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Best Comedies of the 1980s: From Airplane! to Gremlins and beyond!

Best Comedies of the 1980s: From Airplane! to Gremlins and beyond!

Welcome to the Hilarious World of the 1980s

So you are one of those keen comedy lovers, who like to travel back in time to experience the humor of earlier cinematic eras. So are we!

The funny stuff of the 1980s may be a thing of the distant past, but thanks to an enthralling, good old invention called Film, it will never be really gone.

Whenever you miss the greedy eighties and want to laugh your heart out, all you have to do, is watching one (or more) of its best comedies.

But which ones should you watch?
Well, if that’s the very question lurking in your mind right now, then you came to the right place. We are just about to present 21 of the greatest comedy films of the 1980s.

This is not your average comedy list featuring only the funniest and stupidest films. We treat comedy as the broad genre it actually is. Thus, we tried to diversify this collection as much as possible.

We picked parody films, musical comedies, Christmas comedies, supernatural comedies, horror comedies, action comedies, teen comedies, adventure comedies, science fiction comedies, fantasy comedies, comedy-dramas, romantic comedies, crime comedies, family comedies and everything in between.

Ready to see the list? Buckle up then, and let the best comedies of the 1980s make you laugh out loud!

This collection is an episode of FrameTrek’s Best Comedies of All Time. A mega-journey dedicated to identify the funniest films of each cinematic era, chronologically. It starts with the Comedies of the Silent Era and wanders ahead decade-by-decade, all the way to our ever moving present.



Revealing the Top 21 Comedies of the 1980s

Chronologically


Airplane! (1980)

Airplane! (1980), David and Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Most popular comedies of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Parody film written and directed by David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams.

Story: A man afraid to fly must ensure that a plane lands safely after the pilots become sick. (IMDB)

Though unabashedly juvenile and silly, Airplane! is nevertheless an uproarious spoof comedy full of quotable lines and slapstick gags that endure to this day.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Airplane! among the best 1980s comedy films?
Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
In the years since its release, the film’s reputation has grown substantially. Today it is widely considered one of the best comedies of all time.


The Blues Brothers (1980)

The Blues Brothers (1980), John Landis, Funniest films of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Musical comedy film directed by John Landis.

Story: Jake Blues, just out from prison, puts together his old band to save the Catholic home where he and brother Elwood were raised. (IMDB)

Too over the top for its own good, but ultimately rescued by the cast’s charm, director John Landis’ grace, and several soul-stirring musical numbers.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Blues Brothers among the best 1980s comedy movies?
✓ Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ A critical and commercial success, one of the most popular comedies of the 1980s.
✓ It has become cult film and a staple of late-night cinema.


Trading Places (1983)

Trading Places (1983), Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Best 1980s comedy films
Where to Watch?   More info

Comedy film starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.

Story: A snobbish investor and a wily street con artist find their positions reversed as part of a bet by two callous millionaires. (IMDB)

Featuring deft interplay between Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, Trading Places is an immensely appealing social satire.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Trading Places among the best 1980s comedies?
✓ Premiere voted this movie as one of “The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time”.
✓ Critics and audiences praised the performance of the central cast, and they appreciated the film’s revival of the screwball comedy genre prevalent in the 1930s and 1940s.
✓ Widely considered one of the greatest comedy films and Christmas movies ever made.


A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas Story (1983), Bob Clark, Best 1980s comedy movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Christmas comedy film directed by Bob Clark.

Story: In the 1940s, a young boy named Ralphie attempts to convince his parents, his teacher and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun really is the perfect Christmas gift. (IMDB)

Both warmly nostalgic and darkly humorous, A Christmas Story deserves its status as a holiday perennial.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is A Christmas Story among the best comedy movies of the 1980s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Often ranked as one of the best Christmas films ever made.
✓ Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.



Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984), Bill Murray, Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver, Best 1980s comedies
Where to Watch?   More info

Supernatural comedy film starring Bill MurrayRick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver.

Story: Three former parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service. (IMDB)

An infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, with Bill Murray’s hilarious deadpan performance leading a cast of great comic turns.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Ghostbusters among the best comedy films of the 1980s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Upon its release, it became a cultural phenomenon, and one of the highest grossing movies of the 1980s.
✓ The Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins (1984), Joe Dante, Best comedy movies of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Comedy horror film directed by Joe Dante.

Story: A boy inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town. (IMDB)

Whether you choose to see it as a statement on consumer culture or simply a special effects-heavy popcorn flick, Gremlins is a minor classic.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Gremlins among the best comedies of the 1980s?
✓ A critical and commercial success and one of the most popular comedies of the 1980s.
✓ Winner of 5 Saturn Awards, including Best Horror Film and Best Special Effects.
✓ The movie gained a significant cult following and now it is considered an influential classic.


Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Eddie Murphy, Best comedy films of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Buddy cop action comedy film starring Eddie Murphy.

Story: A freewheeling Detroit cop pursuing a murder investigation finds himself dealing with the very different culture of Beverly Hills. (IMDB)

The buddy cop movie continues its evolution unabated with this Eddie Murphy vehicle that’s fast, furious, and funny.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Beverly Hills Cop among the best 1980s comedy films?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ It was an immediate blockbuster, receiving critical acclaim and shooting Murphy to international stardom.
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.


The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Breakfast Club (1985), John Hughes, Best comedies of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Teen coming-of-age comedy-drama film film written, produced, and directed by John Hughes.

Story: Five high school students meet in Saturday detention and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought. (IMDB)

The Breakfast Club is a warm, insightful, and very funny look into the inner lives of teenagers.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Breakfast Club among the best 1980s comedy movies?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Ranked at #1 for Entertaiment Weekly’s 50 Best High School Movies.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.



The Goonies (1985)

The Goonies (1985), Richard Donner, Top comedy movies of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Adventure comedy film co-produced and directed by Richard Donner.

Story: A group of young misfits called The Goonies discover an ancient map and set out on an adventure to find a legendary pirate’s long-lost treasure. (IMDB)

An energetic, sometimes noisy mix of Speilbergian sentiment and funhouse tricks that will appeal to kids and nostalgic adults alike.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Goonies among the best 1980s comedies?
✓ It became a cult film, and it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ One of the highest grossing and most popular movies of the 1980s, and a timeless classic.


Back to the Future Trilogy (19851990)

Back to the Future Trilogy (1985-1990), Robert Zemeckis, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Top comedy films of the 1980s
More info

Science fiction adventure comedy film trilogy directed by Robert Zemeckis, starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.

Story: The Back to the Future Trilogy follows the adventures of a high school student, Marty McFly, and an eccentric scientist, Dr. Emmett L. Brown, as they use a newly invented DeLorean time machine to time travel to different periods in history, and by doing so, they interfere with their own past and future.

Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Back to the Future Trilogy among the best comedy movies of the 1980s?
✓ A critical and commercial success with a long lasting and significant impact on popular culture.
✓ Critics praised the story, comedy, and the performance of the cast, particularly Fox and Lloyd.
✓ The trilogy has grown in esteem ever since and is now considered to be among the greatest films of the 1980s, one of the best science-fiction films ever made, and one of the greatest films of all time.


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), John Hughes, Matthew Broderick, Top comedies of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Teen comedy film written, co-produced, and directed by John Hughes, starring Matthew Broderick.

Story: A high school wise guy is determined to have a day off from school, despite what the Principal thinks of that. (IMDB)

Matthew Broderick charms in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a light and irrepressibly fun movie about being young and having fun.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off among the best comedy films of the 1980s?
✓ A huge box office success, enthusiastically acclaimed by critics and audiences.
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Spaceballs (1987)

Spaceballs (1987), Mel Brooks, Greatest comedy movies of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Science fiction comedy film co-written, produced and directed by Mel Brooks.

Story: A star pilot and his sidekick must come to the rescue of a Princess and save the galaxy from a ruthless race of beings known as Spaceballs. (IMDB)

There’s fine spoofery and amusing characters in Spaceballs, though it’s a far cry from Mel Brooks’ peak era.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Spaceballs among the best comedies of the 1980s?
✓ Upon release it was met with a mixed reception, but it has since become a cult classic and one of Brooks’s most popular films.
✓ It has made an impact on popular culture and been used as a referent and inspiration in other properties.



Evil Dead II (1987)

Evil Dead II (1987), Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Greatest comedy films of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Supernatural horror comedy film directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell.

Story: The lone survivor of an onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits holes up in a cabin with a group of strangers while the demons continue their attack. (IMDB)

Evil Dead 2’s increased special effects and slapstick-gore makes it as good — if not better — than the original.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Evil Dead II among the top comedy movies of the 1980s?
✓ Widely acclaimed by critics, with praise being reserved for its humor, Raimi’s direction and Campbell’s performance.
✓ It has accumulated a large, international cult following.
✓ It was a box office success despite being given a limited release (due to its high level of violence).


Beetlejuice (1988)

Beetlejuice (1988), Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, Greatest comedies of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Comedy horror-fantasy film directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton.

Story: The spirits of a deceased couple are harassed by an unbearable family that has moved into their home, and hire a malicious spirit to drive them out. (IMDB)

Brilliantly bizarre and overflowing with ideas, Beetlejuice offers some of Michael Keaton’s most deliciously manic work – and creepy, funny fun for the whole family.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Beetlejuice among the top comedy films of the 1980s?
✓ It won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and three Saturn Awards, and it was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
✓ Featured in the American Film Institute’s list of Best Comedies.
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1980s, and a timeless fantasy-comedy-horror classic.


Big (1988)

Big (1988), Tom Hanks, Most popular comedy movies of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Fantasy comedy-drama film starring Tom Hanks.

Story: After wishing to be made big, a teenage boy wakes the next morning to find himself mysteriously in the body of an adult. (IMDB)

Refreshingly sweet and undeniably funny, Big is a showcase for Tom Hanks, who dives into his role and infuses it with charm and surprising poignancy.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Big among the top comedies of the 1980s?
Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
Met with wide critical acclaim, particularly for Hanks’ performance. It also became a huge commercial success, and it proved to be pivotal to Hanks’ career, establishing him as a major box-office draw as well as a critical favorite.


Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Robert Zemeckis, Most popular comedy films of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Live-action/animated comedy mystery film directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Story: A toon-hating detective is a cartoon rabbit’s only hope to prove his innocence when he is accused of murder. (IMDB)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an innovative and entertaining film that features a groundbreaking mix of live action and animation, with a touching and original story to boot.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Who Framed Roger Rabbit among the greatest comedy movies of the 1980s?
✓ Received acclaim from critics, who praised its visuals, humor, writing and performances, with critics and audiences considering it to be “groundbreaking”.
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.



Coming to America (1988)

Coming to America (1988), John Landis, Eddie Murphy, Most popular comedies of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film directed by John Landis and starring Eddie Murphy.

Story: An extremely pampered African prince travels to Queens, New York, and goes undercover to find a wife that he can respect for her intelligence and strong will. (IMDB)

Eddie Murphy was in full control at this point, starkly evident in Coming to America’s John Landis’ coasting direction.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Coming to America among the greatest comedy films of the 1980s?
✓ It was a commercial box-office success, both domestically and worldwide.
✓ One of the most popular comedies of the 1980s, with a significant cult following.


The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), David Zucker and starring Leslie Nielsen, Funniest movies of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Crime comedy film directed by David Zucker and starring Leslie Nielsen.

Story: Incompetent police Detective Frank Drebin must foil an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II. (IMDB)

The Naked Gun is chock full of gags that are goofy, unapologetically crass, and ultimately hilarious.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! among the greatest comedies of the 1980s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ It was a critical and commercial success upon release, and has since been regarded as one of the greatest comedy films of all time.


When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

When Harry Met Sally… (1989), Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Funniest films of the 1980s
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.

Story: Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship. (IMDB)

Rob Reiner’s touching, funny film set a new standard for romantic comedies, and he was ably abetted by the sharp interplay between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is When Harry Met Sally… among the most popular comedy movies of the 1980s?
Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
Released to critical acclaim and it also became a box office success.
Ranked #6 on AFI’s list of the 10 greatest films in the “Romantic Comedy” genre.


National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989), Chevy Chase, Best 1980s comedy films
Where to Watch?   More info

Family comedy film starring Chevy Chase.

Story: The Griswold family’s plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster. (IMDB)

While Christmas Vacation may not be the most disciplined comedy, it’s got enough laughs and good cheer to make for a solid seasonal treat.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation among the funniest movies of the 1980s?
Upon release, it became a box office hit, but the film received mixed to positive reviews; however, over time, many have cited it as a true Christmas classic.
✓ One of the most popular comedies of the 1980s, with a significant cult following.


Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), Rick Moranis, Best 1980s comedy movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Comic science fiction film starring Rick Moranis.

Story: The scientist father of a teenage girl and boy accidentally shrinks his and two other neighborhood teens to the size of insects. Now the teens must fight diminutive dangers as the father searches for them. (IMDB)

Even as its special effects take center stage, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids still offers a charming, high-spirited sense of adventure for the whole family.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Honey, I Shrunk the Kids among the most popular comedy films of the 1980s?
✓ It was an unexpected box office success that became the highest-grossing live-action Disney film ever, a record it held for five years.
✓ It was met with positive reviews from both critics and audiences, who praised the story, visuals and innovation.



…end of the reel…

So there you have it: The 21 Greatest Comedies of the 1980s

If you want to take a look at the movies listed above, without all that info between the titles, here’s a quick recap:

Top 21 Comedies of the 1980s
Airplane! 1980
Airplane! (1980)
*Part of the Collection: Airplane Duology
The Blues Brothers 1980
The Blues Brothers (1980)
*Part of the Collection: John Landis’s Blues Brothers Duology
Trading Places 1983
Trading Places (1983)
A Christmas Story 1983
A Christmas Story (1983)
Ghostbusters 1984
Ghostbusters (1984)
*Part of the Collection: Ghostbusters Trilogy

Gremlins 1984
Gremlins (1984)
*Part of the Collection: Gremlins Duology

Beverly Hills Cop 1984
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
*Part of the Collection: Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop Trilogy


The Breakfast Club 1985
The Breakfast Club (1985)
The Goonies 1985
The Goonies (1985)
Back to the Future Trilogy 1985-1990
Back to the Future Trilogy (1985 - 1990)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 1986
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Spaceballs 1987
Spaceballs (1987)
Evil Dead II 1987
Evil Dead II (1987)
*Part of the Collection: Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead Trilogy
Beetlejuice 1988
Beetlejuice (1988)
Big 1988
Big (1988)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit 1988
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Coming to America 1988
Coming to America (1988)
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! 1988
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
*Part of the Collection: Leslie Nielsen’s Naked Gun Trilogy
When Harry Met Sally… 1989
When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 1989
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
*Part of the Collection: Vacation Franchise
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids 1989
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
*Click any title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options

Ready for another journey?

Explore the best comedies of other decades too!

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