Saturday’s Six: Underrated 80s comedies

The 80s were well-known for excellent comedies that have stood the test of time to become comfort classics.  While there are some that seem to hog the spotlight of every Top 80s Comedies list, others are shamefully pushed into the background and mostly forgotten.

Except, of course, by me.

So here are six underrated 80s comedies that you should see — if you haven’t already — and then force your entire neighborhood to see on the threat of porcupine.

1. UHF

UHF, Weird Al Yankovic’s single film star credit to date, is just a mish-mash of goofiness and pretty family-friendly fun.  While he does throw in a musical number (“Beverly Hillbillies”) in the middle of it, UHF is mostly about movie parodies.  This is obvious when the film cuts away to a direct parody whenever Weird Al daydreams or the TV station he’s sponsoring, but the real genius comes when you consider that the actual plot of the film is a parody of pretty much every 80s comedy as well.  I mean, who really cares about saving a UHF station (especially in today’s cable world)?

Twinkie wiener sandwiches, drinking from fire hoses, mad scientists, and turtle suction cups are only the tip of this bizarro trip into Yankovic’s mind, and I love every second of it.

2. Quick Change

Bill Murray is never as enjoyable as when he’s a sarcastic wisecracker who’s mildly contemptuous of everyone around him.  That’s Quick Change in a nutshell, as Murray plays a third of a bank robbing trio.  While the heist goes off great, the team can’t seem to get out of town no matter what they do, and Murray’s exasperation at the escalating events is delicious to behold, especially when he unloads on Randy Quaid.

3. Adventures in Babysitting

Babysitting is such a mundane subject to earn an “Adventures in” prefix, but there you go.  What should be a boring night of babysitting ends up taking Elisabeth Shue and her three charges deep into the heart of Chicago, where Thor, stage singing, a friend in distress, and a bunch of bad guys are waiting for them.  As a kid I had a huge crush on Shue (and the film does everything it can to prop her up as a girl-next-door sex symbol), but even without that today, it’s still a very enjoyable romp back when we’d believe in the power of pre-pubescent teens in the face of hardened criminal scum.  I’m honestly surprised more kids weren’t actually killed in the 80s out of the belief that no murderer or thief could withstand their 11-year-old genius.

4. Just One of the Guys

Gender-bending and cross-dressing are always rich sources of comedic fodder, and while this 1985 flick never made it big back then, it’s proven to have such legs that many still think on it fondly — and watch it from time to time.  The ludicrous plot involves a teenage female journalist who goes undercover in the town’s other high school as a boy to prove that guys are treated better than girls.  What follows is a really amusing crash-course in learning to be a man and messing with the head of a guy that he/she likes.  The bully from Karate Kid is here as well as… well, the bully (he got typecast into that role), and I don’t think many teenage comedies these days would end with topless nudity, but that was par for the course in ’85.

Equally good is the pseudo-remake She’s The Man, and I like both enough that I won’t play favorites.

5. Real Genius

Speaking of gender-bending, I still don’t fully believe that the male lead in this film is an actual male, but he’s hardly the most compelling thing here.  Real Genius is perhaps the apex of 80s comedy design, with your fast-talking genius hero (Val Kilmer), Walter Peck from Ghostbusters as the antagonist, and an awesome school setting where young smarty pants of the day come together to make death lasers for the government.  Montages, secret passages, and more quotable lines than you can shake a… stick at.  Girl’s gotta have standards.

6. Monty Python and the Meaning of Life

Maybe you think this an odd entry on the list, but let me ask you: How often is Meaning of Life brought up in any conversation, even ones about Monty Python films?  Considering that there’s just three of them, you’d think that it’d get some play, but Meaning of Life is the outcast sibling in this trio.  That’s not its fault, not really; Life of Brian and Holy Grail are just so incredibly head-and-shoulders above all comedies that most everything pales in comparison.

Yet Meaning of Life — more or less a series of sketches stitched together by a theme of living and dying — is a darn funny movie in its own right.  “DON’T STAND THERE GAWKING LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN THE HAND OF GOD BEFORE!”  It’s like the TV show brought to the big screen for one last hurrah, and it’s so groovy.


  1. I’m not sure UHF is that underrated; it certainly has a devoted fanbase and you see it on TV sometimes. It’s certainly one of my favorites.
    My old college roomate is getting married next month, and my gift to him is a spatula with a tag that says “Spatula City”. Three guesses as to what film we laughed our heads off in college!

    The others are certainly underrated. All I remember about Adventures in Babysitting is that it made my awakened 8-year-old boy’s mind begin to think that the opposite gender might not be all bad after all (Elizabeth Shue…sigh).

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