Photos From The 1980s We Had No Idea Existed
Paula Abdul showing her moves during her days as a Laker Girl.
When it comes to cool, the “old school” really lived it. Before we all started worrying about things like “the environment,” “political correctness,” and “being a good person,” cool came easy... to some. From Paul Newman to ‘80s action movies, and concept cars, the old school cool really set the standard. Here’s 50 pictures that will take you back to another era of awesome.
The singer famous for "Straight Up," "Forever Your Girl," "Cold Hearted," and "The Promise of a New Day" actually got her start as a Laker girl. According to her, she tried out two other times under different names and outfits before earning her spot. Abdul then worked her way up to head choreographer where the Jacksons took notice. And to think where’d we be as a culture if she never got her chance.
Everyone’s favorite ‘80s robot R2-D2.
R2-D2 made its run for the coolest ‘80s robot, thanks to its recurring role on the biggest trilogy of that decade. Lucas got the idea for his oddball robot couple from the film “The Hidden Fortress,” which featured a pair of arguing comic relief sidekicks. Ironically, the actors for R2-D2 and his companion C3P0, Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels, apparently didn’t get along all that great.
The Ford Probe IV concept car, 1982.
In the ‘80s nothing seemed cooler than the future. Megahits like “Star Wars” and “Back to the Future” ruled the world. Ford decided to capitalize on that trend with a pure breed sci-fi model. Funnily, the Ford Probe IV was actually the third car in the awkwardly named “Probe” series. Its design maximized aerodynamics during the country’s gas crisis but sadly never made it to showrooms around the country.
Michael Jordan the year he couldn’t fly.
Few people on earth could make a broken foot and a grandfather cane look cool but His Airness pulled it off. Just three games into his second season, Jordan broke his left foot and missed 64 games. This was coming off his rookie season where he took the league by storm, quickly becoming the league’s most popular player. In classic Jordan fashion he did manage to put up 63 points in the playoffs that season against the Celtics.
An ad for peppermint schnapps, 1987.
Today alcohol commercials all feature pretty much the same things: a celebrity spokesperson of some sort and beautiful looking girls having a great time in some exotic location. However, in the ‘80s, alcohol ads were really cool. Really, what’s cooler than a scantily clad smoking hot valkyrie, riding atop a steed which just so happens to be a polar bear? What, P. Diddy in Las Vegas? We think not.
Pure ‘80s confidence, Mike Ditka.
Perhaps the coolest football coach who ever lived, “Iron Mike” famously coached the Super Bowl champion ‘86 Bears. Like their coach, that team played with an enormous amount of swagger. With quotes like, “If God had wanted man to play soccer, he wouldn't have given us arms” and “Success isn't permanent and failure isn't fatal,” how could you not play like a champion for him?
The coolest scooter of the ‘80s, the Honda Elite, also featuring Lou Reed, 1985.
Before manufacturers realized it was a bad idea to give scooters the ability to reach 80 miles an hour, the Honda Elite Scooter ranked among the coolest death traps. Thanks to its automatic clutch, people with no clue how to ride a scooter could find themselves careening toward violent death in no time. They also featured futuristic digital instrumentation, which gave this particularly speedy scooter its cult following.
Bill Murry chatting with David Letterman as the first guest of “Late Night with David Letterman,” 1983.
Like kings and queens before them, the hierarchy of late-night talk shows passed down from ruler to ruler. But before David Letterman famously lost out on replacing Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show to Jay Leno, he hosted “Late Night with David Letterman.” That edition of Letterman featured wacky bits like “Stupid Pet Tricks," “Stupid Human Tricks,” and Cher calling him an a$$#*le.
Puma’s 1986 fitness-tracking “smart shoe.”
Have you ever wanted a computer in your shoe? In ‘86 the Running System (RS) Computer shoe was ranked as the most technologically advanced shoe on the market. Decades before Fitbits or Apple watches, the best way to track your speed, distance, and calories burned was literally placing a computer in your shoe. Of course, to read your data you needed to connect to either an Apple IIE or a Commodore 64 computer.
Arnold Schwarzenegger with his two stunt doubles on the set of “Predator”.
Originally pitched as “Rocky meets Alien," action movie legend John McTiernan actually thought it was closer to “King Kong”. "Bunch of guys go to an island, and go deeper and deeper in, and shazam the thing they’re chasing turns out to be a lot bigger than they thought, and they have to turn around and run away!” Since the script was clearly a bit undecided, producers cast screenwriter Shane Black as Hawkins so he could do rewrites while on set in Mexico.
E.T. imploring drunk drivers to “phone home,” 1982.
While apps like Uber and Lyft have diminished drunk driving, the commercials warning against such a dangerous decision still leave something to be desired. Who is a better spokesperson for the dangers of driving under the influence than a lost alien whose tagline was “Phone Home.” As Michael said in the film, “I just hope we don't wake up on Mars or something surrounded by millions of little squashy guys.”
The real Starship Enterprise, the interior of the 1986 Oldsmobile Incas.
It is hard to believe that’s actually a product conceived by Oldsmobile. Nevertheless, this concept car was designed, thanks to the sci-fi rage of the ‘80s. The hyper futuristic dashboard controlled what was rumored to be a "quad turbo four-cylinder" and four wheel drive. Sadly like most concept cars they remain just a dream of creative car designers the world over.
Behind the scenes with the fighters of “Bloodsport.”
The “true story” of former CIA operative Frank Dux who was in a “fight to the death” tournament turned out not to be completely false. As screenwriter Sheldon Lettich said, “Frank told me a lot of tall tales, most of which turned out to be b#**$%it, his stories about participating in this so-called ‘Kumite’ event sounded like a great idea for a movie." Lettich’s instincts were right; along with the Muscles from Brussels, “Bloodsport” turned into a great action movie.
The blinding reflection of ‘80s windbreakers.
No generation fought harder against the wind than the youths of the ‘80s. Sure, the reflection could potentially blind drivers if you were walking roadside but back then nothing could touch the cool of neon windbreakers. Made popular thanks to Jane Fonda’s exercise videos, neon lived a bright and unnecessarily shiny life before people realized they looked like a mix between cabbage patch dolls and reflective billboards.
The first great time with ghosts, “Ghostbusters” hit theaters, 1984.
Based on his own psychic investigating great-grandfather, Samuel A. Aykroyd, Dan Aykroyd wrote his ghost movie. Supposedly, his grandfather actually built a “high-vibration crystal radio” in order to contact the spirit world. Apparently, Aykroyd’s script was much darker and involved multiple battles across different dimensions. Studio heads took one look at his script which would have cost roughly $300 million and brought Ivan Reitman in to shepard the project.
The trials and tribulations of pre-Tinder dating games.
Long before you could swipe right, youth across America trusted their first kisses and potential middle school romances to a capricious bottle. Apparently, the earliest accounts of “spin the bottle” date back to the ‘20s. However, they make no mention of kissing… We’ll leave that implicit question unanswered. Funnily, they called it “Bottle of Fortune” which somehow sounds more portentous and slightly sinister.
Sean Connery's final film as the greatest Bond, James Bond ever.
The title of the swan song for the greatest Bond ever came from Connery's own wife. After Connery said he’d never play Bond after “Diamonds Are Forever,” she replied, “Never say never again,” which stuck. The film ironically featured the movie debut of another screen legend, Rowan Atkinson. In a hat tip to Connery’s greatness, they allowed him to pick his own cast which landed Max von Sydow and Kim Basinger.
Italdesign Machimoto Concept, 1986.
Clearly, the good people at Italdesign took advantage of the crazy ‘80s to invent as many insane concept cars as possible. Here’s a prototype based on the Golf GTi that for some reason lacked a roof but could still carry six people safely, assuming they wore helmets. Apparently, the designers wanted to blend a car with a motorcycle and somehow ended up with a death trap. The name combined Machina which means ‘car’ and Motociclo, meaning 'motorcycle' to create an example of ‘80s insanity.
“Used Cars” starring Kurt Russell, 1980.
Written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, “Used Cars” gave Kurt Russell his major motion picture debut. Zemeckis even flew to Canada to meet with him since Russell’s resumé was mostly made up of an Elvis TV movie and playing “Jungle Boy” on Gilligan’s Island. Zemeckis along with his co-writer Bob Gale also learned an important lesson about actors out-cursing each other. “He had such a good time saying ‘f$#%’ and ‘s$%*,’” said Gale.
Sylvester Stallone in Rambo.
Not to be left out of the ‘80s action pantheon, Stallone gave us two titanic action characters in Rambo and Rocky. Ironically, leading men like Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, and Paul Newman all passed before Stallone reluctantly agreed. Apparently, allowing him to work on the script also went a long way with his $3.5 million paycheck. His brilliant portrayal spawned a long line of lucrative sequels.
Actor-footballer Vinnie Jones earned his "hard man" by squeezing opposing player Paul Gascoigne during a match, 1988.
Before Vinnie Jones became known as the tough guy in films like “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Snatch,” and “Mean Machine,” he earned that same title on the soccer field. From ‘84 to ‘99 Jones ravaged opponents of prestigious clubs in the UK like Leeds United, Chelsea, and Wimbledon. Obviously, that experience on the pitch came in handy later on.
Charlie Sheen long before “Tiger Blood”
As director Oliver Stone said of Sheen, “Charlie was a dumb-struck 17-year-old the first time he came in for the film, back when we were going to make it in ’84. And in those two years, he’d grown. I think he did a great job. He was perfect for the movie. He conveys the horror of the place.” And to think that Keanu Reeves had to pass for Sheen to earn the star-making role.
Christian Slater looking radical in “Gleaming the Cube,” 1989.
The neo-noir film starring Christian Slater as a 16-year-old boy investigating the death of his adopted Vietnamese brother was pure ‘80s. However, thanks to its extensive behind the scenes talent, the film gained a cult following over the years. Former pro-skater Tommy Guerroero taught Slater how to skate for $500 a day. Stacy Peralta, Mike Vallely, Chris Black, and even Tony Hawk make appearances, adding an element of authenticity to the movie.
An ‘80s power couple, Syvester Stallone and Brigite Nielsen.
In terms of most talked about ‘80s couples, the "Italian Stallion" and the Danish blonde bombshell ranked right at the top. Never mind that she stood about a foot taller. Once Nielsen set her sights on Stallone, it was all over for about two years. Reportedly, the then 21-year-old model slipped her headshot under his hotel room door with her number. His understandable response? "I've got to get to know you better."
Scare the living daylights out of your friend's “Nightmare on Elm Street” Dream Package, 1989.
Whether it was for Halloween or just testing the nerves and leaping ability of your friends by scaring them to high heaven, the complete “Nightmare on Elm Street” package covered all bases. Although 4 easy payments of $26.50 does seem a bit steep, especially considering you don’t get the shirt scientifically designed to be unsettling, thanks to its odd color scheme.
“Were you born a fat, slimy, scumbag puke piece o' s@#$t, Private Pyle, or did you have to work on it?”
Coming off directing “The Shining,” Stanley Kubrick swapped one type of horror for another. Incredibly, this iconic film could have starred either Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, or Denzel Washinton! Apparently, both Willis and Schwarzenegger were too busy to play “Animal Mother” and Washington was miffed that Kubrick never sent out a script before auditions.
Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Conan the Barbarian”, 1982.
In his breakout film, Schwarzenegger pulled out all the stops to ensure his transition from Mr. Universe to actor would succeed. Arnold trained two hours daily with 11-pound broadswords that cost a surprising $10,000. He also sacrificed his arms and chest workouts because those muscles were already too big to wield a sword! He also learned to ride a horse and roll out of a 15 foot fall.
The many Marty McFlys: Michael J. Fox and his three extra Martys.
It’s true that there will only ever be one Micheal J. Fox. However, there were a few extra Marty McFlys on hand for the filming of “Back to the Future.” Ironically, when screenwriter Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis pitched the film to Disney, they said, “Are you guys nuts? Are you insane? We can't make a movie like this. You've got the kid and the mother in his car! It's incest—this is Disney. It's too dirty for us!”
Skating 1985 Jordan 1s.
Before Michaell Jordan's first signature shoe, Converse ruled the world of basketball shoes. However, their single basketball shoe couldn’t compete once MJ started wowing crowds with his otherworldly moves. Jordan took the league by storm and quickly his shoes became the must-have item whether you hooped or not. It certainly didn’t hurt when Nike used the one and only Spike Lee for His Airness’ commercials.
Pablo Picasso and his trusty revolver which he loaded with blanks to shoot at people who asked about the meaning of his paintings, 1958.
Asking an artist for the meaning of their work makes them die just a tiny bit. Well, for one of the world’s most famous artists, that tired question became so irksome that he carried around the perfect weapon for a response. Obviously, today firing what appeared to be a loaded gun at people wouldn’t fly but in the ‘50s Pablo could get away with it.
Eddie Murphy laughing at his own signature look in the ‘80s.
By the mid-'80s few people were as cool as Eddy Murphy. Thanks to “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Trading Places,” and a pair of raucous stand-up albums, Murphy truly held the world in the palm of his hand. Only Eddie could get away with laughing at two guys, rocking the Michael Jackson style jumpsuits he himself wore for both of his stand-up specials.
Bond Girl Tania Mallet in Goldfinger posing on a pile of gold bullion, 1964.
Bond girls were perennially cool, dangerous, and hot. Tania Mallet took all of those adjectives to the next level while cradling a rifle atop a pile of gold. “Goldfinger” earned the Bond films their first Oscar for Best Sound Editing while also raking in $120 million worldwide. The movie also began the long-running theme of increasing the role of the villains and Q, Bond’s go-to gadget man.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s quintessentially ‘80s Commando.
The ‘80s were a golden age of action movies and no star walked that blood-spattered yellow brick road better than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of his impressive rolodex of action movies, “Commando” remains the ultimate ‘80s action movie of them all. The former Mr. Universe bathes in homoeroticism nearly as much as he does in the blood of enemies. “Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last? I lied.”
The soundtrack of the ‘80s by Jan Hammer.
When it comes to the sound of the ‘80s, Jan Hammer ranks right at the top. His iconic score for the popular TV show “Miami Vice” became one of the signature sounds of the ‘80s. It’s hard to believe today but the Miami Vice soundtrack actually hit #1 on Billboard's Top Pop album charts. It sold a mind-blowing four million copies making it a quadruple-platinum record, for a TV show soundtrack! Those preposterously popular soundtracks even earned him a pair of Grammys.
Beastie Boys and Run DMC New York City, 1987.
By the late ‘80s, hip-hop and rap monopolized everything “cool.” These two groups gelled early on when Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz and Joseph “Run” Simmons spoke to New York Magazine. Ad-Rock: We loved Run DMC—and then we were on tour with them. It was like: “Wow, if we’re hanging around with these dudes, it must mean we’re all right.” Run: “They’d teach me about stupid white-boy stuff, like whippits. “What the hell is a whippit?”Stuff black people don’t do.”
Elton John performing at Dodger Stadium, 1975.
Now Elton John might not scream “cool” but his concert in ‘75 ranks among the greatest ever. It didn’t hurt that the early ‘70s was truly peak Elton, with #1 albums “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” and “Rock of the Westies.” Both of the those bangers enter the charts at #1, which as John wrote, “No one had ever done that before. Not Elvis, not the Beatles.”
Michael J. Fox tested out his ax before the Johnny B. Goode scene, on the set of “Back to the Future.”
The coolest time traveler, the kid driving the Delorean, was obviously Marty McFly. Incredibly, Michael J. Fox almost got forced out of “Back to the Future” due to a scheduling conflict. The studio even cast Eric Stoltz who, after weeks of filming, was deemed such a disaster that executives burned $4 million just to get Fox in. Clearly, that was a good investment against the $381 million it grossed worldwide, thanks in part to Fox.
“That's the grenade launcher. I don't think you want to mess with that.”
As it turned out, trailblazing heroine Ellen Ripley played by Sigourney Weaver very much wanted to mess with that. As the sole survivor of the original “Alien” film, Weaver and director James Cameron rebooted the science fiction action film in ‘86 to the tune of nearly $185 million. Reportedly, Cameron pitched the film by writing alien on a whiteboard then adding a $ to the end.
The rise of Batman… The first time.
Obviously, today's comic book and superhero movies get the green light faster than a Formula 1 start. But back in the day, the idea of comic book movies taking over Hollywood seemed unlikely. Now that about 15 different actors have played the “Dark Knight,” casting Micheal Keaton seems less crazy. Warner Bros. received roughly 50,000 letters bemoaning their choice. It didn’t help that Tim Burton was chosen who previously directed “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” and “Beetlejuice.”
The lanky pairing of Geena Davis and then-husband Jeff Goldblum, 1989.
The two rangy actors met on the set of the horror film, “Transylvania 6-500.” As Goldblum said then, "Geena made love, falling in love, so easy." However, a “sudden” Vegas wedding in ‘89 rarely portends a long a fruitful marriage. Predictably a year later the pair split over "irreconcilable differences" and what Davis called Glodblum’s “actor-actoriness.” At least we still have “The Fly.”
A-ha Norway’s #1 ‘80s export.
A-ha landed in the US with a splash, thanks to their biggest hit, “Take On Me.” That catchy tune made them the first Norwegian band to ever reach #1 in the US, not to mention 26 other countries. It also won them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. The video which combined live action and animation became a staple on MTV and eventually made its way into the film, “Grosse Point Blank,” “The Simpsons,” and “Deadpool 2.”
Two pioneers of cool Tom Selleck and Frank Sinatra on Magnum P.I.
Here’s how the call went: “So I call Frank and I say, ‘Do you want to do our show?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah,’ and I say, ‘Well we’re going to have to write it for you, what do you want to do?’ He says, ‘I don’t know, just make sure I get to beat somebody up’.” “And then he says, ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll do it for free, just pay my expenses.’ “Then Universal got the bill and that was $250,000.”
The premiere of Murphy Brown, 1988.
The iconic TV show starring Candice Bergen as an investigative reporter ran an astounding 247 episodes over 10 seasons. Although at the outset producers weren’t sold on Bergen as their lead. Executives pushed for Heather Locklear rather than Bergen and asked if the character could be returning from a spa rather than rehab. Thankfully, the creator Diane English pushed for Bergen and a less cliché story.
Rick James said Superfreak was just, “ A silly song. I just put 'Super Freak' together really quickly. I wanted a silly song that had a bit of new wave texture to it. So I just came up with this silly little lick and expounded on it.” That silly song gave James his biggest hit, reaching #16 in the US. It also featured backup vocals by The Temptations, which probably didn’t hurt.
The Clash in Asbury Park, 1982
“The Only Band That Matters” paved the way for a litany of punk rock groups with their experimental and incredibly popular “London Calling” third album. In an industry first, starting with that iconic album, they insisted that their albums be sold at lower than industry standard prices. And to think that these trailblazers were once arrested for stealing pillow cases, of all things in Newcastle.
Willem Dafoe in 1981.
In this picture the eccentric actor embodied “cool” of the ‘80s. But Dafoe’s brand of cool also bordered on outlandish. For example, he apparently was kicked out of high school for participating in an adult film. As he said of the experience, "I was just a young boy in Wisconsin - anything to get out of there.” He also needed a stand-in in the film “Antichrist” because his, um, manhood was too large. As the director said, “too big because everybody got very confused when they saw it.”
When it comes to Reynolds, he said it better than anyone. “My movies were the kind they show in prisons and airplanes, because nobody can leave.” “People don't understand the analogy of football and acting, but there's a great deal of it that's the same. You get dressed in the room, and you think you've got it all prepared, and later on in the game you wish you had put on more pads 'cause they're just kicking the hell out of you. God almighty, I've been beat up by the best.” And “I can sing as well as Fred Astaire can act.”