I will go out on a limb here and declare that the Golden Age of Comedy Films was the 1980’s decade. Comparing, discussing and ranking movies is akin to talking about the Yankees versus the Red Sox. You’re bound to step on a few sensitive toes in doing so. So I ask you to kindly put down your pitchforks, clubs, knives, and lynch ropes. Relax for a minute and let’s take a subjective look at the best 1980’s comedies. You cannot talk about the 1980’s without mentioning the generation of comic male actors/writers (Bill Murray, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, and Harold Ramis) who transitioned from the 1970’s TV show Saturday Night Live to Hollywood. They appeared in several hit movies and the rest is film history. That fact alone would make the 1980’s special for comedy, but this is not simply a SNL alumni movie list. Also included are other comic geniuses, all of them hitting their prime in the 80’s: Robin Williams, Albert Brooks, Rodney Dangerfield, Terri Garr and Richard Dreyfuss to name a few. Ladies and gents, to prove my point I present for your consideration the following thirteen movie reviews, in order of the release dates.
1. Used Cars 1980
This underrated movie has plenty of funny, low-brow humor, and is one of the gems of my DVD collection (that my wife dislikes). It has held up over the years, and I still pop it in the DVD player every couple of years. The cast is packed with comedians, and stars Kurt Russell. He shows a true genius for comedy in this movie. This flick has a wealth of funny scenes: the TV commercials, Marshall Lucky blasting high car prices, any scene with Jim the mechanic, Jeff ranting about red cars while rubbing a rabbit’s foot, and the last drive of Luke Fuchs. I could go on and on, but I have made my point.
2. Caddyshack 1980
In praising this comedy classic, I am on well-trodden ground, still I am glad to add a few words. You won't find a funnier foursome on the golf course than Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Billy Murray and Ted Knight! This movie clicks from start to finish, and perfectly lampoons Country Club Golfers. Perhaps the most quoted sports movie of all time.
3. Stripes 1981
This film is screwball comedy that takes us for a wild ride in the Urban Assault Vehicle straight into the heart of Cold War Europe. Bill Murray, John Candy and Harold Ramis are great as the modern day Three Stooges of the American Army, and Warren Oates, as sergeant Hulka, displays a talent for comedy in one of his last movies. This ranks with Murray’s better films, and the Boot Camp graduation day is comedy gold.
4. Strange Brew 1983
This flick is funny from beginning to end as the McKenzie brothers, two beer loving hosers, stumble into an insane quest to conquer the world with robotic hockey players. As silly comedies go, this one is a cult favorite overflowing with great Canadian humor.
5. The Survivors 1983
This is a prime example of an odd couple, silly 80’s movie with flashes of comedic brilliance. Robin Williams and Walter Matthau have fun screen chemistry as they evade hit man, Jerry Reed. The plot is weak and the ending is goofy, but there are some classic funny lines. For example:
"I place a high value on human life...20,000 dollars minimum."
"Blasphemy! You will smoke a turd in hell for that!"
"I left my green card in my other pants."
Watch this flick with low expectations, and enjoy these clowns at their zenith.
6. Young Doctors in Love 1983
This is my favorite spoof of hospital soap operas. A talented ensemble cast of B actors hits this screwball comedy out of the park. Pam Reed and Sean Young, as always, are great, and Daddy Dean Stanton is a natural in the role as the weird pathologist. See some young actors who later gained fame in TV sitcoms. And a must watch for fans of the old General Hospital soap opera series.
7. Ghostbusters 1984
A summer blockbuster flick with a perfect mix of occult mysticism and classic SNL comedians. Just seeing Bill Murray get slimed with ectoplasm was worth the price of admission. The clash between a nasty federal EPA bureaucrat versus a struggling entrepreneurial small business touched the core beliefs of all true Americans. Watch this film on the biggest screen available. Skip the sequels/remakes and see the original.
8. Repo Man 1984
Harry Dean Stanton is a very good, although unheralded, actor; and he is at his career best in Repo Man playing Bud, a prideful car thief with an idealistic code. Emilio Estave, as punk kid Otto, is convincing as another bottom dweller trying to eke out a living in the bleak repo world.
9. After Hours 1985
A regular guy steps outside his comfort zone, and a bizarre sequence of events unfold. Most of the characters are funny oddballs - I especially liked Rosanne Arquette as the slightly deranged girl-next-door, Terri Garr as a whacky waitress, and Cheech & Chong as a pair of stoned burglars. This movie is a personal favorite, and I watch it almost every year. This is an underrated film for viewers with a sophisticated sense of humor.
10. Lost in America 1985
A successful California couple (think ultimate Yuppies) decides to drop out and see America. They are filled with idealism as they detour to Las Vegas to renew wedding vows. Little do they know that financial disaster looms in Vegas. I highly recommend this film to anyone with a sense of humor; however, not everyone gets the Albert Brook style of comedy. Some people find him annoying, but I think he is a great funny man. Some of his best scenes: Brooks arguing with a car salesman for leather seats, Brooks explaining the concept of a nest egg, Brooks pitching his advertising idea to a casino manager, Brooks in his new job as a school crossing guard, and Brooks meeting his wife’s new boss at Der Weinershnitzel. Of all the Albert Brook’s movies of the 80’s, this is his very best. FUNNY stuff.
11. Back to School 1986
The best Rodney Dangerfield comedy, and was also a box office hit. Rodney delivers belly laughs in scene after scene as he shakes up a college campus. He is in top form here doing “Twist and Shout” and the Triple Lindy off the high dive. The talented ensemble cast includes Sally Kellerman, Ned Beatty, Burt Young and do not miss Sam Kinneson, in a small but hilarious role as a short tempered college Professor.
12. Moon Over Parador 1988
Another classic example of an underrated movie, and for a bonus, it has perhaps the best Richard Dreyfuss comedy performance. I’ll let that thought marinate for now. The story premise is a movie favorite – identity substitution. What makes this picture special is the outstanding cast of comedians – Any scene with Jonathon Winters is hilarious, and the meat locker scene with Raul Julia and Dreyfuss is comedy gold.
13. Let it Ride 1989
A fun movie cast about a regular guy hitting a lucky streak at the race track. Richard Dreyfuss plays Jay Trotter with great enthusiasm, as he exclaims, “I’m having a very good day.” The wise man says the best way to double your gambling winning is to fold it half and place it in your pocket, but Jay Trotter gleefully ignores that sage advice. There is no weak link in the talented cast: Jennifer Tilly is pitch perfect playing Vicki the queen of the Jockey Club, and all the scenes at the betting window are great. This movie is a real treat, even if you're not a fan of betting on the ponies. Very underrated film and a top-shelf-DVD for the collection.