Comedy movies dominated the 1980s. The 1970s was the decade when comedy movies broke down barriers regarding what was previously taboo for comedy. As time went on, comedies pushed the boundaries of comedy to introduce humor into genres that had never been suitable for comedy – disaster movies, science fiction, documentaries, etc. Once studios saw how successful these comedies were with audiences when box office receipts came in, they were more willing to create comedies with higher budgets and more inventive concepts.
The list does not include all of the best 1980s comedies, so hopefully a discussion of them can continue below in the comments. While we explore these endearing movies from the ’90s, let’s wax nostalgic together.
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An all-star cast including Alec Baldwin, Jeffrey Jones, Geena Davis, Catherine O’Hara, Michael Keaton, and Winona Ryder, a hilarious fantasy film, and Tim Burton’s direction, made this a comedy classic. Almost everyone knows this movie, and Keaton’s Beetlejuice is a perfect example of a character who balances humour and meanness perfectly. In spite of this, Beetlejuice has often been overlooked as a comedy due to its creepy elements overshadowing more recognized films in the genre.
The goofy comedy Caddyshack brings together so much comedic royalty, including Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Michael O’Keefe, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray (whose brother Brian Doyle-Murray, along with Ramis and Douglas Kenney, co-wrote the script).
The film tells the story of Danny Noonan (O’Keefe) who works as a caddie at Bushwood Country Club, a krusty and smart-alecky club. He signs on to caddy for a club member who is both influential and outstanding, Judge Elihu Smails (Knight), as well as preparing for the high-pressure Caddy Day golf tournament. In the absence of Ty Webb (Chase), our hapless hero would be lost without his New Age-y aphorisms like “Be the ball.”
The episodes of Caddyshack feel rejected sitcom scenarios and are more than a tad derivative, but the slapstick, OTT characters, and continuous stream of zingers and one-liners from all involved make it both a classic sports satire and an early 1980s comedy classic.
The Blues Brothers
In a movie filled with classic tunes, humor, and many, many car crashes, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi brought their blues-loving duo to the big screen after developing them on Saturday Night Live. Before he passed away in 1982, this was one of Belushi’s last movies. Saturday Night Live’s spinoff The Blues Brothers remains one of the best movies ever made.
One of those long-lost 80s films worth revisiting is this one about two people swapping lives or bodies. Eddie Murphy plays a poor street hustler opposite Dan Aykroyd as a wealthy commodities broker. Bets are made between the two to see how they would fare under each other’s circumstances.
There’s plenty of hilarity as a result, thanks largely to the two amazing leads. In fact, Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder originally intended to play those roles. While it was a film of its time, there were some questionable racial jokes and language used.
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
Warner Brothers commissioned Paul Ruebens to write Pee-Wee Herman, a feature film based on his strange stage show at the Groundlings theater. It sounds strange, but Reubens was inspired by Italian neorealist innovator Vittorio De Sica (specifically his celebrated film, The Bicycle Thief), who wrote one honey of a nonconformist comedy. Tim Burton, a former Disney animator who wanted to try his hand at live-action features, was the perfect director for the film.
In addition to anticipating the long-running subversive Saturday morning show Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (1986-1990) as well as its sequels, Big Top Pee-Wee (1988) and Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday (2016), this live action cartoon also introduced Tim Burton to audiences.
The film was brilliantly funny, stunningly silly (in a good way), and filled with quotable lines.
The best Chevy Chase role in 1989 was National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which is what comes to mind when people think of Chevy Chase in the 80s. The neo-noir comedy thriller he appeared in during the decade was also a popular movie during the decade. After a millionaire offers Chase a ridiculous sum of money in order to kill a wealthy man with terminal cancer, Chase accepts the offer.
The man turns out not to be ill at all, and “Fletch’s own life is endangered as he digs deeper. The movie’s comedic tone might be overlooked because of its ominous tone. In spite of its underrated status, this is one of the decade’s best comedies.
80s action movies are definitely a must-watch. However, choosing the best ones can be a little frustrating. You can use this post in that regard. Let us know which movie did you end up watching in the comments below.