Coming up with a list of the top 10 funniest movies of the 80s was a huge challenge. Not only were there a plethora of quality comedy films produced during that decade, but there were a number of movies that have comedic content simply because they were filmed in the 80s, and there are few things about that decade that aren’t funny. I’ve delved through the archives and tried to find the best of the best from the decade of humor, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job. However, if there is a glaring omission or a hidden gem that I’ve missed then please feel free to chastise me in the comments. Here are my picks for the best comedy films of the 80s:
10 – Beverly Hills Cop – Though Eddie Murphy is best known by today’s generation as Donkey from the hit animated comedy Shrek and its sequels, this young, black standup comedian who offended Bill Cosby with his stand-up performances in Delirious and Raw really burst onto the scene with the 1984 smash hit Beverly Hills Cop. Murphy played a young Detroit cop who gets in trouble with the force at home and ends up taking a vacation to Los Angeles. However, Murphy’s cop instincts quickly get the better of him, and he ends up in even more hot water than he was in back home. Murphy’s comedic timing and his signature laugh had audiences howling. The movie also featured a great soundtrack with songs like Neutron Dance by the Pointer Sisters, The Heat Is On by Glenn Frey, and Axel F by Harold Faltermeyer. Beverly Hills Cop also spawned a couple of sequels, but neither one lived up to the original. This legendary 80s comedy film was so popular that it still ranks #56 all time in terms of domestic box office take with over $230 million.
9 – The Princess Bride – This is one of those comedic gems that not a lot of people saw and thus may not be on everyone’s radar as one of the funniest movies of the 80s. Cary Elwes is perfect in the main role as Westley, who moves Heaven and Earth to get his kidnapped bride to be, played by Robin Wright Penn, back. Great supporting roles abound in this cult 80s classic film. Mandy Patinkin plays the unforgettable swordsman Inigo Montoya, who stars first as a villain and engages Westley in one of the best sword duels in cinematic history, then later as a hero, helping Westley regain his love while avenging his father’s murder. The late Andre the Giant showed a surprising penchant for comedic acting as Fezzik. Billy Crystal has a cameo appearance as Miracle Max and despite his limited screen time manages to nearly steal the show. Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Fred Savage and Peter Falk also lend their talents to the film, and every character as spot on. The Princess Bride remains a classic to this day, and is fully deserving of a spot on the list of the top 10 comedies of the 80s.
8 – Planes, Trains & Automobiles – The late great comedy great John Candy stars alongside the incomparable Steve Martin in this classic 80s buddy movie. Candy plays the unintentionally abrasive Del Griffith, a shower curtain ring salesman who presses Neal Page’s (Martin’s character) buttons as the pair take a meandering journey together in an attempt to get home for Christmas. The movie evokes non-stop laughter, and Martin, usually the goofy comedian, is brilliant as a straight man in this role. Candy had many great comedies in the 80s including Vacation, The Great Outdoors, Spaceballs and more. Expect to see his name again on this list of the funniest movies of the 80s.
7 – The Naked Gun – From The Files Of Police Squad! – John Candy wasn’t the only Canadian actor making audiences howl in the 80s. Leslie Nielsen really made his name as a comedic star with his role in the classic spoof hit Airplane! and he followed up that success by landing the lead role as Detective Frank Drebin on the cop show parody Police Squad. The show had so much potential that it made the jump to the big screen a few years later. The influence of Airplane! is very much apparent in all of the Naked Gun movies with sight gags and plays on words playing a large part in the humor. Looking back this movie had a pretty strange cast with the late Ricardo Montalban playing the villain, Priscilla Presley playing Drebin’s love interest, and O.J. Simpson playing his sidekick. Despite the strange casting choices the movie just works. Do yourself a favor and rent this 80s comedy film again. I promise you’ll laugh the whole way through.
6 – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Though he had previously starred in films like Ladyhawke and WarGames it was unquestionably Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that launched Matthew Broderick’s career, and at least temporarily turned him into one of the hottest commodities in Hollywood. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is not only one of the funniest movies of the 80s, but is on many people’s lists as one of the top 10 movies of the 80s in any genre. It is one of those rare movies that is so quotable that lines from the movie can still be heard in conversations today, almost 23 years after the release of the movie.
5 – Vacation – Chevy Chase was another comedic heavyweight in the 80s, following up on his immense popularity on Saturday Night Live with a string of comedy hits including Caddyshack, Spies Like Us, and Fletch. Any of those three movies could easily have cracked the list of the top 10 funniest movies of the 80s (and you’ll have to read on to see if they did), but it was Chevy Chase’s performance in the Vacation movies that he is really remembered for. Chase is absolutely hilarious as the well-meaning, but bumbling Clark Griswold, who takes his family on an epic cross country journey to Wally World in an attempt to bring them closer together. Things look bleak for Griswold as only manages to further estrange himself from his wife, played by Beverly D’Angelo. An ill-advised motel pool skinny dip with Christie Brinkley does nothing to help this situation. Griswold’s children, Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron) become increasingly embarrassed by their dad’s antics, and any father watching the movie can only cringe at Clark Griswold’s parental gaffs. The movie pushes the boundaries of common decency with the death of a dog and a mother-in-law and a visit to Clark’s inbred relatives, but despite the content the movie produces laughs throughout. Chase would go on to make 2 more Vacation movies in the 80s, including the Christmas classic Christmas Vacation, but in my opinion it is the original that evokes the most laughter.
4 – Caddyshack – Back to back appearances for Chevy Chase on the list of the funniest comedy movies of the 80s. Caddyshack is one of the all time classic comedy movies from any decade, and would likely be at number one on many other people’s list. Chase has plenty of comedic help in this film with Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight and Bill Murray bringing plenty of laughs themselves. Another movie with a number of legendary quotes, Caddyshack lives on in pop culture to this day, and many people I know still pop this movie in at least once a year to relive the glory of the 80s.
3 – Ghost Busters – Much like Chevy Chase, Bill Murray translated his success on Saturday Night Live to a very successful comedy movie career in the 80s, starring in hits like Stripes, Tootsie and Scrooged, and a pair of Ghost Busters movies that raked in a mountain of cash at the box office. Ghostbusters had no shortage of comedic talent to back up Murray with legendary comic and fellow SNL alum Dan Akroyd and SCTV veteran Rick Moranis playing major roles. Sigourney Weaver also does a great job as Murray’s (Peter Venkman’s) love interest, and Harold Ramis plays a great straight man as fellow Ghost Buster Dr. Egon Spengler. The special effects and production value of this movie is through the roof compared to many 80s movies. One of the best movies of the 80s in any genre.
2 – Airplane! – One of the funniest movies of all time, and the movie that defined the parody genre, and I’ve got it at number two on the list of the top 10 funniest movies of the 80s? I will certainly understand if there is any backlash over this controversial decision. Airplane! is one of the most quotable films in cinematic history, and the performances by Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Leslie Nielsen are some of the funniest of all time. Yes, this movie has all the qualities to be named the funniest movies of the 80s, or perhaps all time, but I am going to let personal opinion sway me just a little on this one. Read on to see what movie I chose as the funniest comedy of the 80s.
1 – Fast Times At Ridgemont High – It is hard to believe that a critically acclaimed, Oscar-winning dramatic actor with anger management issues once played the happy-go-lucky stoner Jeff Spicoli in this legendary 80s comedy. Since its release in 1982 Fast Times At Ridgemont High has become a cult classic and characters like Spicoli and Mr. Hand are still quoted on a regular basis more than a quarter century after the movie’s release. Judge Reinhold’s self pleasuring scene remains an iconic moment in comedy movie lore, and watching the scene today still conjures empathetic cringing embarrassment for any guy who can imagine himself in Reinhold’s shoes. Yes, this might be a controversial choice, but I stand by it. Fast Times At Ridgemont High is the funniest movie of the 80s.
Honorable mention for movies that didn’t quite crack the top 10 funniest movies of the 80s: Better Off Dead, Space Balls, Top Secret, Real Genius, Big, A Fish Called Wanda, Fletch, and Beetle Juice. Hmmmm, perhaps I should have made this a top 20 list.