10 Best TV Shows Set In The 80s, Ranked

Top Gun: Maverick has consistently been in the top five at the box office and songs from the 1980s are dominating the charts, which means the 1980s are here again. And the nostalgia for the '80s is ripe with TV audiences, both with those who grew up in the decade and those who weren't even alive yet.

While "period pieces" are not new to television, the '80s being the decade of choice is fairly new. Its popularity can be traced back to the massive breakout success that Netflix garnered with the release of the sci-fi series Stranger Things, but it isn't the only show exploring what life might have been like in the 1980s. There are a plethora of shows, new and old, that take place in the vibrant era.


Gordita Chronicles (2022)

Watch On HBO Max

Cucu wearing a yellow vest, deep in thought in Gordita Chonicles

Gordita Chronicles is a semi-autobiographical comedy series that centers on grade schooler Cucu Castelli and her family, who have just immigrated to Miami from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in the 1980s.

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By centering the story on an immigrant family in the 1980s, Gordita Chronicles is able to explore an untapped version of the 1980s that hasn't been shown on television yet. It depicts what Miami was like before it became the cosmopolitan city it is today and aims to show the struggles young immigrants faced in the decade. The series also features vibrant fashion pieces and time period-appropriate set pieces.

Physical (2021 - )

Available On Apple TV+

Rose Byrne plays an aerobics fitness guru in Physical from Apple TV+

Physical is an Apple TV+ original that follows unhappy housewife Sheila Rubin as she learns to love herself and the world around her through the world of aerobics. While Physical might be one of the best shows with a female protagonist in recent years, it truly shines in how it captures the '80s.

Before there was Zumba, women in the '80s who wanted to stay active did aerobics, which is the backbone of Physical. Aside from the workout culture of the '80s, Physical also leans into '80s fashion and decor trends, making the wardrobe and production design of the show some of the most authentic in all of '80s television.

Everybody Hates Chris (2005 - 2009)

Watch On Peacock

Everybody Hates Chris Promo

Everybody Hates Chris is inspired by the real life of Chris Rock. The family sitcom explores what it was like for a teenage Chris growing up in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1980s.

So much of the 1980s nostalgia of the show is seen in the characters' personalities and storylines. The comedy series shows what the '80s were like for a Black family in a big city with clear racial and economic divisions. It also offers a hilarious take on what parenting in the '80s was like, including some questionable parenting choices.

Deadly Class (2018 - 2019)

Watch On Amazon Prime VideoLana Condor Benedict Wong in Deadly Class SYFY

Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Netflix's Deadly Class follows Marcus, a disillusioned teenager who finds himself being recruited by a secret academy for the Deadly Arts. Unlike other shows set in the 1980s, Deadly Class chooses to explore the unexplored counter-culture that dominated the decade.

While the storylines might be a bit more imaginative than what was actually happening, the fashion and music choices of the characters are as authentic as they come. The series hones in on the community that was built around the punk, goth, and hip hop music scenes, making it an interesting show to watch for fans of the '80s underground music scene.

Red Oaks (2014 - 2017)

Watch On Amazon Prime Video

red oaks poster

Red Oaks is an Amazon Prime Video show that is set in the New York-New Jersey area. The comedy series follows college student David as he starts working at a Jewish country club during the summer of 1985.

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The show drives home its '80s aesthetic by borrowing popular tropes and trends from other '80s movies and shows to appeal to the nostalgia of older viewers. From a hilarious body swap episode to flashy musical numbers, it's the perfect '80s show for fans who not only want to relive the fashion and decor decisions of the decade, but also the zany storylines that cluttered TV shows of the time.

Chernobyl (2019)

Watch On HBO Max

Chernobyl is a historical miniseries that frames the events of the April 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the clean-up efforts in a dramatized way.

While Chernobyl might not be decked out with the neon fashion choices or upbeat pop music of the decade that defined the 1980s in America, it does explore what the vibrant decade looked like in the Soviet Union, although the series was also criticized for its portrayal of the power dynamics within the region, at the time.

Glow (2017 - 2019)

Watch On Netflix

Not only is Glow one of the best female-led shows that was canceled too soon, but it's also a great depiction of the 1980s. The series centers on an out-of-work actress who stumbles across the world of women's wrestling in the hopes of finally catching her big break.

The series regularly explores what sexism was like in the 1980s and later seasons go further in exploring the homophobia and xenophobia that circulated during the decade, especially within the scene that GLOW centers on. Thus, Glow is an entertaining show that is both rife with '80s fashion and the negative attributes of the glorified decade.

It's A Sin (2021)

Watch On HBO Max

The cast of the Channel 4 and HBO Max series It's A Sin.

It's A Sin is an HBO Max British miniseries that follows a group of gay men who move to London in 1981 and with the highs and lows that the 1980s had to offer them and their community.

While the series does feature flashy fashion and music from the decade, it's much more interested in telling the very real stories of what it was like to be a part of the LBGTQ+ community during the AIDS crisis. It's A Sin doesn't shy away from the bad and is one of the best non-documentary stories about the AIDS/HIV epidemic and how the LGBTQ+ community prospered despite the immense tragedy around them.

The Americans (2013 - 2018)

Watch On Hulu

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in The Americans

The Americans is a spy drama that centers on two Russian agents who infiltrated the United States during the Cold War era and pretend to be an American couple while lying to their children about their true identities.

Given that this is a spy show, it's no surprise The Americans relies heavily on the political climate of the 1980s. The series regularly weaves real-world political events and cultural moments into its narrative. And while the parents are busy dealing with the political aspects of the '80s, the younger family members infuse the show with '80s pop culture references, making The Americans the perfect show for history and pop culture buffs.

The Goldbergs (2013 - )

Watch On Hulu

The Goldbergs cast awkward family portrait in track suits

The Goldbergs is inspired by the real childhood of creator Adam F. Goldberg and follows 11-year-old Adam as he captures the high and low moments of his eccentric family behind the lens of his family's video camera.

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It is the perfect '80s show for fans of the decade who want to sit back, laugh, and reminisce about the simpler times of the decade. While its storylines are authentically '80s (like the dreaded awkward department store family portrait), it's the dedication to authenticity that makes The Goldbergs shine. Toy fans will geek out exploring Adam's impressive collection from the era, while fans of beloved '80s movies will get a kick out of episodes that parody some beloved classics.

Stranger Things (2016 - )

Watch On Netflix

Netflix Stranger Things season 4 cast

Perhaps the biggest, most successful show set in the 1980s is Netflix's hit sci-fi series Stranger Things. The first season takes place in 1983 when a group of young friends discovers secret government plots and a girl with superpowers in their quiet Indiana town.

Stranger Things is a love letter to the 1980s in every sense of the world. The Duffer Brothers have routinely stated that they wanted to pay homage to all their favorite '80s movies and shows growing up, which is apparent in how many Easter eggs are hidden within the show. But it's not just the pop culture references that make Stranger Things such a great '80s show, its also the small details, like the way fashion trends were delayed in a small town like Hawkins and the music choices, which elevate it to the next level.

NEXT: 14 Best Star Wars References & Easter Eggs (So Far) In Stranger Things