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.
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.
- 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.
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
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:
- 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.
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
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.
|State||Favorite ‘80s movie||How to watch on demand|
|Alaska||Raiders of the Lost Ark||Amazon Video|
|Arizona||Back to the Future||DIRECTV NOW|
|California||Back to the Future||DIRECTV NOW|
|Colorado||The Shining||Amazon Video|
|Connecticut||The Karate Kid||Hulu|
|District of Columbia||The Breakfast Club||Amazon Video|
|Georgia||Coming to America||Amazon Video|
|Hawaii||Raiders of the Lost Ark||Amazon Video|
|Idaho||The Princess Bride||Amazon Video|
|Illinois||Ferris Bueller’s Day Off||Amazon Video|
|Kansas||Back to the Future||DIRECTV NOW|
|Louisiana||Coming to America||Amazon Video|
|Maine||Stand by Me||Amazon Video|
|Maryland||Coming to America||Amazon Video|
|Michigan||Back to the Future||DIRECTV NOW|
|Mississippi||Coming to America||Amazon Video|
|Missouri||Top Gun||Amazon Video|
|Montana||Die Hard||Amazon Video|
|Nebraska||Top Gun||Amazon Video|
|Nevada||Back to the Future||DIRECTV NOW|
|New Hampshire||Aliens||DIRECTV NOW|
|New Jersey||Back to the Future||DIRECTV NOW|
|New Mexico||The Karate Kid||Hulu|
|New York||Once Upon a Time in America||Amazon Video|
|North Carolina||Top Gun||Amazon Video|
|North Dakota||Die Hard||Amazon Video|
|Oklahoma||The Outsiders||Amazon Video|
|Oregon||The Goonies||Amazon Video|
|Rhode Island||E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial||DIRECTV NOW|
|South Carolina||Top Gun||Amazon Video|
|South Dakota||Full Metal Jacket||Netflix|
|Utah||Back to the Future||DIRECTV NOW|
|Vermont||Return of the Jedi||Amazon Video|
|Washington||Blade Runner||Amazon Video|
|Wyoming||Top Gun||Amazon Video|
Do you agree with your state’s favorite 80s flick? Let us know in the comments!
1 2011–2015 American Community Survey, “Place of Birth for the Foreign-Born Population in the United States”
2 2011–2015 American Community Survey, “ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates”
Images on map came from these following sources:
Columbia Pictures Corporation
Act III Communications
Twentieth Century Fox