80s Movies Teach Important Life Lessons. No really.

Classic 80s Movies Life Lessons

80s Movies Teach Important Life Lessons. No really.  by Cindy Haney

My two teenagers just started a brand new school year. Life in our household is about to get really crazy as we juggle cross country meets, choir practices and concerts, voice lessons, study time, a new part-time job and mounds and mounds of homework. 

When life gets this busy, it’s easy for our teenagers to forget the importance of spending time with friends and taking time out to just have fun.  Amanda, in particular, sometimes gets so focused, and so busy, that I often have to remind her to schedule some “girl time” with her friends. She’s that kind of kid. Emily? Maybe not so much.

Although I understand the necessity, I also resent the mega hours of homework that the schools require of these kids. So much of it is useless information and time-wasting busywork. If only our schools prepared kids for living in the real world instead!  In this blog, we could talk about real world skills like how to choose the right spouse, how to manage your finances, the dangers of credit card abuse or how to ace a job interview, but that would be boring, right?

Let’s look beyond the obvious life skills NOT being taught in our classrooms, and ask ourselves, “What other crucial life skills ought to be taught in school as well?”

Since I was an 80s kid, I started thinking about all of the lessons I learned from classic 80s movies.  Those were the days of true “blockbuster” movies, and a time period when teen culture enjoyed a real renaissance of consciousness.   All of these movies are on my kids’ “Mom says I have to watch these old movies” list.  After all, I feel it is my duty, as a parent, to pass on these important lessons to a new generation, so here they are:

The Karate Kid

The main lesson from this movie is “Not everything is as it seems.”  Sometimes we adults require kids to do chores that seem wasteful and pointless, but there’s a method to our madness. Like when Mr. Miyagi  requires Daniel to wash his car over and over.   Maybe we are trying to teach you something useful. And, also, maybe we are too tired and we want you to do our chores for us.

The secondary lesson from this movie is: “Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.”  In other words, patience and perseverance are good!

Weird Science

It seemed to be a common theme in the 80s: When the Parents are Away, The Kids Will Play. If you leave your kids home alone for an extended period of time, then there’s a good chance a wild, uncontrolled party is going to break out at your house.  It happened in Sixteen Candles and Risky Business as well.  I spent my entire teenaged years hoping that would happen in real life, but no spontaneous wild parties ever broke out, but that’s beside the point. The main lesson from these movies is that, if you try to pull one over on your parents, you WILL get caught. Even science geeks with superior intelligence get caught. So don’t even try it.


Don’t be in such a rush to grow up. As Josh Baskin in this movie learned, being a grownup isn’t as glamorous as it may seem.  Enjoy your childhood while you still can because, once it’s gone, I promise you will miss it. Just ask any adult you know. Personally, I didn’t know being a grownup was going to suck this much.

“Big” also reminds us not to take things too seriously, and to remember our childlike ability to enjoy the little things.

And one more thing:  Be careful what you wish for. So remember, if you come across a Zoltar Fortune Teller Machine, wish for something that isn’t life changing. Like perhaps, a pack of gum or an “A” on your Algebra test.

Risky Business

Always be prepared for car trouble. And also, if you borrow your Daddy’s 928 Porshe without telling him, very bad things are going to happen to it, such as rolling off of a pier into Lake Michigan. And one more thing:  Tom Cruise looks very hot dancing in his underwear. Just sayin’.


Lesson # 1:  Sometimes You Gotta Cut Loose.  You know, have some fun, take a leap of faith, express yourself.  C’mon you know it’s true… Life is better with a Dance Number.  Plenty of other movies in this time period prove this is true:  Risky Business, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty In Pink, Beetlejuice, Coming to America, Dirty Dancing and more. So the next time you feel down, don’t be afraid to break out a wacky dance number!

Lesson #2:  Change is not impossible.  Sometimes all it takes is one person with a little bit of bravery to set change in motion.  And also, Kevin Bacon is still foxy 30 years later!

The Breakfast Club

The most important lesson we learned from this iconic movie is that people will see you as they want to see you, but a human being is much more complex than the a simple stereotype. In other words, high school totally SUCKED for everyone.  You can’t avoid the snarky cliques and the petty stereotypes, but you can rest in the knowledge that high school does end at some point.  What we learned from this movie is that each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal, all rolled into one. And that everyone has a deeper level beyond the surface, if you find the time to get to know them.

Back to the Future

The lesson here:  Let the past be the past.  Don’t try to mess with history, people. So if you stumble across a 1981 DeLorean with a flux capacitor, or any other advanced time machine device, you should probably run the other way.  Oh, and also, if you find yourself in the past, avoid running into your mom or any other relative. As we learned from Marty McFly, they could fall in love with you and end up jeopardizing your existence in the future.

My favorite quote from this movie is, “Stand tall, boy. Have some respect for yourself. Don’t you know, if you let people walk all over you now, they’ll be walking all over you for the rest of your life.”  This is a good lesson to remember.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

And finally, everyone remembers the classic lesson learned in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”   It’s about remembering to take some time occasionally to enjoy the people around you, have some fun, and celebrate life while you still can. And again, leave your Dad’s car alone!

So Amanda and Emily, I hope you take some of the advice learned in these old movies and put it to good use.   And remember to work hard, but play hard as well.  Adulthood will be here soon enough.  Now go make some popcorn, ‘cause we’ve got a lot of movies to watch! After your homework is finished, of course.

About thedaughterdiaries

Here’s a secret for all you moms of cute toddlers out there.... when you get to the teen years, things are not much better, I'm sorry to say. They still act exactly like toddlers...wild mood swings, strange sleep patterns, irrational behavior, crying fits and screaming. Wait..that last one is mostly me. Only now I can't bribe them with candy like I used to.
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