6 '80s Movies You Can't Watch Anywhere
These classics are absent from streaming services and difficult to track down on DVD.
The '80s was a decade defined by the rise of home video. While in earlier years, if you wanted to see a film you had to catch in the theater or pray for a TV airing, VHS made it possible to see almost anything in the comfort of your own home—provided you lived near a good video store. Yet even as streaming services like Netflix have put Blockbuster and other video rental giants of yore out of business, many of the decade's best films are nowhere to be found online, and some aren't even available on DVD. Read on for six '80s classics you can't watch anywhere and why that may be.
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The Sure Thing (1985)
Released in the heyday of gross-out teen comedies like Porky's, The Sure Thing bucked the trend by telling a story you might see in an adult romantic comedy, only focused on high school-aged characters and their immature but no less deeply felt affairs of the heart. (For that, the late film critic Roger Ebert called the film "a small miracle.") Yet despite its strong pedigree—it provided John Cusack with his first starring role and was directed by Rob Reiner, who would go on to helm classics like Stand by Me and When Harry Met Sally—the film has long been unavailable to stream. If you want to see it, you'll have to track down a DVD copy.
The Abyss (1989)
Director James Cameron has a thing about water. Even before he made Titanic and Avatar: The Way of Water—two of the biggest movies of all time, both of which feature prominent action sequences set beneath the surface of the ocean—he made 1989's The Abyss, another water-logged sci-fi drama in which Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio play scientists who encounter a strange lifeform down in the depths. Unfortunately, while the second Avatar film is still in theaters and Titanic is about to be re-released in 4K for its 25th anniversary, it's not easy to see The Abyss. The film is long out of print on DVD and has never been released on Blu-ray nor been available via streaming, reportedly because perfectionist Cameron still needs to approve the high-definition remaster.
Not to be confused with the 1994 comedy in which Jim Carrey's average guy character transforms into a live-action cartoon character in green face paint, this acclaimed film from director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) tells the true life story of Roy L. "Rocky" Dennis, a teenage boy born with a rare genetic disorder that caused pronounced facial differences. Following Rocky from childhood through his teenage years, including a touching, tentative romance with a blind girl (Laura Dern), and featuring an acclaimed early acting turn from Cher—who won Best Actress at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival for the role—it is remembered at as one of the best films of the '80s. Yet for all that, it's difficult to see the original version today, possibly due to a lawsuit between the director and distributor Universal Pictures. Reportedly, Bogdanovich sued the film studio for millions back in 1985, claiming they deleted scenes without his permission and removed Bruce Springsteen's music from the film, replacing it with tracks from Bob Seger. Though Bogdanovich's preferred tunes were restored for the 2004 director's cut, you can't find the original version on DVD—and neither is available via streaming.
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The life and death of Karen Silkwood, a real employee at a plutonium plant who advocated for labor unions, blew the whistle on unsafe practices in the nuclear industry, and died in a suspicious 1974 car crash, changed history. When it came time to tell her story on film, the production attracted a host of top-tier talent, from director Mike Nichols (The Graduate), to co-screenwriter Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle), to stars Cher and, in the title role, Meryl Streep—all of whom were Oscar-nominated for their work. Yet despite all those bonafides, the film is currently unavailable on DVD and Blu-ray, and is nowhere to be found on streaming services.
The Cannonball Run (1981)
An '80s take on the star-studded wavy road movie It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Cannonball Run was a franchise launching mega-hit in 1981, bringing together a huge roster of stars (including Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Jackie Chan, and Dean Martin) to compete in an illegal cross-country race. The film was hugely popular, inspiring two follow-ups and even talk of a remake—but you won't find the original on streaming (although sequel The Cannonball Run II is available for digital rental).
Screenwriter and producer Gerald Ayres described the feature film debut of director Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal) as what would happen "if you dropped Louisa May Alcott into the San Fernando Valley today." Told in episodes of soft-focus cinematography, Foxes captures the early days of Generation X with a Giorgio Moroder soundtrack and a cast led by Jodie Foster and including Randy Quaid, Scott Baio, Laura Dern, and The Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie. Although the cult classic about the dysfunctional coming-of-age of four teen girls in late '70s Los Angeles got the Rocky Horror treatment in the early '90s and was released on Blu-ray in 2014, it's now out of print and can't be found on streaming.