Comedy offers audiences the chance to briefly set aside the cares of the world and enjoy a good old-fashioned belly laugh. But which is the comedy to end all comedies?
As it happens, the Writer's Guild of America have decided to help us out with that debate. They've compiled a list that they claim contains the funniest films of all time.
In the spirit of public service, we present that list below. For bonus points, I've even annotated it for you.
Shall we begin?
10. National Lampoon's Animal House
Well, that's an—er—interesting choice to kick off with. Animal House is often overlooked in favour of more sophisticated fare. Films which lack food fights, for example, or John Belushi impersonating acne.
As all that suggests, it is a riotous film (set in one of those American college fraternity houses). It's an early example of gross-out comedy and not a bad one either, although if you favour something a tad wittier you may wish to look elsewhere.
Buy Animal House
9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
There are some who will tell you that Monty Python's Life of Brian is funnier than this Arthurian adventure but that's splitting hairs.
With its Holy Hand Grenades, taunting French guards and Knights who say 'Ni!', Monty Python and the Holy Grail is still funnier than almost every other film, including many of those above it on this list.
Buy Monty Python and the Holy Grail
8. Blazing Saddles
Those Writers Guild of America-types like their crude comedy classics, don't they?
I can't be so enthusiastic: I've never quite understood quite why Mel Brook's Western parody is held in such high regard—fart jokes aren't that funny.
Still, it's certainly better than some of Brooks' later films: I've seen Robin Hood: Men In Tights. Pray God you don't make the same mistake.
Buy Blazing Saddles
7. Dr. Strangelove (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)
Back in 1964, the atomic bomb wasn't widely considered to be an obvious topic for laughs, so it took a certain amount of gumption on the part of Stanley Kubrick to turn nuclear annihilation into the subject of comedy.
Blessed with a savagely funny script by Terry Southern, (“Gentlemen! You can't fight in here—this is the war room!”), and a trio of performances by an on-form Peter Sellers, it remains tremendously funny.
Buy Dr Strangelove
6. Young Frankenstein
It’s something of a mystery how Mel Brooks managed to get two films onto this list, but at least they haven't excluded his funniest film. Like the more famous Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein is a parody, this time of Universal Horror films (more specifically, of Son of Frankenstein).
And it is, with no ifs, buts or maybes, hilarious and filled with gags that work whether you're familiar with the material or not. Plus it features Marty Feldman and that's always a good thing.
Image via Tootsie
Oh dear Lord—Tootsie? The Tootsie with Dustin Hoffman dragging up as a lady? The thoroughly mediocre, utterly insipid and totally forgettable Tootsie? THAT Tootsie?
If you want to mount a spirited defence of Tootsie, there's a comment box below. As for me, I'm off to lie in a darkened room and wonder about the sort of unsound minds that could that film on a list like this.
Right. I'm back. And so, it seems, is this list's critical faculties. Airplane is a silly film, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment.
It hurls a relentless stream of gags at the audience, unconcerned with doing anything but provoke belly laughs galore—an ambition which it achieves admirably.
3. Groundhog Day
It says something about modern comedy or more likely the folks who put this list together, that the most recent film upon it is 22 years old.
Still, there are worse films to be behind the times with than this unusually smart mainstream comedy, about cynical weatherman Bill Murray who finds himself living the same day over and over again.
I won't object too bitterly if you want to call it a modern classic.
2. Some Like It Hot
Image via Some Like It Hot
Dear reader: a confession. I've always thought Some Like It Hot was a tad overrated. More than a tad, in fact.
Given its tremendous popularity – there are many people who cite it as their favourite film in the whole wide world—I know I'm swimming against the tide here. And not even I am going to pretend that the last line is anything other than a doozy.
Buy Some Like it Hot
1. Annie Hall
Woody Allen's relationship comedy certainly contains some juicy lines but it's a bit of an odd choice. It was, after all, the film where Our Woody moved away from the pure comedy of his earlier, funnier films and started to explore emotions and even melancholy.
Still, it should remind us that, despite his (frequent) duds and his oft controversial private life, “The Woodster” knows more than just a thing or two about crafting a joke.
So there we have it. Some people's idea of what the funniest films ever made are. No room for Kind Hearts and Coronets, To Be or Not to Be or Withnail & I. You will look in vain for The General, for What's Up, Doc? (Or even What's Opera, Doc?). And there is no Screwball Comedy either. No It Happened One Night, no Midnight and no His Girl Friday. I wish they'd included The Big Lebowski too.
But hey humour is subjective and you should ignore all lists, even mine, that tell you otherwise. The funniest film ever is simply the one that makes you laugh the most.
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