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100 best comedy movies of all time
Time Out

The 100 best comedy movies: the funniest films of all time

Giggle along with our list of the best funny movies like ‘Borat’ and ‘Mean Girls’, as chosen by Time Out writers and top comedians

Written by
Andy Kryza
Written by
Tom Huddleston
&
Phil de Semlyen
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The best comedies in the history of cinema achieve more than just making you laugh (although, granted, it’s not a great comedy if it barely makes you crack a smile). Classic romcoms like The Philadelphia Story have us yearning for true love while teen movies like Mean Girls get us cringing at memories of being too dorky to join the cool gang at school. Then there are the political satires, like The Death of Stalin, which serve up uncomfortable truths alongside the funnies. And finally, when we need to get into the festive spirit, the Christmas film archives are crammed with titles that leave you giggling into your eggnog. 

All of which makes choosing the 100 best comedies of all time a little tricky. To help us with the task, we enlisted the help of comedians (such as Russell Howard and Diane Morgan), actors (John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker, among others), directors and screenwriters (including Richard Curtis), as well as several Time Out writers. So the next time you need something to turn that frown upside down, you’ll know where to start.

Written by Anna Smith, Alim Kheraj, Tom Huddleston, Phil de Semlyen, Phil Harrison, Cath Clarke, Dave Calhoun, Trevor Johnston, Gabriel Tate, Derek Adams, Adam Lee Davies, Wally Hammond, Dan Jolin, Michael Juliano, Kate Lloyd, Ben Walters and Andy Kryza.

RECOMMENDED:  London and UK cinema listings, film reviews and exclusive interviews

The 100 best comedy movies

Meet the Parents (2000)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘I have nipples, Greg. Could you milk me?’

Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro

Meeting your partner’s parents is bound to be stressful – but Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) has it worse than most. Turns out his potential father in law (Robert De Niro) is a former CIA agent with a suspicious nature – and a polygraph lie-detector machine at his disposal. Over the course of an eventful visit, Focker’s misfortune builds to a farcical crescendo as his intended (Teri Polo) looks on. Stiller is on hilarious, hapless form and De Niro has never been funnier.

Mean Girls (2004)
  • Film
  • Comedy

'You can't sit with us.'

Director: Mark Waters

Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Jonathan Bennett

When Cady (Lindsay Lohan) moves from being home-schooled by her parents in Africa to an American high school, she has rude awakening. Confronted by the school's hierarchy where popularity means everything, she finds herself infiltrating the girl clique The Plastics. Loaded with laugh-out-loud moments, the script, penned by Tina Fey, is filled with zingers. It's a film that provides genuine insight and empathy as well as a hefty dose of putdowns and comeuppances.

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Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • Film
  • Drama

‘It's the one that says Bad Motherfucker.’

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson

Is Pulp Fiction a comedy? Perhaps only in the sense that all Quentin Tarantino’s films, from Reservoir Dogs to Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood, have a solid streak of black humour running through them – and whatever the genre or story, they're often fuelled by the disconnect between their characters’ chat and their violent scenarios. That’s largely down to Tarantino’s playful use of language, typified in this stylised crime tale by hitmen John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson chewing the fat over their favourite burgers or discussing why one of them refuses to eat pork. Jackson especially proves himself a master of gallows humour.

Hot Fuzz (2007)
  • Film
  • Action and adventure

‘You wanna be a big cop in a small town? Fuck off up the model village.’

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman

Edgar Wright’s follow-up to Shaun of the Dead is a bigger, busier, slightly less focused ramble through small-town cop-movie clichés, but it might just be the better film, benefiting from a script packed with smart one-liners and neat riffs on everything from Hammer horror to cosy ITV dramas. It also, lest we forget, sports arguably the finest supporting cast ever assembled, with (very deep breath) Paddy Considine, Jim Broadbent, Billie Whitelaw, Martin Freeman, Olivia Colman, Edward Woodward, Bill Nighy, Timothy Dalton, The Actor Kevin Eldon, both Adam and Joe, Rory ‘The Hound’ McCann and even a masked Cate Blanchett all getting in on the action. 

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  • Film

‘The idea of working in your shirt sleeves! Think of the shock to your customers, women of culture and refinement!’

Director: Fred C Newmeyer

Cast: Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis

Always sporting round specs and straw boater, silent comedian Harold Lloyd’s shtick was to cultivate a likeable boy-next-door persona, then put his protagonist in hair-raising jeopardy. In his best-known feature, his plan to get an athletic acquaintance to climb a department store facade as a publicity stunt backfires, so Harold tackles the perilous ascent himself. Cue pesky pigeons and an inconvenient clock face in a beautifully constructed, very funny set-piece whose clever use of perspective creates vertiginous thrills without back projection – or a single computer pixel! 

  • Film
  • Comedy

‘It's like I was playing some kind of game, but the rules don't make any sense to me.’

Director: Mike Nichols

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katherine Ross

It’s easy to forget that, in the pre-blockbuster days, The Graduate was one of the biggest box-office smashes of all time (it’s still No 21, adjusted for inflation). So what was it about this intimate, simple drama – a film we’d now refer to as an indie, even though it was studio-made – that captured the public imagination? Quite simply, it was a matter of timing: here was a film that, with its depiction of bourgeois boredom, teenage angst and sexual liberation (not to mention those awesome Simon and Garfunkel songs) absolutely nailed the mood of the late 1960s. 

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  • Film

'We've been invaded by America. We're all gonna be rich!'

Director: Bill Forsyth

Cast: Peter Riegert, Burt Lancaster, Peter Capaldi

There’s nothing quite like an hour or two in the company of Bill Forsyth’s evergreen comedy to fill your bucket. Peter Riegert, a genuinely underrated ‘comic’ straight man (see also: The Mask, Animal House), is a lawyer sent to scope out a Scottish fishing village that’s in the sights of an American oil company, only to fall under its spell. The story of the little man thumbing his nose at a corporate behemoth, here even the corporate behemoth – represented by Burt Lancaster’s oil baron – catches the bug. Maybe there is more to life than chasing dollars after all?

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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘The course of true love gathers no moss.’

Director: George Cukor

Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart

A romcom that sparkles like champagne, The Philadelphia Story is a delicious comedy of misunderstandings and misdemeanours. Which of three men will win the heart of Katharine Hepburn’s icy heiress on the eve of her wedding: her millionaire ex-husband Cary Grant, snooping reporter James Stewart or her dull businessman fiancé John Howard? At the end you might decide that she picks the wrong man, but you can’t argue with the fact that this witty, charming and romantic movie is a near-perfect comedy. 

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Harold and Maude (1971)
  • Film
  • Comedy

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

Director: Hal Ashby

Cast: Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon

Genre-non-specific movies like Harold and Maude have suffered on this list: is it really a comedy? Isn’t there a bit too much death 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. Controversial on first release, forgotten for decades and then happily rediscovered (at least in part thanks to Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary), Harold and Maude is now firmly established as one of the all-time romantic classics. The central relationship may be unconventional – teenage boy falls for 79-year-old concentration camp survivor – but the themes of self-discovery and universal love speak to all of us. 

  • Film
  • Comedy

‘They should have warned us that there was a danger of running out of pecan pie.’

Director: Elaine May

Cast: Charles Grodin, Cybill Shepherd, Jeannie Berlin

Improv pioneer Elaine May completely changed comedy through her influential stage work with Mike Nichols, yet as a director she’s mostly associated with the unfairly maligned mega-bomb Ishtar. In a just world, her Heartbreak Kid would be her calling card – a proto cringe comedy from the pen of Neil Simon that features one of the best jittery performances of Charles Grodin’s career. In a masterpiece of awkward tension, Grodin stars as an aloof salesman who suddenly – as in, en route to the honeymoon – realises his new bride (Jeannie Berlin, May’s real daughter) is the absolute worst, then promptly falls for another guest (Cybil Shepherd) while his unsuspecting spouse heals from a bad sunburn. Grodin and Shepherd do wonders in making their shallow characters believable, and the fact that charming Ben Stiller and Michelle Monaghan couldn’t do the same in the Farrelly Brothers’ ill-conceived remake is a testament to the tightrope walked by May in her underseen classic.  

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  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Who allowed you to take my breath away?’

Director:
 Olivia Wilde

Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein

Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are two high-school besties on the cusp of living their best Ivy League dreams. But on graduation day they discover a cruel fact: a life of bookish abstinence isn’t the only pathway to those ivory towers. Their cooler, sexier, harder-partying classmates are likewise heading to elite universities. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut captures the friends’ hilarious (and heartfelt) attempt to grab the fun they deserve before leaving town. Following her scene-stealing role as Saoirse Ronan’s sidekick in Lady Bird, Feldstein yet again proves she’s one of the funniest actresses around (and the one we’d really, really love to be pals with IRL). 

  • Film
  • Comedy

‘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

The Farrelly Brothers are best known for reinventing gross-out comedy 20 years after Animal House, and it’s hard to argue that the best-known scenes in There’s Something About Mary are the hilariously awful ones: the zip, the cum in the hair, the electrocuted dog. But underneath all that, it’s the film’s irrepressible sweetness that makes it sing: Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller give career-making performances, their affair is tentative and totally convincing – and Jonathan Richman’s musical cameos tie it all together.

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  • Film

'Climbing! Plodding! Mushing! Back and forth... back and forth.'

Director: Charlie Chaplin

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Mack Swain

Chaplin’s little tramp finds himself braving the Alaskan gold rush in this celebrated silent feature, whose surreal invention – watch him fend off starvation by chomping down his boots – has gone down in screen history. The romantic asides (his poignant longing for a flighty showgirl) still play too, showcasing the sophistication of Chaplin’s acting as well as his facility for balletic knockabout. Lovely stuff, but do try to see the silent original rather than the awkwardly narrated sound reissue.

  • Film
‘Sssss-smokin'!’

Director: Chuck Russell

Cast: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Riegert

Long before Marvel’s Loki, there was the Jim Carrey variety – an altogether more high-intensity kind of trickster in a comedy that saw Carrey consolidate his Ace Ventura stardom back in 1994. Looking back, the film’s Looney Tunes energy offers the perfect showcase for Carrey’s madcap maximalism: when he turns from klutzy bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss and into the Mask, it’s the cue for CG-enhanced scenery-chewing as he runs through a profoundly silly gamut of fart jokes, Edward G Robinson impressions and Cameron Diaz-wooing. The effects may have lost their lustre but Carrey’s performance still packs some comic voltage.
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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Ever since I was born, I was dope.’

Director: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone

Cast: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer

Like Spinal Tap on Adderall, The Lonely Island’s mile-a-minute lampooning of modern pop stars and their egos and, in the case of fast-fading solo artist Conner4Real (Andy Samberg), the 30 people they have around them to make them look dope is a wild and ridiculous ride. There are hilarious riffs here on everything from boyband politics to the perils of celebrity weddings (avoid wolves, basically). Fittingly, Connor’s PR person gets one of the best – and most stinging – lines:  ‘I'd love to get Connor to the point where he's just kind of everywhere – like oxygen or gravity or clinical depression.’

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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
  • Film
  • Comedy

'Dude, I service society by rocking. I’m out there on the front lines liberating people with my music. Rocking ain't no walk in the park, lady.'

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Jack Black, Mike White

Jack Black is at his most endearing in this underdog story about a struggling musician who poses as a substituted teacher and ends up coaching a class if misfits to compete in a Battle of the Bands. Sure, it echoes Sister Act 2, but Richard Linklater's film pretty much defines the term 'ebullient'. It sails on a wave of pin-shap one-liners, constant heavy riffage and plucky performances from the young cast.

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Waiting for Guffman (1996)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘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.”’

Director: Christopher Guest

Cast: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara

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. 

The Big Sick (2017)
Amazon

83. The Big Sick (2017)

‘So... to fully know I love someone, I have to cheat on them?’

Director: Michael Showalter

Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano

There aren’t too many modern comedies with the chutzpah to pull off a 9/11 joke. There are even fewer to give us a Pakistani-American culture-shock romance that isn’t awash with clichés (okay, ignoring at least one killer Uber gag). Take a bow, then, Emily V Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, the real-life couple who penned an inspired-by-real-life gem that does both – and a whole lot more besides. We meet Emily (Zoe Kazan plays Gordon’s on-screen surrogate) and Kumail (Nanjiani playing a version of himself) doing all the standard stuff: dating, having sex, watching Vincent Prices movies. Then she falls into a coma and suddenly for Kumail, there’s heartache, hospitals and parents to deal with. Funny and wise, The Big Sick is one of those rare comedies with something genuinely fresh to say.

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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
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  • Film
  • Comedy

‘There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh. It isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing in this cock-eyed caravan.’

Director: Preston Sturges

Cast: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake

Sullivan’s Travels is perhaps best known today as being the movie that ‘inspired’ the Coens’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but this meaning-of-life masterpiece deserves so much more. At once witty, wacky, wholesome, devious and devastatingly smart, it showcases director Preston Sturges at the absolute pinnacle of his game, offering up not just a wildly entertaining Hollywood romp but a razor sharp (and explosively political) examination of why comedy matters at all. A work of genius, plain and simple. And damn, Veronica Lake!

  • Film
  • Comedy

'Every now and then I get a little bit nervous then I see the fuckin’ look in your eyes...’

Director: Todd Phillips

Cast: Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn

Director Todd Phillips found critical and commercial acclaim with The Hangover and, more surprisingly, Joker. But he forged his cult with this early aughts Animal House riff that serves as an appetiser for a decade of Apatow-adjacent bro comedies. The plot is pretty boilerplate (old guys start an on-campus frat for outcasts, blowhard dean can’t deal with it), but it’s all executed with chaotic zeal thanks to a stacked Frat Pack cast that includes an especially manic Vince Vaughn. The real breakout, though, is Will Ferrell, whose internal battle between middle-aged family man and party-obsessed Frank the Tank provides the film a Jekyll and Hyde dynamic soaked in bong water and cheap beer. Old School announced the arrival of Will Ferrell, Movie Star, and it did it in the most Ferrell way possible: by going streaking. 

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  • Film

‘I may be bald, but at least I'm not chickenshit like you.’

Director: George Roy Hill

Cast: Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean

Paul Newman thrives in what’s surely the least-heroic, worst-dressed role of his career as the has-been player-coach of a lower-league ice hockey team, threatened by closure just as their fortunes improve by whacking the living daylights out of their opponents. Pilloried at the time for its relentlessly salty language, George Roy Hill’s film has since gathered a considerable cult following and now stands as a milestone sports comedy that’s also a telling portrait of threatened masculinity in a declining America. Well worth discovering.

  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Compared to Clouseau, Attila the Hun was a Red Cross volunteer!’

Director: Blake Edwards

Cast: Peter Sellers, Christopher Plummer

Eleven years after A Shot in the Dark, Edwards and Sellers revived the Clouseau franchise. And though several dismal cash-ins followed, quality control is still in evidence for this sequel to the first movie, with Christopher Plummer now the gem-snaffling Sir Charles and Catherine Schell battling to keep a straight face as his slinky spouse under close surveillance by a disguise-swapping Sellers. Twitchy boss Herbert Lom and ninja butler Burt Kwouk rather overplay their hand, but Sellers’ mangled Gallic vowels remain resplendent.

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  • Film

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

Director: Mike Judge

Cast: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston

Before The Office was a glint in Ricky and Steve’s eye, Mike Judge – the brains behind Beavis and Butthead – offered this heartfelt cry from the heart on behalf of disaffected desk monkeys everywhere. Ron Livingston plays Pete Gibbons, a profoundly demotivated corporate employee who winds up jacking it in for a get-rich-quick scheme. The plot is well 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 waitress.

The Great Dictator (1940)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Heil Hynkel!’

Director: Charlie Chaplin

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard

Charlie Chaplin’s courageous 1940 satire sees him sending up Adolf Hitler as the fictional despot Adenoid Hynckel. The famous scene where he dances with a giant globe offers a comic pisstake on vaunting megalomania, though there’s also a murderous reality to Hynkel’s behaviour – and prescient talk of ‘concentration camps’. Overall, it’s more a movie about the power of comedy than a chuckle-fest in itself, since the subplot with Chaplin also playing a plucky barber rather struggles to raise a smile.

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  • Film
  • Comedy

‘If I’m not back in five minutes... just wait longer.’

Director: Tom Shadyac

Cast: Jim Carrey, Courteney Cox, Sean Young

When ‘Snowflake’, a 500-pound dolphin and mascot of American football team the Miami Dolphins, is stolen on the eve of the Super Bowl, the only person with the animal instincts to solve the crime is Ace Ventura. Played by Jim Carrey, he’s a second-tier detective with a penchant for Hawaiian shirts and the hyperactive energy of a six-year-old. It’s Carrey at his most Carrey. Be warned: there’s a lot of toilet humour. 

  • Film
  • Comedy

‘“Vamonos, amigos,” he whispered, and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight.’

Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Luke Wilson

Wes Anderson’s third feature film follows three child prodigies turned adult burnouts, called back to New York by their dying father. Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller play the siblings, who function in a typically Anderson world painted in hyper-stylised strokes and grubby pastel shades. The script (especially the narration from Alec Baldwin) is full of dry wit, but it’s the sweetly sad narrative about love and disappointment that gives the film its magic.

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Kingpin (1996)
  • Film
  • Comedy

You’re on a gravy train with biscuit wheels.’

Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Bill Murray

The oft-overlooked oddity squeezed between the giant blockbuster tentpoles (oo-er) of Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin sees the Farrelly Brothers drawing on some mysterious inner pool of inexplicable comedy genius and coming up with the ludicrous tale of a thatch-headed Amish bowling prodigy (Quaid) and his bitter, one-handed mentor (Harrelson) as they head cross-country to the national championships. Lin Shaye’s turn as Harrelson’s grotesque, sexually rapacious landlady is unforgettably despicable.

Best in Show (2000)
  • Film
  • Comedy

'Bratwurst and shillelaghs... Paging Dr. Freud!’

Director: Christopher Guest

Cast: Jane Lynch, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey

The best of Christopher Guest’s post-Spinal Tap mockumentaries (see also Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind and… actually, don’t see 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. 

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Way Out West (1936)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Any bird can build a nest, but it’s not everyone that can lay an egg.’

Director: James W Horne

Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy

Laurel and Hardy’s frontier tale is their most varied featurette, and ranks with their very best. Having witlessly contrived to hand over a valuable property deed to a scheming saloon owner, their attempts to make amends involve an airborne mule, an ill-fated piano and much tickling. All this plus several utterly charming old-timey musical numbers (including 1970s novelty number one ‘Trail of the Lonesome Pine’) and the convincingly surreal sight of Ollie using his thumb as a lighter. Solid gold. 

Mr Hulot's Holiday (1953)
  • Film

'Mr. Hulot is off for a week by the sea. Take a seat behind his camera, and you can spend it with him.'

Director: Jacques Tati

Cast: Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Micheline Rolla

A sleepy French seaside resort becomes the playground for director-star Jacques Tati’s lanky, kindly middle-aged bachelor Monsieur Hulot, whose efforts at enjoying himself invariably end in disaster. Former mime Tati essentially dispenses with dialogue, but while his approach certainly draws on silent comedy, he's less interested in quick-fire slapstick than slowly escalating complications whose intricate choreography often proves more whimsical, or beautiful even, than out-and-out hilarious. Filled with sunny nostalgia and bittersweet longing, its funny-sad demeanour is quintessential Tati.

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The Cable Guy (1996)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Free cable is the ultimate aphrodisiac.’

Director: Ben Stiller

Cast: Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick, Leslie Mann

Produced by Judd Apatow, directed by Ben Stiller and starring Jim Carrey, Jack Black and Matthew Broderick, The Cable Guy has all the building blocks of a legendary lad comedy. The film is no bromance though – Carrey plays a manic cable guy who drags newly single Broderick into his twisted fantasy world. Featuring a weird scene where a trip to a Medieval-themed restaurant leads to the two pals jousting viciously, this dark comedy’s strengths lie in revealing the nasty side of Carrey’s acting persona.

Top Secret! (1984)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘I know a little German. He’s sitting over there.’

Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

Cast: Val Kilmer, Omar Sharif, Billy J Mitchell

Eager to parody the WWII spy flick but keenly aware that, despite what Mel Brooks might think, the Nazis really weren’t all that funny, the Airplane! team of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker hit upon the notion of a dimwit American rock star sent into East Berlin to infiltrate the Russkies. The result isn’t quite as rampantly gag-stuffed as either Airplane! or The Naked Gun, but the jokes there are land hard: Peter Cushing’s amazing giant eye, Kilmer’s pitch-perfect Beach Boys parody and some timeless wordplay (see above).

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  • Film
  • Comedy

‘You’re not even a person, you’re a testicle!’

Director Armando Iannucci

Cast Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Rupert Friend, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs

First time round, we were too busy laughing to notice just how dark Armando Iannucci’s Stalinist satire really is. With the benefit of hindsight – not to mention three more years of contemporary demagoguery under our belts – it feels a lot more like Animal Farm than Animal House: nasty, venal politicians vying for power in a game of snakes and ladders where the loser ends up in the gulag. The kind of world where Jason Isaacs’s Marshal Zhukov feels like a hero because, hey, at least he’s honest enough to be openly psychotic. Of course, it’s bloody funny too – just very literally so.

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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
Take the Money and Run (1969)
  • Film
  • Comedy

'Nobody wears beige to a bank robbery!’

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Janet Margolin, Marcel Hillaire

If you try to rob a bank, it helps if you can convince the bank you’re a robber. And if you play the cello, it’s maybe best not to join a marching brass band. Such is the life of Virgil Starkwell, the remarkably committed and useless criminal who, as a kid. Take the Money and Run, Woody Allen’s directorial debut, is a messy, at times romantic, often baggy film, full of sight gags, overlaid with some of Allen's most trusted nightclub material. If this lacks the emotional dexterity of Allen’s mid-career film, it remains a remarkable early calling card for one of the twentieth-century’s defining comic actor/directors.

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Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
  • Film
  • Comedy

'There's a lotta things about me you don't know anything about, Dottie.’

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton

Tim Burton’s first feature might just be proof that the blockbuster visionary is better off with lower budgets, so long as he has a solid collaborator. Kicking off with an iconic score from Danny Elfman (then simply known as ‘that guy from Oingo Boingo’) and culminating with an ultra-meta spy spoof, Pee-Wee is pure joy: A classic road film in which a hyperactive manchild becomes a nigh-mystical roadside prophet brightening the lives of drifters and wayward souls as he searches for a lost bike. Burton’s signature style is everywhere, from the menacing roadside dinosaurs to the nightmarish dream sequences and the generation-scarring Large Marge. But it’s Paul Reubens’ finely calibrated mania that makes the film as essential now as it was when it launched its creators’ careers: the comedian captures the essence of childhood joy one obnoxious giggle at a time.

Heaven Can Wait (1943)
  • Film
  • Comedy

'It’s a father's function to save his son from the mistakes he made.’

Director: Ernst Lubitsch

Cast: Gene Tierney, Don Ameche, Charles Coburn

A satirical portrait of a womaniser who messes up the great romance right in front of him, this Technicolor delight from the legendary Ernst Lubitsch features the screen’s most elegant visualisation of hell: all marble columns and shiny floors, presided over by Laird Cregar’s suave Satan, who decides whether new arrival Don Ameche is to go ‘down below’ or ‘up above’. This is a sophisticated watch – if a little forgiving of male foibles, and more likely to give you an attack of wry smiles than out-and-out guffaws.

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GoodFellas (1990)
  • Film
  • Thrillers

'I make you laugh, I'm here to fuckin' amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?’

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro

An unusual entry in a list of comedy movies, you might think – but top comedians voted for it, and here it is. And hey, Martin Scorsese’s ferocious gangster flick is damn funny, when it isn’t busy being terrifying, paranoid and ultraviolent. Joe Pesci‘s rabid chihuahua Tommy may grab most of the comic lines, including the infamous ‘funny how?’ speech. But Ray Liotta is no slouch in the raise-a-smile department, his sheer coke-fuelled haplessness a vital corrective to the steely gangster heroes of The Godfather.

Bananas (1971)
  • Film

‘I once stole a pornographic book that was printed in braille. I used to rub the dirty parts.’

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalbán

The plot of Woody Allen’s second feature movie sounds like a Seth Rogen stoner comedy: lazy guy stumbles into job as leader of a South American revolution. Except this is a Woody Allen film, so amidst daft slapstick, cutting one-liners and guerrilla warfare you’ll find commentary on the corruption of power and the role of the media. It’s a bit mad – there’s one scene where someone orders 1,000 grilled cheese sandwiches – but it’s one of Allen’s best.

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  • Film
  • Comedy

‘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

Saturday Night Live sketches have been responsible for at least as many terrible movies as great ones (A Night at the Roxbury, anyone?), but when they work, they’re unforgettable. Overgrown headbanger Wayne and his sidekick Garth may have started out as a pastiche of no-way-dude metalhead doofuses, but their first full-length movie goes out of its way to transform them into rounded, loveable, very nearly believable characters. It’s a perfect double act, and the movie wisely keeps them front and centre even as wacky business is breaking out all over.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘You’re the vulgarian, you fuck!’

Director: Charles Crichton

Cast: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin

Perhaps the best British comedy since the heyday of Python, since John Cleese deliberately attempted to move away from satirical silliness and back to a more inclusive, plot-driven, unmistakably British brand of comic caper. (He even went so far as to hire 78-year-old Ealing stalwart Charles Crichton to direct.) The result is a film which, like its slippery American heroine, is madly in love with language, from tongue-teasingly delicious sarcasm to some truly outrageous swearing. Add to this four iconic performances (five if you count the inimitable Tom Georgeson as cockernee gangster George ‘Unbe-fackin’-lieveable!’ Thomason), and the result speaks for itself.

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Midnight Run (1988)
  • Film
  • Thrillers

‘Nothing personal, but fuck off.’

Director: Martin Brest

Cast: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin

A film whose reputation seems to grow with each passing year (it’s shot up by 34 places since the last time we put together this list), Midnight Run comes on like just another buddies-on-the-road comedy thriller. That is, until you notice just how flawlessly written and ferociously performed it is. Robert De Niro wisely plays it straight as the bail bondsman tracking down mob informant Charles Grodin, who proceeds to whinge and whine all the way from New York to LA. The pace is relentless, the supporting players are brilliantly sketched and the script cuts like a scalpel.

  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Why should I listen to you, anyway? You're a virgin who can't drive.’

Director: Amy Heckerling

Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy

Based on Jane Austen's Emma, Clueless follows Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), a teenager obsessed with shopping and clothes, as she guides newbie Tai (Brittnay Murphy) through high school. It's much more than a teen movie, however - for a film that's nearly 30 year old, Clueless still holds a lot of cultural clout, whether it's inspiring music videos, fashion trends or on-going cries of 'As if!' Mostly, though, it's that stellar performance from Silverstone that gives this film so much charm and wit.

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Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Insanity runs in my family… it practically gallops.’

Director: Frank Capra

Cast: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey

This 1944 jet-black farce about serial-killing old dears was years ahead of its time. Cary Grant’s a real trouper, all wide eyes and double takes, as he uncovers the dark secret of his dotty aunt’s cellar. He shifts into another gear when his sinister murderous brother (Raymond Massey) enters the fray. Plotted with precision, delivered with panache, still a model of controlled comic hysteria. 

  • Film

'He was hit by a Guinness truck. So it was quite literally the drink that killed him.’

Director: Chris Columbus

Cast: Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan

The set-up of this 1993 family comedy might be slushy and very, very silly, but it showcases Robin Williams at his most anarchic. He plays struggling actor and divorced dad Daniel who tries to stay in his kids’ lives by dressing up as an (unconvincing and slightly creepy) older woman and getting hired by his ex-wife (Sally Field) to be the children’s nanny. What comes next is a whole lot of meddling.

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It Happened One Night (1934)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘I don't know very much about him, except that I love him.’

Director: Frank Capra

Cast: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert


Ask a film historian: what was the first ever romcom? Chances are they’ll tell you that it’s this this deliciously fizzy 1934 screwball comedy. Clark Gable is the newspaper hack who stumbles across a spoilt heiress (Claudette Colbert) on the bus to New York – she’s running away from her rich daddy to marry a fortune hunter. Pay attention and you’ll see elements that romcom scriptwriters have been ‘paying homage’ to ever since: a couple who can’t stand each other at first sight, quick-fire bickering and the realisation that they’re head-over-heels. Irresistible.

  • Film
  • Animation

'You are a sad, strange little man and you have my pity.'

Director: John Lasseter

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles

As the first Pixar animated feature film, Toy Story set out the studio's M.O. perfectly: to make films that are just as entertaining for adults as they are for kids. Jokes and references that only grownups will ‘get’ elevates the story of the rivalry between toy cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), the new toy on the block. It's the perfect combination of action and adventure that packs genuine heart and buckets of lols.

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The Man With Two Brains (1983)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Into the mud, scum queen!’

Director: Carl Reiner

Cast: Steve Martin, Kathleen Turner, David Warner

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. 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 romance of Woody Allen, the confrontational attitude of the new stand-ups and perfect surrealism of Martin’s own live act.

Bedazzled (1967)
  • Film
  • Comedy

I, Stanley Moon, hereinafter and in the hereafter to be known as “the damned”… The damned?’

Director: Stanley Donen

Cast: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron

Forget the underwhelming remake with Brendan Fraser and Liz Hurley. The original Bedazzled is a vintage piece of swinging London comedy and probably Pete and Dud’s finest big-screen outing. Dudley Moore is a sad-sack cook mooning after a waitress (Eleanor Bron) and Peter Cook plays the devil, who procures his soul in exchange for seven wishes. What follows is a Faustian series of set-pieces – some witty, some garish, some a tad aged – that offer plenty of opportunities for the duo’s distinctive power play. 

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The Odd Couple (1968)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘He's too nervous to kill himself. He wears his seat belt in a drive-in movie.’

Director: Gene Saks

Cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau

Unrepentant slob Oscar (Walter Matthau) and cleaning-obsessive neurotic Felix (Jack Lemmon) make a perfect match as two old pals driven by marriage troubles to sharing a Manhattan apartment. This film version plonks Neil Simon’s Broadway smash on screen without rethinking it for celluloid. Still, the obvious theatricality allows the performers to play to their contrasting strengths, whipping up a frenzy of love-hate exasperation underpinned by life-long friendship. It’s so funny because it’s so believable – everyone knows an Oscar and a Felix.

Sons of the Desert (1933)
  • Film

‘Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into.’

Director: William A Seiter

Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy

Eccentric man-child Stan Laurel and roly-poly fall-guy Oliver Hardy make the screen’s most revered comedy double-act and this is reckoned to be their finest 68 minutes, as the boys plot to evade their domineering wives and slope off to their fraternal lodge convention. It all goes horribly wrong, of course, setting off a whole series of inventive, exquisitely timed sight-gags as the hapless twosome wind up hiding out in their own attic. Short, sharp and delightful. 

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Raising Arizona (1987)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Does the Pope wear a funny hat?’

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter

The Coen Brothers did a full 180 turn after the nihilistic noir of Blood Simple to deliver perhaps their most madcap comedy: a live-action cartoon full of wildly conceived characters, tongue-twisting dialogue and a huge amount of heart. Sure, Raising Arizona is about a couple – a manic Holly Hunter and an oddly subdued Nicolas Cage – who snatch a baby from a millionaire, then flee opportunistic criminals and a battle-scarred biker seemingly forged in hellfire across the same hoodoo-laden Arizona desert Wile E Coyote calls home. This is a Coen brothers movie, after all. But it’s also their sweetest and most warmly deranged, highlighted by a deeply felt pair of central performances and whisked along by Carter Burwell’s yodel-intensive score.

In the Loop (2009)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘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.’

Director: Armando Iannucci

Cast: Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini

Scabrous and smart, Armando Iannucci’s political satire is the sort of film that rewards repeated viewing, if only to catch the jokes you laughed through last time round. It opens out the action from original sitcom The Thick of It by sending mad-eyed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, hapless government minister Simon Foster and their cohorts to the States, where they flip and flop for our entertainment, groping towards a coherent policy. The vulgarity is tumultuous, the wit pointed and the performances impeccably judged. Proof that transferring a great sitcom to the big screen need not be difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

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The King of Comedy (1982)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime!’

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard

Martin Scorsese isn’t exactly known for his comedy, although his 2013 hit The Wolf of Wall Street was perhaps the most out-and-out funny film he’s made so far. This 1982 film, which followed Raging Bull, thrives on awkward laughs as Robert De Niro’s sociopathic and deluded Rupert Pupkin is so desperate to become a successful stand-up comic (despite an apparent total lack of talent) that he hatches a crazy kidnap plot involving a chat-show host played by Jerry Lewis. It’s watch-through-the-fingers stuff – amusing, yes, but also seriously uncomfortable.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘I never forget a pussy... cat.’

Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York

Take Sean Connery’s suave James Bond out of his ’60s-martini-bar comfort zone and you’re left with Austin Powers. He’s a flouncy-collared, womanising secret agent who was cryogenically frozen in the 1960s, then awoken in 1997 to battle cat-stroking villain Dr Evil. Written and starring Mike Myers in both the lead roles, the film’s storyline is as silly as it sounds but that’s what makes it so much fun. Shame about the sequels. 

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The Producers (1967)
  • Film
  • Comedy

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

Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn

The beginning of the Brooks empire, and still his funniest film, The Producers combines old-school kvetch comedy, Broadway backstage hi-jinks and outright headline-grabbing bad taste to intoxicating effect. Wilder steals the show as the accountant to 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 ‘Springtime for Hitler’ scene that remains most vividly in the memory.

Rushmore (1998)
  • Film
  • Comedy

'Best play ever, man.’

Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams

Some films create an entire world, with its own rules and its own geography. Rushmore is one of the greatest of these. The grounds and environs of Rushmore Academy are 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 third decade, Rushmore still feels blindingly original and unique.

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Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘If you take my advice I think you’ll become one of the great balloon-folding acts of all time!’

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte

Woody comes to both bury and praise his hero Danny Rose in this lyrical note to the dimmer lights of the Great White Way. A cock-eyed optimist and full-time dreamer, guileless theatrical agent Danny dotes over his woeful stable of one-shot novelty acts – blind xylophonists, uniped tap dancers, ice-skating penguins dressed, naturally, as Hassidic rabbis – but it’s clear to everyone else that an age is swiftly passing. It would be an easy world to mock, but Allen gives it a generous, mournful, affectionate send-off that pays far richer, far funnier dividends.

The Blues Brothers (1980)
  • Film
  • Drama

‘Boys, you got to learn not to talk to nuns that way.’

Director: John Landis

Cast: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd

The controversy around The Blues Brothers has been raging since its release. Is this a case of two white comedians exploiting the heroes of soul music to make themselves look cool? Or is the film actually a loving tribute to a great American art form? The truth is, a bit of both. But luckily, there’s a brilliantly paced plot, a punchy script and a riot of car chases to keep you distracted every time Belushi and Aykroyd’s mugging gets a bit much. Of course, the heart of the movie is in its musical performances: Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and James Brown all hit hard, but it’s Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ that’ll have you jiving in your seat.

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His Girl Friday (1940)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Never mind the Chinese earthquake, take Hitler and stick him on the funny page. No, no, leave the rooster story alone – that’s human interest!’

Director: Howard Hawks

Cast: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

Where would screen comedy be without His Girl Friday? The double-edged cynicism of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s oft-adapted Broadway play The Front Page couldn’t be more modern. But director Howard Hawks had the inspired brainwave of turning the male Hildy into a female firebrand played by Rosalind Russell – detonating one of the most incendiary, yet affectionate, sex-war duels in cinema history.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Just follow your heart. That's what I do.’

Director: Jared Hess

Cast: Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Efren Ramirez

‘Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills… like bow hunting skills, computer hacking…’ It’s safe to say that lanky Idaho high schooler Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) doesn’t really understand girls – or conversation. This social misfit makes for a terrific underdog hero, and when he decides his skill is dancing, things get really funny. Look out for a hilarious turn from Efren Ramirez as Napoleon’s best friend Pedro, a transfer student running for class president. Vote for Pedro!

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The Pink Panther (1963)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Simone, where is my Surété Scotland Yard-type mackintosh?’

Director: Blake Edwards

Cast: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner

The first in a series of five films featuring the clumsy antics of Peter Sellers’s bungling pseudo-French detective Chief Inspector Clouseau, The Pink Panther is also the most measured, languorous and subtle of the lot. While often very funny, Sellers’s incompetent character only came to the fore from the second film, A Shot in the Dark, onwards. Consequently, anyone seeing this expecting wall-to-wall Sellers may be a mite disappointed. But hey, it knocks spots off the awful 2006 remake.

Coming to America (1988)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘The royal penis is clean, your highness.’

Director: John Landis

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones

Just a few years after he became the biggest box-office draw in America, Eddie Murphy’s golden period was already drawing to a close. But this tale of African princes and fast-food heiresses is a scrappily suitable swansong for the Eddie we loved in the ’80s, offering his signature blend of crudity, sweetness, wit, style and vague politicking, all wrapped up in a high-concept romcom package. The highlight, though, has to be ER star Eriq LaSalle in full Jheri curl nightmare as hair product salesman Daryl. Just let your Soul Glo... 

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Nuts In May (1976)
  • Film

‘“I want to see the zoo,” she said. “I want to see the zoo.”’

Director: Mike Leigh

Cast: Roger Sloman, Alison Steadman, Anthony O’Donnell

Of all the films Mike Leigh made for TV in the 1970s, this comedy about two ‘green’ middle-class Londoners who pitch up at a Dorset campsite and make fools of themselves is almost as enduring as the better known Abigail’s Party. Arriving in the countryside, priggish Keith (Roger Sloman) turns up his nose at non-free-range eggs (this was 40 years ago), while his wife Candice Marie (Alison Steadman) might not be as floaty and submissive as she first appears. Squirm, and squirm some more.

  • Film

'So, good news...I saw a dog today.'

Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart

This story of Buddy the 'elf', a human raised in the north pole by Santa and his real elves, and his journey to find his real dad is fast becoming a festive family staple. The juxtaposition between Ferrell's Buddy, a guileless simpleton who accidentally causes havoc and destruction, and his stiff-lipped and gruff businessman of a father provides genuine moments of humour and heart. Meanwhile, director Jon Favreau delivers any cornball sentiments with an adept balance of irony and sincerity.

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The General (1926)
  • Film
  • Comedy

There were two loves in his life: his engine and…’

Directors: Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton

Cast: Buster Keaton, Marion Mack

Viewed today, the natural reaction to Buster Keaton’s civil-war masterpiece isn’t so much laughter as sheer, jaw-on-the-floor astonishment. In a world long before health and safety, here is a man literally risking life and limb to present some of the most astonishing sight gags ever performed, from ducking cannon balls to flipping railroad ties to chucking an entire, full-size locomotive off a bridge. It’s hilarious too, of course: the birth of the chase movie, and the template for everything from the Looney Tunes cartoons to Mad Max: Fury Road

National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)
  • Film

‘Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the fucking Peace Corps.’

Director: John Landis

Cast: John Belushi, Karen Allen, Tom Hulce

National Lampoon’s 1978 effort follows a wild fraternity of party lads, playboys and misfits put at danger of being shutdown by the dean of their straight-laced university. If that plotline sounds familiar it’s probably because it’s been aped by a whole host of college movies since, from the American Pie sequels to the recent Zac Efron film Bad Neighbours. But none of them have the same gutsy energy brought by Animal House cast members like John Belushi.

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  • Film

‘Baby Fish Mouth is sweeping the nation.’

Director: Rob Reiner

Cast: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher

It’s a pity that all most people remember from Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s flawless New York romcom gem is that orgasm scene. Sure, it’s a great scene, and very brave for its time. But there’s so much else in the movie to love: those pitch-perfect performances (Bruno Kirby was never better as Billy Crystal’s BF), the gorgeous autumnal 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 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.

A Night at the Opera (1935)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘I saw Mrs Claypool first. Of course, her mother really saw her first but there’s no point in bringing the Civil War into this.’

Director: Sam Wood

Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx and Harpo Marx

Even funnier than the overblown Queen album of the same name, this was the Marxes at their anarchic apogee, an excoriating dissection of snot-nosed, jazz-age, high-society wags that contained some of their most memorable comic riffs. The story, in which Groucho falls in with a moneyed has-been and has to assist a struggling opera company, plays second fiddle to an intense barrage of puns, tongue-twisters and wisecracks. Chico’s on hand, too, with his unhinged cod-Italiano witterings, while Harpo’s energetic feats of slapstick repeatedly threaten to steal the show. And if you’ve ever pondered how many people can fit into the cabin of an art deco transatlantic ocean liner, then this is the movie for you. 

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  • Film
  • Comedy

‘How’s that for a slice of fried gold?’

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield

Previous beloved Brit comedy duos – from Eric and Ernie to Patsy and Edina – faltered making the transition from the small to the silver screen. But Shaun of the Dead was the making of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, a surprise that catapulted them to demi-god status. This is not a film about survival: this genuinely suspenseful rom-zom-com is about respect and the getting of it. That what’s Pegg/Frost/Wright give to the living dead of Crouch End, Highgate and North Finchley in spades, with compassion, heroism and without losing their sense of humour and essential Britishness.

¡Three Amigos! (1986)
  • Film
  • Comedy

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

Director: John Landis

Cast: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short

Pitched somewhere between Seven Samurai and The Artist (only with much bigger hats), this goofy Hollywood comedy sees three fading silent-era stars travelling to Mexico to appear at a warlord’s birthday party only to wind up leading a peasant’s revolt. It’s all deeply silly – most of the jokes come at the expense of wacky accents, donkeys and Martin Short falling over – but Alfonso Arau’s thunderous performance as the villainous El Guapo is a major treat, as is Randy Newman’s whacked-out cameo as a singing bush.

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South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
  • Film
  • Animation

‘Hey Stan, tell them about the part where Terrence calls Phillip a testicle-shitting rectal wart.’

Director: Trey Parker

Cast: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes

What’s the greatest musical of all time? Singin’ in the Rain? Too cute. West Side Story? Too butch. Meet Me in St Louis? If Judy Garland had called Margaret O’Brien a donkey-raping shit eater, it might have stood a chance. Surely, the finest example of the musical form in cinema has to be this rites-of-passage tale of life in a quiet Colorado mountain town, where all the folks need to worry about is parking provision, bad language, gay dogs, an impending land war with Canada, Satan’s fuck-buddy Saddam, whether it really was Cartman’s mother in that German scheisse video and, of course, those goddamned Baldwins. Aw, shucks. 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Lawrence Fells. Lawrence Feings. Forest Lorenston. Low. Lars. LARS. Lawrence. Lawrence. Luch. Lawrence. Tuh. His name is James Jesenthon. Lawrence Fell. Lawrence Jesterton. LAWRENCE JESTERTON!’

Director: Frank Oz

Cast: Steve Martin, Michael Caine, Glenne Headly

Scoundrels is the perfect description of Steve Martin and Michael Caine’s characters in this remake of 1964’s Bedtime Story. The duo play a pair of conmen who’ve been tricking the rich women of the French Riviera out of their fortunes before realising they share the same turf. Thus begins an increasingly ridiculous duel, with Caine’s buttoned-up Lawrence making the perfect foil for Martin’s goofball Freddy. Their behaviour could easily come off as mean, but by the end of the film they’ve conned you into thinking they’re loveable rogues.

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Zoolander (2001)
  • Film
  • Comedy

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

Director: Ben Stiller

Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell

Did someone say fish in a barrel? Okay, so the fashion world 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. 

Blazing Saddles (1974)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘What’s a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?’

Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Gene Wilder, Cleavon Little, Slim Pickens

‘My movies rise below vulgarity,’ Mel Brooks once quipped in the salad days of his career. Exhibit A for that claim, surely, is Blazing Saddles. A satire of Hollywood’s white-centric accounts of the American West, and told from the perspective of the first black sheriff in an all-white town, the film can be wince-inducing in the politically-charged, highly racial tone of its humour. Co-written by Richard Pryor (and co-starring Gene Wilder), it remains a riot of bad taste. John Wayne was offered a cameo role, Brooks once claimed in an interview. After reading and considering the script, the iconic Cowboy declined the opportunity. The dialogue, he said was ‘too dirty’. Amen to that.

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The Castle (1997)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘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

Voted Australia’s favourite homegrown film, this modest fable about ordinary folk battling the vested interests who have issued a compulsory purchase order on their property manages the rare trick of laughing with its characters while getting significant comic mileage from their deficiencies of taste, common sense and general knowledge. The Kerrigan household aren’t the sharpest tools in the box, but their affectionate family bond creates a sense of home as something you just can’t put a price on. An irresistible feelgood charmer.

  • Film

'Help me I'm poor...'

Director: Paul Feig

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy

Bridesmaids is way more than just a lads comedy with the genders switched. Sure, there are some of the bad-taste trappings, but it more than outgrows them with its silly-but-smart script and the lively direction from Freaks and Geeks legend Paul Feig. Even better, though, is the note-perfect casting. Kristen Wiig's performance as Annie is raucously hilarious (her impersonation of a penis is a highlight), as is Rose Byrne, whose deadpan performance as Helen is severely underrated. Mostly, though, it works because the relationships between the women feel real and honest.

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Play It Again, Sam (1972)
  • Film
  • Comedy

'No, my parents never got divorced. Although I begged them to.’

Director: Herbert Ross

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts

Woody Allen establishes his on-screen persona as a haplessly neurotic would-be lover in this sparkling adaptation of his 1969 Broadway play, where he’s a movie critic so obsessed by Casablanca that he’s conjured up an imaginary Humphrey Bogart to dispense hard-boiled wisdom. Bogey’s kiss-or-kill strategies couldn’t be less appropriate, which is where the fun starts, and Diane Keaton makes a most appealing romantic foil as events head to a wittily achieved airport finale with deliciously misappropriated classic movie dialogue.

Tootsie (1982)
  • Film
  • Comedy

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

Director: Sidney Pollack

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Bill Murray

Sure, this is Dustin Hoffman’s show – he’s the gut in a dress, after all. But it’s Bill 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 feminism is badly out-dated. 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.

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  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Don’t cross the streams!’

Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd

When New York is invaded by ghastly ghouls, who you gonna call? You know the answer: four self-styled Ghostbusters ready to dash in and zap the spirits into oblivion. Much of this sci-fi-comedy’s charm lies in its have-a-go-heroes: these underdogs are thrown into the spotlight with delightful results. Bill Murray’s deadpan, womanising scientist is an undoubted highlight, while Rick Moranis brings crazy character humour as the dork living in the most haunted building in Manhattan. 

Young Frankenstein (1974)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘For what we are about to see next, we must enter quietly into the realm of genius.’

Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle

Mel Brooks’s finest genre parody succeeds as a hilarious send-up because it’s also a love letter to the classic 1930s Frankenstein movies. As the old Baron’s grandson (co-writer Gene Wilder) brings the family business back to life, Brooks milks the familiar material to the point of absurdity – notably when Wilder performs a tuxedo-ed song-and-dance duo to prove his monster (Peter Boyle) is a civilised creation. The knockabout is great fun, but knowing the originals only increases one’s appreciation. 

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Four Lions (2010)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Rubber-dinghy rapids, bro!’

Director: Chris Morris

Cast: Riz Ahmed, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak

This first (and so far only) feature from British TV and radio comedian Chris Morris dared to mock the stupidity of homegrown British jihadis in the wake of 2005’s terror attacks on London. Framed as a slapstick sitcom and built on solid satirical foundations, Morris and his co-writers based much of their script on evidence and court transcripts relating to real cases of DIY terrorism. In the years since, the film has become a regular reference point in the news as life – tragically and comically – continues to imitate art.

Duck Soup (1933)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘I could dance with you till the cows come home. But I’d rather dance with the cows till you come home.’

Director: Leo McCarey

Cast: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx

What to say when a film is creeping towards its first century but still feels as timely, relevant and subversive as it did on release? The Marx Brothers’s best movie, Duck Soup takes them far out of their New York music hall milieu and into a kind of twisted miniature Mittel-Europa filtered through immigrant memory and fairytales, where war is brewing between the proud people of Freedonia and the crypto-fascists of neighbouring Sylvania. With a far lighter touch than Chaplin’s Great Dictator, the film lampoons not just fascism but patriotism and politics in general: this is satire deployed both with a sledgehammer and a scalpel, often in the same scene.

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Dr Strangelove: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
  • Film
  • Drama

‘I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.’

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Peter Sellers, George C Scott, Sterling Hayden

It takes some kind of genius to make a comedy out of a thermonuclear holocaust – and arch pessimist and master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was that very genius. Originally intent on a serious treatment (based on Peter George’s book Red Alert), Kubrick abandoned the attempt because most of his ideas for it ‘were so ludicrous’. The black comedy that resulted – detailing the terminal implications of a mad, lone general’s decision to push the nuclear button – was arguably the director’s greatest achievement. 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Those. Aren’t. PILLOWS!!!’

Director: John Hughes

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

So much more than just a jolly fat man, John Candy was one of those performers who seemed to have comedy right down in his bones. When he added a pinch of pathos, the results could be devastating. By far the finest in that elite subgenre of movies about stressed-out guys trying to get back to their loved ones for the holidays, Planes, Trains and Automobiles works not because both its frontmen (Candy is joined by Steve Martin) are effortlessly hilarious – though they are, and it’s wonderful. But it’s all leading up to that finale, a sequence of unforgettable, tear-jerking poignancy.

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Trading Places (1983)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘It ain’t cool being no jive turkey so close to Thanksgiving.’

Director: John Landis

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis

America’s love-hate relationship with capitalism has rarely been more cannily explored than in this sadistic fairytale of two conniving businessmen who decide to replace one of their finest employees – Harvard elitist Dan Akyroyd – with Eddie Murphy’s sharp-witted street bum. The image of Aykroyd, drunk and suicidal in a Santa suit on Christmas Eve, says more about the realities (and brutalities) of Wall Street than a hundred financial-crash docs – and means that when he and his erstwhile rival pull together for the big climactic switcheroo, you’re firmly in their corner.

Some Like It Hot (1959)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Real diamonds! They must be worth their weight in gold!’

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis star as Jerry and Joe, two musicians who are forced to flee Chicago after witnessing the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre and disguise themselves as female members of a band travelling to Florida. Joe falls for the band’s seductive singer, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), while Jerry has to fight off the lusty attentions of a wealthy old man. Billy Wilder delivers a pacy, racy cross-dressing farce, full of gags and sauce.

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Dumb & Dumber (1994)
  • Film
  • Comedy

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

Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels

Imagine the contents of your hyperactive little brother’s brain splatted on to a TV screen and you have Dumb & Dumber. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels star as a pair of stupendously stupid no-hopers who head on a road trip across America to return a woman’s briefcase. Unapologetically gross-out, the movie’s a mulch of butt jokes, toilet jokes, snot jokes and sex jokes. It’s totally regressive but in a whoops-just-snorted-my-drink-everywhere-laughing kind of way.

The Naked Gun (1988)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘I promise you: whatever scum did this, not one man on this force will rest one minute until he’s behind bars. Now let’s grab a bite to eat.’

Director: David Zucker

Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, OJ Simpson

Second only to Airplane! in the gag-for-gag hit-rate stakes, The Naked Gun never met a dumb pun, slapstick pratfall or deadpan one-liner it didn’t like. The film made Leslie Nielsen a bigger star than he’d ever been playing straight-man roles in ‘proper’ disaster movies – though it has to be said, he tossed away that goodwill almost immediately in the likes of Dracula: Dead and Loving It – and spawned a fistful of sequels, of which the first is well worth watching for the amazing ‘awfully big moustache’ line alone.

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The Big Lebowski (1998)
  • Film
  • Drama

‘This aggression will not stand, man.’

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Cast: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore

When stoner Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski is mistaken for a local millionaire with the same name, he sets out on a big adventure with his bowling team. There are so many one-liners in this Coen Brothers comedy that you could easily credit the film’s success to its pithy dialogue alone, but with a supporting cast including Walter John and Julianne Moore, it brings so much more to the table, including life lessons about friendship and heroism.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Apparently my son was on something called acid, and was shooting a bow and arrow into a crowd.’

Director: Adam McKay

Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd


Will Ferrell stepped up from the big-boned manchild of Zoolander and Elf to musky, manly movie star in a film that recalls a simpler, polyester time. A time when a man was not judged by the contents of his character but on the raw, unchecked ferocity of his cologne, the lustre of his moustache and the quantity of leather-bound books that lined the mahogany shelves of his apartment. But although everyone is ultimately in the shadow of the glistening chestnut bombast of Ron’s towering hair, Anchorman is very much an ensemble effort, and everyone brings their A-game to the bullpen.

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Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
  • Film
  • Comedy

'She had golden hairs, teeth as white as pearls, and the asshole of a seven-year-old.’

Director: Larry Charles

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian

It takes a lot of front to keep a straight face while winding up gullible members of the public, but Sacha Baron Cohen is a master – as proven by this wince-inducing odyssey across America. Travelling under the guise of a radio host from Kazakhstan, Cohen trawls the byways of the USA, inveigling himself into the welcoming arms of locals before shocking them with an outrageous arsenal of faked Kazakh cultural mores. Although a damn fine comedy at heart, the film also serves as a sobering reminder of the sheer simmering level of racism and misogyny among the very same folks that got Trump elected.

'Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  • Film
  • Comedy

'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

We all love Monty Python’s slapstick savaging of the legend of King Arthur, but we always forget about the llamas: according to the credits, Holy Grail was the creation of Reg Llama of Brixton, and thousands of his llama friends across the world (as well as Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones). Well, Reg and co. created a masterpiece. With its Bergman-ribbing credit sequence, its one-liners and its extravagantly gruesome violence, Holy Grail was Python’s launchpad to international stardom. Neil Innes’s music and Gilliam’s animations are touchstones for British absurdist humour, while the late Graham Chapman, playing it straight as King Arthur, was never finer. 

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Team America: World Police (2004)
  • Film
  • Animation

‘I’ve got five terrorists going south-east on Bakalakadaka Street!’

Directors: Trey Parker, Matt Stone

Cast: Trey Parker, Matt Stone

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had no idea what they were taking on when they decided to make a Thunderbirds-style puppet movie about the War on Terror. A year of 20-hour days later – Stone described it as ‘the worst time of my life’ – the film was unleashed, and justified every minute of the duo’s hard work. As concerned with skewering the twin pomposities of mainstream action cinema and liberal Hollywood as it is with the terrorist armies of Durkadurkastan and North Korea, the film borders on genius in its self-aware use of wooden marionettes, particularly in the notorious sex scene. Even Matt Damon thinks it’s funny.

Withnail & I
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘I feel like a pig shat in my head!’

Director: Bruce Robinson

Cast: Richard E Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths

The funniest parts of Withnail & I are the early scenes, when, festering in a Camden flat resembling the inside of a cancerous lung, Withnail and Marwood stumble towards the end of an epic speed and booze bender. There are delirious flights of fancy, bouts of druggy nonsense (‘my thumbs have gone weird’), an abortive attempt to clean the kitchen and a cherishable visit from terrifying drug dealer Danny (Ralph Brown). Later, though, tragedy looms large – and Withnail’s despairing traipse through rain-sodden Regent’s Park ranks among the most heartbreaking closing scenes in all cinema. 

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The Jerk (1979)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘A cosmetologist? Really? Wow. Must tough to handle the weightlessness.’

Director: Carl Reiner

Cast: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters 

It’s easy to take the wrong lesson from The Jerk, and many filmmakers have. But anyone who thinks Steve Martin’s big-screen breakout works simply because of its audacious stupidity is missing the point: Apt, we suppose, for the tale of a man who fundamentally misunderstands every step in his rags-to-riches-to-rags journey. The truth is, The Jerk is a genius-level symphony of absurdity; one where each and every comic note – from ‘I was born a poor Black child’ to Iron Balls McGinty – feeds into a grand mosaic of hysteria, none of which would work without the sincerity and genuine sweetness Martin brings to each surreal moment. You can almost pinpoint the moment one of comedy’s true legends found his special purpose.

Groundhog Day (1993)
  • Film

‘Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.’

Director: Harold Ramis

Cast: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell

It’s been nearly 30 years since Bill Murray starred as the cynical weatherman trapped in a time loop in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania – reliving the same day over and over again. But Groundhog Day hasn’t aged a bit. What makes it stick? Maybe it’s because under that uproarious humour are a few home truths: life is groundhoggy, full of boring repetition, but a little kindness and love go a long way.

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Annie Hall (1977)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me as a member.’

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

'Annie Hall' is as Woody Allen as Woody Allen gets – hilarious, neurotic and occupied by the realisation that whatever happens, life is going to trample all over you. It’s also one of the greatest romantic comedies every made (with some of the funniest lines: ‘Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love’). Allen is Alvy Singer, who’s just split from scatty singer Annie (Diane Keaton, his real-life ex). What follows is an anatomy of their relationship. Allen has said that the film is not autobiographical – he co-wrote it with Marshall Brickman – but that’s not what we want to hear.

Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy.’

Director: Terry Jones

Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin

The Pythons’ second feature is their masterpiece. The story is rooted in purest farce, as the Three Wise Men arrive at the wrong manger and unsuspecting everyman Brian Cohen is declared the Messiah. He duly bumbles alongside The Greatest Story Ever Told, ending the film on a Calvary Cross for a reluctant chorus of ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.

What a dizzying achievement this is. The Life of Brian takes potshots at everything from schoolroom Latin to Biblical epics (most of which it shames with its attention to period detail) and religious hypocrisy – but, crucially, never religion itself. Needless to say, this didn’t stop predictable accusations of blasphemy.

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Airplane! (1980)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.’

Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty

‘Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?’ A movie that raises belly laughs after countless viewings, this was the second film (after 1977’s Kentucky Fried Movie) from Jim Abraham and the Zucker brothers, who went on to make the Naked Gun and Hot Shots movies. Overflowing with on-target visual gags and one-liners, it’s a playful and deeply silly spoof of 1970s disaster movies and stars Robert Hays as a troubled ex-pilot forced to land an airliner when the real pilot collapses from food poisoning. Leslie Nielsen steals the film as an onboard doctor. Just don’t call him Shirley.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
  • Film
  • Comedy

‘What’re the hours?’

Director: Rob Reiner

Cast: Christopher Guest, Rob Reiner

You're asking, how much more funny could this be? And the answer is none. None more funny. Yes, our experts have cast their votes and the winner by a clear margin is Rob Reiner's genre-setting mockumentary – or, if you will, rockumentary – about England's largest-livin', heaviest-riffin', filthiest-lyric-singin', biggest-hair-havin', fluffiest-jumper-ownin' heavy rock combo. Sporting arguably the most quotable script in movie history ('no... these ones go to eleven') and some of the meatiest metal melodies this side of Bon Scott-era AC/DC, this is simply a perfect film: from the first chord of 'Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight' to the very final line ('I dunno, what are the hours?'), there's literally nothing about it that could be improved.

It also, lest we forget, defined an entire genre, accidentally inventing everything from The Office to The Blair Witch Project (not to mention lead axe-man Christopher Guest's entire subsequent career). Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer would keep gigging as Spinal Tap for three decades – proof that they were so much more than just a joke band in a funny movie. Spinal Tap: for those about to rock, we salute you.

Our latest comedy movie reviews

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Comedy

If awards season gets up your nose, with its self-congratulatory speeches and luvvie back-patting, this playful and wildly entertaining Spanish satire on the filmmaking process is the perfect antidote. Self-administer a dose of its needy thesps, insecure stars, high-art auteurs and vain money men, and you’re ready for any number of speeches about the unique alchemy of the creative process. Here, the creative process is less alchemy than anarchy. An ageing pharma CEO wants to leave a lasting legacy and reckons that a hit movie with artistic weight will do the job for him – though a shiny new bridge will probably do, at a push. Enter Penélope Cruz’s gail-force auteur, Lola Cuevas. She has a worthy tome to adapt – the story of two warring brothers who fell out over a car accident – and some leftfield ideas for adapting it. ‘Will there be something of the book left?’ meekly offers the money man. ‘I paid a fortune for it.’ If a few real-life film financiers might wince at that, wait until the two actors arrive for the rehearsal process that makes the bulk of the film. Antonio Banderas’s international star, Félix Rivero, rocks up with a blonde in a sports car and has millions of followers on his Insta, while theatre star Iván Torres (Oscar Martínez) is all studied craft and pompous authenticity. One has money and status; the other has acting students hanging off his every word. Each, as Cuevas senses and tries to exploit, wants a little of what the other has. But they would rather

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Comedy

There’s a problem in transplanting beloved TV sitcoms onto the big screen, and it’s right there in the name. The comedy comes from situation rather than plot; from the unique alchemy of well-grooved characters bumping up against each other in funny, touching and occasionally profound ways. No one is glued to Dad’s Army for the chance of an actual battle with Nazis, or The Office because they’re deeply invested in David Brent’s musical ambitions. But then, try telling that to the people who made those movies.So it is with Big in Japan, a movie spin-off of the BBC’s award-winning and much-loved mockumentary People Just Do Nothing that is at its best when it’s just the gang of pirate radio diehards doing their thing, but works a lot less well when the notional plot gets in the way. For the unconverted, the telly version of People Just Do Nothing follows the joyously unself-aware antics of Kurupt FM, a pirate radio crew whose dedication to rocking the airwaves of west London with grime and garage tunes builds them a tiny following and minimal success. They’re managed (really badly) out of a Portakabin by self-styled impresario and peanut dust entrepreneur Chabuddy G (Asim Chaudhry). Big in Japan picks up with them with their pirate station shut down, the posse semi-estranged and former frontman MC Grindah (Allan Mustafa) working as a postman. When Chabuddy gets wind that one of Kurupt’s old tunes has gone viral on a Japanese game show, the bright lights of Tokyo come calling and

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Comedy

There are signature roles, and then there’s the kind of symbiosis that seems to have taken place between Ryan Reynolds and Wade W Wilson, aka Deadpool. Reynolds seemed to have absorbed the same sardonic self-mockery, the same meta-textual habit of winking to the audience, the same faux-innocent embrace of the absurd. At first, in Free Guy, he seems to be treading the same turf again – which is why it’s such a relief when this film finally gives him new notes to play. The film’s setting is a Grand Theft Auto-alike video game city where cheery, innocent clerk Guy (Reynolds) lives the same day over and over again. The only difference is which player-character robs the bank where he and his best friend Buddy (Get Out’s Lil Rel Howery) work. But when he sees the player Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer), he breaks out of his role and sets out to improve himself for love. In reality Molotov Girl is Millie, a game designer who suspects that video-game giant ‘Soonami’, a company as obnoxious as its spelling and run by Taika Waititi’s Antwan, has stolen her code to build Guy’s city. She and Guy turn the game upside down – one looking for answers, the other for love – in an increasingly absurd commentary on the commercial, sometimes crass nature of gaming. There’s an occasional meta detour to examine the fate of ‘non player characters’, or NPCs, who are so thoughtlessly blown away in pursuit of extra points each day. In the sun-drenched, deliberately flat-feeling Free City, there’s a sense of

Deerskin
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Comedy

A decade after Quentin Dupieux’s feature debut, a film (Rubber) about a sentient tire that goes on a homicidal killing spree, the French writer-director delivers another crackpot premise, one with considerably more depth to its tread. Jean Dujardin (The Artist) plays Georges, a man apparently on the verge of a mental breakdown, who drops $7,000 on a fringed deerskin jacket (with a camcorder thrown in for free), and holes up in a remote rural motel, where he convinces Denise, a bored bartender (Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Adèle Haenel) who edits in her spare time (‘I put Pulp Fiction into chronological order,’ she says. ‘It sucked!’), that he is a director making an artsy film.As she starts assemble his footage, Georges begins talking to the deerskin jacket – and, in his delusion, it talks back, expressing its desire to be the only jacket that will ever be worn by anyone. What follows is a blackly comic folie à deux, in which Georges goes to ever more extreme lengths to grant the garment's single-minded desire, encouraged by his apparently guileless acolyte. Whether viewed as a treatise on mental illness, fragile masculinity, or the entitlement afforded to artists (a feeling perhaps exaggerated by the presence of Haenel, who recently stormed out of the French Oscars to protest an award given to Roman Polanski), or just a wackadoodle yarn, Deerskin works because Dupieux and Dujardin – who won an Oscar for The Artist, but is arguably even better here – present it with absolute,

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