A year where Paul McCartney and George Harrison release singles on the same day, the US Congress convenes for the 100th time and Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting sells for £22.5 million, this is a comprehensive list of all the major events in 1987.

If you’re interested in seeing how the 1987 events were reported at the time, take a look at our selection of 1987 newspapers

Ronald Reagan

US President Ronald Reagan

1987 Timeline

Turn the page to:


January 1: In Puerto Rico, 60 bodies are recovered in the Dupont Plaza Hotel after a fire breaks out.

January 1: The International Year of Shelter for the Homeless begins.

January 3: Aretha Franklin becomes the first female artist to be inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

January 5: The trial of Surrogate Baby M beings in Hackensack, New Jersey. 

January 6: The US Congress convenes for the 100th time.

January 6: The first sight of a birth of a galaxy is witnessed by Astronomers at the University of California.

January 9: The new Nicaraguan constitution takes effect.

January 11: In NFL, the largest then crowd at the New York Giants stadium is recorded. A total of 76,663 fans attended.

January 12: Prince Edward, the Queen’s youngest child, resigns from his Royal Marines training.

January 13: Seven of the top New York City Mafia bosses are sentenced to 100 years each in prison.

January 17: President Ronald Reagan signs a secret order allowing covert sales of arms to Iran.

January 20: Robert Allen Litchfield is arrested after a bank robbery in Lake Tahoe, California.

January 20: Police crackdown on football hooligans. This marks the largest operation against violence in football stadiums.

January 25: The New York Giants beat the Denver Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI, held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

January 29: William J. Casey’s term as the 13th director of the CIA ends. He is succeeded by Charles W. Robinson.


February 4: President Reagan’s veto of the Clean Water Act is overridden by Congress.

February 6: A no-smoking rule in US federal buildings takes effect.

February 7: Madonna’s single, Open Your Heart goes to number 1.

February 7: South Korea police make hundreds of arrests during protest demonstrations after a student died in custody. This would be the country’s largest protest for 6 years.

February 11: British Airways starts trading stocks.

February 11: England beat Australia 2-0 to win cricket’s World Series Cup.

February 12: A family of a man murdered by the KKK are awarded $7 million in damages.

February 19: A trade boycott against Poland is lifted by President Reagan.

February 23: Supernova 1987A is first seen. This marks the first naked-eye supernova since 1604, a total of 383 years.

February 24: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball player for the LA Lakers, scores his 36,000th NBA point.

February 24: Larry King suffers a heart attack.

February 25: The Beatles release their first compact discs (CDs).

February 26: Michael Jordan scores 58 points in one game. This makes for a Chicago Bulls record.


March 6: 100 people are killed by an earthquake in Ecuador. The earthquake measured 6.8 on the Richter scale.

March 9: Chrysler Corp offers to buy American Motors Corp for $1 billion. In 2019, that would be an offer of $2,210,447,000. 

March 12: Les Miserables opens for over 4000 performances at Broadway and Imperial NYC.

March 13: Boss of the Gambino crime family, John Gotti, is acquitted of racketeering.

March 19: Noor Hassanali is inaugurated as president of Trinidad & Tobago. He would be president until 1997.

March 20: The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approves the sale of AZT, a treatment for AIDS.

March 23: Former Chancellor of West Germany, Willy Brandt resigns as the chairman of the Social Democratic Party.

March 26: NASA launches the Fltsatcom-6, but it fails to reach orbit.

March 29; Hulk Hogan successfully defends his title as WWF Heavyweight against Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III in Michigan.

March 30: Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers sells for £22.5 million. This sale makes records for tripling the record for an auctioned painting. 


April 3: The Duchess of Windsor’s jewels are auctioned for £31,380,197. The Duchess of Windsor was an American socialite who married King Edward VIII. This marriage led to the King’s abdication. 

April 6: In Washington, D.C, the National Museum of Female Physicians opens.

April 12: Texaco files for bankruptcy.

April 13: Portugal signs an agreement to return Macau to China in 1999.

April 16: Michael Jordan becomes the second NBA player to score 3000 points in one season. 

April 17: Julius Erving becomes the 3rd NBA player to score a total of 30,000 points.

April 19: The last wild condor is captured on a Californian wildlife reserve. A condor is a type of New World vulture.

April 20: During the Sri Lankan War, the Tamils shoot 122 Sinhalese dead.

April 22: The Sri Lankan Air Force bombs Tamil, killing hundreds.

April 29: Japanese president, or premier, Nakasone visits the US.

Wallis Simpson

The Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson


May 6: Miroslav Milhailovic begins 54 hours of telling jokes. He tells 287,000 jokes within this time, all in aid of getting into the Guinness record book.

May 9: After a Polish jetliner crashes in Warsaw, 183 people die.

May 11: In Baltimore, the first heart-lung transplant takes place.

May 15: The last episode of The Late Show with Joan Rivers airs, after Joan Rivers is fired by the Fox network.

May 22: 30 people are killed in a Texas tornado.

May 26: The US Supreme Court ruled that dangerous defendants can be held without bail.

May 28: An 18 year old West German pilot, Mathias Rust, makes an unauthorized landing near Red Square, Moscow.

May 28: A deep sea robot discovers Monitor, a Civil War warship.

May 29: Director of Twilight Zone, John Landis is found innocent of involuntary manslaughter in the death of three actors after a stunt helicopter crashes.

May 29: Michael Jackson attempts to buy the remains of “Elephant Man.”


June 11: Margaret Thatcher is the first Prime Minister in 160 years to win a third consecutive term.

June 12: Ex-Emperor of the Central African Republic is sentenced to death.

June 12: President Reagan challenges Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall, in West Berlin.

June 15: Bettino Craxi’s Socialist Party wins the Italian election.

June 17: After the death of the last of the species, the Dusky Seaside Sparrow becomes extinct.

June 19: The US Supreme Court rules that schools teaching evolution do not need to teach creation.

June 22: In Johannesburg, a bomb blast in a video-game arcade kills an unborn baby and injures 10 people.

June 27: In South Africa, the Afrikaans Protestant Church is formed, a breakaway of the Dutch Reformed Church.

June 30: The $1 coin is introduced by the Royal Canadian Mint. It was also known as the Loonie.


July 1: WFAN-AM, a New York City radio station, starts the first 24 hour all sports format.

July 3: Two men become the first hot-air balloon travelers to cross the Atlantic ocean.

July 4: Martina Navratilova wins her 8th Wimbledon singles title, beating Steffi Graf.

July 4: The “Butcher of Lyon”, Klaus Barbie, is sentenced to life in prison in France.

July 6: The first of three massacres by Sikh extremists takes place in India.

July 12: A delegation from the USSR lands in Israel for the first time in 20 years.

July 13: Locomotion by Kylie Minogue is released.

July 15: Boy George is banned from a British TV show – it’s suggested that he would be a bad influence on audiences.

July 16: Britain performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site.

July 17: Les Miserables opens at the Imperial Theater in Tokyo.

July 17: France and Iran break diplomatic relations.

July 25: R. Venkataraman becomes the eight President of India.

July 26: Stephen Roche, of Ireland, wins the 74th Tour de France.

July 31: A battle between Iranian pilgrims and Saudi-Arabian troops causes 402 people to be killed.

July 31: Appetite for Destruction by Guns & Roses is released. 

July 31: A rare tornado goes through Edmonton, Alberta. It kills 27 people and causes more than $330 million in damages.

Boy George

Boy George


August 7: In Guatemala, 5 Central American presidents sign the Central American Peace Accords.

August 9: The National Union of Mineworkers being South Africa’s longest wage strike. It is estimated that over 340,000 miners went on strike, which represents more than 70% of all black coal and gold miners.

August 16: Northwest Airlines 225 plane crashes in Detroit. 156 people are killed with only one survivor.

August 16:Slippery When Wet, the third album by Bon Jovi is released. It will become Billboard’s top selling album of the year.

August 17: Mohammad Ali is elected to Ring magazine’s Boxing Hall of Fame.

August 18: Donald Harvey, an Ohio health care worker, is sentenced to three life sentences for poisoning 24 patients.

August 23: Rainfall and floods in Bangladesh kill hundreds.

August 30: Yves Pol, from France, runs a marathon backwards in 3 hours, 57 minutes and 57 seconds.

August 31: The music video for Michael Jackson’s Bad premieres on CBS TV.


September 1: Michael Chang becomes the youngest man to win a match at the US open. He was 15 years old when he won against Paul McNamee.

September 2: Donald Trump takes out a full page advertisement in the New York Times criticizing Japan. He would become the 45th President of the United States in 2017.

September 2: The trial takes place for Mathias Rust’s unauthorized landing in USSR from Finland.

September 5: John McEnroe is fined $17,500 for ranting at the US Tennis Open.

September 6: Benjamin and Patrick Binder, conjoined twins, are separated at John Hopkins Hospital.

September 17: Philadelphia celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Constitution.

September 17: 264th Pope John Paul II arrives in San Francisco. He meets with AIDS patients, and embraces a child with AIDS.

September 22: NFL players go on strike for 24 days.

September 23: Akwa Ibom and Katisna are created by Nigerian President, Ibrahim Babangida.

September 29: Didn’t We Almost Have It All by Whitney Houston reaches number 1.


October 1: An earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale kills 6 people in Los Angeles.

October 6: George Michael releases Faith. It would become the Billboard Song of the Year 1988.

October 10: Bruce Springsteen’s ninth album, Tunnel of Love, is released.

October 11: In Washington D.C., 200,000 march for gay and lesbian rights.

October 12: Got My Mind Set On You is released by George Harrison.

October 16: Mike Tyson technical knockouts (TKOs) Tyrell Biggs to win the heavyweight boxing title.

October 17: US First Lady, Nancy Reagan, undergoes a modified radical mastectomy. 

October 20: A US Air Force jet crashes in Indianapolis, killing 10 people.

October 27: South Korean voters approved a new constitution overwhelmingly.

October 29: Thomas Hearns wins a fourth different weight boxing title – an unprecedented win.

October 30: George Michael’s debut album Faith is released.

October 31: A pair in Coventry ties for the world record for the longest singles tennis match to ever be played. The match lasted 80 hours and 21 minutes (over 3 days).

Trevor Berbick vs. Mike Tyson Press Conference

Mike Tyson


November 2: Both George Harrison and Paul McCartney release singles. Harrison released Cloud 9 and McCartney releases All the Best.

November 3: Gordon Gould is finally issued US patent US470583 for the laser. This marks the end of his 30 year battle to be credited as the inventor as the laser.

November 4: Lisa Steinberg is beaten into a coma by her adoptive father, Joel. She later died, at 6 years old.

November 8: Due to an IRA bomb attack in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, 11 are killed.

November 11: Vincent van Gogh’s painting Irises sell for a record $53.6 million at auction. 

November 12: Austrian Ulla Weigerstorfer is crowned the 37th Miss World at aged 20.

November 13: The first condom advert is shown on British television.

November 15: Continental Airlines DC-9 crashes in Denver, killing 28 of the 82 onboard.

November 18: A fire at King’s Cross kills 31 people. King’s Cross is London’s busiest tube station.

November 27: A young man in Somerset survives 7 suicide attempts.

November 29: A Korean Air Boeing 708 explodes, killing 115.


December 6: 3 satanist teenagers from Missouri bludgeon friend to death for “fun”.

December 7: Gorbachev lands in the US for a summit meeting.

December 8: Ron Hextall, goalkeeper for Flyers Hockey team, becomes the first goalkeeper to score a goal.

December 8: Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev sign a treaty eliminating medium range nuclear missiles.

December 9: A Palestine uprising begins in an Israeli occupied West Bank.

December 16: Roh Tae Woo becomes President of South Korea.

December 30: Robert Mugabe is elected President of Zimbabwe.

Ronald Reagan’s Berlin Wall Speech

One of the most famous events in 1987 was when Ronald Reagan visited West Berlin and delivered a speech calling for the leader of the USSR, Gorbachev to open the Berlin Wall, which had separated West and East Berlin since 1961. In the middle of the speech, Reagan famously said, “Mr Gorbachev… Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Whilst at the time it didn’t get much media attention, it became widely known after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  

FLTSATCOM 6 Failure to Launch

Atlas-Centaur was launched into heavily overcast conditions. 51 seconds after the flight, the Atlas was struck by lightning, causing the rocket to break apart due to aerodynamic stress. Due to this failure, both NASA and the US Air Force re-emphasized and clarified the original weather guidelines developed after the Apollo 12 lightning strike for all future launches.

Baby M Surrogacy Trial

When looking at what happened in 1987, we can’t conclude without mentioning the Baby M trial. It made rulings that are still in affect today.

Baby M was a baby born through surrogacy by Mary Beth Whitehead. William Stern and his wife found Whitehead through a newspaper ad. Whitehead would be inseminated with Stern’s sperm, bring the pregnancy to term and relinquish her parental rights in favor of Stern’s wife, Elizabeth. She initially relinquished her rights to the child to Stern, but days later Whitehead and her husband kidnapped the baby. 

The Stern’s then sued to become the baby’s legal parents. The New Jersey court ruled that the contract of the surrogacy was invalid, recognized Whitehead as the baby’s legal mother and ordered the Family Court to decide who should have legal custody of the child. This was done through the ‘best interests of the child’ analysis, and Stern was awarded custody with Whitehead having visitation rights.