Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s

Hollywood loved its comedy double acts in the 1980s. Name one star and the other rolls off the tongue: Dan Aykoryd… & John Belushi, Richard Pryor… & Gene Wilder. Here are our faves.

The 1980s produced some great comedy buddy flicks and as such created a number of memorable double acts. Leading men and women teamed up to share the limelight, ultimately releasing some of the decade’s best comedies.

The world’s biggest stars collaborated for feature film projects that defined careers – think Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, or Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in The Blues Brothers.

There was culture clash (Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon), there was husband and wife teams (Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn in Overboard), and there were great actors going outside their comfort zone (Robert De Niro in Midnight Run).

Ultimately, these comedy twosomes produced some of the 1980s best films. Here’s some of my favourites…

You may also like these eighties top 10 lists: Top 10 Sequels | Top 10 Action Heroes | Top 10 Coming of Age Drama | Top 10 Science-Fiction for Children | Top 10 Horror Films | Top 10 Christmas Films | Top 10 Childhood Adventure Films | Top 10 Comedy Characters

10. Kurt Russell & Goldie Hawn (Overboard, 1987)

Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s
See also: “Make Me Happy” Films – 80′s Edition
Real life couple Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn bring this fun comedy alive. When handyman Russell is left unpaid after doing some work for rich heiress Hawn, he takes advantage of her sudden amnesia to bring her into his home to do the chores and look after his kids.

9. Shelley Long & Bette Midler (Outrageous Fortune, 1987)

Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s
See also: Top 10 Female Buddy Films
Shelley Long, her performances in film during the 1980s seemingly (and unfairly) forgotten, teams up with Bette Midler to play a pair of actresses baying for the blood of the man secretly sleeping with them both. Cross-country antics ensue with layers of international intrigue and undercover shenanigans.

8. Tom Hanks & Shelley Long (The Money Pit, 1986)

Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s
See also: Top 10 Tom Hanks Films in the 1980s
There were some amusing husband and wife comedies in the 1980s but few were as enjoyable and entertaining as the Tom Hanks-Shelley Long partnership. In The Money Pit they find they have sunk every last penny they had into the house from hell, their relationship hanging by a thread as the walls literally fall down around them.

7. Danny Glover & Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon, 1987)

Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s
See also: Top 10 Action Heroes of the 1980s
As far as buddy-cop partnerships go, there are few better than Danny Glover and Mel Gibson’s good-cop-bad-cop routine.

6. Richard E Grant & Paul McGann (Withnail and I, 1987)

Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s
See also: Top 10 Male Adventures in Self Discovery
It’s ironic teetotaller Richard E Grant should so convincingly inhabit the boots of one of cinema’s greatest drunks. In Withnail and I, two struggling actors from London head off for a much needed holiday in the Lake District. However, almost nothing goes to plan and soon Withnail’s eccentric uncle has joined them for some fun in the countryside.

5. Steve Martin & Michael Caine (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, 1988)

Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s
See also: Top 10 Steve Martin Films
Steve Martin and Michael Caine are perfect as scheming con men who unscrupulously steal money from rich women who fall for their elaborate deceptions. Unable to work the same affluent patch on the French Riviera, the two go head to head to see who can swindle the most money from their chosen target.

4. Richard Pryor & Gene Wilder (Stir Crazy, 1980)

Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s
See also: Top 10 Buddy Films since 1980
Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder appeared in four films together but few would argue against this being the best of the lot. These pair of unlucky friends end up serving time for a bank robbery they didn’t commit, eventually concocting an elaborate scheme to escape.

3. Robert De Niro & Charles Grodin (Midnight Run, 1988)

Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s
See also: Top 10 Robert De Niro Films
Robert De Niro plays it for laughs in Beverly Hills Cop director Martin Brest’s brilliant Midnight Run. De Niro is the bounty hunter who has to take embezzling accountant Charles Grodin across country. The juxtaposition of De Niro’s toughened mercenary alongside Grodin’s wise-cracks and book-smarts makes for a perfect comedy double act.

2. Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi (The Blues Brothers, 1980)

Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s
See also: Top 10 John Landis Films
Originally created as a musical sketch for Saturday Night Live, John Landis directs as Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi bring their perfect comedy creation to the big screen. A seminal film from the 1980s, The Blues Brothers, about the bumbling exploits of two brothers who attempt to reunite their rhythm and blues band in order to make money to save the Catholic orphanage that raised them, is about as good as 1980’s comedy gets.

1. Steve Martin & John Candy (Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1987)

Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s
See also: Top 10 Road Trip Comedy Films
Steve Martin and John Candy are the actors who give us the best comedy “double act” of the 1980s. In John Hughes’ heartwarming comedy-drama Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the pair make us laugh, make us cry, make us feel all the joys of life along their journey that begins with a chance meeting and ends with the promise of lifelong friendship.

More Top 10s you might like: Top 10 Female Buddy Films | Top 10 Tom Hanks Films of the 1980s | Top 10 1980s Films That Need A Sequel | “Make Me Happy” – 1980’s Pick-Me-Up Films | Neal Damiano’s Top 10 Quintessential 1980s Films

Written and compiled by Dan Stephens.

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Your turn – what are your favourite double acts of the 1980s?

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    PTA….number one. Nicely done. I miss John Candy. I really do. Strange to say you miss an actor that you didn’t know personally but he was such a talent.

    Nice call also with Lethal Weapon. I’m surprised you didn’t have 48 Hours up there.

  2. Avatar
    ruth Reply

    Totally agree with Danny Glover & Mel Gibson and your #1 pick!

  3. Avatar
    Mark Reply

    Other contenders (where, admittedly, some are better than others):

    (1) Gerard Depardieu and Pierre Richard in Les Fugatifs (1986), a French film which was remade in Hollywood during 1989 with Nick Nolte and Martin Short.

    (2) Walter Matthaiu (forgive spelling) and Jack Lemon in Billy Wilder’s Buddy, Buddy (1981), which was a remake of the French film A pain in the A**** (this was the only film these two made together in the 1980s, as far as I can tell)

    (3) James Woods and Jim Belushi in Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1985/6)

    (4) Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone (1984), The Jewell in the Nile (1985) and The war of the Roses (1989)

    (5) Arnie and Jim Belushi in Walter Hill’s Red Heat (1988)

    (6) Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal in Throw Mamma from the Train(1987)

    (7) Crystal and Gregory Hines in Peter Hyam’s Running Scared (1986)

    (8) Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn in Neil Jordan’s We’re No Angels (1989 … personally I thought they were embarrassing)

    (9) Kurt Russell and Sly Stallone in Tango and Cash (1989 … stupid film; Jack Palance stole the show, for want of a better cliche)

    (10) Clint and Burt in City Heat (1983/4)

    I too was surprised not to see 48 Hours on the list; De Niro and Grodin in Midnight Run was a good inclusion …

  4. Avatar
    Jaina Reply

    Excellent top pick here. I was a bit concerned seeing Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder a bit early on, I’d perhaps bump them up a bit. But Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles is one of my favourite 80s film double teams.

  5. Avatar
    Pete Reply

    Ashamed to say I haven’t seen Stir Crazy or Midnight Run but must do so one day! I love See No Evil, Hear No Evil though with wilder and Pryor! LOLs aplenty!

  6. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Mark: I’m reading those and thinking – yes, yes, and why didn’t I think of that. For a minute there – after your mention of James Woods – I thought I’d forgotten to include one of my favourite “double acts” of all time: Woods and Michael J Fox in The Hard Way. Thankfully, it was released in 1991 to spare my blushes. But you can see what my next list might be…

    I’m particularly fond of Michael Douglas & Kathleen Turner, Danny Devito and Billy Crystal, and Kurt Russell and Sly Stallone – great picks.

    Of course, Walter Mathau and Jack Lemmon are great together too. Love The Odd Couple.

  7. Avatar
    Jack Deth Reply

    Comedy is very personal. A few titles to discuss and consider:

    Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in ‘Blazing Saddles’.

    Kevin Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis in ‘A Fish Called Wanda’.

    George C. Scott and Michael Sarrazin in ‘The Flim Flam Man’.

    Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk in ‘The Great Race’.

    Mel Brooks and Harvey Korman in ‘Blazing Saddles’.

  8. Avatar
    Evan Crean Reply

    Another top-notch list. I’m never going to disagree with your Top 10’s that include Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. That’s one of my favorite flicks of all time. I’m very sentimental about it. The others that made it on are amazing too, especially Blues Brothers, Stir Crazy, Lethal Weapon and Overboard. I need to see Stir Crazy at some point in the near future. It has been way too long.

    I think it’s funny that the first two films in the list are written by Leslie Dixon. I’m assuming you knew that? Although I’ve never seen Outrageous Fortune, I’m sure it would be right up my alley. I agree that Shelley Long is totally underrated.

  9. Avatar
    Josh Reply

    While Buddy Buddy wasnt their best, I would have included it just to fit Matthau and Lemmon in. I think they’re the best comedy duo of all time really.

    Like others, bit surprised not to see Murphy/Nolte in there.

    Definitely agree with Martin and Candy as #1 though. For me that still stands as the quintessential buddy comedy of the 80s and one of the all time bests.

  10. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    I think, thanks to some great suggestions, I will create a “More Great Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s” list and mention some of these. There are so many great ones – films I really love – and they need a mention!

    Thanks everyone for your suggestions!

  11. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Funny thing, I just bought Tango and Cash on BR for $5. They Stallone and Russell were awesome in it. They had terrific chemistry.

    I also really liked Running Scared and Hines/Crystal were fantastic. Good call on that one.

  12. Avatar
    Mark Reply

    Dan,

    Well, if you are doing another list ….

    Arnie and De Vito in Twins (1988)

    Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally (1989 – does romance count?)

    Ackroyd and Murphy in Trading Places (1984)

    Murphy and Judge Reinholdt (forgive spelling) in Beverley Hills Cop (1980 something; part two as well, I guess)

    De Niro and Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy (1983 – it was an interesting pairing)

    Robert Benginini and John Lurie in Down by Law (1986)

    Lurie and Tom Waits in Down by Law

    Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in Stripes (1981)

  13. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    Cool list, I would include somewhere on here – Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in Coming to America. It is one of the funniest movies of the 80’s and they worked off each other hysterically!!

  14. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    I would also have to include the great 80’s comedy duo of Corey Feldman and Corey Haim (RIP)in the great teen comedy romp “License to Drive” Their chemistry together is unmatched and they went on to do some really funny films together all through the 80’s!!!!.

  15. Avatar
    Novroz Reply

    Simon Pegg and Nick Frost should be in the 1990s/2000s list 😉

  16. Avatar
    Colin Biggs Reply

    I’d put Wilder/Pryor above a few others just because of how frequent their collaborations were. A solid team.

  17. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    I’d have swapped 3 and 4 around, personally, bu otherwise, great list Dan!

    Reminds me, I must rewatch Blues Brothers again, and soon.

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