The 15 Best Comedies of the 1980s

If you grew up during the 1980s (or were simply alive) and you watched movies, you know that nobody makes comedies like that anymore.  I guess the threat of total nuclear annihilation is a good incentive to leave it all out on the field, because back then, people would commit!  As such, here today I humbly present to you my own picks for the 10 Best Comedies of the 1980s in no particular order.

1. Clue
Nothing says 80s comedy like Clue.  As soon as you hear the premise, you have to think, “That sounds ridiculous.  You can’t base a movie on a board game…  except they pulled it off in spades.  The more years that go by, the more and more I come to realize that Madeline Kahn is the unsung hero of this movie.

2. Trading Places
Sigh, remember when Eddie Murphy used to make funny movies?  I do, and this is my favorite.  And this movie teaches you about short selling!  “Turn those machines back on!”

3. Beetlejuice
This is one of those movies I had on VHS and watched into the ground.  And it’s also another page from the book of “remember when [Tim Burton] use to [make good movies]?”  It’s offbeat, hilarious and has amazing performances – there’s just nothing like Beetlejuice.

4. Dragnet
This is one of those movies that holds up but shouldn’t.  I wasn’t a fan (and just barely aware) of the original series, so Dragnet is, for me, no more than the sum of its parts:  a funny movie with a great cast.

5. Goonies
There’s so much going on in this movie; it’s a coming of age story with an amazing cast, but there’s all these little moments I always forget about, like “I wanna play the violin!”  Goonies is truly the rallying cry for adolescent adventure and by comparison, it makes The Hunger Games look like insanity.  If this movie came out now, Data would die in the second act because everything has to be gritty.  Back in the 80s, things could be funny, meaningful and fun!

6. Ghostbusters
There are so many original concepts on this list, but Ghostbusters is probably the most beloved.  It’s the movie that instilled Bill Murray into the heart of a generation forever and it’s also just damn funny.

7. Princess Bride
So… amazing… this might be the movie on the list with the highest rewatchability factor.  The comedy works so well with the serious stakes in the movie – it’s really a wonder to behold.

8. Airplane
If you’re a regular visitor to the site, you may already know I love this movie, but any one scene I could show you is just the tip of the iceberg; Airplane is the sort of movie you have to see to believe.

9. Spinal Tap
This is the oldest of the “mockumentaries” that I’m aware of and they’ve been trying to make one as good as this ever since and failing.  The songs, the situations, the improv… amazing flick!

10. A Christmas Story
I grew up in the 80s in New Jersey but this movie is so much like my childhood, it’s scary.  (Except much funnier.)  There was even a kid in class that looked exactly like Ralphie!  This is mandatory viewing every Christmas – once is the minimum!

11. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Besides the obvious (Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse in the same movie!!!), Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an amazing comedy that will never be matched – nobody will ever even attempt something like this again.  (The Lego Movie is sorta close, but even that falls short.)

12. Better Off Dead
This movie is SO 80s, there’s even a song in the movie that trumpets the title of the movie.  It don’t get anymore neon-snap-bracelet-classic-Michael-Jackson than that!  Better Off Dead conveys a thing almost every adolescent goes through and it seems like it’s the end of the world, but this movie hammers home the point that it’s not!  Live life, ski, fix cars, take language lessons!

13. The Blues Brothers
Even if you ignore the amazing/hilarious chases and musical performances that pad the movie, The Blues Brothers is still packed with more hilarious dialogue (“Sell me your children!”) than you can shake an automatic rifle at!  Even Blues Brothers 2000 couldn’t ruin it.

14. Spaceballs
The parody we deserve and the one we need right now and forever, Spaceballs is a funny movie in its own right.  Every time Rick Moranis pops up that face shield, I die laughing.

15. Three Amigos
“It’s a sweater!”  There are hardly any fish out of water comedies as good as The Three Amigos.  They even mix in two musical numbers (which is probably one more than they need) and they both manage to be funny in totally different ways.

Ah, the 1980s… When dignity was gladly sacrificed for a QUALITY joke.  Here’s the movies that didn’t make the cut but deserve honorable mention.

Spies Like Us
“You have a tent?!?”  …  “Can I borrow your tent?”
This is one of those movies where I remember the jokes but little about the plot.  Funny stuff, but not much substance.

The Breakfast Club
This didn’t make the cut only because although it’s very funny, I’d say it’s more of a drama with a strong comedic side.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
I had to draw the line somewhere, and Ferris ended up on the wrong side… probably because of that museum montage – we totally didn’t need that; it really kills the movie’s momentum.
When Harry Met Sally
Here’s another one I wouldn’t call this a straight comedy – this is another drama with a strong comedic side.
The Money Pit
While I do think this movie is very funny, I again can barely recall the plot.  If it wasn’t for Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, I probably wouldn’t remember this movie at all.
Funny Farm
This is another one of those movies that’s really funny, but I can barely describe the plot despite multiple viewings.
Who’s Harry Crumb
This movie is another one where the plot disappears and all you remember is how funny John Candy was in the flick.  Oh, and that (coupled with the intense presence of Dan Aykroyd on the list) made me remember The Great Outdoors, but again… I dunno, family vacation, something something…  not a very memorable movie.

I don’t consider Back to the Future a straight comedy like I do the movies on the list; it’s more of an adventure with a lot of funny moments.  I couldn’t include any of the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies as they’ve aged terribly…  Or I grew out of them or both.

Two movies that are probably worthy of this list but did not make the cut include Summer School and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Both are great movies, but I’m not sure that they can play at this level.

Agree?  Disagree?  Drop your feedback or your own list in the comments!

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on March 26, 2015, in lists, movie review and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Short Circuit also has too much going on for this list

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