1986 Was Awesome – A Detailed Look at the Year

Top Gun

2016 has been pretty bollocks really, so we jump in our DeLorean to go back 30 years to the much better 19862016 has not been the best of years, personally 2016 has been one of the worst of my life so it’s time to look at happier times and what was happening in 1986!

Jem’s enemies The Misfits shouldn’t be confused with the punk band.

1986 in Toys

1986 was mainly about 2 franchises – Transformers and My Little Pony as both released movies that year making the toys the top of kids’ wish lists. The other main series aimed at girls were:

  • Jem
  • Care Bears
  • Barbie
  • Sindy
  • The Heart Family
  • Glo Worms, Glo Bugs and Glo Friends
  • Snugglebumms

Girls were introduced to Jem in 1986 but the toy line ended in 1987 due to a lack of characters to release while Care Bears were still doing well with the addition of Care Bear Cousins but would gradually peter out over the next two years.

Boys had a much larger range including Chuck Norris action figures. The 80’s and early 90’s were odd for taking movies that kids weren’t old enough to see and making toys from them, such as Chuck Norris, Robocop, Aliens and Terminator.  Also available were:

  • Centurions
  • Thundercats
  • Robotix
  • Power Machines
  • GI Joe/Action Force
  • Zoids
  • RATS
  • Sectaurs
  • MASK
  • Gobots
  • Masters of the Universe

Thundercats had debuted in 1985 and released all the major characters so the 1986 figures were generally pretty lame, resulting in 1987 being the last year of toys. Robotix suffered from the toys bearing no resemblance to their cartoon versions and by 1987 had disappeared. Zoids were on their last legs and the UK comic was increasingly weird thanks to Grant Morrison taking over as the writer. Likewise MASK was struggling as the cartoon ended and the next two years of toys had little impact. Masters of the Universe introduced the Snake Men but the brand was on a downward slide and 1987’s movie was a nail in the coffin. Lego introduce sound and lights to their Space figures.

Screwball Scramble
That f**king tube maze!

Toys aimed at both genders in 1986:

  • Teddy Ruxpin
  • Acorn Green
  • Gummi Bears
  • My Pet Monster
  • Roland Rat
  • That bloody massive yellow teapot house from Bluebird
  • Kongman
  • Screwball Scramble
4K? 100 fps? Uhhh no.

1986 in Games

The Legend of Zelda is released by Nintendo
Dragon Quest is a massive hit in Japan
Metroid is launched by Nintendo
Bubble Bobble comes from Namco
Alex Kidd in Miracle World by Sega
Out Run by Sega

Acclaim, Bethesda and Ubisoft are formed

 Rorschach Watchmen

1986 in Comics

1986 was possibly the most important year for comics in modern times

  • Marvel Mutant Massacre storyline
  • Daredevil Born Again story arc
  • DC Legends crossover
  • Marvel cancels the Star Wars comic
  • DC releases The Dark Knight Returns, the series that revamped Batman
  • Watchmen is published by DC crossing into the mainstream bringing comics to a new audience and introducing two homicidal heroes who become instant classics – The Comedian and Rorschach.

1986 in Movies

Top Gun

Top Gun was the biggest box office movie in 1986, led to an increase of 150,000 applicants to the US Navy and catapulted Tom Cruise to mega stardom with this story of US Navy pilots contending at an elite academy to be crowned the best of the best. The strength of the film was its love story element combined with half naked ripped men appealed to women while the combat scenes appealed to men but Top Gun also became a favourite amongst the gay community for some of the innuendo in the film along with the aforementioned half naked men. The film featured all star cast including Val Kilmer, Tim Robbins, Anthony Edwards, Kelly McGillis, Tom Skerritt and Michael Ironside along with a soundtrack featuring Kenny Loggins‘ Danger Zone and Mighty Wings, and Berlin’s Take My Breath Away along with a main theme composed by Harold Faltermeyer of Beverley Hills Cop Axel F fame.

A Better Tomorrow
You will never be Chow Yun-Fat-in-aviators-lighting-a-cigarette-with-a-hundred-dollar-bill cool.

A Better Tomorrow was a film that was a huge hit when it really shouldn’t have been; Hark Sui had wanted to remake 60’s film Release of a Prisoner for years but despite having the rights was unable to do so due to constant commitments to other projects. Sui stayed on as a producer but drafted in John Woo to direct in his pace while Sui gave instructions regarding casting and story rewrites. The film was a vehicle to relaunch 70’s star Ti Lung opposite Hong Kong music star and heart-throb Leslie Cheung but the supporting actor slot was left to Woo to cast which was immediately regretted and contended by Sui, cinema owners and the studio when he cast TV actor and repeated box office flop Chow Yun-Fat. Unfortunately for Chow, every film he’d made had tanked but luckily for him there was no one else fit for the role so he ended up keeping the job. As it was suspected that the film would be a turkey there was virtually no advertising for it’s release.

A Better Tomorrow opened and instantly became Hong Kong’s biggest grossing film of all time, a record it held for years with Chow Yun-Fat being the star of the film; his iconic dust coat, sunglasses and tooth pick combination was mimicked by Hong Kong teenagers and in only a few days Alain Delon sunglasses hand sold out in every shop in Hong Kong. The film and it’s sequel (along with another Hong Kong film, Bullet in the Head) inspired Quentin Tarantino to create Reservoir Dogs and True Romance (which features ABT2 being watched on TV), Cowboy Bebop features many homages to the movie including the final showdown between Spike and Vicious but most notably was a huge inspiration on Wu Tang Clan.

Lo Pan
Lo Pan, the inspiration for Mortal Kombat’s Shang Tsung

Big Trouble in Little China was another film that was doomed to failure. It started out as a sequel to 1984 film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai then was pushed as being it’s own film but when John Carpenter turned down The Golden Child to work on Big Trouble, it was brought forward to clash with Big Trouble’s release date leading to Big Trouble filming 5 months earlier than planned to avoid 2 films about Chinese magic going head to head. The studio wanted Clint Eastwood to star in this cowboy western or Jack Nicholson but neither were available. Kurt Russell had been in a string of box office flops and offered to not be involved so his friend John Carpenter (who had worked with Russell on Escape From New York and The Thing) could cast someone else, but Carpenter was making the film out of love rather than profit so insisted Russell stay. The film was switched from being a western to modern day, the studio over-ruled Carpenter’s casting of Jackie Chan to co star and when shooting began Kurt Russell was seriously ill with flu.

20th Century Fox had no idea what to do with the film, didn’t advertise it properly and released Big Trouble right in the middle of the hype for Aliens leading to Big Trouble being a box office bomb. Following this and the studio’s constant interference Carpenter stopped working for studios and instead released his next two films independently. However, Big Trouble became hugely successful when it was released for home rental and gained a massive following, it also had two little ‘fuck you’s’ to the studio in it – the scene where Russell is given a .357 magnum with the line “here’s one for you to make you feel better, like Dirty Harry” as a reference to the studio wanting Clint Eastwood, also when Lightning is killed the lightning flashes form the shape of Chinese characters spelling out Carpenter’s name.

Optimus Prime
Gothtimus Prime

Transformers: The Movie was just another toy commercial disguised as a movie and was the first of several Hasbro toy products to get movies, but when the main characters were massacred to make way for a new generation of robots and toys it caused a problem. Killing off Optimus Prime resulted in upset children having to be taken out of screenings and the much more realistic violence and death in the film compared to the cartoon generated a huge number of complaints from parents. GI Joe: The Movie was waiting to be released and had to be (badly) redubbed to remove a main character’s death out of fear of another backlash. Either way, Transformers: The Movie became an iconic film and the Transformers franchise has continued on to date with the modern comics from IDW being even more graphic in killing off characters than the movie was.

Crocodile Dundee was the second highest grossing film of the year starring Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowki‘s ass in a story of an inept outback bushman who is brought to New York.

Crocodile Dundee
Doesn’t everyone dress this way to get some drinking water?

Number 3 was the semi biographical Vietnam movie Platoon based on director Oliver Stone‘s experiences during the war. Charlie Sheen starred in this movie and also appeared in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Wraith which were also released this year. Sheen wasn’t nominated for an Oscar even through co stars Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe were. The film also featured a number of before-they-were-famous appearances including Johnny Depp, Forest Whitaker, Scrubs star John C McGinley, Entourage star Kevin Dillon, Candyman’s Tony Todd, They Live‘s Keith David and others. The scene on the movie poster of DaFoe with his arms outstretched became instantly iconic and frequently homaged.

James Cameron and Michael Biehn followed up The Terminator with Aliens starring a solid cast travelling to the planet in the first film which has now been colonised by humans unaware that it is home to an alien hive.

The other Terminator stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger released the dire King Kong Lives and Raw Deal respectively.

Short Circuit
Probably checking out a human getting drinking water.

Short Circuit‘s rogue robot Johnny Five captured hearts.

The Rodney Dangerfield movie Back to School made him a star and was later parodied by The Simpsons with Dangerfield appearing in another episode as the son of Mr Burns.

Jackie Chan repeatedly tried to kill himself in the stunt fest Armour of God.

Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davies introduced the horror of penises in jars to audiences in The Fly remake.

Robotech: The Movie confused the hell out of everyone as it cut two different Macross series down to a nonsensical movie that had no relation to the series that was airing on TV.

Studio Ghibli release their first film Laputa: Castle in the Sky while another anime classic Fist of the Northstar also comes out. Fist would be a hit with western audiences first due to it’s ultra violence in the wake of Akira while Laputa struggled due to being poorly dubbed into English, though it would eventually become the bigger of the two.

Jareth Labyrinth
Was it ever explained why Jareth had Mr Spock’s eyebrows?

David Bowie‘s crotch captivated the hearts and loins of females everywhere in Labyrinth.

The classic Stand By Me was also released this year with a cast of children who would virtually all go on to fame, including Keifer Sutherland, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Will Wheaton. The guy with the 3-D glasses from Back to the Future was in it too.

Also released in 1986

  • About Last Night
  • Absolute Beginners
  • An American Tail
  • April Fool’s Day
  • Blue Velvet
  • Body Slam
  • Care Bears Movie II
  • Chopping Mall
  • Class of Nuke ‘Em High
  • Cobra
  • The Colour of Money
  • Critters
  • Crossroads
  • The Delta Force
  • Eliminators
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Flight of the Navigator
  • F/X: Murder By Illusion
  • Gobots: Battle of the Rock Lords
  • The Golden Child
  • Gung Ho
  • Haunted Honeymoon
  • Heartbreak Ridge
  • Heat (Burt Reynolds, not DeNiro)
  • Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer
  • Highlander
  • The Hitcher
  • Howard The Duck
  • Iron Eagle
  • Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI
  • Jumpin Jack Flash
  • The Karate Kid Part II
  • Legacy of Rage
  • Little Shop of Horrors
  • Maximum Overdrive
  • The Money Pit
  • The Mosquito Coast
  • Trick or Treat
  • My Little Pony: The Movie
  • No Retreat, No Surrender
  • Peggy Sue Got Married
  • Police Academy 3
  • Pretty in Pink
  • Ran
  • Ruthless People
  • Spacecamp
  • Stand By Me
  • Star Trek IV
  • Three Amigos
  • The Wraith
  • Youngblood

Scatman Crothers, most famous for his role in The Shining and for providing the voice of the Autobot Jazz in Transformers dies. Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Robert Pattinson and Lindsay Lohan are born.

Freddie Mercury of Queen
Freddie Mercury of Queen

1986 in Music

  • Queen release A Kind of Magic
  • Cameo and that red codpiece become famous with Word Up!
  • Chris DeBurg has a massive hit with The Lady in Red
  • Madonna releases True Blue featuring Papa Don’t Preach
  • Falco‘s Rock Me Amadeus is global hit
  • Huey Lewis and the News release Fore! with the single Hip to be Square, a Patrick Bateman favourite.
  • Pet Shop Boys hit the big time with West End Girls
  • Kenny Loggins unleashes the iconic Danger Zone from Top Gun
  • Berlin become massive following the release of Take My Breath Away from the film Top Gun
  • Genesis release another Patrick Bateman favourite, Invisible Touch
  • The Bangles become a huge success with Manic Monday and Walk like an Egyptian
  • Mel & Kim hit the UK charts with Showing Out (Get Fresh at the Weekend)
  • New Kids on the Block debut
  • Cyndi Lauper has a huge hit with True Colors
  • Duran Duran release Notorious
  • Paul Simon‘s You Can Call Me Al is a massive hit thanks to its video which features actor Chevy Chase
  • Peter Cetera‘s Glory of Love from The Karate Kid Part II is a hit
  • Prince releases Parade, the song Kiss is later covered by Tom Jones and The Art of Noise
  • Robert Palmer becomes a household name thanks to the Addicted to Love video

Bronski Beat, Erasure, The Eurythmics, Wham!, Sting, Bananarama, Toto, Five Star, Status Quo, Tina Turner, Meatloaf, A-ha, Nik Kershaw, The Housemartins, The Commodores, Kim Wilde, Elton John and John Lennon all have albums chart.

The Monkees 1986
The Monkees return with Davy Jones sporting an impressive mullet and Miami Vice clothing

The Monkees stage a massive comeback tour, The Shadows record and release themes for UK TV shows Eastenders and Howard’s Way. Charlotte Church, Lady Gaga and Drake are born. MC Hammer releases his first album. Bros, Texas and Cypress Hill form. Asia, ELO, A Flock of Seagulls, King, Men at Work and Wham! all split.

Beastie Boys 1986
(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Look Like a Tool)


Hip Hop continues its rise and the alternative music scene becomes huge, releases include:

  • 2 Live Krew release their debut album to a ton of controversy which helps The 2 Live Krew is What We Are go gold.
  • The Beastie Boys release Licence to Ill including the singles No Sleep Til Brooklyn and the smash hit (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party). This would become the first rap album to top the billboard chart and went on to sell 10 million copies in the US alone, being certified platinum within 6 months before being certified diamond in 2015.
  • Run DMC – Neither side wanted to do it originally but Aerosmith and Run DMC released a cover of Walk This Way shooting Run to triple platinum and re-launching the nearly dead career of Aerosmith. It’s Tricky also is released and becomes a cult hit.
  • REM release Lifes Rich Pageant which isn’t successful (nor grammatically correct) but features a change in a more commercial direction which would see them gain mainstream success in 1987.
  • Skinny Puppy release Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse. The vinyl release had a deliberately closed groove at the end of the last track on side B causing the songs last line “Amen. Lord hear my prayer” to repeat indefinitely until the listener lifted the needle. The single Dig It got airplay on MTV and inspired a young Trent Reznor to form Nine Inch Nails a few years later and also was hugely influential on Front Line Assembly. 1986 paved the way for 1990’s massive boom in the industrial scene.
Too many jokes, not enough time

Big Black
, Husker Du, Soul Asylum, Public Image Ltd, Samhain, Depeche Mode, Black Flag, The Art of Noise, The Butthole Surfers, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, The Ramones, Sonic Youth, The Smiths, The Sisterhood, Ministry, New Order, OMD, Billy Idol, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Killing Joke, Clan of Xymox, The Damned and KMFDM all release albums.

Alice in Chains, Front Line Assembly, GGFH, Girls Under Glass, Geto Boys, Goo Goo Dolls, Green Day, Jesus Jones, The Lemonheads, The Manic Street Preachers, The Mission, NWA, No Doubt, The Pixies, The Rollins Band, Screeching Weasel, Snuff and Transvision Vamp form. The Boomtown Rats, Black Flag, The Clash, The Dead Kennedys and Half Man Half Biscuit split.

Megadeth Peace Sells
Megadeth mascot Vic Rattlehead appears properly for the first time.


A massive host of amazing music is released in 1986:

  • AC/DC record the soundtrack to the Stephen King film Maximum Overdrive
  • Alice Cooper releases Constrictor
  • Bon Jovi release their third album Slippery When Wet and the hits Livin’ on a Prayer, Wanted: Dead or Alive and You Give Love a Bad Name.
  • Cinderella‘s Nobody’s Fool sees massive chart success
  • Europe‘s The Final Countdown dominates charts worldwide
  • Guns ‘N’ Roses release the Live ?! *@ Like a Suicide EP in limited numbers.  When the band become huge in 1987 the EP is re-released in 1988 as part of the Lies EP and is the subject of massive controversy thanks to the lyrics of One in a Million.  However,  the EP is a success and racks up another hit with the song Patience
  • Iron Maiden unleash Somewhere in Time featuring Wasted Years
  • Judas Priest release Turbo featuring the classic Turbo Lover
  • Megadeth release the legendary Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?
  • Metallica belt out Master of Puppets
  • Motorhead record Orgasmatron
  • Nuclear Assault‘s Game Over album
  • Poison see success with Look What the Cat Dragged in
  • David Lee Roth‘s Eat ‘Em and Smile album features Yankee Rose which would later be used in Grand Theft Auto Vice City
  • Sepultura début with Morbid Visions
  • Slayer release the classic Reign in Blood. The album breaks the top 100 despite no airplay but is subject to a number of controversies
  • Van Halen‘s 5150 album goes straight to number 1 despite bad reviews
  • WASP release Inside the Electric Circus
  • Zodiac Mindwarp‘s High Priest of Love EP is a surprise success
Cliff Burton
Metallica’s Cliff Burton

Metallica‘s bassist Cliff Burton is killed when the band’s tour bus overturns and Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott dies from drug abuse. Prong form as do Sick of it All, Skid Row, Games Workshop thrashers Bolt Thrower and black metallers Darkthrone. Jake E Lee is fired by Ozzy Osbourne, David Lee Roth recruits Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan (later of Mr Big) for Eat ‘Em and Smile and is convinced to release a Spanish version for the Mexican market which was really not well received.

The soundtrack from Transformers: The Movie becomes a classic while Powermad release their self titled EP which would get later used on the soundtrack for Wild at Heart and Headbanger’s Ball.

The Four Horsemen
The Four Horsemen with manager JJ Dillon

1986 in Wrestling

  • NWA Bunkhouse Stampede
  • NWA Starrcade: Night of the Skywalkers
  • WWF King of the Ring is won by Harley Race
  • NWA Great American Bash features Dusty Rhodes beating Ric Flair for the World Title
  • WWF Wrestlemania II sees Hulk Hogan successfully defend his World Title against King Kong Bundy in a cage match
  • Scott Hall and Curt Hennig win the AWA Tag Team Titles
  • Nikita Koloff wins the vacant NWA US championship by beating Magnum TA in a best of 7 series.
  • Randy Savage beats Tito Santana for the Intercontinental Title
  • The British Bulldogs win the WWF Tag Team Titles from Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake
  • Hulk Hogan begins using Real American as his entrance music.
  • Pacific Northwest holds their Superstar Extravaganza show featuring Dusty Rhodes, The Koloffs, Tom Zenk, Magnum TA and others.
  • World Class Championship Wrestling leaves the NWA
  • Roddy Piper, Jesse Ventura and Andre the Giant leave wrestling for Hollywood to make Body Slam, The Running Man and The Princess Bride respectively.
  • The Four Horsemen form
  • Kerry Von Erich is seriously injured in a motorcycle accident resulting in his ankle being fused and later his foot being allegedly amputated.
  • Paul Orndorff turns heel on Hulk Hogan
  • Magnum TA is involved in a career ending car crash which leaves him temporarily paralysed.
  • Randy Savage attacks Ricky Steamboat and hits him in the throat with the ring bell setting the stage for their Wrestlemania III classic the next year
Scott Hall - the manliest man of all time.
Scott Hall – the manliest man of all time.

John Laurinaitis, Norman Smiley, Jeff Jarrett,  Brian Adams, Scott Steiner, Paul Heyman, Charles Robinson, The Warlord, Owen Hart and Ron Simmons all debut. Magnum TA and Jesse Ventura retire.

1986 was incredibly influential across the board and it easily surpassed the suckfest that is 2016. If you enjoyed this article then please subscribe and you can follow Gear4Geeks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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