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Totally Awesome 80s Theme Party Ideas

Let pop culture take center stage at your 80s theme party. Remember these classic movies?
  • Sixteen Candles
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Pretty in Pink
  • St. Elmo's Fire
  • Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and
  • Flashdance

The 80s were all about excess —big hair (Aqua Net hairspray was a necessity), wild makeup, ripped clothing, and more teenage angst than you could shake a stick at.

What You'll Need if You're Planning an 80s Party

80s Party Decorations

Use the movies we mentioned above as the backdrop for your party, literally.

These two girls are all  dressed up for an 80s theme party.

Project them onto walls (inside or outside) and make them bigger than life-size. There's no need to have the audio on because you'll definitely be grooving to classic 80s music.

If the projector idea is too ambitious, use movie and concert posters as decorations instead. Tape lots of them on your walls, and mix in a few teen idol posters too (Scott Baio, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, and Jon Bon Jovi are some who come right to mind).

Add a couple of lava lamps and black lights to your decor, scatter bowls of Reese's Pieces and Skittles around the room and your 80s theme party decor is done.

80s Theme Party Music, Music, Music!

A great source for popular music of the 1980s is the 1985 Live Aid concert. Highlights included performances by:
  • Queen (who remembers Freddie Mercury's incredible performance?)
  • Phil Collins
  • U2
  • Dire Straits
  • Duran Duran
  • George Michael
  • Madonna
  • Spandau Ballet
  • Lionel Richie
Add these artists and bands to your mix as well:
  • Culture Club
  • MC Hammer
  • Michael Jackson
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Billy Ocean
  • Billy Idol
  • the B-52s
  • the Go Gos

Another cool idea for an 80s theme party is to rent a karaoke machine for the night. Talk about a great photo op!

Will You Go Flashdance or Madonna?

For an 80s themed party, dressing the part is mandatory! For women, there's disco, punk, the movie Flashdance, Cyndi Lauper, and Madonna (in the movie Desperately Seeking Susan) for fashion inspiration. Hit thrift stores or, if you're lucky, the back of your closet and see if you can find some of these:
  • leg warmers in bright colors
  • ripped sweatshirts (ahh, Flashdance)
  • tight, bright mini skirts
  • stirrup pants
  • tight pants that stop at your knees
  • fishnet for your hands (fingerless gloves a la Madonna)
  • fishnet or other material for big headbands (also Madonna)
  • jumpsuits
  • Reebok hightops or Chuck Taylors

Men can take their fashion cues from Tom Cruise in Top Gun, Bon Jovi and the other 80s hair bands, Boy George, Michael Jackson (his album Thriller came out in 1983), and Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Men, wear some of these items for an 80s look:

  • Member's Only jackets
  • stone washed or acid washed jeans
  • vests
  • leather pants
  • Guess jeans
  • jumpsuits
  • parachute pants
  • Swatch watches
  • Wayfarer or Aviator sunglasses
  • Reebok hightops or Chuck Taylors

To finish the look, wear lots of strong eyeshadow (pinks, purples and blues were big shades then, and on some of the men too) big, teased hair (it's a bonus if your hair is dirty and bleached blonde) or side ponytails for women and mullets for men.

These 80s Theme Party Menu Ideas are, Like, Totally Radical

Grab some Paul Prudhomme Cajun seasoning and blacken something. Anything.

Add a chips and salsa bar (another hit of the decade). Use blue, yellow and red chips, and peach, pineapple, corn, as well as mild and spicy tomato-based salsas. Fresh guacamole and lots of cilantro and limes should be on hand as well.

Sushi was becoming mainstream.

Buffalo wings became HUGE!

For more options when you're planning an 80s party menu, this food timeline is a good resource for retro food ideas.

For drinks, wine coolers were extremely popular in the 1980s and come in all sorts of fruity flavors. Depending on just how sloshed you want your guests to become (it was a decade of excess), consider adding these popular 80s cocktails to your beverage menu:

  • Long Island Iced Tea (very potent)
  • Kamikaze (deadly and you can serve them as shots too)
  • Scorpion Bowl (talk about deadly), and
  • Fuzzy Navel
For your birthday finale, create a Pacman cake. Bake a round layer cake and cut a big slice out of it for the mouth, and then cover it in yellow icing. It's that easy! Finish the look off with a line of cupcakes for your Pacman cake to eat.

Along with your Pacman cake (make it Miss Pacman if it's a birthday gal), consider having frozen yogurt for your guests. It was totally the rage in the 1980s. Renting a frozen yogurt machine is another fun, but obviously more pricey, option.

80s Retro Party Favor Ideas

When your 80s theme party is over, send your guests home with one of these classic toys of the decade:
  • a Rubik's Cube
  • a My Little Pony figurine
  • a Transformer
  • a Smurf
  • a Cabbage Patch doll
  • a Care Bear
  • an E.T. figurine
  • a Strawberry Shortcake doll
  • one of the Pound Puppies
  • a Masters of the Universe doll
It would be fun to tuck in a bag of assorted popular 1980s candy too:
  • Reese's Pieces
  • Skittles
  • Air Heads
  • Charms Blow Pops
  • Nerds
  • Cow Tales


Have fun ideas of your own for planning an 80s party? Share them with us and we'll share them with our readers!

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