Ever notice how poor in quality the comedy genre has become over the past fifteen years? We have observed a steady decline in film caliber, and it appears to have become a consistent, reliable fact that no matter who the studios shuffle around, the funny films fail. Think about a bunch of recent comedy films: The Dilemma, The Internship, Delivery Man. Could all hope be lost?
Back in the 80’s, even though a majority of comedies were derived from a high school setting, there had been a treasure chest full of high quality, intelligent, excellent films. It is time to find out the results of a competition which matched up the best versus the best during this gilded era of comedy motion picture.
Here’s a look:
Points have been accumulated using a complex formula representing a function of:
Frequency of Laughs
Performances by Cast
Quality of Overall Film, and its
Staying power over the years
This had been a crowded pool of entries. With Michael Keaton having two submissions (Mr. Mom and Gung Ho) it reminded everyone of his valuable contributions in the eighties. Mel Brooks had a few entries, and there were many others to choose from. Honorable Mention is listed below. Using this advanced, technical practice employing a complex scoring program we are proud to submit to you: the BEST FUNNY FILMS of the 80’s.
HONORABLE MENTION: While these films scored high, it is simply further evidence of how the comedy genre during this time had been saturated with many, many great films.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Spinal Tap, Police Academy, The Princess Bride, The War of the Roses, Big, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, A Christmas Story, Trading Places, Coming to America, Bachelor Party, Weird Science, Spaceballs, A Fish Called Wanda, and Uncle Buck.
Now, THE TOP TEN…
T I E
10. National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)
This chapter of the Griswold’s adventures edged out Christmas Vacation simply due to the enjoyment of watching Clark try to maneuver across Europe without incident. The scene in France where the French Waiter curses Clark out while commenting on his wife and daughters t and a is one of the best moments ever within cinema’s comedy realm. This film’s score could only achieve #10 due to the absence of cousin Eddie. Other noteworthy moments include the Pig in a Poke game show, Eric Idle’s appearances, the German beer festival brawl, and the Griswold’s showing up at a completely random strangers house in Germany – incorrectly assuming they are related. This plus much more earns European Vacation the number ten slot.
10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Things get a little tight when a film has a limited location. Outside of the supermarket, where Eddie buys five 50 pound bags of dog kibble, and the tree hunt that kicks off the film, most of this masterpiece is set at the Griswold house. Let’s not forget when Clark meets Merry at the Mall.
“Tis the season to be Merry!” Clark exclaims
“Well, that’s my name!” she replies
Merry draws closer… “Can I take something out for you?”
There’s a reason the networks bid for the five year contract that gives them the rights to run the film each holiday season. It doesn’t get much better than this film ( in the 80’s)… but here are those films that are:
9. Better Off Dead (1985)
John Cusack’s early work enabled him to become a well respected lifer within the film business. Even though he received top billing for “Hot Tub Time Machine,” a hilarious film where we see him in 80’s form, but quite average in his delivery) he is absent from its sequel. Outside of 1408, and a few others, Cusack makes a lot of films. He works almost as hard as Nic Cage. Here, we have one of the greatest winter comedies ever as Blaine is joined by his sidekick Dudley Dawson (that’s right –booger), Ricky ( the sharp-dressing fat kid who lives next door), a cameo by Porky, and the infamous paper boy looking for his “two dollars.” A big score for this pleasure trip of a film… enough to break through the list to #9.
TIE FOR NUMBER 8
8. Three O’Clock High (1985)
It doesn’t got much more intelligent and innovative than Buddy Revell; the new kid who does not like to be touched. This is one that builds off of the Nick Nolte, Ralph Macchio, Crispin Glover, Richard Mulligan comedy “Teachers,” but has many more laughs. The premise that Buddy has a policy of fighting people (who touch him)after school, at 3:00 is genius. In this film, we catch a glimpse of just one of those days and it is a great ride.
8. Club Paradise (1986)
Yes, there is much truth to the statement that a top ten list of this type without a Robin Williams film would be suspect. Well, here it is – one of the best tropical island comedies you will ever see and the only reason why it scored so high is due to the performances of Rick Moranis ( now retired) and Eugene Levy. Both are at their best in this film as they play Barry and Barry – two singles guys down there for one purpose and one purpose only – the ladies. They steal every scene and their characters probably represent the funniest duo in film – ever. While a plot involving local civil unrest, and mundane events absorbs some screen time, but Barry and Barry keep this film in top form. One of the the more funnier films plus a good soundtrack from Jimmy Cliff.
7. The Naked Gun (1988)
No list of this genre carries viability without at least one Leslie Nielson film. This comedy spent some time at the #1 slot, but has declined over time due to the diluted effects of its sequels. Still, a formidable comedy not to be dismissed, Naked Gun scored high enough to secure the seven slot.
6. Airplane! (1980)
Leslie Nielson is back and Airplane represents a pioneer – especially for 1980. When you isolate a film’s setting to an airplane one of two things can happen – the very bad, or the very funny. Airplane will always represent a great comedy worth watching anytime.
5. Caddyshack (1980)
With Ted Knight, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Bill Murray it will comfort many to know that this film spent a significant amount of time in the #1 slot. It is one of the best – and Bill Murray’s performance is only marginally better than Dangerfield’s, who gives one of the greatest comedic performances ever.
Ted Knight’s performance reveals an importance loss to film as his character really brought this film together.
[Judge Smails on the tee]
“Hey, a hundred bucks you slice right into the woods!” Dangerfield’s Al Czervik snaps as he waits unpatiently for the judge to work through his lengthy pre-shot rteoutine.
“Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, sir, and I never slice,” he replies just before slicing the hell out of the ball into the trees.
It would take movie magic to beat Caddyshack in a comedy completion - almost impossible to do. With four films remaining one thing is certain, the eighties had been a great time for comedies.
4. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
“Whattya say, Clark, could ya spare a little, extra cash?” Eddie is on board in this version, the first and best of the Vacation films. From the very first scene, when Eugene Levy sells Clark the Wagon Queen Fanily Truckster, on to when Clark asks for Directions in an urban neighborhood, this comedy is unmatchable. Hundreds of road trip films have tried to come close, and they have all failed. Cousin Eddie’s performance here is trumped only by what he does in Christmas Vacation. John Candy also shows up at the end and taken all together – this film’s scores reach paramount highs due its effective flow and pace. Let’s not forget Christie Brinkley, whose appearances in this film always bring a smile.
3. Summer Rental (1985)
Candy makes Chevy Chase look like an amateur here – as he takes his family down to Florida and runs into a hilarious elitist Al Pellet, played by Richard Crenna. Crenna turned in another trademark performance as Phil Brody in The Flamingo Kid, but here, Crenna performed some of his best work serving as the film’s effective antagonist. Candy learns about sunburn, the politics of reservations at the lobster inn, sailing, and last but not least, the beach. When they finally settle in, Candy’s rental, a place where he yearns for peace and quiet, is located next door to a guy building a deck and using an electric saw all day. There are too many quotes to mention here, but some of the best include:
“Oh, don’t worry, it’s just kibble,” Candy assures the correct owner of 315 Beach Lane after thirty pounds of dog food hits the floor.
“Why don’t we all have the lobster!” Crenna decides as his order empties the lobster tank.
“Don’t serve these. You got my table –you’re not getting my lobsters,” Candy says.
“Oh, this is your table, and these are your lobsters? “ Crenna continues as he and Candy face-off for the first time.
John Candy at his best here and the film peaks when he hits the packed beach with cooler in tow. With Summer Rental coming in at number three, two of the best remain.
2. Back to School (1986)
“You rememeber Jimmy Pitso? He had an ugly wife, three ugly kids, and great coffee,” Thornton Mellon remarks after avoiding at ticket for raiding the sorority house showers.
Lines like these are littered throughout one of the smartest comedies ever made. Sam Kinnison’s performance cannot be surpassed. Kinnison’s Professor Turgeson boosts this film clear to number 2. We know that Dangerfield has acted in many films, he even worked with Oliver Stone in trying to gain a nomination for his role in “Natural Born Killers.” This would have given Rodney a ticket into the Academy, a goal of his. Back To School remains one of the most intelligent comedies ever and the original story of a guy like Mellon going back to school could only work with someone like Rodney. Nothing even close has been attempted by the industry because studio chiefs know it would be impossible to try with success. Oingo Boingo sings “Dead Man’s Party,” and we get them performing it during a laugh-filled college party scene. Robert Downey Jr. has one of the best lines – when he encounters everyone favorite 80’s villain (Johnny from Karate Kid, Billy Zabka, playing Chas Osborne here):
During registration Chas tries to cut in with Mallory.
“You guys mind if I cut in. Mellon…buddy?” Chas assumingly inquires.
Holding out his arm, Derek Lutz, played by Downey, Jr., interjects with:
“Uh, I don’t think so Osborne. Maybe if you got a note from every single person on line, then maybe we’d consider it. Until then, take a hike you elitist fraternity scumbag.”
Burt Young plays his best role since “Amityville Horror II.” As Lou, Thornton Mellon’s driver and muscle.
“You know, ya father loves ya kid,” he explains to the younger Mellon. I had two kids of my own. I put one kid through college, the other one I put through the wall.”
Young’s character Lou has many more good lines to contribute.
Let’s not forget when Mellon introduces the economics class to his experiences in the real world:
“Then you have to handle other costs, like waste disposal. I am not sure if you are familiar with who handles that business, but I’ll assure you, it’s not the boy scouts,” hs says in a reference to the mafia’s control of waste disposal during the eighties.
Back to School will be one of the anchors that 80’s will need when we match up the best 80’s comedies versus the 70’s and 90’s and on. There’s only one film funnier than Back to School… and in order to be better than this comedy, it would have to really be funny.
Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
First off, John Goodman’s role as Coach Harris deserved an Oscar nomination in this picture. The reason this film scored so high is due to the wealth of its cast, and the massive work exhibited by Goodman, Booger, Ogre, and the rest of the Lamda Lamda Lamda roster. Goodman’s performance here involves real laughs each time he’s on screen.
“Cut the social bullshit, and grab a cot!”
“When your father looked down at you, he said, some day my son will grow to be a man. Well look at you now…
“The key to the season is homecoming…we win homecoming, we get the alumni support, we get the alumni support, we take league, we take league, we get a bowl bid…”
“Shit, we forgot to practice.”
Similar to Back to School, we have a higher academia based film ( college). Nerds explores more of the out of the classroom moments. Let’s not forget the nerds themselves:
“I’ve been out combing the high schools all day,” Booger states describing his search for a date.
“Hey guys, wonderjoints,” replies Booger as he introduces the party to its next level of fun.
Who can forget takashi playing cards with Booger.
“No, that’s no good. See, ya got too many kings. Let’s take three of these kings away… and give you 3 fresh new cards,” booger says.
I can go on and on… and don’t get me started on NERDS II.
*** Please share your thoughts…