Pop Culture In Review for the Year 1987

The year 1987 is also rife with several important events in almost every aspect of life. It has some memorable movies, some great music, and its fair share of unusual occurrences as well. Let’s take a closer look at this year in retrospect:



“Moonstruck” was the movie that led to an Oscar win for Cher. It’s a comedy about an Italian-American family with trust issues. Cher plays the main role of a widow who gets engaged to one man but falls for his brother. There’s a lot of poetry in this film as well, along with a slapstick story and a lot of strangeness. The combination is a quirky yet memorable one which is still enjoyed today.

The Rise of Dirty Dancing 

Dirty Dancing was released in May 1987 and was an unexpected hit. It was the firm film ever to sell over a million home video copies. The soundtrack gave rise to two multi-platinum albums as well as several hit singles. The influence of this movie is still apparent, with a remake coming out as recently as 2017. The single ‘I’ve Had The Time of My Life’ won the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for the Best Original Song as well as a Grammy for the best duet.

House of Games

Some say that “House of Games” was a complex puzzle to watch. It follows a lady psychiatrist who tries to save her patient from death but ends up getting involved in a poker game with very high stakes. She gets drawn into the con game herself and drags the audience right along with her.

Madonna’s Disappointment

Madonna starred in a movie titled ‘Who’s That Girl’, which was a box office flop. Critics had very high expectations for this work, but were quite disappointed. However, her first World Tour (that had the same name) was a roaring success.

Three Men and a Baby

‘Three Men and a Baby’ has been hailed as the best movie of this year; it was certainly the biggest box office hit in America at that time. Its numbers surpassed those of Fatal Attraction at the time. Eventually, the movie grossed about $167 million in Canada and the United States alone. The worldwide earning was $240 million.

Fatal Attraction

This was one juicy thriller that people still remember today. It follows the story of a man who cheats on his wife but gets stalked by his short-term lover. Released in September, this movie was a bit controversial for its time but was still a huge success at the box office. It grossed above $320 million against its relatively humble $14 million budget. These numbers made it the highest-grossing film of the year worldwide.

Teen Movies

The most iconic teen movies of 1987 include ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘The Lost Boys’ and ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’. Each of these was a bit different, especially when we consider the dark comedy of ‘Lost Boys’. However, they all gained success in their own way and were considered box office hits.


Aretha Franklin in the Hall of Fame

In January 1987, Aretha Franklin became a part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was the first female who managed to get into this hall of fame, which had only just started in 1986. The criteria for this honor was very strict; it stated that each artist should have at least released their debut album about 25 years before their potential induction. This left out several female rock musicians who hadn’t become part of the music scene until the latter half of the 1960s. However, Franklin was able to get in, especially as she had a stunning number of hit singles and more than 30 awards.

The BAD Album

After the success of Thriller, Michael Jackson came out with another major hit, entitled ‘BAD’. This was one of his singles as well as the title of his album.

U2’s Single and Album Release

U2 came out with their famous ‘With or Without You’ single. They also released their ‘The Joshua Tree’ album.

Whitney Houston

After auditioning for the Cosby Show but then leaving to focus on her singing, Whitney Houston gained a lot of success. Her single ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’ was one of the most iconic songs of the year and of the whole decade.

Guns N’ Roses

Guns N’ Roses also released their debut album named ‘Appetite for Destruction. This would be the alum that jumpstarted their musical career.

Biggest Hits

The biggest hit of the year, however, was probably ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ by The Bangles. Other contenders for this title included Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’, and ‘Alone’ by Heart.

More Popular Songs and Albums

Other popular titles in this year include ‘Let’s Wait a While’ by Janet Jackson, ‘Tango in the Night’ (album) by Fleetwood Mac, ‘Do It to Me’ by Lionel Richie, ‘Faith’ by George Michael, and ‘Into the Fire’ (album) by Bryan Adams.


A Mike Tyson Game

Nintendo released a boxing video game based on no other than Mike Tyson. This was named ‘Punch Out’ and featured an animated version of the boxer.

Cell Phones

There were cell phones in 198, but they resembled bricks more than the slim smartphones of today. They were also far more expensive, both to purchase and to use. The monthly service fee could be anywhere from $100 to $150, while the usage cost about 50 cents per minute.

A Naked Eye Supernova

The SN 1987A supernova became observable to the naked eye. This was the first time such a phenomenon had occurred since the year 1604. Light from this exploding star reached Earth during February 1987. The star was about 168,000 light-years away from earth and located inside a dwarf galaxy named the Large Magellanic Cloud. The supernova was visible in the southern hemisphere, with its brightest appearance coming in May. Due to this proximity, the supernova has been among the most observed and studied occurrences in the history of astronomical studies.

The Release of the “Final Fantasy” video game

The ‘Final Fantasy’ video game was released by Square for Nintendo gaming systems in Japan. This was in December 1987. The game was both a commercial and critical success, selling around 400,000 copies after the original release. It also sold almost 2 million copies all over the world. Merchandise, follow-up games, films, and soundtracks were based on this game in the following years. The English version of the first Final Fantasy game would later be released in May 1990 in North America for the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES. To know more about the NES and other retro 80s toys, you can read our article titled “The Most Nostalgic Toys from the 80s.”

A High-Speed Train Record

The 125 high-speed train in Britain’s Intercity set a world record in November 1987. This record was for the fastest speed among diesel-powered trains. The record was 148 miles an hour during the test run. The same train had already set records in 1985 and 1973, before this.


The Short Skirt

One of the biggest changes in 80s fashion for this year was the reappearance of short skirts. For a long time before this, fashion designers would go with just any skirt length for their designs. However, fashion collections in fall 197 soon showed everyone that most designers had opted for short hemlines. These would bare the knees and even go up to the middle of the thighs at times. With this news, many women even turned up their hemlines or waistbands to follow the latest trend.

Clothing for Women

Baggy dresses were still in, as was the peplum dress and long shirts with leggings. The blouse and skirt combination was also a practical and comfortable choice.


Mitten scarves, patterned shawls, leather briefcases, and bangles watches were in vogue. As for shoes, there was a wide variety of choices, including the jazz oxford, buckle boots, fringed boots, and open-toed pumps.

Clothing for Men

Men’s fashion included the ubiquitous denim jacket, suspender pants, tassel loafers, and a crew neck sweater.


The First Appearance of The Simpsons

The Simpsons first appeared on television in a series of shorts on a program called The Tracey Ullman Show. There were a total of 48 shorts before the family got its own series a couple of years later. The characters were first voiced by actors on the parent show; the same actors would continue their parts when ‘The Simpsons’ became a full-fledged series.

The Debut of Full House

Another memorable series came into being at this point; the lovable and cutsie ‘Full House’. This propelled the careers of Mary-Kat and Ashley Olsen, who were only babies when the series started. It was the perfect example of a family-oriented show and has spawned a sequel as well as several books.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Another series to make its TV debut was ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. These sewer-dwelling fighting experts would have a hit animated series, which would also give rise to video games, movies, and lots of merchandise.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show was actually based on a comic book written by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. To know more about these comic book artists and how they came up with the idea for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you should check out our article on the Top Pop Culture Toys of the 90s.

Duck Tales

DuckTales–starring Scrooge McDuck and his three grandnephew Huey, Dewey, and Louie–also made its first appearance in 1987. The series has inspired several comic books, video games, merchandises, and even an animated spin-off movie. The theme song for this and many other 80s cartoons would also become classics in their own right.


An American Wins the Judo Gold

At the age of 27, Mike Swain won the gold medal for judo at the Pan American Games in 1987. This was his most historic win, especially as this was the first time an American male had won that particular medal. He competed in the 156-pound division.

A Young Archer

Denise Parker, at the tender age of 14, won the gold medal for archery at the Pan American Games in 1987. She was the youngest-ever gold medalist for any sport at these games and was also the winner of the U.S Junior championship.

The Oldest Winner

In auto racing, Al Unser Sr. became the oldest person to win the Indianapolis 500. He was 48 at the time and tied with the previous record of four wins.

Michael Jordan on the Rise

Michael Jordan was making waves at the age of 24. He was a part of the Chicago Bulls then and scored around 37.1 points on average for each game. This was the highest average in the National Basketball Association since 1962.

Mike Tyson’s Career Record

At the age of 21, boxer Mike Tyson was running his career record to a score of 32-0. He also unified the heavyweight crown, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1978.


The Baby “M” Case

The first case on the validity of birth by surrogacy reached the American court. A New Jersey court gave custody rights of ‘Baby M’ to the couple who had entered a surrogacy agreement with another woman. This was after an analysis of the child’s best interests but also opened the door for talking about the concept of surrogacy in general.

Order of the Garter

Britain’s Order of the Garter was opened for women in August of 1987. This was considered to be a very prestigious and exclusive knighthood level in England. Its origin was in 1348, when King Edward III created the Order. This consisted of the Prince of Wales, the English monarch, and 24 of their companions. The latter was chosen every year on the basis of their service. Women did have a place there, but they were never officially companions until the 1987 change by Queen Elizabeth II.

Reagan’s Berlin Wall Speech

Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States of America, delivered his now-famous speech in West Berlin by the Berlin Wall. The date was June 12, during the peak of the Cold War. Reagan called for German unification and asked the Soviet Union leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, to tear down the wall.  This and Reagan’s attempted assassination by John Hinckley definitely were some of the top political events of the 80s.

Tonka Acquired Kenner

In 1987, Tonka (one of the leading manufacturers of toy trucks) acquired Kenner (known for making the classic Star Wars action figures of the 70s and 80s). The acquisition reportedly cost Tonka $555 million, which was quite a lot of money during that era. In order to push the acquisition through, Tonka needed to borrow extensively, which then put them in serious debt. In 1991, to pay off their debts, Tonka had to sell the stocks of the company to Hasbro, one of the biggest toy companies in the US. For more information on Tonka, you can read our article titled “Learn About Tonka, the Popular Manufacturer of Toy Trucks.”

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