The release of Stranger Things 4 has bought a wave of nostalgia for ’80s popular culture. Although the series itself is predominately horror, there are moments of much-needed comic relief which can reflect on the light-hearted sense of humor that a lot of renowned 80s movies, such as Back to the Future and Airplane! seem to possess.
The decade was a golden age for the genre of comedy, heavily contrasting the darker tones of the ’70s. Fans on Ranker placed their votes on what they thought were the funniest movies of the 1980sThis included quirky and loveable coming-of-age stories, romantic comedies, as well as full-on, laugh-out-loud, funny movies that have remained timeless to this day.
Note: Ranker lists are live and continue to accrue votes, so some rankings may have changed after this publishing.
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10 Planes, Trains And Automobiles
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is often characterized as a holiday movie, and for many American families, the movie has become a part of classic holiday season tradition. Starring Steve Martin and John Candy, the film follows an unlikely pairing in the mad scramble to travel during the holiday season, something that is far too relatable and frustrating even today.
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Directed by John Hughes, a man who made his career by writing and directing some of the most important movies of the ’80s, the film perfectly captures the charm and wit of the decade’s humor. The unlikely relationship of uptight Steve Martin and carefree John Candy as they struggle to get home in time for the holidays provides for not only a lot of laughs but some rather heartfelt moments.
9 Coming To America
Coming to America recently received a sequel, after thirty years of the film’s legacy. Directed by John Landis, Coming to America also stars comedy legend Eddie Murphy in one of his most prominent and memorable roles.
Following Prince Akeem, a wealthy prince from an African country, the film takes the viewer on a journey for a worthy romance. Akeem is extremely kindhearted but is naive, having been brought up to earn nothing for himself. He believes love is something he should earn, not for his wealth and status, but for his heart, and as a result, the story is as heartfelt as it is filled with laughter.
8 Beverly Hills Cop
Another Eddie Murphy classic, Beverly Hills Cop, is a fish out of water story but of a different type to Coming to America. This time, Murphy’s Axel Foley is a cop from Detroit, investigating a personal case in Beverly Hills, California, a world completely different from his own.
Beverly Hills Cop was one of the highest-grossing comedies of the 1980s and is one of his most popular movies with both fans and critics alike. The action/comedy combination was genre-defining, laying the foundation for many modern films of the like, resulting in multiple sequels for the franchise.
7 Trading Places
In yet another Eddie Murphy movie, Trading Places also offers a flipside to the idea. Due to a bet by wealthy brothers, Murphy and Dan Aykroyd’s characters are subject to an experiment that has the two men, with entirely different financial situations, have their positions swapped, with Murphy taking a position with a successful stock brokerage.
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The film is one of Eddie Murphy’s highest-rated movies and also offers strong performances from supporting actors like Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Ameche, and Ralph Bellamy. With these excellent acting all around, Trading Places has tons of hilarious comedic moments, as well as a good tact story structure.
6 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Few films can define the ’80s as well as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and while it wasn’t voted as the funniest, it is certainly one of the most iconic. The movie has many recitable lines that have become ingrained in American culture, in particular for yearbook quotes. The film is not only one of the best comedies but also one of the best coming-of-age movies of the 1980s.
Starring Matthew Broderick as the titular character, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off posed a unique style of comedy with a cocky lead character that breaks the fourth wall. This quirky approach, along with a terrific villain performance by Jeffrey Jones as Principal Ed Rooney, make this film a certified classic.
Airplane! isn’t the typical ’80s comedy as, unlike most stories, it doesn’t follow the structure of character development or story. The movie has no rules, as it’s more of a parody or spoof-style comedy, a genre that no one does better than Leslie Nielsen, who was known for his more absurd film roles.
Filled with repeating jokes, Airplane! is considered side-splittingly hilarious, especially if viewers are willing to distance themselves from logic and reasoning for the duration of the movie. The humor is further enhanced by the outrageous character acting, especially from Nielsen. The film’s gags were a huge success, resulting in a sequel for the movie which unfortunately received less critical acclaim.
4 Back To The Future
Back to the Future is as much a sci-fi classic as it is a fun comedy adventure. The combination of genres is perhaps what makes this classic ’80s tale so iconic. Filled with recognizable characters and catchphrases, Back to the Future is the perfect summer movie to watch at a drive-in theater.
RELATED: 10 Fascinating Facts About The Back To The Future Trilogy
As an action-adventure movie, the film doesn’t focus as much on comedy, but the characters are extremely bizarre and have had lasting effects on comedy. Many scenes have become memes, especially as the movie is the inspiration for the adult comedy series Rick and Morty.
3 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Chevy Chase’s name is plastered all over the world of 1980s comedy, as he had left SNL after a run of success to build a career in film. With several hits throughout the decade, it was his saga with National Lampoon that largely defined his career as a movie star comedian. The comedic magazine had a string of successes in film in the ’70s and ’80s.
As the sequel to Vacation, Christmas Vacation sought to re-capture the original film’s success with a combined aspect of creating a holiday movie. Some of the funniest scenes from National Lampoon can be found in this movie, and the film also gives more insight into the Griswold family’s home life and work life, which is a delight for the viewers.
Full of laugh-out-loud moments, Caddyshack has some of the greatest comedians of the generation teaming up for an hour and a half of laughter. Following events occurring at an exclusive country club filled with snobby, wealthy folk, Caddyshack jokes about the proper etiquette of such establishments.
Juxtaposed with the rivalries of these egotistical men, Bill Murray, an unstable groundskeeper deals with an intense rivalry with a gopher. The results are explosive, and the film is filled with fun moments, like the ‘chocolate bar in the pool’ scene. Caddyshack features memorable performances from actors such as Chevy Chase in one of his best roles, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, and Ted Knight, all of whom play off each other brilliantly to add even more hilarity to the scenes.
1 National Lampoon’s Vacation
Offering a perfect combination of physical comedy and hilarious lines, National Lampoon’s Vacation is probably Chevy Chase’s crowning jewel as a comedic actor. The film offered a baseline for so many comedies to follow, creating many trademarks for the genre of movies.
Directed by Harold Ramis, whose career was centered around acting and directing in some of the ’80s and ’90s biggest comedy films, he was the perfect combination to put with Chevy Chase in the making of a movie that would have the success it did. The film resulted in multiple sequels as well as a remake in 2015.
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About The Author
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Charlie is a recent graduate from SUNY Purchase College, working as a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY. Charlie’s main focus for ScreenRant is on articles pertaining to ongoing and past television series, as well as movies and occasionally video games. Charlie is early in his career as a content writer, but has published articles which have reached viewer counts of over 100,000.
He is an avid movie and TV watcher. Charlie’s favorite movies are Magnolia, Once Upon a Time in the West, Blade Runner, Mulholland Drive and Dazed and Confused. His favorite shows are Twin Peaks, The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones and Lost. In terms of more mainstream media, he is also a fan of DC Comics and Star Wars, and tries to follow as much of the live action and animated productions as he can. He’s delighted to be working as a list writer, because he’d probably be making lists about his favorite content regardless.
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