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 Mark Waters (Lindsay Lohan, Jonathan Bennett, Rachel McAdams)
‘She’s fabulous but she’s evil.’
Where does ethnography meet teen comedy? At North Shore High! Lindsay Lohan stars as Cady, the sensitive and naive heroine – you could get away with such casting in 2004 – who gets a rude awakening when she enters the school system after being home-taught by zoologist parents in Africa. She’s soon dealing with the complexities of adolescent social interaction, most of it underhanded and bitchy, while trying to keep her head. The script, by Tina Fey, is inspired by high-school ethnography 'Queen Bees and Wannabes' and offers genuine insight and empathy as well as a hefty dose of put-downs and comeuppances. BW
Dir Charles Chaplin (Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard)
'The Great Dictator' was Chaplin’s first ‘complete’ talkie, but the transition to sound for the silent-cinema star was no simple matter. A satire on the rise of Hitler, this brave, heartfelt, moving film features scenes of its eponymous tyrant – Chaplin’s Adenoid Hynkel – speaking German-sounding gibberish. A serious point underlies the funny business. Stripped of his poisonous rhetoric, Hynkel/Hitler is exposed for what he really is: a ridiculous buffoon. EL
Dir Steve Gordon (Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud)
‘I’m going to have another drink. Do you want another fish?'
Russell Brand’s best efforts notwithstanding, Arthur is Dudley Moore: rich imp, broadly functional alcoholic and little boy lost in the high life of Manhattan. Steve Gordon’s script bursts with witty one-liners as well as conjuring genuine pathos from Arthur’s situation as he decides whether to marry a bore for the sake of his trust fund or embark on a romantic adventure with working-class Liza Minnelli, all under the precisely foul-mouthed eye of John Gielgud’s trusty butler. With its stress on character and dialogue, it has something of an old-school screwball feeling – and that’s no bad thing. BW
Dir Charles Crichton (John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin)
‘You’re the vulgarian, you fuck!’
An astonishingly low placing for perhaps the best British comedy since the heyday of Python (seriously, ‘Clockwise’ is higher?) With ‘Wanda’, John Cleese deliberately attempted to move away from the satirical silliness that made his name and back to a more inclusive, plot-driven, unmistakeably British brand of comic caper, even going so far as to rope in 78-year-old Ealing stalwart Charles Crichton to direct. The result is a barnstorming success: a film which, like its slippery American heroine, is madly in love with language, from tongue-teasingly delicious sarcasm to some truly outrageous swearing. Add to this four iconic performances (five if you count the inimitable Tom Georgeson as cockernee gangster George ‘Unbe-fackin’-lieveable!’ Thomason), and the result speaks for itself. Number 87? Unbe... etc. TH
Dir Jacques Tati (Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Micheline Rolla)
Essentially a silent comedian plying his trade in the ’50s and ’60s, Jacques Tati is the iconic French Vaudeville stalwart who gifted the world with his bumbling, pipe-smoking everyman, Monsieur Hulot. Set in the mundane seaside town of Saint Marc Sur Mer, just west of Nantes, this is a simple chronicle of Hulot’s holidays that derives its humour from hundreds upon hundreds of micro-choreographed miniature moments. Though the content of Tati’s film presented him as an ardent admirer – a keeper, almost – of tradition and local custom, the bold, idiosyncratic style of his comedy showed him as a brilliant innovator of the cinematic form. The character of Hulot remained a blessing and a curse for Tati: in 1969’s ‘Playtime’, Tati removed Hulot from the action wherever possible; in the film he was intending to make before he died in 1982 – a TV station-set comedy called ‘Confusion’ co-starring Ron and Russell Mael from the band Sparks – he even intended to kill his hero off. DJ
Dir Harold Ramis (Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray)
‘Did somebody step on a duck?’
The Bushwood Country Club is either one of Florida’s more exclusive and prestigious golf clubs or ‘a crummy snobatorium’. The latter description is courtesy of Rodney Dangerfield, the wisecracking, cigar-chomping, ogling vulgarian who horrifies the patrician stiffs running the Bushwood club when he decides to join. For those unbelievers who maintain golf is boring, this exquisitely crass film offers as a riposte Chevy Chase’s womanizing zen golfer, Bill Murray’s incoherent, gopher-hating groundsman and Dangerfield’s endless one-liners. Plus, some valuable advice on how to clear a full swimming pool with an unwrapped chocolate bar. EL
Dir Dean Parisot (Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman)
‘By Grabthar's Hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!’
There aren’t too many films that work so completely that you couldn’t – if really pushed to do so – pick out the odd tiny fault. ‘Godfather II’? Bit long. ‘Rear Window’? Enough already with the windows! But ‘Trek’-spoof ‘Galaxy Quest’ is such an elegantly conceived and precision-tooled belter that it gets as close as a movie can to achieving all-round perfection. A big-hearted film that boasts some mighty action sequences and a perfectly drawn cast, it also displays the love and understanding for its original source material that’s necessary to sell any genre parody. Director Dean Parisot misfired next time with 2005 flop ‘Fun With Dick and Jane’ and has since been demoted to directing TV. A shame. ALD
Dir Preston Sturges (Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick)
‘There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cock-eyed caravan.’
The appearance of Preston Sturges’s meaning-of-life masterpiece at a paltry 83 is a damning indictment of the state of film education in this country. Believe it or not, there was comedy before 'Monty Python' and 'Saturday Night Live', and some of it was pretty damn funny. ‘Sullivan’s Travels’ is perhaps best known today as being the movie that ‘inspired’ the Coens' ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’, but it deserves so much more. At once witty, wacky, wholesome, devious and devastatingly smart, it showcases a writer-director at the absolute pinnacle of his game, offering up not just a wildly entertaining Hollywood romp but a razor-sharp (and explosively political) examination of why comedy matters at all. A work of genius, plain and simple. And damn, Veronica Lake! TH
Dir Blake Edwards (David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner)
'Simone, where is my Surété Scotland Yard-type mackintosh?'
The first in a long-running series of five films featuring the clumsy antics of Peter Sellers's bungling pseudo-French detective Inspector Clouseau, 'The Pink Panther' is also the most measured, languorous and subtle of the set. Not wishing to sound patronising, but there's a nagging suspicion that one or two of our contributors for this poll may have mistakenly or forgetfully chosen this diamond-heist comedy as a generic title for one of the others in the series, possibly 'The Pink Panther Strikes Again' (at number 95). While often very funny, Sellers's incompetent character only came to the fore from the second film, 'A Shot in the Dark', onwards. Consequently, anyone seeing this expecting wall-to-wall Sellers may be a mite disappointed. But hey, it still knocks spots off the awful 2006 remake. DA
Dirs Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman)
‘Would you shop at a store called Unpainted Huffheins?’
A wild and raucous world away from their laconic desert-noir debut ‘Blood Simple’, the Coen brothers’ second outing sees them showcase their genius for creating jabbering arias of breakneck cartoon anarchy that never, ever threaten to tip over into ‘zaniness’. Baby-snatching may not strike you as the perfect trigger for comedy dynamite, but this is a film shot through with so much goofy charm and homespun warmth, and giddy with such an uncommon degree of cinematic zest that you just know that abducted blond munchkin Nathan Arizona Jr is in the safest of hands on his turbocharged odyssey through trailer-park Americana. A cracked and dusty gem that’s too often excluded from broadsheet rundowns of the Coens’ very best work. ALD
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