10 Biggest Movie Ripoffs From the ’80s

May 8, 2024 - Movies

The 1980s were an interesting decade for cinema. If ever a 10-year span has produced oddball film after oddball film, the ’80s would be it. And, sometimes, those oddball films were attempts at replicating the success of something that was taken a little more seriously.

Be it Jaws, or Halloween, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, certain films from the ’70s and ’80s absolutely revolutionized cinema. And, not to mention, gave studios insight into what audiences wanted. So, naturally, Michael Myers’ night of terror was copied (and not just by its own sequels) as was the Earth-bound adventure of a kindhearted alien. Did they rival the quality or box office of the films from which they drew inspiration? No, on the former front. Sometimes, on the latter. These are just some of the most blatant movie ripoffs found throughout the 1980s.

10 Friday the 13th (1980)

Friday the 13th (1980)

Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th was critically despised (though that’s softened a bit over the years, at least regarding the first four films as well as the sixth) yet commercially successful. And, because of that latter point, it gave birth to a franchise every bit as lengthy and every bit a mixed bag as the film that inspired it: John Carpenter’s Halloween. Victor Miller, who penned the screenplay for Friday the 13th, admitted this in an interview with Uproxx. In fact, Friday the 13th was such a financially successful trendsetter that it itself has been ripped off as much as Carpenter’s classic.

A Classic in Its Own Right

In other words, it not only revolutionized the slasher subgenre, but even went so far as to establish and/or solidify the rules of the subgenre. From Harry Manfredini’s iconic score to the final jump scare, it’s a movie that fires on all cylinders. Not to mention, Betsy Palmer’s unhinged performance in the third act works like a charm, and it’s nice to know that she embraced the franchise after years of seeing just how much fans love it and the IP as a whole. Stream Friday the 13th on Max.

9 Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

Humanoids from the Deep

Humanoids from the Deep

Release Date
May 1, 1980

Barbara Peters , Jimmy T. Murakami

Doug McClure , Ann Turkel , Vic Morrow , Cindy Weintraub , Anthony Pena , Denise Galik

Roger Corman was an uncredited executive producer on Humanoids from the Deep, but his fingerprints are as noticeable as they were on Piranha. In fact, Humanoids makes for a comparably silly companion piece to that film for a double feature night. That said, Humanoids is far more sexual, considering none of the fish in Joe Dante’s Jaws knock-off made a habit of violating women. The film’s production history is nothing less than controversial, and credited director Barbara Peeters has since disowned the final product for more than a few reasons.

A Very Sexual Creature from the Black Lagoon

Humanoids is certainly not for everyone. But, for those who can appreciate its wavelength and can view it as a particularly twisted Creature from the Black Lagoon, it makes for solid midnight viewing. Just don’t expect it to be sneakily intelligent midnight viewing a la Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Stream Humanoids from the Deep on Shudder.


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8 Alligator (1980)



Release Date
November 14, 1980

Lewis Teague

Robert Forster , Robin Riker , Michael V. Gazzo , Dean Jagger , Sydney Lassick

Main Genre

Like 1977’s profoundly bizarre The Car, starring James Brolin and a pre-Halloween Kyle Richards, Alligator wears its inspiration on its sleeve. Namely, Jaws. And, if one is to be inspired, why not be inspired by the best? Of course, plenty of movies tried to copy that film’s massive, groundbreaking success, and while none of them were met with the same critical or commercial reception, Alligator didn’t do so bad for itself, as it features a monolithic alligator living within the Chicago sewer system.

Not Quite Jaws, But a Blast Nonetheless

For one, Jackie Brown‘s Robert Forster is perfect for the lead role of a creature feature. He was always professional enough to take any material seriously, whether it’s a Tarantino classic or a movie about a gator that was flushed down the toilet. Equally important is the script by John Sayles of The Howling, Passion Fish, and Lone Star fame. It consistently finds the perfect balance of being a crowdpleaser and, given its subgenre, being self-aware. Factor in a smile-producing, bonkers third act wedding chomp fest and Alligator is a movie worth not flushing down the toilet. Stream Alligator on Freevee.

7 My Bloody Valentine (1981)

my bloody valentine

My Bloody Valentine

Release Date
February 11, 1981

George Mihalka

Paul Kelman , Lori Hallier , Neil Affleck , Keith Knight , Alf Humphreys , Cynthia Dale

There were a few surprisingly solid movies that found their way into theaters after the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Excluding such A-list properties as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play, at the top of the heap would be April Fool’s Day, The Burning, The Funhouse, Sleepaway Camp, and My Bloody Valentine. Effectively Canada’s response to the holiday horror craze, My Bloody Valentine is a legitimately surprising, impressively-paced work, trading a remote summer camp for a Canadian mining town stalked by a pickax-wielding maniac.

One of the Subgenre’s Scariest

The entirety of the film works, and thanks to an unrated version finally made available on home video, it can now be viewed uncompromised. And, for those seeking creative, gore-laden kills, that’s a very good thing, because My Bloody Valentine has them in spades. Underneath the oodles of gore, there’s also the surprise factor, as the film’s big reveal is not only a solid twist, but it’s genuinely effective thanks to the well-drawn characters and far above-average script. While not all cut footage has been restored, it’s still an impressive effort. Buy or Rent My Bloody Valentine on Prime Video.


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6 Ghoulies (1984)



Release Date
January 18, 1985

Peter Liapis , Lisa Pelikan , Michael Des Barres , Jack Nance , Peter Risch , Tamara De Treaux

After Gremlins hit it big in 1984, it was but so long before Charles Band and his Empire Pictures tried to cash in. And cash in they did, because Ghoulies recouped its budget and then some even before strong video sales were taken into account. And, given the brilliance of its toilet cover, it did very well on home video. Still, like fellow mini-creature features Munchies and Critters, you can tell exactly where Ghoulies drew its inspiration from.

Is that Mariska Hargitay?

The original Ghoulies is a little too focused on the occult to function as a monster movie as well as Gremlins did. But, for those seeking creepy yet silly-looking little monstrosities, one can’t do much better. That is, save for 1987’s carnival-based Ghoulies II, which works quite well as a miniature monster movie, and even finally delivers on the promise of the original film’s VHS cover. That said, only the original film has the debut performance of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit‘s Mariska Hargitay. Stream Ghoulies on The Roku Channel.

5 The Last Starfighter (1984)

The LAst Starfighter

The Last Starfighter

Release Date
July 13, 1984

Lance Guest , Dan O’Herlihy , Catherine Mary Stewart , Barbara Bosson , Norman Snow , Robert Preston

Directed by Nick Castle, the first man to ever wear the Michael Myers mask, and starring Halloween II‘s Lance Guest and Halloween III: Season of the Witch‘s Dan O’Herlihy in the lead roles, one might expect The Last Starfighter to be far darker than it is. But, if anything, it’s even more lighthearted than the film it’s very clearly attempting to emulate: Star Wars. That said, it’s far more similar (and superior) to the following year’s fairly forgettable Enemy Mine.

Guest portrays Alex Rogan, an expert at the game Starfighter. He plays it all the time and, upon meeting the game’s designer, he himself gets to be the Starfighter. The game was designed for training method purposes more than for entertainment, and now Rogan is the best hope Earth (and the alien planet to which he’s transported) has at staving off an intergalactic threat. But, he can’t do it alone….

Not the Last Star Wars Ripoff, Though

The Last Starfighter, despite borrowing heavily from a galaxy far, far, away, does have some things going for it. Like Disney’s Tron, it heavily-utilized an early form of CGI for its special effects, and even employed Ron Cobb of Alien (and Star Wars) fame to handle some conceptual designs. It was even reviewed fairly well, earning modest approval from critics like Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel while introducing some unique elements to the Star Wars formula. All things considered, it certainly could’ve been worse, especially with how many other Star Wars ripoffs would pop up throughout the years. Buy or Rent The Last Starfighter on Apple TV.

4 Romancing the Stone (1984)

romancing the stone

Steven Spielberg has had several proteges over the years, and Robert Zemeckis ranks towards the top if not at the tip-top. Romancing the Stone is example enough, an example of how an auteur’s work can be mimicked successfully, if it’s done so by another auteur. That said, it’s not all thanks to Zemeckis’ tight direction and grasp of tone balancing. Thanks to strong chemistry between the two leads, a magnetic supporting performance from Danny DeVito, and a few memorable action sequences, Romancing the Stone works. However, the sequel, Jewel of the Nile, is blander than Rice Krispies.

Just Avoid the Sequel

Michael Douglas plays what amounts to Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Cocky and heroic, the same DNA is there. But, outside that and the films’ similar tones, the direct comparisons end there.

For instance, the dynamic between the two leads is different from what it was in Raiders and, while Kathleen Turner’s romance novelist is far less independent than Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood, she isn’t relegated to being a damsel in distress throughout the entire film. Romancing the Stone is also more overtly comedic than Spielberg’s classic, which is either a positive or negative depending on one’s tastes. Buy or Rent Romancing the Stone on Prime Video.


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3 Explorers (1985)

Joe Dante directedExplorers one year after directing Gremlins, a film which itself was often copied in subsequent years. And, to an extent, Explorers plays like an attempt to replicate the success of E.T. After all, it features aliens of an unnamed species (brought to life by Rob Bottin and the people at Industrial Light & Magic), and they’re friendly in nature. Only, instead of them crash landing on Earth, a pair of teenagers end up doing so after constructing a spaceship of their own design.

Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Joe Dante…It’s Worth Watching

So, in other words, it’s the reverse of E.T. Because, in this case, the young humans are traveling to space (nearly marooned there), as opposed to an alien stranded here on Earth. It’s an ideal companion piece on a double feature night, and as likable as Henry Thomas is in E.T., River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke are equally so in Explorers. Stream Explorers on Kanopy.

2 Critters (1986)

Like Joe Dante’s Gremlins, Critters has a bunch of little toothed monstrosities terrorizing an idyllic, old-fashioned town. But, with Critters, there’s an alien angle, including two bounty hunters with the ability to morph their green, jello-like faces into those of any human they see. In other words, it’s somehow even more bizarre than a movie about furry creatures who turn into far less friendly variations if they eat after midnight. No small feat.

Top of the Heap of Gremlins Ripoffs

Does Critters work as well as Gremlins? No, but it has a comparably effective small-town vibe and a cast that’s fully onboard with the tone. Billy Green Bush, Dee Wallace, and the late M. Emmet Walsh are all terrific, but it’s young Scott Grimes who leads the film, and does an excellent job in that regard. Toss in a brief appearance from Titanic‘s Billy Zane and creepy creature designs, and Critters is the best of the Gremlins knock-offs. Like Gremlins, it would even spawn its own bite-sized franchise. Buy or Rent Critters on Apple TV.

1 Mac and Me (1988)

mac and me

Mac and Me

Release Date
August 12, 1988

Stewart Raffill

Christine Ebersole , Jonathan Ward , Tina Caspary , Lauren Stanley , Jade Calegory , Vinnie Torrente

Admittedly, the best part of this E.T. knock-off is a recurring joke orchestrated by Paul Rudd for not one, but two of Conan O’Brien’s talk shows. He did so for 20 years, promising a clip of his newest film before immediately having the exact same Mac and Me clip played. It’s brilliant, and also shows that, yes, this shoddily-constructed but oddly sweet movie does have its fans.

Thank You, Paul Rudd

The extent of the film’s creativity is summed up by the title. E.T. is an extra-terrestrial. MAC is, well, a “Mysterious Alien Creature.” In other words, Mac and Me doesn’t even bother hiding what it’s really going for, which is an easy (unintentionally hysterical) buck. Even beyond the obvious parallels to Spielberg’s bona fide smash hit, the similarities are often borderline hilarious. The product placement, of all things, is amplified to a hilarious degree, trading a reference to Reese’s Pieces in exchange for ample amounts of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s signage, with an extended dance sequence taking place at one of the latter’s locations. There’s even a brief cameo from Ronald McDonald himself. Stream Mac & Me on Tubi.

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