There are a lot of '80s movies out there that people consider obscure just because, well, they're from the '80s, a decade which is now officially 300 million years ago. But films like the sci-fi adventure Wargames (starring a young Matthew Broderick) and the crazy teen comedy Revenge of the Nerds, while charming and archaic to us now, were actually big hits in their time. Still, there's a whole other category: the seriously obscure '80s movies that were never really big in their time, or were immediately buried and forgotten under a mountain of similar films.
Some of these movies are total gems that should be excavated and shown on the big screen of the nearest cinema that offers alt programming. Others are more deserving of a sugar- (or wine-) fueled laugh-fest at home, where you can marvel at how odd the plot is, how tacky the set design looks, or how outdated the sayings sound coming from the mouths of people with very strange hair. All of these films are worth your time in one way or another, and they also allow you to do some pretty fun, goofy namedropping: "I mean, sure, Real Genius is good, but it's hardly obscure; it's no The Manhattan Project. Oh, you've never heard of The Manhattan Project? Hmmm."
1'One Crazy Summer'
Somehow this kooky summer adventure romance starring John Cusack as an aspiring cartoonist and Demi Moore as a rock singer has drifted from memory, but it's a very good time.
The endlessly lovable Walter Matthau stars in an underrated spy comedy that has gotten lost in the shuffle of spy movies over the years. There's a romance, as there usually was in '80s movies, and the character's enemies are played by Sam Waterston and Ned Beatty.
3'The Manhattan Project'
The '80s had no shortage of "teen genius" films, but some were better than others and some were definitely more well-known than others. For every Weird Science, there was a The Manhattan Project: stranger, more serious, more interesting, and definitely more obscure.
4'Batteries Not Included'
Perhaps the best movie summary ever: tiny mechanical aliens help an elderly couple save their apartment complex. Why is this not in the Criterion Collection?
5'Heaven Help Us'
A totally forgotten film starring several of the B-players of the Brat Pack (Andrew McCarthy, Matt Dillon, Mary Stuart Masterson) as prep school boys (and troubled girl, in Masterson's case) in 1965. Maybe the odd '60s setting kept it from every really taking off.
Corey Haim, Charlie Sheen, and Winona Ryder? And no one's heard of it? Haim was but a boy of 14 at the time in this heartwarming underdog story.
7'Mac And Me'
Obscure for a reason, this E.T. knockoff is fantastically, mesmerizingly terrible. You won't be able to look away.
A sci-fi horror movie about alien space vampires, and yes, it's as awesome as it sounds.
There are tons of big '80s stars — Daryl Hannah, Beverly D'Angelo, Liam Neeson, Steve Guttenberg — in this forgotten but delightful fantasy film about a haunted castle.
Long before Kathryn Bigelow was renowned for The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, she made this amazing New Wave vampire movie that no one remembers.
11'The Sure Thing'
John Cusack strikes again, this time in a college road trip romance that is arguably not his best work but is classically '80s.
There are so many forgotten, obscure '80s movies that you could spend a lifetime revisiting them, but this list is a great start to get you on your way.