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Top ‘80s Movie in Each State

What does your state’s favorite 1980s movie say about you?

Who doesn’t love a good ‘80s movie? Acid-wash jeans, voluminous perms, leg warmers—it truly was a simpler time. But we at HowtoWatch.com were curious to see which classic ‘80s movies took the cake (and the 16 candles on top) in each state.

most popular 80s movie in your state

Unsurprisingly, classics like Back to the Future, Airplane!, and Ghostbusters were among the most popular ‘80s movies across the states. But there were also a fair number of surprises, like New England’s obsession with sci-fi. Each state’s favorite ‘80s movie says a lot about the people, culture, and tastes of the region, so let’s dive in and take a closer look at the trends we found.

It Must Have Been Love: States <3 films with local connections

One of the biggest trends we noticed is people tend to love ‘80s movies that were either filmed or set in their state. Here are a few states that give their local films some love.

  • Colorado: The Shining. Set in the Rockies, The Shining is one of the best movies of the 1980s—and a favorite among Coloradans.
  • Illinois: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Arguably one of the most famous ‘80s movies ever, this film features some of Chicago’s greatest landmarks, including Wrigley Field, Daley Plaza, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Save Ferris!
  • Maine: Stand by Me. Considering that the author of Stand by Me (Stephen King) is a Portland, ME local, this state’s film choice makes total sense.
  • New York: Once Upon a Time in America. This story of gangsters in the Big Apple was set and filmed in New York, cementing it as a favorite among residents of the Empire State.
  • Oklahoma: The Outsiders. Sooners swoon over The Outsiders, as both the film and the novel it’s based on are set in Tulsa.
  • Oregon: The Goonies. The Goonies takes place in Astoria, Oregon. The town even has a film museum full of Goonies memorabilia, so. . . .
  • Tennessee: Predator. Does the Volunteer State love Predator because it also loves its NHL team, the Nashville Predators? Or is the team’s name partially derived from the state’s love of the film? It’s a real chicken and egg situation, to be honest.

Time After Time, demographics influence state favorites

Your state’s favorite ‘80s film could be a product of the trends and demographics within your state. Check out these interesting correlations.

  • Florida and Texas: Scarface. Florida and Texas have two of the highest Cuban American populations in the US,1 so it makes sense that these states would gravitate to a film about a Cuban American immigrant working his way up to the top. Plus, the film is set and filmed in Miami, so there’s a bit of local pride going on here as well. Let’s just try to avoid the grenade launchers, mmkay guys?
  • Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, and Mississippi: Coming to America. This Eddie Murphy comedy is particularly popular in the south and Maryland. Makes sense considering it’s one of the most popular ‘80s movies that features an all-black cast. It’s almost like people like seeing themselves represented in the media or something.
  • District of Columbia: The Breakfast Club. Wait a second. . . our nation’s capital prefers a movie about people of diverse backgrounds coming together and finding common ground? That doesn’t sound right.
  • Washington: Blade Runner. Regardless of actual precipitation numbers, the Evergreen State has a reputation to uphold as one of the rainiest states in the country. No wonder its residents relate so strongly to 1982’s Blade Runner and its famously rainy ending.

Under Pressure: Geographic regions bandwagon around the same movies and genres

We think these states might feel a little peer pressure to fit in with their neighbors. Check out the large groups of states that tend to prefer the same movie or genre.

New England loves its sci-fi

While the following states’ favorite ‘80s movies are all different, they do all tend to fall into the sci-fi genre. Forget Roswell—somebody send Mulder and Scully to New Hampshire!

  • New Hampshire: Aliens
  • New Jersey: Back to the Future
  • Pennsylvania: Ghostbusters
  • Rhode Island: T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • Vermont: Return of the Jedi

Back to the Future a heavy favorite in the Southwest

There’s no denying that Back to the Future is one of the all-time greatest ‘80s movies. It’s popular across the country, but there’s an especially heavy concentration of time-jumping junkies in the southwestern US. Here’s the complete list of states that can’t get enough of Doc and Marty.

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey

Flyover states love movies about planes

All jokes aside, the Midwest loves iconic ‘80s movies in which planes play a prominent role. Of course, Airplane! and Top Gun are favorites outside the Midwest too (we’re looking at you, Massachusetts), but we couldn’t help noticing the large cluster of plane movies right smack dab in the center of our map.

  • Ohio: Airplane!
  • Wisconsin: Airplane!
  • Iowa: Airplane!
  • Minnesota: Airplane!
  • Missouri: Top Gun
  • Nebraska: Top Gun
  • Wyoming: Top Gun
  • Massachusetts: Airplane!

The Top Gun belt

Interestingly enough, we noticed states that favor Top Gun form a sort of belt, moving mostly horizontally from Wyoming to South Carolina. Sure, Top Gun is one of the best ‘80s movies we know of, but we’re not 100% sure why it’s such a favorite in the middle US. One thing we do know? “Top Gun Belt” definitely needs to become a thing.

Here are the states where Top Gun is the number one choice of ‘80s flick.

  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Wyoming

Lots of love for action movies in the northern Midwest

Along the same lines, we noticed the northern Midwest really likes action movies, especially about the military. And before you say anything, yes—we know Die Hard isn’t technically a military movie. But John McClane is a police officer, and there is a S.W.A.T. team in it. That counts, right?

  • Montana: Die Hard
  • North Dakota: Die Hard
  • Nebraska: Top Gun
  • South Dakota: Full Metal Jacket
  • Wyoming: Top Gun

Who you gonna call?

Ghostbusters is undoubtedly one of the biggest hits of the ‘80s, but we noticed a particularly large concentration of Slimer fans in the eastern US. Why? Honestly, we’re not sure. Last we checked, there were no giant marshmallow men running loose in Virginia. But if you hear of one, please let us know.

Here are the states that swiped right for Ghostbusters:

  • Alabama
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

The newbies love Raiders

We kind of get why Hawaii would like Raiders of the Lost Ark. After all, parts of the movie were shot in the 5-0. Alaska is a bit of a different story, though. Maybe Alaskans relate to the snowy Nepal scenes from the film, or maybe they just feel a little peer pressure from Hawaii. Whatever the reason, these two states can’t get enough Indy.

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii

Don’t Stand So Close to Me: The odd states out

We can’t quite figure out why these films are favorites in the following states. We couldn’t find any reason why Arkansas and Delaware should love Batman so much (other than the fact that Batman is awesome), nor could we track down any common traits between the Karate Kid fans, Connecticut and New Mexico. But hey, you can’t help what you love.

  • Arkansas: Batman
  • Connecticut: The Karate Kid
  • Delaware: Batman
  • Idaho: The Princess Bride
  • New Mexico: The Karate Kid

Our Methodology

To determine each state’s favorite ‘80s movie, we checked out IMDb’s list of 1980s films and sorted them by popularity. Then we cross-referenced the top 25 most popular films from our ‘80s movie list with Google searches in each state over the past year to see which 1980s movies are most likely to be fan favorites in your area. Here are our complete findings.

StateFavorite ‘80s movieHow to watch on demand
AlaskaRaiders of the Lost ArkAmazon Video
ArizonaBack to the FutureDIRECTV NOW
ArkansasBatmanAmazon Video
CaliforniaBack to the FutureDIRECTV NOW
ColoradoThe ShiningAmazon Video
ConnecticutThe Karate KidHulu
DelawareBatmanAmazon Video
District of ColumbiaThe Breakfast ClubAmazon Video
FloridaScarfaceDIRECTV NOW
GeorgiaComing to AmericaAmazon Video
HawaiiRaiders of the Lost ArkAmazon Video
IdahoThe Princess BrideAmazon Video
IllinoisFerris Bueller’s Day OffAmazon Video
IowaAirplane!Amazon Video
KansasBack to the FutureDIRECTV NOW
LouisianaComing to AmericaAmazon Video
MaineStand by MeAmazon Video
MarylandComing to AmericaAmazon Video
MassachusettsAirplane!Amazon Video
MichiganBack to the FutureDIRECTV NOW
MinnesotaAirplane!Amazon Video
MississippiComing to AmericaAmazon Video
MissouriTop GunAmazon Video
MontanaDie HardAmazon Video
NebraskaTop GunAmazon Video
NevadaBack to the FutureDIRECTV NOW
New HampshireAliensDIRECTV NOW
New JerseyBack to the FutureDIRECTV NOW
New MexicoThe Karate KidHulu
New YorkOnce Upon a Time in AmericaAmazon Video
North CarolinaTop GunAmazon Video
North DakotaDie HardAmazon Video
OhioAirplane!Amazon Video
OklahomaThe OutsidersAmazon Video
OregonThe GooniesAmazon Video
Rhode IslandE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialDIRECTV NOW
South CarolinaTop GunAmazon Video
South DakotaFull Metal JacketNetflix
TennesseePredatorDIRECTV NOW
TexasScarfaceDIRECTV NOW
UtahBack to the FutureDIRECTV NOW
VermontReturn of the JediAmazon Video
WashingtonBlade RunnerAmazon Video
West VirginiaGhostbustersNetflix
WisconsinAirplane!Amazon Video
WyomingTop GunAmazon Video

Do you agree with your state’s favorite 80s flick? Let us know in the comments!

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