Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Favorite Films: Comedy Films From The 1980’s

I was going to do comedies but as I thought through my list, I realized that the 1980’s dominate this list, so I’m breaking out the 1980’s. What an amazing period for comedy! This list could be triple its current length.

1. Ghostbusters (1984): This is probably the top comedy film of all time. It does everything right, from having a great story to great characters to great dialog to great jokes.

2. Clue (1985): Vastly underappreciated at the time, this cult classic is both hilarious and one of the most clever comedies out there.

3. Airplane! (1980): This is one of the few movies that will have you laughing out loud from the opening frame until the ending and somehow it never gets old. This film is a real tour de force of screwball and verbal comedy.

4. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988): This is one of those rare films that just surprises you with how much you enjoy it as it twists and turns. It also combines the great Michael Caine with Steve Martin in the perfect role for him.

5. Trading Places (1983): This film feels like it captures everything you need to know about the 1980s and it’s just hilarious.

6. Police Academy (1984): I saw this last week again actually and I’m just amazed how well this film holds up. It’s characters are perfect, it’s situations are hilarious, and it’s jokes are hilarious.

7. Strange Brew (1983): What can I say except that this movie is all kinds of awesome. Seriously, a plan to take over the world from a brewery. Fantastic!

8. Naked Gun (1988): This film was like Airplane! with a plot and Leslie Nielson is perfect in this.

9. The Blues Brothers (1980): Great actors, iconic moments, amazingly quotable dialog and excellent music. What more can you ask for?

10. Coming to America (1988): Eddie Murphy was huge in the 1980s, but this was the one time he played a character with heart and it really pays off.

11. Fletch (1985): Chevy Chase at his best, as reporter Fletch, causing havoc as he solves an incredibly convoluted plot.

12. Spies Like Us (1985): This one kind of came out of the blue and it was just hilarious. Even today, with the Soviets no longer a threat, this film still feels somehow topical and funny. Chase and Akyroyd show real chemistry together.

13. Beverly Hills Cop (1984): Super well written story staring Eddie Murphy at his peak.

14. A Fish Called Wanda (1988): A sort of follow up to the Monty Python films, this was one of those films that won you over with some truly original characters and some hilarious twists.

15. Weekend At Bernie’s (1989): Movies like this never work, and yet this one works perfectly and it's got an amazing ironic-comedic feel.



AndrewPrice said...

BTW, for those who are interested, I've written a Young Adult story by request. :D Check it out if you're into that sort of thing:

Kiarra and the Singing Monsters

Tennessee Jed said...

this is a great list, but I'm too sleepy tonight to give it my best effort right now :) I'll try and concentrate on earlier decades. I know I liked The Parent Trap as a little kid, the Pink Panther, and the National Lampoon films, but I'm sure there a lot more. Some Like It Hot, and a lot of the Doris Day films, also come to Mind as do the early Woody Allen comedies.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, there are a lot of comedies I like from earlier as well, but the density of great comedies in this short period of time is truly amazing.

Tennessee Jed said...

to show you how tired I am, you are limiting this tom the 80's. I would add Ferris Bueller, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Caddyshack. Interesting, it is hard for me to think of them by decade.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I don't necessary see them by decade personally, I tend to group them by periods. And this period, which existed in the 1980s with a few in the early 1990s, was just an amazingly strong period for comedy. Compare that with the rarity of good comedies today for example.

Tennessee Jed said...

I agree, and your list is strong. I just can't remember if some of those I just listed actually were technically 80's films or not (like Fast Times or Ferris.) They seem like they were. One of the reasons it was so strong is some of those early SNL guys made some great films (Chevy Chase and Eddie Murphy for example.) Obviously some of the first ones I mentioned were not.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That seems to be the core of it. Look at how many of these films starred members of the original SNL. They were a special group and they made some truly strong films. There's nothing like that today as the later generation of SNL stars just weren't that good.

Anonymous said...

What, no Mannequin?!?!?! :-)

Wow! I agree with most of this list. Nice to see some love for Weekend at Bernie's and Spies Like Us. I love those movies.

Fletch is a movie I need to see again. It didn't make much of an impression on me the first time around. Kevin Smith is a big fan of the original books and tried to make a Fletch movie in the 90s with Jason Lee.

Despite being a fan of everyone involved, I couldn't get into Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at all.

As I wrote in my review a couple years ago, the first Police Academy film is oddly dated in a way the sequels aren't... and it's not directed very well. I consider the second film more consistently funny than this one.

Beverly Hills Cop IMHO isn't nearly as funny as its reputation suggests. Eddie Murphy makes it work, though.

I know you said the list could be much longer, but I would add Stripes, Caddyshack, This is Spinal Tap, at least one John Hughes film, and at least one Tom Hanks film (probably The Money Pit or Bachelor Party - both favorites).

As for SNL, it's the writing that's lacking. The performers are actually pretty good though with the exception of Kristen Wiig, I don't see anyone from the last few years becoming a big movie star. Bill Hader is a genius but he makes a better supporting player.

Floyd R Turbo said...

Great list,

1. Roxanne

2. Weird Science

3. Back to the Future

4. Secret of My Success

5. Major League

6. Ferris. Bueller's Day Off

7. Beverly Hills Cop

8. Broadcast News

9. Risky Business

Dave Olson said...

Some other gems that are worth mentioning:

History of the World Part I


Brewster's Millions

National Lampoon's Vacation

The Breakfast Club


Of all the movies that have been mentioned as of this comment, the only ones I haven't seen are Coming to America and Weekend at Bernie's, so I can't actually say that we have a perfect list so far. But I like every movie that has been mentioned, which IMHO means that good comedy isn't just in the eye of the beholder. If you did a list of "Great comedies of the 2000's", I'm guessing that The Love Guru wouldn't make the cut.

Dave Olson said...

As usual, I think of a film just after posting a comment: Midnight Run, a rare comedic turn for DeNiro, and vastly funnier than Meet the Parents or either Analyze movie.

Tennessee Jed said...

Beverly Hills Cop is an int4eresting sub-genre of comedy, and w/o research I cannot be certain if it represents one of the first or not. I am basically talking about "dramedy." Just as "rom-com" is a sub-genre, dramedies tend to cover non-funny plots in a humerous way

PikeBishop said...

What no love for "Planes Trains and Automobiles?" John Hughes proves he can write and direct a cast that doesn't need Clearasil. Superb performances by Steve Martin and the late great John Candy. a comedy of errors with a lot of heart. Some LOL moments that still hold up 25 years later.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Mannequin actually wasn't on my radar for this list. I thought it was ok, but not memorable.

On Police Academy, 2 is probably the better movie, but I just find 1 to be really funny.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, All excellent additions. Isn't it amazing how many great comedies there were right in that time period? Wow.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, All excellent additions as well. I love Midnight Run and would have added it to the list except there just wasn't enough room.

I suspect that a list from the 2000s would be hard-pressed to get to 10.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I know what you mean about how that film is more like a serious film with comedic elements than a comedy, but I'm not sure it's at all a first. A lot of older comedies play that way. In fact, looking back at Stir Crazy, for example, it's remembered as an hilarious comedy and yet it's almost entirely serious.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, That was never one of my favorites, though I recognize it's popularity.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

A lot of comedy/mix... Victor/Victoria comes to mind....

Straight up... forgot Weird Science, Sixteen Candles

Fletch was great. That first generation of SNL vets and the grwoth of group comedy in the 60s and 1970s (Second City, Groundlings, etc.) accounts for the explosion of comedies in the 1980s... plus the 1980s were a happier time than the 1960s or '70s -- a post Nixon/Ford/Carter explosion of happiness.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Arthur was good too.

I don't know how you count Back to the Future or Roger Rabbit, but they were great movies that had a lot of funny moments in them too.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, The other thing I would add is that the 1980s were just a good time. Everything was positive and people were looking for things to enjoy. Sad films wouldn't have sold.

These days, everyone is angry and depressed and looking for cynical films... even the comedies.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Blake Edward's "Skin Deep" starring John Ritter also had some hilarious moments in it -- a dramedy of sorts as well.

Tennessee Jed said...

I forgot one of my favorites which is borderline rom-com, but Bull Durham is a classic for anyone who has ever played baseball or followed a minor league team. "That ball got out of here so fast, it should have had a stewardess serving drinks" !

Backthrow said...

Good stuff (mostly). The writers/directors/performers were Boomers, which in this case means they were at their prime in the mid-1970s thru the early 1990s, and had one foot in the comedy and storytelling traditions of the past (actual gags/lines instead of ironic hipster randomness, good set-ups/payoffs), and the other in developing sharper and more satirical material than most of the vaudeville, slapstick and borscht-belt style humor that dominated movie comedy in the decades prior. Many of the SNL/SCTV alumni, plus John Hughes, came from the Harvard Lampoon and National Lampoon magazines and radio shows, and cross-pollinated with Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker, John Landis and the Monty Python crew on TV and in earlier films (Animal House, The Kentucky Fried Movie), so you had this unified comedy front sweeping through theaters in the 1980s, in addition to the usual one-off comedy hits that every decade produces. You could probably actually place the eara between the mid1970s and the early 1990s. A good 20 years' worth of comedy (that would also incorporate good comedy on TV... SNL, SCTV, Taxi, WKRP, Barney Miller, Night Court, etc), before everything largely fell off the cliff.

I'd add:

Top Secret!
Uncle Buck
Raising Arizona
Monty Python's Meaning of Life
A Fish Called Wanda
Crocodile Dundee
Used Cars
Easy Money
Back to School
Real Genius
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
The Man With Two Brains
Time Bandits
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Prizzi's Honor

Tennessee Jed said...

Prizzi's Honor, Backthrow! Now there is a great film that people don't tend to remember. I wonder why? It certainly was not low profile or under the radar.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, There were a lot of "under the radar" films like that which I really liked -- DC Cab, Doctor Detroit, Best Defense, Quick Change. Also liked Short Circuit.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I liked Bull Durham a lot, but I like Major League a lot more, so I always end up watching that one.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, Excellently diagnosed! In many ways, that's one of those historical accidents where they have a foundation in the past, but are willing to look for new things. It's rare that people have both.

Real Genius is a great film.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I just never really enjoyed it, honestly. It just didn't resonate with me for some reason... ditto on most Matthew Broderick films.

Tennessee Jed said...

perhaps it is an unrecognized aversion to Richard Condon. Personally, this one and Manchurian Candidate are the only two of his works with which I am familiar, and while it more recently came to light that he stole whole passages of "Candidate" from I Claudius, Still good plot, writing and cast never has been able to guarantee a film will resonate with people of good tasste and good will :)

AndrewPrice said...

LOL! I'll have to check my Condon hate level. ;-P Actually, I love The Manchurian Candidate.

Anonymous said...

Andrew - you know I was kidding about Mannequin, right? :-)

Has anyone mentioned Three Amigos yet?

Outlaw13 said...

Stripes. I was in the Army for 24 years and this film still makes me laugh. I don't find it disrespectful as a lot of service comedies tend to be and it's got some great lines.

Amazon Women on the Moon. An attempt to recapture the feel of Kentucky Fried Movie...not as successful but it did have some funny bits in it.

Splash! Would we know about Daryl Hanna if it weren't for this movie?

Innerspace. Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan pretty good stuff.

Anonymous said...

I put Innerspace, Back to the Future, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit in the sci-fi/fantasy genre... and all three are favorites. Innerspace is IMHO ridiculous under-rated and is my favorite Joe Dante film.

Erik in Texas said...

My personal favorite is Three Amigos, I can still watch it over and over again.

TJ said...

Some really good movies mentioned here. My favorites, in no particular order, are:

Better Off Dead
One Crazy Summer
Real Genius
Three Fugitives

Kit said...

A bit of an unrelated note: Actor Mickey Rooney has died at 93.

Anonymous said...

Kit -

Yeah, saw that. Sadly, all my friends and I could do was quote from his appearance on The Simpsons:

"You're good, Milhouse. Very good. Van Johnson good!"

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I thought "Mannequin" was your favorite film? :-P

"Three Amigos" is hilarious. Would you say I have a plethora?

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, "Stripes" is fantastic.

AndrewPrice said...

Erik, "Three Amigos" is a great film. It's hilarious.

AndrewPrice said...

TJ, Excellent additions! I love "Better Off Dead", "One Crazy Summer" and "Real Genius." I still owe you a review of that one.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I saw that. He's a guy I never saw much on film actually.

Dwizzum said...

A couple of ones that I did not see mentioned that were excellent. Porky's and Revenge of the Nerds.

Anonymous said...

I hate putting lists in order or limiting them to a specific number, so here are the tops comedies I can think of off the top of my head (and reading other peoples suggestions)...

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Uncle Buck
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Crocodie Dundee
Top Secret
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Back to School
Coming to America
Three Amigos
Revenge of the Nerds
Trading Places
Police Academy
The Blues Brothers
Major League
Spies Like Us
Weekend At Bernie’s
Brewster's millions

I left out quite a few movies that I didn't consider straight comedies like Beverly Hills Cop which is action/comdey or The Breakfast Club which is Drama/Comedy. Basically the comedy had to be the bigger part of the movie for me to list it, though I might have made a mistake or two.


AndrewPrice said...

Dwizzum, Nice additions!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Think about how many films that is in such a short period of time. I doubt there's another decade with even a fifth that many.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I agree.

The vast majority of my favourite films are from the 80s and 90s, but the 80s were the decade for comedies. Because of my age (I was six years old in 1980) I did not see a lot of these movies at the time, some of them I might not of seen until the 90s. But I saw them and love them and all of them have the feeling of being 80s movies without seeming to be dated, which is a reare thing.


Backthrow said...

I doubt there's another decade with even a fifth that many.

Well, the '80s were a strong comedy decade, to be sure, but I wouldn't necessarily go that far. I analyzed why I thought those comedies differed from before, but now I'll take a somewhat different tack.

The '30s, '40s and '60s had a lot of good comedies, both famous and lesser-known. I don't know exactly how the numbers would stack up, but I'm pretty sure each would have nearly comparable tallies, unless one watches essentially nothing pre-'80s. The '80s comedies listed were funny, but there's also a built-in bias for them in discussions like this because they were what a lot of us, particularly those of us in our 30s and 40s, grew up with. And the fact that things became so dire for movie comedy afterward. They were what was on, whereas a lot of comedies made prior to that, you'd have to go looking for to see or to even know about. Not because they're necessarily bad or unmemorable, but because time marches on, and those following the parade often have tunnelvision, and sadly, a lack of curiosity.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The 1980s had a great vibe to the films that I think went for enjoyability first and everything else second. That makes them very likable.

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