Everybody needs a good laugh, and that’s definitely one of the main things many of us hope for when we sit down to watch a movie. Comedy has long been a staple of cinema, having been the focal point some of the early film pioneers: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy and more besides. By the 80s, the form and content of comedy had moved forward in a big way, but the core tenet remained the same: make ’em laugh.

As with so much else, comedy was an art form which took on a whole new life as mainstream culture grew more permissive in line with the social movements of the 60s. The controversial but hugely influential Lenny Bruce paved the way for a new generation of stand-up comics who stunned audiences with their no-holds-barred language and subject matter. For some, such as Richard Pryor, stand-up success paved the way to fame and fortune in movies, although Pryor’s big screen roles tended to be far milder than his stage persona.

1975 saw the launch of Saturday Night Live, a hugely influential comedy show still running to this day. SNL has long been famed for launching their careers of numerous comedy superstars, and the show’s first run of performers – among them John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy – would also achieve big screen success in the 80s. However, the comedy hits of the 80s were by no means the domain of SNL alumni alone.

Which of these 80s comedy classics made you laugh the hardest? Scroll on down to vote up your favourites, and if you think we’ve missed any then feel free to add them at the bottom of the page.

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48 Hrs.

One of the most popular action movie formats of the 80s was the buddy cop movie, in which circumstances place two mismatched individuals together (at least one of whom is a cop) in a race against time. This concept was popularised, and in many respects perfected, by 1982's 48 Hrs. Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) is San Francisco's toughest, grumpiest cop, on the tail of dangerous criminal Albert Ganz (James Remar). Cates' investigation leads him to Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy), a one-time partner of Ganz who's now behind bars. Reluctantly, Cates gets the trash-talking criminal a 48-hour leave from prison to help him track down and capture Ganz. Initially developed with Clint Eastwood and Richard Pryor in mind for the lead roles, 48 Hrs. was directed by Walter Hill, and marked a couple of famous firsts. For one, it was the first producing credit of Joel Silver, who became the most successful action producer of the 80s with such hits Commando, Predator and Die Hard. Secondly, it was the debut film of Eddie Murphy, then a stand-up comedian aged just 21. Murphy would follow this film with Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop, and was soon established as the biggest comedy star of the decade. The hard-edged action and coarse humour of 48 Hrs. helped set the tone for action movies in the decade ahead, as well as inspiring many more buddy cop movies such as Joel Silver’s 1987 hit Lethal Weapon, and Walter Hill’s 1988 film Red Heat. A sequel followed in 1990’s Another 48 Hrs.

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An American Werewolf In London

In the early 80s, director John Landis was famed for his comedy hits Animal House and The Blues Brothers - so when he decided to try his hand at horror with 1981's An American Werewolf in London, no one was quite prepared for the results. David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are Americans back-packing across Britain. Ignoring the advice of locals, the duo cross the Yorkshire moors by night, where a horrifying attack leaves Jack dead and David badly wounded. Waking in a London hospital, David is cared for by nurse Alex (Jenny Agutter) with whom he develops a romantic connection - but he's haunted by horrific nightmares, and visions of his dead friend Jack, warning David that he is about to become the same as the creature that attacked them: a werewolf. While Landis handles the comedy as skilfully as on his earlier films, the director takes the horror elements entirely seriously. The result is a film that’s just as scary as it is funny, hence An American Werewolf in London is frequently held up (alongside Evil Dead II) as the greatest comedy horror film of all time. An American Werewolf in London was a true ground-breaker for special effects, thanks to Rick Baker’s still-astonishing werewolf transformation, for which he was awarded the first ever Best Makeup Oscar. The film also had a big fan in Michael Jackson, who enlisted Landis to direct his iconic 1983 music video Thriller, for which Rick Baker again provided the makeup.

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Back To The Future

This 1985 science fiction comedy adventure is widely hailed for having one of the most perfectly crafted screenplays ever. Back to the Future provides every bit as much rollercoaster ride entertainment as any great 80s blockbuster, yet at heart it's actually a pretty small-scale, character-based story about home and family. Skateboarding wannabe guitar hero Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is your average 80s teen, but has an unusual best friend in the aged, eccentric inventor Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Marty is stunned to find out that the Doc has built a fully functional time machine out of a Delorean automobile, but when the machine's first test goes awry Marty finds himself trapped in 1955. Crossing paths with his future parents Lorraine (Lea Thompson) and George (Crispin Glover), Marty inadvertently alters the past, threatening his very existence. Whilst the 1955 Doc Brown works to get him home, Marty must also play matchmaker to ensure his parents still get together. Director Robert Zemeckis and producer Bob Gale (both of whom also wrote the script) had been trying to get Back to the Future made for some time, but it wasn’t until Zemeckis had a hit with 1984’s Romancing the Stone that they finally got the green light. Michael J. Fox was initially unavailable to play Marty due to his commitment to TV sitcom Family Ties, so the film started production with Eric Stoltz playing Marty. However, after two weeks of shooting the filmmakers realised Stoltz didn’t suit the role, and fired him. A special deal was then worked out for Fox to shoot the film around his Family Ties commitments. Back to the Future became the biggest hit of 1985, with over $381 million in box office receipts and glowing reviews. Four years later, the team re-united to shoot 1989’s Back to the Future Part II and 1990’s Back to the Future Part III back-to-back. Rumours of a reboot come up occasionally, but Gale and Zemeckis have taken steps to ensure this can’t happen in their lifetimes.

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Beetlejuice

Tim Burton's sophomore feature film, Beetlejuice is a comedy horror-fantasy film starring Michael Keaton as a maniacal poltergeist. Released in 1988, the plot follows a recently deceased couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) as they struggle to acclimatise to their new, ghostly status - but when another family moves into their Connecticut home, they reluctantly enlist the demon Betelgeuse to make short work of the house's latest residents. The original script submitted to Burton was much darker, featuring Beetlejuice as a squat, Middle Eastern man who mutilates and murders the new family's youngest child, but it would be subjected to numerous rewrites by Burton, Larry Wilson and Warren Skaaren, significantly lightening the tone. One important addition was the leitmotif of Harry Belafonte music while Betelgeuse's antics are taking place, the most memorable being a possessed dance to the Banana Boat Song. Featuring a variety of practical effects, stylised sets and rambunctious performances, Beetlejuice was both a critical and commercial success, taking $74.2 million on a tight budget of $15 million and ultimately winning the Academy Award for Best Makeup. Beetlejuice would come to define much of Burton's Gothic-inflected filmography, with the most obvious boon of his collaboration with Keaton being the pair's work on 1989's Batman and its sequel, Batman Returns. A sequel, under the name Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, was proposed in the early 90s; Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder even signed up for the project, providing Burton directed. However, the film was ultimately swallowed up by the resurgent interest in the Batman franchise. Beetlejuice was adapted into a critically acclaimed stage show, premiering in April 2019. The musical's run was cut short in March 2020, however, due to the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic.

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Beverly Hills Cop

Eddie Murphy was a 23-year-old stand-up comedian with two hit films to his name (48 Hrs. and Trading Places) when he landed his first leading role in what proved to be the biggest blockbuster of 1984: action comedy Beverly Hills Cop. Murphy is Axel Foley, a fast-talking Detroit cop whose childhood friend is murdered. Anxious to bring the killers to justice, Foley follows the trail to the prosperous Beverly Hills, and corrupt businessman Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff). Way outside his jurisdiction, Foley finds himself being followed by detectives Taggart (John Ashton) and Rosewood (Judge Reinhold); initially assigned to stop Foley, the bumbling local cops wind up assisting in his investigation, alongside the noble Lieutenant Bogomil (Ronny Cox). The brainchild of 80s super-producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (whose other hits included Flashdance and Top Gun), Beverly Hills Cop was initially offered to Mickey Rourke, then came close to getting made with Sylvester Stallone; but the producers rejected his expensive, ultra-violent script ideas (which Stallone ultimately took to 1986’s Cobra). Murphy was cast very late in the day, prompting hasty script rewrites: the comedian ad-libbed much of his dialogue as a result. A smash hit, Beverly Hills Cop earned over $316 million worldwide and shot Murphy to superstardom, while Harold Faltermeyer’s theme song Axel F also became a chart success. 1987 sequel Beverly Hills Cop II proved equally successful, but 1994’s Beverly Hills Cop III flopped. A fourth film is said to be in the pipeline.

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Ferris Bueller's Day Off

While Matthew Broderick enjoyed success with his second film, 1983's WarGames, there's no doubt that his titular role in Ferris Bueller's Day Off remains his most iconic. Released in 1986 and directed by John Hughes, the film has Bueller skip school for a spontaneous adventure around Chicago - all the while attempting to avoid getting caught by the Dean of Students, Edward R Rooney (Jeffrey Jones). The film was a box office success, returning $70.1 million on a budget of $5.8 million, and has become a frequent pop culture reference point for Bueller's tendency to break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience. In fact, the film features one of popular cinema's first post-credits scenes, in which Bueller emerges in a dressing gown and tells the audience to go home. The sequence in which Bueller gatecrashes a parade float to lip-sync Wayne Newton has also become enduringly famous. The part of Sloane Peterson, ultimately played by Mia Sara, initially caught the attention of frequent John Hughes collaborator Molly Ringwald; however, Hughes refused to cast her, claiming that the role wasn't significant enough his Pretty in Pink star. Ben Stein, who plays Bueller's totemically boring Economics teacher, claims he was cast due to a chance encounter with a former president: "Richard Nixon introduced me to a man named Bill Safire, who's a New York Times columnist," said Stein. "He introduced me to a guy who's an executive at Warner Brothers. He introduced me to a guy who's a casting director. He introduced me to John Hughes. John Hughes and I are among the only Republicans in the picture business, and John Hughes put me in the movie."

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Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters is a 1984 supernatural comedy film written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, directed by Ivan Reitman. The titular Ghostbusters are parapsychologists who become sought after in a world beset by phantoms and monsters. Starring Bill Murray alongside the screenwriting duo, as well as Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis in supporting roles, the film has become a cult classic for its ambitious special effects, bolstered by Ray Parker Jr's number-one theme song. Professors Peter Venkman (Murray), Ray Stantz (Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Ramis) set up an independent ghost-hunting business after being fired from their university jobs, and become entangled with Gozer, an ancient god of destruction. The project was initially planned as a collaboration between Aykroyd and John Belushi, who had previously worked together on Saturday Night Live and feature films such as The Blues Brothers. However, Belushi's sudden death in 1982 meant Aykroyd enlisted Murray for the part instead. Alongside the cast's witty repartée, the film's production design - including the 'proton packs', 'Ectomobile' vehicle, and the Stay Puft marshmallow man - has spawned several pop culture icons. Ghostbusters quickly became an astonishing box office success, drawing $282.2 million during its initial theatrical run on a budget of $25-30 million, becoming the highest-grossing comedy film of all time at that point. That total has since increased to $295.7 million after further theatrical runs, making the film the most successful comedy of the 80s. The film was followed in 1989 by Ghostbusters II, and then later by a 2016 reboot (marketed as Ghostbusters: Answer the Call). Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a direct sequel to the original films starring the surviving members of the original cast, is set to premiere in 2021.

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Midnight Run

Conventional wisdom has it that Robert De Niro didn't go mainstream until the late 90s, when the highly esteemed actor stepped away from prestige dramas to make the likes of the Analyse This and Meet the Parents movies. However, the legendary Raging Bull and The Godfather Part II Oscar winner had already ventured into more light-hearted, mass appeal territory in 1988’s comedy thriller Midnight Run. De Niro is Jack Walsh, a bounty hunter hired to locate embezzling accountant Jonathan 'The Duke' Mardukas (Charles Grodin). Walsh finds him easily enough, but what should be a simple transport job is complicated by both the mafia and the FBI being anxious to get their hands on Mardukas, not to mention the contrasting personalities of the bounty hunter and his mark. Directed by Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop), Midnight Run came together as De Niro was keen to do a comedy, after being rejected for the role that ultimately went to Tom Hanks in Big. Robin Williams and Bruce Willis were both considered for the role of Mardukas, but De Niro wound up having the most chemistry with Charles Grodin. De Niro still approached the action-comedy with his signature method seriousness, working with real bounty hunters and police officers as research, and actually scarring Grodin’s wrists from putting on the handcuffs too tight. Midnight Run was a hit with critics and a modest box office success, making almost $82 million. It spawned three TV movie sequels, none of which feature the original actors.  

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