COMEDY FILMS THAT ROCK
The weird, fruitloop world of comedy!
TWENTY FIVE COMEDY FILMS THAT SAY SOMETHING
Comedy and the general ability to laugh may well be uniquely human. It certainly makes the world a better place to be in.
Of late animated feature comedies such as Despicable Me (2010) and Minions (2015) have really taken off in a big way. Here the fantasy elements are strong and there is some salute to the more serious spy vs spy films made much earlier.
Some films try to point out the error of our ways. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), for example, is a film all about how crazy people can get when greed is the issue.
In films such as Big Momma's House (2000) disguise is everything and the fun comes from whether the guy dressed as a fat elderly woman will be able to continue to get away with it or not. There is some evidence that this movie actually did work on audiences since it did spawn successful sequels.
In 1942 To Be or Not to Be starring Jack Benny was a smash hit. The sheer audacity of some Polish actor playing the part of Hitler for real to a bunch of Nazis who might not believe him and have him shot or worse.
In 1983 Mel Brooks made his own version of To Be or Not to Be which was just as warm and as funny as the original.
I have selected twenty five movies I have really enjoyed for the comedy. Many of them have other aspects that add up to great viewing. Certainly they all speak of the age of their creation and how people were thinking and feeling at the time. Some have taken really serious issues and turned them upside down.
Small lawyer from the big city meets country justice head on
1. My Cousin Vinny (1992)
The writer Dale Launer couldn't have done a better job. The cast which includes Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei and Fred Gwynne know their business. Two young men are arrested for a crime they didn't commit in a backward southern part of the good old USA. One of the young men, played by Ralph Macchio, brings in a relative who is supposed to be this back east hot shot lawyer.
Unfortunately, what Vinny knows about the law could fit onto an average sized postage stamp.
There is great humor created between this lawyer Vinny, played by Pesci, the Judge (Fred Gwynne) and the lawyer's smarter other half, played by Marisa Tomei.
Of course justice does win out in the end but you should check it out to find out just how that is possible.
The Munsters were big on television and they took on the movie screen as well
2. Munsters Go Home! (1966)
This film based on the hit Television series The Munsters, took America's favorite fright family to England where the locals there were not thrilled to meet them.
Apart from the usual wonderful cast from the television show such as Yvonne de Carlo, Fred Gwynne, Alan lewis and Butch Patrick, the British threw in great funny man Terry-Thomas just so the chaps from across the pond wouldn't get all the laughs.
A good Scream and a few Laughs!
3. Carry on Screaming (1966)
It seems that 1966 was a great year for comedy. Certainly for comedy that dealt with the theme of horror. This was far from being the first carry on movie produced by the British but for my money it is the best.
Starring Harry H. Corbett as a detective who discovers all sorts of horrible things in foggy London and Tom Clegg as one of those horrible things, it was a laugh rather than a scream a minute.
Fenella Fielding plays the hard to resist vampish female vampire. She is a rather fetching seductress and certainly has the detective investigating on the ropes more than once. Hubba! hubba!
The Age of the R Rated Film
4. Alvin Purple (1973)
This was an outrageous sex romp where you have this bloke, Alvin Purple (Graeme Blundell) unable to find true love with one woman because every woman he meets falls madly in love with him and wants his body.
It is of course a dream most men have at one time or another
. Turning the dream into a bit of a nightmare and into a huge comedy no doubt took effort. This movie is also well known for its easy on the eye female cast which included Abigail, Jacki Weaver, Jill Forster and Christine Amor. Hot stuff.
The Fun of the Bumbling Detective
5. The Pink Panther (1963)
Take a cast that belongs in a straight spy or crime thriller and are willing to play it straight then throw in a bumbling detective.
This was director Edward Blake's masterpiece. It also did the career of Peter Sellers some good in that it endeared him to a younger, more 'with it' audience.
The more modern Pink Panther movies have a bigger budget but aren't quite as good. The cartoons are fun.
The Age of the Intrepid though Bumbling American Law Enforcement Agent
6. Naked Gun (1988)
Take an actor who only ever played tough guys but always wanted to do comedy (Leslie Nielsen) and give him his break.
Sure, he did okay with Airport comedy but let's see what he can really do.
Take an attractive woman like Priscilla Presley and see if she can play a straight man (person?). Throw in a truck load of sight gags and innuendos off the coconut tree and you have the first Naked Gun film.
From Mad Experiments to Dance Numbers, to Surfing this Film has got it all
7. Young Einstein (1988)
Yes, 1988 was a year in which comedy thrived. This off the wall Australian comedy had the Americans scratching their heads and saying things like: What the...? To be fair, Young Einstein has a lot of in jokes only Australians and possibly New Zealanders could really appreciate.
Starring Yahoo Serious, it did very well in Australia. It has very little to do with the true life of Einstein or, for that matter, Marie Curie (Odile Le Clezio).
It must be noted, however, that the real Einstein did have a sense of humor and that is what the film is really about. The music makes you feel proud to be an Australian and some of the scenes make you hungry for an apple or two.
This film doesn't really show how rock and roll came about but it would be marvelous if it did happen this way. I suppose its all relative.
The American film Young Frankenstein is also worthy of mention here since it also drifts away from acceptable historical happenings into its own wonderfully dramatic and over the top and down the hill comedic reality.
Chasing the old Pig Skin!
8. Horse Feathers (1932)
Take a bunch of guys who wowed them on stage with their music and comedy routines and let them go wild on film.
One marvelous result was the Marx Brothers triumph, Horse Feathers.
You would think an understanding of American football might help you come to grips with this movie. No such luck and rightly so. Just jump into the craziness, the waters fine.
They Go Up and They Do come Down!
9. Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965)
For me this is an all time favorite because I simply love planes and plane travel.
The theme song grabs you and holds onto you for days after you have heard it and the cast was simply the best. Terry-Thomas does what he usually does in playing the superb rotter.
Patrician Rawnsley, played by Sarah Miles, is a love interest for two of the gentleman (well, one is actually an American) fliers and, for some reason, she wants to fly, too. Crash landing don't seem to put her off much. Great visuals and a glimpse into an age that will never be again.
A little Bit of L. A. and a Little of Shakespeare!
10. L. A. Story (1991)
Starring Steve Martin, this is a beautiful film that mixes strange Shakespearian asides with a few nifty special effects and the pure wonder of life in possibly the most off the planet city in the USA.
There is a love affair going on here between Martin and Los Angeles that is hard to miss and that is very endearing.
Sarah Jessica Parker appears in a rather kooky but nice role as SanDeE (the character's spelling, not mine). There is some lovely music by Enya. Can an American weather man find love with an English Beatle's fan? Well, he can if the city of L. A. helps out a little with some street sign magic.
Back in the Days when Russians could be Feared!
11. The Russians are Coming! (1966)
A Russian submarine loses its way and ends up on American soil on a small Island off the coast of New England. Panic ensues.
Are the Russians invading? No. They just want directions on how to get home and they want to avoid a gun battle with frightened locals.
Starring Carl Reiner, Alan Arkin and Brian Keith, this comedy might not have been possible five years earlier on when the threat from Russia seemed more real to Americans.
Life Can Be Strange and Also Wonderful!
12. Being There (1979)
This was Peter Sellers' last film and quite possibly his best.
Sellers plays a simple minded gardener who manages to wow important people with his calm attitude and his smile.
At a dinner party his ways are misinterpreted and the power brokers take him to be a sly genius. The movie also stars Shirley MacLaine and Jack Warden.
Vamping it up for Laughs!
13. Dracula: Dead and Loving It ( 1995)
Dracula and vampirism have been sent up numerous times before this film was made but this is a really good example of how to do it right.
With the genius of Mel Brooks behind it and starring Leslie Nielsen as the fanged count it couldn't go wrong.
Peter MacNicol gives as great performance as the disturbed Renfield. This was back in the days when the mentally disturbed were punished for being mentally disturbed rather than helped back to a more normal life.
A Disaster of A Disaster Movie!
14. Flying High! (1980)
Flying High! was also known as Airplane! It starred Robert Hayes and Julie Hagerty.
As a sign of its success it did spawn sequels and it did take American comedy where it hadn't been before. There are cruel edges to it but lots of laughs.
It sent up the drug culture and also the disaster films of the '70s.
The cast of characters are surreal rather than real but that's okay. It remains a much loved comedy masterpiece.
Knight of the Round Table on the Quest of Quests...and with coconuts!
15. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
This low budget British effort starring John Cleese and Eric Idle has a lot of gags that are still passed on today.
Who could forget the coconuts for example?
The search for the Holy Grail was never meant to be easy, especially with a whole bunch of daft knights and the plague around the corner and mud, let us not forget mud, the peasant's lot in life.
Crazy Man! Crazy!
16. What's New Pussycat? (1965)
Starring Woody Allen, Ursula Andress and Paula Prentiss, this is a bedroom romp movie with wheels on.
The goings-on at some hotels in the country!
Mad psychologists and sex obsessed patients complete the picture nicely. Oh, and an excellent theme song too. The 'sixties really did swing.
Milk is Too...White...for a Tough Guy Detective!
17. The Thin Man (1934)
This is a detective flick that doesn't take itself too seriously. Nick and Nora Charles think they are in for a quiet life.
Nick (William Powell) also the Thin Man is from the rough side of the tracks and knows the coppers and the crims.
He also can teach a fish how to swim in liquor and blanches at the sight of that horrible white stuff called milk.
Nora ( Myrna Loy) comes from a wealthy background and has contacts with high society. Astor, their pet dog, tends to keep out of trouble most of the time but that isn't always easy with Nick and Nora being around. At the end of the movie deductive reasoning sneaks up on Nick and of course the crime they get involved in is solved and so the start of a series of Thin Man movies begins.
Nothing like spy vs spy the American Way!
18. In Like Flint (1967)
This is a great spy spoof starring James Coburn as super spy Flint. If British Bond can get the ladies surely an American spy can do the same thing only better.
There are women out there plotting to take over the world and only a handsome male agent, Flint, with real class can stop them.
Also starring Jean Hale, Anna Lee, Totty Ames and Diane Bond.
A Spy for the 1960s in Today's World!
19. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
This is Mike Myers' wonderful send of the James Bond of the swinging 'sixties. A secret agent frozen in time is released to the world to deal with a threat from the past.
Elizabeth Hurley plays the love interest in this comedy. Just what does happen to a henchman's family when he dies on the job? Just what was so great about the 'sixties that made it swing? Can an actor comedian play two role successfully in the same movie?Can an evil genius have a son a lot smarter and more practical than he is? All these questions and more are answered.
It is a pity the other Powers movies didn't really come up to par though they were successful.
A Comedy Based on a Real life Character and also Tarzan!
20. Crocodile Dundee (1986)
This Aussie movie, starring Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski, was based very roughly on a true Australian character.
It was an Australian version of Tarzan meets Jane with lots of laughs, beautiful scenery and great dialogue. New York is seen from the point of view of an Australian character more comfortable in bush land.
This film did well in Australia, New Zealand. the USA and the UK. It spawned more than once other Crocodile film.
A Nice Slice of Australian Country Life
21. Babe (1995)
A pig in order to save himself from becoming pork decides to take up what would normally be the dog's role on a farm. He learns how to round up sheep.
Babe is an Australian and USA effort but it has country Australia written all over it. Starring James Cromwell and Magda Szubanski, this was a big hit when it first came out.
The little pig was so successful that there was a sequel: Babe: Pig in the City (1998) that also proved to be popular at the box office.
From Horror to Hero
22. Shrek (2001)
This animated comedy starring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz brought fantasy back to audiences.
Shrek, a green ogre, is forced into a position where he must play hero. The fairy tale creatures are in trouble and it looks like he is the only one who can save the day. This of course is not what a green ogre normally does.
Shrek comes to be partnered with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) who happens to be fond of waffles in the morning or at least making them for others. There's also a princess (Cameron Diaz) who turns out to be Shrek's type in more ways than one.
23. Up (2009)
This animated comedy adventure brings back all the romance of daring-do flight. Starring the voices of Ed Asner and Christopher plummer, it is about a boy and a girl who dream of far away places and the excitement of exploration.
Up is a story about dreams deferred and then realized. It is about love and loss and promises made and eventually keep. There are moments that bring a tear to the eye which are followed by craziness straight out of American slapstick.
24. Monsters, Inc (2001)
Imagine a world close to our own that is inhabited by monsters and run on the screams of children garnered from the bedrooms of said children. Now imagine further that the monstrous inhabitants of this world have been sold on the idea that children are extremely dangerous and would contaminate their city if let loose in it. Then throw in a child who makes her way to their world and you have a frenzied comedy called Monsters, Inc.
This was one of the new successful breed of animated comedy with heart. it stars the voices of John Goodman, Billy Crystal and Mary Gibbs.
The Mysteries of Egypt and a Lot More Besides
25. Night at the Museum (2006)
Imagine a museum where the exhibits come to life at night. Then imagine a night guard new to this phenomenon (Ben Stiller) called upon to cope with such a situation night after night.
There's Egyptian magic, a talking head from Easter Island and a playful dinosaur skeleton. It is the capuchin monkey, however, that gives the night guard the most grief. Then we have the thieves who previously were the night guards (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs) attempting to take the magic away.
From the Old West miniatures there's Jedediah (Own Wilson) who clashes at first with the leader of the Roman miniatures Octavius (Steve Coogan). When all is in danger, however, they find a way to work together.
The exhibit who helps the night guard establish order and come to some understanding with the monkey is the museum's very own Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams).
Other Night at the Museum Movies followed. I have a particular fascination for Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian because I visited this museum when I was in the USA in the 1970s. Also much of the story revolves around flight whether we are talking about what happened long ago at Kittyhawk, black men fighting for the USA as fighter pilots during the 2nd world War, or the wonders of space flight. Amy Adams is such a delight as the gung-ho aviatrix Amelia Earhart.
I know I probably didn't get all your favorite comedy films. I hope I managed to get some of them. I hope you enjoyed the read.
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