Let’s be clear. John Hughes will always be synonymous with the 1980s. And for good reason.
Need we even tally up the iconic ’80s films he wrote or directed? “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is enough to secure his Reagan Era bona fides.
The decade packed other noteworthy teen comedies, though. They often get overshadowed by Hughes’ singular canon.
Let’s change that here and now.
Consider the following six films that didn’t spring from Hughes’ imagination. Each is a fitting time capsule for the era. They all touch on universal themes, meaning today’s teens can watch, laugh, and see themselves along the way.
6. Three O’Clock High
This film deserves more respect. End of statement. A nebbishy high-schooler angers the new kid in class, a hulking teen named Buddy (Richard Tyson). Now, it’s a race against time to stop the fight slated for 3 p.m. Delirious camera work, unexpected humor and a great lead performance by Casey Siemaszko create the ultimate ’80s comedy.
5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
The film that made Sean Penn a star is also an insightful glimpse into those awkward teen years. We know all the Spicoli lines, some of which can’t be printed in a PG-rated website. What about the lesser celebrated subplots, like the ballad of a broken-hearted Mark ”Rat” Ratner (Brian Backer)?
Even better, the fantasy epilogue detailing how Spicoli saved Brooke Shields and landed Van Halen to play at his birthday party. Pure wish fulfillment. We know Spicoli probably ended up with a dead-end job given his slacker status. It’s fun to dream, right?
4. Better Off Dead
If Hughes ruled the ’80s, John Cusack came in a close second. Here, Cusack plays a depressed teen willing to take his own life when his girlfriend dumps him. It’s all played for big, broad laughs, spiked by an occasional animated snippet.
Watch it just for the persistent newspaper delivery kid demanding his “two dollars!” Or the Howard Cosell tributes sprinkled through the story.
3. The Sure Thing
It’s Cusack again, but a kinder, gentler version. This pitch-perfect Rob Reiner movie casts the actor as a desperate college student traveling cross country for a “sure thing,” a gorgeous girl who can’t say “no.” You couldn’t recreate that plot today, but the story is really about Cusack falling for the strait-laced co-ed (Daphne Zuniga) en route to the title character’s dorm room.
Need a first-date romance flick? Here you go.
2. My Bodyguard
This is more of a comedy drama, but it’s so good it’s impossible not to include here. Chris Makepeace stars as the new kid in school who decides to do something about the local bully (Matt Dillon). He hires a bodyguard (Adam Baldwin), and the two end up becoming unexpected friends.
Ruth Gordon steals scene after scene (did she ever do anything else?) as a cantankerous grandma. And the final battle will make your heart swell for all the right reasons.
1. The Flamingo Kid
It’s Dillon again, but this time he’s playing a teen who snares a gig at a posh country club. A burst of money, romance and more threaten to turn this sweet kid sour, but life lessons abound in this sly story directed by Garry Marshall.
It’s an ’80s movie set in the ’60s, but like the rest of the films mentioned here any teen from any time can connect with the yearning for independence.