20 Best Eighties-Gone-Wild Party Movies - Rolling Stone
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20 Best Eighties-Gone-Wild Party Movies

From sex-obsessed nerds to a near-naked Tom Cruise, the craziest teen comedies of the Reagan era

Best 80s Party movies

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This week, Richard Linklater unveils Everybody Wants Some!!, his terrific, poignant coming-of-age film that pays homage to both his experience as a collegiate baseball player and the sex-crazed, party-hearty teen comedies of the 1980s. In honor of the writer-director’s achievement, we’ve ranked the 20 films that best epitomized that era’s horn-dog aesthetic.

In these movies, hormones and adolescent insecurities often went hand-in-hand as Hollywood cashed in on teenage boys’ insatiable desire to see T&A, no matter how skimpy the plot. (Remember, this is before the Internet existed.) Some of these films are classics, some of them are more than a little problematic — but all of them serve as a time capsule into a freewheeling, innocent age. Virgins, nerds, ski bunnies, Valley girls, peeping toms: All are welcome.

Best 80s Party movies

‘Zapped’ (1982)

Not to be confused with the wholesome Disney Channel 'tween movie of the same name, this supernatural comedy starred Happy Days' Scott Baio as a randy high-schooler who discovers: 1) He has developed telekinetic powers; and 2) said powers are an awesome way to magically take women’s clothes off. (All he has to do is think, and a beautiful blonde’s shirt shoots open or dress goes flying across the room.) "Great movie," Baio said in 2014 of Zapped! "Loved it then, love it today. I get more people asking about that movie than anything, no lie. And I had a ball making that."

Best 80s Party movies

‘The Beach Girls’ (1982)

When some girlfriends (Jeana Tomasina and Val Kline) crash their pal's Malibu beach house, what could go wrong? This reinvention of the beach-party film for a new generation is full of sex and weed, and shockingly, it was co-written by Patrick Sheane Duncan, who went on to script Mr. Holland’s Opus. (As for the director, his previous credits included Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy.) The later, more well-known Hardbodies is unthinkable without it.

Best 80s Party movies

‘The Hollywood Knights’ (1980)

The missing link between American Graffiti and Animal House, this forgotten period piece is spectacularly anachronistic. It's Halloween night in Beverly Hills, 1965, and the Four Seasons and the Beach Boys are blasting on the soundtrack as hot rods cruise by — but the movie's madcap escapades place it squarely in the sex-and-hijinks realm of the Eighties comedy. Tony Danza, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Wuhl made their big-screen debut amidst scenes of punchbowls spiked with piss, flaming poop and carefree drag-racing. Who cares if everybody looks too old to be playing teenagers?

Best 80s Party movies

‘Losin’ It’ (1983)

This was an early launching pad for stars Tom Cruise and Shelley Long, not to mention L.A. Confidential filmmaker Curtis Hanson. But the film's exploits, about some horny bros heading to Mexico for sex and adventure, convinced Cruise he needed to branch out creatively. ("I decided after Losin' It, I only wanted to work with the best people," he later said.) Still, this is an action-packed lark, complete with car chases, food fights and bar brawls, and Jackie Earle Haley's Sinatra-loving hipster lends a little Rat Pack energy to the proceedings.

Best 80s Party movies

‘Hot Dog: The Movie’ (1984)

Ground Zero for the equating of skiing and screwing in lustful teenage minds, the greatest film ever named after a ballpark refreshment taught impressionable young men that women love going into hot tubs topless. There's a stunning amount of copulation in this movie, which can be alarming when the sex scenes are intercut with people dancing to "Hungry Like the Wolf." But the downhill skiing scenes are still fun, even if they're just getting in the way of the nudity.

Best 80s Party movies

‘Porky’s’ (1981)

Slammed for its misogyny and dimwitted plot, director Bob Clark's salute to peepholes in women’s locker rooms was a cultural sensation. The reason is obvious: Perhaps no movie has been so direct about adolescent men's panicked, horny, desperate fascination with women and sex. (The scenes of dudes running down the street naked are a mixture of farce and horror.) Now a guilty-pleasure rite of passage for underage boys, the film laid the groundwork for American Pie, Superbad and every just-wanna-get laid comedy meant to scandalize prudish parents.

Best 80s Party movies

‘Private School’ (1983)

Providing the valuable public service of revealing what Matthew Modine looks like dressed as a woman, this comedy decorates a potentially tasteful love story between the future Full Metal Jacket star and Phoebe Cates with endless lascivious minutiae. There's naked horseback riding — not to mention male-gaze attractions like the sight of beautiful women in spandex working out to precise choreography from future pop star Paula Abdul. "I had just come out of drama school," Modine later recalled of his time on Private School, "and all these things you learn in drama school were completely inapplicable to working on a film like that."

Best 80s Party movies

‘Bachelor Party’ (1984)

Focused around that most debaucherous of male traditions, this Tom Hanks comedy captured its star during his post-Bosom Buddies period as he was transitioning to movies as the slightly nutty regular guy. Few films get away with running jokes about the main character's buddy trying (and failing) to kill himself, but what else would you expect from a comedy that includes definitive proof that it's a bad idea to let a donkey get into your cocaine?

Best 80s Party movies

‘Get Crazy’ (1983)

The only movie to costar Daniel Stern, Lou Reed and Malcolm McDowell, this cult curio is set on New Year’s Eve 1982 as a blowout concert is getting ready to take place in Los Angeles. The coke is abundant — both onscreen and, perhaps, in some of the actors — and director Allan Arkush shoots the musical performances as if they’re hedonistic celebrations at the end of the world. As one of the film's trailers advertised, "What Animal House did to college and Airplane! did to flying, Get Crazy does to rock & roll!" Come for McDowell's trouser-stuffing Jagger riff — stay for Reed's witty Dylan imitation.

Best 80s Party movies

‘Weird Science’ (1985)

Lacking the overt sweetness and vulnerability of Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club, this sci-fi comedy from director John Hughes is a far more hormone-driven as hopeless dorks Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith create a perfect woman in The Woman in Red's Kelly Le Brock. Weird Science is a shameless male fantasy (how often have guys dreamed of showering with their pliant dream girl?), and you can bet Molly Ringwald's thoughtful Hughes characters would have hated it. Still, the house-party scene — featuring gigantic handguns, postapocalyptic bikers and a Pershing missile in the kitchen — is a keeper.

Best 80s Party movies

‘The Last American Virgin’ (1982)

The setup may have been familiar — a sensitive high-schooler (Lawrence Monoson) is trying to, y'know, get some — but director Boaz Davidson (making an American adaptation of his successful Israeli original Lemon Popsicle) wanted a far more nuanced take on the randy-teen comedy. Here, sex isn't just wacky but also confusing, which leads to plainly humiliating, relatable moments like struggling to unlock an uncooperative bra strap or trying to make it with the sexy Spanish neighbor whose boyfriend wants to kill you. But the laughs give way for an ending that remains one of the most legitimately heartbreaking of its genre.  

Best 80s Party movies

‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ (1989)

Yes, it's stupid, but it's a really great kind of stupid. This dopey farce has a plot — two dim-bulb businessmen (Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman) have to pretend their recently-croaked boss Bernie (Terry Kiser) is alive — but director Ted Kotcheff is mostly concerned with all the ways you can make a corpse seem animated. (You’ve got to give it up to ol' Bernie: He ends up being the life of the party, goes waterskiing and even gets laid more than our heroes do.) Almost three decades after the film's release, its title is practically shorthand for mindless Eighties silliness.  

Best 80s Party movies

‘Real Genius’ (1985)

This egghead variation on Animal House — this time, it's brainy science students against the administration — cast Gabriel Jarret as Mitch, a promising young mind who's about to be corrupted by Chris (Val Kilmer), an upperclassman determined to show him how to let loose. That includes getting vengeance against anybody who crosses them, including a smarmy graduate assistant (Robert Prescott) by installing a receiver in his mouth and making him think Jesus is talking to him. Kilmer’s cocky, blasé Chris is a wonder of sarcastic nonchalance, and the popcorn joke is one of the decade's best sight gags.  

Best 80s Party movies

‘Footloose’ (1984)

Emblematic of Hollywood's embrace of the MTV-ization of movie musicals, this Kevin Bacon classic cast the appealing young heartthrob as a fun-lovin', big-city kid who just wants to dance and enjoy his rock & roll, man. Squeaky-clean in its depiction of teen rebellion — these are some pretty G-rated parties — the film benefited from winning performances by Bacon, Chris Penn and John Lithgow, but also from a jubilant soundtrack that launched three songs into the Top 10, including the title cut and "Let's Hear It for the Boy," which both hit No. 1.

Best 80s Party movies

‘Revenge of the Nerds’ (1984)

The heroes played by Anthony Edwards and Robert Carradine were card-carrying nerds, complete with pocket protectors and dorkey glasses. But it was Booger, the Bluto of the 1980s, was a new kind of outcast hero: A loser who wore his uncoolness as a badge of honor — and as a raised middle finger to the preppies, the jocks and everyone else who peaks in high school. This time, it was the beta males seem as edgy and hip as the popular kids, complete with scenes of the guys placing hidden cameras in a sorority house and, controversially, pretending to be a young lady's boyfriend to have sex with her. But the film did give geeks a great pickup line for why they're better in bed than athletes are: "All jocks think about is sports. All we ever think about is sex."

Best 80s Party movies

‘Valley Girl’ (1983)

"I had always believed that our teenage years are the most dramatic in our lives," director Martha Coolidge once said about her inspiration for this knowing romantic comedy about Los Angeles geography. Conceived as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, the film paired a suburban Valley teen (Deborah Foreman) with a likeable Hollywood punk (Nicolas Cage), and the scenes of house parties and beach hangouts typify the laid-back vibe of Southern California life. This was that rare Eighties comedy that's more about love than T&A, and Coolidge's compassionate eye observes the uncertainty of high school mating rituals in all their awkward glory.

Best 80s Party movies

‘Sixteen Candles’ (1984)

John Hughes' directorial debut encompasses a murderer’s row of teenage anxieties — the big school dance, the guy you're totally crushing on, the fear of not fitting in — and cast Molly Ringwald as their charming embodiment. Her Samantha essentially created the template for the sort of bright, sensitive young woman we'd see portrayed in everything from Heathers to Easy A. Better yet, it turned the era's horn-dog trope on its head, for once focusing on the female perspective. It's bad enough that the guy Samantha loves finds out she's a virgin, but then she has to contend with the shame that occurs after she allows some dumb dude to show off her panties to a bathroom full of wide-eyed boys.

Best 80s Party movies

‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ (1986)

Writer-director John Hughes' ode to skipping school is really an acknowledgement that, eventually, responsibility comes for us all. Matthew Broderick made his name playing the film's smartass hero, dispensing his sarcastic wisdom directly to the audience, but the sensitivity he'd bring to future roles is also here, too. Even when he's the man of the hour during the film's legendary parade scene, Ferris' happy face is also an act of defiance: against getting old and boring, against the lame grownups who want you to conform. In the process, he and Hughes concocted one of the quintessential Being Young films: Ferris became the Holden Caulfield of the Eighties, except with a cute girlfriend.

Best 80s Party movies

‘Risky Business’ (1983)

Now reduced culturally to a series of iconic images — Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear, the seduction scene with Rebecca De Mornay at the window — this first-rate coming-of-age comedy mines the genre's clichés for acute truths about growing up and making sense of one's masculinity. The crazy-beautiful hooker, the house all to yourself, the wacky misadventures that follow: Cruise became a star capably playing a Chicago teen who gets all kinds of life lessons when all he was looking for was a good time. And beware of anyone named Guido the Killer Pimp.

Best 80s Party movies

‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ (1982)

Rolling Stone writer Cameron Crowe had written a book based on a year spent undercover hanging out with high school students. Amy Heckerling had graduated from NYU and AFI and was looking to make her first feature. They came together for one of the most enduring and wise movies about teenage life. Yes, snickering underage boys got to enjoy the sight of Phoebe Cates and Jennifer Jason Leigh topless, but what's truly stimulating is how Heckerling captured the idea of high school as a rambunctious, cruel metaphor for adulthood. And Sean Penn's Spicoli is a stoned delight: Having pizza delivered to his classroom or daydreaming about becoming a surf legend, he's not really a troublemaker so much as a dude who profoundly sees the world differently than Ray Walston's starchy Mr. Hand does. Almost 35 years later, Fast Times' cool buzz remains potent.

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