100 best comedy movies: the list
The 100 best comedy movies, picked by experts from across film, TV and comedy
By Tom Huddleston, David Jenkins, Adam Lee Davies, Derek Adams, Edward Lawrenson, Wally Hammond, Ben Walters, Gabriel Tate and Phil Harrison. Explore the individual top tens of every contributor.
Dir Mel Brooks (Gene Wilder, Cleavon Little, Slim Pickens)
‘What's a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?’
Mel Brooks was on a roll in the late-’60s and ’70s with a string of intermittently hilarious spoofs, from ‘The Producers’ to ‘Silent Movie’. In between, in 1974, he wrote and helmed this mostly very funny western send-up starring regular Gene Wilder. It’s a typically bizarre close-to-the-bone scenario: with a view to procuring their land, a local swindler tries to shock the residents into leaving by organising the employment of a new sheriff. It looks like his ruse might work when a clean-cut black man rides in to take the job… Brooks doesn’t shy away from the race issue; in fact, he charges straight in with a sarcastic and very amusing sideswipe at bigotry and ignorance. There are so many cracking scenes to savour, but for me the most memorable sequence by far is that unique, sprawling ending when the whole cast of hundreds spills over into the movie lot. Brilliant. DA
Dir Stanley Kubrick (Peter Sellers, George C Scott, Sterling Hayden)
‘I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.’
It takes some kind of genius to make a comedy out of a thermonuclear holocaust – and arch pessimist and master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was that very genius. Originally intent on a serious treatment (based on Peter George’s book ‘Red Alert’), Kubrick abandoned the attempt because most of his ideas for it ‘were so ludicrous’. The black comedy that resulted – detailing the terminal implications of a mad, lone general’s decision to push the nuclear button – was arguably Kubrick’s greatest achievement, offering towering work from scriptwriter Terry Southern, the multi-role-playing Peter Sellers, designer Ken Adam and little-known cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, among others.
Kubrick once said, 'Most of the humour in "Strangelove" arises from the depiction of everyday human behaviour in a nightmarish situation,' but his film certainly impugned the masters of war and named the guilty. Strangelove himself, in film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum’s peerless summary, was ‘a savage extrapolation of a then-obscure Henry Kissinger conflated with Wernher von Braun and Dr Mabuse to suggest a flawed, spastic machine with Nazi reflexes that ultimately turns on itself’. Shit! Some guys will conflate anything to get a laugh! WH
Dirs Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore)
Just when ‘Fargo’ had people thinking maybe the Coens weren’t so freaky after all, along came this wilfully bamboozling film-noir pastiche. Following a regrettable episode of urination, a burned-out ’60s radical known as The Dude (Jeff Bridges) finds himself miscast as a private investigator looking into… well, it doesn’t really matter, but it takes him on a tour of LA’s various strata of weirdo pretension while reinforcing the pleasures of the simple things like bowling and friendship. Amazing dialogue, brilliant performances and an irreverent affection for Hollywood history add up to one hilarious movie – not to mention the inspiration for an ever-burgeoning cult fandom that borders on religious devotion. The Dude abides. BW
Dir Larry Charles (Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian)
‘She had golden hairs, teeth as white as pearls, and the asshole of a seven-year-old.’
It takes a lot of front to keep a straight face while winding up gullible members of the public, but Sacha Baron Cohen is a past master. What this wince-inducing odyssey across America lacks in dramatic nous, it more than makes up for in hilarious, cringe-worthy, base humour. Travelling under the guise of an unsophisticated radio host from Kazakhstan, Cohen trawls the byways of the USA, inveigling himself into the welcoming arms of locals before shocking them with an outrageous arsenal of faked Kazakh cultural mores. Although a damn fine comedy at heart, the film also serves as a sobering reminder of the level of sexism and anti-semitism that still seem to be very much a part of some sectors of the American community. 'Borat' is reactionary comedy in the real sense. And fucking funny it is, too. DA
Dirs Trey Parker, Matt Stone (Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller)
‘I've got five terrorists going south-east on Bakalakadaka Street!’
If there’s one single area in which musical theatre beats the movies, it’s in prize-giving. ‘South Park’ creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone cleaned up at the 2011 Tony awards for their Broadway show ‘The Book of Mormon’, yet their 2004 puppet opus ‘Team America’ reaped how many Oscars? Sure, it’s a hate-fuelled, take-no-prisoners, liberal-baiting, America-bashing, borderline racist satire of everything Hollywood holds dear. Not to mention it's complete with vicious, near-libellous sideswipes at everyone from Michael Moore to Alec Baldwin and more swearing than a Teamsters meeting. But you’d think a group of open-minded, forward-thinking creative types like the Academy could have seen past all that. No? TH
Write your own review
100 best comedy movies by section
Subscribe to Time Out London on Spotify for daily playlists and recommendations from our Music team.