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.

50
Billy Crystal in 'When Harry Met Sally'

Billy Crystal in 'When Harry Met Sally'

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Dir Rob Reiner (Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher)

‘Don’t fuck with Mister Zero.’

It’s a pity that all anyone remembers from Rob Reiner's and Nora Ephron’s ‘more Woody than Woody’ New York romcom gem is that fake-orgasm scene. Sure, it’s a great scene, and very bold for its time. But there’s so much else in the movie to love: those pitch-perfect performances (Bruno Kirby was never better), the gorgeous but unflashy photography and, of course, Ephron’s script, a masterpiece of construction offering wisdom and wit, shock and sweetness, forever sailing this close to mawkishness but always managing to pull back from the brink. Both Ephron and Reiner later sank into Hollywood slush, but they were always headed that way. And at least they left one perfect – and I do mean perfect – movie before they jumped. TH

49
Woody Allen in 'Love and Death'

Woody Allen in 'Love and Death'

Love and Death (1975)

Dir Woody Allen (Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Georges Adet)

‘I was walking through the woods, thinking about Christ. If he was a carpenter, I wondered what he charged for bookshelves.’

Can I get through this review without using the phrase ‘Early funny one’? Nope, failed already… Placed on a conventional, laughs-per-minute barometer, Woody Allen’s acerbic parody of flatulent Russian literature is probably his funniest film. He plays a weaselly nebbish (natch) called Boris, the bespectacled runt of the chest-beating Grushenko litter who is sent off to the Russian front to fight Napoleon, but doesn’t want to die before declaring his love for his childhood paramour, Sonja (a mad-eyed Diane Keaton). Boasting at least one solid-gold one-liner per scene, the genius of Allen’s film is the way he balances sincere philosophical enquiry into the nature of mortality and the ultimate frivolity of love with some Marx brothers-level slapstick mayhem. Everybody… ‘No, you’re Don Francisco’s sister!’ DJ

48

Play It Again Sam (1972)

Dir Herbert Ross (Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts)

Based on his stage play, this film sees Woody Allen play a neurotic, unlucky-in-love, socially maladjusted film critic who receives life lessons from the ghost of Humphrey Bogart. We’re prepared to forgive Mr Allen’s egregious maligning of film journalists and admit that, yes, this is indeed one of his best movies. Handing the directorial reins to Herbert Ross allowed Allen to deliver one of his funniest performances, and the movie’s clever integration of real life and fantasy anticipates the mature sophistication of films such as ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’. EL

  1. ‘No, my parents never got divorced. Although I begged them to.’
47

The Apartment

The Apartment (1960)

Dir Billy Wilder (Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray)

‘That's the way it crumbles... cookie-wise.’

Anyone who thinks ‘Mad Men’ is an unnecessarily bleak and judgemental portrayal of ziggurat-obsessed ’60s New York business culture needs to check out ‘The Apartment’. This tale of a sad-sack exec who loans his flat to a series of philandering superiors is a far darker take on love, loss and lucre than HBO has yet managed. Jack Lemmon was never better, and Shirley MacLaine makes for the perfect foil as the used, abused and ultimately suicidal Miss Kubelik, one of the saddest heroines in American cinema. If none of this sounds especially chuckle-inducing, you’ve reckoned without a razor-sharp script from Billy Wilder and regular collaborator IAL Diamond, the team behind ‘Some Like It Hot’ the previous year. TH

46
Bud Cort in 'Harold and Maude'

Bud Cort in 'Harold and Maude'

Harold and Maude (1971)

Dir Hal Ashby (Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon)

‘Harold, everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves.’

Non-genre-specific movies such as ‘Harold and Maude’ have suffered on this list: is it really a comedy? Isn’t there a bit too much death, oppression and holocaust talk for that? But if it’s not a comedy, what is ‘Harold and Maude’? Therein, of course, lies its genius: it’s not anything, except real. And it’s not even that: any film in which a teenage boy commits fake suicide 15 times to shock his unshockable mother can’t really be treated as cinéma vérité. But the film’s feelings are real, its heart is real, and its intention – to reveal a world of non-judgemental freedom and happiness, if only you can let yourself go a little – is the most real of all. This is cinema to treat the soul – and laughter is only a part of that. TH

45
Jennifer Aniston and Ron Livingston in 'Office Space'

Jennifer Aniston and Ron Livingston in 'Office Space'

Office Space

Dir Mike Judge (Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman)

‘It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.’

Before ‘The Office’ was a glint in Ricky and Steve’s eyes, Mike Judge – the brains behind ‘Beavis and Butthead’ – offered this heartfelt cri de coeur on behalf of disaffected desk monkeys everywhere. Ron Livingston plays Pete Gibbons, a profoundly unmotivated corporate employee who winds up jacking it in for a get-rich-quick scheme. The plot is well enough handled but it’s the grating banality of day-to-day office life that really hits home, also expressed through the indignities heaped on Jennifer Aniston’s family-restaurant waitress and the mind-addling world of pain endured by Stephen Root’s mumbling Milton. BW

44
Chevy Chase in 'National Lampoon's Vacation'

Chevy Chase in 'National Lampoon's Vacation'

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Dir Harold Ramis (Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid)

‘I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose! Praise Marty moose! Holy shit!’

While one could hardly describe Chevy Chase’s early screen presence as anything like conservative, he did always somehow lend his characters a level of dissipated authority. From Fletch’s unflappable urbanity to Ty Webb’s zen poise in ‘Caddyshack’ to his cocksure stewardship of TV’s ‘Saturday Night Live’, he always seemed in full control. Telling then, perhaps, that when he traded the life of a raffish outsider to become a put-upon suburban family man for ‘Vacation’, the resultant meltdown was both swift and spectacular. Director Harold Ramis and writer John Hughes put Chevy’s Clark Griswold through so many cosmically misaligned hoops in order to get his family to their chosen holiday destination that swollen deeps of bile and fury bubble over into some of the funniest and most memorably deranged rants in all of cinema: ‘This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. A quest for fun!’ ALD

43

Tootsie (1982)

Dir Sidney Pollack (Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Bill Murray)

‘I have a name. It's Dorothy. Not Tootsie or Toots or Sweetie or Honey or Doll.’ ‘Oh, Christ!’ ‘No, just Dorothy.’

Anyone surprised by Bill Murray’s mid-’90s rebirth as a ‘proper’ actor – rather than just a sarcy smart-mouth comic – clearly hadn’t seen ‘Tootsie’. Sure, this is Dustin Hoffman’s show – he’s the one in the dress, after all – but it’s Murray who sticks in the memory, the source of most of the film’s big laughs and a goodly portion of its soul. Looking back, the concept of a guy dressing up as a woman to get a better job is a vaguely uncomfortable one, and its approach to the question of feminism is badly outdated. But the performances still shine, the script still sparkles and director Sydney Pollack’s smooth ’80s style still charms. Now hang on while I fix my lippy. TH

42
Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom and Alec Guinness in 'The Ladykillers'

Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom and Alec Guinness in 'The Ladykillers'

The Ladykillers (1955)

Dir Alexander Mackendrick (Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom)

‘Professor, I must give you back your ten shillings. You see, the cabbie wouldn't take any money, because he said he was going into some other business.’

This was the great British swansong of both Ealing Studios and director Alexander Mackendrick. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s about a gang of ugly thugs and emollient thieves (led by Guinness’s fake professor) who delude a sweet, guileless old Victorian lady into renting her spare room pretending, naturally, to be classical musicians. Modern critics have – rightly – stressed the barely veiled horror, mordant cynicism and festering substratum lurking behind the innocent-seeming surfaces of American-born Mackendrick’s movies. And ‘The Ladykillers’ is certainly as black as soot: an hysterical movie in more senses than one – which, no doubt, helps it to deliver its series of mischievously satisfying knock-out punches. But its delights are not only satirical: its classical pleasures are plenty. From the inimitable cast to Jim Morahan’s superb art direction and Otto Heller’s luscious early Technicolor cinematography, Mackendrick orchestrates his syncopated instruments with the precision of a Boccherini 'String Quintet', allowing us to bask in the oh-so delectable schadenfreude of watching the meticulous unravelling of  yet another of man’s best-laid plans. WH

41
Walter Matthau as one half of 'The Odd Couple'

Walter Matthau as one half of 'The Odd Couple'

The Odd Couple (1968)

Dir Gene Saks (Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Herb Edelman)

‘You're the only man in the world with clenched hair.’

Opened out yet reined in from Neil Simon’s original stage play, this greatest of buddy movies is a beautiful expression of Newton’s third law of classical mechanics: the mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear. The two bodies are sports writer Oscar, an irksome, egotistical slob who is a towering grouch (played with misanthropic self-enjoyment in a career-defining performance by Walter Matthau), and his equally annoying fellow writer and divorcé pal Felix (Jack Lemmon on top form), a man as insecure, neurotic and hypochondriacal as his friend is careless and heartlessly hearty. Oscar invites the suicidal Felix to share his flat and each quickly discovers what makes the other impossible to live with: a clear case of domestic histories repeating themselves, first as tragedy, second as farce. Director Gene Saks’s job was merely to bait his two sparring roosters and let them go. It’s a deeply unedifying spectacle – and still as funny as hell. WH


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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