Comedy films flourished during the 1980s – a golden age of comedy in American cinema. Following a stretch of dark and gritty films released in the 1970s that reflected the nation’s mood of disillusionment after Vietnam and Watergate, perhaps audiences were ready for something light and fun.
The result was a decade of unforgettable movies about airplanes, golf, time travel, and monsters. Major studios released hundreds of successful comedies throughout the decade, from the legendary “Caddyshack,” released in 1980, to 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally.”
24/7 Wall St. determined the best comedies of the decade by creating an index based on user ratings from the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes.
While all of the films featured on the list easily fit within the genre of comedy, they touch on an assortment of other categories, reflecting the vast creativity of the moment. There are mockumentaries, such as “Zelig” and “This Is Spinal Tap;” action movies, like “The Stunt Man” and “Midnight Run;” and even horror films like “Gremlins” and “An American Werewolf in London.” Some films, however, do away with all pretense and go straight for the jokes, such as the supremely silly “Airplane!”
Some directors are more represented than others on this list. Rob Reiner, John Hughes, and John Landis each have three of their films on the list. No one, however, is more represented than the famously prolific Woody Allen, who has the most movies on the list with six.
Some directors represented here are not generally known for their comedic work, yet still managed to create great comedies in the 80s. These include Martin Scorsese, Sidney Lumet, and John Carpenter.
Of course, the 1980s wouldn’t have been such a golden age of humor without so many great comedic actors. The talent that graces our list includes Steve Martin, Bill Murray, John Candy, Lily Tomlin, and Eddie Murphy.
To determine the best comedy movies of the 1980s, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on each film’s Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes’ average audience rating, and Internet Movie Database average user rating. To be considered, each film had to have at least 10,000 total user ratings between IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, 10 approved Tomatometer critic reviews, and be classified as a comedy by IMDb. Films that were deemed as not sufficiently falling in the genre of comedy were removed.
We averaged the user ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and weighted by the number of votes for each. The combined user rating was then averaged with the Rotten Tomatoes critic rating. Box office data is from IMDb and is not adjusted for inflation.