5. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
The start of it all for the Griswold family. We’ve all been there before. You’re on a road trip with your family and there’s always a problem. The ride is either too long, boredom or the person sitting next to you is giving you a hard time somehow.
This is where this movie relates to the audience. The plot is simple but not bland. All they want to do is get to Walley World. That’s it. That’s what makes it funny. Clark can’t do the simplest task without something going wrong. The most laughable point of the movie is the ending. The build up is terrific to that moment as is the rest of the film.
4. Stripes (1981)
This was Ramis’ on screen debut. He also co-wrote the script. As an actor, Ramis shines in this movie with Bill Murray. Together they’re like a well-oiled machine, showing some of early glimpse of what we would see in “Ghostbusters”. PJ Soles and John Candy are also great additions to the cast, the script is sharp and witty and it has the classic theme of the group of misfits who must prove themselves worthy, much like “Animal House”.
3. Animal House (1978)
Ramis co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Miller and Douglas Kenney. This is the movie that started a whole new brand of comedy. As mentioned with “Stripes”, you have your classic misfit characters trying to beat out authority.
It’s another running theme throughout the work of Ramis as a writer. We see it as well in “Meatballs”. The brand of humor has set the standard for films such as “Revenge of the Nerds”, “Police Academy”, “Old School” and many of the Judd Apatow pictures we see today. It all traces back to this classic.
Again, you relate to the characters. In your group of friends, you always have one person that may be a Bluto or an Otter. The scene that stands out the most is when Bluto is grabbing food and then starting the food fight. It is a hilarious scene.
2. Ghostbusters (1984)
Without question Ramis’ best role as an actor. It’s one of the most beloved movies of all time. Much like the sequel, the effects hold up extremely well and probably even more so. It’s refreshing to go back and see a film that uses more hand made techniques like stop motion, animatronics/puppetry, etc.
It’s, visually, fun to look at and just the contrasting characters make it hilarious to watch. Murray’s sarcasm mixed with Aykroyd’s energy and Ramis’ intelligence make for a great comedy team. Watching this film with the knowledge that Ramis had died became quite eerie and sad when Annie Potts pulls him aside in one scene says “I’m afraid you’re gonna die.”
1. Groundhog Day (1993)
Directors have that one movie that’s their masterpiece. It’s the one movie that they’re always remembered for when their name comes up. Easily, that movie for Ramis is “Groundhog Day”. Not only does he makes us laugh, but he successfully manages to make a picture that has the audience thinking as well.
It’s a wonderful film with great performances and a story anyone can relate to. It’s a story about change and how you never really have second chances. By some sort of miracle, Phil Conners gets another chance to change himself for the better until he understands what he needs to do. In many ways, it reminds us of a Frank Capra film, but told in a contemporary world.
It’s such a shame that this movie ended the long time collaboration between Ramis and Murray. Murray wanted to do a serious drama while Ramis wanted to do a comedy.Thankfully, they made up before Ramis’ passing.
Author Bio: Chris Esper is a director based out of Attleboro, MA. When he was in his teens, he received his first camera and started experimenting with it. After high school, he attended New England Institute of Technology in East Greenwich, RI where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Recording Arts. With several projects under his belt and more on the horizon including, Chris continues to work closer to his dreams.