The Top 40 Comedies of the 1980sAugust 11, 2013
By Chris Haley
Comedies were in abundance in the 80s. Some hold up to the test of time. Sadly, many do not. Here is my unscientific list of the best of the best of the Reagan era. Will you agree?
#40 Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)
When a TV station has trouble airing its copy of a 1950s B movie titled Amazon Women on the Moon, it does what any other rational station would do…it throws together whatever it can find: movie trailers, PSAs, commercials, infomercials, and talk shows; then plays them in the movie’s place. This gem-of-a-film is the sequel to 1977’s The Kentucky Fried Movie, and comprises a series of skits featuring stars of the 80s like: Arsenio Hall, Carrie Fisher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Phil Hartman, David Alan Grier, and Steve Guttenberg to name a few. It’s random, odd, and quirky, but if you grew up in the 80s, I’ll bet you’ll remember more lines from the flick than you care to admit.
#39 They Call Me Bruce? (1982)
Are you ready for a bit of 80s racism? Johnny Yune plays Bruce, an awkward Korean immigrant who bears a resemblance to Bruce Lee. He has come to America because his deceased grandfather said a very beautiful woman would take care of him if he came to this country. Through a series of hilarious misunderstandings, Bruce ends up becoming a local hero after thwarting a robbery. Bruce’s gangster boss then convinces him to drive cross country to New York to deliver what Bruce thinks is flour, but of course if it’s the 80s, that white fluff can only be one thing – cocaine! As Bruce sees our nation’s sites, more hilarity ensues. I just hope he is able to find the woman of his dreams along the way. They Call Me Bruce? was and is widely panned by critics. They are probably right in their criticism, but this movie still holds a warm, fuzzy place on this list.
#38 Summer School (1987)
On the last day of school, PE teacher, Freddy Shoop, finds out he has to cancel his trip to Hawaii with his girlfriend, and teach summer school to a group of misfits after another teacher wins the lottery. He reluctantly accepts the assignment, and on the first day of classes, he ends up falling for another teacher. After taking his students to the beach for a few days when he should have been teaching them, the principal finds out and threatens Shoop with his job if they all don’t pass at the end of the semester, but that’s easier said than done because each of them have their own problems.
The film, starring Mark Harmon, Kirstie Alley, Courtney Thorne-Smith, and Dean Cameron, is a bit formulaic, but still entertaining to the very end. Even if you don’t like it, there’s always Fabiana Udenio, playing an Italian exchange student, to stare at.
#37 Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
Chris Parker’s boyfriend just broke up with her. How could her day get any worse? Well, she volunteers to babysit two adolescent kids, but soon her friend, Brenda, calls her asking for help after she ran away from home. Chris packs up the two kids, a friend of theirs, and the four head out. On the way, she gets a flat tire and becomes stranded on a highway. A seedy tow truck driver offers to help, but then takes them to his house instead to confront his wife who is cheating on him. After a gunfight, the kids find themselves in a Cadillac that is being hotwired by a professional car thief, and THEN it’s all downhill from there. I still remember the first time I saw this film on Showtime. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it quickly ended up becoming one of my favorite movies of the summer.
#36 Zorro the Gay Blade (1981)
Hollywood is all about taking popular stories, and retelling them with a twist. This film twists the classic Zorro story into a rainbow of fabulous colors when Don Diego de la Vega, dressed as Zorro, hurts his ankle jumping from a high wall. Unable to save the peoples, Diego tries to convince his gay twin brother, Ramon to take his place after he arrives in town. We come to discover that his name is no longer Ramon de la Vega. It’s Bunny Wigglesworth, and this Royal Navy serviceman reluctantly agrees to take up the cause against the alcalde. With a long whip by his side, and a boudoir full of colorful costumes, our friend of Dorothy cracks some ass on anyone who gets in his way. George Hamilton plays the two main characters (I’m not sure how much of it I’d call acting though) in a film that stands apart from the other comedies of its era.
#35 Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Pee Wee Herman loves his bike more than anything else. His rotten neighbor, Francis, loves it too. When Pee Wee refuses to sell it, Francis pays someone to steal it. Once the guilt sets in, he pays the same person to get rid of it. That sets our intrepid hero on a cross-country quest of wackiness that will lead him all the way to the Alamo. If you loved his stage show in the 80s, you will love this. If you haven’t seen the stage show, you now have two Pee Wee films to watch. There’s a copy recorded for HBO somewhere out there! They are both so funny, you won’t forget to laugh.
#34 Police Academy (1984)
If you were a misfit, a reject, or a flat out loser in the 80s, there were only two types of training available to you: army training or police training, and since Stripes didn’t make the list, this pick goes to Police Academy.
When a shortage of police officers hits the big city, the newly-elected mayor decides to drop all standards for entrance into the police academy. Against all odds, this rag-tag group finds a way to get into trouble, get out of trouble, and still graduate. The kids will laugh at Michael Winslow’s human sound effects, and dad will love the gratuitous T&A! So, fire up the popcorn machine. I think we have family night ready to go.
#33 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
This picture says it all, really. Leslie Nielsen with his pants down equals hilarity! This isn’t Airplane quality, but the puns, visual gags, and innuendo are still solid. The film manages to throw everything at you from stuffed beavers to steam rollers to international assassins. Priscilla Presley, Ricardo Montalban, George Kennedy, and Reggie Jackson (no steroids needed) round out the all star cast, and let’s not forget OJ Simpson who kills it as Officer Nordberg. People liked him back then. They really liked him.
#32 Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
Filmed at my Alma Mater, this film deserves to be on the list for just that. BFFS, Lewis and Gilbert, arrive at Adams College full of champagne wishes and caviar dreams, but the brutish Alpha Betas aren’t going to let a bunch of nerds rule the school. They kick the freshman out of their dorms after a fire destroys the Beta house. The nerds fend for themselves and form an off-campus fraternity of their own called Lambda Lambda Lambda. After Pi Delta Psi humiliates the Tri-Lambs, the boys get their revenge on the sorority with a panty raid. This sets up a “friendly” competition for control of the Greek counsel in a big blockbuster finale! An animated version of this film, titled Monsters University, was released in 2013. Unfortunately for us, Disney took out all the titties. What I would have given to see Roz’s lovely lady lumps, but I digress.
#31 The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
JEFF GOLDBLUM! JEFF GOLDBLUM! JEFF GOLDBLUM! This movie has muther-funkin Jeff Goldblum in it, and guess what? He plays an oddball scientist! Didn’t see that coming, did you? It also has Robocop’s Peter Weller in the title role; part daredevil, part surgeon, part rock and roll God, Buckaroo Banzai is a jack of all trades. John Lithgow, Christopher Llyod, Lewis Smith, and the sexy Ellen Barkin help make some interesting science fiction.
After a US experiment accidentally releases a race of aliens from across the 8th dimension, Buckaroo and company must stop the evil John Whorfin to save the planet from his deadly plot to take control of Earth and Planet 10. Aided by the Black Lectroid, John Parker, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, Banzai, and some volunteers set out to do just that, and still be back in time to film the sequel Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League. Did I mention this movie has Jeff Goldblum in it?
#30 The Toxic Avenger (1984)
What happens when you mix a cast of horrible actors, terrible special effects, a week story, and gratuitous sex and violence? You get one of the best cult classics out there, my friends! Melvin is a retard. Not a ratard, but a full-fledged retard who works at a gym as a janitor. He is laughed at by all the cool kids, and terrorized by everyone until one night, he falls into some chemical goop which transforms him into a hideous monster possessing superhuman strength with the voice of a GOD. His transformation has left him with a face that only a mother could love, or a blind woman with an IQ smaller than her bust size, and the Toxic Avenger knows both. The monster defends the town against crime and corruption in gruesome style, and then wins the hearts and minds of the everyday folk like you and me.
#29 Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
This is a comedy about two friends dragging a popular dead guy around a beach town for a day, AND fooling everyone into believing he’s still alive. What more do I need to say? Rent this meow!
P.S. They got a SEQUEL out of this one. Try and wrap your brain around that!
#28 Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
What would SNL’s Wayne’s World be like if Keanu Reeves played the lead? You would have a most excellent film of historic proportions. Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esq. are two dim-witted high school students, and aspiring musicians whose music will one day change the world as we know it, but before that can happen, they have to pass history class. If not, Ted is getting shipped off to the military academy, and the boys will never be able to form a band. WOAH!
Enter George Carlin as Rufus – a man sent back in time from the year 2688 in a phone booth to make sure they pass. (Does anyone know what a phone booth is anymore? If so, can you tell me where the closest one is to you? I’m betting you can’t.)
Fans of Keanu’s acting range might want to keep a look out for a rare appearance of his signature, “No Way!” exclamation.
#27 Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Officer Axel Foley, is a reckless cop who has just been suspended due to an unauthorized cigarette sting going awry. He meets up at a bar in Detroit with his childhood friend, who now works and lives in Beverly Hills. As they leave, Foley is knocked unconscious, and his friend killed. Looking to solve the crime, Axel sets out to California to avenge his friend’s death. The uptight cops in that town aren’t used to Foley’s unorthodox methods, but ultimately they come around to seeing things his way.
This movie has breakout performances by both Eddie Murphy and Bronson Pinchot. Where Eddie shoots off into superstardom, Bronson gets a subpar TV sitcom about two “cousins” who are perfect strangers sharing an apartment in Chicago. Who got the short end of that stick? I mean, they have equal talent, right?
#26 Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)
This classic is based on The Destroyer—a series of paperback novels that began back in 1971. Sam is an ex-Marine from the Vietnam era, and current NYC cop who is recruited by the United States to be a secret assassin. He is given the name Remo Williams, and trained to be a killing machine by martial arts master, Chuin. The two are of course an odd pairing, but they find a way through their differences to finish the jobs they are given.
This isn’t an easy movie to get a hold of anymore. I don’t think the DVD is in print, and it’s definitely not out on Blu-ray, but this is one of my most fondly remembered movies from my childhood. Although it’s full of funny one-liners and light-hearted humor, it looks as if the film adventure pretty much ended with this one.
#25 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Who is screwing whom in this film? Michael Caine plays the smooth-talking Brit, Lawrence Jamieson, who cons people all over the French Riviera. Steve Martin is Freddy Benson, an entry level con artist who just got into town. Lawrence thinks Freddy is the mysterious thief known as ‘The Jackal,’ and who has been quite successful as of late. The two meet and make a bet to see who can steal fifty thousand dollars from a tourist first. They choose an American Heiress named Janet Colgate, and the game is on. As the story progresses, both men realize not everything is as it seems. Who wins this bet? I’m not telling. That would just be rotten of me.
#24 Ghostbusters (1984)
If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, are you really going to call three nerds in funny suits driving around in an old-school ambulance for help? Probably not, but these fellas can dream, can’t they? Parapsychologists Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis, find themselves unemployed after they lose their jobs at the prestigious Columbia University. They decide to go into business for themselves, and start a paranormal extermination service that takes off very quickly—too quickly for one Walter Peck of the EPA. He declares shenanigans on the Ghostbusters, and has them shut down. All hell breaks loose until our boys can come back to save the Big Apple.
William Atherton continues his streak of playing the most awesome asshole in an 80s film, while Rick Moranis steals Murray’s comedic thunder as Louis Tully. Oh yeah, Sigourney Weaver has a pretty hot role in this one too.
#23 Spaceballs (1987)
Two Rick Moranis movies in a row? If Strange Brew had a better plot, it would have been three! Mel Brooks steps out of his comfort zone, and hands us a space parody of Star Wars. It loosely (very loosely) follows the plot of Episode 4: A New Hope, but also takes digs a Star Trek, Alien, and Planet of the Apes. The lead character, Lone Star, must escape Pizza the Hut, save Princess Vespa, and defeat the sinister Dark Helmet. Mel Brooks continues his tradition of making random cameos in his films. This time he’s Yogurt. Lone Star’s wise Yoda knock off. My favorite, John Candy, plays Barf; a half man, half dog mawg. This isn’t quite as good as Brook’s Blazing Saddles, but it’s not too far behind.
#22 Better Off Dead (1985)
I will say one thing about John Cusack, in all the years he’s been making films, he hasn’t chosen too many stinkers. This is my second favorite of his behind Grosse Pointe Blank…Hot Tub Time Machine is not too far behind. Teenager Lane Myer is an unassuming high school kid in Greendale, California. One day, his girlfriend, Beth, dumps him for another boy, and Lane falls into a state of depression. Not really sure whether to kill himself or try to win her back, Lane mopes along until he meets the French foreign-exchange student, Monique. She is living with the host family from hell, and pretends to not be able to speak English to avoid conversations with them. Eventually, she is able to work her Parisian magic on Lane, and restore his confidence in himself. Now, will somebody give that brat his two dollars?
#21 Romancing the Stone (1984)
In 1981, a small film was quietly released by Paramount Pictures called Raiders of the Lost Ark. Its modest success had other studios scrambling to make their cheap versions of it. 1984’s Romancing the Stone is 20th Century Fox’s attempt to cash in on the Indians Jones magical formula.
Joan Wilder is a romance novelist who receives mysterious treasure map in the mail from her brother-in-law who was just murdered in Columbia. Her sister, Elaine, calls and begs her to deliver that map to her in Cartagena because she has been kidnapped, and the men who took her want the map in exchange. Joan flies there to save her sister, but on the way to meet the kidnappers, she gets ambushed by the man who killed her brother-in-law. She is saved by the rugged Jack T. Colton, a bird smuggler from America, but she is lost in the middle of a rainforest. She pays Jack to take her to the kidnappers to get her sister. It’s a long and dangerous road back. Along the way, the two find love and the treasure.
#20 Heathers (1988)
Veronica Sawyer is in the popular crowd at her high school. She hangs out with three other popular girls; Heather Chandler, Heather Duke, and Heather McNamara. The four of them rule the school, but Veronica secretly hates her best friends and wants to return to her life as a nerdy kid. When JD, a James Dean wannabe, transfers to her school, everything changes for Veronica. He uses his charisma and psychotic tendencies to convince Veronica to go on a killing spree of her fellow students with him, and then make their deaths look like suicides of some sort. This goes on until Veronica puts an end to the madness in the gym’s basement at a high school rally, by taking out JD in explosive style. Sounds pretty frickin’ hilarious, huh?
#19 The Blues Brothers (1980)
Jake Blues has just been released from a three-year stint in prison after committing armed robbery. His brother, Elwood, picks him up, and the two head down to the orphanage where they grew up in Illinois. It’s facing foreclosure because of $5000 it owes in back taxes. Jake has an epiphany, and decides that if the brothers can get their band back together, they can make the money to save the orphanage. Things begin to go poorly when Elwood gets pulled over on a suspended license, and flees the cops. They escape for the time being, and are eventually able to reform the band, play some gigs, and get a recording contract which allows them to save the orphanage, but by this time the law has caught up to them in Chicago as dozens of police officers race after them. The band gets arrested as the brothers pay off the debt for the orphanage. The film ends with the band in jail, playing to their fellow inmates.
#18 Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Time for some more martial arts fun…Jack Burton and Wang Chi go to pick up Wang’s fiancee at the airport. A Chinese street gang kidnaps the girl to use her as a sex slave. In hot pursuit, Jack runs over their leader, Lo Pan, which only serves to piss off the old sorcerer. He blinds Jack, and the gang escapes. Back home, we learn that the girl was stolen because green eyes on an Asian girl are rare, and this gives her the ability to break an ancient curse on Lo Pan. Our heros go to confront the gang, and rescue the girl before she is sacrificed, but have trouble fighting them because of their supernatural powers. There is a big battle to save the day, and eventually Jack and Wang fight their way out.
#17 Repo Man (1984)
Otto Maddox is fired from his job as a supermarket stock boy. He thinks he can live off money his parents promised him for going to school, but finds that they have given it to a local televangelist. Otto mopes around town, and eventually meets a repo man who offers him a job. He reluctantly takes it when he realizes how much money he can make. He falls for the lifestyle that comes with the business; the drugs, the car chases, and the pay. Soon, he meets Leila who tells him about a Chevrolet Malibu with dead space aliens in the trunk. It has a $20,000 reward for its return, and all repo firms in the area are competing for the tempting prize. All they have to do is keep away from the deadly radiation. There were a lot of good films released in 1984, and this one is second only to Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s Terminator…but not by much.
#16 The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
This is the highest ranking South African film on the list. Come to think of it, it’s the only South African film on the list. The movie is actually three separate stories set in Botswana that are woven together. The main story surrounds a Bushman named Xi who must return a Coke bottle to the Gods after they gave it to the tribe, and its presence caused ownership problems amongst the clan. The second surrounds a socially awkward field scientist with a crush on a beautiful school teacher, and the third is about a band of guerilla soldiers on the run from the government. All three story lines cross in a climatic ending. Although it’s a lower budget movie with bad editing and poor voice dubbing, it’s quiet charm is still as entertaining today as the day it was made.
#15 ¡Three Amigos! (1986)
Three washed up silent screen heros, Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms, and Ned Nederlander are hired, for what they think is a performance in the Mexican village of Santo Poco, and save the citizens from the evil El Guapo. During the initial confrontation, El Guapo’s men are confused by the amigo’s act, and leave to tell their boss what they have seen. The town thinks the trio is victorious and celebrate, but the next day, the gang returns with their leader. As the amigos start their performance again, Lucky is shot in the arm with a bullet. Only then do our heroes realize this is all real, and the boys start crying like the cowards they are. For the town’s punishment for hiring someone to try to stop him, El Guapo orders the it to be looted, and then kidnaps Carmen, daughter of the village leader, to be his bride. Jobless, Lucky, Dusty, and Ned realize they have nothing if they return back home, and decide to become real-life heroes, and save the day. This film is loosely based on the movies Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven.
#14 Real Genius (1985)
Fresh off his role in Top Secret!, Val Kilmer plays slacker/student, Chris Knight, a physics genius at Pacific Tech. William Atherton, is his uptight Professor Jerry Hathaway, who recruits Mitch Taylor to join Chris to complete a laser that is capable of killing a human from space, only the students working on the project don’t know of its desired sinister use. In order to graduate, Knight must complete the project by the end of the school year. It’s only after Hathaway takes their working prototype, while they are gone, that they discover for themselves the true plans for their invention. Horrified by what they have done, they now need to use all their brains to correct this wrongdoing. Val Kilmer has had a lot of great roles in his career. I’d put this in this one in his top five, and Atherton is good in everything he does. I’m not even going to try to make a top list for him.
#13 Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
The cast of this film is a who’s who of popular actors at the beginning of their careers: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Anthony Edwards, Nicholas Cage, and Forest Whitaker to name a few. Set at the mythical Ridgemont High, the film follows a group of students over the course of a school year. Brad is working to get his first car, and ditch his girlfriend, Lisa. His sister, Stacy, is a sophomore who loses her virginity during a one night stand, and gets pregnant from it. Meanwhile, Rat is a shy boy with a crush on Stacy, and gets hurt when he finds out his best friend, Mike, is the one who got Stacy preggers. Linda is Stacy’s best friend. Stacy’s brother, Brad, has a crush on her which leads to an awkward moment when Linda walks in on him in the bathroom. Pothead, Jeff Spicoli, is your typical surfer with dreams of nothing but surfing, surfing, and more surfing. His arch nemesis, Mr. Hand would love nothing more than to flunk Spicoli because of his carefree lifestyle, but in the end, passes him even though he believes everyone is on drugs. Many people look to Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club as the defining teen movie of the 80s. Fast Times easily outshines both.
#12 Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Steve Martin is Neal Page, a Chicago businessman trying to get home to his family in time for Thanksgiving, but when he meets up with traveling salesman, Del Griffith (John Candy), there is little chance of a peaceful journey home. Their flight gets diverted from LaGuardia to Wichita due to a timely blizzard in Chi-town. They decide to rent a car and drive home, but an unfortunate robbery followed by a fire in their car, which was caused by Del’s carelessness, turns their adventure into a three-day disaster. Neal frequently loses his patience with Del, blaming him for everything, but in time he grows to like him. Finally, the men get back to Chicago, and part ways to go home to their families, but Del has nobody to return to. While he has incessantly talked about his wife, Marie, he reveals that she in fact died eight years ago, and that he doesn’t have any home to return to. The film ends with Neal introducing Del to his family.
#11 Arthur (1981)
There is no better drunk than one caught between the moon and New York City, and there is no better person to play that drunk than Dudley Moore. Russell Brand didn’t even come close to filling Moore’s tiny shoes in his 2011 remake, and don’t even get me started on the atrocity of Helen Mirren playing Hobson.
Arthur Bach is a spoiled heir to his father’s $750 million fortune. His first world problem is that he is being forced to marry Susan, a woman he doesn’t love, in order to receive that inheritance. Instead, his drunk ass falls for Liza Minnelli‘s character, Linda. His butler, Hobson, played by John Gielgud, sees that Arthur is falling for Linda, and does his best to help the lovebirds out, but Hobson falls ill and soon dies. This crushes Arthur and he goes on a drinking binge which causes him to arrive at his wedding schmammered. He tells Susan that he will not marry her, and Susan’s father beats Arthur’s drunk ass. It continues until his grandmother, Martha, steps in. Arthur then announces to the guests that there will be no wedding, and then collapses. He wakes to Martha telling him that no Bach will ever be working class, and that he can have his fortune anyway.
#10 Raising Arizona (1987)
The top ten begins with a Coen Brothers classic. H.I. “Hi” McDonnough is a poetic but obtuse career criminal. Over his many arrests, he’s taken a liking to “Ed,” a female cop who takes mug shots at the station. He promises to turn over a new leaf, and live the straight and narrow if she marries him. Of course, she accepts the offer, and the lovebirds move to sunny Arizona, but the couple wants a baby. Ed is unable to get pregnant, and falls into a terrible depression. When Nathan Arizona becomes the father of quintuplets, he jokes that he has too many. Hi and Ed hatch a plan to steal one of the babies for their own. Look for some iconic performances by Nicolas Cage, John Goodman, and Randall “Tex” Cobb.
#9 Uncle Buck (1989)
John Candy is back in the lead role with another classic, and this time he has brought along Macaulay Culkin in his finest film performance…yes even better than Home Alone! Bob Russell and his wife, Cindy, are in a bind. Cindy’s father has just suffered a heart attack in Indianapolis, and now the parents of three need someone to watch their children in Chicago while they tend to her dad. When all possibilities are exhausted, Bob recommends his unemployed, track betting brother, Buck, who agrees to help. Buck meets the kids; little Miles and Maizy, but teenage Tia is too cool for her own good, and distrusts Buck. His style of parenting is completely unorthodox for this suburban community, but he gets the job done. After Buck threatens Tia’s boyfriend, Bug, she goes to his girlfriend, Chanice, and says he’s been fooling around with the neighbor. Buck still doesn’t relent on his dislike of Bug, and ends up duct taping him to the inside of the trunk of his car, so Bug can apologize to Tia. Eventually, Tia is won over to Buck’s side.
#8 Beetlejuice (1988)
The man so nice you say his name thrice. Michael Keaton teams up with Tim Burton in this dark comedy about a ghost with the most. Married nerds, Barbara and Adam, die in a freak accident outside their home, and end up getting trapped in their house, unable to reach heaven. Everything goes okay until one day, the Deetzes arrive from New York City, and buy the property. Their taste in interior decoration doesn’t please the deceased couple, and they try to haunt the Deetzes into leaving, but they are terrible at it. They meet Beetlejuice who says he can get the the family out of the house, but once unleashed, Barbara and Adam get more than they can handle. Finally, they are able to get rid of Beetlejuice and make peace with the Deetzes.
#7 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
As a kid in school, who didn’t dream about skipping? Some people didn’t just dream, they did, and those who didn’t were a tad bit envious. When it’s the most popular kid in school ditching, you have the premise for this list’s highest rated and greatest teen comedy on the list.
Ferris Bueller decides to skip class, but because he’s already done so too many times, he knows this will be his last time before graduation, so he’s going to make it the best day possible. That entails getting his best friend, Cameron, and girlfriend, Sloane, to come along for the ride. Everyone falls for Ferris’ story except for his jealous sister, Jeanie, and the Dean of Students, Edward Rooney. With Jeanie and Rooney each separately out to catch Ferris red-handed, the trio take a joyride in Cameron’s dad’s vintage Ferrari, attend a Cubs game, go to the Art Institute of Chicago, and twist and shout in the middle of a big parade downtown. Are they able to race home without getting caught? It is possible to stop Mr. Ferris Bueller, you know?
#6 National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
The Griswolds found out long ago, it’s a long way down the holiday road when Clark decides to pack up his family and drive cross country from Chicago (I think 90% of movies in the 80s were set in Chicago in some form or fashion) to Los Angeles to visit “America’s Favorite Family Fun Park”, Walley World. The trip starts out badly when the sports wagon Clark ordered is found to be delayed for another six weeks. The family is forced to take a hideously ugly station wagon that’s three screws from falling apart. During the tedious trip, a number of mishaps beset the family, but they eventually make it…only to find the park closed for repairs. Clark goes postal, buys a BB gun, and then takes a security guard hostage at the park so the family can ride all the rides. I know people hold Christmas Vacation in high esteem, and it is an awesome movie, but I say this is the best of the Vacation franchise.
#5 Fletch (1985)
Irwin Fletcher is an undercover reporter for the Los Angeles Times, investigating drug trafficking on LA beaches. One day, executive Alan Stanwyk approaches Fletch, thinking he is just a homeless bum, and offers him $50,000 to come kill him in a few days. The murder will be staged to look like a burglary, and he will arrange for Fletch to flee to Rio de Janeiro. Intrigued, Fletch accepts the offer, and begins to investigate Stanwyk instead of his drug story. Meanwhile, LAPD Chief, Jerry Karlin, finds out about the drug article Fletch is writing, and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t stop prying, claiming it will jeopardize his own investigation. Later that day, Fletch sees an interesting briefcase exchange between Stanwyk and Karlin, but is unsure of its nature. He also learns that Stanwyk has two wives, one of whom, named Gail, he is using for her money. On the night Fletch is supposed to kill Stanwyk, Fletch reveals that he knows Stanwyk planned to kill him all along instead of the other way around. Karlin shows up, hearing that Stanwyk planned to leave the country with his drug money, and kills him. He then turns his gun on Fletch, but Gail, who is in the room, knocks Karlin out cold, and we get our Hollywood happy ending.
#4 Airplane! (1980)
Airplane! certainly isn’t the first parody movie ever made. They have been around since the earliest silent films, but it has definitely set the standard of what is to be expected from the genre for over thirty years. In many ways, this film feels more like a movie from the 70s than the 80s, most of what it’s poking fun at comes from the disaster movie, Airport 1975, and it also takes elements and dialogue from 1957’s Zero Hour. The film takes absurdity to a new level with over-the-top sight gags, puns, and celebrity cameos. I mean, any time you have June Cleaver talking jive, you have comedy gold. (People still know who June Cleaver is, right?)
The film follows the tormented life of taxi driver, Ted Striker. He’s a former fighter pilot from an unnamed war, and under his command, many men died from his decisions. His girlfriend since that time is Elaine. Now a stewardess, she dumps Ted right before a flight, and he follows her on board, even though he hasn’t been on a plane since his tragic military career ended. During the flight, many passengers become ill from food poisoning, including the pilots. Everyone is safe on the plane while it’s on autopilot, but someone is going to have to land it when they get to Chicago. Ted is the only man who is capable of doing it, but his war record haunts him so much that he is unable to function. His old CO, Rex Kramer, whom Striker hates, is called in to talk him down.
#3 The Princess Bride (1987)
If you already know the big difference between mostly dead and all dead, then I probably don’t need to recap this movie for you, but for those of you who don’t, read on.
Out in the fields of the country of Florin, a farm boy named Wesley works for a young woman named Buttercup. With each order she gives him, he replies, “As you wish,” but in time she is surprised to learn that what he really means is, “I love you.” Even more surprising is that she realizes she loves Wesley too, but a poor farm hand cannot marry her, and he sets out to seek his fortune so they can live happily ever after.
Soon afterward, Buttercup gets word that Wesley’s ship has been attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who has a reputation for never leaving anyone alive. Five years go by, and Buttercup agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck, the heir to the throne of Florin, but before they can wed, she is kidnapped by three men Humperdinck has hired. They intend to kill her, and make it look like their rival country, Guilder, did it, starting a war between the two nations.
Before the kidnappers are able to kill Buttercup, a man in black shows up and kidnaps her for himself. When he tells her he is the Dread Pirate Roberts, she becomes enraged, and tells him he should die as she shoves him down the hill. He calls out, “As you wish,” as he falls, and Buttercup realizes her sweet Wesley is still alive. She tumbles after him, and the two are reunited…for a bit. Humperdinck is able to track them down, and imprison Wesley. He is tortured until he is mostly dead, and Buttercup is sent back to the castle where she is to be killed so that Humperdinck’s evil plan can continue.
Look for extraordinary performances by Mandy Patinkin, Billy Crystal, and André the Giant in a film guaranteed to entertain the whole family.
#2 The Goonies (1985)
As I said before, Hollywood is all about taking popular stories and retelling them with a twist. The number two comedy of the 1980 is also the second film on the list to try to cash in on the Indiana Jones trope. This time, Warner Brothers twists the archaeological treasure hunter into a group of kids looking for pirate booty. All the elements of Raiders are here. There is a map where “X” marks the spot, evil villains chasing the heroes, booby traps galore, a burgeoning romance, and one awesome Truffle Shuffle. I’m pretty sure that was in the Lost Ark, right? For a little boy in 1985, you couldn’t find yourself a better film.
#1 Caddyshack (1980)
Caddyshack is not just the greatest comedy of the 80s, it’s also the funniest sports movie of all time. Nothing comes close. This ensemble cast consists of comedic legends Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray. Michael O’Keefe, Bill’s brother, Brian; Cindy Morgan, and Sarah Holcomb turn in solid supporting roles. Besides the endless quotes taken from this film, the success of it helped transform Rodney Dangerfield into being seen as an actor instead of just a standup comedian. This film was also Harold Ramis’ directorial debut, and he would follow it up with movies like Stripes, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ghostbusters, and the more recent Knocked Up.
Caddy Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) works at the snooty Bushwood Country Club so that he can earn enough money to go to college. Judge Smails (Ted Knight) is an uptight co-founder of the club who is in charge of the Caddy Scholarship program, and Danny does his best to suck up to him to better his chances of getting the scholarship. Danny looks up to playboy Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), the son of one of the club’s co-founders. He doesn’t seem to do much other than to play golf…and never keep score. There is a gopher problem on the course, and Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) is put in charge of exterminating them.
When Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) shows up to play a round, Judge Smails loses his shit, and throws a putter, hitting another member. Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to suck up to the judge, Danny takes the blame. Elated, Smails encourages Danny to apply for the scholarship. He is able to win the Caddy Day golf tournament, and get the scholarship, but almost screws everything up when he sleeps with the judge’s horny niece, Lacey (Cindy Morgan).
Judge Smails gets into another argument with Al, and they eventually agree to a four person golf match for $20,000 a piece. It will be Al and Ty versus Judge Smails and Dr. Beeper to be held the next day. As word of the little competition spreads, the crowd watching it grows. Lou (Brian Doyle-Murray) is the referee for the match, and by the 9th hole, the Judge’s team is in the lead. His trash talking causes Al to offer a double or nothing bet. Once the Judge agrees, Al fakes an elbow injury, and Danny replaces him, which causes him to lose his scholarship. In the end, it comes down to one long putt by Danny to win the whole enchilada. He hits the ball, and it stops right before falling in the hole. As Judge Smails and Dr. Beeper celebrate, Carl sets the course aflame with a series of explosions to kill the gophers once and for all. The tremors cause Danny’s ball to fall in for the win.
Did I leave off any of your favorites? I might have thought they sucked, but leave a comment, and we shall see.