Ghostbusters (1984)

Originally dreamed up by comedian and real-life paranormal expert Dan Ackroyd, this story of unemployed parapsychologists turned high-tech exorcists who end up battling an apocalyptic demon in present day New York is up there with Douglas Adams in the "how-to-do-this" pantheon of genre comedy. Like Back to The Future, the genius is leaving the comedy to the characters while playing the supernatural events almost 100% seriously.

Gremlins (1984)

Boy gets adorable mystery pet, boy breaks special pet care rules, adorable mystery pet unwillingly unleashes horde of demonic spawn that tear a picture-perfect American suburb to shreds on Christmas Eve. Aside from just being a great film, it also helped repopularize the idea of trickster monsters: The Gremlins aren't driven by survival or twisted morality - they brutalize, terrorize and murder because it's fun.

Back to the Future Trilogy (1985 - 1990)

The infusion of nerd culture into the mainstream's lasting impact was turning sci-fi/fantasy tropes into plot devices for otherwise ordinary human drama. Back to the Future is a story of middle-class wish fulfillment in which a time machine allows a troubled teen to meet his parents at his age in the mid-1950s, understand them better and also alter history to give his family a better life. The second and third sequels take a risk by getting way into the mechanics of time-travel paradox, but it paid off.

The Goonies (1985)

Bored kids in Oregon find a pirate's treasure map in their attic, leading them to a trap-strewn underground labyrinth and a chance to save their economically-endangered homes. Everything you need to understand the psychology of male geeks in their late 20s/early 30s (or young boys of any age) can be gleaned from this movie.

Legend (1985)

Young Tom Cruise helps elves and pixies rescue a princess and a unicorn from Tim Curry's magnificiently-horned devil king. Ridley Scott's fairy tale looks like the cover of a fanciful fifth grade girl's Trapper-Keeper and plays out like a short story that might be scribbled inside, but it's kind of mesmerizing and still the best live-action example of that particular style of candy-colored fantasy art design style.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Asian action-fantasy's U.S. invasion was presaged by this classic from John Carpenter. A thick-headed trucker (Kurt Russell) gets caught in the war between two ancient sorcerers in Chinatown, climaxing in one of the greatest gun/magic/monster/kung-fu battles of all time. It's been homaged and copied by videogames, comics and other films - but its lasting impact was in subverting Hollywood racial archetypes - Russell's Chinese sidekick (Dennis Dun) is the real hero, with his boisterous Caucasian buddy merely along for the ride.

Labyrinth (1986)

One of the scandalously few geek classics that approaches the "fear of growing up" fantasy/allegory subgenre from the female side. After accidentally wishing away her baby brother, Jennifer Connelly must navigate a monster-infested maze to save him from goblin king Jareth - aka David Bowie. Everything from the recurrent themes of maternal obligation to the implicit sexualization of the heroine/villain dynamic is wholly unique in the genre, and it's both amazing and depressing that there hasn't really been a film since to so well explore what it is to be both a nerd and a young woman.

Batman (1989)

Tim Burton's inaugural Batman movie looks messier and more dated every day, but for better or worse it set the tone for the subsequent decade of superhero movies and directly led to Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's DC Animated Universe, so credit where credit is due.

Once again, this is not meant to be comprehensive or all-encompassing. Trust me, there are plenty of films I had to cut from here that I would leave if the space would allow it. But I think it's a solid sampler, and if you think there's anything I missed, please feel free to enlighten everyone in the comments.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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