The Most Underrated Movies Of 1980s Comedy Stars

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Vote up the comedies that deserve a spot in the '80s canon.

The 1980s were a very important time for comedy. There were more of the all-time greats working at their peak during that decade than in any other - Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy, and so many others. Unsurprisingly, they turned out a series of movies that have gone on to become certified classics. Some they did individually, and others they did in various pairings. Audiences continue to enjoy them many years after their initial releases.

Those same actors also had their share of pictures that were overlooked, either because they were a bit too ahead of the curve or got lost amid crowded release dates. In many cases, they're great demonstrations of the stars trying new ideas or showing off sides to their talent that they hadn't been able to show up to that point. Now is a good time to discover any of them that you may have missed. You're guaranteed to get a few good laughs from these overlooked movies.

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  • Rodney Dangerfield didn't make a whole lot of movies. Everyone knows Caddyshack and Back to School. Beyond that, he only had a few titles on his resume. In between those two hits came 1983's Easy Money, in which he plays Monty Capuletti, a photographer from Long Island. He smokes, drinks, gambles, and hangs around with his equally unambitious buddies, including Nicky Cerone (Joe Pesci). When his rich mother-in-law dies, she stipulates that he and his family will receive a $10 million inheritance, provided he can quit all his vices for one year. The movie tracks how difficult this task is for him.

    The part is perfect for Dangerfield, who gets to play up how neurotic Monty becomes as he tries to live a squeaky-clean life that's antithetical to his personality. If the idea of Dangerfield and Joe Pesci teaming up sounds too good to miss, it is. The actors feed off each other brilliantly. Easy Money has lots of R-rated hijinks, along with a nifty Billy Joel theme song. It didn't get - pun intended - the respect Caddyshack and Back to School did, but this is quintessential Dangerfield comedy. 

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  • Dan Aykroyd's movies tended to be hits when he teamed up with other comedians, like John Belushi in The Blues Brothers and Chevy Chase in Spies Like Us. When he was the lead, they tended to not do as well. Doctor Detroit is a great example. He plays Clifford Skridlow, a nerdy college literature professor who gets conned into posing as a flamboyant pimp. In the process, he becomes friends with the ladies of the evening he's left in charge of. Meanwhile, a Chicago mob boss is looking for him, so he has to use his intellectual skills to keep everyone out of danger.

    Akyroyd's style is more cerebral than many of his contemporaries. With Doctor Detroit, he makes a rare foray into the outright silly. The actor is predictably humorous playing the mild-mannered Clifford. When he morphs into the title character, he lets loose in a hilarious, unhinged manner that's unlike anything else he's ever done. Decked out in a mustard yellow jacket, sunglasses, and a metal hand, he looks funny. The movie puts Clifford/Detroit into a series of wild situations that offer opportunities for edgy humor. Doctor Detroit may play a little politically incorrect today. Then again, that's part of the appeal. It's pure '80s wackiness.

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  • Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid has an ingenious premise. It's a loving spoof of film noir detective movies. Steve Martin plays Roy Reardon, a gumshoe hired to look into the death of a noted cheese manufacturer by his daughter (Rachel Ward), who believes he was murdered. The movie follows him as he interviews various suspects and begins to uncover the truth.

    Now for the ingenuous part. Shooting in black-and-white, director Carl Reiner uses clips of actual noirs for his story. Martin ends up “sharing” scenes with the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Veronica Lake, and James Cagney. The result hilariously mocks the conventions of the genre, yet does so lovingly. All this was accomplished before the era of CGI, so it's a matter of cleverly matching shots of Martin to fit into previously existing movies, then tailoring his dialogue to what the veteran stars have already said. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid stiffed at the box office in 1982, perhaps because the concept was a little too ahead of its time. It's a first-rate comedic tribute to the hardboiled detective pictures of yesteryear. 

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  • Overboard was a middling box office performer in 1987. This quirky rom-com has amassed a fan base in the years since, in part due to frequent cable TV airings. However, the general public never quite embraced it. Goldie Hawn assumes the role of Joanna Stanton, a snooty socialite who falls off her yacht and ends up with a case of amnesia. Kurt Russell co-stars as Dean, a carpenter she screwed over. He gets a taste of revenge by trying to convince her that they're married.

    The premise of Overboard is obviously preposterous. That said, real-life partners Hawn and Russell have potent chemistry together. You can feel the spark between them. They play off each other very effectively, earning laughs with their polar opposite characters. Hawn was paired onscreen with many male actors over the years, to varying degrees of success. Overboard may not be her best film, but working with Russell absolutely gives this rom-com a special charm. 

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  • Joe Dante's Innerspace features Dennis Quaid as Tuck Pendleton, a drunken and disgraced Navy pilot who volunteers for a risky scientific project. He's supposed to be placed in a special pod, shrunken to microscopic size, and injected into a rabbit. During the process, the lab is attacked by a group seeking to steal the technology, so the supervisor of the experiment flees with the syringe and, to keep Tuck safe, injects him into the first person he comes across. That ends up being Jack Putter (Martin Short), a hypochondriacal grocery store worker. Once he realizes he's not possessed by a demon and actually has a miniature person inside of him, Jack works with Tuck's girlfriend Lydia (Meg Ryan) to safely get him out. 

    On one level, Innerspace is a terrific sci-fi story along the lines of Fantastic Voyage, which it was clearly inspired by. But it's also a great goofy comedy. As Tuck travels around Jack's body, the hapless host endures a variety of hysterical complications. The role gives Martin Short endless opportunities to engage in his patented physical humor. He mugs, flails around, falls down, and just generally gives the kind of exuberant performance that leaves you in stitches from start to finish. 

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  • Ruthless People is a movie that inexplicably got lost to time. It was one of Summer 1986's biggest smashes, yet nobody talks about it anymore. Danny DeVito is Sam Stone, a man who is very unhappily married to wife Barbara (Bette Midler). For that reason, he's ecstatic when two kidnappers (Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater) abduct her. They want half a million dollars in ransom. When Sam refuses to pay - hoping they'll follow through on their threat to kill Barbara - they have to resort to other measures to get his money. And since Barbara annoys them just as much as she annoys Sam, they have to do it fast.

    That's a clever premise, and the witty screenplay by Dale Launer, inspired by O' Henry's classic story “The Ransom of Red Chief,” is packed with stinging dialogue. Ruthless People was directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, the team behind Airplane! and Top Secret! It was their first foray into traditional screen comedy. They give the movie a riotous screwball feel by focusing on the characters and the desperation created by their respective predicaments. DeVito is particularly good, making Sam's glee over his wife's abduction highly amusing. The film has a killer soundtrack, too, with songs from Mick Jagger, Billy Joel, and Bruce Springsteen.

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