What makes a great comedy? It could be the joke-laden script (obvs), performances that have comic timing down to a fine art, or the perfect chemistry of a vintage double act. It might be the way they’ve aged, deepening in pathos with every passing decade in ways their creators never imagined (see: Chaplin’s The Great Dictator). Equally, it could be a sense of fearlessness, of noting the likely scruples of audiences and critics and just telling their subversive jokes anyway (see: Mel Brooks’ entire CV). Sometimes, it’s about volume: throwing so many ridiculous gags at the screen that the overall effect leaves you gasping for air in between the belly laughs. There’s a reason Top Secret!, Airplane and The Naked Gun all make our list of the 100 Greatest Comedy Movies of all time.
But it’s not just high-gag-rate spoofs that fill this list – there are great romcoms, satires, gross-out and teen comedies (there’s overlap there), screwballs… you name it, it’s here. With the help of comedies like Diane Morgan and Russell Howard, actors (thank you John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker, among others), directors like Richard Curtis and a small army of Time Out writers, we’ve painstaking scoured the genre’s history to cherry-pick the finest laugh machines in existence. Every taste and sense of humour is catered for here, no matter how silly or sophisticated. But if you’re not in the mood for a good chuckle right now, allow us to point you towards a few classic horrors, thrillers and action movies that might hit the spot instead.