1988 ( MCMLXXXVIII) was a leap year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar.
February 13 – Michael Jackson purchases a ranch in Santa Ynez, California. He calls his new home "Neverland".
February 17 – A 12-year old Mötley Crüe fan in Florida is badly burned while trying to imitate a stunt in the band's "Live Wire" music video. The boy suffered burns over ten percent of his body. Mötley Crüe said the band's stunts should not be tried at home.
March 12 – Record producer Jimmy Iovine presents the Special Olympics with a donation of $5 million, which was raised with the release of the A Very Special Christmas album.
April 19 – Former rock and roll singer Sonny Bono becomes Mayor of Palm Springs, California
May 1 – Citing the 1st Amendment, a judge drops all charges filed against singer Billy Joel. Joel was being sued by Jack Powers for defamation following an interview with Playboy in which he called Powers a "creep".
June 14 – A small wildfire starts in Montana near Yellowstone National Park. It joins other fires. Eventually, over 750,000 acres (3,000 km 2) of Yellowstone burns before firefighters gain control in late September.
July 1 – Quartetto Cetra's last concert
August 20 – The Iran–Iraq War ends
September 16 – rapper Eazy-E releases his first album Eazy-Duz-It
November 1 – Bad Religion releases Suffer
Hurricane Gilbert strikes the Caribbean, Mexico and south Texas
November 24 – Mystery Science Theater 3000 premieres
December 7 – A powerful earthquake kills nearly 25,000 people in Soviet Armenia
December 21 – A Pan-Am airplane explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing more than 270 people
Ankst music label founded
Peter Ruzicka becomes director of the Hamburg State Opera and State Philharmonic Orchestra "
I Heard It Through the Grapevine" experiences a surge in popularity sparked by television commercials featuring claymation raisin figures dancing to the song. The California Raisins version of the song peaks at No. 84 on Billboard's Hot 100.
January 12 – Chris Casement, Northern Irish footballer
February 20 – Rihanna, Barbadian singer
February 29 – Lena Gercke, German model
April 29 – Jonathan Toews, Canadian Professional ice hockey player for the Chicago Blackhawks
May 5 – Adele, British singer
July 16 – Sergio Busquets, Spanish footballer
August 25 – Alexandra Burke, British singer
October 15 – Mesut Oezil, German footballer
November 19 – Patrick Kane, American professional ice hockey for the Chicago Blackhawks
November 25 – Nodar Kumaritashvili, Georgian luger (d. 2010)
December 14 – Vanessa Hudgens, American actress
January 5 – Pete Maravich, basketball player (b. 1947)
January 13 – Chiang Ching-kuo, 3rd President of the Republic of China (b. 1910)
January 14 – Georgy Malenkov, 5th Prime Minister of the Soviet Union (b. 1902)
January 15 – Seán MacBride, Irish Republican Army leader, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1904)
February 1– Heather O'Rourke, American actress (b. 1975)
February 15 – Richard Feynman, American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1918)
March 9 – Kurt Georg Kiesinger, 3rd Chancellor of Germany (b. 1904)
March 31 – Sir William McMahon, twentieth Prime Minister of Australia (b. 1908)
May 25 – Ernst Ruska, German physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1906)
June 11 – Giuseppe Saragat, 5th President of Italy (b. 1898)
August 10 – Arnulfo Arias, President of Panama (b. 1901)
August 17 – Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, 6th President of Pakistan (b. 1924)
September 1 – Luis Walter Alvarez, American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1911)
September 30 – Trường Chinh, former President of Vietnam (b. 1907)
December 4 – Osman Achmatowicz, Polish chemist (b. 1899)
December 6 – Roy Orbison, singer (b. 1936)
, starring The Accused Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis
, directed by Big Penny Marshall and starring Tom Hanks
The Cat Came Back
starring Cocktail Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown, and Elisabeth Shue
starring Coming to America Eddie Murphy
, nominated for three A Fish Called Wanda Academy Awards
The Great Outdoors
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
, an My Neighbor Totoro animated movie
, winning 4 Rain Man Academy Awards
The Thin Blue Line
, based on a novel by Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Gary K. Wolf
, directed by Willow Ron Howard
, written by Young Guns John Fusco