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The 25 Most Essential '80s Comedies

Take Me Home Tonight
Relativity Media

The new comedy "Take Me Home Tonight" celebrates the 1980s and all its excesses, from Mercedes-worship to Frankie Goes To Hollywood telling us all to relax.

The '80s was a time of rampant materialism and mohawks, and the only way people got through it -- like WWII -- was with laughter. 

In honor of Topher Grace's nostalgic comedy, we're celebrating the 25 most-uniquely only-in-the-80's comedies, the ones where the hair was froofy, Eddie Murphy still brought the funny, and the geek inherited the Earth. 

25. 'The Naked Gun' (1988)

The Naked Gun
Paramount

The same team that made "Airplane!" decided to bring their anarchic brand of humor to the small screen with "Police Squad" (In Color), but the satire of TV cop shows only lasted a measly six episodes. After the show gained a cult following, the trio decided to resurrect Leslie Nielsen's accident-prone Lieutenant Frank Drebin to surprising success and a comedic trilogy, starting with this one. It involved a plot to have ballplayer Reggie Jackson assassinate Queen Elizabeth II, as well as Drebin's attempt to clear his partner of criminal charges. That partner is played by O.J. Simpson. 'Nuf said.
Best Line:  "Jane, since I've met you, I've noticed things that I never knew were there before... birds singing, dew glistening on a newly formed leaf, stoplights."  

24. 'Better Off Dead' (1985)

Better Off Dead
Paramount

Before he auditioned to be Peter Gabriel's publicist by holding up that boombox outside Ione Skye's window in "Say Anything," a dough-faced young John Cusack was a geek du jour, particularly in the two camp masterpieces he made with writer/director Savage Steve Holland, "Better Off Dead" and "One Crazy Summer." While "Summer" has its moments, "Dead" helped define Cusack as the sympathetic everydork in his role as Lane Meyer, a nice guy who turns suicidal when his girlfriend dumps him and he can't deal with his absurdly dysfunctional family. With the help of best friend Curtis Armstrong, he reinvigorates his lust for life through a beautiful French foreign-exchange student, a ski competition, and various flights of imagination, including a hamburger singing Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some!!"
Best Line: "I want my two dollars!"

23. 'Beverly Hills Cop' (1984)

Beverly Hills Cop
Paramount

Synthesizers. Shoulder pads. Yeah, this was the '80s. Detroit cop Axel Foley is a fish out of water in high-tone Beverly Hills, but his wise-guy attitude and willingness to bluff his way through any situation makes him Eddie Murphy's signature role. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer hit the sweet spot with the Number 1 movie of 1984, and concocted his winning formula of action, comedy, and music video style that would give birth to Michael Bay a decade later. Murphy somehow took a script written for Sylvester Stallone and made it his own with snappy improvised one-liners like…
Best Line: "Disturbing the peace? I got thrown out of a window! What's the charge for getting pushed out of a moving car, huh? Jaywalking?" 

22. 'Can’t Buy Me Love' (1987)

Touchstone

Before he was Dr. McDreamy, "Grey's Anatomy" star Patrick Dempsey was giving the Coreys a run for their money as teen-hearthrob-of-the-moment in this 1987 comedy. He plays a (suspiciously handsome) nerd who, in true sociopath fashion, takes advantage of popular cheerleader Amanda Peterson's dire straights and offers her $1000 to pretend to be his girlfriend. Look for an early Seth Green appearance, plus bonus '80s points for using Billy Idol's "Dancin' with Myself" on the soundtrack. This was recently remade with Nick Cannon as "Love Don't Co$t a Thing," while "Easy A" took their "riding lawnmower into sunset" ending.
Best Line: "I mean, he went from totally geek, to totally chic!" 

21. 'Revenge of the Nerds' (1984)

Revenge of the Nerds
Twentieth Century Fox

The movie that DEFINED nerd culture. Clearly neither the kung-fu coolness of his brother David, nor the musical hipness of his bro Keith rubbed off on Robert Carradine, who embodies dorkiness incarnate as Lewis Skolnick. Skolnick's dweebiness is matched by future "ER" MD Anthony Edwards as Gilbert, and the go-to '80s comedy guber Curtis Armstrong ("Risky Business," "Better Off Dead") as Booger, while they face off against the ruthless jockocracy at their university. It's brains vs. brawn!
Best Line: "NERDS!"

20. 'The Breakfast Club' (1985)

The Breakfast Club
Universal

Five disparate high school students in detention: a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. No it's not a trendy reality show, it's John Hughes' teen angst magnum opus, the film that made him the defining voice of the MTV generation. Their Saturday afternoon locked in the Shermer High library leads to antics, but also soul searching and moving beyond stereotypes to some greater mutual understanding. Unfortunately, by the end Anthony Michael Hall is the only one without a date. We won't forget about you, Anthony.
Best Line: "Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?" 

19. 'Weird Science' (1985)

Weird Science
Universal

Since breaking into secret government files was way easier during the '80s era of the internet, ultra-dorks Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith use a PC with a dial-up modem to somehow create the girl of their dreams, played by Kelly "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" LeBrock. Having their own live-in sex goddess turns out to be more than they bargained for, and the naïve boys somehow learn about self-confidence and stuff. Dig that crazy themesong by Oingo Boingo, whose frontman Danny Elfman later became the house band for Tim Burton movies.
Best Line: "If you ever get the chance, shower with them. I did. Mmm, it's a mindscrambler. Hurts so good." 

18. 'Risky Business' (1983)

Risky Business
Warner Bros

Sure, there's Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear, and, yes, he does turn his house into a brothel while his parents are out of town, but this is serious business. Writer/Director Paul Brickman made the unusual choice to shoot and score his teen sex comedy like some kind of French art movie, and despite its wild reputation this flick has much more in common with "The Graduate" than "Porky's." Looking back, "Risky Business" defines the capitalism run amok of the Reagan-era better than "Wall Street," and Rebecca De Mornay made a ride on the Chicago L train very appealing.
Best Line: "I am NOT the house." 

17. 'Trading Places' (1983)

Trading Places
Paramount

Eddie Murphy had just scored a hit with his movie debut in "48 Hours," but "Trading Places" was his first out-and-out comedy smash. John Landis directs his Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd as a stuck-up douchenozzle who loses his job as a commodities broker to a wise-crackin' street hustler (Murphy) after his bosses make a wager. Jamie Lee Curtis is the original hooker with a heart of gold, who helps Aykroyd and Murphy get revenge. This film actually formed the basis of a Wall Street regulation known as the "Eddie Murphy Rule," which deals with insider trading.
Best Line: "Hey, baby, what's happening? How are ya doing? Once you have a man with no legs, you never go back, baby." 

16. 'National Lampoon's Vacation' (1983)

Vacation
Warner Bros

Harold Ramis continued his streak as reigning creative genius of '80s comedy by directing John Hughes' script for the first of many vacation adventures for the Griswold family. Chevy Chase's bumbling Clark Griswold is in many ways the forerunner to Homer Simpson, the great American dolt who brings one disaster after another, despite good intentions. Their trip to Disneyla… er, Wally World leaves a trail of destruction along the Midwest, from a dead aunt to a terrorist attack on a theme park. Uptown girl Christy Brinkley makes a memorable impression as the Ferrari-driving dream girl.
Best Line: "I'm gonna have fun and you're gonna have fun. We're all gonna have so much f**king fun we'll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles." 

15. 'When Harry Met Sally' (1989)

When Harry Met Sally
Columbia

New York's legendary Katz's Deli in the East Village became immortalized when Meg Ryan decided to fake a Big O in the middle of their crowded restaurant opposite Billy Crystal. Guess that makes it okay for them to charge $17 for a sandwich now, right? Director Rob Reiner and writer Nora Ephron basically took the Woody Allen formula of pithy NYC intellectuals + romantic neuroses and streamlined it for mass consumption, but this parable about male/female friendship still sparkles with wit and fabulous chemistry. 
Best Line: "I'll have what she's having."  

14. 'Airplane!' (1980)

Airplane!
Paramount

Fresh off "Kentucky Fried Movie," the wackypants team of ZAZ (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker) channeled the satiric gag-a-second spirit of MAD Magazine with this spoof of all-star disaster movies. Robert Hays plays a traumatized former pilot onboard a plane to win back his girlfriend (Julie Hagerty), but when the fish dinner fells the crew, he's forced to pilot the aircraft come hell or high comedy. The real stroke of genius was hiring veteran character actors like Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, and Leslie Nielsen to spout absurd lines ("And don't call me Shirley") with dead seriousness.
Best Line: "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines." 

13. 'Beetlejuice' (1988)

Beetle Juice
Warner Bros

The ghost with the most gave us a guided tour of the afterlife, and introduced us all to the pleasures of a good calypso tune. Michael Keaton arguably reached the peak of his manic abilities, giving the most wild and unhinged performance of his career as the titular bio-exorcist who agrees to help a pair of ghosts (a really skinny Alec Baldwin and a still-hirable Geena Davis) to rid their home of the living. Tim Burton clearly had a field day playing in the world of the dead, like some kid in a goth candy store.
Best Line: "Go ahead... make my millennium." 

12. 'Stripes' (1981)

Stripes
Columbia

Writer Harold Ramis and director Ivan Reitman clearly understood what made the best Marx Brothers movies work: You put those lunatics somewhere very stodgy and respectful (the opera, university, etc) and let the insanity ensue. Now where could you put Bill Murray where he would cause the most trouble? THE ARMY. Murray's John Winger is a New York slacker who just can't get his act together, and who convinces his best friend (Ramis) to join the military with him on a whim. Basic training turns into an ordeal between the sassy, disrespectful Winger and Warren Oates' discipline-obsessed drill sergeant Hulka.
Best Line: "No, we're not homosexual, but we are willing to learn." 

11. 'Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure' (1985)

Pee-wee's Big Adventure
Warner Bros

Paul Reubens had been performing some iteration of his man-child persona Pee-Wee Herman since the late '70s, but with the help of weirdo animator Tim Burton (making his feature directorial debut) he launched Pee-Wee into the pantheon of '80s pop culture icons with this movie. A deranged play on Vittorio De Sica's "Bicycle Thieves," it tells the story of Pee Wee's cross-country quest to find his precious stolen bike, during which he meets a motorcycle gang, the ghost of a dead trucker, a starry-eyed waitress, and Milton Berle. A cameo by Twisted Sister confirms the deep '80s-ness of the whole thing, but Reubens' dance to "Tequila" is for the ages.
Best Line: "You don't wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel." 

10. 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure' (1989)

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Orion Pictures

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter launched their way into superstardom (well, one of them did) with this rollicking blend of "Time Bandits" meets "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." The title duo are a pair of California airheads who get George Carlin to loan them a time machine so they can collect famous historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Genghis Khan for their school report. "Bill and Ted" is pure bliss, so long as we pretend the aptly titled sequel ("Bogus Journey") never existed.
Best Line: "San Dimas High School football rules!" 

9. 'Big' (1988)

Big
Twentieth Century Fox

Rival studio executives must have made a drunken bet, since the tail-end of the '80s saw an inexplicable string of body-switching comedies, including "Like Father Like Son" (Kirk Cameron), "Vice Versa" (Fred Savage), and "18 Again!" (George Burns). All of them made you want to switch bodies with a dead person. From out of the muck came the mighty "Big," towering above the rest with its charming story of a young boy who doesn't so much switch bodies as become an adolescent in an adult's body, probably what he'll look like in 20 years. Lucky for him he looks like future double-Oscar-winner Tom Hanks, who played giant piano "Heart and Soul" straight into our… heart and soul. Lucky kid, at least he didn't look like Steve Guttenberg.
Best Line: "Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock." 

8. 'Sixteen Candles' (1984)

Sixteen Candles
Universal

Making his directorial debut in the first of his series of loosely connected movies taking place in fictional Shermer, Illinois, John Hughes made the unusual step of making his alienated protagonist a young girl (Molly Ringwald) whose family forgets her birthday. Even though there's a wild party, and the immortally "un-PC" Long Duk Dong (to put it, uh, kindly), Hughes is clearly inspired by a Hallmark card/Norman Rockwell mentality towards adolescent turmoil, with much sweetness permeating the raunch. This is also the movie that made Ringwald the aspiration poster girl for a generation of young women, and the fantasy of many young men.
Best Line: "I can't believe I gave my panties to a geek." 

7. 'Ghostbusters' (1984)

Ghostbusters
Columbia

When somebody asks you if Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson are movie gods you say "YES"! Those four gents crossed the streams into pop culture legend as the paranormal eliminators for whom "no job is too big, no fee is too big." Between "Back to the Future," "Real Genius," and this sci-fi comedy classic, the '80s were clearly the era of mad scientist chic. If you don't know every line of this movie by heart, don't know Stay Puft from a hole in the ground, then you were clearly in some coma or state of pre-birth for this entire decade.
Best Line: "Nobody steps on a church in my town!" 

6. 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' (1982)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Universal

This protoype for the 1980s coming-of-age film first sprang from sneaky Rolling Stone writer Cameron Crowe's time spent enrolled undercover at a high school, turning his experience into a book, then a screenplay. The ensemble overlaps into three different plots surrounding a nice guy (Judge Reinhold) who can't hold down a job, a naïve freshman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who gets an abortion, and a perpetually stoned surfer dude (Sean Penn) who only needs some tasty waves and a cool buzz to be fine.
Best Line: "Hey bud, let's party!" 

5. 'This is Spinal Tap' (1984)

This is Spinal Tap
MGM

When it comes to '80s comedy, this one goes to 11. A chronicle of the waning British heavy metal group Spinal Tap as infighting, mismanagement, and general stupidity threaten to sink their career. One of the first films to perfect the mockumentary subgenre, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer improvised most of the loosely-scripted proceedings, and returned to this format a decade later for a trilogy of fake docs starting with "Waiting for Guffman." Despite an initial lukewarm reception, "Spinal Tap" has become a classic, synonymous with many of the pretentious groups of the '70s, '80s and 90s. Eddie Van Halen actually said, "Everything in that movie had happened to me."
Best Line: "If I told them once I told them a hundred times to put 'Spinal Tap' first and 'Puppet Show' last." 

4. 'Coming to America' (1988)

Coming to America
Paramount

John Landis re-teamed with Eddie Murphy for what may be the high point of both their careers, in which Eddie plays a good-natured prince of the fictitious African nation of Zamunda. To avoid an arranged marriage, the prince (along with trusty servant Arsenio Hall) travels to New York for the perfect place to find a queen… Queens! This was the test-run for Murphy's now-stand-by schtick of playing multiple characters in funny makeup, including a barber, an old Jewish man, and of course Mr. Randy Watson of the band Sexual Chocolate… SEXUAL CHOCOLATE!
Best Line: "The royal penis is clean, your highness." 

3. 'Caddyshack' (1980)

Caddyshack
Orion Pictures

This "Cinderella story" once again tells the immortal tale of slobs versus snobs, a tale screenwriters Harold Ramis and Doug Kenney had successfully told two years prior for "Animal House." Here they traded college for golf by teaming up with former caddy Brian Doyle-Murray (and his little bro Bill) to turn a picturesque country club into pure pandemonium. The highly improvised (emphasis on the word "high") dialogue between superstars like Rodney Dangerfield and Chevy Chase paved the way for the Judd Apatow bunch of today.
Best Line: "Last time I saw a mouth like that, it had a hook in it." 

2. 'Back to the Future' (1985)

Back to the Future
Universal

What isn't '80s about the greatest time travel comedy of all time? You've got Pepsi Free, a suped-up DeLorean, and HUEY LEWIS! Most '80s comedies based around teenagers typically involved the lead trying to pop his cherry with some hot babe, but this one takes it to the next level by making the babe the kid's mother. Sheesh, talk about family ties. You've also got Marvin Berry's band smokin' reefer, Biff attempting to rape Lorraine, and Doc Brown buying plutonium from Middle Eastern terrorists, all rated "PG"! Imagine this film getting made today, say with Michael J. Fox's fellow Canadian Justin Bieber… oh that's right, you can't, because it would never happen. We love you, '80s.
Best Line: "So, why don't you make like a tree and get outta here?" 

1. 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' (1986)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Paramount

John Hughes just couldn't do anything within his powers to keep Mr. Bueller and friends from playing hookie on such a lovely day. There's something refreshing about the wholesomeness of Hughes' vision, where the most scandalous thing he can imagine teenagers skipping school for is going to a museum, lip synching to "Danke Schön" in a parade, or posing as The Sausage King of Chicago at a restaurant. Clearly he hadn't seen "Less Than Zero" yet. In the ensuing years no one has broken the fourth wall quite as convincingly as Matthew Broderick, given killer lines to espouse to the audience, including the immortal refrain…
Best Line: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

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