When you think of films from the 1980s, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Back to the Future, and E.T. are just a few of the many that come to mind. This decade had everything; coming-of-age teen dramas, sci-fi and fantasy, and sprawling adventures. Most of these movies had supercharged soundtracks. Many had over-the-top costumes and set designs that made them quintessentially ‘80s. But there is one movie that had all of this.
Starring David Bowie, as the devilishly handsome Goblin King, Jareth, and Jennifer Connelly as the young Sarah Williams, Labyrinth has long been regarded as a classic of the decade. It was made possible by the Jim Henson Company, just a few years before Henson’s untimely death. So what exactly makes Labyrinth the perfect movie to come out of the ‘80s? I’m glad you asked.
Right off the bat, the lead actor in this movie is David Bowie. One of the biggest celebrities of the decade. Obviously famous for his music, Bowie was consistently in the public eye through video shorts and a few other movies. A decade earlier, he starred in the now cult classic The Man Who Fell to Earth. David Bowie’s career spanned the decades, but he definitely cemented himself as an icon of the 1980s and his presence in Labyrinth is a reminder of that.
Just like any of our favorite John Hughes films from the decade, Labyrinth exudes teen angst and Jennifer Connelly does this incredibly well in her performance as the young Sarah. She is a fifteen-year-old girl and she is frustrated with having to care for her infant brother, but when she wishes him away she had no idea that he would be whisked away by Jareth. This takes her on an epic adventure where she will discover new things about herself, grow up a little bit, and develop an appreciation for her sibling.
Labyrinth released just four short years before Jim Henson’s death and it’s easily one of his studio’s most identifiable and memorable films. The 1980s were filled with Jim Henson characters and creations, including the Muppets, The Witches, and The Dark Crystal.
The Music, but also more David Bowie
David Bowie was a master of the music video, having created and starred in seventy-two of them from 1972 through 2016. So, if there was going to be music, of course, David Bowie was the one to do it. The ballroom scene with Bowie singing “As the World Falls Down” is peak ’80s, with elaborate costumes and hypnotic videography work. Elsewhere in the film, do not forget “Within You” and David Bowie’s “Magic Dance” stands on its own with the singer’s iconic cadence.
The 1980s was also known for its dive into fantasy. The Dark Crystal was already mentioned, but we certainly cannot forget about other classics like The Neverending Story, The Princess Bride, and Dragonslayer. Labyrinth falls into the very same wheelhouse of not just fantasy, but also epic adventures and creative world-building, which all of these films did, along with plenty of others over the decade.
Watching Labyrinth, it is obvious that a few years have passed since its release. The camerawork, music, and costume design all scream ’80s (that’s why we’re here). But, putting the cosmetics aside, the story itself is quite timeless. It holds up as a fun and quirky adventure, even if it is not to everyone’s taste. It is a film that simply cannot be replicated, despite talk and rumor of a potential sequel. There can only be one Labyrinth and it is perfect the way it is.