The 1980s was a time period where comedy films gained new qualities: wackiness, wildness, and a whole host of new comedic talents who demonstrated their impressive acting chops.
After the 1960s and 1970s, a new order established itself—out with Monty Python and in with National Lampoon. Mel Brooks had already made his best films, but with them he inspired a generation of superb imitators that took the reins in the 1980s.
Some of those comedy films went on to become blockbusters, while others were one-hit-wonder standalone classics that were appreciated by smaller audiences before finding fame in later years.
Here are the best comedy movies from the 1980s and why they remain amongst the most spectacular comedy films ever made.
10. Caddyshack (1980)
Directed by Harold Ramis
Starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray
Comedy, Sport (1h 38m)
This was the film that every teenager watched as they imagined how fun their own summer was going to be. Of course, it was never as fun as Caddyshack, but few things in life are.
Caddyshack doesn't feature a singular plot line, per se. There's just a bunch of shenanigans involving sex, drugs, and contempt for authority. Also, Bill Murray plays a groundskeeper who hates gophers.
What more can you ask for? Not to mention that Caddyshack is easily the funniest film about golfing. (Sorry, Happy Gilmore!)
9. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Directed by Martin Brest
Starring Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton
Action, Comedy, Crime (1h 45m)
In Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy stars as Alex Foley, the cop with street smarts—a role that propelled him into stardom.
What made this comedy different from so many other buddy-cop comedies was how it maintained a grittiness that helped to delineate the funny from the serious.
It's not just that the laughs felt genuine, but also that the danger felt real. Starting with this one, Murphy is cinematic gold across the franchise.
8. Better Off Dead (1985)
Directed by Savage Steve Holland
Starring John Cusack, David Ogden Stiers, Kim Darby
Comedy, Romance (1h 37m)
Despite being perhaps the least-known entry on this list, Better Off Dead is by no means less entitled to be included.
Better Off Dead is a cult classic that follows one teenager's pitiful attempts to kill himself. After Lane Myer (played by John Cusack) is dumped by his girlfriend (played by Amanda Wyss) for the captain of the skiing team, he finds himself absolutely inconsolable.
Yes, it's a dark subject with lots of darkly humorous bits, but the darkness is what makes it so funny. Plus, the bittersweet material makes for some surreal comedy and a chaotic mix of humor and soul-searching.
7. Ghostbusters (1984)
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver
Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi (1h 45m)
Who you gonna call? That's right: Ghostbusters!
Written by Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd—both of whom were stoned for most of the writing process—Ghostbusters follows a trio of parapsychologists who want to exterminate ghosts in New York.
One of the biggest blockbusters of the 1980s, Ghostbusters has become a cultural phenomenon in its own right after the immense commercial appreciation it has received over the years.
6. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Directed by John Hughes
Starring Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara
Comedy (1h 43m)
For anyone who grew up watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off, who didn't want to be Ferris Bueller at least once?
In short, Ferris doesn't want to go to school. Why? Because there's so much more to life than spending your days slaving away at a desk. He wants to show us how much we can really do in a day.
This was the film that made us all want to get up, be rebellious, and be stylish while we were at it. It's now iconic and firmly planted in pop culture, cemented as one of the best comedy movies of the 1980s.
5. Back to the Future (1985)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi (1h 56m)
Universally beloved, Back to the Future isn't just a time travel classic of sci-fi—it's one of the funniest films of the 1980s.
When Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) jumps into a DeLorean and drives away from terrorists, he finds himself taken 30 years back to 1955. Horrified, he strives to make sure that his parents still get together at the big dance so they end up conceiving him.
Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale were denied funding over 40 times by large studios because the project wasn't considered raunchy enough to compete with other comedy movies. Still, the risqué moments that are in the film are great and gut-busting.
4. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
Directed by David Zucker
Starring Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy
Comedy, Crime (1h 25m)
Perhaps the silliest film on this list, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! is chock-full of the kinds of farcical punchlines and ridiculous sight gags that Police Squad! (1982) was previously known for.
Starring Leslie Nielsen as the infallibly hilarious narrator and Lieutenant Frank Drebin, he's on a mission to track down the person who's behind a nefarious plot to brainwash assassins into killing the Queen of England.
David Zucker created one of the goofiest films of all time with The Naked Gun. It's sure to make you laugh out loud—or at least chuckle!
3. Raising Arizona (1987)
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson
Comedy, Crime (1h 34m)
Back in 1984, the Coen brothers demonstrated their supreme capability to do serious crime noirs when they gave us Blood Simple. Three years later, with Raising Arizona, they showed everyone that they were just as adept at cinematic comedy.
A young couple—the ex-con Hi McDunnough (played by Nicolas Cage) and the ex-cop Edwina McDunnough (played by Holly Hunter)—realize that they can never start a family because Edwina is infertile.
However, after a local wealthy man births quintuplets, Hi and Edwina decide to steal one of those babies to raise as their own. Of course, their mission to start a family grows more and more complicated as several different parties become involved.
Raising Arizona is a classic Coen brothers masterpiece, one that'll have you clutching your sides in laughter.
2. Airplane! (1980)
Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Starring Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen
Comedy (1h 28m)
Airplane! is a goofball mess of a film. When all the pilots on a plane are poisoned by bad fish, it's up to one man to save the plane from crashing.
But that paper-thin plot is really just an excuse to cram in as many visual gags and sketches as possible. Plus, we're gifted the opportunity to see Leslie Nielsen in his first breakout role—one where he cemented his status as the best deadpan comedian of his day.
Filled to the brim with double entendres, sight gags, ridiculous puns, and hilarious physical slapstick, Airplane! is the film that inspired countless other films—including Hot Shots! (1991) and Austin Powers (1997)—and revitalized the spoof genre.
1. The Blues Brothers (1980)
Directed by John Landis
Starring John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cab Calloway
Action, Adventure, Comedy (2h 13m)
When Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi came together to make The Blues Brothers, they created one of the best comedy movies of all time.
The Blues Brothers follows the exploits of Jake and Elwood Blues, two jazz musicians who are determined to raise money to save the Catholic Home they were brought up in.
However, their journey will lead them on a path that crosses with neo-Nazis, vengeful coppers, wrathful old flames, and many others as they tear their way through Chicago. It's all quite wacky, over the top, and absolutely farcical.
There's no contender for best comedy movie of the 1980s. The stars, the music, and the gags are second to none. The Blues Brothers was a film like no other and there has been none quite like it since.