7 Unlikely '80s Movie Friendships We'll Never Forget

by Nicole Johnson
Originally Published: 
Henry Thomas in the iconic scene from the popular movie "E.T. "
Universal Pictures / Amblin Entertainment

In the 1980s, movie friendships came in pairs, in groups, in coed, in varying ages, and even in different life forms. Oddballs befriended the popular kids and college friends reconnected. These friendships were unique, not only because of the individuals who comprised them, but because by watching them, we strengthened our own friendships. We grabbed movies at the local video store after school and rushed home to put them into the VCR, and as we watched them, we identified with the unbreakable bonds that reflected those of our own cherished friendships.

Here are seven of the most memorable friendships from ’80s movies:

1. Stand By Me—Teddy, Gordie, Chris, Vern

These junior high friends embarked on a trip to find the body of a missing boy. Their emotional journey revealed the weakest and strongest parts of each other. They talked, laughed, fought, cried, and did all the things that best friends do. In the end, they went their separate ways, because their lives lead them in different directions. The narrator said he never had any friends like the ones he had when he was 12. We can all remember those lost friendships, because we had them.

2. The Breakfast Club—The Kids in the Library

John Hughes had an amazing knack for creating interesting and heartbreaking relationships. The loveable crew stuck in Saturday detention was no exception. They were all so different from one another, yet after spending a day together sharing their fears and dreams, they realized they had more in common than they could have ever imagined. I still like to believe that after that day, the Brain, the Athlete, the Princess, the Criminal and the Basket Case remained close.

3. Top Gun—Goose and Maverick

These two pilots had a bromance before bromances were even a thing. Goose’s laid-back personality and humor were a great counterpoint for Mav’s uptight, intense ways. They had each other’s backs, always. Whether a sweaty game of volleyball, a bar room serenade, or a mission gone wrong, Mav could always depend on Goose as his wingman. When his friend died, Maverick took the loss hard and needed some time on his own. Of course, we understood, because losing a good friend is like losing a part of yourself.

4. E.T.—E.T. and Elliott

Elliot needed a friend. He never expected to find one in an extraterrestrial. As young Elliott teaches E.T. about his world and tries to return the alien to his own, the two friends become so close they can feel each other’s emotions. When E.T. gets sick, Elliott does too. The pair realize that the only way for E.T. to heal is to get him back to his home. When they finally say their goodbyes as E.T. boards his ship, it is with the knowledge that they are both better for having known one another.

5. The Goonies—The Goonies

A group of kids try to outrun violent criminals while seeking a secret treasure to save their town. Though scared and afraid, they continue on their quest and learn to work together in order to survive. When they finally escape and find the treasure, they realize they only did so because they had each other. The Goonies friendship was incredible because they refused to give up on one another. Goonies never say die!

6. The Big Chill—The College Crew

A group of college friends reunite as adults after their friend commits suicide. So much has changed since they were in school together. They’ve married, had children, and moved on with life. Of course, when they reconnect for a weekend getaway, they realize that the strength of their bond has not diminished with time. In the end, they go back to their lives, but only after recalling and rekindling old relationships, proving that time and distance cannot sever the bonds of true friendship.

7. The Karate Kid—Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-san

Their unlikely friendship began after Mr. Miyagi bailed Daniel out of a fight. Mr. Miyagi went on to teach Daniel so much more than just how to deal with bullies. Although not always gentle in his manner, Mr. Miyagi was a healer and a teacher who always found a way to get the job done. Daniel taught Mr. Miyagi how to take things a bit less seriously and have fun, and even helped the old man through the grief of losing his own wife and son. Their age difference didn’t matter, and eventually their relationship changed from that of teacher and student to friends.

These endearing movie friendships will always be around for us to watch when we feel that rush of nostalgia for our own. Whether they are friends we lost because we grew apart, like Gordie and the crew in Stand by Me, or those we’ve held on to but don’t often see due to distance, like the group of college friends in The Big Chill, we are always able to recall those bittersweet days before kids, marriage and life got in the way. The days when we just hung out with people like us—or nothing like us at all—people we called friends.

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