The romantic comedy genre truly thrived in the 1980s and dazzled moviegoers everywhere with some seriously spectacular characters. While there is no denying that beloved hits like When Harry Met Sally…, Splash, Pretty in Pink, and The Princess Bride have established themselves as go-to films for fans, the decade did spawn some other engrossing and praise-worthy rom-coms that have sadly become underappreciated.
Goldie Hawn starred in countless fun and captivating films during that period, partnering up with both comedic genius Chevy Chase and film legend Burt Reynolds to star in Seems Like Old Times and Best Friends. Marvel superstar Robert Downey Jr. also tried his hand at the celebrated genre, delivering his undeniable brand of charm and wit opposite Cybill Shepherd in Chances Are.
These films have faded into the past, but they are worth a revisit, due to the fantastic stars and excellent plot. Here are 10 of the best rom-coms from the ’80s that you’ve probably never seen.
10 Seems Like Old Times (1980)
Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase were unlikely partners-in-crime in 1980’s Seems Like Old Times, which centers on the struggling writer Nick Gardenia as he heads to his buddy’s California beach cabin in hopes of finishing his novel, but finds his luck get even worse when he’s disturbed by a pair of criminals who force him to help them rob a bank.
Nick is forced to turn to his public defender ex-wife Glenda for help, who now just-so-happens to be married to a relentless district attorney, with side-splitting chaos naturally ensuing for the former flames.
Two Hilarious Stars and Their Lively Energy
Hawn and Chase served up some delightfully zany energy in the lively flick, and the rom-com’s screenplay was created by revered playwright and writer Neil Simon (Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple), who drew inspiration from the 1942 comedy The Talk of the Town starring Cary Grant.
Seems Like Old Times marked the second on-screen collaboration between the charismatic stars, who had previously joined forces for Foul Play. The film went on to be a success at the box office and a moderate hit with critics.
9 Continental Divide (1981)
Saturday Night Live breakout star John Belushi continued his big screen takeover when he appeared in 1981’s Continental Divide, following the funnyman as he portrays savvy newspaper reporter Ernie Souchak.
After being targeted by a corrupt alderman, Ernie is forced to leave the city for his own safety, and is tasked with interviewing the brilliant-yet-reclusive bird scientist Dr. Nell Porter (Blair Brown), whom he ends up falling for. City slicker Ernie and nature lover Nell share a passionate romance, which is compromised when his past catches up with him and brings him back to Chicago.
Belushi Showcases His Range
Continental Divide allowed Belushi to play a romantic lead and show off his range as a performer, and marked his first cinematic project where he didn’t co-star alongside Dan Aykroyd, following the duo’s departure from SNL in 1980. The film showcased the late and great comedian’s softer side and had him playing more of the straight man role while Brown embraced her eccentric side, with the playful rom-com depicting an opposites-attract tension between the two.
8 The Woman in Red (1984)
Actor, comedian, and writer extraordinaire Gene Wilder wrote, directed, and starred in the 1984 flick The Woman in Red, an adaptation of the French comedy Pardon Mon Affaire.
It tells the story of married San Francisco businessman Theodore “Teddy” Pierce as he finds himself completely enamored with a stunning stranger in a red dress (Kelly LeBrock) who he can’t stop fantasizing about, despite being happily married to his lovely wife Didi (Judith Ivey). Teddy begins to plot a way to get to know the beautiful woman, though he quickly learns life as an adulterer won’t be that easy.
Wilder Delivers the Laughs
The cheeky sex-farce was Wilder’s first directorial endeavor in seven years, and he enlisted the additional talent of his then-wife and former Saturday Night Live star Gilda Radner to help bring the hijinks to the amusing picture.
Though it failed to impress some critics, The Woman in Red did win the Academy Award for Best Original Song for Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and delivered some major laughs to moviegoers, with Wilder naturally in peak comedic form.
7 Mischief (1985)
Chronicling the complicated love lives of a group of hormonal teenagers growing up in 1956 Ohio, the rowdy 1985 romantic comedy Mischief focuses on the nerdy and introverted high school student Jonathan (Doug McKeon).
He finds his mundane existence shaken up when the rebellious Gene (Chris Nash) moves in next door and helps the social outcast break out of his shell and pursue the girl of his dreams (Kelly Preson). As Gene teaches Jonathan a thing or two about ladies, he discovers his own attitude towards women may need a little fine-tuning.
A Breezy, Raunchy Farce
Director Mel Damski was able to transport audiences back to the 1950s and served up some serious nostalgia while doing so, successfully crafting an over-the-top raunchy sex comedy that has since gone overlooked.
Fans of the late and great Kelly Preston will thoroughly enjoy seeing the actress let loose in the flick, as Mischief was one of her earliest film roles and one of her biggest projects at that point. With endearing characters, lighthearted humor, and a comical plot, Mischief is laid-back viewing for fans of the more explicit side of the rom-com genre.
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6 Bull Durham (1988)
Hollywood heavy-hitters Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon were sensational when they starred in the 1988 sports rom-com Bull Durham, loosely based on writer and director Ron Shelton’s personal experiences in minor-league baseball.
The story follows veteran catcher “Crash” Davis (Costner) as he takes up-and-coming rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) under his wing and teaches him the ropes of the sports world. When free-spirited Durham Bulls groupie Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) finds herself attracted to both Crash and Ebby, a complicated love triangle forms.
Costner and Sarandon Sizzle on Screen
Lauded for its engaging premise, charismatic performances and witty humor, Bull Durham went on to garner widespread praise and numerous accolades, including a Best Actress nod for Sarandon and an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Though it was a minor hit upon its initial release, the romantic comedy has gone on to achieve a newfound appreciation by audiences and is widely regarded as one of the greatest sports movies of all time. However, it is often an overlooked knockout for both Costner and Sarandon and often gets forgotten in the pantheon of iconic ’80s flicks.
5 One Crazy Summer (1986)
Touting a stellar cast including John Cusack, Demi Moore, and Bobcat Goldthwait, 1986’s One Crazy Summer depicts the wild and carefree summer that aspiring art student and cartoonist Hoops McCann (Cusack) shares with his two best friends on the island of Nantucket.
There he meets and falls for the free-spirited rocker Cassandra (Moore) who is desperately trying to save her grandfather’s house from greedy developers. As he tries to help the damsel-in-distress, Hoops reevaluates what he wants in life as both the summer and romance prove life-altering.
An Underrated Quirky Summer Comedy
Savage Steve Holland directed the breezy flick, once again enlisting past collaborator Cusack to headline the rom-com, having previously worked with the actor in his directorial debut Better Off Dead the year before.
The quirky comedy features winning performances by then up-and-coming talents Cusack and Moore, with the pair sharing winning chemistry in the film as they ran around Nantucket avoiding motorcycle gangs and pesky land developers.
4 Chances Are (1989)
Before he donned the iconic Iron Man suit and became the beloved face of the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. was finding his place in Hollywood via colorful comedies, appearing alongside the brilliant Cybill Shepherd in 1989’s Chances Are.
In the offbeat rom-com, ambitious district attorney Louie Jeffries is tragically killed after a car accident, and he is instantly reborn as Alex Finch, leaving his devoted wife Corrine (Shepherd) behind. Things get equally strange and complicated when Alex begins to remember his past life after he strikes up a romance with his now grown-up daughter from his former existence.
Downey Emerges as a Leading Man
The peculiar premise of Chances Are is reason enough to check out the film, as is Downey’s magnetic portrayal as the reincarnated Louie. Though not a hit at the box office, the romantic comedy did fare well with critics and earned appreciation for its whimsical energy, and Downey’s commitment to the delightfully off-the-wall tale.
Singers Cher and Peter Cetera performed the movie’s theme song “After All,” for which the musicians and tune received both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Original Song.
3 Best Friends (1982)
Pop culture legend Burt Reynolds and the always delightful Goldie Hawn were exceptional when they joined forces for 1982’s uproarious Best Friends, which is loosely based on the personal and professional relationship between writers Valerie Curtain and Barry Levinson, who co-wrote the screenplay.
In the lighthearted rom-com, writing duo/lovers Paula McCullen (Goldie Hawn) and Richard Babson (Burt Reynolds) are a Hollywood power couple who struggle to adapt and evolve in their romance after they decide to get married and discover the pitfalls of their shifting dynamics.
A Dynamic Hollywood Duo
Director Norman Jewison was ecstatic that Hawn agreed to appear in the picture, feeling as though she was one of the entertainment industry’s most honest performers, and together the pair decided to pursue Reynolds for her love interest in hopes of capturing star chemistry between the gifted actors.
The New York Times commended the duo’s performances, writing that they made “a surprisingly appealing team, the surprise being that two individually stellar comic actors can work so comfortably together. Each of them works on a lower wattage than usual, since the emphasis here is on friendliness, rather than on madcap joking.”
2 Micki & Maude (1984)
Celebrated actor, comedian, and musician Dudley Moore was a man caught in a bizarre love triangle in 1984’s Micki & Maude, which follows the English great as he stars as exhausted television reporter Rob Salinger, who begins to acquire a wandering eye after growing disenchanted with his wife Micki (Ann Reinking), and subsequently starts a relationship with the beautiful cellist Maude (Amy Irving).
Rob decides to have the best of both worlds and maintains romances with both women, which gets even more complicated after his two lady loves become pregnant.
Moore Embraces His Zany Side
Fans of the cherished comedic talent should definitely check out the sidesplitting flick, which showcased Moore’s signature wit and undeniable charm. Though it was ultimately a box office disappointment, Micki & Maude still earned the illustrious Moore a Golden Globe Award, and featured memorable appearances by both Wallace Shawn and Andre the Giant, who would go on to reunite in the ’80s beloved classic The Princess Bride.
1 The Four Seasons (1981)
Television legends Alan Alda and Carol Burnett were the ultimate cinematic dream team when they headlined 1981’s The Four Seasons, helping tell the story of the happily married New York power couple Jack and Kate Burroughs as they experience eye-opening vacations over the course of a year with some of their closest married friends.
After one of their pals decides to shockingly end their decades-long relationship, Jack and Kate are left analyzing their own enduring love and learn new things about not only themselves but also one another.
Alda and Burnett Serve Up Humor and Heart
Not only did Alda star in the thought-provoking picture, but the M*A*S*H actor also directed the romantic comedy and wrote the screenplay, and his efforts did not go unnoticed, as The Four Seasons earned over $50 million at the box office and also garnered four Golden Globe nods (including a nomination for both Alda and Burnett).
With a supporting cast of famous faces like Rita Moreno, Sandy Dennis, and Jack Weston, the film is an engrossing and intimate look at relationships among middle-aged married couples, and has plenty of humor and heart.
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