The line between comedy and drama was very fine in 1980s cinema. Iconic 1980s chick-flick comedies like Desperately Seeking Susan and Pretty in Pink are perfect examples – both their stories take quite serious turns and we often forget that we’re even watching a comedy. On the other end of the scale, films like The Big Chill and War Games are quite serious in subject matter, a drama and a thriller respectively, but both are directed with a light touch. And that’s the best thing about this era of cinema – more often than not, these films provide us with adventurous story-lines and serious overtones, but not at the expense of having a laugh. This was a decade of shamelessness, and its movies were a perfect demonstration of this unapologetic drive to have fun.
In a ‘decade of fun’ it’s no surprise that the comedy genre was so broad and colourful. Today, comedies tend to consist of parodies and rom-coms like Anchorman and Knocked Up, which are both excellent films, but you’re stuck for choice when the subject matter of the entire genre is limited to sex and relationships. Whatever happened to the “genre comedy” , a film that takes an adventurous story, whether it’s an action, sci-fi, fantasy or horror, and delivers it in a comedic light-hearted fashion?Take for example Back to the Future – it’s just as much a science fiction adventure film as a comedy, and one that never allowed the gags to get in the way of the plot. In fact, the only genre comedies I can think of that have been released in the last ten years are Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, & The World’s End… and perhaps Matthew Vaughn’s Kick Ass. But even these films, which are all excellent, expend so much energy paying homage to genre cinema that their narratives never gather enough momentum to compete with the genre comedies of the 80s. So without further ado, here are the top five genre comedies of the 1980s.
Back to the Future (1985)
An absolute classic, both as a family comedy and a sci-fi adventure. They don’t make them like this anymore.
There’s nothing quite like the energy this one generates, no matter how many times you see it. Who are you going to call? Ghostbusters!
The Burbs (1989)
The ultimate domestic comedy. Tom Hanks descends into neighbourhood paranoia as his annual vacation quickly becomes seriously hard work.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Hilarious werewolf comedy that is actually quite scary and features the best werewolf transformation sequence to date.
And finally, a film that’s just family friendly enough for the kids to keep their eyes open, but ferocious enough to keep them up all night.