The 10 Funniest 80s Movies
This summer, one of the funniest 80s comedies is getting a makeover. Overboard, starring Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez, is a re-imagining of the classic 1987 MGM movie of the same name. It’s about a poor, working-class mother of three, Kate (Faris) and a snobby, wealthy playboy, Leonardo (Derbez). After Leonardo takes a spill over the side of his luxury yacht and develops amnesia, Kate convinces him that they’re married. But, how long can she keep it up? The roles in the remake have been gender-swapped from the original, where Goldie Hawn played the wealthy elite, and Kurt Russell the working-class hero.
The original film was well-received, and the on-screen charisma of Russell and Hawn only made the movie shine brighter along with its funny premise, and even funnier execution. Along with this movie, the 1980s was chock full of some of the most iconic and memorable movies of all time, many of them comedies. So, let’s take a look at the funniest comedies of the decade. These are straight laugh-inducing. Watching these are guaranteed to make you smile. (Movies that lean a bit far into drama, action/adventure, or horror have been left out. These are straight comedies, or as close as can be).
Written and directed by Jim Abrahams and David Zucker (The Naked Gun), this mock-up of Airport 1975 (and every other famous movie of the time) will keep you laughing throughout. The deadpan performances of Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, and Robert Stack only add to the zany things happening all around them. There are many instances that probably wouldn’t be considered PC (politically correct) in this day and age, but it doesn’t make them any less funny. In fact, it would be worth paying to see some younger folk’s reactions to a few of these jokes.
The fact is, you don’t have to know or even enjoy the game of golf to think this movie is funny. Often criticized for being nothing more than a collection of sketches surrounding a loose plot, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s all hilarious. Directed by Harold Ramis, and co-written by Ramis (with Brian-Doyle-Murray), this film tells of the shenanigans of a group of caddies, golfers, the rich elite, a groundskeeper, and a gopher. There’s also a couple sub-plots that really don’t matter. With arguably the most well-known performances by Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Ted Knight, this movie has a lot of funny going for it, which is nice.
While many films on this list are quotable, this particular movie probably has the most quotable lines by sheer volume. All hilariously exchanged with quick-fire tenacity and timing by its amazing ensemble cast, including Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Micheal McKean, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren, and Colleen Camp. Based on the popular board game, it’s also one of the best “whodunit” mysteries out there, often invoking Agatha Christie in certain parts. Directed by Jonathan Lynn (My Cousin Vinny), who collaborated with John Landis on the script, this movie is great for a group viewing. Word is, Hasbro has been trying to get a reboot off the ground for a few years with FOX and Ryan Reynolds.
Coming to America (1988)
Featuring director John Landis and star Eddie Murphy’s second successful collaboration of the decade, after Trading Places, this movie might be the funny pinnacle point for both. Prince Akeem wants to find a queen. One he can respect for her independence and intelligence. So he travels to Queens, New York (obviously), and forgoes his pampered lifestyle in order to meet a girl who enjoys him for him, much to the chagrin of his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) and the King, himself (James Earl Jones). This film actually started the prosthetic-driven Murphy films of the 1990s in which he plays multiple characters. A hit with critics and audiences alike, this film has grossed triple it’s estimated budget at the time — and with good reason.
This film was not only a comedic hit of the time, but it inspired a small phenomenon for paranormal investigations and eliminations involving cartoons, toys, a drink mix, toothpaste, fried pies, etc. Directed by Ivan Reitman and based on a story by Dan Aykroyd, and written by Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, this movie concerned three scientists (Aykroyd, Ramis, and Bill Murray) and a working-class spiritual layman (Ernie Hudson) hunting and trapping paranormal entities in New York City. Also boasting wonderful performances by Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, Rick Moranis, and William Atherton, this movie is hilarious. Even the scares are treated with a smirk. The original is still the best. Watch it on Neflix, along with the 1989 sequel, Ghostbusters 2.
I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)
A parody of blaxploitation films of the 1970s, starring, written, and directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans. A young hero (Wayans) returns to his corrupt neighborhood and brings together every famous local hero from the past (Bernie Casey, Issac Hayes, Jim Brown) to fight against the evil Mr. Big (John Vernon). At times very over-the-top and slap-sticky (much like Airplane! or The Naked Gun), this film also has some of the funniest lines of the time. While the more recent Black Dynamite fully emulates the 1970s style of film making to comedic effect, this one just laughs at it, along with making fun of many action-hero conventions of the time. Also, Bernie Casey could recite children’s limericks and it would still be bad-ass.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Again, directed by Harold Ramis and based on a story by John Hughes about his own family trip to Disneyworld. This role by Chevy Chase is equally as iconic as his role in Caddyshack, according to many. It concerns a “great American family road trip” which is completely botched from the start. Anyone with a family (which is most people) can identify with this movie. Beverly D’Angelo plays the mother opposite Chase’s father of the Griswold family. Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron play the kids, Rusty and Audrey. It’s a road movie. It’s a family movie. It’s a friggin’ funny movie.
The Money Pit (1986)
Starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, this remake of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) is a laugh riot. Some of the best slapstick and physical comedy of the times. Anyone who’s ever bought or rented a terrible place to live can relate to the premise of a young couple who get a house too good to be true (because it is.) A very quick romp, and while it may get serious for a brief time, the laughs fully outweigh it. Available on Netflix streaming right now, if you have an hour and a half and need a guaranteed laugh.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
The mocku- sorry! I meant Rockumentary about Britain’s now-legendary band, Spinal Tap. If you haven’t seen this, you’re frankly doing yourself a disservice. Even if you don’t like rock ‘n’ roll, this movie is hysterical. The improvised delivery of Micheal McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer as the infamous band’s members has yet to be matched in any other film of it’s type. Even when this movie is silly, it’s always played straight, and that is why it still holds up now. Directed by Rob Reiner, this movie made the “mockumentary” format famous and its influences are still felt in Guest’s own future work (Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind) and the recent Taran Killam film, Killing Gunther.
Weekend At Bernie’s (1989)
Why this film hasn’t been turned into a Broadway musical by now is anyone’s guess. To be perfectly blunt, this movie is funny because it COULD NOT be made, now. It is very sick. But, it’s also a perfect commentary on wealthy socialite narcissism, and makes fun of corporate greed. Starring Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman as two eager businessmen, and Terry Kiser as the title character, Bernie, and directed by Ted Kotcheff (First Blood) there are scenes which are ridiculously funny, but also completely macabre if you really stop and think. In fact, taken out of context of the plot, there are scenes which are downright horrific. But, that’s the brilliance of it. Oh, and don’t worry about the sequel. Really. Don’t.
Any movies you wish had made the list? Tell us in the comments.