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10 Best ’80s Teen Comedies (That Weren’t Directed By John Hughes)

Although the 1980s teen comedy genre is synonymous with writer/director John Hughes, there were also a plethora of hilarious films that he had nothing to do with. Though his films had their own unique style and tone, the other teen comedies of the ’80s were as various as they were hilarious.

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Whether it was dramatic comedies like Say Anything, or goofball comedies like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, there was a lot of teen comedy to choose from in the ’80s. Though they may have taken cues from John Hughes, these films stand on their own as hilarious masterpieces of the genre.

Teen Wolf (1985)

Michael J. Fox rose to stardom in the second half of the 1980s, and he starred in some of the most iconic films of the decade. Teen Wolf is the story of a high school basketball star who suddenly finds that he can transform into a werewolf.

Using its premise as an allegory for puberty, Teen Wolf is as funny as it is relatable. Though most people don’t turn into werewolves as teens, the changes that everyone goes through can be strange and frightening. While not necessarily subtle with its morals, Teen Wolf has everything that made ’80s teen comedies great.

The Last American Virgin (1982)

Last American Virgin

Drama and comedy often collided in ’80s teen flicks, and The Last American Virgin has a fair amount of both. The film follows three friends who set out to lose their virginity. Gary falls for a transfer student but soon has his heart broken when she begins a relationship with his good friend Rick.

Not afraid to tackle hot-button topics, The Last American Virgin ranges from screwball comedy to some of the darkest moments in teen film history. Despite the hard turn, the drama feels earned and it is part of the natural progression of its main character, Gary. Aside from that, the film also features a wonderful soundtrack of ’80s classics from some of the most cutting edge bands at the time.

Valley Girl (1983)

Generally considered one of Nic Cage’s most underrated films, Valley Girl was many viewer’s introduction to the legendary actor. The story follows a preppy girl from the valley who falls for a streetwise punk from the city. As they navigate their relationship, they struggle to please their friends and family.

Culture clash is a typical recipe for comedy gold and Valley Girl never fails to take advantage of its premise. Seeing each character attempt to understand the other’s lives is where the real meat of the story is, and it is all the more hilarious because of it. Also at its core, the film has undertones of class consciousness, even if it is tackled with a humorous slant.

Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

Amanda Peterson and Patrick Dempsey in Can't Buy Me Love

Farcical comedies can be very complicated, but they can also have a very simple premise that is well executed. Can’t Buy Me Love is the story of an outcast teen who secretly pays his school’s most popular girl to pretend to be his girlfriend for a whole month.

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Though the viewer can see the romance blossoming from a mile away, the journey is still an enjoyable one. Watching the characters attempt to understand each other is both touching and sidesplitting, and the performances are strong throughout. The clashing of high school cliques was a big part of ’80s teen movies.

Risky Business (1983)

Tom Cruise in Risky Business

Featuring a soundtrack with music from artists like Bruce Springsteen, Risky Business is perhaps best remembered for its musical moments. The film follows a teen who is left home alone while his parents go on vacation. His quest for fun soon lands him in hot water and he has to raise a lot of money quickly.

While most teen movies are insular, and exist within the world of high school, Risky Business sees its teen character adjusting to the adult world. Tom Cruise shines in the lead role and flashed a bit of the star power that he would exhibit in the coming decades. The humor of the film derives from the young man as he attempts to integrate into a world he is too immature to understand.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

Though it came in the last year of the decade, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure perfectly summed up the ’80s teen comedy experience. Bill and Ted are two high school slackers who, with the aid of a time machine, gather some of history’s most important people to deliver one of their class presentations.

Perfectly cast in their roles, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves shine as Bill and Ted. The film’s humor comes from the fish-out-of-water aspects of the characters and how they manage to succeed despite being air-headed. While most ’80s teen comedies are grounded in reality, Bill & Ted takes things to the extreme for an excellent result.

Better Off Dead… (1985)

Better Off Dead

Not without its problematic elements, Better Off Dead still managed to be one of the most unique ’80s teen comedies. The film follows a teen who, after his girlfriend leaves him for a jock, decides that he must end his own life. When that doesn’t work, he decides to improve his skill as a skier to impress her.

In the context of high school, many of the conflicts of teen movies seem very important. However, in retrospect, they seem less important as people age and mature. That is one of the most important things to take away from Better Off Dead is just how temporary all of the drama of school can be. The film is still a hilarious character study and showed the early promise of its lead, John Cusack.

Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)

Cast of Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Generally considered one of Sean Penn’s best movies, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is essentially the thesis statement of ’80s teen comedies. Loosely plotted, the film follows the students of the titular high school as they explore their lives, especially their sex-lives.

RELATED: Cameron Crowe’s 10 Best Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes 

Filled with many iconic moments, the film is one of the most well remembered of the decade. Showing a variety of different types of characters, the film has something for everyone to relate to. Written by Cameron Crowe, the film attempted to take a more realistic look at the lives of the American teenager, even if it had its fair share of verboseness.

Heathers (1988)

The Heathers group in Heathers

Dark comedies were largely absent from the ’80s teen movie world, and yet Heathers came along to add a bit of levity to the occasional murder. The film follows a teen girl who tries to fit in with the most popular girls at her school. When she meets a sociopathic boy named J.D, she soon finds herself on a revenge mission against the popular kids who were once her friends.

Perfectly summarizing the high school experience for many people, Heathers used dark humor and twisted situations to lampoon the social hierarchy. Pushing its story to the absolute limits only helps to ramp up the hilarity as the film essentially has the same message as many of the other ’80s teen classics. High school life is hard, but Heathers showed a darkly comedic way that one girl fought back against the system.

Say Anything (1989)

John Cusak in Say Anything

Few teen films perfectly blended drama and comedy together quite like Say Anything. The film follows a pair of teens, one the valedictorian and the other a notorious slacker, who pursue a romantic relationship together over the summer before they go away for college.

The humor of Say Anything is more subtle and realistic than the more screwball style comedies of the time, and it also plays out like a legitimate drama. The clash of cultures between the two characters is used as a wedge that threatens to drive them apart, and the viewer roots for the success of their relationship. The film also manages to have a message about class division, without being too forceful or canceling out the humor.

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