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37 Lighthearted 1980s Comedies We Need Right Now

Posted 2020/05/30 0


Now, more than ever, we need to escape through film, and today’s movies aren’t so effective at tuning out harsh reality. Everything is, for the most part, heavy, raw, dark, and overly based in very real trauma. No decade or genre of film encapsulated lighthearted escapism quite like 80s comedies. They had a sort of goofy charm and lack of grit that’s seldom seen in modern film. Sure, many movies, like the works of John Hughes, touched on real world, personal issues, but these themes were tackled in a lighter fashion, with more innocent humor injected to ease the weight of misery. Look at Hughes’ Pretty in Pink, for example: the film deals with a confused, teen girl lost and in search of her place, while her out-of-work, depressed father wallows around the home making no effort to get his act together. While that may sound heavy on paper, not once throughout the movie are you forced into sickness over a character’s despair, nor are you left dejected following the movie’s conclusion.

The comedies of John Hughes and other notable 80s writers and directors did cover relatable struggles – films have to – but they were packed with laughs throughout and usually drenched in hope. These were the days before everything was a pretentious indie dramedy or an over-the-top blockbuster action flick that has a couple jokes squeezed in. We need to revisit the decade of family vacations gone awry, dorks fighting to find identity, and slapstick slobs vs. snobs ventures. Everybody could use a Chevy Chase or John Candy outing. For that reason, I’ve compiled some of the very best lighthearted 80s laugh riots into one list.

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Synopsis: The Griswolds, an All-American family, take a trip to Wally World amusement park, though the journey proves to be more than they bargained for.

Based on a John Hughes short story originally published in The National Lampoon, and Hughes’ second attempt at screenwriting after an early misfire with the underwhelming horror-comedy Class Reunion, National Lampoon’s Vacation was Hughes’ original hit that gave him the name and freedom necessary to keep making heartfelt, hysterically funny films. Christmas Vacation usually gets coined the best of the vacation franchise, but Vacation is the funniest (and the darkest.) While a somewhat dark movie should have no place on a lighthearted comedies list, Vacation is silly and fun despite its tasteless themes, and that’s a testament to Hughes’ writing and Harold Ramis’ directing. Who else could make adultery, teen drug use, and senile death seem so goofy?

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

Synopsis: A man faces every challenge imaginable while trying to make it home for Thanksgiving, accompanied by an uncouth stranger who sells shower curtain rings for a living.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is both essential Thanksgiving viewing and a masterpiece. It’s as much of a tearjerker as it is a laugh riot, and that’s hard to accomplish. John Candy brings the heart and raunchiness, while Steve Martin supplies dickish dry wit, making them an unmatched comedic pair in what pans out to be a super funny buddy comedy with an immense amount of charm. Until you rewatch this one, you forget how many classic lines are strewn throughout. We fondly remember it, but don’t give it rightful credit for just how sharp the writing is. A Planes, Trains, and Automobiles revisit also goes to show how we’ve collectively lost sight of how funny bodily noises can be. There’s so much phlegm in this film – and it holds up.

Funny Farm (1988)

Funny Farm (1988)

Synopsis: A yuppie couple’s move from the city to the country doesn’t go as smoothly as they had planned.

When we think “Chevy Chase” we think Vacation, Fletch, or how notoriously insufferable offscreen he’s been labeled to be, but we hardly think of Funny Farm. It’s a mostly forgotten uproariously funny gem, and above average fish-out-of-water story. I’ll admit, although I’m including it I can’t claim it’s anything extraordinarily brilliant. Funny Farm has a fairly standard 80s comedy plot, but Chevy’s at his best in it; there’s a relationship to get invested in, and there are enough funny moments and kooky characters to make it re-watchable yearly.

Caddyshack (1980)

Caddyshack (1980)

Synopsis: All isn’t usual at an upscale country club, as an abrasive new member joins and a destructive gopher terrorizes the course.

Caddyshack is more a hodgepodge of great sketches than it is a coherent film, but with so many brilliant names involved it really couldn’t have gone any other way. Chevy plays it mostly straight and sarcastic, which is where he shines. Bill Murray breaks out his improv skills in what amounts to stupid perfection. Ted Knight excels in his angry, rich prick role, and last but so far from least, Rodney Dangerfield is free to be his cartoonish, one-liner-slinging self. It took some time, but Caddyshack rose to be an undisputed cult classic, and perhaps the greatest sports comedy ever made. Unfortunately, it was National Lampoon pioneer Doug Kenney’s last project, and one he didn’t have the opportunity to see become beloved.

The Great Outdoors (1988)

The Great Outdoors (1988)

Synopsis: A Chicago man’s serene family vacation is crashed by his obnoxious in-laws.

The Great Outdoors is cherished by many, yet there’s debate as to whether or not it’s a classic (it is.) I don’t frequently see or hear it listed among “the funniest movies of all time,” but it’s up there, and family-friendly for that matter. While I like seeing John Candy carry the comedic weight of a film, Dan Akroyd does most of the heavy-lifting here while Candy takes a backseat and emits warmth. Candy being more serious isn’t a fault, considering Dan Akroyd is at his zaniest in The Great Outdoors, and largely responsible for it being such a laugh-packed movie. Although writer John Hughes wedges in a fairly useless teen romance (because he’s John Hughes,) The Great Outdoors is still a darn-near perfect joyful outing.

Fletch (1985)

Fletch (1985)

Synopsis: News reporter Fletch is offered a large sum of money to kill a cancerous millionaire, though it becomes clear there’s more to the story.

Chevy Chase flexes his character-acting ability in Fletch, and does a great job, but it’s the beautifully-crafted wisecracks that made this such a hit. The success of Fletch spurred a surprisingly strong sequel, Fletch Lives, which is superb as far as 80s comedy sequels go. They’re both worth a watch or revisit, but Fletch is worthy of inclusion in an all-time greatest comedy lists. Chevy’s snarky as ever, which is right where he needs to be.

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Synopsis: A girl’s family forget about her sixteenth birthday, which turns out to be far more eventful than she could have anticipated.

Sixteen Candles has been resurfacing in discussion in recent years, and not out of respect. Many seemed to be shocked by (or fabricating shock about) the racy material and jokes. It’s a pretty tame movie, save for the moderately racist Long Duk Dong, and slightly rapey behavior of Anthony Michael Hall’s character. People seem to be forgetting 2 facts: This was the early 80s, when racial cracks were fair game, and you simply can’t “cancel” a John Hughes classic. I recommend not reading a history book if you’re offended by what took place decades ago. Furthermore, this is John Hughes’ writing we’re talking about – Nothing wasn’t written out of hate or maliciousness. You know what they say, though – one man’s lighthearted fun is another man’s trauma. If you take Sixteen Candles with a grain of salt and understand it was a very different time, you’re in for a fun ride.

The ‘Burbs (1989)

The 'Burbs (1989)

Synopsis: The residents of an everyday suburban neighborhood collectively become convinced their new neighbors are part of a murderous cult.

Joe Dante made a horror-comedy masterpiece with The ‘Burbs. It’s darkly bizarre enough to be *almost* genuinely eerie in moments, but it never strays from its hysterical roots. The ‘Burbs is flat out smart and funny, with remarkable comedic performances from Bruce Dern and Rick Ducommun. Ducommun really steals the spotlight as the oafish neighbor Art Weingartner, and one could argue the late actor wasn’t used in enough films. Beyond being comedy gold, The ‘Burbs is also a fairly poignant and accurate look at the goings on of suburban life: People in one another’s business, concocting outlandish rumors solely because they have nothing better to do. This is a flick for those who grew up in suburbia, Tom Hanks fans, and anyone who enjoys a well-made, individualistic funny flick.

Uncle Buck (1989)

Uncle Buck (1989)

Synopsis: A couple, unable to find a last-minute babysitter, call upon slacker Uncle Buck to look after their angsty teenage daughter and her two cute siblings.

John Candy’s most notable role in a career full of notable roles, Uncle Buck is the pinnacle of lighthearted comedy. If there were ever a movie to describe as “comforting,” it’s this. Candy radiates a sort of cosiness that reels you in, yet he delivers some fireball lines as well. Uncle Buck is a delight. It’s an aptly surface-level look at the tense dynamic of the middle-american family, and a very light examination of the fun-loving man who can’t ambitiously commit to anything. Most of all, it’s engrossing and comical along the way.

Stripes (1981)

Stripes (1981)

Synopsis: Two friends, unhappy with their jobs, decide to join the army to spice things up.

Harold Ramis was responsible for writing some of the funniest films ever, though he didn’t appear in a great deal of those movies. Stripes goes to show just how much charm he could bring to the screen. Bill Murray excels here in textbook Murray fashion, being too charismatic for his own good. Plus, who could argue with an outrageous John Candy bit part? Stripes stands out mostly due to the cast, although it tells a pretty farfetched, fun story. It isn’t very realistic, but who the hell wants raw reality in an 80s comedy?

Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984)

Synopsis: Three former parapsychology professors start a ghost removal service.

It seems almost silly and pointless to give Ghostbusters a write-up, given its impact and status. The question is, does Ghostbusters warrant its empire and lifelong diehard fanbase? For sure. You’d be pressed to find better chemistry among an all-star comedy cast. Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, and Harold Ramis were at the top of their individual and collective games in Ghostbusters, and it’s one of the few movies in which Akroyd was given the chance to be as good as he was.

Trading Places (1983)

Trading Places (1983)

Synopsis: Two millionaires place a bet that reverses the lives of an uptight investor and a street hustler.

Speaking of Dan Akroyd, Trading Places is a well-written, laugh-filled wild ride in which the duo of Akroyd and Eddie Murphy get to showcase their true comedic chops. It’s also one of the few great films set in Philly, and that earns it quite a few bonus points for me. Trading Places hasn’t aged a bit, and it’s where I’d steer someone if they’re seeking either a great Akroyd or Eddie Murphy role.

Weird Science (1985)

Weird Science (1985)

Synopsis: Two nerds use their computer to create a real-life perfect woman, who drastically changes their lives.

Anthony Michael Hall plays second or third fiddle in a few of John Hughes most noteworthy teen flicks, but Weird Science is a rare opportunity for him to run the show, and he does a phenomenal job at it. I personally would mark this one of the most underrated comedies out there, and I’d go even further in labelling Hall as one of the best comedic actors we’ve ever seen – sadly he doesn’t often receive that praise, and he almost entirely disappeared following his run in the 80s. That’s the unfortunate price one pays for being a talented teen actor: People recognize you as a funny, likeable adolescent; thus they aren’t entirely comfortable seeing you age. Regardless, Anthony Michael Hall’s in full, smooth yet dorky shtick in Weird Science, an over-the-top excessively 80s movie that’s way funnier than it’s given credit for. The bar scene in particular is worth looking up.

Airplane (1980)

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Synopsis: A man, traumatized by his past piloting experience, must ensure a plane safely lands after all the pilots fall ill.

It goes without saying, but David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams broke ground when they wrote and directed Airplane! in 1980. 3 Jewish kids from Miluakee, locally known for writing and creating uniquely funny sketches, were given their shot and they pioneered a new style of comedy. Of course, their film debut was with Kentucky Fried Movie, a John Landis-directed series of sketches, which didn’t leave nearly the mark Airplane! did. Prior to Airplane!, we knew the joke-ridden, zany satire of Mel Brooks, but never before had we seen dramatic actors spewing whacky lines so straightly. The Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams began the new trend in satire – hammering audiences with as many jokes and puns as possible throughout an otherwise straight narrative. It’s amazing to think the film began with a melodramatic made-for-tv movie that they decided to rewrite as a comedy.

Top Secret! (1984)

Top Secret! (1984)

Synopsis: An American rock star gets involved in a resistance plot to rescue a scientist being held captive in East Germany.

Although Airplane! is more widely known, Top Secret! just might be the funniest work from Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers. Despite some of the political jokes being dated, it’s everything the trio are known for – an insane ratio of jokes per minute, endlessly quotable lines, and some of the wackiest bits committed to screen. As an added bonus, you get to see Val Kilmer looking young and normal.

Back to School (1986)

Back to School (1986)

Synopsis: A fun but abrasive businessman enrolls in his son’s college to help lighten the experience.

Rodney Dangerfield was at his rowdiest in Caddyshack, but Back To School is where he stars as his true self – locked and loaded with one-liners, sordid yet impossible to dislike, and ultimately full of life. Back to School is the 80s comic absurdity you crave with a snug story snuck in; not to mention the entry-level character development necessary to give you something to get invested in. There’s also a rare Sam Kinison performance that’s very much just his stage character, but in a classroom. This movie’s a chance to see 2 late-comic legends doing what they do, without a microphone and with a narrative.

The Naked Gun (1988)

The Naked Gun (1988)

Synopsis: Inept police detective Frank Drebin must stop an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II.

The comic genius of Leslie Nielson in Airplane! had to parlay into more comedic ventures, and it did with the short-run series Police Squad! Years after the 6-episode series came The Naked Gun, in which the jokes fire almost too quickly to keep up with, and the level of slapstick is unrivaled. What’s amazing is it all works. Nearly every one of the hundreds of jokes lands. Countless filmmakers tried to copy the Zucker brothers and Jim Abraham’s style in their own slew of parody films, more often than not to complete failure, which makes The Naked Gun all the more respectable. Nothing’s to be taken seriously – an approach virtually nonexistent in modern filmmaking. Even more impressively, the sequels are effective at what they’re trying to accomplish as well.

Spaceballs (1987)

Spaceballs (1987)

Synopsis: A pilot and his cat sidekick are coerced into saving a princess, which turns into them protecting the galaxy from a race of evil beings known as Spaceballs.

Mel Brooks had solidified himself as a satire legend and genuinely ingenious comedy writer prior to Spaceballs. He already tackled westerns, monster movies, and the works of Alfred Hitchcock. With Spaceballs, he took on satirizing the greatest force in pop culture, and a greater number of folks than ever loved him for it. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a Star Wars fan to understand and enjoy it. Spaceballs is a comedy lover’s dream – a parody with a killer cast, witty quips, and enough nonsense to avoid the highfalutin ballpark. If you’ve ever wanted to see John Candy play a cat named “Barf,” this is your only shot. It’s also one of the few opportunities to watch Rick Moranis in full comedic form.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Synopsis: Ferris Bueller, the coolest guy in school, is determined to enjoy his day of hooky while the fed-up principal does everything in his power to stop it.

Decades later, Ferris Bueller is still the pinnacle of cool. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a timeless teen’s dream from the mind of John Hughes. He’s been mentioned a lot throughout this list, but Ferris Bueller is arguably the finest example of how impactful a film he can make. It’s funny, touching, and an exciting fantasy to this day. Ferris, as a character, remains someone for teen boys to idolize. As with the other John Hughes films, this hits on very real life issues for adolescents: Feeling like the neglected sibling, being the less cool friend, the inability to balance an academic and social life, and of course having an asshole parent who prioritizes money and work above having any sort of bond with his children. That being said, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off isn’t anything but a fun escape. It’s something we can all find an aspect within to relate to, but it isn’t melancholy, disturbing, or visceral. We’re offered a positive take away regardless of perspective.

Police Academy (1984)

Police Academy (1984)

Synopsis: A group of decent but underachieving scrubs join the police academy, much to the dismay of their domineering superiors.

Police Academy has stupid down to a science. It isn’t the funniest 80s movie, even though it clearly wants to be, but it’s nearly every 80s comedy trope blended together to make a silly flick so unimportant you can’t help but appreciate it. It’s so generic it’s a work of art. It’s Animal House meets Revenge of the Nerds meets Midnight Run meets so many movies that came before. Perhaps I’m off base here. Police Academy could be so inspired we forget it inspired much of what came after. It’s such an original, raunchy smash I’m forced to question just how meaningful its place in the world of film is. Regardless of what I have to say, it was a big enough hit to warrant almost 42 sequels. Through Police Academy we were introduced to the insane vocal abilities of Michael Winslow. We were taught that Steve Guttenberg was, at one time, the most charismatic leading man in comedy. That’s hardly even arguable. We were, for the very first time, exposed to the unforgettably zany antic that is a man getting covertly blown at a podium while giving a speech. I take back every confusing statement I made about this movie – Police Academy is a classic. It’s one of my personal favorites. I say that without any bit of shame.

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

Synopsis: Man-child Pee Wee gets his one-of-a-kind bike stolen and must set on a trip across America to track it down.

Ignoring every bit of how goofy and polarizing Pee Wee Herman as a character is, we have to admit Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is a cinematically gorgeous work of art that’s more gut-bustingly funny than any movie has the right to be. Director Tim Burton created a fever-dream that’s as fun and universally right as it is bizarre and borderline unmentionable. It achieves being dark without being dark, if that makes any sense. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is the kind of movie you watch when you’re lost and need to learn how to laugh again. It’s the sort of film you show your girlfriend, who hardly appreciates it, and then you get mad. This flick is its own entity in the comedy world, and in the general film universe for that matter. If it’s not a funny or beloved movie to you personally, it’s at least an achievement in strangeness.

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

Synopsis: Mockumentary on Spinal Tap, one of England’s loudest bands.

Rob Reiner’s directorial debut holds up as a stylistic, powerfully funny satire that’s still in a subgenre entirely its own: Rockumentary. With dull yet likeable characters, an onslaught of great lines, and niche subject matter it’s no wonder This is Spinal Tap became a cult classic of such magnitude. Though we weren’t all immersed in the world of 80s rock, we can all laugh heartily at performances from comedy heavyweights like Christopher Guest and Michael McKean.

Back to the Future (1985)

Back to the Future (1985)

Synopsis: High school student Marty McFly is sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his scientist friend.

A feel-good popcorn classic that’s every bit as enjoyable as it was in your youth. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd bring loveable life to the screen in Robert Zemeckis’ fantasy-action-comedy that’s treasured for very good reason. What more can you say, really? It’s inventive, thrilling fun.

Ruthless People (1986)

Ruthless People (1986)

Synopsis: A couple get scammed by a sleazy businessman and kidnap his wife for revenge.

Ruthless People is on the edgier, more vile end of the spectrum, but it’s all the more enjoyable for it. The Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams strayed from their zany parody roots for this sharp, smartly directed bit of slimy insanity. It’s a film in which every character is despicable, and everything that could go wrong does. With nonstop, heavy-hitting jokes and the apt casting of Danny Devito, Bette Midler, and Judge Reinhold, you can’t make anything but a hit. Ruthless People surely is, and an underrated one at that.

Johnny Dangerously (1984)

Johnny Dangerously (1984)

Synopsis: A kindhearted, decent man is forced into a life of crime to support his mother’s medical bills.

Michael Keaton stars in this seldom mentioned parody of 30s crime films that kicks off hilariously but can’t quite maintain that level of genius. Johnny Dangerously has plenty of quotable lines, which is its greatest strength, but it’s just a tad uneven. In short, it can’t decide whether to be subtle or outright ridiculous. That aside, when it’s funny it’s brilliantly funny, and any well-meaning cornball satire with a star like Keaton deserves mention.

Night Shift (1982)

Night Shift (1982)

Synopsis: An attendant at a morgue is talked into running a brothel by his irreverent young coworker.

For my money, Night Shift is the most criminally overlooked comedy out there. It features a breakout Michael Keaton role, which just might be the funniest character to bless a screen. Henry Winkler brings his well-rounded, good-natured presence, while Keaton delivers hysterical dialogue, though he hardly needs to say anything to get a laugh. They’re an all-time great straight man/goof pair that need such recognition. Night Shift encapsulates gritty early 80s New York, if that’s your cup of tea, but it’s in its essence a darn-near perfect comedy. I can’t discuss this movie without noting it has my favorite movie line of all time, “Boy that Barney Rubble…what an actor!”

Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

Synopsis: Outcasts at Adams College come together to take on bullies and defend their reputation.

I regret to report Revenge of the Nerds doesn’t hold up, nor does it meet today’s strict comedy guidelines, but any list of 80s comedies would be incomplete without it. Let’s properly assess its importance: Revenge of the Nerds took what Animal House did, removed any and all poignant commentary or smart writing, and kept the raunchiness. It’s vile, unintelligent, shameless, and loveable all the same. There’s a real sweetness in seeing the outcasts rise up. That wasn’t a new concept, and it’s tired by now, but Revenge of the Nerds made that theme the entire angle. If we’re talking mindless movies at which you may have a chuckle, we can’t leave it unmentioned.

Beetlejuice (1988)

Beetlejuice (1988)

Synopsis: The spirits of a dead couple hire an evil entity to drive out the loathsome family who have moved into their former home.

Michael Keaton’s performance as Beetlejuice is nothing short of iconic in this out-there, visually impressive work of Tim Burton absurdist genius. There’s weird brilliance everywhere here, from the snappy jokes to bizarre visuals. Beetlejuice’s elements of horror can be sincerely unsettling, but they only compliment the overarching freaky feel. Put simply, it’s never too scary or weird to not work as a comedy, although it’s so much more. It’s hallucinatory fun that has stood the test of time.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Synopsis: A group of Southern California high schoolers do what they do best: fornicate and fight to find identity.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is distinct in its look at the workings of high schoolers – there’s a realness which stirs drama, but the drama is never uncomfortable, and the lighthearted fun moments don’t suffer at the hands of any raw portrayals of everyday teen issues. Sean Penn’s Spicoli character is set in stone as one of pop culture’s greatest stoners, and rightfully so. He provides all the comic relief necessary to alleviate the heavier moments. Fast Times is funny without ever getting goofy. That wasn’t common in the early 80s, and perhaps what makes it so unique in feel. At times it gets into soapy drama territory, but it always comes back to comedy. It isn’t dumb, because it doesn’t need to be; all Fast Times needed was one dumb character to make it all work.

Coming to America (1988)

Coming to America (1988)

Synopsis: A lavish African Prince escapes his arranged marriage and travels to Queens to find his wife.

With a lead in Eddie Murphy and direction from John Landis you can’t go wrong, and Coming To America certainly doesn’t, flawed and weird as it may be. It’s a case in which aging somewhat poorly actually helps the film, making it a true trip back in time. Eddie Murphy is at the top of his game here (and the height of his fame,) and Arsenio Hall contributes hilarity as well. Coming to America has its more understated and sincere moments, yet it’s a goofball fest when it needs to be. I find it difficult to pinpoint where exactly the general public places this on the greatest comedies of all time list – for many it’s fondly remembered and an undisputed classic. Some would label it the funniest movie ever. Others fail to even bring it up when writing about or discussing comedy classics. It seems to either top lists or fly under the radar, and I like that about Coming to America.

The Blues Brothers (1980)

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Synopsis: Fresh out of prison, Jake Blues and his brother Elwood are forced to put their blues band back together in order to save the Catholic home they were raised in.

John Belushi’s life and career were cut tragically short, and one might say we didn’t get enough of him while he was still alive. The Blues Brothers is the best place to see him outside of Animal House and Lemmings. Him and Dan Aykroyd prove themselves one of the best pairs to watch on screen, and their chemistry is on full display here. The Blues Brothers isn’t exactly wild by today’s comedy standards, but it’s a plain old fun ride. This flick has all you need: Dancing, madness, some good tunes, disrespect towards nuns, and the best driving a car through a mall scene I can think of. I’d say it’s due for a remake but most of us know the sickening disaster that was The Blues Brothers 2000.

Big (1988)

Big (1988)

Synopsis: A teen boy’s wish to be made “big” comes true.

I couldn’t leave out a timelessly fun-for-all-ages fantasy/comedy starring Tom Hanks at his hammiest and most accessible. Big is really more cute than it is anything else. It’s not overly ambitious or deeply layered, but that’s exactly what’s to love about it. It’s a simple, light little story that coasts off Hanks’ charm. You won’t get huge laughs or come out of this with a new perspective, but it’s the epitome of a feel-good 80s flick.

Stir Crazy (1980)

Stir Crazy (1980)

Synopsis: 2 best friends, wrongfully accused of a bank robbery, have to get out of prison by any means necessary.

The magnificent Gene Wilder and troubled yet incomparably gifted Richard Pryor teamed up for several films, Stir Crazy being the best (though Silver Streak is one of the most perfect movies ever made and I’ll preach that until people don’t want to hear it anymore.) Stir Crazy is where the pair really find and establish their chemistry. It’s an underratedly funny look at prison life for 2 schmucks who overtly don’t belong. Both Wilder and Pryor are authentically themselves here – Wilder’s lovably naive and real, while Pryor picks and chooses when to be honest and when to mask his every crippling insecurity and demon with clever shtick. Stir Crazy offers more than the brilliance of Pryor and Wilder, however. The whole cast is outstanding, and there are enough oddballs in the mix to catch your fancy. The writing’s impeccable. The story’s original and compelling. Not enough good can be said about Stir Crazy.

Used Cars (1980)

Used Cars (1980)

Synopsis: A sleazy car salesman, working for a decent but underachieving owner, must compete with the owner’s conniving brother and his rival dealership to end up the only standing used car lot in town.

Kurt Russell and Jack Warden are sheer classless class in this Robert Zemeckis dark comedy that’s funnier than most movies you and I would mark “the funniest.” Sure, Used Cars has quite a bit of cheese, as it was 1980, but it has hysterical performances and a laundry list of great lines (many of which couldn’t be uttered in a film today.) What keeps it off lists of classics is its meandering. Used Cars runs out of steam about halfway through, but it’s too funny in the early stages to ignore.

Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

Synopsis: A babysitter has to take the rugrats she’s looking after into the city, but it soon becomes a battle getting home safely.

No matter what age you are upon seeing Adventures in Babysitting, it’s sure to touch you (in the heart, not your genitals.) You won’t find many films quite as good-natured that have both funny moments and fast-paced adventure. The characters are all sympathetic, and the happenings are interesting. It certainly isn’t derivative, and while it might be corny it isn’t forced. We’re not given an particularly intricate plot, but it’s enthralling for what it is. The ultimate credit I can give Adventures in Babysitting – it’s gripping and quite funny for being a movie so obviously geared towards children.

Mr. Mom (1983)

Mr. Mom (1983)

Synopsis: A recently laid-off husband trades roles with his wife, as she rejoins the work-force and he navigates the difficult world of being a stay-at-home dad.

There’s been an abundance of Michael Keaton on this list, because how couldn’t there be? Mr. Mom features Keaton in his warmest form – an everyday, loving persona perhaps closest to who he is. He’s everything that’s real about a man in this movie: Caring, strong but vulnerable, jealous, passionate, and determined to maintain composure. Mr. Mom was written by John Hughes so it has all the desirable qualities of any Hughes film, save for any bit of dark humor. Mr. Mom is pure. It’s not gut-busting funny, but it draws relatable laughs. More notably, it lays out a standard story that’s so evidently written with heart you can’t help but have a zest for it.

The Goonies (1985)

The Goonies (1985)

Synopsis: A group of ruffians discover an ancient map and set out to find the lost treasure of a legendary pirate.

The Goonies is the premiere film choice for wrapping up a list of lighthearted 80s comedies, and a staple of so many childhoods. This film radiates innocence, both from the characters themselves and the adventure they embark on. It brings you back to your own childhood fantasies, and works as a reminder of the dreams you once held dear (and more than likely gave up on along this hellish timeline we call life.) The cast of kids are all likable in their own right, and the story they’re living within is perilous and exciting. Writers Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus create what’s essentially an Indiana Jones flick but with children, which means there are twists around every corner, characters to give a damn about, and a narrative that closes with a tug at your heartstrings. Spielberg recently announced a sequel during a live-streamed Goonies reunion, which is most definitely something for us sadsacks to look forward to.

Author’s Note: You may have noticed The Breakfast Club wasn’t included, and that’s simply because it’s too expected. There’s a plethora of John Hughes flicks on here; rightfully so, and I feel those deserve more recognition than a film that seems to get the most praise in his long line of work.

  • Honorable Mentions:
  • Roxanne (1987)
  • The Money Pit (1986)
  • Summer Rental (1985)
  • The Golden Child (1986)
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) [a favorite among many but not my cup of tea]
  • Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
  • Major League (1989)
  • Gremlins (1984)



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