Best Comedy Movies of the 80s

Comedies from the 1980s that still keep us laughing

The 1980s was a remarkable decade for comedy movies. After the comedy films of the 1970s broke down barriers in terms of what was previously taboo for comedy, the comedy films of the 1980s both pushed boundaries of humor and also injected humor into genres that were previously not typically grounds for comedy – disaster movies, science fiction, and documentaries, among many others. Studios were more willing to create comedies with higher budgets and more inventive concepts than in previous decades once they saw how successful these comedies were with audiences once the box office receipts came in.

It’s impossible to list all of the great comedy films of the 1980s here – honorable mentions include Caddyshack, Tootsie, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Spaceballs, Brazil, among many others – but these eight are among the most influential and best-loved comedy films of the decade.

01
of 08

Airplane! (1980)

Airplane!
Paramount Pictures

Airplane! was influenced by the numerous disaster movies released throughout the 1970s. David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker created this parody filled with clever gags, slapstick, and hilarious dialogue that showed just how silly disaster movies could be. Airplane! revitalized the career of star Leslie Nielsen, who would later make the classic Naked Gun comedy movies with Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker.

02
of 08

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Blues Brothers
Universal Pictures

After developing the characters during the early years of Saturday Night Live, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd brought their blues-loving duo to the big screen in a movie filled with classic tunes, humor, and lots and lots of car crashes. Sadly, it was one of the last movies that comedy icon Belushi made before his 1982 death. Even today, The Blues Brothers is perhaps the best Saturday Night Live spinoff movie.

03
of 08

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

This Is Spinal Tap
Embassy Pictures

The “fake documentary” style of comedy so often seen on television these days was popularized by this uproarious comedy about an aging rock band trying to get through a disastrous U.S. tour. Director/star Rob Reiner and stars Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer largely improvised the movie, and its witty humor about the pratfalls of rock and roll has remained one of the most influential comedies ever made.

04
of 08

Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters
Columbia Pictures

Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters was a phenomenon when it was released, and even today it’s easy to see why. It features hilarious actors in Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis, combined with a smart script that twisted comedy with science fiction. It remains one of the most-quoted and beloved films of the decade.

05
of 08

Back to the Future (1985)

Back to the Future
Universal Pictures

Though most people don’t automatically think of Back to the Future as a comedy, at its heart the time traveling fantasy movie is propelled by its humor. Jokes about how much has changed when Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels back in time from 1985 to 1955 still make people who weren’t even born yet in either year laugh. Like who in 1955 would ever think that actor Ronald Reagan would be President of the United States in 1985?

06
of 08

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

The Purple Rose of Cairo
Orion Pictures

Woody Allen’s comedy films of the 1980s are often thought as highbrow humor, but The Purple Rose of Cairo found a heart along with its humor. During the Great Depression, Cecilia (Mia Farrow) goes to the movies to escape her poor life. One day the leading man of one of the movies (Jeff Daniels) comes off the screen to change her life. Daniels is fantastic as a fish out of water who doesn’t quite get the differences between real life and life on the silver screen.

07
of 08

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Paramount Pictures

One of the most popular genres in the 1980s was the teen comedy, and writer/director John Hughes’ name is in the credits of most of the classics. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is remembered as the funniest of the bunch. The movie follows high school senior Ferris Bueller as he plays hookey from school with his girlfriend and best friend. The impulsive Bueller uses the day as an opportunity to celebrate his life before college changes everything. The mix of humor and heart has made this an enduring classic.

08
of 08

Coming to America (1988)

Coming to America
Paramount Pictures

Few actors dominated comedy in the 1980s like Eddie Murphy, who became one of the first blockbuster African American actors. Arguably his creative peak in the decade was Coming to America, which Murphy both co-wrote and starred in by playing four roles, the first time Murphy would playing multiple characters in a film (something that would become a trademark). Murphy portrays an African prince named Akeem who comes to Queens, New York to find love – and this fish out of water comedy is filled with laughs as Akeem becomes accustomed to life in New York City.

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McKittrick, Christopher. "Best Comedy Movies of the 80s." ThoughtCo, Apr. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/best-comedy-movies-of-the-80s-4022055. McKittrick, Christopher. (2017, April 25). Best Comedy Movies of the 80s. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-comedy-movies-of-the-80s-4022055 McKittrick, Christopher. "Best Comedy Movies of the 80s." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-comedy-movies-of-the-80s-4022055 (accessed September 22, 2017).