Mount Rushmore – 1980s Comedies Edition

Kazzy was nice enough to turn his Mount Rushmore series over to me this week. Hope I do it justice…

Not too long ago my wife revealed something to me that was so upsetting, so hard to believe, that I questioned the very foundation of our marriage. My lovely bride, the daughter of a serious golfer, a woman who grew up next to a golf course has NEVER…SEEN…CADDYSHACK. I was floored. It made my stomach hurt. I started peppering her with questions about other 1980s comedies. There were a few other deficiencies but none so egregious as Caddyshack.

I’m a nostalgic guy but I try to not let that skew my assessment of artistic endeavors. With that said, it is my opinion that the 1980s was a golden age of movie comedies. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe this is a guy thing or I’m showing my age. I started asking my female friends. Most of them had seen Caddyshack but clearly it didn’t have the impact it had on most of my male friends who quote lines from the movie with regularity (seriously, go to a mini golf course with some guys raised in the 80s and see if you don’t hear one of them say, “Be the ball.”) My female friends have much more fond memories of movies like Sixteen Candles or Say Anything.

So without further ado, I present my list of those four comedies which are the best of the 1980s. I chose pure comedies, which was hard because it meant ruling out Goonies but tough decisions had to be made. This list is in no particular order.

1. Caddyshack – A perfect storm of comedic actors. Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight. This movie is extremely quotable, which I take as a signal of its worth. Considered by most to be the best golf movie ever, it’s sequel is considered the worst golf movie ever.

2. National Lampoon’s Vacation – Chevy Chase at the height of his powers. It was hard not to put European Vacation on the list too because it was a great follow-up.

3. PeeWee’s Big Adventure – This was my dark horse pick. The movie is weird and quirky in all the right ways.

4.Airplane – Perhaps the most quotable movie of all time other than Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Watching Airplane can be tiring as you are always waiting for the next gag, but it still makes me laugh.

Share your choices in the comments.

* Edited: reduced list to four entries. 

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116 thoughts on “Mount Rushmore – 1980s Comedies Edition

  1. I’m not certain as to the boundaries of your “pure comedy” category. But my list of “funniest movies from the 80’s” definitely includes Airplane. Mrs Jay and I still quote it to each other. But my heart (and the “most quoted by Doctor Jay” award) belongs to The Princess Bride.

    Also on the list are Ghostbusters, Good Morning, Vietnam, Back to the Future, Radio Days (Wallace Shawn rulez!) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off


  2. Ferris Bueller, Ghostbusters, Airplane, and Vacation.

    But the funniest moments and best quotes come from Princess Bride and Bull Durham. Those are not “pure comedies” as I understand that term, although they are both laced all through with very funny moments.


  3. No, no, no, it’s got to be four! Those are the rules!

    Spinal Tap
    Ferris Beuller’s Day Off
    Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
    Beverly Hills Cop (I’m not sure if this one shows its age too much, though)


    • I was disappointed in Ghostbusters. I guess my expectations were too high after all the praise it had received. On the other hand, I had very low expectations for Ghostbusters 2, and found it funnier than the original.

      That said, I agree that if you’re making a Mount Rushmore of 1980’s comedies, Ghostbusters belongs there.


    • I feel about Ghostbusters the same way I do about It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World: great achievement in its chose field (big-budget special-effect-driven film, and extravaganza respectively), I just wish they were funnier.


      • I’m not sure any film will ever top the sight gag of a marauding malevolent multi-story marshmallow.

        Seriously, the first time you see the movie and it dawns on the audience, as it’s dawning on the characters (Ray’s resigned “It’s…the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man”; “Ray’s gone bye-bye”; “I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought”) is just amazing.


  4. Porky’s is a lot less funny these days, now that “Clerks” and “American Pie” exist.

    I’d give props to “Trading Places”, which has the added bonus of being even more relevant now than it was in the 80s (although you need to watch it with an investment banker to understand what’s going on at the end.)

    “Used Cars” is some good dark humor. “Fifty bucks never killed anybody.” “YEAAAARGGGGH!” “Okay, OKAY! TAKE THE MONEY!” (dying car salesman reflexively grabs the cash)

    I agree that “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” ought to be there.

    I think the issue with things like “Ghostbuster” and “Back To The Future” is that they are sci-fi movies with comedy elements rather than specifically comedy movies. You could make a serious version of those movies and still have a workable movie, whereas a serious version of “Airplane” would be, well, “The High And The Mighty”, which Airplane was parodying.


  5. Airplane, Ghostbusters, Fast Times at Richmond High, Ferris Bueller, and the Princess Bride.

    You can’t pull off many of the jokes in Airplane these days. The “you want me to have an abortion” conversation is hillarious but the debate is way too hot these days.


  6. Spaceballs, anyone? Anyone? Top Secret? The Great Outdoors?

    Definitely Ghostbusters. Definitely Airplane. Definitely Caddyshack.

    Ugh. Delightfully too many to list. I’m compiling a list based on the idea that someday I have to make sure my two boys see this movie.


    • Leaving of BoD was hard. It would have easily made a Top 10 list. Spaceballs was a tough one too. Mel Brooks deserves at least one mention per decade. And Animal House only missed by two years.

      I also remember Revenge of the Nerds having a big impact on us kids in the laugh department.


    • Not sure if Better Off Dead would hold up. Been a while since I saw it. But it did have the cruelest break-up line I can remember: “Lane, I think it’d be in my best interest if I dated somebody more popular. Better looking. Drives a nicer car.”

      And was I the only guy who was actively rooting for Duckie in Pretty In Pink? I hope I wasn’t the only one who rooted for Duckie.


  7. I like the dark humor of that bright and perky era, where cocaine was common (and supposedly harmless) and the video machine was driving working bands out of business. So stranger than Paradise.


  8. I have not seen Caddyshack. I haven’t seen any of these. I haven’t seen anything that anyone on this thread has listed, in fact, aside from The Princess Bride (which I found far inferior to the book).


  9. A few things…

    First off, Pinky is right. There… are… four… movies!!!

    Secondly, Porky’s was never, ever funny. Not even in the 80s.

    Thirdly, many consider both Brazil and Princess Bride to be comedies, but others don’t and so I don’t know if they qualify. If they are eligible for Mt. Rushmore, than they should immediate replace any of the four films below and, really, any of anyone else’s entires as well.

    Lastly, here is the way the list should read (assuming Brazil an Princess Bride are not eligible), in no particular order:

    1. This is Spinal Tap

    2. A Fish Called Wanda

    3. Raising Arizona

    4. Airplane/Naked Gun (Which I am allowing to be a tie since they are basically the same movie)


  10. Spinal Tap, Ghostbusters, Airplane, and umm… either Caddy Shack or Beverly Hills Cop. It may be the only Eddie Murphy movie where he got to be anything close to full Eddie Murphy, and full Eddie Murphy is the funniest person on the planet. In fact, now that I think about it, Coming to America is pretty damn funny too.


    • BHC is as much a cop movie, if not more so, than a comedy. As i remember it was origanlly written for Stallone to be the lead. He dropped out and ending up making Cobra, a truly hateful nasty movie. Murphy is funny but it isn’t really a True Comedy.


      • Oh man, Cobra is terrible. The opening sequence alone is absolutely disgusting.

        But Beverly Hills Cop is an action comedy, ala Bad Boys. It’s definitely got serious moments, but it’s friggin’ hilarious. Eddie Murphy’s laugh alone puts it over the top.


      • Oh come on…If people remember BHC its all about the soundtrack. The Heat is On by Glenn Frey….the Neutron Dance and a song by Shalamar.

        You people truly do need a New Attitude.


      • greg,
        I mention I watched this with a writer? Might be some folks remember eddie murphy being thrown through a glass window. You can’t tell me that hasn’t be done and redone over and over again.

        Also, Axel F, dude. How can you talk about that movie and not mention it??

        …also, a little birdie told me about a remake in the works.


      • You know what was a great 1980’s action comedy? Midnight Run. I wouldn’t suggest it for Mount Rushmore as a comedy, but it was so beautifully built, so well-acted, just an all-around great movie. No one remembers it; I don’t know why.


      • My siblings and I have conversations that consist entirely of quotes from Midnight Run.

        (somebody complains)

        “Why are you unpopular with the Chicago Police Department?”


  11. 1. Caddyshack. Definitely.
    2. National Lampoon’s Vacation. Again, this is indisputable, and any list that fails to include these two movies is invalid.
    3. Airplane! This clearly belongs, but I’m at least open to argument on it.

    The top 3 are all easy picks in my book. Picking the best out of the sizable next tier of movies is really difficult though. Ferris Bueller, Spaceballs, Stripes, Trading Places, Blues Brothers and Better Off Dead are clearly the lead contenders for me. Princess Bride and Good Morning Vietnam also really belong in this group, but since we only have one spot and since they’re not “pure” comedies, they get dropped. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and The Great Outdoors also both just barely miss being in the running, if only because they both have some pretty sappy moments that reduce their comedy quotient ever so slightly, however much it pains me that this means my list will have no movies in which John Candy played more than a bit role.

    Stripes gets dropped because Harold Ramis and Bill Murray are both already represented on the list, with Ramis represented twice. Spaceballs gets dropped because it’s no better than my third favorite Mel Brooks movie, and the ’80s were too rich in great comedies to warrant including something by a director who did even better work in the ’70s. While it pains me greatly, I’m also going to cut Ferris Bueller for the completely arbitrary reason that I don’t find myself quoting it very often. Blues Brothers gets dropped for similarly arbitrary reasons. So that leaves Trading Places and Better Off Dead, both of which The Wife and I quote several times a month, and which are incredibly rewatchable.

    4. I’m going with Trading Places. If I have to choose between a movie that has John Cusack and Booger and one with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd at the height of their powers, there really shouldn’t be a choice, especially when both Murphy and Aykroyd would otherwise be missing from the list. It was hard for me to imagine a Mount Rushmore of 80s comedies without at least one of John Candy or Dan Aykroyd, but it would be outright criminal to have a Mount Rushmore of 80s comedies without Eddie Murphy.


  12. IMDB has this list, just in case people want to make their heads explode:

    Nine to Five and Smoky and the Bandit II both in the the Top 5. Craziness… The also list A Christmas Story which IS a comedy and IS among the greats, but I didn’t include it because it has transcended into ‘Christmas Movie’ and that is a whole other list (likewise for Christmas Vacation). I also like that Major League is on there. That came out during my Little League days and it was quoted a lot in the dugout.


    • The funniest part of Major League was how they accidentally made an inspiring sports story movie instead of the raunchy comedy they were going for, but they said the F-word too many times and people wouldn’t take their kids to see it, and that’s how we got two sequels.


    • I liked Major League. I thought it was funny. But it’s almost the opposite of a Mount Rushmore film. It’s always my go-to example of a movie that tried and succeeded at clearing a low hurdle. A lot of people fail at making good funny movies; they succeeded. But Airplane, Spinal Tap, and a few of the others succeeded at something great. That’s the reason I’d vote for Ghostbusters over Caddyshack. Ghostbusters had goals. Caddyshack just put a camera on a bunch of funny actors.


  13. Jesus, this is hard.

    Okay, “Raising Arizona” needs to be on the list because it’s one of two movies that have ever been produced that almost made my father asphyxiate with laughter (the other one is Arsenic and Old Lace). Plus, it’s just perfectly cast.

    “This is Spinal Tap” is far too iconic to not be on the list.

    Now I’ve got a problem, because you’ve got Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Eddie Murphy, John Belushi, Leslie Nielsen, Michael Keaton, Tom Hanks, Harold Ramis, Rodney Dangerfield, and John Cusack and only two spots left.

    “Mr. Mom” is a pretty big 80s movie. “Let it Ride” is probably the funniest movie about gambling ever, and it’s technically an 80s movie, but it doesn’t feel 80s the way, say any John Hughes movie feels 80s. Seems Like Old Times is 80s… but… argh.

    I’ll have to think about this.


      • Decade-as-genre movies really shouldn’t be from the edges.

        I mean, I remember 1980 through 1990 pretty well, and when I think 80s I think big hair and acid-washed jeans and Van Halen and The Smiths (not Morrissey) and The Cure and 80s 1-hit wonders.

        Most really-in-the-decade movies are 1983-1987. That’s when the decade was really established as being different from the 1970s.

        Chevy Chase’s funniest movie is “Foul Play”. Caddyshack is a very close second, but look at the characters in Caddyshack and you see a bunch of 70s characters, not 80s characters. Google Images Cindy Morgan in Caddyshack and you don’t see 80s style, you see 70s style.

        I’m calling Caddyshack a 70s movie.


  14. THANK YOU for jumping in on Mount Rushmore. And for tackling this specific topic, as my youth leaves me ill-equipped to weigh in on the 80’s.

    But, brah, you put FIVE movies up there. FOUR! FOUR IS THE LIMIT!!!


  15. Kung Pow, enter the fist
    Police Academy
    Monty Python and the search for the holy grail
    I can’t choose between naked gun and Mr Magoo


      • I disagree, to a great extent. In the hands of a director capable of any subtlety whatsoever, “Robocop” could have been transcendent. Unfortunately, the dice gave us Verhoeven. Even so, it was excellent for what it was.
        Could have been worse, could have been Luc Besson, whose vice is “Despite no background whatsoever, I know more about SF than literally everyone who is a professional in the genre. And I know more about what ‘literally’ means than all professors of English”.


      • Aargh. I have to admit I haven’t actually seen “Lucy”. I’m just going from his interviews and comparing them against the equivalent interviews after “The Fifth Element”, and I have to admit they turned me off seeing it a bit. But as you see I’ve already judged him, so I admit to a wee bit of bias.

        It’s probably similar to “Fifth Element” in that it’s going to be a bit “out there”, but once you’ve adjusted your mind, then the action takes over, and from all accounts it’s perfectly fine from then on.

        And I think that’s the thing, the SF hook is something that leads you into the real movie, but it’s not part and parcel of the real movie like “The Matrix” or “Blade Runner”.


  16. I confess, my list is derivative because I’ve already read almost all of the comments, but here goes:

    1. Caddyshack
    2. Trading Places
    3. Ghostbusters
    4. Fast Times

    A few notes: The only versions of Caddyshack and Fast Times I actually saw during the 80s were the edited-for-TV version. I never saw the film versions until the 90s or later (I was born in the early 70s, so I wasn’t old enough to see those in the theaters). I personally like the edited-for-tv versions for two reasons:

    1. I grew up watching those versions and got used to them and those are what I grew attached to.

    2. The tv versions actually have some scenes the film versions don’t. That is, I’m talking about the tv versions from the 80s, maybe more modern-day tv versions are different. (However, the Baby Ruth candy bar scene in Caddyshack was a must-see.)

    I almost put Airplane! on the list, but for me, it feels too much like a 70s movie.


  17. (-) Major League – The sports movie. “Bull Durham” (Tim Robbins pitching?) and to a lesser extent “Caddyshack” weren’t Sports Movies ™. Neither was “Jerry Maguire” in a later Rushmore. “Semi-Tough” /should/ have been the best sports movie of all time, but it ended up bearing the same resemblance to the book that Adam Sandler’s “The Longest Yard” did to the real “The Longest Yard”. Let me have this one and I won’t extol the virtues of “The Replacements” when we get to that era…

    (-) Airplane! – The parody/homage/reboot. Mel Brooks was already showing signs of what he would later become, so “Spaceballs” is out. “Porky’s” wasn’t funny and I never liked that genre anyway, same with “Meatballs”. “Naked Gun” and “Top Secret” are both worthy, but didn’t do enough to distinguish themselves from the first and foremost. “Dragnet” had a great soundtrack, and we’ll see Aykroyd later – his co-star probably won’t amount to anything, either.

    (-) A Fish Called Wanda – The “is it a really just a funny action movie?” movie. This allows us to dispose of “Fletch”, “Beverly Hills Cop (I and II)”, “The Princess Bride” (better movie, not as funny), “Ghostbusters”, “The Blues Brothers”, and “Stripes”. And if anyone says it was a 90s movie in disguise, well, “Life of Brian” gets left out of a lot of 70s movies lists because it was ’79, Cleese must be on the mountain somehow, and although I love it dearly, I’m not nominating “Clockwise” for a movie-of-the-decade list.

    This leaves us without probably the two iconic 80s comic actors, so we are forced to put in the one where they were so brilliant together…

    (-) Trading Places


  18. Another suggestion: Ruthless People. Its one of the best-consructed comedies I’ve ever seen almost like a Wodehouse novel.


  19. I’m not sure if it belongs on Mt. Rushmore, but I find Clue to be conspicuously missing from this list. Of course, I overlooked it at first, too.


  20. 1. This Is Spinal Tap – without question the funniest, most often quoted movie of the ’80s. To think they made most of it up as they went. And the sheer musical invention of the songs, too. “Lick My Love Pump”. I’m still waiting for the other 2 parts of the trilogy.

    2. A close second is Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. The uptight Steve Martin playing off the slovenly John Candy made every scene a classic. “How ’bout those Bears.” A Thanksgiving staple at the Slade home.

    3. Caddyshack – if only for the Cinderella story scene. Weirdly, I took my son to see it last year and he hardly laughed, while my brother and I were giggling through the whole movie. “He got alla dat one!”

    4. The Princess Bride – every character a character, and eminently quotable. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Whoever thought Andre the Giant could act?


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