The Best of the Genre (By Decade): Top 25 80’s Comedies

This is to be the 2nd piece of a new series here at Grizzly Bomb. For each feature we will examine an individual genre and the quality of its films produced within a specific decade, like, for example – the 25 Best Action Movies of the 90s! These lists will be compiled from a point system determined by votes from each member of the staff. It’s very scientific. We use Excel. So here it is…

25. Throw Mama From the Train (1987)Comedies
24. The Great Outdoors (1988)
23. Sixteen Candles (1984)
22. A Christmas Story (1983)
21. Family Vacation (1983)
20. Big (1988)
19. Spaceballs (1987)
18. Trading Places (1983)
17. Coming to America (1988)
16. The Goonies (1985)
15. The Breakfast Club (1985)
14. Stripes (1981)
13. Three Amigos! (1986)
12. The Naked Gun (1988)
11. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

10. Caddyshack

Comedies

I expect that we’ll get at least one email complaining this wasn’t number 1 on the list, but such is the interweb. That being said though, Caddyshack’s inclusion was obviously a no brainer to be on this list. This is a movie that really helped kick off the whole decade, and produced some of the most oft-impersonated quotes in film history.  From Chevy Chase to Rodney Dangerfield to Ted Knight, this movie was a classic the minute it came out. It also features what is arguably Bill Murray’s most memorable role ever as he engages in guerrilla warfare with a gopher. Here we are over 30 years later and still, everyone remembers that gopher dancing to Kenny Loggins…

US Release: July 25, 1980
Director: 
Harold Ramis
Notable Cast: Chevy ChaseRodney DangerfieldTed KnightMichael O’Keefe,
Brian Doyle-Murray, and Bill Murray.
Oscar Wins/Nominations0/0
US Box Office: $39,846,344
Best Quote: “Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac… It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! ”
Trivia: The noise the Gopher makes are actually vocalized by a dolphin, and the dolphin sound effects used are the same ones that were used for Flipper.

9. Better Off Dead…

ComediesThis is probably the least watched movie on the list, and one of the big reasons for that was the fact it opened against Teen Wolf, and Michael J. Fox was unstoppable. So the first lead role for the then mostly unknown John Cusack bombed, and was for years relegated to late night showings on Comedy Central. That is where I first discovered it and it didn’t take long for me to get sucked in. The Howard Cosell races are my favorite parts, but Roy Stalin was as good an 80’s High School villain as you could ask for. Plus, find me another movie with this many attempted suicides, that turned out this funny. For the 80’s factor, they had a claymation hamburger come to live and sing Van Halen. Check and mate.

US Release: August 23, 1985
Director: Savage Steve Holland
Notable Cast: John Cusack, Curtis Armstrong, Diane FranklinKim Darby, Amanda WyssSteven Williams, and David Ogden Stiers.
Oscar Wins/Nominations0/0
US Box Office: $10,297,601
Best Quote: “Truly a sight to behold. A man beaten. The once great champ, now, a study in moppishness. No longer the victory hungry stallion we’ve raced so many times before, but a pathetic, washed up, aged ex-champion.”
Trivia: When Beth (Amanda Wyss) shows up at the high school dance, the person standing behind her is wearing Freddy Krueger’s sweater. Wyss played Krueger’s first victim in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

8. Planes, Trains & Automobiles 

ComediesOpening against strong box office competition in 3 Men and a Baby, this movie still managed to become a hit, pairing 2 of comedies biggest names at the time – Steve Martin and John Candy. This movie is a Holiday staple at my house – Best. Thanksgiving. Movie. Ever. Not only was it hilarious, but actually heart warming at the same time without being to cheesy. Martin is great as the straight man to Candy’s over the top, outwardly friendly shower curtain ring salesman who soaks his underwear in the sink. The pair seemed to gel so well on-screen that one can only assume had Candy not passed, they would’ve done another film together eventually. And no, before you ask, those are not pillows.

US Release: November 25, 1987
Director: John Hughes
Notable Cast: Steve MartinJohn CandyMichael McKeanMatthew LawrenceDylan BakerEdie McClurg and Kevin Bacon.
Oscar Wins/Nominations 0/0
US Box Office: $49,530,280
Best Quote: “You know everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You’re a miracle! Your stories have NONE of that. They’re not even amusing ACCIDENTALLY! ‘Honey, I’d like you to meet Del Griffith, he’s got some amusing anecdotes for you. Oh and here’s a gun so you can blow your brains out. You’ll thank me for it.’ I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They’d say, ‘How can you stand it?’ I’d say, ‘Cause I’ve been with Del Griffith. I can take ANYTHING.’ You know what they’d say? They’d say, ‘I know what you mean. The shower curtain ring guy. Woah.’ It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back – you would. Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh! And by the way, you know, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea – have a POINT. It makes it SO much more interesting for the listener! ”
Triva: At the beginning of the movie when Steve Martin races Kevin Bacon, is a direct reference to the scene in the movie Quicksilver in which the character played by Bacon is racing someone on a bicycle. Later, Neal phones his wife to tell her that he has been delayed (again), in the background, you can hear the fight from She’s Having a Baby (also directed by John Hughes) between Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern, when she screams that she doesn’t like his friend’s girlfriend.

7.  Christmas Vacation

I can’t think of a more ultimate Christmas movie (Shut Christmas Story fans.) than this Chevy Chase classic. Even aside from that I can still watch this movie any time of the year as a comedy too. The story follows Clark Griswold, a guy struggling to be the ultimate family man but usually failing throughout the movie until the end. This is the same Clark Griswold from the movies Vacation, European Vacation and if you have the stomach to remember it – Vegas Vacation.

Anyways Clark and his wife decide to have their parents over at their home for the holidays which both are dreading yet they feel obligated to do. Things really get interesting when Clark’s red neck, RV driving cousin Eddie and his rambunctious family show up at the Griswold house. Eddie was played to perfection in this film by Randy Quaid by the way. This movie embraces the Christmas spirit in a big way and also shows us why we hate having over extended family for the holidays too.

US Release: December 1, 1989
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Notable Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’AngeloJuliette LewisJohnny GaleckiE.G. MarshallDoris RobertsRandy QuaidWilliam HickeyJohn RandolphDiane Ladd, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US Box Office:  $71,319,526
Best Quote: Hey, if any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here, tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people, and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head. And, I want to look him straight in the eye and tell him: what a cheap, lying, no good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, bloodsucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-assed, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?”

Triva: The Griswold’s neighbor’s house is the same house Murtaugh and his family lived in all the Lethal Weapon movies. The houses on this street are on the Warner Brothers Studios back lot. Also, this was the final screen appearance of Mae Questel, whose film career began in 1930 as the voice of Betty Boop.

6. The Blues Brothers

Comedies

With a musical cast that includes Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway, and some of the best musicians to play on those artists’ albums, The Blues Brothers was an homage to all that was Rhythm and Blues through-out the 50s and 60s. Of course, it had an odd way of getting there: two white boys (Jake and Elwood Blues) are getting their band back together in order to raise money for the orphanage in which they grew up. They are on a mission from God. Hard to argue with that.

Along the way, the boys reassemble their band (an all-star cast of great studio musicians and Saturday Night Live Band members), are shot at repeatedly by a “mystery woman” (Carrie Fisher), piss off a country band called “Good Ol’ Boys” – AND Illinois Nazis are the catalysts to a record-breaking car chase into and through downtown Chicago.

What makes this a great comedy is a combination of the delivery of lines, the innuendo, and the simple ridiculousness of the plot. The mixture of audacity, satire, and love of music makes this John Landis film one of the best of the 1980s.  If you want to hear more of what Dan Aykroyd had to say about the incarnation of the film to the Chicago Tribune for the 30th anniversary of the film, click here.

Woman: Are you the police?
Elwood: No Maam, we’re musicians.

US Release: June 20, 1980
Director: John Landis
Notable Cast: John BelushiDan AykroydJames BrownCab CallowayRay CharlesAretha Franklin, Henry Gibson, John Candy, TwiggyFrank OzChaka KhanPaul ReubensSteven Spielberg, Steven Williams, Joe WalshJames AveryMr. T, and Carrie Fisher.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US/Total Box Office: $57,229,890/$115,229,890
Best Quote: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.”
Trivia: At time of release, this film held the world record for the number of cars crashed. Also, Carrie Fisher guest-hosted the SNL episode the Blues Brothers debuted in.

5. Airplane!

ComediesIn modern times where so much of our comedies rely on alcohol, drugs, and grotesque imagery to achieve notoriety, it’s refreshing to re-watch Airplane! This is another of our top ten 80s comedies to have a simply brilliant and accomplished cast, but the humor it uses is much more sophist—er—high minded—no, wait—downright silly.

The basic premise of Airplane! is that a commercial jet’s crew becomes ill mid-flight. Typically, this would end in disaster, and would then be included on Grizzly Bomb’s “Holy-Jeez-that-was-a-Depressing Movie of the 80s list”. Thank goodness that a hero-in-waiting is aboard: former military pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays)! While he has a drinking problem, and an emotionally unstable relationship with stewardess Elaine Dickinson (Julie Haggerty), he might have what it takes to land the doomed plane safely. That is, if he can deal with control tower supervisor Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges), Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen), and Striker’s former commander, Rex Kramer (Robert Stack). Oh, and by the way, the plane is filled with eccentrics and goofs. Good luck Striker!

What makes this flick deserving of the venerable five-spot on this list is its ability to satirize many of the conventions of proper social behavior. One way this shows itself is through simple puns (“Surely you can’t be serious.” “I am serious…and don’t call me Shirley). Another is by breaking down social barriers:

Young Boy with Coffee: Excuse me, I happened to be passing, and I thought you might like some coffee.
Little Girl: Oh, that’s very nice of you, thank you.
[takes coffee]
Little Girl: Oh, won’t you sit down?
Young Boy with Coffee: Cream?
Little Girl: No, thank you, I take it black, like my men.

And finally, you can’t beat a good old ridiculous moment:

Controller: Bad news. The fog’s getting thicker.
Johnny: [jumps to an overweight controller] And Leon is getting laaaaarrrrrger!

Take some time to acquaint (or re-acquaint) yourself with this classic 80s comedy.

US Release: June 27, 1980
Director: Jim AbrahamsDavid Zucker, & Jerry Zucker
Notable Cast: Leslie NielsenLloyd BridgesRobert StackRobert HaysKareem Abdul-JabbarBarbara BillingsleyPeter GravesOttoJonathan Banks, and Jimmie Walker.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US Box Office: $83,453,539
Best Quote: “There’s no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you’ll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?”
Triva: Lloyd Bridges spoofs his role as an airport manager  in the TV series San Francisco International Airport. Also, Robert Stack appeared as an airline pilot whose nerve fails him during an in-flight disaster in The High and the Mighty. Peter Graves appeared in a similar “airplane disaster” TV movie, SST: Death Flight.

4. The ‘burbs

Comedies

Perhaps one of the most under-rated movies of all time, this is truly Tom Hanks at his peak. Ignore the Academy, all those Oscars he later won were simply makeup calls for blowing it here. The ‘burbs, for those not in the know is a heroing story about 3 neighbors who ban together in an attempt to battle the evil that’s invaded their neighborhood, like Batman protects Gotham City, and Daredevil watches over Hell’s Kitchen – Ray, Art, and Rumsfield – they own their block. Well either it’s about that or it’s just a bunch of paranoid suburbanites who harass the new family on the block. The movie also features Corey Feldman at his best – in a Batman T-Shirt and Princess Leia maybe a few years past her prime…

US Release: February 17, 1989
Director: Joe Dante
Notable Cast: Tom HanksBruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, Rick DucommunCorey Feldman, Henry Gibson, Courtney GainsDick MillerRobert Picardo, and Nicky Katt.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US/Total Box Office: $36,601,993/$49,101,993
Best Quote: “I’ve never seen that. I’ve never seen anybody drive their garbage down to the street and bang the hell out of it with a stick. I-I’ve never seen that.”
Triva: The Klopeks named the dog “Landru”, probably after Henri Landru, a notorious French serial killer. Also, At the very beginning of the movie, when the camera starts to pan down the street, a street sign appears, “Mayfield Place.” Mayfield was the town where the Cleavers lived in Leave It to Beaver. The movie was filmed on the same lot.

3. Uncle Buck

ComediesWhen Bob’s family has a medical emergency he and his wife desperately call around for someone to watch their kids while they are away. When all options fail the duty is passed from them (reluctantly) to Bob’s brother…Buck.

Buck is a real stand up guy. He’s a bachelor (sorta) with a lovely apartment, loves to smoke fine cigars and place wagers on various horse races. Buck is unable to say no to his brother and soon finds himself as a caretaker to three children, one of whom is ever moody teenager who relishes in making his life hell. From making stove sized pancakes, threatening an elementary school principal and knocking out a drunken birthday clown this movie has it all. Thank you John Candy for bringing us Uncle Buck.

US Release: August 18, 1989
Director: John Hughes
Notable Cast: John Candy, Macaulay CulkinAmy MadiganGaby HoffmannLaurie MetcalfPatricia Arquette, and Anna Chlumsky.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US/Total Box Office: $66,758,538/$79,258,538
Best Quote: “Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face! Good day to you, madam.”
Triva: Danny DeVito was considered for the role of Uncle Buck.

Haha. Just kidding. That was terrible. Couldn’t get a decent copy of the real trailer, so instead here is my favorite part…

2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Comedies

Who didn’t want to be Ferris Bueller in the 80s? Little did we know he’d grow up to marry that horse from Footloose, but in his youth, he was as cool as they come. I mean come on, hot girlfriend, his best friend has Gordie Howe jersey, and he can hack into the school’s computer from a mid 80s home pc. That’s impressive for a guy who doesn’t even have a car. Ferris inspired those around him. Women wanted him, men wanted to be him. And around every turn he is able to outwit his nemesis Principal Pederast. Plus, he could talk to the camera years before Zack Morris found the ability. He was a trailblazer, Abe Froman would be so proud.

US Release: June 13, 1986
Directors: John Hughes
Notable Cast: Matthew BroderickAlan RuckMia SaraJeffrey JonesJennifer Grey, Edie McClurg, Charlie SheenBen Stein, Louie Anderson, and Kristy Swanson.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US/Total Box Office: $70,136,369
Best Quote: “Cameron has never been in love – at least, nobody’s ever been in love with him. If things don’t change for him, he’s gonna marry the first girl he lays, and she’s gonna treat him like shit, because she will have given him what he has built up in his mind as the end-all, be-all of human existence. She won’t respect him, ’cause you can’t respect somebody who kisses your ass. It just doesn’t work.”
Trvia: Anthony Michael HallEmilio EstevezRob LoweJohn CusackJim CarreyJohnny DeppTom CruiseRobert Downey Jr. and Michael J. Fox were all considered for the role of Ferris Bueller.

1. Ghostbusters

Comedies

So if you haven’t seen this great piece of Americana, be ashamed of yourself. There are no excuses.

Basic plot: Three doctors of psychology and parapsychology start their own business capturing ghosts around the New York City area. There has been a spike in paranormal activity, and the Ghost Busters are there to investigate. When they find that Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) has found herself in the center of all the activity, hell breaks loose…almost literally.

With a screenplay written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, two Second City alumni, you know that this film had no chance BUT to be funny. Add to that director Ivan Reitman (who had done Meatballs and Stripes just before), a stellar cast (with the incourageable Bill Murray), and special effects that can still hold up today: the result is the top of the proverbial 1980s comedy mountain.

This has to be one of the most quoted movies of all time, and its re-watch value is through the roof. Here’s your challenge: Try walking up to someone and saying, “He slimed me.” Ask them what it’s from. If they don’t know, educate them by giving them a copy of the movie. If they do know, you just made a friend. Go watch the movie together.

US Release: June 8, 1984
Director: Ivan Reitman
Notable Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie HudsonSigourney WeaverHarold RamisRick MoranisAnnie PottsWilliam Atherton, and Reginald VelJohnson.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/2 (Visual Effects, Original Song)
US/Total Box Office: $238,632,124/$291,632,124
Best Quote: “Yes it is. This man has no dick.”
Triva: The role of Winston was originally written for Eddie Murphy., the role of Peter Venkman was originally written for John Belushi, and the role of Louis Tully was originally written for John Candy.

So that is our list, I hope you enjoyed it.

Here are a few fun facts about the results…

MOST APPEARANCES IN THE TOP 25
1. John Candy (7 Movies)
2. Chevy Chase/Dan Aykroyd/Brian Doyle-Murray (4 Movies Each)
3. Bill Murray/Eddie Murphy/Michael Anthony Hall/Harold Ramis (3 Movies Each)

MOST FREQUENT DIRECTOR
1. John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Uncle Buck)
2. John Landis (Coming to America, ¡Three Amigos!, Trading Places, The Blues Brothers)
3. Harold Ramis/Ivan Reitman/David Zucker (2 Each)

MOST POPULAR YEAR
1. 1988 (4 Movies)
2. 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989 (3 Movies Each)
3. 1986 (2 Movies)
4. 1981 (1 Movie)
5. 1982 (0 Movies)

Now, just take a minute and vote in the poll below. Thanks dude!

Also check out our other Best of the Genre (By Decade)

9 thoughts on “The Best of the Genre (By Decade): Top 25 80’s Comedies”

  1. Great list, probably because I like every film on it. I’d change the order here and there and maybe replace a few. It’s hard to pick the top comedies for the ’80s because, well, there are so fucking many of them. Off the top of my head, some you were missing (from both list and poll) in no particular order:

    The Lost Boys (1987)
    A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
    Brazil (1985)
    The Sure Thing (1985)
    Raising Arizona (1987)
    Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
    Midnight Run (1988)
    48 Hrs. (1982)
    Say Anything… (1989)
    The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
    Weird Science (1985)
    Repo Man (1984)
    Fletch (1985)
    Stakeout (1987)
    Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
    Scrooged (1988)
    Red Heat (1988)
    The Night Before (1988)
    Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989)
    Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
    The Cannonball Run (1981)
    Gremlins (1984)
    Innerspace (1987)
    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
    The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
    Time Bandits (1981)
    After Hours (1985)
    Ruthless People (1986)
    The War of the Roses (1989)

    Like

    1. Only problem there is that The Lost Boys, Brazil, Big Trouble in Little China, 48 Hrs, Say Anything, The Return of the Living Dead, Red Heat, Little Shop of Horrors, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, and Time Bandits aren’t actually Comedies. They all have funny parts, but would be classified under other categories…

      Like

      1. Uh, who said that just because a movie can be classified into other categories that it is NOT a comedy? That’d be one very narrow definition of a comedy film. Not to mention we’d better start changing descriptions on Wikipedia and reclassifying films on IMDb. Oh, and we’d better start remaking these films so that they aren’t purposely designed to make people laugh. A comedy film that has sci-fi elements doesn’t negate the comedic element of it. Like how SPACEBALLS is a sci-fi/comedy/spoof? And BEVERLY HILLS COP is an action-comedy? And THE ‘BURBS is a borderline horror-comedy? And THE NAKED GUN is an action-parody-comedy? And AIRPLANE is a disaster-movie-spoof-comedy? And how THE BREAKFAST CLUB is a drama-comedy? And THE GOONIES is an adventure-comedy? And GHOSTBUSTERS is a science-fantasy-comedy?

        The only real difference between a film like SPACEBALLS and a film like BRAZIL is that the comedy in SPACEBALLS is right in-your-face, it’s extremely upfront and apparent about it. But, guess what, they’re both comedies. Because they’re both intended, both purposely designed, to make you laugh. Specifically, Mel Brooks and ZAZ films tend to be like that, very in-your-face; spoofs and parodies tend to be like that, because that type of humor pretty much relies on being obvious to generate laughs. Doesn’t mean they are any more or less of “comedy films” than others. They aren’t any more or less comedic than a dark comedy like HEATHERS which is NOT a spoof and therefore is not slinging the comedy in your face.

        It’s clear that all of the movies I listed have a primary goal (*a* primary goal doesn’t mean only goal) of making people laugh. The commenter above made a legitimate statement about how THE BREAKFAST CLUB functions as a drama. I think it’s a comedy. But you could argue TBC is a drama with funny parts. Yet, it’s on your list. You could argue THE GOONIES is an adventure film with funny parts. And, again, it’s on your list. How about BAD TASTE? Is that not a comedy because it happens to feature aliens and gore? You’d be wrong. How would 48 HRS. NOT be a comedy? So many of the exchanges between Murphy and Nolte are hilarious; you’ve got comedian and straight man. TROTLD isn’t scary. It’s pure hilarity. A movie like BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA has laughs from the get-go; seriously, if you can’t classify BIG TROUBLE as a comedy, you have no idea what you’re talking about. The whole movie is a laugh riot. John Carpenter could have easily turned that into a very dark fantasy, even horror type of a movie, but he didn’t.

        Like

        1. Obviously all movies fit into more than one category, but by including all the stuff you listed, you defeat the purpose of the list itself. You have to classify things for that reason and narrow the category. Movies are placed in the Genre that best fit. That’s why we’ve done several lists, for each genre. We did a TOP 25 List, and then you listed 27 additional movies. Many of which were listed in the early versions of the list. I ran a video store for 5 years, and we didn’t put multiple copies of movies all over the store to hit every category, you place it where it fits best.

          As for this…

          “Not to mention we’d better start changing descriptions on Wikipedia and reclassifying films on IMDb. Oh, and we’d better start remaking these films so that they aren’t purposely designed to make people laugh.”

          Drama Queen?

          Like

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