16 Of My Favorite Comedy Films

Comedy is a large part of my life. As a redheaded young man with aggressive acne, it was probably the only reason I made it through middle school. It’s the reason I started performing and the reason I moved to Chicago. It’s because of comedy that I have life-long friends. So I can confidently say that it has impacted my life in immeasurable ways.  Having obsessed over theater, stand-up, improv, and pretty much every medium in providing laughter, I would have to say that film is my absolute favorite. Yes, stand-up is the most genuine and raw venue of comedy. But, a well made comedy film is a thing of beauty. The cinematography, acting, writing, directing, and production all come together in service of getting a laugh. There’s obviously so much more to a film, but at the heart of it it’s all about getting the laugh. Here are my favorite comedy films:

-Airplane!-

Director: David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams

Writer: David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams

Release: July 2, 1980

Metacritic Rating: N/A

On one hand, the Zuckers created some of greatest spoof films of all time . On the other, their films have inspired some of the worst comedy films ever made. Airplane! obviously falls into the former category. It has some of most memorable jokes ever written including “…don’t call me Shirley.”, “…I speak jive.”, and (my personal favorite) “I have a drinking problem.” Anyone who’s seen this movie can quote a few lines off the top of their head that induce a chuckle. It’s a classic and I feel all praise I can give is already common knowledge.

-Ghostbusters-

Director: Ivan Rietman

Writer: Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd

Release: June 8, 1984

Metacritic Rating: 67

Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite movie is this is typical go-to answer. As with most of this list, there’s not much to say about this film that hasn’t been said already. It’s an achievement in comedy, and cinema in general. Rietman’s direction assists an already fantastic script, and brings out iconic performances from the cast. Murray, Ramis, and Aykroyd are wonderful obviously, and are supported by Weaver and Moranis well. Eddie Murphy was originally up for Ernie Hudson’s role as Winston, and it’s interesting to imagine what could’ve been. But I maintain that the movie is damn-near perfect as is, and it’d be foolish to expect much else.

-The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou-

Director: Wes Anderson

Writer: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach

Release: December 25, 2004

Metacritic Rating: 62

This is widely considered as Wes Anderson’s worst film, but it’s oddly one of my favorites. My best friends and I fell in love with this movie in high school and, for the longest time, watched it together quite often. Bill Murray is wonderful, but the true gems in this film are the supporting players. Dafoe and Goldblum (regular players in Anderson’s filmography) provide some of the funnier moments in this film. The soundtrack is also one of my favorites that I’ve ever heard with Brazilian musician Seu Jorge providing beautiful renditions of David Bowie songs.

-Some Like it Hot-

Director: Billy Wilder

Writer: Billy Wilder,  I.A.L. Diamond

Release: March 29, 1959

Metacritic Rating: N/A

I love Jack Lemmon. He’s one of my absolute favorite actors and this film is one of the main reasons why.  Sure, it’s men dressed as women, which, by now, is an exhausted trope. But this came before Bosom Buddies, White Chicks, Tootsie, or basically 60% of films made by Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy. It’s also better than those films too. Lemmon and Curtis show an excellent rapport, and while Monroe has been better, the rest of the cast delivers as well. Plus, it has one of the all-time best closing lines in cinema history.

-The Odd Couple-

Director: Gene Saks

Writer: Neil Simon

Release: May 2, 1968

Metacritic Rating: N/A

I’ll say it again: I love Jack Lemmon, and as good as he was with Tony Curtis, his work with Walter Matthau is some of the best comedy of all time. The Odd Couple, adapted from Neil Simon’s stage play is a timeless film in every sense of the word. The script is simple, yet enjoyable. The performances are understated, yet irresistibly endearing. It’s a classic and buddy comedies honestly don’t get much better.

-Young Frankenstein-

Director: Mel Brooks

Writer: Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder

Release: December 15, 1974

Metacritic Rating: N/A

Mel Brooks is one of my biggest influences. His films always have such a theatrical quality to them, and there’s nothing quite like it. I love all of his filmography, but Young Frankenstein will always hold a special place in my heart. I first watched when I was about nine or ten and it was my introduction to not only Brooks, but Gene Wilder, Marty Feldmen, Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, and Cloris Leachman. It was a supremely talented cast working with a visionary director and a perfect script.

-Team America: World Police-

Director: Trey Parker

Writer: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Pam Brady

Release: October 15, 2004

Metacritic Rating: 62

Matt Stone and Trey Parker are absolute geniuses. The Book of Mormon is brilliant and South Park is the apex of modern comedy. Team America might not match those two achievements, but it definitely comes damn close. It’s a whole movie about overzealous American special forces kicking ass and perpetuating every global stereotype in the book. There’s violence, strong language,  a gratuitous sex scene, and an even more gratuitous vomit scene,a musical number about aids, and Matt Damon. And it’s all done by marionettes. It may offend you, but it will definitely make you laugh. Expect nothing else from Parker and Stone.

-Blazing Saddles-

Director: Mel Brooks

Writer:  Andrew Bergman, Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, Norman Steinberg, Al Uger

Release: February 7, 1974

Metacritic Rating: N/A

As I’ve written earlier, I love Mel Brooks. Blazing Saddles is widely considered his best work, and alongside Young Frankenstein it’s certainly one of my favorites. The film tackles race and sex in ways that films today couldn’t even attempt, and does so in such a lighthearted and endearing way.  Gene Wilder is fantastic as The Waco Kid and has excellent chemistry with Cleavon Little, whose role was originally intended for Richard Pryor. Just like Eddie Murphy being replaced in Ghostbusters, it’s interesting to think what would’ve been had Pryor actually starred. Pryor actually helped write the script, but due to his addictions was deemed unreliable and replaced by Little. Honestly, the film may be better for it. There’s really not much to improve upon with the final cut.  Blazing Saddles was controversial and groundbreaking, balancing complexities like race with off-color humor like gratuitous farting. In fact it has the first audible on-screen fart in film history. Like I said, groundbreaking. But, what’s most impressive about Blazing Saddles is simply how well it holds up all these years later. It’s an all-time classic.

-Groundhog Day-

Director: Harold Ramis

Writer: Harold Ramis, Danny Rubin

Release: February 12, 1993

Metacritic Rating: 72

Groundhog Day combines one of my favorite writers (Ramis), one of my favorite actors (Murray), and one of my absolute favorite screenplays. It’s such a novel idea, but is surprisingly accessible and relatable. The pacing in the story is some of the best I’ve ever seen, and the viewer feels as if they are growing alongside Murray’s Phil Connors as he relives the same day again and again. We don’t get bored of seeing the same events play out to the same characters over and over. Instead we relish in Phil’s tinkering and meddling during his acclimation to this newfound reality. It’s smart and satisfying, and a classic film through and through .

-Monty Python and the Holy Grail-

Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones

Writer: Monty Python

Release: April 9, 1975

Metacritic Rating: 90

This film, like all of Monty Python’s work is equal parts absolutely hilarious, shrewdly intelligent, and utterly ridiculous. There’s not much to say about this film that most comedy lovers don’t already know. The brilliance of the the Black Knight’s stubbornness is iconic. The hilarity of the antagonistic taunting French soldiers is unparalleled. The Knights who say Ni are funnier than anything that simple should be and, honestly, there hasn’t been anything else in cinema quite like the Holy Hand Grenade. This movie is a timeless.

-Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan-

Director: Larry Charles

Writer: Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer

Release: November 3, 2006

Metacritic Rating: 89

Holy shit, this movie is funny. Sacha Baron Cohen is a supreme talent, and showcases it in every scene throughout this mockumentary. Following a character from his cult classic Da Ali G Show, Borat follows a reporter from Kazakhstan who travels to America to make a documentary on U.S. culture. The majority of the film is unscripted interviews between Cohen and everyday Americans, which allows for awkward interactions aplenty.  On a deeper level however, it lampoons the oddities within American culture, and the viewer can’t help but laugh along with the absurdity. Borat is shocking, ridiculous, and, above all, absolutely hilarious.

-The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!-

Director: David Zucker

Writer: David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Pat Proft

Release: December 2, 1988

Metacritic Rating: 76

Spawned from the unjustly cancelled T.V. show Police Squad!, The Naked Gun very much follows the same formula. Most of the jokes are deadpan responses to ridiculous sight gags. Leslie Nielsen is a national treasure; he delivers some of the most earnest dry humor in film history, and this is possibly the best of the Zucker’s work outside of Airplane!.

-What We Do in the Shadows-

Director: Jermaine Clement, Taiki Waititi

Writer: Jermaine Clement, Taiki Waititi

Release: February 13, 2015

Metacritic Rating: 76

It’s really a shame more people haven’t seen this film.  What We Do In The Shadows completely nails every moment from beginning to end. Not only is this mockumentary one of the best vampire flicks I’ve ever seen, its also genuinely hilarious. It tackles all the cliche tropes from monster films with ease and manages to stay engaging and fresh with every joke.

-Galaxy Quest-

Director: David Parisot

Writer: David Howard, Robert Gordon

Release: December 25, 1999

Metacritic Rating: 70

This is the best Star Trek movie ever made. I know. It’s not technically a Star Trek movie, but it’s close enough. Galaxy Quest is a parody, but excels past spoof status and establishes itself as a comedy classic. There’s so much to love in this movie. Outside of Toy Story, it’s probably Tim Allen’s best work, and he’s not even close to the best part of the film. The ensemble cast is magnificent with Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver delivering excellent performances, and even Justin Long (in his film debut) shines, but Sam Rockwell truly steals the show. It’s a film built on smart writing, endearing characters, and, most importantly, the respectful satire of the series that inspired it.

-This is Spinal Tap-

Director: Rob Reiner

Writer: Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean

Release: March 2, 1984

Metacritic Rating: 85

It’s been called “The funniest movie ever made about rock and roll.”, but it’s probably one of the funniest movies ever made period. The trio of Shearer, Mckean, and Guest are consummates of understated deadpan and play their roles perfectly in this Rob Reiner helmed picture. It’s a masterful satire that has become a culturally significant icon in not only comedy, but also in documentaries, and even music.

-This is the End-

Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Writer: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Release: June 14, 2013

Metacritic Rating: 67

I think some of the hardest laughs I’ve had in a theater were due to this movie. The whole concept was incredibly meta, but worked so well. Each actor plays an exaggerated version of themselves trying to survive during the apocalypse. The cast is fantastic and it’s abundantly clear that they are having a blast making this film. Not every joke hits, but most do, and when they do they hit hard.

-Dumb and Dumber-

Director: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

Writer: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, Bennet Yellin

Release: December 16, 1994

Metacritic Rating: 41

The Farrelly brothers’ films typically leave me chuckling a few times while I shake my head at how stupid the jokes are. Dumb and Dumber is no exception. But dammit, as stupid (or dumb) as the jokes are, they’re still funny.  Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are perfect as two idiotic, yet endearing, best friends. Their chemistry is about as strong as it gets in a comedy film. As the film progresses and the gags get more and more absurd the viewer can’t help but just embrace the ridiculousness of it all. Yeah, it’s dumb, but it’s hilarious.

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