1985 1986 1987 - 1988 - 1989 1990 1991
1950s 1960s 1970s - 1980s - 1990s 2000s 2010s
- January 1 – The Soviet Union begins its program of economic restructuring (perestroika) with legislation initiated by Premier Mikhail Gorbachev (though Gorbachev had begun minor restructuring in 1985).
- January 1 – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is established, creating the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States.
- January 8 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average falls 140.58 points, or 6.85%, to close at 1,911.31 in a mini-crash.
- January 13 – Taiwan President Chiang Ching-kuo dies in Taipei; Vice-President Lee Teng-hui becomes president.
- January 15 – In Jerusalem, Israeli police and Palestinian protestors clash at the Dome of the Rock; several police and at least 70 Palestinians are injured.
- January 25 – U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush and CBS News anchor Dan Rather clash over Bush's role in the Iran-Contra scandal, during a contentious television interview.
- January 29 – The Midwest Classic Conference, a U.S. college athletic conference, is formed.
- February 3 – The Democratic-controlled United States House of Representatives rejects President Ronald Reagan's request for $36.25 million to support the Nicaraguan Contras.
- February 12 – Anthony M. Kennedy is appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
- February 13–28 – The 1988 Winter Olympics are held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
- February 17 – A bomb explodes outside of the First National Bank in Oshakati, Namibia, killing 27 and injuring 70 others.
- February 17 – U.S. Lieutenant Colonel William R. Higgins, serving with a United Nations group monitoring a truce in southern Lebanon, is kidnapped (he is later killed by his captors).
- February 24 – Hustler Magazine v. Falwell: The Supreme Court of the United States sides with Hustler magazine by overturning a lower court decision to award Jerry Falwell $200,000 for defamation.
- February 29 – A National Socialist document implicates Kurt Waldheim in World War II deportations.
- March 7 – Operation Flavius: The Special Air Service fatally shoots 3 unarmed Provisional Irish Republican Army members in Gibraltar.
- March 8 – Two U.S. Army helicopters collide in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, killing 17 servicemen.
- March 8 – U.S. presidential candidate George Herbert Walker Bush defeats Robert Dole in numerous Republican primaries and caucuses on "Super Tuesday". The bipartisan primary/caucus calendar, designed by Democrats to help solidify their own nominee early, backfires when none of the 6 competing candidates are able to break out of the pack in the day's Democratic contests. Jesse Jackson, however, wins several Southern state primaries.
- March 13 – Gallaudet University, a Deaf university in Washington D.C. elects Dr. I King Jordan as the first Deaf president in its history. This event is a turning point in the Deaf civil rights movement.
- March 16 – The Halabja poison gas attack is carried out by Iraqi government forces.
- March 16 – Iran-Contra Affair: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and Vice Admiral John Poindexter are indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
- March 17 – A Colombian Boeing 727 jetliner, Avianca Flight 410, crashes into the side of the mountains near the Venezuelan border, killing 143.
- March 17 – Eritrean War of Independence – Battle of Afabet: The Nadew Command, an Ethiopian army corps in Eritrea, is attacked on 3 sides by military units of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF).
- March 19 – Corporals killings: British Army Corporals Woods and Howes are killed by the IRA.
- March 20 – Eritrean War of Independence: Having defeated the Nadew Command, the EPLF enters the town of Afabet, victoriously concluding the Battle of Afabet.
- March 24 – An Israeli court sentences Mordechai Vanunu to 18 years in prison for disclosing Israel's nuclear program to The Sunday Times.
- March 25 – The Candle Demonstration in Bratislava, Slovakia is the first mass demonstration of the 1980s against the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
- March 26 – U.S. presidential candidate Jesse Jackson defeats Michael Dukakis in the Michigan Democratic caucuses, becoming the temporary front-runner for the party's nomination. Richard Gephardt withdraws his candidacy after his campaign speeches against imported automobiles fail to earn him much support in Detroit.
- March 29 – African National Congress representative Dulcie September is assassinated in Paris.
- April 4 – Governor Evan Mecham of Arizona is convicted in his impeachment trial and removed from office.
- April 5 – Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis wins the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary.
- April 10 – The Ojhri Camp Disaster occurs in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
- April 10 – The Great Seto Bridge opens to traffic in Japan.
- April 11 – The Last Emperor (directed by Bernardo Bertolucci) wins nine Oscars.
- April 12 – Former pop singer Sonny Bono is elected mayor of Palm Springs, California.
- April 14 – In the Geneva Accords, the Soviet Union commits itself to withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan.
- The USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) strikes a naval mine in the Persian Gulf, while deployed on Operation Earnest Will, during the Tanker War phase of the Iran–Iraq War.
- April 16 – Israeli commandos kill the PLO's Abu Jihad in Tunisia.
- April 16 – In Forlì, Italy, the brigate rosse kill Senator Roberto Ruffilli, an advisor of Prime Minister Ciriaco de Mita.
- April 18 – The United States Navy retaliates for the Roberts mining with Operation Praying Mantis, in a day of strikes against Iranian oil platforms and naval vessels.
- April 25 – In Israel, Ivan Demjanjuk is sentenced to death for war crimes committed in World War II. He was accused by survivors of being the notorious guard at the Treblinka extermination camp known as "Ivan the Terrible". The conviction is later overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court.
- April 28 – Aloha Flight 243 loses several yards of its upper fuselage while in flight, killing 1 person.
- April 30 – World Expo '88 opens in Brisbane Queensland, Australia.
- April 30 – Celine Dion wins the Eurovision Song Contest for Switzerland with the song Ne partez pas sans moi.
- May 4 – PEPCON disaster in Henderson, Nevada: A major explosion at an industrial solid-fuel rocket plant causes damage extending up to 10 miles away, including Las Vegas's McCarran International Airport.
- May 14 – Bus collision near Carrollton, Kentucky: A drunk driver going the wrong way on Interstate 71, hits a converted school bus carrying a church youth group from Radcliff, Kentucky. The resulting fire kills 27, making it tied for 1st in the U.S. for most fatalities involving 2 vehicles to the present day. Coincidentally, the other 2-vehicle accident involving a bus that also killed 27 occurred in Prestonsburg, KY 30 years prior.
- May 14 – Wimbledon wins the English FA Cup after beating Liverpool 1–0 at Wembley. The southwest Londoners had pulled off one of the greatest upsets in the history of English football, as they had been top division members for just 2 years and had joined the Football League only 11 years earlier. Liverpool, meanwhile, had won a total of 30 major trophies including 17 league titles.
- May 15 – Soviet war in Afghanistan: After more than 8 years of fighting, the Red Army begins withdrawing from Afghanistan.
- May 16 – A report by U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop states that the addictive properties of nicotine are similar to those of heroin and cocaine.
- May 16 – California v. Greenwood: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that police officers do not need a search warrant to search through discarded garbage.
- May 24 – Section 28 (outlawing promotion of homosexuality in schools) is passed as law by Parliament in the United Kingdom.
- May 31 – U.S. President Ronald Reagan addresses 600 Moscow State University students, during his visit to the Soviet Union.
- June 5 – The first National Cancer Survivors Day is held.
- June 6 – Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom strips jockey Lester Piggott of his Order of the British Empire, following his jailing for tax irregularities.
- June 11 – The name of the General Public License (GPL) is mentioned for the first time.
- June 11 – Wembley Stadium hosts a concert featuring stars from the fields of music, comedy and film, in celebration of the 70th birthday of imprisoned ANC leader Nelson Mandela.
- June 25 – The Netherlands defeats the Soviet Union 2–0 to win Euro 88.
- June 26 – Air France Flight 296 crashes into the tops of trees beyond the runway on a demonstration flight at Habsheim, France; 3 passengers are killed.
- June 28 – Four workers are asphyxiated at a metal-plating plant in Auburn, Indiana, in the worst confined-space industrial accident in U.S. history (a fifth victim dies 2 days later).
- June 29 – Morrison v. Olson: The United States Supreme Court upholds the law allowing special prosecutors to investigate suspected crimes by executive branch officials.
- June 30 – Roman Catholic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrates 4 bishops at Ecône, Switzerland for his apostolate, along with Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer, without a papal mandate.
- July 3 – The Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey is completed, providing the second connection between the continents of Europe and Asia over the Bosporus.
- July 3 – Iran Air Flight 655 is shot down by a missile launched from the USS Vincennes.
- July 6 – The Piper Alpha drilling platform in the North Sea is destroyed by explosions and fires, killing 165 oil workers and 2 rescue mariners.
- July 6 – The first reported medical waste on beaches in the Greater New York area (including hypodermic needles and syringes possibly infected with the AIDS virus) washes ashore on Long Island. Subsequent medical waste discoveries on beaches in Coney Island and in Monmouth County, New Jersey force the closure of numerous New York-area beaches in the middle of one of the hottest summers on record in the American Northeast.
- July 14 – Volkswagen closes its Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania plant after 10 years of operation (the first factory built by a non-American automaker in the U.S.).
- July 20 – The Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia nominates Michael Dukakis for U.S. President and Lloyd Bentsen for Vice President.
- July 31 – Thirty-two people are killed and 1,674 injured when a bridge at the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry terminal collapses in Butterworth, Malaysia.
- Allama Arif Hussain Hussaini, leader of Pakistani Shia Muslims, is killed in Peshawar.
- August 5 – The 1988 Malaysian constitutional crisis culminates in the ouster of the Lord President of Malaysia, Salleh Abas.
- August 6–7 – Tompkins Square Park Police Riot in New York City: A riot erupts in Tompkins Square Park when police attempt to enforce a newly-passed curfew for the park. Bystanders, artists, residents, homeless people and political activists are caught up in the police action which takes place during the night of August 6 and into the early morning of August 7.
- August 8 – 8888 Uprising: Thousands of protesters in Burma, now known as Myanmar, are killed during anti-government demonstrations.
- August 9 – The first official night game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL.
- August 17 – Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Arnold Raphel, are killed in a plane crash near Bhawalpur.
- August 18 – The Republican National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana nominates George H.W. Bush for President and Dan Quayle for Vice President of the United States of America.
- August 19 – A truce begins in the Iran–Iraq War.
- August 20 – The Iran–Iraq War ends, with an estimated one million lives lost.
- August 25 – A fire destroys part of Chiado quarter, in Lisbon's historical center.
- August 26 – Mehran Karimi Nasseri, "The terminal man", is stuck in the De Gaulle Airport in Paris, where he will continue to reside until August 1, 2006.
- August 28 – Seventy-five people are killed and 346 injured in one of the worst airshow disasters in history at Germany's Ramstein Air Base, when three jets from the Italian air demonstration team, Frecce Tricolori, collide, sending one of the aircraft crashing into the crowd of spectators.
- September 5 – With US$2 billion in federal aid, the Robert M. Bass Group agrees to buy the United States's largest thrift, American Savings and Loan Association.
- September 11 – In Estonia, 300,000 demonstrate for independence.
- September 12 – Hurricane Gilbert devastates Jamaica; it turns towards Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula 2 days later, causing an estimated $5 billion in damage.
- September 17 – October 2 – The 1988 Summer Olympics are held in Seoul, South Korea.
- September 22 – The Ocean Odyssey drilling rig suffers a blowout and fire in the North Sea (see also July 6).
- September 24–26 – Large, militant protests against the 1988 World Bank and IMF meetings take place in West Berlin.
- September 29 – STS-26: NASA resumes space shuttle flights, grounded after the Challenger disaster, with Space Shuttle Discovery.
- October 5 – Thousands riot in Algiers, Algeria against the National Liberation Front government; by October 10 the army has killed and tortured about 500 people in crushing the riots.
- October 5 – Chilean president Augusto Pinochet is defeated in a national plebiscite which sought to renew his mandate.
- October 5 – In Omaha, Nebraska, in the only vice presidential debate of the 1988 U.S. presidential election, the Republican vice presidential nominee, Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana, insists he has as much experience in government as John F. Kennedy did when he sought the presidency in 1960. His Democratic opponent, Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, replies, "Senator, I knew Jack Kennedy. I served with Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." The audience response to Sen. Bentsen's remark is overwhelmingly positive.
- October 11 – Women are allowed to study at Magdalene College, Cambridge, for the first time. Male students wear black armbands and the porter flies a black flag.
- October 12 – Walsh Street police shootings: Two Victoria Police officers are gunned down, execution style, in Australia.
- October 13 – In the second U.S. presidential debate, held by U.C.L.A., the Democratic party nominee, Michael Dukakis, is asked by journalist Bernard Shaw of CNN if he would support the death penalty if his wife, "Kitty", were to be raped and murdered. Gov. Dukakis' reply, voicing his opposition to capital punishment in any and all circumstances, is later said to have been a major reason for the eventual failure of his campaign for the White House.
- October 15 – Kirk Gibson hits a dramatic home run to win Game 1 of the World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers, over the Oakland Athletics, by a score of 5-4.
- October 19 – The United Kingdom bans broadcast interviews with IRA members. The BBC gets around this stricture through the use of professional actors.
- October 23 – Super Mario Bros. 3 is released in Japan.
- October 27 – Ronald Reagan decides to tear down the new U.S. Embassy in Moscow because of Soviet listening devices in the building structure.
- October 28 – Abortion: 48 hours after announcing it was abandoning RU-486, French manufacturer Roussel Uclaf states that it will resume distribution of the drug.
- October 29 – Pakistan's General Rahimuddin Khan resigns from his post as the governor of Sindh, following attempts by the President of Pakistan, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, to limit the vast powers Gen. Rahimuddin had accumulated.
- October 30 – Philip Morris buys Kraft Foods for US$13.1 billion.
- October 30 – Expo '88 in Brisbane Australia draws to a close after a six month spectacular.
- October 30 – Formula One: Ayrton Senna clinches his first World Championship with a phenomenal drive in the Japanese Grand Prix, recovering from 16th place on the first lap to win the race and beat rival Alain Prost into 2nd place.
- November 1 – In the Israeli election, Likud wins 47 seats, Labour wins 49, but Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir remains in office.
- November 3–5: Thousands of South Korean students demonstrate against former president Chun Doo Hwan.
- November 8 – United States presidential election, 1988: George H. W. Bush is elected over Michael Dukakis.
- November 11 – In Sacramento, California, police find a body buried in the lawn of 60-year-old boardinghouse landlady Dorothea Puente (7 bodies are eventually found and Puente is convicted of 3 murders and sentenced to life in prison).
- November 13 – Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian law student in Portland, Oregon is beaten to death by members of the Neo-National Socialist group East Side White Pride.
- November 15 – In the Soviet Union, the unmanned Shuttle Buran is launched by an Energia rocket on its maiden orbital spaceflight (the first and last space flight for the shuttle).
- November 15 – Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: An independent State of Palestine is proclaimed at the Palestinian National Council meeting in Algiers, by a vote of 253-46.
- November 15 – The very first Fairtrade label, Max Havelaar, is launched by Nico Roozen, Frans van der Hoff and ecumenical development agency Solidaridad in the Netherlands.
- November 16 – The Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR declares that Estonia is "sovereign" but stops short of declaring independence.
- November 16 – In the first open election in more than a decade, voters in Pakistan choose populist candidate Benazir Bhutto to be Prime Minister. Elections are held as planned despite head of state Zia-ul-Haq's death earlier in August.
- November 18 – War on Drugs: U.S. President Ronald Reagan signs a bill providing the death penalty for murderous drug traffickers.
- November 21 – Canadian federal election, 1988: Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada win a second majority government.
- November 21 – Ted Turner officially buys Jim Crockett Promotions, known as NWA Crockett, and turns it into World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
- November 22 – In Palmdale, California, the first prototype B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is revealed.
- November 23 – Former Korean president Chun Doo Hwan publicly apologizes for corruption during his presidency, announcing he will go into exile.
- November 30 – Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. buys RJR Nabisco for US$25.07 billion in the biggest leveraged buyout deal of all time.
- December 1 – Carlos Salinas de Gortari takes office as President of Mexico.
- December 2 – Benazir Bhutto is sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan, becoming the first woman to head the government of an Islam-dominated state.
- December 2 – A cyclone in Bangladesh leaves 5 million homeless and thousands dead.
- December 7 – In Armenia, an earthquake (6.9 on the Richter scale) kills nearly 25,000, injures 15,000 and leaves 400,000 homeless.
- December 7 – Estonian becomes the official language of Estonia.
- December 9 – The last Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant roll off the assembly line in a Chrysler factory.
- December 12 – The Clapham Junction rail crash kills 35 and injures 132.
- December 16 – Perennial U.S. presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche is convicted of mail fraud.
- December 20 – The United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances is signed at Vienna.
- December 21 – Pan Am Flight 103 is blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing a total of 270 people. Those responsible are believed to be either Iranians or Libyans.
- December 22 – Brazilian union and environmental activist Chico Mendes is assassinated.
- February 15 - Karl Hans Janke, institutionalized German inventor and futurist (b. 1909)
- April 28 - William Potter Gale, Christian Identity minister (b. 1916)
- May 8 - Robert A. Heinlein, American science fiction writer (b. 1907)
- August 7 - David L. Hoggan, historical revisionist (b. 1923)
- November 20 - Tyler Kent, American whistleblower during WWII (b. 1911)
- Kraft Accepts $13B Buyout by Philip Morris The Boston Globe