Classic Howard Hawks’ films to current Bromances, slapstick to satire, the Trespass film section and some fantastic contributors have rummaged through the comedy genre looking to answer this eternal question. With 3 picks each (and a seemingly endless ability to get around the rules and include many more titles), this film-loving bunch have thought long and hard about the films that made them almost wet their pants and at times, laugh so hard they actually cried … enjoy!
Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
I must have seen this for the first time when I was six or seven—I had no idea who Cary Grant or Katharine Hepburn were, but the movie opened in a dinosaur museum and revolved around a leopard, so I was hooked—and it’s been one of my favourite films ever since. The plot is absurd and there’s plenty of slapstick, yet it’s executed with such intoxicating vim by Howard Hawks and his leads, whose comedic chemistry is just magic. I still cry at the scene in which Kate and Cary are singing (with a yelping dog) in an attempt to coax “Baby” off the roof of a house.
Coming To America (John Landis, 1988)
It’s not even Eddie Murphy’s funniest performance (that’s still the brazen stand-up Delirious), and the multiple character gag he debuted here would sow the seeds for his steep decline in the following years. Maybe it’s simply because I watched this 10 million times on VHS, or maybe it’s the peripheral characters—crack den landlords, lascivious preachers, James Earl Jones halfway between Vader and Mufasa—but this movie never fails to make me laugh. Incessantly. I actually thought New York was like this as a kid; and in my mind, I wish it were.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
I’m taking a risk on this because I haven’t seen it since its theatrical release and not sure how it holds up, especially with Sacha Baron Cohen’s post-Bruno comedy looking more like a shtick. All I know is that I can’t remember laughing so hard in a cinema; laughing until it was physically painful. The best comedy is almost always offensive to everyone and unafraid to trample boundaries, and Cohen did just that here: Borat managed to mock his own stereotype, America, the audience, and anyone in between. I love comedy that doesn’t know, or care, when to stop; sometimes, there’s no place for restraint.
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1958), Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964), Desperate Living (John Waters, 1977), Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984), This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984), Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1988), Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)
Withnail & I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)
This cult British film is easily one of my favourite films of all-time. Starring teetotaller Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann as two out-of-work and permanently drunk actors the film spawned an accompanying drinking game that is deadly if played properly. Hilarious for almost its entirety the film has a rather poignant ending, (just the way us Brits like our comedies, slightly depressing). With unforgettable supporting roles from Richard Griffiths and Ralph Brown, this film is jam-packed with endlessly repeatable lines “We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now!”
¡Three Amigos! (John Landis, 1986)
Strangely I don’t find Steve Martin, Chevy Chase or Martin Short particularly funny individually, but as a trio they make perfect comedic sense. This is a film I watched repeatedly as a child and it taught me one of my favourite words- plethora as well as starting an (unsatisfied) obsession with piñatas. There are so many brilliant scenes in this film, about has-been silent movie actors who get hired to save a small Mexican village from the evil El Guapo, but if my arm is twisted would have to name ‘My Little Buttercup’ as my favourite.
Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)
Superbad, starring Michael Cera and Jonah Hill, is undoubtedly the best film in the recent rise of the bromance comedies. Yes it is juvenile, with extended dick jokes and a plot based around getting laid, but it’s also kind of a sweet buddy film. While my honourable mentions list is made up of far superior films, none make me laugh out loud as much as this one.
In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009), The Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979), Zoolander (Ben Stiller, 2001), This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984), The Big Lebowski (The Coen Brothers, 1998), The Golden Child (Michael Ritchie, 1986)
Pat Kolan IGN.com
The Big Lebowski (The Coen Brothers, 1998)
If there’s a go-to comedy that immediately springs to mind when I need an easy (read: cheap) laugh, the brothers Coen hit all the right notes with The Big Lebowski. Immensely quotable, it’s one of those comedies that garners knowing nods between friends, like some sort of secret password. Also, Donny, you’re outta your element.
Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
Well, I went with Rushmore, but you could almost replace it with any of Wes Anderson’s dry and eccentric comedy-cum-dramas. Rushmore put a young Jason Schwartzman up against Bill Murray and the pair play off each other perfectly in one of Anderson and Owen Wilson’s best screenplays. “I’ve been out to sea a long time.”
Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984)
Yep. Look, it was a hard call, but Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters slides into home for a script that capitalises on Bill Murray’s perfect deadpan delivery and Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver and Harold Ramis round out the film with some classic one-liners.
There’s Something about Mary (The Farrelly Brothers, 1998), Super Troopers (Jay Chandrasekhar, 2001)
Dear reader, I am a horribly humourless individual. I don’t like jokes. I don’t like laughing. I don’t like fun. But what I do like is bitterly mocking bad films, and laughing with a kind of sick desperation. As such, my list of funniest films ever made is comprised of films that are not just bad, but so bad they’re good.
New Moon (Chris Weitz, 2009)
The second filmic instalment in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series was a very, very funny film. The chemistry between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart was laughable, and in my more forgiving moments I’m willing to believe that the anti-feminist undertones of the film were in fact a parody of the sexism that still exists in modern society. But also, Hot Sexy Vampire Edward crushes a mobile phone with his bare hands when he gets mad, spoofing a million Bold and the Beautiful moments. Must be a joke, right?
The House Bunny (Fred Wolf, 2008)
I’ve rarely laughed so hard watching a film. Maybe I find sexism funny (see above comments for New Moon), or maybe I just think the fact that this kind of sexist tripe gets made is a complete joke. An ex-Playboy Bunny teaches a geeky sorority house how to be sexy. We’re encouraged to laugh at “dumb” women, “unattractive” women, and, well, every woman in the film. Ha ha. Ha.
Cool As Ice (David Kellogg, 1991)
Honestly one of my favourite films. A very loose remake of Rebel Without a Cause, Cool As Ice was a vehicle for Vanilla Ice to star in, back when he was still cool. With lines such as, “Ditch that zero and get with the hero” and “You hit pretty good… for a girl” you know you’re going to have a good time. Vanilla Ice’s wardrobe, at the very least, is sure to inspire some giggles.
Ace Ventura Pet Detective: When Nature Calls (Steve Oedekerk, 1995). Gosh, I love Jim Carey.
Scott Henderson - Play Now Act Now Festival Director
Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
Proof positive that Stanley Kubrick deserves to be regarded as one of the greatest filmmaker of all. No other director was able to turn their hand to so many different genres and walk away not only unscathed, but with a reputation enhanced by the delivery of a film worthy of instant membership among the pantheon of classics. With Stranglove, Kubrick owed much to Peter Seller’s criminally unrewarded performance, even so I can think of no other film that better sums up the absurdity not only of war, but the male human condition in general.
Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
“Blessed are the cheese-makers?” Contender for the most quotable movie ever sure, but Life of Brian was so much more. A devastating satirical parody, condemned by the Church and a vastly more accomplished piece of storytelling than the Python’s other great, The Holy Grail. And lest we forget Graham Chapman; thank God he wasn’t the Messiah because the world was a much funnier place for that “very naughty boy”.
Major League (David S. Ward, 1989)
The most under-appreciated comedy of all-time; not a statement I make lightly. Over-looked often because of its ‘sports movie’ label, but I challenge anyone to find a film where the comic timing is delivered as well as David Ward’s script is here. The mark of a great film, perhaps especially in the comedy genre, is one that can be watched over and over. Whenever I’m down, there’s always one friend I’ve been able to count on to put a smile on my face and humour in my belly.
Monty Python And The Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones, 1975), Harvey (Henry Koster, 1950), Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993), Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938), His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940), Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1970), Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984), The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)
Flying High!/Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David & Jerry Zucker, 1980)
When it comes to comedy I definitely think that Flying High! should rank as one of the funniest films ever made. This 1980 spoof of Airport ’77-style disaster movies is riotous from start to finish. Just try and count the number of one-liners, sight gags and hilarious misnomers in one scene and you’ll lose track. Classic lines such as “I like my coffee black, like my men” (from the mouth of a pre-teen girl to her equally underage suitor), gags about inflatable autopilots and a brief cameo by Ethel Merman playing a soldier who thinks he’s Ethel Merman… the laughs never stop.
Showgirls (Paul Verhoeven, 1995)
When I think of funny my mind always drifts into the land of so-bad-they’re-good movies. Perhaps the definitive title amongst this fine group of cinematic disasters is Paul Verhoeven’s landmark 1995 film Showgirls. I, however, take a different tact with this film and believe that it was meant to be a comedy. There is no way that a movie can be this funny and not have it be on purpose, surely. Right now, just thinking about Saved by the Bell alumni Elizabeth Berkeley proudly exclaiming “I used to love Doggy Chow, too!” is bringing tears of laughter to my eyes.
The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)
Going back to 1940 brings me to my third and final pick. George Cukor’s The Philadelphia Story brought together Cary Grant, James Stewart and the “withering glance” of Katherine Hepburn. This story of upper-class socialites was adapted from a Broadway show, and yet in spite of all of its witty repartee it is the image of Grant shoving Hepburn’s face that manages the biggest laughs. There’s the best of both comedy worlds within this film.
Alice Tynan - The Plot Thickens
Let it be known this is my Dr. Strangelove/Monty Python Memorial List
Spaceballs (Mel Brooks, 1987)
The Schwartz, Pizza the Hutt, “jammed”, Mr. Coffee, “Comb the desert”, Ludicrous Speed, “What’s the matter, Colonel Sandurz? CHICKEN?”. If none of these references make you giggle, then you need to track down Mel Brook’s 1987 comedy classic, ASAP.
Team America: World Police (Trey Parker, 2004)
It will always be known as the film that brought us Matt Damon. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the brilliantly bizarre minds behind South Park, are certainly equal opportunity offenders. From the hilariously politically incorrect opening scene, to Kim Jong Il’s “I’m So Ronery” number (and let’s not forget the graphic puppet sex scene) Team America: World Police gets as many laughs as it does incredulous shakes of the head.
In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008)
This pitch-perfect comedy by Martin McDonagh should have taken home the Best Original Screenplay Oscar last year. Hands down. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are absolutely superb as a pair of assassins sent to cool their heels in Bruges after a kill goes wrong. Add to the mix a moody midget (drolly played by Jordan Prentice), an untethered boss (Ralph Fiennes) and some unfortunate Canadians and you’ve got an incredibly rich and deliciously dark comedy that delights each and every time.
Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987), In The Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009), Wedding Crashers (David Dobkin, 2005), The Big Lebowski (The Coen Brothers, 1998), The Pixar stable, Robin Hood, Men in Tights (Mel Brooks, 1993)
First Wives’ Club (Hugh Wilson, 1996)
The combination of Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler is comedic gold. Not only is it a feel-good, hilarious film, but one with an important message too: “Don’t get mad, get everything!”
Zoolander (Ben Stiller, 2001)
Blue Steel, “Egoo-ga-liser”, “Mer-MAN”, “What is this? A centre for ants?” I find myself holding back the urge to type “BAHAHAHA” for my short paragraph. Possibly one of the top comedy films with the best quotable, silly one-liners there is out there.
The Hot Chick (Tom Brady, 2002)
This is more of a sentimental choice. Whilst it is an incredibly stupidly, funny film (one of my favourite Rob Schneider movies, adjacent to Deuce Bigalow), I remember watching it with some great friends and we quite literally didn’t stop laughing from start to finish (likely attributed to us laughing more at each other than the film).