10 Most Underrated Comedy Movies of All Time (Well, At Least Since the 1980s)
There are certain regulars that always appear in lists of the best comedy movies ever - films like It Happened one Night, When Harry Met Sally, and The Producers....To that, I say "harumph!" It seems like my top comedy choices never get listed. So here they are: ten of the most underrated comedy movies of all time.
#1 This Is Spinal Tap
This is Spinal Tap, a tongue-in-cheek, deadpan rockumentary from the 80s, features Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest and the totally underrated Michael McKean.
With music that's surprisingly good and an extraordinarily sophisticated sense of irony, This is Spinal Tap will either leave you laughing hysterically or totally confused, as original audiences, who thought the movie a straight documentary, were.
Christopher Guest, of The Princess Bride fame, could not depart farther from the chilling six-fingered man than he did in this movie (which he did earlier). His character in Spinal Tap is a moody, not-too-bright rock musician who has a thing about his guitars.
Michael McKean, of Clue and Lenny and Squiggy TV fame--for those of you who remember the Happy Days spinoff, Laverne & Shirley - absolutely radiates deadpan sincerity as a rock musical visionary.
And there are other terrific performances by Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner and Fran Drescher, but, well, those are my favorites.
#2 Galaxy Quest
Galaxy Quest is not merely an awesome spoof of Star Trek. It's not just a well-plotted sci-fi space adventure flick. And it's not just another spiffy Alan Rickman film.
Featuring the all-too-familiar elements of your average Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention replete with geeky girls, techno-obsessive teenage boys, and ridiculing dudes, Galaxy Quest provides a pretend glimpse into the real lives of science fiction television actors as it takes them from earth to an alien world, where they must battle a fearsome alien warrior, an invulnerable rock creature, and inexplicably loud and scary crushing things. And the aliens are really nice.
It's a full-fledged family-friendly funny movie that sets up, and plays on, a modern audience's expectations to create witty situations, with a good, solid science fiction story, likeable and memorable characters, and classic, unforgettable lines, such as - what was it again? Hmm.
Anyway, you don't have to be a Star Trek fan to like Galaxy Quest. You just have to enjoy comedy that makes fun of science fiction tropes, while at the same time (and this is the hard part for movie creators) deploying them successfully.
#3 Noises Off
People who watch the modern screwball comedy, Noises Off, for the first time typically spend the first twenty minutes yawning and going, "Wha?" After that, depending on whether they appreciate good slapstick or not, they think it's the best farce since The Producers...or all a bit silly, really.
A British-accent movie with very few Brits, actually, about a Broadway play, based on the original Broadway play, Noises Off features a stellar cast that you had no idea was so stellar until you saw them perform in this movie, including Carol Burnett, John Ritter, Denholm Elliott, and Christopher Reeve...and fantastic directing.
The movie can be summarized so: A stage cast is trying to put on a play. Hmmm. It loses something in the summary, I see. Suffice it to say, it's hilarious once it gets going, and even if you've already seen a stage production of Noises Off, this one is worth seeing because it's better than the two live performances I've seen, by a mile. Timing is everything, you see.
It's absolutely, totally, so very...you know what I mean.
Zoolander has been called offensive - I dunno. I can see why, if you're a male model, or the Prime Minister of Malaysia, or a fashion designer, you'd find it offensive. And it is a bit racy in parts - not for the little ones.
But this satire about coolness and fashion with Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller and his dad, Jerry Stiller, is not as silly as it looks. In fact, via its ostensible silliness, Zoolander carries an adamantly anti-silly, anti-stupidity, anti-idiocy message.
See, Derek Zoolander, a pseudo-gorgeous male model, after being emotionally fractured from a double whammy - losing a prestigious award and witnessing a bizarre accident - seeks meaning in his life. But his noble desires to do good deeds are exploited by effeminate fashion designer Mugatu as part of an evil conspiracy. It's only through his warm, fulfilling friendship with...oh. I just realized it has a sucky plot.
Never mind the plot. You know the first rule of comedy - it's all in how it's done. Watch Zoolander. You'll laugh yourself intelligent.
What I love about Earth Girls are Easy is that most of the comedy actors were largely unknown, but have since made it big - and this was done when they were all at their most charming!
#5 Earth Girls Are Easy
It's got hilarious, campy music. It's got hot (furry and extraterrestrial) male babes. It's got true 80s flair.
It's got a shockingly hot Jeff Goldblum, a sweet, hot Damon Wayons, and a goofy, hot Jim Carrey. And Gina Davis (steaming hot, as always).
Basically, Earth Girls Are Easy is a funny-as-hell musical chick flick about a Valley girl hairdresser who's descended on by women-starved aliens. She can't resist the hottest one (I'll leave out which one, so some suspense remains). But she's engaged to another man. Plus, well, there is the fact that he's an, um, alien.
Hmm. Okay, no brilliant conflict and a barely distinguishable plot. Pretty much, the movie's all satire, gorgeous people, charming romance, and fun music. But for me, that's more than enough. I guess I've seen too many movies with an excellent plot but lame execution and no fun factor.
Maybe Earth Girls Are Easy doesn't deserve to be in the top ten comedies of all time, but it's been way underrated. So voila - it goes on the list.
#6 Coming to America
The extraordinarily versatile Eddie Murphy stars with Arsenio Hall, Madge Sinclair, James Earl Jones and a bunch of other well-knowns in this fast-playing modern romantic fairy tale. An African prince fleeing an arranged marriage comes to the Bronx to get experience of the real world and gets some serious culture shock in this densely-scripted urban romance.
The wit flies fast and furious between Murphy and Hall...and there's some rather impressive dual-role stuff going on with both of them (well, duh, it's an Eddie Murphy movie)!
It's just seriously well done on all fronts. If you, like me, are tired of plot-based movies that shove characters around like puppets, preferring films with well-drawn characters who sweep you up in their conflict, you'll be swept away by Coming to America.
Like some others on this list, the full version of this very funny movie is not really for kids due to its R rating.
#7 What About Bob?
Yet he is, because Murray plays him so, and because of the awesome directing of Frank Oz and, oh, yes, the writers.
But it's Richard Dreyfuss who, as the bad-guy psychiatrist, truly excels and who should really have been nominated for an Academy Award that year for his hilariously ironical emotional performance.
The supporting acting is terrific, too. Whoever cast this movie did a terrific job.
What About Bob is a sweet movie about a man who hijacks his therapist's vacation plans by invading his idyllic retreat. The story builds up slowly to some truly immense belly laughs.
Anybody who's ever experienced a panic attack will relish watching the frantic, solitary mental patient, squeezed into a stereotypical family vacation setting, get gradually accepted into the fold, while the smug and esteemed psychiatrist...well, check it out and see.
Midnight Run has a few dated elements, but is a character-based classic. It's a funny look at some of the sleazier elements of postmodern society, with an oddly heartwarming feel.
#8 Midnight Run
Isn't the Martin Brest-directed Midnight Run an action movie with chase scenes and gangsters and elements of drama? Well, yes. But in all its small parts, it's a comedy, and it's the naturally evolving comedic thread in the film that garners Midnight Run that classification.
And it's got Robert Dinero and (though I couldn't really care less) Charles Grodin, who are both perfectly cast, displaying a chemistry you wouldn't believe until you saw it. And Joe Pantoliano, who's so totally convincing and funny as the sleazy bail bondsman.
Very human and normal, this is possibly the most mainstream comedy in this list. It's not a laugh a minute. But it's very, very funny, and nobody lists it as one of the best comedies, which makes it one of the most underrated comedy movies in my book.
#9 Lust in the Dust
OK, Lust in the Dust stars Divine, who is definitely not for everyone. So it's goofy. And raunchy. But that's its charm, right?
This spoof of a spaghetti western is rated for adults. But if you can get beyond one or two gross-ish scenes, and you're a fan of old westerns or Akira Kurosawa samurai movies, you'll love watching Tab Hunter act all Clint-Eastwoodish.
The only problem is, I haven't seen the movie in about twenty-five years. In the same way I watched Silver Streak when I was a kid and thought it tummy-achingly hilarious, only to watch it as an adult and find it jaw-crackingly boring, I can't promise you that this one will entertain you the whole way through. And I have the dim memory that it's fairly graphic, despite not being a John Waters film.
But I've never seen it rated as a top comedy film, so here it is. And unless my memory serves me wrong, just the hot, hot sun scene alone would make it worth watching again.
#10 Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon
It has it all - the romance, the idyllic hero, the psuedo-martial-arts spirituality, the kung fu master, the grand villain, the choreographed fights, and...did I mention 80s music?
Really funny, really fun, really feel-good.