When you think about movies in the Reagan era, what names come to mind?
Stallone. Schwarzenegger. Van Damme. Norris. Eastwood.
The decade wasn’t all about brawn, though. Some of the best film comedies hit the screen while President Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office. They may get overshadowed by the era’s action heroes. They still deserve some attention.
So, to honor the funny men and women from the ’80s, here are the Reagan era’s best big-screen comedies, from fifth best to the ’80s comedy champ.
5. “Better Off Dead”
Some movies get better over time. Others find their cultural cache increasing with age. “Better Off Dead” scores on both counts. John Cusack plays the lovesick teen who’d rather end it all than live without his beloved Beth. Turns out there’s a French exchange student who might change his mind.
This is deliriously inventive storytelling, a mashup of animation, absurdist humor and relatable angst. Quotable lines (“I want my two dollars!”) only sweeten the laughs.
4. “This Is Spinal Tap”
Perfect movies are rare. Think “Alien,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or “Jaws” for three examples. Add “This Is Spinal Tap” to that list.
The movie that spawned a genre — the mockumentary — is a pitch-perfect sendup of heavy metal mania. The rock star egos. The ridiculous tour demands. And, of course, the tragic fall.
Killer cameos (Billy Crystal!). Memorable sight gags (that cucumber in Reynold’s Wrap). Outrageous lyrics (“Big Bottoms”). What more could you want in a comedy?
Yes, the 2016 reboot/remake/reimagining only made us remember the 1984 original more fondly. Still, this is classic comic storytelling, with a hint toward the 21st century’s passion for effects-driven laughs. Best of all? We get Bill Murray in his prime, making every smirk a show stopper.
Conservatives will love how the story smites big government and extols the virtue of our freedom-loving entrepreneurs.
2. “Raising Arizona”
Coen brothers loyalists often point to “The Big Lebowski” as the filmmakers’ best comedy. Wrong.
There’s nothing in their canon to match the baby thievery at play in this truly original romp. The stolen Huggies sequence merits a place on this list. An insane amount of unforgettable lines seals the deal. Thirty years later, H.I. McDunnough and Ed are still a hoot.
1. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
You could insert a few John Hughes films on this list without much debate. Ferris is the best of the best. The adventures of one precocious teen and his quest to make his “sick” day one for the ages hasn’t aged a second. It’s pure wish fulfillment, driven by Matthew Broderick’s pitch-perfect performance. Impeccable use of music cues and a droll performance by Alan Ruck, counterbalance Ferris’ antics.