1980s US comedies – A pointless yet valuable discussion

A wise philosopher in a fine film once said, “Man’s got to know his limitations”

I am acutely aware of mine, and if I was ever in doubt of them, I get reminded of them by many on a comfortably regular basis.

Some people can write about important matters of life, the universe and cricket. Some can entertain with their references to popular culture. Some can paint a picture with their words, and take your places with their prose. Some are brilliantly vicious, joyously critical and wonderfully poetic. Some have insightful things to say about football, know their history and can place the game of AFL within a societal and historical context. Some are emotive and brilliant.

And then there are those of us who talk crap. Current population, me (and currently accepting applications for permanent residency from any interested parties)

However, with all that in mind, I give to you a seemingly useless list that contributes little to the world, except the potential of a walk in the past when times were simpler and the opportunity for a good argument over a beer or 4.

Please find below my first XI (in release date order only) of the finest US comedies of the 1980s:

Caddyshack (1980)

Stripes (1981)

Tootsie (1982)

Trading Places (1983)

Fletch (1985)

The Sure Thing (1985)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

The Princess Bride (1987)

Big (1988)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) (* holds dual US/UK citizenship, could play as our designated import)

12th Man:  Beverly Hills Cop (1984) (possibly more action than comedy)

Unlucky to miss out: Ruthless People (1986), Midnight Run (1988)

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.


  1. David Downer says

    This, I can relate to.

    But Sean, personally I think you’ve missed the absolute first pick…

    Flying High (1980)

  2. Skip of Skipton says

    Where’s Cheech and Chong’s Nice Dreams (1981), Man?

  3. Lord Bogan says

    Have to admit to enjoying the odd 80s US comedy Sean.

    Definitely agree with Flying High Dave, some classic lines. Wanda, Midnight Run and Trading places were very funny and clever.. I would include all 3 Vacation Movies (83-85-89), Bachelor Party (1984), Soul Man (1987), Coming To America (1988), The Burbs (1989), Blues Brothers (1982), Harlem Nights (1989) and Heathers (1989).

    Enjoyed the memories Sean. Cheers mate :)

  4. Fast Times at Ridgemount High. Caddyshack is its only competitor for best of 80s. Other than that, a good list :)

  5. Thanks Mr Lord Bogan for adding Thre Blues Brothers and Heathers.

  6. Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Porkys, Back to School, Three Amigos, Scrooged, Say Anything, Baby It’s You, Raising Arizona, A Christmas Story, After Hours, and how did this one go missing … This Is Spinal Tap

  7. Lord Bogan says

    Yes, Rick watched Heathers with my daughter to demonstrate the dangers of peer pressure and popularity cliques. Dark humour, but an underrated black comedy with a still relevant message about bullying and being your own person.

  8. Lord Bogan says

    Porkies was my first ‘soft porn’ movie, being 12 at the time! Spinal Tap also a beauty!

  9. Flying High 1st, Caddyshack 2nd – Daylight 3rd.
    Watched This Is Spinal Tap again recently and was disappointed that it is not actually anywhere near as funny as I had recollected.

  10. Budge, never go back. Ever. I was travelling around Europe 5 years ago with my wife and two close friends. We kept talking about National Lampoons Vacation and when we landed at a B&B they had a copy. You beauty! Watched it – very disappointed. Chevy – come on! Didn’t go near Christmas Vacation a few weeks ago for the same reason.

    I know it’s not the 1980s – but Best in Show. From the Spinal Tap crew – hilarious.

  11. Skip of Skipton says

    The good old ‘test of time’. I remember loving ‘Happy Days’ and the Fonz etc. when I was a youngster in the ’70s. Then in the ’90s as a 20-something, I saw an episode of it after a long hiatus and was amazed at how lame it was. Now in my 40s, I saw an episode recently and reminisced how great it was. Cycles. Of fashion, and life.

  12. My XI would have to have Flying High, Uncle Buck, Spies Like Us and Ghostbusters – most likely at the expense of The Princess Bride, Big, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and… ?

  13. Blues Brothers a must. I also liked Hannah and Her Sisters, Mr Mom had some funny bits, Flying High must be in there, and A Fish Called Wanda was probably the best.

    But the most ridiculous of all, and hilarious in parts, was Weekend At Bernie’s.

  14. Andrew Starkie says

    aah, the 80s. if you remember them you were there.

    The decade of brilliant b graders from Hollywood.

    The romcoms. Anything starring Molly Ringwall. Sixteen Candles is the best. Breakfast Club has a great soundtrack.

    Dirty Dancing. Fletch is sensational. Moonriver……..

  15. Andrew Starkie says

    The Outsiders.

  16. Thanks for all contributions.

    I feel significantly chastened to have left out the Blues Brothers. Sorry all.

    Both through form and the rotation policy, I am willing to replace Big and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels wth The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters.

    I cannot see a way to leave out the Princess Bride and despite numerous Alamanac please, am still to be convined Flying High can see itself in the longer form of the game.

    I am a big Heathers fan and loved Soul Man, but feel they may be playing in my Australia A team or filling in whilst others are ‘rested’.

    I would be willing to see Tootsie and Flying High go mano a mano in a cage match, Thunder Dome style (ie. two go in, one comes out) for a spot, but will fight for the retention of underrated classics like The Sure Thing.

    Caddy, Stripes, Trading Places, Ferris, Fletch, Sure Thing, Princess, Wanda all first picked.

    Agree on Spinal Tap. Maybe it is like theTest team of the 90s, easier to get into than out of.


  17. Starting XI, willing to take on any comers:

    1. Fast Times At Ridgemount High (Sean Penn in an era defining role as wasted surfer dude, Jeff Spicoli – every other stoner dude on screen emulates his character and performance, it’s called acting)
    2. Caddyshack (Bill Murray makes me laugh as he’s about to open his mouth)
    This Is Spinal Tap (even today people still believe that 1) they are a real band and 2) it’s a British film [high praise indeed]
    3. The Blues Brothers (so many great lines including “you’re gonna look mighty silly trying chew corn off the cob with no f**king teeth” and “I hate Illinois Nazis”)
    4. A Christmas Story (play it for the kids every year in the same way we play It’s A Wonderful Life, still laugh and wince at the kid who gets his tongue stuck to a ice cold flag pole)
    5. The Princess Bride (enough said)
    6. Stripes (Bill, defining a particular comic style and also Sean Yummy Young … John Candy is a stand out)
    7. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (put the car up on blocks and put it in reverse and watch the odometer go backwards)
    8. The Man With Two Brains (or The Jerk, or Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid or The Lonely Guy or All of Me or Three Amigos. Turner almost steals this movie but Martin is just so stoopid, I love him … when he’s funny, not when he’s acting)
    9. Raising Arizona (it’s about kidnapping babies. Hey, I was considering Cage’s other great 80s comedy, Vampire Kiss, which is a must just for his performance)
    10. Ghostbusters (Who You Gonna Call)
    11. She’s Gotta Have It (Spike Lee announces himself with this hilarious take on a young woman balancing love and freedom)
    12th Man. Heathers (Be afraid, be very afraid of these high school bullies)
    Coach: Zelig (Woody Allan balancing precariously between being funny [good] and serious [not good])
    If But For: Robin Williams Live At The Met (an hour and a half of some of the best stand up you’ll ever see)

    And thank you Sean for allowing me to spend so much time down this particular memory lane


  18. Rick

    You cannot – cannot – mention ‘Fast Times At Ridgemount High’ without referencing Phoebe Cates.

    For those who mentioned Soul Man, I watched it again last year – that film has not aged well. At all. By the way, what happened to C. Thomas Howell?

    In terms of 80s stand-up, it has to be Eddie Murphy’s ‘Delirious’ – James Brown and Ice Cream Man (the gay-bashing doesn’t hold up well today, but in 1983, nobody knew better).

  19. Mr People’s Elbow

    I will take your Eddie Murphy (as good as it is, and I’m a fan) and raise you one ‘Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip’ and/or a ‘Steve Martin-Live!’.

    And in the meantime, I forgot about ‘Stir Crazy'(ah, well).

    But you are dead right about Phoebe Cates … cue pool scene!

    A number of actors got their big break (or start) in Fast Times, including Forest Whitaker and er, Springsteen’s sister, Pam.

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