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12. Risky Business (1983)
Key players: Paul Brickman, Rebecca De Mornay, Tom Cruise, Joe Pantoliano, Bronson Pinchot, Curtis Armstrong
Why it's great: The teenage sex comedy is nothing new, but the '80s embraced the subgenera with glee, and this film manages to raise what is, almost by definition, juvenile and ridiculous, to something like art. Paul Brickman is one of the great casualties of the era, and based on the stylish promise of this film, we are poorer for his absence. At the time this was released, there was such a push to conform to the vision of Reagan's America that a film like this seemed necessary, a call to rebellion that was much needed. What endures about it is the great frantic energy of the film and that star-making turn by Tom Cruise, who plays a guy willing to throw his future away for the promise of Rebecca De Mornay at her absolute most deadly. It's built perfectly in terms of ratcheting up the tension, and it passes one of the key tests for any great comedy, having contributed some dialogue into the permanent pop vernacular.
- Drew McWeeny