Top 10 Comedy Movies
Written by: Dave Andrews
March 17, 2008
Filed Under Movies
It’s hard to imagine a list of the top 10 comedy movies without the list being dominated by Monty Python and Mel Brooks films.
These films have plenty of goofy and ‘oh brother’ moments.
As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t roll your eyes once or twice during the movie, the writers weren’t trying hard enough.
I’ve included a couple of films on this list not because they’re my personal favorites, but because of their impact on film history. As a trained industry professional, I can’t help but to think in those terms.
No matter the reason for each film being on the list, they are all films that you should see at least once. So, without further adieu, the top 10 comedy movies of all time:
10. “Scary Movie”
I’ve started the list with a relatively recent entry. In 2000, the horror and comedy genres would be inextricably and permanently linked for all time by the first of its kind – “Scary Movie” – the film that took the horror genre and poked merciless fun at it.
One of the main films that took the brunt of the jibes in “Scary Movie” was “Scream.” Produced in 1996, it’s little known that the original working title of Wes Craven’s “Scream” was actually “Scary Movie.” As to whether this is why this title was chosen for the comedy four years later is anyone’s guess.
The first “Scary Movie” was a production of the Wayans family – easily one of the top families in comedy, if not the top one. Directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans and written by Shawn and Marlon Wayans, the film also starred all three of the brothers. Conspicuously absent from this film was arguably the most famous of the entire Wayans clan, Damon Wayans.
Throughout the next few films, the Wayans brothers would have less and less to do with the “Scary Movie” films until – by the fourth film – their hand could not be seen in it at all. However, “Scary Movie” had created a whole new style of comedy that has been copied again and again in the following eight years, including in “Scary Movie 2” through 88 (or whatever number they’re on now), “Epic Movie” (another must see if you like the sub-genre), “Date Movie” and “Meet the Spartans.” No matter which of these spoof-genre comedies you like best, however, there can only be one original – and that was “Scary Movie.”
9. “Johnny Dangerously”
This 1984 film is probably one of the most overlooked of all comedies. Brilliantly funny, this film starred a laundry list of famous comedians of the day, including Michael Keaton; Joe Piscopo; Marilu Henner; Maureen Stapleton; the late, great Peter Boyle (who was also in the seventh film on our list); Griffin Dunne; Danny DeVito; Alan Hale, Jr.; Dom DeLuise (whose son Michael I had the pleasure of working with on the set of “Gilmore Girls”); and, believe it or not, the list goes on.
Johnny Dangerously is a mobster who believes that criminals can be nice and good to the community – and still be criminals. His little brother becomes the D.A. and hunts down the ‘dangerous’ Dangerously – only to find out it’s actually his own brother, Johnny Kelly. A seriously underrated film, I consider “Johnny Dangerously” a true must-see for any fan of comedic film.
8. “Space Balls”
This film went where no comedy had gone before – into space. Largely a “Star Wars” parody, this space comedy by Mel Brooks was a hilarious parody/spoof that poked fun of the most sacred of all film genres: science fiction. Making fun of Sci-Fi was a risk – Sci-Fi fans are notoriously faithful to their genre, and love their films with a passion unrivaled by any. It came as a surprise for some then, when “Space Balls” came out and it was discovered that Sci-Fi fans not only loved their genre, but they also loved to poke fun at it.
With a variety of silly characters – Yogurt, Dark Helmet, Princess Vespa, Pizza the Hut (Pizza the Hut – now that’s funny!) – the film spoofed pretty much every major character of the “Star Wars” universe. And it did it well. There aren’t many Sci-Fi comedies out there, and this one is the clear leader in the genre. Until that day, however, “Space Balls” wins the Sci-Fi comedy genre top prize easily, making it an excellent addition to this list.
7. “Young Frankenstein”
“Scary Movie” may have created a new genre for horror spoofs, but the original horror comedy was 1974’s “Young Frankenstein.” Followed closely by “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” a year later, “Young Frankenstein” dared to make fun of the scariest film genre – horror.
This film – starring Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein and the aforementioned Peter Boyle as the Frankenstein monster – was truly inspired. A laugh-a-minute film, “Young Frankenstein” saw great moments such as when the good doctor, trying to figure out what was wrong with his creation, asked his assistant Igor whose brain he had used; Igor replied “Abby Normal.” It also saw one of the greatest, most memorable comedy moments when Frankenstein and his monster sang “Putting on the Ritz,” adorned with top hats and tuxedos.
6. “Blazing Saddles”
Before “Space Balls,” before “Young Frankenstein” and even before the other two Mel Brooks movies that I haven’t even gotten to yet, came “Blazing Saddles.” This comedy went to the Wild West and picked a most unlikely candidate to become the sheriff of a small desert town in the mid-1800s: a black man. “Blazing Saddles” was brilliant at poking fun of just about every black/white stereotype out there, and given Brooks’ own Jewish heritage, he found a place or two to poke fun at that too – in the brilliant way that only Brooks, perhaps the greatest master of comedy film, could do.
Few films have specific phrases in them – iconic phrases that enter the American lexicon for all time. Phrases that you can say anywhere in this nation and the people you’re speaking with will instantly know what you’re talking about. “Make my day,” “I’ll be back,” “Are you talking to me?” and “Say hello to my little friend” – you know what I’m talking about. One of the ones that stick out most for comedies – “Excuse me while I whip this out” – came from this movie. Anyone who considers themselves a true comedy fan is remiss if they haven’t seen this – one of the most classic of all comedies.
5. “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”
Okay, okay, I know – this list is starting to look just a bit biased, but that’s because Mel Brooks is the true all-time master of the comedy movie. There simply isn’t anyone like him.
Released in 1993, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” starred Cary Elwes as Robin Hood. Elwes is no stranger to comedy, having played the lead role in the number three movie on our list as well. “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” like all great comedies, it seems, parodied a nearly hallowed legend in our culture: Robin Hood.
Another laugh-a-minute film, this movie made fun of everything it touched. Nothing was sacred – including the recently released dramatic Robin Hood movie starring Kevin Costner. At one point, Elwes quips, “Unlike some Robin Hoods, I can speak with a British accent!” Over the years, Elwes has taken turns in more dramatic fare, but there can be no doubt that he is in his element in comedy. If you see only one movie that Elwes has been in…well, make it “The Princess Bride.” But if you see two, make sure you see him in “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”
4. “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”
This is the first of the two entries from Monty Python – arguably the greatest of all comedy troupes – and very largely emulated. There would likely be more entries on this list from the great smiling snake, but six years after their last film together, the leader of the group – Graham Chapman – succumbed to cancer.
“Life of Brian” tread upon truly hallowed ground by centering itself on a man who lived at the same time and area as Jesus Christ, and who was mistaken for the son of God and worshipped against his own will. While not the last Monty Python comedy, it was the last of the truly brilliant movies by the troupe.
3. “The Princess Bride”
By some standards considered the greatest American comedy of all time, this 1987 film was reminiscent in many ways of the Monty Python films of the decade before.
Many will remember Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, the laughingly arrogant little man who constantly exclaimed “inconceivable!” every time the “man in black” did something to surprise him. After around the fifth time saying this, all “Princess Bride” fans will remember Inigo Montoya – brilliantly played by Mandy Patinkin – saying to him: “You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Equally memorable are Andre the Giant as Fezzik, Chrisopher Guest as Count Rugen, the six-fingered man and Billy Crystal as Miracle Max. A bit scary for the very young, this movie is nevertheless one of the few on this list that could easily be considered a family film – and as most others on this list, this is a true must-see for any film buff.
2. “History of the World: Part 1”
The greatest of all Mel Brooks films, “History of the World: Part 1” will be considered by many to be the greatest comedy of all time. Mel Brooks has roles, big or small, in all of his films – but he really pulled out all the stops in this film, portraying five different characters, including Jaques, King Louis XVI, Torquemada, Comicus, and of course, Moses.
A smile crosses my lips as I remember the line that Moses spoke when coming down the mountain holding three large, awkward tablets, and then dropping one: “I give you these 15…[drops a tablet] Ten! Ten Commandments!”.
“History of the World” starts off with cavemen, and just as with a real history class in college, the film goes up to approximately the French Revolution. At the end it promises to bring you “History of the World: Part 2,” including the rest of human history all the way up to moving into space. Seriously folks, if you haven’t seen this film, you’re simply not a comedy buff. It doesn’t get much better than this.
1. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”
One film – above all – is the true quintessential comedy: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” This story follows a slightly altered version of the story of King Arthur and his knights (ku-niguts) of the round table.
There are so many iconic lines in this movie that I’d have to quote the entire movie to get to them all. However, I’ll tackle a few:
“But if you’re not British, what are you?”
“I’m French you silly English person! Why do you think I have this outrageous accent?”
“I fart in your general direction.”
“Now, go away or I shall taunt you a second time”
And that’s just the French guy speaking! The non-stop comedic moment building upon comedic moment – evident in literally every second of this film – are undeniable. Only the most bland of personalities wouldn’t get at least some laughs out of this outrageous film. There are literally too many moments to mention.
Monty Python practically defines what a comedy should be, and others both in and out of comedy – including the most successful author of all time, J.K. Rowling – have been influenced by the Monty Python style of humor. Truly if there is one single film that you should see to understand what a comedy should be, this is it.