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The 50 Best Comedy Movies Ever

From Buster Keaton to Andy Samberg, we present a road trip through the history of comedy cinema.
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By  · Published on June 12th, 2019

Airplane (1980)

Best Comedy Movies Airplane

Screwball comedies are as scarce as hen’s teeth these days, but the screwball humor lives on in comedic glory, Airplane! atop its all-time finest examples. 1980 marked the true arrival of the great writer/director screwball trio in Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker. They stood out in a Mel Brooks-dominated decade–which is saying a lot, mind you–with their Leslie Nielsen collaborations, the first of which developed in Airplane! through Nielsen’s reiterated plea not to be called Shirley (or Surely). Anchored in Julie Hagerty‘s and Robert Hays‘ perfectly timed comedic performances, the film is a cameo-rich riot from start to finish that has aged about as well as a comedy can. Though the Naked Gun series has plenty of laughs to offer, Airplane! will live on as the trio’s seminal achievement, compounding its notoriety in each coming year through endlessly quotable material. (Luke Hicks)

Stir Crazy (1980)

Best Comedy Movies Stir Crazy

Bringing together the unparalleled comedic talents of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, Stir Crazy sees our guys play two hapless slackers who set out to find their fortune only to end up being framed for a bank robbery they didn’t commit. Fortunately, though, there’s a rodeo competition coming up in the prison, which provides the perfect opportunity for the pair to stage their jailbreak. You can’t go wrong with any of Wilder and Pryor’s collaborations, but Stir Crazy finds that perfect blend of the zany comedy both performers excelled at, coupled with some sweet moments of friendship and bromance. And like all good prison escape movies, Stir Crazy provides moments of suspense and nail-biting thrills to go along with the laughs. (Kieran Fisher)

Project A (1983)

Best Comedy Movies Project A

Jackie Chan‘s filmography is frequently praised for featuring so many action classics, but his comedic triumphs are every bit as worthy and deserving of highlight. Several of his films blend laughs and ass-kickery to beautiful results, particularly his output through the 80s and early 90s, but picking just one means picking Project A. He directs, co-writes, and stars in the film, and it’s a masterpiece of fights, stunts, and slapstick. A period piece that sees Chan fighting off pirates, the premise affords him plenty of opportunity for set-pieces big and small, and for viewers curious why he’s often mentioned as a talent in league with the likes of Harold Lloyd the film serves as a brilliant primer on the subject. Watch it again right now, or seek it out for the first time. (Rob Hunter)

Ghostbusters (1984)

Best Comedy Movies Ghostbusters

One of the great things about Ghostbusters is that it beautifully rides the line between scaring you and making you piss yourself laughing. Whether it’s Ray’s improvisation for capturing the library ghost (“Get her!”) or the sheer lunacy of Louis Tully’s apparent fate at the hands of a terror dog, Ivan Reitman’s picture wants to have its ectoplasmic cake and eat it, and it succeeds wildly. The movie is also endlessly quotable, with much of it coming down to Venkman’s constant deadpanning – ask anyone to quote from the film and it’s highly likely that they’ll come back with “Yes, it’s true. This man has no dick.”, with Bill Murray continuing to play the anti-establishment slacker from another great Reitman/Harold Ramis comedy, Stripes. (Charlie Brigden)

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Best Comedy Movies Spinal Tap

While not the first “mockumentary” ever created, This Is Spinal Tap lampoons A Hard Day’s Night (the OG feature-length faux-doc) to such a hilarious degree that this send-up eclipses its predecessor completely, pushing its verité style into popular zeitgeist. But what makes Spinal Tap work so well is the heavy metal bands surprising depth of talent in opposition to their juvenile sense of humor. This is perfectly illustrated when Nigel (co-writer Christopher Guest) is keying out a stunningly somber ballad on the piano only to reveal its title: Lick My Love Pump. It’s a marquee reminder that while this style of music was decried by snobs, we aren’t laughing because they don’t have the talent for success. We’re laughing at the utter jubilation of their inane artistic conviction as they bumble their way from gig to gig. (Jacob Trussell)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Best Comedy Movies Ferris Bueller

John Hughes‘ filmography is a roadmap of the 80s for anyone who lived through the decade, and while several of his might warrant a spot on this list it’s a day in the life of Ferris Bueller that takes the crown. The film chronicles the most epic of days off from school, and in addition to being a fun, ridiculous fantasy with its heart down on earth, the film is just so damn quotable. Matthew Broderick‘s Ferris is always delightful, but others including Alan Ruck, Jeffrey Jones, Edie McClurg, Ben Stein, Jennifer Grey, and even Charlie Sheen deliver equally great and memorable lines. This is a movie permanently mounted in pop culture for multiple reasons, but chief among them is its power as an energetic and consistently funny comedy. And I say that even knowing that it’s absolute best moment involves a heartbreakingly beautiful sequence in a museum. (Rob Hunter)

Broadcast News (1987)

Best Comedy Movies Broadcast News

My top ten films of all time fluctuates a bit depending on mood and circumstance, but my number one favorite has remained the same for over two decades. James L. Brooks‘ biting, honest, and very funny look at the reality of television journalism in the modern age. Its commentary on ethics, ratings, and the evil necessities of the field are still applicable today, but more than that, the film is remarkably human in the interactions between and concerning our three leads. Holly Hunter floors me every time as the producer caught between integrity and attractiveness, William Hurt shines as the dumb anchorman who maybe isn’t as idiotic as he seems, and the always great Albert Brooks delivers a career-best turn as an anxious Aaron weighing his own values and desires. Add in memorable appearances by Jack Nicholson, Joan Cusack, Robert Prosky, John Cusack, and others and you have the rare perfect film. (Rob Hunter)

The Princess Bride (1987)

Best Comedy Movies The Princess Bride

By balancing silly gags and witticisms with swashbuckling and romance, The Princess Bride has wedged itself into a specific spot in the pop cultural landscape and our collective hearts. The movie, which stars Cary Elwes as Wesley and Robin Wright as Princess Buttercup, takes on the broad strokes of a fantasy storybook and fills in the details with bizarre, goofy, and endlessly quotable setups and punchlines to create a kid-friendlier take on Mel Brooks-style humor. Whether it’s Peter Cook droning on about the importance of “mawwage,” the central couple comically rolling down a huge hill like ragdolls, or Wesley explaining the real threat of Rodents of Unusual Size (R.O.U.S.’) and promptly getting attacked by a giant rat, there’s something in this movie that’s sure to make you laugh and stick with you. Elwes is especially great, delivering quip after quip with a contagious gleam of laughter in his eye. (Valerie Ettenhofer)

Coming to America (1988)

Best Comedy Movies Coming To America

Our first image of Coming to America is of the fictional nation of Zamunda, an African utopia by the likes we had never really seen in cinema – outside of ideas in 1974’s Space is the Place – and would not see again until Black Panther’s Wakanda. This was a representation of people of color that felt vitally necessary during the Reagan administrations prejudiced War On Drugs, while also satirizing the very idea of opulent wealth that the Gippers brand of politics exalted in the 1980s. And while the film is directed by John Landis, Coming to America is undeniably Eddie Murphy’s movie. It set up not only his long-running comedic partnership with co-star Arsenio Hall (a personal favorite being Wes Craven’s Vampire In Brooklyn) but it also established what Murphy would perfect later: playing multiple over-the-top characters in a single film. Here his three separate characters feel more free-wheeling, experimental – harkening back to his early Saturday Night Live work – while still being hilariously acerbic, even through the heavy prosthesis. (Jacob Trussell)

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