The 100 best comedy movies: 10-1

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

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

‘Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!’

Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones

Cast: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Michael Palin

Defining moment: The outrageously gory killer rabbit scene is one that only the Pythons could’ve pulled off.

If the ill-judged, stilted, calculated nature of ‘And Now For Something Completely Different’ found the Pythons letting off a rare misfire, ‘Life of Brian’ caught them in somewhat self-consciously ‘clever’ and ever-so-slightly preachy form (come on, admit it!) and ‘Meaning of Life’ saw their brilliance bloated into a curious mis-shape, then ‘Holy Grail’ is an example of the surrealist TV comedy troupe firing on all six cinematic cylinders. All are great films in their way, but for many, ‘Grail’ is the most cinematic, unglued, quotable, ingenious, structured, influential and thigh-slappingly funny film in the Pythons’ regrettably small big-screen canon.

The totemic John Cleese (note to apocryphally slack-jawed American readers: John Cleese IS NOT the actual Monty Python) was back in the fold after skipping out on the final TV series, and the whole film is far more cohesive than might have been expected from a continuity-skewering sketch-based ensemble – especially seeing as the shooting was, as described in various biographies, a damp, tedious and gruelling affair. But it would all count for nothing if the lads hadn’t stuffed the film with so many lunatic gags, boisterously catchy songs and memorably outlandish characters. Everyone will have their favourite – from the Knights Who Say ‘Ni!’ to Cleese’s fearlessly moronic Black Knight ('It’s only a flesh wound!' etc) to Michael Palin’s Mud Eater – but spare a thought for gurning Yankee pack animal Terry Gilliam as King Arthur’s trusty steed, Patsy – the things he’s made to do with a coconut would make your eyes water! Adam Lee Davies

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