Pop Culture In Review for the Year 1980

The 1980s decade holds a lot of significance today, especially when we’re talking about pop culture. You see several shows from the 80s being rebooted now, while even the fashions of that era are making a comeback.

However, a decade is a long time. We can talk about the important pop culture moments from each year of this decade as well. This will help us gain more insight into the important events that unfolded from this era. Here are some of the pop culture highlights of the year 1980:


  • The Premiere of ‘Ordinary People’

On September 19th, the hit film ‘Ordinary People’ was released. This was based on a novel by Judith Guest and was directed by none other than Robert Redford. This was his directorial debut, but it was a massive boost for him.

It was this work that won Redford his very first Oscar as well as three more Academy Awards. The movie also went on to win the director five Golden Globe Awards. Along with the impressive direction and intriguing story, this movie also starred known names such as Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland.


  • The Murder of John Lennon

This was the year when John Lennon was shot by David Chapman, an incident that the music community mourns to this day. People still come together and remember the ex-Beatle for his music as well as his anti-war and peaceful philosophy.

While Chapman was a fan of the Beatles and Lennon himself, he claimed that he was angered by the musician’s rebellious statements. Some of these statements included saying that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. The lyrics to the songs ‘Imagine’ and ‘God’ were also a cause of triggering Chapman’s anger. After the murder, Chapman pleaded guilty and later said that he regretted taking the life of another human being for the sake of gaining notoriety.


  • International Release of Pac-Man

1980 was also the year when the arcade game ‘Pac-Man’ was released internationally through Namco. Its original Japanese name was Puck Man, but this was changed for the sake of international releases.

This game was a commercial success and still continues to be played today. It can be found in several arcades and also has several computer versions. It’s now considered one of the most influential games and among the greatest video games ever. The lucrative success led to several sequels, such as Ms. Pac-Man’.

  • The Sony Walkman

The Walkman was one of the first portable media players to become popular in America. It started out as a brand name under Sony, but urban culture soon made it a general name for any portable cassette player regardless of the brand or manufacturer. By the time its production officially stopped in 2010, Sony had made around 200 million Walkmans (the cassette-based kind).

The Walkman brand is still in use for the company, including their Discman being renamed the ‘CD Walkman.’ There was also a ‘Walkman’ phone series released by Sony Ericsson in the early 2000s.


  • Miracle on Ice

The United States managed to defeat the Soviet Union in an almost unbelievable turn of events during the Lake Placid Winter Olympics in 1980. The teams were playing an ice hockey match, with the American players mostly consisting of college-age participants.

The other might have been the favorites to win, but the team from the US managed to defeat them. This was even more amazing because the Soviet team had four gold medals under their belts. In fact, this was the team that hasn’t lost any Olympic hockey games since 1968.

The final score for this memorable hockey match was 4-3 in America’s favor. This was also the semifinal, which determined which team would go on to the final. The team here was the American one, who then also won the final against Finland. Overall, that was the only time up until then where America had won a gold medal in ice hockey.


  • More Subdued Shades

70s fashion was marked by bright disco shades, a lot of accessories, and a generally vivid appearance. With the onset of the 80s, though, these costume-like outfits were beginning to fade. Those in the know started going for a more subdued kind of fashion, with fewer accessories and a minimalist approach in general.

The clothes in the early part of the 80s were also worn with a focus on their practicality as well as their aesthetic function.

One could also see a lot of strange wardrobe choices once the 80s started. These included fur-lined jackets, faux-fur clothes, tunics, trench coats, tube tops, crop tops, and even velvet blazers. All of these came in several kinds of fabrics, such as cotton, polyester, silk, and satin.


  • The Re-Launching of a Popular Sitcom

The 80s are well-known for their dedication to all kinds of sitcoms. These are still going strong in the international world of entertainment today, but the major channel NBC was badly struggling due to its low ratings. To counter this, they decided to change up a sitcom called ‘the Fact of Life’ and completely revamp its look. Several actresses were removed from the large main cast, and one was added to provide a rougher, tomboy element. Soon, this series became a massive hit and almost single-handedly saved the channel from going under. The sitcom ‘The Facts of Life’ had a strong female cast and had a total of nine seasons before going off the air.

  • The Mystery of ‘Dallas’

Dallas was a television series that was aired by the CBD network. In its third season finale on March 21, the character J. R. Ewing was shot by a mysterious person. This created a cliffhanger that lasted throughout the whole summer of 1980. Eventually leading to the catchphrase ‘Who shot J. R.?’

The mystery of this question soon spread all around the globe, with people even taking bets on who the culprit was. Eight months after this event, the question was finally answered in the 4th episode of the 4th season. At that time, an impressive 83 million viewers tuned in to see what had happened.

The influence of this show and its catchphrase still continues today. The phrase is still going strong in pop culture while the cliffhanger’s format became quite popular and was used for several other TV series.


  • Ronald Reagan as President of the United States

Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood name before delving into politics. Many say that he won his votes due to his charismatic way of talking and Hollywood popularity. However, the crumbling economy and Cold War were also factors that contributed to Reagan’s gaining the Presidency over Jimmy Carter. When Reagan finally left office after two terms, he had an approval rating similar to that of Franklin D. Roosevelt.


  • The Debut of the Rubik’s Cube

The puzzle toy called the Rubik’s Cube was internationally released in the January of 1980. This was during a toy fair based in London. Soon, a Rubik’s Cube craze spread to many parts of the globe, with the toy being picked up by several manufacturers. The puzzle has now developed into several shapes, sizes, and sides for the Rubik’s Cube enthusiasts of today. Needless to say, this puzzle is still quite popular and fascinating for younger generations as well.

The Rubik’s Cube is considered as one of the best toys ever made, and if you want to know more about this fun and complex puzzle toy, you can check out our article on the Top Pop Culture Toys of the 80s.

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