In 1977, the arrival of a little movie called Star Wars shook Hollywood – and, by extension, the entire world – to its core. Shattering box office records (which had themselves been shattered barely two years earlier by another little movie called Jaws), director George Lucas’s monster hit proved that the blockbusters were here to stay – and that science-fiction and fantasy were very big business indeed.
Previous decades had seen their share of sci-fi/fantasy hits: Stanley Kubrick had revolutionised the genre with 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the bulk of the films that followed its example – say, 1972’s Silent Running, and George Lucas’s own debut film THX 1138 – were cold, emotionally distant works which alienated the wider audience. Following the example of Star Wars, the 80s would see a slew of fantastical works that embraced the crowd-pleasing theatrics of the old serials and pulp novels, whilst utilising the decade’s breathtaking advances in special effects.
It wasn’t nothing but family-friendly feel-good fun, however. The 80s also saw its share of ambitious, less optimistic filmmakers explore darker territory within sci-fi/fantasy, delving into more challenging themes and concepts whilst still delivering all the incredible visual spectacle which audiences of the time had come to expect. Not all such films were huge hits on release, but plenty became cult classics in the years that followed.
It’s debatable that any decade in film history presented us with quite so many extraordinary otherworldly visions of possible futures, alternate realities and imaginary lands than the 80s did, and we’ve listed the best of them below. Scroll on down to vote up your favourite science fiction and fantasy films of the decade – and if you can think of any great ones we’ve missed, go ahead and add them at the bottom of the page.