100 best comedy movies: the list

The 100 best comedy movies, picked by experts from across film, TV and comedy

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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.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Dir Rob Reiner (Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer)

‘What’re the hours?’

They may have spent years floundering in mid-chart obscurity, but The Tap have finally made it to number one. ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ is of course a bogus ‘rockumentary’ in which indefatigable commercials director Marti DeBergi (Reiner) takes it on himself to monitor the corroding relationships between three members of a has-been hair metal band from London as they tour the US with their grotesque new LP, ‘Smell the Glove’. The core band line-up (those who haven’t fallen foul of spontaneous combustion) is Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel on lead, Michael McKean as David St Hubbins also on guitar and Harry Shearer as Derek Smalls on bass. They pride themselves on exuberance, raw power and punctuality, but they’re also baffled by the mysteries of the cosmos: the geometry of sandwiches, the correct way to the stage door and the difference between feet and inches.

It’s sublimely funny and sharp – a comedy built for the long haul which matures with each viewing. It’s so perfectly constructed and performed, the characters so rich and realistic, that it’s initially a challenge to determine the dividing line between reality and fiction. The film doesn’t have any ‘jokes’, per se, but the humour is derived from a pile-up of non sequiturs, loopy proclamations and painfully spot-on observations, all delivered in implausibly effete cockney accents.

But the thing that pushes ‘Spinal Tap’ ahead of the pack is what a radical and immaculately crafted piece of cinema it is. Gags are built around deadpan edits and dialogue pauses rather than slick punchlines. As funny as the hallowed scene in which Nigel boasts of his custom made Marshall amps that go up to 11 (it’s one louder), you wonder if it would have been as brilliant had the exchange gone on just a second longer. It cuts off at the exact point where nothing more needs saying.

Few films have been so successful in employing the mock-doc template for comic ends: Guest’s own ‘Best in Show’ (2000) is perhaps the other outstanding example. But the legacy of ‘Spinal Tap’ can be seen on our television screens in sitcoms like ‘The Office’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’. Even though the film is set in the distinctive (and often very smelly) world of heavy rock, it’s about real people who earn our empathy, despite their manifold faults. The band may bash out egregious anthems like ‘Sex Farm’, but that’s even funnier in the light of the heartbreaking shot at the end of the film where David gently coaxes Nigel on stage after he’s walked out on the band. Forget best comedy, this is one of the best films of all time. DJ


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Users say

13 comments
Steve
Steve

Its a good list, but very culture specific. Telling from this list you guys are likely about 40 and you're all white and have mostly liked the same movies for decades... I'm going to check out a few that I don't know very well, but I think you guys need to think outside of the box... or at least outside of the window - the world is a pretty diverse place and 'funny' is everywhere. (4 lions maybe an exception)

Kenny
Kenny

Do you guys even like movies?

william mayer
william mayer

Zoolander is higher than Happy gilmore enough said...

Pat
Pat

Good list! Few films I don't feel deserve a place, some films I'd put higher up then they are. This list has some seriously great comedies! It's painful seeing people upset at the absence of film's such as "Soul Plane." In the comments.

Cloé
Cloé

love that list!

Ally
Ally

Wait a minute... Talladega Nights didn't make the list and trading places did? This list is so out of date, none of the fridays either, or cheech and chong, "O Brother Where Art Thou?"... We should be able to vote on lists like these. Good job btw (Y)

anonymous
anonymous

Notable lack of "urban" comedies.

anonymus
anonymus

soul plane? barbershop? friday? friday the next?

Hughes
Hughes

give me the rest

agee
agee

Why so much Steve Martin and so little (or no?) Danny Devito? Where's Tin Men, for example? Better than lots of movies listed here. Since some classics were included, where's It Happened One Night? King of Comedy could have been left out. While a good film, it's not really a comedy (Sandra Bernhard's hilarious scene notwithstanding, I think I would take Being There over King of Comedy for a quasi comdedy) Big Lebowski is a good pick but "O Brother Where Art Thou?" definitely beats out a bunch of films listed here--for quality, laughs, and music.

walte
walte

wtf where is five

dra
dra

where is stepbrothers

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