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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

By Dave Calhoun, Cath Clarke, Phil de Semlyen, Alim Kheraj, Tom Huddleston, Trevor Johnston, David Jenkins, Kate Lloyd, Tom Seymour, Anna Smith, Ben Walters, Adam Lee Davies, Phil Harrison, Derek Adams, Wally Hammond, Edward Lawrenson and Gabriel Tate |
100 best comedy movies of all time

Comedy movies can do more than just make you laugh. Sure, they need to be funny – that’s a given – but they encompass so much more than just humour. Romcoms like ‘When Harry Met Sally’ can make you long for a great love, they can expose the supernatural like ‘Ghostbusters’, while teen movies like ‘Mean Girls’ can take you back to adolescence (albeit with fewer Burn Books and more pimples) and films like ‘Borat’ can make you laugh while also showcasing disturbing truths about society. Comedy movies can even be Christmas-themed (c’mon, ‘Elf’ is amazing).

It makes compiling a list of the best comedy movies of all time no easy task. To help us, we approached the experts – comedians like Russell Howard and Diane Morgan, actors like John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker, directors and screenwriters such as Richard Curtis (as well as our Time Out writers) – to submit their choices.

From the old to the new, plus mainstream and experimental, the result is a definitive list of the greatest comedies ever made.

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

The 100 best comedy movies

Meet the Parents (2000)
Film, Comedy

Meet the Parents (2000)

‘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. AS

Buy, watch or rent 'Meet the Parents'

Film, Comedy

Mean Girls (2004)

'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. AK

Buy, rent or watch 'Mean Girls'

Pulp Fiction
Film, Drama

Pulp Fiction (1994)

‘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 ‘The Hateful Eight’, 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. DC

Buy, rent or watch 'Pulp Fiction'

Hot Fuzz
Film, Action and adventure

Hot Fuzz (2007)

‘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. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'Hot Fuzz'

Safety Last!
Pathé Exchange
Film, Comedy

Safety Last! (1923)

‘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! TJ

The Graduate
Film, Comedy

The Graduate (1967)

‘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. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'The Graduate'

Local Hero
20th Century Fox

Local Hero (1983)

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

Director: Bill Forsyth

Cast: Peter Riegert, Burt Lancaster, Peter Capaldi

If you’re ever suffering from chilly cockles, Bill Forsyth’s twinkly, good-hearted comedy will warm them right up – and in the wake of Donald Trump’s terrifying ascendance, it’s even more timely. Peter Riegert plays an American lawyer dispatched by his oil-baron boss to Scotland to secure the site for their next refinery. But whaddaya know – it’s right on top of a quaint little fishing village populated by wise, loveable Scotspersons. Epic adorable-ness ensues. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'Local Hero'

Romance movie: Philadelphia Story
Film, Comedy

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

‘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. CC

Buy, rent or watch 'The Philadelphia Story'

Harold and Maude
Film, Comedy

Harold and Maude (1971)

‘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. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'Harold and Maude'

There's Something About Mary
20th Century Fox
Film, Comedy

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

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. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'There's Something About Mary'

Columbia Pictures
Film, Comedy

Superbad (2007)

‘One name? Who are you, Seal?’

Director: Greg Mottola

Cast: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Foul-mouthed kids are a staple of comedy, from ‘ET’ (‘shut up, penis breath!’) to ‘South Park’. But they don’t come much more sailor-tongued than Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in this goofy rites-of-passage comedy. Less than a decade since its release, the unreconstructed boys-iness of the film already feels a bit dated (our heroes start with a discussion of hardcore porn and go downhill from there), but it helps that the characters are truly sweet, hapless and well-meaning. And Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s Mclovin is an icon for the ages. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'Superbad'

The Gold Rush
United Artists

The Gold Rush (1925)

'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. TJ

Buy, rent or watch 'The Gold Rush'

The Mask
New Line Cinema

The Mask (1994)

‘Ooh, somebody stop me!’

Director: Chuck Russell

Cast: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Riegert

When The Mask first came out in 1994, reviewers raved about the ultra-modern special effects used to turn Jim Carrey into a living cartoon. While the CGI might not have stood the test of time, Carrey’s elastic performance as shy nice guy Stanley and his alter ego The Mask is just as enthralling. Jim’s Mask is a grotesque green-faced schmooze-ball with a passion for farting, cheesy chat-up lines and Cameron Diaz. And, most importantly, he’s sssssmokin’! KL

Buy, rent or watch 'The Mask'

Broadcast News
20th Century Fox

Broadcast News (1987)

‘It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room.’

Director: James L Brooks

Cast: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter

If you thought ‘Anchorman’ was the only cult comedy about life in a television newsroom, you’ve been missing out. ‘Broadcast News’ is a cutting satire about the Washington DC office of a national television network. It follows a love triangle between a news-producer (Holly Hunter), her good-looking anchor (William Hurt) and her newshound reporter (Albert Brooks). Their romances and professional aspirations play out amidst the backstabbing and bitching of a true-to-life high-pressure office. Plus, it features a bonus cameo from Jack Nicholson. KL

Buy, rent or watch 'Broadcast News'

School of Rock
Paramount Pictures
Film, Comedy

School of Rock (2003)

'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. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'School of Rock'

Funny films: Waiting for Guffman
Film, Comedy

Waiting for Guffman (1996)

‘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. BW

Buy, rent or watch 'Wating for Guffman'

The Big Sick

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. PDS

Buy, rent or watch ‘The Big Sick’

Sullivan's Travels
Universal Pictures
Film, Comedy

Sullivan's Travels (1941)

‘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! TH

Buy, rent or watch 'Sullivan's Travels'

Old School
DreamWorks Pictures
Film, Comedy

Old School (2003)

'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

Rebooting the frat comedy for the slightly-more-sensitive ’00s while keeping the band-of-misfits ethos intact, ‘Old School’ is basically ‘Animal House’ with a bigger heart and a few more grey hairs. The plot – grown-up dudes take a house near a university campus and decide, for reasons too convoluted to go into, to start their own fraternity – may be daft, but the superb script is matched by effortless performances: Will Ferrell’s Frank the Tank is a glorious creation. Oh, and the wedding band scene is genius, pure and simple. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'Old School'

Slap Shot
Universal Pictures

Slap Shot (1977)

‘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. TJ

Buy, rent or watch 'Slap Shot'

The Return of the Pink Panther
United Artists
Film, Comedy

The Return of the Pink Panther (1975)

‘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. TJ

Buy, rent or watch 'The Return of the Pink Panther'

Office Space
20th Century Fox
Film, Comedy

Office Space (1999)

'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. PH

Buy, rent or watch 'Office Space'

Film, Comedy

The Great Dictator (1940)

‘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. TJ

Buy, rent or watch 'The Great Dictator'

As Good As It Gets
TriStar Pictures

As Good As It Gets (1997)

'People who talk in metaphors oughta shampoo my crotch.’

Director: James L Brooks

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt

Grumpy older man meets lonely younger woman while befriending/insulting his gay neighbour. Both edgy and heartwarming, ‘As Good As It Gets’ is a relationship comedy about unlikely friendships and even less likely romance. When Jack Nicholson’s cantankerous OCD sufferer meets Helen Hunt’s kindly waitress Carol, it’s hate at first sight, but his grudging assistance to an injured neighbour (Greg Kinnear) brings the pair closer. Nicholson’s jaw-dropping insults make this worth the watch alone. AS

Buy, rent or watch 'As Good As It Gets'

Ace Ventura, Pet Detective
Warner Bros.
Film, Comedy

Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (1994)

‘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. KL

The Royal Tenenbaums
Buena Vista Pictures
Film, Comedy

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

‘“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 second 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. KL

Buy, rent or watch 'The Royal Tenenbaums'

Film, Comedy

Kingpin (1996)

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. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'Kingpin' 

Best in Show
Film, Comedy

Best in Show (2000)

'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. BW

Buy, rent or watch 'Best in Show'

Way Out West
Film, Comedy

Way Out West (1936)

‘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. TJ

Mr Hulot's Holiday
Film, Comedy

Mr Hulot's Holiday (1953)

'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. TJ

The Cable Guy
Film, Comedy

The Cable Guy (1996)

‘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. KL

Buy, rent or watch 'The Cable Guy'

Top Secret!
Film, Comedy

Top Secret! (1984)

‘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). TH

Buy, rent or watch 'Top Secret!'

The Death of Stalin
© Nicola Dove
Film, Comedy

The Death of Stalin (2017)

‘Don’t worry, nobody’s gonna get killed. This is just a musical emergency!’

Director: Armando Iannucci

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

If you thought Armando Iannucci had already mined political cynicism to its fullest with ‘The Thick of It’ and ‘In the Loop’, he taps a rich new seam in a second directorial effort that swaps modern-day bureaucracy for deadlier Stalinist double-dealing. The threat of a Siberian gulag – or worse – hangs over every whispered, paranoid exchange as a cabal of conspirators exploit Joseph Stalin’s possibly fatal haemorrhage for their own ends. With an ensemble of comic luminaries, from Jeffrey Tambor to Michael Palin, savouring every needle-sharp line of dialogue, it’s a masterclass in twisted hilarity that makes Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ look like a trip to a petting zoo. PDS

Buy, rent or watch ‘The Death of Stalin’

Take the Money and Run
Film, Comedy

Take the Money and Run (1969)

'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. TS

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
Film, Comedy

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

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

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton

Paul Reubens’s signature comedy creation, mischief-making bow-tied big kid Pee-wee Herman, was already a big live draw before Tim Burton’s movie preserved this unique persona for celluloid immortality. A wide-eyed innocent abroad and a prissy egotist with a malevolent streak, Pee-wee certainly dances to his own beat, though it’s one Burton is certainly attuned to, creating a cavalcade of carnivalesque wit, wonder and fear as the dauntless protagonist crosses America in search of his beloved stolen bicycle. TJ

Buy, rent or watch 'Pee-Wee's Big Adventure'

Film, Comedy

Heaven Can Wait (1943)

'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. TJ

Buy, rent or watch 'Heaven Can Wait'

Film, Thrillers

GoodFellas (1990)

'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’. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'GoodFellas'

Film, Comedy

Bananas (1971)

‘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. KL

Buy, rent or watch 'Bananas'

Wayne's World
Paramount Pictures
Film, Comedy

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

‘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. TH

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Fish Called Wanda
Film, Comedy

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

‘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. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'A Fish Called Wanda'

Midnight Run
Film, Thrillers

Midnight Run (1988)

‘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. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'Midnight Run'

Film, Comedy

Clueless (1995)

‘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 over 20 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. AK

Buy, rent or watch 'Clueless'

Arsenic and Old Lace
Film, Comedy

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

‘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. TJ

Madame Doubtfire
© DR

Mrs Doubtfire (1993)

'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. KL

Buy, rent or watch 'Mrs Doubtfire'

Film, Comedy

It Happened One Night (1934)

‘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. CC

Buy, rent or watch 'It Happened One Night'

Toy Story (1995)
Film, Animation

Toy Story (1995)

'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. AK

Buy, rent or watch 'Toy Story'

The Man With Two Brains
Film, Comedy

The Man With Two Brains (1983)

‘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. TH

Buy, rent or watch 'THe Man With Two Brains'

Film, Comedy

Bedazzled (1967)

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. BW

The Odd Couple
Film, Comedy

The Odd Couple (1968)

‘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. TJ

Buy, rent or watch 'The Odd Couple'

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert (1933)

‘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. TJ

Raising Arizona
Film, Comedy

Raising Arizona (1987)

‘Does the Pope wear a funny hat?’

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter

Baby-snatching is probably not the most obvious topic for a slapstick comedy movie, but the Coen brothers manage to spin sinister crime into seedy comedy with ‘Raising Arizona’. Nicholas Cage appears as a bumbling convenience-store robber who falls in love with his prison officer (Edwina Hunter). After fertility problems they decide to kidnap a just-born quintuplet. Thus starts a steamrolling caper that tumbles through a madcap depiction of the American Deep South. KL

Buy, rent or watch 'Raising Arizona'

Film, Comedy

In the Loop (2009)

‘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. GT

Buy, rent or watch 'In the Loop'

The King of Comedy (1982)
Film, Comedy

The King of Comedy (1982)

‘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. DC

Buy, rent or watch 'The King of Comedy'

Austin Powers
Film, Comedy

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

‘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. KL

The Producers 1967
Film, Comedy

The Producers (1967)

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. DA

Buy, rent or watch 'The Producers'