Take a group of SCTV alumni, dress them in Army fatigues, add a grizzled Drill Instructor, some mud-wrestling and one heavily-armed recreational vehicle and you have Stripes. Released in 1983, this military-based comedy had all the ingredients needed to achieve a resounding victory at the box office.

Written by Harold Ramis and Len Blum, and directed by Ivan Reitman, Stripes told the sordid tale of John Winger, a cab-driving loser who, after being dumped by his girlfriend, decides that he needs a significant change in his life. After watching an Army recruiting commercial, he decides to enlist and convinces his best buddy Russell, an ESL teacher whose life isn’t any more fulfilling, to sign up with him.

Arriving at Fort Arnold, the pair meet their fellow soldiers and their no-nonsense trainer, Drill Sergeant Hulka. Standouts among the group of new recruits are the rotund but jovial Dewey “Ox” Oxburger and the anti-social loner Francis “Psycho” Sawyer. Hulka has his hands full with the inept recruits, especially Winger who has a particular talent for getting on the Sergeant’s bad side.

On the firing range, Hulka is injured by friendly fire, leaving the men without direct supervision. After a wild night out on the town that includes watching and participating in a mud wrestling match, the Commanding Officer, Captain Stillment (John Larroquete) has had enough of these misfits and threatens the group with having to repeat basic training. But Winger steps up to lead the men to victory at the graduation ceremony. After practicing all night (and oversleeping a little), the self-taught troops perform flawlessly at the graduation ceremony, impressing the General.

As a result, the General sends the group to Eastern Europe to partake in his top-secret EM-50 project, a heavily-fortified motor home that is the Army’s latest weapon. Bored with their guard duties, John and Russell decide to seduce a pair of beautiful MPs and take them and the vehicle out for a little spin around the countryside.

When the EM-50 is discovered missing, their fellow soldiers go looking for them in Czechoslovakia, only to get captured behind enemy lines. It is up to the pair of army misfits, their MP companions, a covert Hulka and a missile-firing motor home to rescue their friends from harm’s way.

Before Stripes, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray already had success together with Caddyshack and Meatballs. Thanks to the resounding success of Stripes (which pulled in $85 million at the box-office), the pair would team up in the future for a couple more hits (Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day). Stripes offered the first onscreen glimpse of their comedic chemistry and the result was one of the funniest military comedies of all time, a film that has aged well since the 80s and continues to garner new fans.

If you are a fan of this classic 80s comedy, we hope you’ll take a moment to share all of your Stripes memories with us in our comments section below.

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