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The 100 best comedy movies: 30-21

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


The Producers (1968)

‘I was born in Dusseldorf and that is why they call me Rolf.’

Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn

Defining moment: You have to ask? Springtime for Hitler, with its song ‘n’ dance swastikas, is still one of the most despicably funny bad-taste moments in the movies.

The beginning of the Mel Brooks empire, and arguably his funniest film, ‘The Producers’ combines old-school kvetch comedy, Broadway backstage hi-jinks and outright headline-grabbing bad taste to intoxicating effect. Brooks regular Gene Wilder steals the show as the accountant to Zero Mostel's portly, conniving stage producer. The con itself – an elaborate plan to run with the takings of a show so dreadful it closes overnight – keeps things ticking along at a brisk pace, but it’s that Busby Berkeley scene of actors dressed in Nazi regalia operatically singing the stage show’s tacky title track, ‘Springtime for Hitler’, that remains most vividly in the memory. Ben Walters

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Rushmore (1998)

‘Best play ever, man.’

Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams

Defining moment: It’s nigh-on impossible to pick just one, but the reconciliation between Max Fischer and braw Scots bully Magnus Buchan is just lovely.

Some films create an entire world, one which has its own rules and its own geography but which feels entirely real, a place you could go. ‘Rushmore’ is one of the greatest of these. Its world – the grounds and environs of Rushmore Academy – is at once familiar and strange, populated by bored millionaires and Scottish vagabonds, lost aquatic heroes and their grieving lovers, gruff headmasters and winsome Asian teens and, of course, Max Fischer, arguably the most complex, original, loveable but infuriating movie creation of the past three decades. Yes, there’s a little ‘Harold and Maude’ here, a little Hal Hartley there. But even as it approaches its quarter century, ‘Rushmore’ still feels blindingly original and entrancingly unique. The best film of the ’90s? Very possibly. Tom Huddleston

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Wayne’s World (1992)

‘Did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he put on a dress and played girl bunny?’

Director: Penelope Spheeris

Cast: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Tia Carrere

Defining moment: The all-singin’, all-headbangin’ Bohemian Rhapsody sequence is justifiably adored by millions.

Heavy metal was under fire from all angles in 1992: Nirvana were on the up, Tipper Gore was on the rampage and, weirdly, poodle hair and spandex just didn’t seem that cool any more. But the final nail in the coffin – unintentionally, it seems – was poor old innocent Wayne Campbell. In peeking behind the double denim and studs to uncover the cuddly mid-30s stay-at-home air-guitar nerd who dwells inside every hardcore rocker, Penelope Spheeris and Mike Myers simultaneously celebrated the scene’s finest elements – the solos, the camaraderie, the true icons like Alice Cooper – and lampooned its more ludicrous excesses. The result, ironically but entirely intentionally, is one of the sweetest, cosiest comedies of recent years: ‘Wayne’s World’ is like a warm blanket, albeit a leather one studded with grinning skulls. Tom Huddleston

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There’s Something About Mary (1998)

‘It’s like you’re dreamin’ about Gorgonzola cheese when it’s clearly Brie time, baby.’

Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

Cast: Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller, Matt Dillon

Defining moment: Any scene in which beloved strumsmith Jonathan Richman turns up to serenade the audience with his winsome wisdom.

As with so many of the comedies in this poll, the plot here takes a backseat to the individual scenes. Let's leave aside the romcom element of two suitors (Ben Stiller and Matt Dillon) going for the same lass (Cameron Diaz) and instead praise two of the film's most hilarious set pieces. Proof that animals always make good foils for a bout of cruel humour, Stiller's floor-wrestling scene with Diaz's perma-tanned mother's obnoxious terrier is one of the funniest moments in film history, but even that is superseded by Dillon's side-splitting couch-bound panic when the little furball has a seizure. If those don't have you falling over, the weirdo hitchhiker and the ensuing false arrest of Stiller for mass murder certainly will. This is a film ripe for the YouTube generation, as evidenced by the surfeit of online clips. It is far and away the pinnacle of the Farrellys' waning career and many will be surprised that this isn't much, much higher up this list. Derek Adams

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Best in Show (2000)

‘Bratwurst and shillelaghs... paging Dr Freud!’

Director: Christopher Guest

Cast: Fred Willard, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey

Defining moment: It’s impossible to choose, but the scene in which the terrifyingly straight-laced Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock tell their Starbucks story stands out.

Arguably the best of Christopher Guest’s post-'Tap’ mockumentaries (also see ‘Waiting for Guffman’, ‘A Mighty Wind’ and ‘For Your Consideration’), this chronicle of a dog show overflows with hilarious caricatures, from yuppies and A-gays to laconic backwoodsmen and addled commentators. The largely improvised material is generally geared around character rather than out-and-out gags but the simmering neuroses and blithely inane foot-in-mouth outbursts build to a fist-biting tsunami of excruciation. Also notable for Jane Lynch's turn as a lesbian trainer, which could be seen as a dry run for her role as Sue Sylvester in ‘Glee’. Ben Walters

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The Castle (1997)

‘Compulsorily acquired? You know what this means don’t you… They’re acquiring it. Compulsorily.’

Director: Rob Sitch

Cast: Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry

Defining moment: The scene where a gangster roughneck turns up at the door and gets a very nasty surprise – and the brilliant discussion about gun prices that follows.

Those who live by the dictum that ‘Australia’ and ‘comedy’ are a contradiction in terms may want to get hold of this rough ocker gem from 1997 which plays like a salty modern update of Frank Capra’s eccentric eviction comedy ‘You Can’t Take It With You’. Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton) is the affable, easily impressed patriarch lording over his ramshackle, self-built ‘castle’ located on the outskirts of Melbourne and slap-bang at the end of an airport runway. When big business wants to move his mullet-headed clan off the property, Darryl decides to take them to court on the basis that a man’s house is his home. Sentimental, winning and rammed to the gills with neatly layered call-back humour, it’s a small but essential addition to the overcrowded triumph-of-the-little-man canon. David Jenkins

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Four Lions (2010)

‘You’re gonna die in that gear, lads.’

Director: Chris Morris

Cast: Riz Ahmed, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak

Defining moment: The argument between two police snipers over whether the Honey Monster is, in fact, a bear.

Islamic fundamentalism satirised through the medium of queasy slapstick? Well it makes a change from the tortured earnestness we’ve come to expect from such enterprises. And it’s surprisingly effective. Not only are these guys misguided but – as we soon realise while watching them blunder through a repertoire involving exploding sheep and comedy marathon costumes – they’re bloody daft too. At times, Morris’s debut feature seems almost affectionate towards its subjects. And why not? The deadly serious reality of what they’re about to attempt seems an anathema to their partially understood ideology and hapless posturing. Surely they’ll come to their senses? Won’t they? Phil Harrison

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Ghostbusters (1984)

‘As a duly designated representative of the city, county and state of New York, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place of origin or to the nearest convenient parallel dimension.’

Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver

Defining moment: Bill Murray’s delirious, triumphant little waltz across a crowded plaza after finally securing a date with Sigourney Weaver.

Big budget, effects-laden comedy is a high-wire act that few films negotiate without hitting the dirt from a very great height. For every one – ‘Men in Black’, for instance – that manages the feat of juggling side-splitters with jaw-dropping spectacle there is a vast and notable slew of overpriced, flat-footed, fun-free clunkers – Spielberg’s ‘1941’, ‘Wild, Wild West’, ‘Hudson Hawk’ – that flop between stools. But the bar was set back in 1984 by Ivan Reitman’s freewheeling spin around a Big Apple overflowing with cosmic (and comic) energy, spectral emanations and lots and lots of corduroy. No film has come close to raising it since. Adam Lee Davies

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Dumb & Dumber (1994)

‘Hey, want to hear the most annoying sound in the world? ARGHHHGHHHER...’

Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels

Defining moment: For reasons which passeth understanding, Jeff Daniels sticks his tongue on an iced-up metal strut. Excruciating hilarity ensues...

An inspired, infectiously good-natured tribute to the joys of idiocy, this huge hit sees two friends called Harold and Lloyd (no prizes for spotting the silent-cinema reference) head up to a ski resort in Aspen in pursuit of a girl, in their shag-pile-carpet covered, dog-shaped van. A superbly staged blend of slapstick and winter-sports advice (tip: do not – I mean ever – try to lick the ice of a frozen ski-chair), the movie shows Jim Carrey at his livewire best: even his haircut is funny. Edward Lawrenson

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

‘Those. Aren’t. PILLOWS!!!’

Director: John Hughes

Cast: Steve Martin, John Candy, Laila Robins, Michael McKean

Defining moment: The moment where John Candy transforms momentarily into a grinning, horned Satan, lit by the sparks from two passing trucks.

Two guys; bickering; road trip: as formulas go, it's hardly the unified field theory, but while the Hollywood lab boys manage to so consistently naff it up, when they do get it right, we get such alchemical wonders as 'PTA'. Pitched slap bang between ‘Roxanne’ and ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ in Steve Martin’s late-’80s hot streak, this home-for-the-holidays classic can be seen as the change-up from Steve 'the wild and crazy guy' to Mr Martin, the pastel-sweater-clad patriarch of ‘90s snoozers such as ‘Father of the Bride’. Viewed as such, it’s an enjoyably imbalanced film that balances out its unapologetic sentimentality with foulmouth rants - ‘I want a fucking car RIGHT FUCKING NOW!’ – solipsistic wig outs and unhinged set-piece destruction. And that’s all without taking into account the ample charms of John Candy, who gives a career-best run-through of his inimitable ‘loveable schmo’ schtick. Adam Lee Davies

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See numbers 20-11