Top 10 Comedy Movies Of The 20th Century
My Top Picks
"Zany!" ~ "Madcap!" ~ "Raucous!" ~ "Uproarious!" ~ "Riotously funny!" ~ "They'll have you rolling in the aisles!"
Here I present a retrospective of what I consider to be the best comedy movies from the last century. My all-time top 10 picks are presented below in chronological order with video clips, starting with "Some Like it Hot" (1959). These movies all have in common an engaging plot line centered around some type of funny or farcical predicament, a strong cast of co-stars, and, most importantly, non-stop laughs throughout. Being a big fan of comedies, there are so many excellent funny movies that it was hard for me to pick just ten, so I decided to also present a list of runners-up so that you can vote on your favorites.
So ... put on your laughing caps and have fun browsing through my list!
Photo credit: Screen shot of a scene from "Some Like It Hot" from wikimedia.org
1. Some Like It Hot (1959)
When two musicians, Joe and Jerry (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis), witness the Saint Valentine's Day massacre of 1929, they have to get out of Dodge in a hurry to escape certain death at the hands of ruthless mobster head, Spats Colombo (George Raft). Disguised as women, they take jobs and hop a train with an all-girls band headed for Florida. En route, both men compete for the affections of the band's lead singer, Sugar Kane Kowalczyk (Marilyn Monroe), while trying not to blow their cover.
While in Florida, Joe continues to pursue Sugar Kane, pretending to be the heir to Shell Oil, and millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) falls for Jerry and won't take no for an answer. All hell breaks loose when Spats Colombo and his gang arrive for a conference at the same hotel where Joe, Jerry, and the all-girls band are staying.
Director Billy Wilder has created some fine gems in his day, but his piece de resistance, "Some Like It Hot," is widely considered to be one of the best (if not the number one) comedies of all time, and for good reason. With its all-star cast, perfectly-paced zany plot, raucous jazz-infused musical score, and surprise ending, it is a true comedic masterpiece which will keep people rolling in the aisles for generations to come.
"Well, nobody's perfect!"
2. Blazing Saddles (1974)
Corrupt politician Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) is building a railroad and wants to take over the land occupied by Rock Ridge, a small Western frontier town. To drive out the townspeople, he appoints a black sheriff, Bart (Cleavon Little), to run the town with the idea that he will so offend the residents that they will leave, but his diabolical plans backfire hilariously.
The ultimate Western spoof, "Blazing Saddles" (1974) is the best of many comedic masterpieces by director Mel Brooks. This movie also co-stars Gene Wilder as the Waco Kid, Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Shtupp, and Alex Karras as Mongo.
"I'd say you've had enough!"
3. The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)
Former Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) has had it up to here with (now Chief) Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) and will go to any lengths to get rid of him once and for all, even to the point of holding the world hostage with his Doomsday Machine until someone kills off Clouseau. Dreyfus' diabolical plans are foiled by the bumbling Clouseau, who, on top of everything else, pretends to be a dentist in order to gain entrance into the castle, treats Dreyfus for a toothache, douses them both with laughing gas, and ends up pulling out the wrong tooth.
"The Pink Panther Strikes Again" (1976) is the fifth in a series of hysterical farces by director Blake Edwards centered around the hapless Inspector Clouseau who, despite his bumbling ways, always manages to solve the crime. This film also co-stars Lesley-Anne Down, Burt Kwouk, and Leonard Rossiter.
4. Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
This farce, which is interlaced with a melange of short and totally off-the-wall skits, is centered mainly around the adventures of a Bruce Lee-type character (Evan C. Kim) who must battle the evil Dr. Klahn (Bong Soo Han). This film also co-stars George Lazenby, Tony Dow, Donald Sutherland, Tara Strohmeier, and Branscombe Richmond.
"Kentucky Fried Movie" (1977) was directed by John Landis and co-written by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, who later go on to write and direct other comedy classics, including "Airplane!," "Top Secret!" and "The Naked Gun" series.
5. Life of Brian (1979)
This spoof on the life of Jesus is centered on a poor bloke named Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman), a young Jewish man who happened to be born at the wrong place and time, i.e., on Christmas Day next door to, of all people, Jesus Christ. Through a comedy of errors, Brian is subsequently mistaken for the real Messiah and reluctantly ends up on the cross. Fellow cross bearers try to buoy his spirits with the relentlessly cheery "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life."
"Life of Brian" (1979) was written, directed and performed mostly by Monty Python comedy team members. Predictably, this hilarious and irreverent satire, which was a box office smash, sparked an outpouring of protests from many religious groups which have continued to the present day. This comedy classic also co-stars John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.
"Always look on the bright side of life!"
6. The In-Laws (1979)
Dr. Sheldon Kornpett (Alan Arkin), an upstanding and affluent dentist from New Jersey, gets the feeling that something is not quite right but has no idea of the mess he is about to be dragged into when he first meets Vince Ricardo (Peter Falk), an undercover CIA agent and the father of his soon-to-be son-in-law.
Kornpett's nightmare begins when the Ricardos are invited over for dinner and Vince (unbeknownst to everyone) hides an engraving plate in the Kornpetts' basement. The next day, Ricardo shows up at Kornpett's office and ropes him into doing him a favor, which entails him breaking into Ricardo's office and retrieving an item from his safe. Soon after, Kornpett find himself being chased and shot at by hit men, and Ricardo tells him about the engraving plate.
As Kornpett returns home, he finds a swarm of G-men in his driveway. He quickly flees the scene, frantically telephones Ricardo, and is tricked into going off to Central America with Ricardo where the two men become entangled in an international incident while continually dodging bullets and almost lose their lives in front of a firing squad. In the end, however, Kornpett's ordeals prove to have been worth it as the twosome end up making off with a cool ten million dollars, giving their children wedding gifts of one million dollars each.
This comedy cult classic also co-stars Richard Libertini, Nancy Dussault, Arlene Golonka, Penny Peyser, Ed Begley, Jr., Michael Lembeck, David Paymer, and James Hong.
A remake of "The In-Laws" was made in 2003 co-starring Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Ryan Reynolds, Candice Bergen, Maria Ricossa, and Lindsay Sloane. Although it bears some resemblance to the original 1979 movie, some fairly substantial changes in the characters and the original plot were made.
Which version of "The In-Laws" do you prefer?
7. Trading Places (1983)
Everything is going swimmingly for Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd), managing director at the commodities brokerage firm of Duke & Duke in Philadelphia, until his bosses, brothers Mortimer (Don Ameche) and Randolph Duke (Ralph Bellamy), have that age-old argument about whether it is nature or nurture that determines how well one does in life and make a bet where the loser agrees to pay the winner $1. They observe an altercation between Winthorpe and a street hustler, Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy), and arrange to have their positions switched as an experiment to see what will happen. Valentine is given Winthorpe's job and house and mentored by the Duke brothers. Winthorpe is framed as a thief and drug peddler and arrested, and all his assets are frozen. He ends up losing everything, including his friends and fiancée.
Thinking Valentine is responsible, Winthorpe vows revenge against his nemesis and is caught planting drugs in his desk in an attempt to frame him. Valentine then overhears a conversation in the company bathroom between the Duke brothers in which they discuss the outcome of their experiment and settle their bet. Valentine tries to reach Winthorpe to let him know about the wager, but by the time he arrives, Winthorp has passed out from an overdose of sleeping pills. When Winthorpe finally comes to, the two decide to join forces to bring the Duke brothers down, and they end up becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams.
Directed by John Landis, this zany comedy also co-stars Denholm Elliott as Coleman and Jamie Lee Curtis as Ophelia, who becomes Winthorpe's new love interest.
8. Back To School (1986)
Plus-sized corporate giant Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield), a self-made millionaire who owns a chain of "Tall and Fat" clothing stores, decides to go to college as encouragement to his son Jason (Keith Gordon), a Freshman who is having problems fitting in and thinking of dropping out. Although he does not have a high school diploma, Melon gains admission by donating large sums of money to the university to build the new Thornton Melon School of Business, which infuriates his economics professor, Dr. Philip Barbay (Paxton Whitehead). Melon further incurs the wrath of Dr. Barbay when he one-ups him in class with his more practical and hands-on approach to business and romances Dr. Diane Turner (Sally Kellerman), his English literature professor who is dating Barbay.
As Freshmen, both Jason and Melon share most of the same classes, and Jason looks on with embarrassment as his fun-loving and lovably obnoxious father upstages his professors and attempts to take the easy way out, e.g., by hiring NASA to do his science homework. When Melon is threatened with expulsion and must pass a series of tests in each of his courses in order to stay, he decides to get with the program and buckle down.
This classic comedy also co-stars Burt Young, Adrienne Barbeau, Robert Downey, Jr., Sam Kinison, and Ned Beatty.
"The next question for us is, where to build our factory?" - "How about Fantasy Land!"
9. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
During an investigation of the near-fatal attack on Officer Nordberg (O.J. Simpson), his friend and partner, Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) finds out that Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montelban), who was behind the attack on Nordberg, plans to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II of England (Jeannette Charles) who is coming to visit Los Angeles. This assassination is to take place at a baseball game by a baseball player who is brainwashed with a mind control device. In the course of his investigations, Drebin meets Ludwig's assistant, Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley), and they fall in love.
In the end, the bumbling Lieutenant Drebin manages to foil Ludwig's evil plans, but not before he sets fire to Ludwig's office, accidentally fondles a woman's breasts, lands on top of the Queen at a formal dinner, gets fired, forgets to take off his microphone after giving a speech and goes to the bathroom, poses as a famous opera singer and butchers the national anthem at the baseball game, and ends up proposing to Jane on the stadium screen in front of thousands of people. After the Queen is saved and Drebin kills Ludwig, Mayor Barkley (Nancy Marchand) reinstates Drebin and Nordberg congratulates him, whereupon Drebin pats him on the back and sends him hurtling down the bleachers in his wheelchair.
The first of three Naked Gun movies, this film also co-stars George Kennedy as Captain Ed Hocken. This series was based in part on the TV series, "Police Squad," which also starred Neilson.
Lieutenant Drebin forgets to turn off the microphone while going to the bathroom.
10. Office Space (1999)
Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) hates his mind-numbing job as a programmer at Initech, a software company rife with bureaucracy, and he can't shake off his boorish, smarmy, and micromanaging boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole). After his soon to be ex-girlfriend, Anne (Alexandra Wentworth), drags him to a session with a hypnotherapist that is cut short by his sudden death with a heart attack, a formerly burned-out and still half-hypnotized Peter comes to the realization that his idea of a dream job is one where he would get to spend the rest of his days "doing nothing" - which is exactly when he ends up doing. Ironically, this new-found attitude does not get Peter fired, but rather, he gets promoted on the recommendation of "the Bobs" (John McGinley and Paul Willson), two consultants with the same first name hired by Initech to help with cutting expenses mainly through downsizing.
Peter, along with his friends and co-workers Michael (David Herman) and Samir (Ajay Naidu), who are about to be downsized, hatch a plan to gradually abscond with company money over time by installing a virus in Initech's computer system that is supposed to make withdrawals so small that they will never be noticed. Unfortunately for the threesome, this plan backfires due to a glitch in the program that causes the money to be withdrawn too quickly. Knowing that the jig will soon be up, Peter leaves a note of confession with a check under Lumbergh's door and resigns himself to going to jail, but is saved by a fire which completely obliterates Initech.
This comedy classic about the soul-sucking aspects of everyday working life also co-stars Jennifer Aniston, Diedrich Bader, and Stephen Root.