The TV and Movie Boom: Best Comedy Movies of the 1980s

The 1980s were characterized by an explosion in the number of blockbuster movies, from ET The Extra-Terrestrial to Indiana Jones. During this era, investments were made in high-concept films or films whose plots could easily be summarized in 25 words or less. With this method, movies were easily marketed and understood by the viewing masses. TV and cable were also on steroids back then as more people decided to have cable installed.  Music also changed significantly in the 1980s as it saw the birth of MTV. As a result of all these radical changes in the movie and entertainment industry, the period bore witness to the emergence of many icons in both the music and movie industries. Comedic movies were also top-rated then, and listed below are seven of the best that were released during this decade.

Revenge of the Nerds

This sounded like the Revenge of the Sith, but with nerds at the forefront.  Centered on a group of nerds who were trying to stop a group of bullies, the movie gained fame as it tackled critical social issues.  It tackles the fight for self-respect and peace that the freshman nerds were willing to fight for against what they perceived as tyranny. The resulting conflict between the fraternity members and the college wimps resulted in the funniest scenes ever on the big screen. Movie critics gave credit to the movie for making its mark among the teens of the day despite the presence of many similar comedy films in the 1980s.

A Christmas Story

Everyone wants a gift for Christmas. In A Christmas Story, nine-year-old Ralphie brought up that he wished for a BB gun for Christmas. They were not particularly poor, so there was no need for personal loans to fulfill his dream, but his mother denied his request as she considered BB guns dangerous. Moviegoers were on their toes waiting whether he would eventually get his toy. Movie critics praised the film for portraying what a Christmas is to a kid. They also said that it was nostalgic and reminded adults of their own childhood dreams, making the movie a success.

Coming to America

Wherever Eddie Murphy is, the laughs would always follow. In this movie, Murphy plays the role of Prince Akeem, a crown prince of a fictional African nation who goes to New York, rents a rundown apartment with no home security system and gets robbed while settling in. His quest for love turns into an adventure he could not forget.  The movie was lauded for letting its audience experience the setting of comedy in the 1980s. Critics went as far as saying the creators were able to make a lame idea into a fantastic movie by putting in talented actors like Murphy and Arsenio Hall.

Police Academy

The film follows the story of a city where the mayor decides to remove all restrictions to become a police officer. No longer did gender, height, credit scores, weight, and academic qualifications matter. This lifting of said restrictions caused all sorts of oddballs and misfits to apply to the Police Academy. Critics claimed that the movie poked fun at law enforcement and the authorities in general. It was also seen as typical of the low-brow humor common in the 1980s. Other critics, however, warn that while the movie was a cop-spoof that seems kid-friendly, it is not.

Trading Places

Released in 1983, the movie features Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy as an investment commodities broker and a homeless street hustler whose lives crossed paths because of a bet. Winthorpe, played by Aykroyd, was framed for a crime he did not commit. The film generally received positive reviews. It was compared to other socially-relevant comedies of the time and was heralded as a decent family comedy. Much of the praise, however, was given to the Murphy-Aykroyd combination that brought out the best in the film.

Back to the Future

Any list of the best comedy movies of all time will include Back to the Future. In the film, Michael J. Fox plays the role of a teenage boy who was accidentally sent back in time to when his parents had just met. In a twist, he even becomes his mother’s love interest, threatening his very existence. The movie was so well-received it grossed over $381 million worldwide. Movie reviewers gave the movie credit for not taking time travel too seriously but focusing on the romance and the adventure the characters had to experience.


Can ghost hunting be funny? This movie proved it could be. Three eccentric parapsychologists decide to leave university and start a ghost-hunting business. As expected, they encounter all kinds of adventures and misadventures. When they discover a doorway to another dimension, the trio sets out on a quest to save New York. The degree of enthusiasm given to the supernatural comedy was remarkable. Its director, Ivan Reitman, was lauded for his creative way of combining action, scary scenes, and comedy in one film.