurt the experience of the gameplay at all, but its premise can come off as rather dated to kids nowadays.
  • Sports games with named world champions started appearing in the 1980s:
  • "Winners don't use drugs". Simple, yet an inevitable association.
  • NARC. While the War on Drugs is still going on as strong as ever, anti-drug messages are nowhere near as ubiquitous or anvilicious as they were in the '80s, and the entire effort has faced a significant backlash since then — just look at how the DARE program, the "Just Say No" campaign, and others like it have become laughingstocks for an entire generation. Notably, when the game was remade in 2005, it became a Grand Theft Auto-esque experience that turned the drugs into power-ups.
  • Many beat-'em-ups from the decade (and even throughout the early '90s) such as Double Dragon, Vigilante, Crime Fighters and Final Fight feature a now dated "studded leather & mohawk" style punk archetype that were everybody's favorite boogeymen back then, but are now just seen as kind of goofy.
  • In a near-identical vein, River City Ransom, which captures the high school life of the 1980s in a Beat 'em Up setting.
  • NetHack - the Roguelike genre is still maintained, and the game didn't age that much technically - but there are cultural references that are quite dated, especially when compared to other RL games, to early Discworld books (which has, since then, drifted away from fantasy parody), Grayswandir from Chronicles of Amber, and the hallucination status involves Tribbles.
  • The entire genre of stock market simulation games (which only came to the US in the form of Wall Street Kid) is based on the Japanese fantasy that you could become a billionaire by intelligently buying and selling Japanese stocks. The idea will probably not catch on with the newer generation of Japanese that faced the economic downturns throughout 1990 all the way up to the late 2000's.
  • Despite its rather minimalist setting, the original Frogger manages to be one. The game takes place in Australia, as evidenced by its protagonist being an Australian Green Tree Frog. The reason there are so many bulldozers constantly rumbling by across the screen, and all in the same direction, is because they're part of the massive fleet of construction vehicles used to build the parliament building in Canberra, which was completed in 1981, the same year the game was released.
  • The arcade version of Super Dodge Ball has this combined with Values Dissonance with Team Africa. The flag used for the team is that of South Africa at the time of the game's release in 1987—when apartheid was still in place. Accordingly, every member of the "African" team is white. The NES port, released in 1989, replaced its players with black competitors and changed it to Team Kenya (for the North American release). Then, in 1994, the South African flag changed to mark the end of apartheid, dating the arcade version forever.
    • The NES port itself is dated by its addition of Team USSR, referred to as such in-game. In addition, the North American version, with the same Cultural Translation that makes Team USA the player's team, makes Team USSR the final opponents in an obvious invocation of the Cold War.
  • Early skateboarding game 720° has one right in the title - at the time, the 720 (jumping off a ramp and doing two full circles in the air) was seen as the ultimate skateboarding trick. In 1999, however, (13 years after the game was released), Tony Hawk pulled off the first successful 900, making that the new "ultimate".

    Western Animation 
  • As a general example, virtually any Merchandise-Driven animated show produced in the United States from this era will be easy to identify as being a product of the eighties. Regulations on how toys can be advertised to children were lifted during this time, and several toy companies were quick to jump on the bandwagon. The shows from this time were pretty blatant about being narrative toy commercials. The merchandising of animation in later decades became a bit more subtle as more overt consumerism fell out of style.
  • Beverly Hills Teens. Five-inch floppies, over-the-top 80s hair, huge (and very seldom used) cell phones...
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both the original cartoon and, to a lesser extent, the films, which showed how '80s pop culture persisted into the early '90s.
  • Jem. Good lord. You can't get any more stereotypically 80s than this. The big colorful hair and makeup is just the beginning before we go into the music, the cars, the casual fashions, anything and everything about this show is the 1980s! Getting into the music, the whole show is very much a creature of the music video era. Each episode spent considerable time showing music videos for both the Holograms and the Misfits.
  • Transformers Generation One suffered from this before the Time Skip. The Autobots' alt-modes were mostly based on cars from the decade (except for Wheeljack who transformed into a 70s Lancia Stratos). The Decepticons weren't exempt from this as the Seekers transformed into F-15 Eagles, Soundwave transformed into a cassette player, and a few others transformed into cassettes. Then there's Megatron, who transformed into a handgun. His toy was rather realistic looking, something that wouldn't fly today.
  • Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats, what with Cleo wearing leg warmers, and the 1980s pop music cues.
  • Kidd Video. As with Heathcliff (also a show from DiC Entertainment), the show has Glitter the fairy, a female character wearing leg warmers, not to mention that it plays clips from music videos of the era (though it was mostly the band's videos).
  • Captain N: The Game Master could only have been made at the height of the Nintendo Entertainment System's popularity and the tail-end of the 8-bit era, with such characters as Simon Belmont, Mega Man, and Kid Icarus, who's usually called Pit in those games, as part of the core cast, and other period gaming references, such as a sentient Game Boy in the second season.
  • Garfield and Friends prided itself on its pop-culture awareness, with episodes devoted to compact discs overtaking records and liberal references to then-popular shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show and Muppet Babies (the latter of which aired immediately before G&F).
  • The New Archies was an animated adaptation of Archie Comics featuring the kids as middle schoolers. The fashion alone dates it terribly, and the intro features the characters skating around on skateboards.
  • In My Little Pony 'n Friends, Danny uses a cassette recorder, which was popular in the 80s.
  • M.A.S.K. ran into this with the vehicles alone. Most were based on cars from the decade (the exceptions being the Hurricane, a '57 Chevy, and the Stinger, a Pontiac GTO). For example, the Thunder Hawk is a third-generation Camaro and the Manta is a Nissan 300ZX (Z31). The Gator could get a pass, being a Jeep. Furthermore, the paint jobs on the cars are done in the style of the time compared with later decades.

  • The appearance of Halley's Comet is such a rare and spectacular event that it is only natural for it to have been referenced in popular culture during the year it appeared—which, considering the fact that it only occurs once every 76 years—means that all of the movies, videogames, and TV shows which featured it as a plot point absolutely had to have been made in 1985 or 1986.note  The only other years in which mankind knew the Comet would appear and therefore use it as something other than a portent of doom in fiction would have been in 1835 or 1910 (and therefore before movies and television existed, although ample photographic evidence exists of the 1910 apparition) or in 2061 or a later date (which haven't happened yet).
  • The candy Sour Patch Kids were originally shaped like aliens and called Mars Men when first introduced in the 1970s, but the name and shape were changed to the current name in 1985 to capitalize on the hot toy Cabbage Patch Kids. The name stuck, and to this very day they're still called Sour Patch Kids long after Cabbage Patch Kids have faded into irrelevance.


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