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.

70

The General (1926)

Dir Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton (Buster Keaton, Marion Mack)

‘There were two loves in his life: his engine and…’

Western and Atlantic Railroad engineer Johnnie Gray’s southern belle fiancée Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack) and his beloved locomotive, The General, get abducted from Georgia by Union spies in Buster Keaton’s 1926 American Civil War masterpiece, the sole silent film to be chosen by our voters. Keaton, as actor, writer and performer, was a master of all the usual elements of pre-sound comedy cinema – demonstrative acting, precisely timed sight gags, elaborate set-pieces, stock characters, physical humour and slapstick – but he surpassed himself in ‘The General’, one of the most elaborate, inventive, expensive and completely satisfying movies of its, or indeed all, time. Regarded purely as a comedy, it’s also, among much else, a thrilling adventure yarn, a touching love story and an extraordinary, sensitive and informed historical drama. It epitomises Keaton’s remarkable deft, subtle and sophisticatedly ‘dry’ approach to film humour and is crowned by the greatest of Keaton’s own physically agile, beautifully modulated, affecting and  inimitably stone-faced performances. WH

69

Clerks (1994)

Dir Kevin Smith (Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti)

‘I’m not even supposed to be here today!’

It’s hard to shake the feeling that Kevin Smith’s filmmaking career has been one of diminishing returns – few, other than true believers, can have been devastated by his recent announcement that he’s folding away his director’s chair. But ‘Clerks’ was a genuinely refreshing and entertaining debut, its monochrome, formal simplicity a fine match for the pop-culture savvy yet vocationally adrift twentysomethings whose snarky interactions were charted over a day’s work at a convenience store. From roof hockey to ‘Star Wars’ minutiae, it captured a moment of generational ennui with brio and gave the world the mixed blessing that is Jay and Silent Bob. BW

68

The King of Comedy (1982)

Dir Martin Scorsese (Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard)

‘Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime!’

Delve into our celebrity pollsters’ picks and you’ll find that none other than Canadian comedy titan Dan Aykroyd has – quirkily, perhaps, but quite reasonably – listed ‘Goodfellas’ among his top ten. And, indeed, you’d have a fighting chance of convincing many film fans that Martin Scorsese’s sprawling, hyperviolent meatball opera deserves a place on this list ahead of the bleak, flinty comedy of desperation that swirls within the dark, disconsolate heart of ‘The King of Comedy’. One spends as much time mopping one’s brow as slapping one’s thigh on a queasy, gut-clenching journey through the blue-black marrow of the funny bone that could arguably be said to have been the jumping-off point for the awkward, needling, confrontational comedy of the Farrellys, Ben Stiller, Bobcat Goldthwait and – without a doubt – Larry David. Nurse –  the glucose! ALD

67

His Girl Friday (1940)

Dir Howard Hawks (Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy)

‘Never mind the Chinese earthquake, take Hitler and stick him on the funny page. No, no, leave the rooster story alone – that’s human interest!’

Where would screen comedy be today without ‘His Girl Friday’? For a start, the double-edged cynicism of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s source material, the oft-adapted Broadway play ‘The Front Page’, couldn’t be more modern. But, still, how lame and relatively tame does, say, the 1970s Walter Matthau-Jack Lemmon, BIlly Wilder-directed version seem when set against Howard Hawks’s rattling, razor-sharp war of words? One of his most inspired decisions was to turn the male Hildy into a female firebrand played by Rosalind Russell – detonating one of the most incendiary, yet affectionate, sex-war duels in cinema history in her ‘give-as-good-as-you get’ battle with Cary Grant’s lethally charming Burns. Yet, what really distinguishes ‘His Girl Friday’ is its sheer vivacity and its devil-may-care profligacy: in its structured chaos of overlapping dialogue more gags are thrown away than in an eight-man swat-team of ‘Police Academy’ films. WH

66

National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

Dir John Landis (John Belushi, Peter Riegert)

'Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?'

Frat-boy humour executed with magna cum laude distinction, this campus-based comedy is ostensibly set in the Kennedy era, but it channels the rude energy, punkish irreverence and riotous bad behaviour of the 'Saturday Night Live' crowd at their late ’70s best. For connoisseurs of cinematic impersonations of zits, John Belushi’s contribution to the field (aided by half-digested cream cakes) remains the greatest. EL

65

Elf (2003)

Dir Jon Favreau (Will Ferrell, James Caan, Edward Asner)

'Santa! Oh my God! Santa's coming! I know him! I know him!'

Already something of a Christmas classic, this blizzard of charm sees Will Ferrell as a human raised by Santa’s elves, on a journey to find his real dad, a gruff New York businessman played by James Caan. This is a lovely blend of great one-liners, balletic pratfalls and genuine warmth. Ferrell is simply superb as the guileless simpleton who causes a trail of destruction and has deep unresolved issues with his dominating father (we note without comment that Ferrell was fresh from portraying George W Bush on 'Saturday Night Live'). Above all, how can you not love a film with Ed Asner as Santa? EL

64

Coming to America (1988)

Dir John Landis (Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones)

‘The royal penis is clean, your highness.’

By 1988, just a few years after he became the biggest box-office draw in America, Eddie Murphy’s golden period was drawing to a close: after ‘Coming to America’ it was all regrettable sequels, disastrous vanity projects and inexplicably popular family-friendly crud. But this tale of African princes and fast-food heiresses is a scrappily suitable swansong for the Eddie we loved in the ’80s, offering his signature blend of crudity, sweetness, wit, style and vague politicking, all wrapped up in a high-concept romcom package. And there’s a bonus for ‘ER’ fans, as that show’s Eriq La Salle appears in full jheri-curl nightmare as hair-product salesman Darryl. Just let your Soul Glo... TH

63
Randy Quaid in the Farrellys' 'Kingpin'

Randy Quaid in the Farrellys' 'Kingpin'

Kingpin (1996)

Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly (Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Bill Murray)

‘You're on a gravy train with biscuit wheels.’

‘Kingpin’ deserves to be viewed as more than just the Farrellys' oft-forgotten fill-in movie between the smash successes ‘Dumb and Dumber’ and ‘There’s Something About Mary’. The laugh rate may lag slightly behind those two towering classics, but this is probably the most convincingly characterised of all their films, as evidenced by the casting of two strong character actors, rather than multiplex-stuffing comedians, in the lead roles of a washed-up bowler (Woody Harrelson) and his Amish prodigy (Randy Quaid). It’s also the most bizarrely sweet-natured of their films: the relationship between the two leads is genuinely affecting and, tellingly, it marks their first collaboration with soft-hearted super-songsmith Jonathan Richman. TH

62
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Edgar Wright's 'Hot Fuzz'

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Edgar Wright's 'Hot Fuzz'

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Dir Edgar Wright (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman)

'What’s the matter Danny, never taken a short-cut before?’

Referencing themselves in the follow-up to their previous success, ‘Shaun of the Dead’, showed the bumptious confidence of the trio behind 'Hot Fuzz' (Edgar Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg). It also showed their willingness to go the extra mile – or, in this case, extra fence – in their dry/deadpan, eclectic, cinephiliac, ‘Comic Strip’-style parodies, here in a mash-up of ‘Midsomer Murders’ cosiness and Bruckheimer-buddy-cop blockbuster. In ‘Hot Fuzz’, Frost, as village copper Danny, offers another of his endearing studies in arrested development; while Pegg, as ex-Met Sergeant Nicholas Angel, shows he can be just as upright and self-righteous – not to say, myopically out of his depth – as Edward Woodward’s Auld-Reekie rozzer in ‘The Wicker Man’. Though they differ dramatically in hair colour and action-hero skills, both are bad, baaad boys. WH

61
Luke Wilson and Gene Hackman in 'The Royal Tenenbaums'

Luke Wilson and Gene Hackman in 'The Royal Tenenbaums'

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Dir Wes Anderson (Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Luke Wilson)

‘“Vamonos, amigos,” he whispered, and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight.’

The Fockers may be more violently dysfunctional, the Ambersons bigger on festering spite, and the Corleones far funnier, but no film family is as grandly, sweetly or entirely screwed up as Team Tenenbaum. A tale of brownstone royalty, second-act blues and the baffling circuitousness of redemption, Anderson's rambling family saga leaves one immeasurably sad, laughing like a drain and lunging out to hug a loved one all at the same time. Gene Hackman is at his most gleefully rambunctious, Gwyneth Paltrow is as cool as (reform) school and Owen Wilson lends his 10/4 Texan drawl to a delicious Cormac McCarthy-lite literary chancer, but it’s brother Luke who steals the show as beardy retro tennis meltdown Richie Tenenbaum – a character without whom any truly hip fancy-dress party is wholly incomplete. ALD


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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