You know the deal. Someone gets thrown into a situation so far removed from their day-to-day lives we can’t help but look on in amusement and, slowly, begin rooting for them. Here are ten of the best.
Splash! ; Ron Howard; 1984
Starring: Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy
We open our list with the most literal take on a fish out of water, as beautiful Daryl Hannah emerges from the depths of the ocean (she’s a mermaid) to steal Tom Hanks’ heart, who is intent on assimilating her with life on land. Iconic 80s romcom stuff.
HouseSitter ; Frank Oz; 1992
Starring: Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn, Dana Delany
She (Hawn) is a nomadic con artist who doesn’t want to settle down. Especially not with a grey haired architect whose idea of a wild night is designing a dream home to raise a family in. The she meets him (Martin)- a grey haired architect… you get the idea.
Trading Places ; John Landis; 1983
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Ralph Bellamy
Eddie Murphy plays a grifter living hand-to-mouth persuading people he’s an injured Vietnam veteran, whilst Dan Aykroyd is a wealthy investment banker who wouldn’t be seen dead in the Bronx. The latter’s bosses make a bet, and the stars’ lives are switched.
The Jerk ; Carl Reiner; 1979
Starring: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Catlin Adams
Is Steve Martin the ultimate fish out of water actor? Who knows, and who cares. Either way, in Reiner’s exceptionally funny movie he was raised by a protective adoptive black family, although he’s white, but then heads out into the big wide world a naive idiot.
Hot Fuzz ; Edgar Wright; 2007
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman
Underrated in comparison with Shaun of the Dead (which comes from the same team), Hot Fuzz is actually a fantastic comedy. Pegg plays a cop from London, complete with stab vest, who gets reassigned to a small English village where nothing seems to happen.
Back To The Future ; Robert Zemeckis; 1985
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
Re-readings in which racist undercurrents have come to light aside, we still LOVE Back To The Future . Put simply, a teenager from the heady 80s accidentally climbs into a time machine car and travels back to the 1950s, where he nearly steals his mum’s heart.
Coming To America ; John Landis; 1988
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones
Another movie with some questionable racial stereotypes, or even caricatures, once you get past those issues it’s impossible not to enjoy this tale of an African prince who opts for impoverished Queens, New York, as the best place to find his bride-to-be.
Uncle Buck ; John Hughes; 1989
Starring: John Candy, Macaulay Culkin, Jean Louisa Kelly
How much do you miss John Candy? Our answer would be a lot, and Uncle Buck is the big man at his best. After a family emergency strikes, the eponymous Buck has to move into his brother’s house to babysit the kids, despite him being an irresponsible slob.
Big ; Penny Marshall; 1988
Starring: Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia
Here’s (yet) another question; were the 1980s the ultimate era for fish out of water comedies? We say definitely, as Big proves, wherein high school kid Josh makes a wish at a fairground, and then wakes up the next day to find himself an adult. Hijinks abound.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery ; 1997
Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York
The International Man of Mystery was a super spy back in the 1960s, got all the girls, partied in all the right places, and said all the right things. Having just woken up from a cryogenic sleep in the 1990s, none of the above apply anymore. Classic silliness.
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