If you ever wanted to get your Marty McFly on and time travel back to the ’80s, there is no easier way than to log onto Netflix and choose one of the many TV shows that pay tribute to the years of shoulder pads and crimped hair. Whether it’s remembering the good old days of Saturday Morning Cartoons in your Wonder Woman underoos, the teenage angst of high school and wearing too much denim, the eighties bring back a lot of #mems for a lot of us. But perhaps you weren’t even alive in the great ’80s, but are now catching this wave of TV reboots and shows inspired by the iconic decade. It’s no doubt the eighties was a decade of addicting television.
Whatever your reasons for revisiting the past may be, these shows that you can stream on Netflix will take you way, way back to the 1980s. Enjoy!
1. The Carrie Diaries
Imagine Carrie Bradshaw as a junior in high school. That’s where this short-lived teen comedy/drama, a prequel to Sex and the City, found the young hopelessly-in-love aspiring writer. Her outfits didn’t disappoint, even in this era of acid washed jeans and butterfly clips.
Set in 1984, The Carrie Diaries was an homage to the eighties with big earrings, colored denim, novelty sweaters, and lots of big hair. Keeping consistent with SatC, young Carrie also wore show-stopping looks like tulle skirts and sequin party dresses that definitely had the Carrie Bradshaw (mid-thirties) stamp of approval. It was a little tough to watch knowing Carrie’s future (plus, where was that sister in the HBO series?) but ultimately it was fun and carefree — just like Miss Bradshaw herself.
2. Fuller House
Oh, those Tanners! The gang is back in Netflix’s reboot of the ’80s classic hit show Full House. And thank goodness for Kimmy Gibler because she’s still rocking those ’80s-inspired looks. She’s bringing retro-geek back. Full House was everyone’s must-see TV back in the ’80s and catchphrases like “You got it, dude.” and “How Rude!” were quickly adopted by Gen Xers who oddly idolized the 4-year-old, Michelle Tanner. The Olsen Twins are not part of the rebooted show, but it’s okay because John Stamos‘ good hair makes up for the loss.
3. One day At a Time
Netflix decided to bring back the 80s hit about a single-woman raising her two daughters and their run-ins with the quirky plumber. This time it’s set in today’s time with an all-Latino cast starring Broadway star, Rita Moreno. Although it deals with more modern-day issues like LGBTQ+ rights, the show still keeps the retro feel with a production design that seems to be frozen in time. Their apartment features vintage pattern curtains, wall art featuring multiple photos of the entire family in one frame (remember those?), and hand-knitted blankets over every piece of furniture (an ode to an 80’s grandma). The show is new but still has that OG feel.
4. The Eighties
All hail Tom Hanks for bringing this in-depth documentary to life for CNN. The Eighties chronicles the decade that defined pop music, neon fashion, and greed. It covers everything from music to fashion to politics to films. For those not living during this time, it’s a detailed history lesson of pop culture for a decade that surely will not soon be forgotten — especially since leggings are pretty much in our lives now forever.
5. Inspector Gadget
If you needed any proof that women and dogs rule the world then catch an episode of Inspector Gadget so you can see how Penny and her dog, Brain help defeat the evil Dr. Claw with no help from the bumbling and incompetent Inspector Gadget. Netflix has rebooted the series with the same characters, but updated with a modern look and tone. The gadgets are just as impressive as the original 1983 version, we do miss, however, the antenna-in-the-thumb for an instant and discrete cell phone. Hopefully, Apple is working on that.
6. Halt and Catch Fire
This period drama set in 1983 Dallas depicts the computer revolution of the ’80s and the massive growth of the internet the decade after. The TV show, which aired for four seasons on AMC and now can be streamed on Netflix, spans a period of ten years. Although it is considered a fictionalized drama, the creators looked to Steve Jobs‘ life and biography as inspiration for the show.
In addition to the ’80s-inspired outfits each character wears, the retro computers (big and clunky) make you glad that you’re living in the age of the MacBook Air.
7. Wet Hot American Summer
This is ’80s gold, people! Both shows, Wet Hot American Summer and Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later are available to stream on Netflix. The original takes place in 1981 and stars such comic heavy weights as Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, Lake Bell, Alyssa Milano, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, and Michael Ian Black.
This series is a spoof on summer camps with horny counselors and creepy things lurking in the woods. Camp Firewood is dripping in ’80s prep with tied sweaters around the shoulders, Izod polo shirts, and too-short athletic shorts. Oh, and a young Bradley Cooper is easy on the eyes, too.
8. Danger Mouse
Originally capturing the hearts of ’80s kids everywhere, Danger Mouse is now back on Netflix for your kid’s or kid-at-heart’s pleasure. The super spy returns to save the world with his sidekick hamster all while impressing us with his high-tech gadgetry (kind of like Inspector).
Danger Mouse was one of the most popular cartoons in 1981 when kids would gather in front of their televisions chewing on artificially flavored fruit roll-ups and throwing back a Capri Sun watching this badass mouse defeat evil.
A TV show that takes place in a bar? Hallelujah, sign me up for eleven seasons (1984 – 1993). A cast of relatable characters that include barflies, Norm and Cliff, Frasier the psychiatrist, Woody the airhead bartender, Carla the wise-cracking cocktail waitress, and the anchors of the show, Sam and Diane. This comedic soap opera of sorts managed to create different storylines centered around one single bar — genius. Now, who’s ready for a cocktail?
Jem was a trend-setter for 2017 fashion with her millennial pink hair — but this was back in 1985 when she first debuted. It was the height of the MTV music video craze and each episode featured a rock video with Jem and the Holograms wearing their big neon earrings and mini sparkly wrap dresses. The songs were well crafted and made to coincide with the plot of the episode.
There were a total of 151 unique songs created for this series alone. For three seasons, Jem and those spectacular star earrings competed with rival bands, The Misfits and The Stingers. There was even a product line that competed with Barbie because let’s face it, Barbie wasn’t ~fetch~ enough for the pink hair… even if that was her signature color.
11. Pee-Wee’s Playhouse
Don’t do drugs and stay in school — but if you want to know what it’s like to be on drugs, watch an episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, which aired from 1986 to 1991. Viewers and critics alike have compared the content of this show to a wild acid trip. Pee-Wee’s Playhouse featured the iconic Pee-Wee Herman in his magical and sometimes nauseating playhouse. It was filled with toys, gadgets, talking furniture and appliances. TV Guide named it one of the Top Cult Shows Ever. Each show featured a “secret word” and enough ’80s slang and catchphrases to fill a Bon Jovi concert.
12. The Wonder Years
The Wonder Years was one of the breakout TV hits of the ’80s. From 1988 – 1993, this comedy series broke barriers in storytelling and added new life to the ho-hum format of nighttime television. The show took place exactly 20 years prior from 1968 – 1973 and brought characters together that reminded viewers of the simpler days, but also decades of change — war, civil rights, the moon landing and free love. For kids of the ’80s, this was the show to watch to get tips on how to kiss a girl because Kevin and Winnie were role models for all young love.
The grittier side of the ’80s included the war on drugs and no show better captures that than Narcos. Seeing actual footage of Ronald Reagan and George Bush (Senior) holding press conferences on the drug war is interesting, but the brick-sized cell phones, ill-fitting jeans, and obscene amount of gold jewelry is the real star of the show. Scenes from Los Angeles and Miami during the ’80s are worth bingeing the show so you can see how rich, coked-out people were living lavishly… and dangerously.
14. Freaks and Geeks
The cast of Freaks and Geeks is star-studded: James Franco, Seth Rogan, Busy Phillips, Jason Segal… even Shia LaBeouf made a cameo! This is where many of these big names got their start in the high school dramedy set in Michigan circa 1980. The Judd Apatow series only lasted one season, but that was enough to capture the teenage angst and awkwardness of high school while costumed in mid-west retro attire like flannel shirts and athletic-striped puffer jackets. Braided hair was aplenty, rock t-shirts (love me some Journey), and even the thank-God-this-trend-died sideburns.
15. Stranger Things
First off, hello Winona Ryder! Where have you been since Beetlejuice?
Stranger Things, which basically is a creepier version of E.T. gave us all those ’80s feels like our obsession with Eggo waffles, kids riding bikes instead of hoverboards, and La-Z-Boy recliners covered in a blanket that your grandma hand-knitted. The ginger-haired best friend with a heart of gold, Barb, had by far the most I-love-the-80s moments with her Molly Ringwald-esque look, high-rise faded jeans and those coke bottle glasses. (Justice 4 Barb, by the way.)
She gets extra points for clutching onto her Trapper Keeper in the high school scenes.
Glitter leotards, sprayed bangs, and blue and magenta eyeshadow… check! GLOW is Netflix’s masterpiece about the world of female wrestling circa 1985 Los Angeles, and we’re dying over how much side pony(tail) is being thrown at us. Female friendships from all circles of life come together to put on a fantastical show full of hair pulling, face slapping, girl-on-girl rumbling and tumbling. Alison Brie (you know, Trudy from Mad Men) stars as an aspiring actress turned wrestling superstar. If you haven’t watched yet, get to it and prepare for some major ’80s nostalgia.