What’s your all-time favorite funny movie? Having trouble picking just one? So did we! So we narrowed the field down to the top 100+ side-splitters of all time. Tell us in the comments what you think the funniest movie of all time.
The Funniest Movies of 2000 – The present
BEST IN SHOW (2000) Off Spinal Tap guitar duty, Christopher Guest turns his mockumentarian eye toward a tamer topic: The high-stakes world of competitive dog shows. The ridiculous comedic talent in this ensemble won’t fit in one paragraph (it barely fits in one film), but we’ll throw you a bone: Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, Catherine O’Hara, John Michael Higgins, and Guest himself all dominate the show—and that’s high praise in a movie about adorable dogs.
MEET THE PARENTS (2000) Ben Stiller tries to ingratiate himself with his girlfriend’s mom and dad. The trouble is, her old man (Robert De Niro) is ex-CIA, and paranoid about the young man whose job description is Male Nurse. Director Jay Roach keeps this a winner from opening frame to fade-out.
SHREK (2001) Once upon a time there was an Ogre (Mike Myers) whose swamp got overrun by intruders from fairy tales and Disney movies, including Pinocchio, three little pigs and a big bad wolf. All are refugees from the kingdom of the wicked Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). With the help of an articulate donkey (Eddie Murphy), Shrek sets things right and, along the way, wins the love of Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), who has a secret but endearing flaw. Computer animation with great humor and, even rarer, heart.
ZOOLANDER (2001) Idiot model/model idiot Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) has an existential crisis after being demoted to second-hottest beefcake in America by a fresh-faced jerk named Hansel (Owen Wilson). Deranged designer Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell) gives Derek new purpose as an international assassin. Moronic, star-studded (Bowie and Trump both show up) and easily one of the most quoted movies of the early decade.
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (2002) The life story of Toula (Nia Vardalos) whose family instructs her to marry a Greek boy and make Greek babies. Instead she chooses Ian (John Corbett). The collision of cultures is inevitable. (“I’m a vegetarian,” Ian explains to a Greek aunt. “That’s OK. I’ll make lamb.”) Fine performances all around, especially from Michael Constantine as Toula’s ethnocentric dad.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) Simon Pegg and Nick Frost prove their undeniable comic chemistry while trying to keep their friends/friendship alive amidst a UK zombie pandemic. Through some paranormal magic, director Edgar Wright’s British ZomCom manages to become the most affecting zombie movie of all time, and one of the funniest films of the last 20 years.
ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (2004) Watching Will Ferrell mug into a news camera as a pompous, preening playboy for 94 minutes would be enough to sell a movie. But we also get Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Fred Willard, Christina Applegate, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, David Koechner, a jazz flute solo, and a dog named Baxter who can communicate with bears. Peaking with one of the most unexpectedly absurd fight scenes ever filmed (“There were horses, and a man on fire, and I killed a guy with a trident,”) Anchorman truly is the stuff of legend.
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NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (2004) Ah, the film that put Preston, Idaho on the map. Taking teen comedies to an awkward, uncomfortable extreme, Napoleon earns a place in the pantheon for Jon Heder’s triumphantly ‘80s dance moves alone. Sweet.
BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN (2006) Flying the Andy Kaufman-brand freak flag proudly, Sacha Baron Cohen’s foreign guy avatar brings out the best and worst in America. This false Kazakhstani’s road trip to marry Pamela Anderson prompts myriad unforgettable scenes—and one scene we all wish we could forget.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006) A family of misfits and misanthropes travel West in a busted VW Microbus to enter their seven-year-old daughter in a beauty pageant. An alternately sweet and sour script takes exuberant life from a perfect cast: Steve Carrell, Alan Arkin, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, and the debut of Abigail Breslin, who auditioned for the film when she was six.
JUNO (2007) A teenage girl is thrust into adult decisions following an unplanned pregnancy. Hilarious, right? Heavy subject matter receives comic levity from a flawlessly funny cast (Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney), plus a sweet and quick-witted script by first-time scribe Diablo Cody, and one of the more memorable animated title sequences in decades.
THE HANGOVER (2009) A Vegas bachelor party becomes a missing persons’ investigation when three inept friends lose the groom, and apparently their dignity. Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and Bradley Cooper prove a shockingly potent cocktail of comic energy while embarking on a hellish backtrack through the previous night’s terrible decisions. Ignore parts II and III.
GET HIM TO THE GREEK (2010) The buddy road formula is pumped full of rock-star excess when a record company schlub (Jonah Hill) is charged with transporting notoriously impulsive and drug-addled music sensation Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) to L.A. If the core comedy of Hill and Brand wasn’t enough for you, dangerously wealthy record exec P-Diddy sweetens the daiquiri. Also: “Fuzzy wall.”
BRIDESMAIDS (2011) Annie (Kristen Wiig) is a down-on-her-luck cupcake baker in a shallow “friends with benefits” relationship with Ted (Jon Hamm). Having lost her apartment and moved back home to live with her mom, what more could go wrong? A whole lot, it seems. When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged, Annie is determined to be the best maid of honor ever, and there the comedy ensues.
THE SPY (2015) When a desk-jockey CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy), who assists secret-agent boss Bradley Fine (Jude Law) remotely via headset, hears the dashing spy has been assassinated in an arms deal gone wrong, she goes rogue to even up the score. Look for the hilarious “wine-tasting” scene, when Cooper goes undercover as a posh lady who lunches.
The Funniest Movies of 1990-2000
CITY SLICKERS (1991) Afflicted by various midlife crises, three urbanites (Billy Crystal, Bruno Kirby, Daniel Stern) try to sort things out on a cattle drive. The complications are unfailingly merry, and Jack Palance–as the rough-hewn, straight-faced head drover–makes John Wayne look like Shirley Temple.
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SOAPDISH (1991) Daytime soap operas make an easy target. However, thanks to fine performances by Kevin Kline as an aging ham, and Sally Field as his ex, there’s a lot to think about and laugh at. Whoopi Goldberg, Garry Marshall. Robert Downey, Jr., and Elisabeth Shue add deliciously to the mix.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992) Penny Marshall’s valentine to a women’s hardball league during WWII when male players were in the service. Terrific performances by Geena Davis, Madonna (!), Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Hanks. (“There’s no crying in baseball.”)
MY COUSIN VINNY (1992) Joe Pesci, a Brooklyn loudmouthpiece heads to Wazoo, Alabama, to defend his innocent cousin (Ralph Macchio) in a murder trial. Ba-da-bing farce, with a star turn by Marisa Tomei as Joe’s amusing side-of-da-mouth girlfriend.
GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) Egomaniacal weatherman Bill Murray spends a night in Punxsutawney, Pa., where the local groundhog is supposed to see his shadow and predict how long winter will last. Trouble is, Murray gets caught in a time trap, and keeps repeating the day, minute by minute, day after day. Scrooge becomes saint, but not before some funny and wise interludes, supervised by director Harold Ramis.
FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (1994) Blithe British comedy about a young man (Hugh Grant) who can’t commit until he meets an unattainable woman (Andie MacDowell). With a choice supporting cast, under Mike Newell’s direction.
DUMB AND DUMBER (1994) Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels bring respect back to the buddy road trip genre by debasing themselves entirely. As kindred morons cut from the same whoopee cushion, Carrey and Daniels embark cross-country for love, become social elites for a weekend, accidentally thwart a kidnapping, and frustrate the bejeesus out of everyone they meet along the way. Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world? Look no further.
CLERKS (1994) Through black-and-white vignettes set in a New Jersey Quick Stop, director Kevin Smith’s first film captures the funny, the raunchy, the horrible, and occasionally the sublime moments of life at a terrible day job. Most of the comedy wasn’t even a stretch; Smith wrote and shot the film for about $27,000 in the convenience store where he worked, making Clerks the first major cult comedy success of the ‘90s home movie era. Not to brag, but it’s also the most stolen American VHS tape of all time.
ACE VENTURE: PET DETECTIVE (1994) As Miami’s Sherlock Holmes of animal-related crimes, Ace Venture must break up a dolphin-smuggling ring to save the Super Bowl. Don’t knock the script for being unoriginal! Beyond the menagerie of quips and physical comedy set pieces, this outlandish caper transformed character actor James Carrey into the limb-flailing Jim of legend, beginning an era where Carrey could do no wrong—even while, literally, talking out of his behind.
BABE (1995) That rarity of rarities, an authentic family comedy, about an orphaned piglet growing up on a farm in the company of dogs, sheep and people, all of whom can talk–except that only the animals can understand one another. Exceptional animatronic effects.
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TOY STORY (1995) One of the most important movies ever made about friendship stars Tim Allen as a plastic space man—and no, we’re not talking about Galaxy Quest. The first of many excellent Disney-Pixar feature film collaborations, Toy Story set a new standard for computer animation, and family-friendly comedy strong enough to crack the hardest polyurethane hearts.
BILLY MADISON (1995) Fresh out of Saturday Night Live, Adam Sandler finds himself back in elementary school to prove he’s mature enough to manage his father’s fortune. Chris Farley, Norm MacDonald, Robert Smigel, and Steve Buscemi help plot the supremely juvenile, perpetually quotable curriculum. Silly voices ensue.
JERRY MAGUIRE (1996) The social commentary never loses its sense of humor in this full-length portrait of a venal sports agent (Tom Cruise) whose client lives by the slogan, “Show me the money.” Adroit backup by Cuba Gooding, Renée Zellweger and some actual athletes.
THE FULL MONTY (1997) Unemployed steelworkers try a new line of work–they become male strippers. Surprisingly sensitive and unfailingly witty presentation of underclass Britain by director Peter Cattaneo. Anne Dudley’s score won an Oscar.
MEN IN BLACK (1997) Alien conspiracy culture takes some good-natured ribbing in this sci-fi farce. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are the titular men sent to save us from space invaders. Fantastic special effects.
AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997) Jack Nicholson plays an obsessive-compulsive author who can’t get through the day without the help of his favorite waitress, Helen Hunt. Great cast, great lines, and Nicholson meets his match in a tiny little dog, who is as crazy as he is.
AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY (1997) The trilogy may blur into a randy, psychedelic cocktail of inept espionage and poor dental hygiene, but Mike Myers’ debut performances as Dr. Evil and Austin Danger Powers easily rank as his best roles in the post-Wayne’s World world. Armed with a cameo cast of Will Ferrell, Carrie Fisher, Tom Arnold, Rob Lowe, Christian Slater, and Burt “Frickin’” Bacharach, Powers infiltrates its way into the parody pantheon. Non-believers, we have one word for you: Shhh.
THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998) After he’s mistaken for a millionaire of the same name, Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski and his bowling buddies enter a world of pain. Part Western folk legend, part Buddhism-via-bowling parable, part hard-boiled trip down the rabbit hole to L.A.’s darkest, weirdest crannies, the Coen Brothers’ Big Lebowski is a brilliant, bizarre, and endlessly quotable universe unto itself. The Dude abides—and the world abides with him.
YOU’VE GOT MAIL (1998) An elegant update of The Shop Around the Corner (1940), this time with two competitive bookstore owners sending each other anonymous, hostile e-mails. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan shine under the direction of Nora Ephron, who is singlehandedly reviving the spirit of classic cinema comedy-romance.
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998) Writers Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman see the Bard of Avon (Joseph Fiennes) not as a sublime poet/playwright, but simply and amusingly as a writer on deadline, trying to bat out Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter, before the creditors close in. Anachronistic yet effective situations abound, along with some tasty cross-dressing by Gwyneth Paltrow. The amiable cast includes Simon Callow, Geoffrey Rush and Judi Dench.
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THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998) Indeed there is, as played by Cameron Diaz, and Ben Stiller has craved it since high school. Now that she’s a lady every other man does, too. Sophomoric? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely. Matt Dillon helps.
AMERICAN PIE (1999) Familiar story of young men trying to lose their virginity and being thwarted at every turn. Unlike earlier teenflicks, however, this farce doesn’t put down grownups, and gives some of its best lines to female characters. Ultimately, however, what gives this Pie its tart sweetness is an endearing cast, led by Jason Biggs, Eugene Levy and Alyson Hannigan.
OFFICE SPACE (1999) Mike Judge offers the most hysterical movie to ever feature the word “TPS report” in this painfully accurate satire of white-collar woe. We’ve all known droning bosses and pathetically stapler-obsessed cubicle-mates—but a set piece where three disgruntled office heroes beat the crap out of an uncooperative desktop printer is a reward that’s even worth coming in on a Sunday for.
ANALYZE THIS (1999) A mob capo (Robert De Niro) suddenly begins to suffer from panic attacks. Distressed, his bodyguard (Joe Viterelli) seeks out a shrink (Billy Crystal). and the complications begin. The doctor is a family psychiatrist, but this is definitely not the kind of family he had in mind. De Niro displays a great gift for comedy, and a very funny Crystal doesn’t make the obvious choices. Even so, Viterelli practically steals this surprisingly well-made picture.
TOPSY-TURVY (1999) Backstage lives of those 19th-century masters of operetta, W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Richly detailed direction by Mike Leigh, with persuasive performances by Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner and supporting players.
AIRPLANE! (1980) The ultimate send-up of the disaster genre. The directors/writers Jim Abrahams, and the brothers Jerry and David Zucker provide an avalanche of visual gags, parodies and puns. (“Surely you can’t be serious.” “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”) Don’t like a joke? Wait 10 seconds and there’ll be a new one. With Robert Hays as a failed pilot, Julie Hagerty as a flighty flight attendant, and a grand cast of poker-faced stiffs, including Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges and Robert Stack.
CADDYSHACK (1980) Helming his first film, Harold Ramis swings in all directions for this cult-classic collage of comic royalty. Chevy Chase smiles through disaster, Ted Knight sneers at joy, Bill Murray hunts a ridiculous gopher puppet, and Rodney Dangerfield pretty much just plays an upbeat clone of himself. It’s a Cinderella story.
PRIVATE BENJAMIN (1980) A pampered bride (Goldie Hawn) becomes a widow on her wedding night. What to do? In the old days, men would drown their sorrows by joining the French Foreign Legion. She enlists in the U.S. Army. Her rude awakening comes when a tough drill sergeant (Eileen Brennan) introduces Private Benjamin to the rigors of military life.
NINE TO FIVE (1980) When women were women, and men were chauvinists. Three secretaries (Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda) are mercilessly harrassed by their boss (Dabney Coleman). Director Colin Higgins never lets up, and the sexist boss finally gets his well-plotted verbal and visual comeuppance.
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MY FAVORITE YEAR (1982) Although he isn’t credited, the spirit of Errol Flynn, Hollywood’s ultimate ladies’ man, hovers over this appealing film. Peter O’Toole plays an aging, hard-drinking roué; Mark-Linn Baker is the kid who brings him home to lower-class Brooklyn, and promptly causes a riot. Richard Benjamin, an actor who knows from timing, directed capably.
VICTOR/VICTORIA (1982) In 1930s Paris, struggling singer Victoria (Julie Andrews) befriends Teddy (Robert Preston) a gay nightclub entertainer. He suggests a career move. Why not tour as Victor, a man posing as a woman? Victor/Victoria becomes a smash–but comic complications attend the gender-bending: pursuit by a gangster (James Garner) and hostility from the thug’s girlfriend (Leslie Anne Warren.) Tastefully directed by Blake Edwards, who might have been vulgar but never goes over the edge.
TOOTSIE (1982) A self-centered actor (Dustin Hoffman) can’t land a job–because the only parts available are for women. So he dresses as one, gets a soap opera part, learns how the other half lives, and becomes a better man/woman for it. Smart direction by Sydney Pollack (who also plays an agent) stresses credibility and gets laughs. So do Bill Murray, Teri Garr, Jessica Lange and Dabney Coleman.
48 HOURS (1982) Nick Nolte is a large white cop with small eyes; Eddie Murphy is a small black convict with big eyes. Under Walter Hill’s direction, they fight crime, spout one-liners and create big-time havoc. A great pairing, done before the two got stale.
FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982) An accurate portrait of Southern California adolescence. All the hormones are in overdrive, with expected but pleasing results. Sean Penn leads the cast. Silver-screen debuts of Nicolas Cage, Eric Stoltz and Forest Whitaker.
DINER (1982) Writer/director Barry Levinson’s funny, fond look in the rearview mirror. What he sees is the city of his youth–Baltimore–and the friends who hung out together in an eatery. First feature-film appearances for Ellen Barkin and Paul Reiser.
TRADING PLACES (1983) The title represents the truth in labeling. Eddie Murphy, a streetwise African American hustler, exchanges jobs with Dan Aykroyd, a very proper Philadelphia stockbroker. The results are everything you’d expect from these two–and more. John Landis directed.
GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) House haunted? Hire Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray, who know how to dispel ghosts and dispense jokes. So do Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis and director Ivan Reitman.
THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984) Rock ‘n’ roll has the courage to laugh at itself in Rob Reiner’s pioneering mockumentary. It follows a British heavy metal group, short on talent and money, as they tour third-rate venues across the United States on their way to oblivion. With wonderfully straight-faced performances by Chris Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Bruno Kirby and Tony Hendra.
PRIZZI’S HONOR (1985) Jack Nicholson is a lightheaded hit man for the mob. He falls in love with Kathleen Turner, who turns out to be a hit woman for another mob, with a very uncomfortable agenda. Black comedy–or rather Black Hand comedy–at its best. Anjelica Huston is as fine as the leads, and her father, John, did a classy job of direction.
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AFTER HOURS (1985) Marty Scorsese’s affectionate glimpse of lower-Manhattan’s wildlife. Sheltered yuppie Griffin Dunne loses himself in a downtown Wonderland where, he learns, “different rules apply.” As full of surprises as the world it depicts.
LOST IN AMERICA (1985) A “white-bread” couple (Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty) give up their jobs and drive cross-country to see the flyover country they missed. En route, they find nothing but trouble–funny trouble–especially in Las Vegas, where they lose the better part of their savings and vainly try to recoup. Garry Marshall is unforgettable as a casino owner. Brooks directed, wrote, starred and sparkled.
DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS (1986) A bum (Nick Nolte) attempts to drown himself in the pool of a nouveau riche couple (Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler) becomes involved in their lives, and wrecks everything. Paul Mazursky directed with a trowel, but it’s laugh-filled anyway.
ROXANNE (1987) Edmond Rostand’s play about Cyrano de Bergerac, a man with a talent as big as his nose, is brought up to speed by Steve Martin, who wrote and starred. As in the original, a gifted suitor, C. D. (Martin) is smitten by the gorgeous Roxanne (Daryl Hannah.) Alas, she has fallen for a handsome dimwit, Chris (Rick Rossovich). Since C. D. can’t have her, he generously helps Chris woo the lady with poems and speeches. Martin is alternately droll and poignant in this mini-masterpiece.
GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM (1987) The story, much exaggerated, of Adrian Cronauer. This one-time disc jockey was the voice of Armed Forces Radio until he was forced out in 1965. Robin Williams takes the bio and runs with it. Uneven but inventive humor with a moral. Forest Whitaker offers strong backup; Barry Levinson directed with heart as well as funnybone.
RAISING ARIZONA (1987) For their third film, Joel and Ethan Coen hit their stride by effectively trapping Nicolas Cage in a live-action Looney Tunes version of Crime and Punishment. The crime: babynapping. The punishment: guilt, dirty diapers, a police investigation, marital woes (via a fiery Holly Hunter), rude houseguests (via John Goodman and William Forsythe’s bungling brother jailbreakers,) madcap car/foot/dog chases, and an encounter with the Lone Biker Of The Apocalypse. It’s even better than it sounds.
BROADCAST NEWS (1987) James Brooks’s satiric exposé of TV journalism–as all style, zero substance. William Hurt is the anchorman with good looks and no brain; Albert Brooks is the reporter with smarts and no style. Holly Hunter is their obnoxious boss.
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987) A tired businessman (Steve Martin) tries desperately to get home. Nobody listens, except a lumpish, insensitive passer-by (John Candy.) Disaster follows. The cast plays it for reality as well as laughs, thanks to director John Hughes.
BIG (1988) An unhappy kid wishes he were a grownup. And voilà! He magically becomes one–except that he retains a 12-year-old mind in an adult’s body. Tom Hanks is just as magical as the premise. Penny Marshall directs a glowing cast.
A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988) A shaggy fish tale, written by former Monty Python veteran John Cleese, who also stars in this caper gone mad. Fellow Pythonite Michael Palin helps enormously, as do Jamie Lee Curtis and a frantically stuttering Kevin Kline.
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BEETLEJUICE (1988) A young couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) are killed in an automobile accent, and return as ghosts, ready to inhabit their dream house. Alas, the place is occupied by live interlopers. The pair isn’t skilled enough to scare a mouse, so they hire the evil Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton). Fine ensemble work, and director Tim Burton supplies so many sight gags and special effects that you might want to view it twice.
HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS (1989) Children accidentally point an experimental ray gun the wrong way and become minuscule and helpless. Smashing special effects, and delicious performances by Rick Moranis and a quartet of talented minors.
M*A*S*H (1970) Robert Altman’s weirdly appealing antiwar comedy that gave birth to the tamer, long-running TV series. With overlapping dialogue, odd camera angles and provocative performances by Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman et. al.
HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971) A cult film, featuring Bud Cort as a 20-year-old and Ruth Gordon as the octogenarian with whom he falls in love. Director Hal Ashby stresses credibility as well as oddball comedy. Ace score by Cat Stevens.
AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) Another coming-of-age movie–with a big difference. George Lucas (Star Wars) directed, and chose a cast of newcomers with real talent, among them Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard and Harrison Ford.
SLEEPER (1973) Woody Allen wakes up in a futuristic dictatorship only to be kidnapped by Diane Keaton and her rebel cohorts. Hilarious and prescient scenes parodying politics, lifestyle, and sex abound.
HARRY AND TONTO (1974) Retired teacher (Art Carney in an Oscar-winning performance) goes cross-country with his cat, calling on his children, and former lovers, with mostly comic but sometimes poignant results. Paul Mazursky’s direction is sensitive; Ellen Burstyn and Larry Hagman are exceptional.
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975) The inventive British sketch comedians (John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle) do battle with the Arthurian legend, complete with a Trojan Rabbit and a Holy Hand Grenade. Tradition loses. We win.
SILVER STREAK (1976) A bright parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s “train” pictures, starring Gene Wilder as a mild-mannered executive who boards the Silver Streak from L.A. to Chicago and finds himself embroiled in mystery and romance. Richard Pryor pushes the humor to a new level; Jill Clayburgh contributes the glamour, Patrick McGoohan the villainy.
CAR WASH (1976) Like L.A.’s teeming freeways, disparate lives intersect in this bubbly ensemble piece abut a white-owned car washery and the African-American and Latino crews who work there. This ’70s time capsule sports an irresistible soundtrack and appearances by some of the era’s top comic talent, including Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Franklyn Ajaye.
THE BINGO LONG TRAVELING ALL-STARS AND MOTOR KINGS (1976) The Negro Leagues just before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line. With James Earl Jones, Richard Pryor, Billy Dee Williams and lesser known, but just as enjoyable, performers.
THE GOODBYE GIRL (1977) Aspiring actor Richard Dreyfuss and bitter divorcee Marsha Mason are forced to share an apartment. It’s aversion at first sight. Neil Simon’s script and Herb Ross’s direction assure that there are at least two laughs per minute.
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ANNIE HALL (1977) A mix of autobiography, surrealism and romance, this Woody Allen comedy was named Best Picture because of lines like: “Life is full of loneliness, misery, suffering and unhappiness–and its all over much too quickly.” Starring Allen as a Jewish stand-up comedian, and Diane Keaton as his deliciously ditsy WASP girlfriend. In a prototypical scene, a moviegoer bombinates about the meaning of Marshall McLuhan–whereupon Allen brings on the Professor himself to refute the loudmouth.
SEMI-TOUGH (1977)A satire of professional football would have been funny enough, but this film also dispatches such once-fashionable movements as est and Rolfing. Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson are the players; Jill Clayburgh is the love interest; Bert Convy and Lotte Lenya are the hysterical gurus of self-improvement.
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) “Boys just wanna have fun” could have been the tagline for this flick. College life in America changed overnight when this film debuted.
THE JERK (1979) Steve Martin was just one of the “Wild and Crazy Guys” of “Saturday Night Live” when he burst onto the screen in this farce about a white moron adopted by black sharecroppers. Like Forrest Gump in a later era, Martin succeeds in spite of himself, and we laugh all the way to the bank. Director Carl Reiner may not be much on nuance, but he knows how to tell a joke.
BREAKING AWAY (1979) A charming tale of youths from blue-collar families growing up in the class-conscious town-and-gown atmosphere of Bloomington, Indiana. Competitive bicycling is the lead character’s way of life, and a series of contests makes for excitement and edgy humor.
THE IN-LAWS (1979) Dentist Alan Arkin lives in a quiet world of cavities and Novocain. All that changes when the father of his future son-in-law, Peter Falk, turns out to be CIA and drags him into international espionage. Serpentine, anyone?
THE BUGS BUNNY/ROADRUNNER MOVIE (1979) Disney films got applause and Oscars, but Warner Bros. cartoons engendered nonstop laughter. Some of the very best shorts were created by Chuck Jones, as this compilation demonstrates in overplus.
IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963) Stanley Kramer’s over-the-top chase movie, with top bananas of comedy, including Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Jimmy Durante, and Jonathan Winters, all outpaced by Mr. Cool himself, Spencer Tracy.
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963) Jerry Lewis usually went overboard when he directed Jerry Lewis, but here he uses a laid-back approach to tell the story of a simpleton who becomes a sophisticate when he partakes of a magic potion. In a dual role, Jerry is laughable and/or loveable, without employing his customary frantic appeal to the audience. Stella Stevens is diverting; Kathleen Freeman is droll.
TOM JONES (1963) Henry Fielding’s great novel of 18th-century England brought to rumbustious life by director Tony Richardson and a stellar cast, headed by Albert Finney as a young man with his eye on the Main Chance. Susannah York supplies the beauty, Edith Evans and Hugh Griffith the sly sense of period and place.
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DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) Working with Terry Southern’s mordant script, director Stanley Kubrick met the nuclear jitters with madcap laughter, subtitling his black comedy How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Archetypal casting includes the astonishing Peter Sellers in a triple role (the American President, a British major, and a mad scientist) and Sterling Hayden as the maniacal Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper. George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn and Slim Pickens furnish admirable, if outlandish, support.
A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964) The second of Blake Edwards’s “Pink Panther” films, with Peter Sellers as the hapless Inspector Clouseau trying to unframe an innocent blonde (Elke Sommer). With Herbert Lom as Clouseau’s furious boss, Burt Kwouk as his valet and martial arts trainer, and George Sanders as a wicked old roué.
MARRIAGE, ITALIAN STYLE (1964) Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren display their unique onscreen chemistry in this charming farce about an elusive womanizer and the lady who wants him to marry her. Widely imitated, but never duplicated.
THE GRADUATE (1967) A period comedy of bad manners, starring Dustin Hoffman in his breakout role as Benjamin, a youth struggling to find himself in a materialistic world. A family friend utters one word of advice: “Plastics.” Other than that, he’s on his own, attempting to romance an innocent girl (Katharine Ross) but instead getting seduced by her sly mother (Anne Bancroft). The spirited songs (“Mrs. Robinson” et al.) are by Simon and Garfunkel. Mike Nichols deservedly won an Oscar for direction.
BEDAZZLED (1967) Updating Faust, co-writer Peter Cooke casts himself as a genteel British devil, with Dudley Moore as the Tempted One. Eleanor Bron is the object of Moore’s adoration. With Barry Humphries and Raquel Welch as two of the Seven Deadly Sins. The mirthworks are under the apt direction of Stanley Donen. A newer version appeared in 2000. Stick with the original.
THE PRODUCERS (1968) The basis for Broadway’s biggest hit musical. Two grotesques (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) produce a ghastly show, Springtime for Hitler, hoping it’ll bomb. In the resultant confusion, they plan to steal the backers’ money and get out of town. Behold! The thing turns out to be a smash, and the con men are hoist by their own petard. Mel Brooks’s directorial debut.
THE ODD COUPLE (1968) You know the story. Major slob Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) allows neat freak Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) to move into his apartment. All too soon the divorced men are at each other’s throats. Neil Simon skillfully adapted his sparkling Broadway comedy for a notable cast and director Gene Saks.
FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) Spencer Tracy takes the title role in this family comedy, and shows how to take an everyday event and make it into art. The bride is Elizabeth Taylor at her most radiant; the groom is Don Taylor at his most self-effacing. Billie Burke and Leo G. Carroll are relatively hilarious. Vincente Minnelli directed.
HARVEY (1950) Jimmy Stewart plays a slightly addled gentleman, fond of the bottle and of a six-foot rabbit only he can see. Josephine Hull is his concerned sister; Cecil Kellaway is a shrink who comes to realize that the patient is saner than his critics.
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BORN YESTERDAY (1951) Garson Kanin’s famous play about an uncouth racketeer (Broderick Crawford) who hires a tutor (William Holden) for his girlfriend (Judy Holliday). Naturally, teacher and pupil fall in love. With George Cukor at the helm, everything–eventually–goes right.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) It’s the end of the 1920s, and the beginning of the end for silent movies. All very well for the mellifluous Gene Kelly, not so good for the adenoidal Jean Hagen. Young Debbie Reynolds is hired to supply the diva’s offscreen voice, and thereby hangs the tale of the funniest musical ever made. Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” is a gem; Kelly’s title song became his trademark. Adolf Green and Betty Comden wrote the knowing scenario; Stanley Donen, a former hoofer, directed nimbly.
MR. HULOT’S HOLIDAY (1953) With this film and Mon Oncle (1958) French actor/director Jaques Tati paid homage to the great silent film comedians. There’s a soundtrack, but the innocent bumbler barely speaks as he fights a losing battle against technology and creates chaos wherever he wanders. The humor is gentle, the gags indelible, the persona endearing.
THE BELLES OF ST. TRINIAN’S (1954) Cartoonist Ronald Searle’s caricatures of a British all-girl’s school brought to hideously hilarious life by director Frank Launder. Joyce Grenfell and Alastair Sim (in a dual role) make much of their opportunities.
THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955) Tom Ewell’s wife goes on vacation, leaving him alone in Manhattan. Marilyn Monroe lives in a neighboring apartment. The rest is history, particularly when she walks over a subway grating in her diaphanous white dress. Sophisticated laughter, the Billy Wilder way.
THE COURT JESTER (1956) Danny Kaye is at his tongue-twisting best as a Medieval carnival performer caught in royal court intrigue.
THE MOUSE THAT ROARED (1959) The Duchy of Fenwick declares war on the United States in order to lose–and get money for reparations. Peter Sellers impersonates three different people, and those playing his countrymen (and women) are his equals in risibility.
SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) Director/co-writer Billy Wilder sends up gangster movies in this ribald adventure of two musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.) They witness a mob rubout and join an all-girl band to escape from their pursuers. On the way, the cross-dressers encounter a fabulous cast of caricatures including Marilyn Monroe, the band’s lead singer, and smitten zillionaire Joe E. Brown, who plans to wed Lemmon, even when he learns the truth. “Nobody’s perfect,” claims Brown. This film is.