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.

40
Short, Martin and Chase in '¡Three Amigos!'

Short, Martin and Chase in '¡Three Amigos!'

¡Three Amigos! (1986)

Dir John Landis (Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short)

‘Would you say that I had a plethora of piñatas?’

A surprisingly high rank for a film most aficionados would – perhaps rightly – regard as a lesser Steve Martin/Chevy Chase vehicle, as the titular trio of old-Hollywood movie stars head to Mexico and end up involved in real-life banditry. The appeal of ‘¡Three Amigos!’ is in its no-nonsense, old-school charm, never breaking a sweat or sparking a laugh riot, but providing cosy, consistent entertainment and a fistful of truly memorable sequences: the ‘My Little Buttercup’ bar singalong, the villainous El Guapo’s birthday party, and of course satirical songsmith Randy Newman as an entirely inexplicable singing bush. TH

 

39
Christopher Guest (centre) directs and stars in 'Waiting for Guffman'

Christopher Guest (centre) directs and stars in 'Waiting for Guffman'

Waiting for Guffman (1997)

Dir Christopher Guest (Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara)

‘People say, “You must have been the class clown.” And I say, “No, I wasn’t. But I sat next to the class clown and I studied him.”’

As axeman Nigel Tufnel, Christopher Guest was part of the timeless success of ‘This Is Spinal Tap’. But he also picked up the filmmaking baton, going on to direct masterworks of situational improv such as ‘Best in Show’, ‘For Your Consideration’ and this movie. The superb cast play members of a small-town, amateur-dramatic society pinning their hopes on a visit from a big-shot critic, though what he’ll make of the pageant ‘Red, White and Blaine’ is regrettably clear to everyone else. Often painful, sometimes moving, frequently hilarious, it’s an oddball delight and a tribute to self-deluding ambition everywhere. BW

38

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Dir Jared Hess (Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Efren Ramirez)

‘Nunchaku skills, bow-hunting skills, computer hacking skills... Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.’

Sometimes it takes a while. Despite pulling down some sweet, sweet change upon release, there were many who maintained that this folk-art foray into high-school outsiderdom invited the audience to laugh at the majestic idiocy of Napoleon’s goon squad of retro-awkward, summer-luvvin’ princelings rather than with them. The film’s enduring and – even for those not initially won over – revelatory appeal may suggest that its supporters were right all along and/or the rest of us were late in realising that Napoleon might represent some shrink-wrapped form of our weakest, sweetest, truest selves that we dare never expose. Either way, it will be a real school bully who doesn’t moisten an eye or get their deadpan groove on when our hero busts out his wildly empathetic last-reel disco moves. That, or you’re a freakin’ idiot! ALD

37
Abrahams/Zucker/Zucker direct 'Top Secret!'

Abrahams/Zucker/Zucker direct 'Top Secret!'

Top Secret! (1984)

Dirs Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker (Val Kilmer, Omar Sharif, Billy J Mitchell)

'I know a little German. He's sitting over there.'

The Zuckers and Abrahams team went pun crazy for this follow-up to 'Airplane!'. Where the earlier film parodies the disaster movie to hilarious effect, 'Top Secret!' plays merry hell with the World War II espionage genre and Elvis movies and features, of all things, a moderately successful deadpan performance by Val Kilmer. If you thought 'Airplane!' was absurd, this one's off the scale. As a consequence, it's full of memorable moments, from the underwater bar fight to Kilmer's look of bemusement as the station leaves his train. While not as consistently funny as 'Airplane!', 'Top Secret!' is still a worthy entrant into the pantheon of comedy classics. DA

36
Alec Guinness in 'Kind Hearts and Coronets'

Alec Guinness in 'Kind Hearts and Coronets'

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Dir Robert Hamer (Dennis Price, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson)

‘It is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms.’

Anyone who thinks of Ealing Studios' output as a gay parade of buns and bobbies needs to revisit ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’. For here, indeed, is the black heart of British comedy, the sickest, sweetest, most deliciously poisonous confection ever offered to our delicate cinema-going public. A tale of murder most foul – and most deserving – ‘Kind Hearts…’ isn’t just a tale of bad people bumping one another off, it’s a rapier blade to the heart of the British establishment, as Dennis Price’s disillusioned middle-class ‘little man’ sets about slaughtering his way to the ducal title of D’Ascoigne. The revolution may not have started here – the post-war Labour government was already well into setting up the welfare state – but it must have felt like a strident call to arms, nonetheless. TH

35
Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller in 'Zoolander'

Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller in 'Zoolander'

Zoolander (2001)

Dir Ben Stiller (Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell)

‘Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?’

Did someone say fish in a barrel? Sure, the world of high fashion isn’t exactly a challenging subject for satire but Ben Stiller’s tale of international intrigue, haute couture and ludicrous pretension has such great gags, committed performances and cod sincerity that it’s hard not to guffaw. Stiller’s Zoolander is a supermodel on the slide, threatened by up-and-comer Owen Wilson, exploited by grasping designer Will Ferrell and constrained by his gargantuan stupidity, source of most of the big laughs. But he’s also insecure, well-meaning and basically quite sweet, which makes his story all the more amiable. BW

34
Mike Myers in 'Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery'

Mike Myers in 'Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery'

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Dir Jay Roach (Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley and Michael York)

‘Finally, we come to my number two man. His name? Number Two.’

It may have spawned a rash of increasingly prosaic and mechanically lewd squeakquels, but the first 'Austin Powers' movie remains the ‘Moby Dick’ of Day-Glo knockabout spy-movie spoofs. Finding a big second wave after the success of ‘Wayne's World’ in the early ’90s, Canada’s favourite rubber-faced writer-performer Mike Myers excelled in the dual roles of dentally challenged, psychedelic, trim-magnet Powers and his sardonic, Blofeldian nemesis, Dr Evil. Though the torrent of swingin’ ’60s references and Powers’ catchphrase-heavy spiel now feel a little slight, there’s still an embarrassment of bizarre, leftfield comic riches in there to savour. Dr Evil’s description of his formative years is a cinematic monologue for the ages: ‘My childhood was typical... Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we’d make meat helmets. When I was insolent, I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds... Pretty standard, really.’ DJ

33

In the Loop (2009)

Dir Armando Iannucci (Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, James Gandolfini)

'I don't want to have to read you the riot act, but I am going to have to read you some extracts from the riot act.'

Scabrous and smart, Armando Iannucci's political satire is the sort of film that bears repeated viewing, if only to catch the jokes you laughed through last time round. It opens out the action from the sitcom source by sending mad-eyed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), hapless government minster Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) and their cohorts to the States, where they flip and flop for our entertainment, groping towards a coherent policy over an imminent war. The vulgarity is tumultuous, the wit pointed and the performances impeccably judged. This is proof that transferring a great sitcom to the big screen need not be difficult. Or even difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. GT

32

The Man with Two Brains (1983)

Dir Carl Reiner (Steve Martin, Kathleen Turner, David Warner)

‘Into the mud, scum queen!’

The early Steve Martin movies catch comedy at a crossroads: on the surface they’re old-school slapstick romps complete with dubious innuendo, pratfalls and happy-ever-after endings, a short step from Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges. But they also manage to incorporate the best of everything new that was happening in comedy at the time: the sight-gag overload of ‘Airplane!’, the sexual uncertainty and romanticism of Woody Allen, the confrontational boldness of the new stand-ups and the thoroughbred surrealism of Martin’s own live act. ‘The Man with Two Brains’ may not be as wildly inventive as ‘The Jerk’, but it’s still a magnificently enjoyable and intelligent comedy. And Kathleen Turner is just slinky as hell. TH

31
Wallace Shawn and Robin Wright in 'The Princess Bride'

Wallace Shawn and Robin Wright in 'The Princess Bride'

The Princess Bride (1987)

Dir Rob Reiner (Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin)

‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’

Strange to think that after all the Oscar plaudits and box-office ker-ching! that came with his scripts for both ‘Butch Cassidy’ and ‘All the President’s Men’, genre-expanding author William Goldman’s 1973 fantasy novel should take the best part of 15 years to grace the multiplexes. It was well worth the wait. Sweetly romantic, tirelessly quotable and light as a feather, Reiner’s adaptation doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, but rather mines humour from filling in the backstories of its stock characters with jumbled neuroses and bizarre quirks. So we have the hissable villain with insoluble middle-management delegation issues, the mercenary overburdened by a crippling childhood trauma and a dashing hero who isn’t exactly the sharpest sword in the armoury all trading some of the craftiest zingers ever penned. 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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