The 100 Best Comedies of All Time

Movies Lists Best Comedies
Share Tweet Submit Pin
The 100 Best Comedies of All Time

Of all Paste’s curated Best 100 lists, this one has probably been the toughest to put together. It’s not because there’s any shortage of great comedies out there—as a category, the film comedy has existed from pretty much the beginning. But while all lists, no matter how objective a scale one tries to apply, have some degree of subjectivity to them, few things are as subjective as humor. For some, slapstick and farce hit the spot while more cerebral fare falls flat. For others, deft character studies that find the humor in our all-too-human foibles are the only comedies worth watching. There are as many flavors of culturally specific comedy as there are cultural sensibilities (and, of course, there are plenty of folks capable of enjoying more than one type). Faced with this challenge, we’ve decided to approach this particular list in a manner that seeks to guarantee laughter and amusement for the people most likely to look to it when seeking something that will bring some joy to the daily grind. These films have been chosen (and ranked) based on how many laughs we think they are likely to generate for the modern audience. That, in turn, means a couple of things for what might otherwise be the usual suspects on a Best Comedies list.

First, it means some great films that are also comedies may appear lower on the list than they would if we were weighing technical execution of those non-comic elements equally with humor present. In some cases, that may mean just a spot or two lower on the list. More often, it’ll mean a more precipitous drop. Second, there are some films—and some comedic actors—whose importance to the development of the genre is unquestioned even as their appeal to modern audiences has waned due to changing times and tastes. Or perhaps, as with Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges, the type of humor they pioneered has been adopted and developed in iterations that have the end result of bumping them down or off the list. Finally, and related to the previous point, since this list does not weigh factors such as “cultural impact” or “pioneering importance” as heavily as it could, it inevitably skews more modern. This should not be seen as a slight (intended or unintended) against any director or movie. We appreciate those pioneers, but there are plenty of lists out there giving them their due.

Ultimately, it’s all about the laughs. Every film on this list should be a dependable source of grins, chuckles and guffaws. After all, life is hard, people can suck, misfortune may indeed lurk around every corner, and we all know how it ends. Let the films on this list—and the laughter they elicit—help balance the scales.

(Note: Because so much of the impact of foreign comedies relies on language, we’ve only included English language films on this list.)

Here are the 100 best (English language) comedies of all time:

100. Clerks (1994)
Director:   Kevin Smith  

clerks.jpg

Sometimes a labor of love becomes something much bigger. When Kevin Smith spent $27,575 to film a black-and-white film about a slacker working at a Quick Stop, no one could imagine how much it would resonate. Filled with philosophical discussions on relationships, purpose and the relative innocence of construction workers on the Death Star, it established Smith as a unique voice for at least a corner of the slacker generation. Smith would return to the world of Dante, Randal, Jay and Silent Bob many times (and with modestly larger budgets), but it would never feel quite as a perfect as the original. —Josh Jackson


99. Waking Ned Devine (1998)
Director: Kirk Jones

waking-ned-devine.jpg

Waking Ned Devine may be the most feel-good heist flick ever made. Ned is an old-timer in a small Irish village who wins the lottery and dies from the shock of it. Two of his old-timer buddies, Jackie (Ian Bannen) and Michael (Fawlty Towers’ David Kelly), decide to scam the big-city lotto agent into thinking that one of them is Ned, alive and well. What ensues is not so much a con-artist caper but more an Irish celebration of community, camaraderie and the spirit of human generosity. Other Irish themes championed: whiskey, lush landscapes, poetry, naked old dudes riding motorcycles, whiskey and the fiddle. Did we mention whiskey? —Ryan Carey


98. This Is the End (2013)
Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen 

this-is-the-end.jpg

Too often, Hollywood comedies aimed at a male audience skew more towards the single-digit side of the age scale. Yet there’s a pretty potent distinction between puerile and “late-juvenile” humor. The former—all fart, poop and pratfall—is the stuff that the eye rolls of girlfriends and wives is made of (not to mention a good portion of Adam Sandler and Kevin James’ careers). But the latter, done right, is an equal opportunity amuser. (Oh, eyes may still roll, but they do so while laughing.) Fueled by a mercilessly self-skewering ensemble effort from its principles (Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and Jonah Hill round out the core cast), the humor of This Is the End goes turbo as soon as the End is near, providing scene after scene that is dependably funny and frequently riotous. In comedies especially, the “actors starring as themselves” approach is so often more painful than funny, especially when a brand-conscious star betrays an ego-tinged reluctance to make fun of oneself. The stars and bit players of This Is the End show no such inhibitions. (In fact, Michael Cera seems intent on presenting the worst—though still hilarious—version of himself possible.) If anything, this willingness to mock themselves makes the characters all the more endearing, especially as the initial bro-mance between principles Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen reasserts itself amid flames, desperation and demon cocks. As over the top as many of its scenes are, it’s hard not to credit the apocalypse itself for This Is the End’s sustained hilarity. Though plenty of the film’s scenes possess an honed improv feel much like the extemporaneous riffing of Anchorman, they are also usually more focused—in terms of plotting, there’s so little time to waste when the end is nigh. —Michael Burgin


97. Elf (2003)
Director:   Jon Favreau  

elf.jpg

In a sense, making Christmas “funny” can be as easy as responding to something meant to be sincere and joyful with cynicism and darkness. Is there any comedic Christmas character that embodies a genuine love of Christmas? Thankfully, we have Will Ferrell’s fearlessly committed performance as the titular elf to answer this question with a resounding yes. Nothing represents Christmas cheer better than Will Ferrell in yellow tights, a green parka and cone-shaped cap. He wrings a ton of comedy out of responding to everything with wide-eyed, childlike wonder. Arguably our generation’s classic Christmas movie, watching Buddy the Elf makes you laugh, makes you smile and, to paraphrase from the Grinch, makes your heart grow three sizes bigger. Even if the movie devolves into a formulaic, race-against-the-clock flick in the last 30 minutes, its myriad gifts outweigh its problems. From endlessly quotable nuggets like “cotton-headed ninnymuggins”; the hysterical fruit spray scene; Zooey Deschanel showcasing her pre-She & Him singing chops; Mr. Narhwal and the arctic puppets (a band name if I ever heard one); to, finally, Ferrell’s infectious enthusiasm, Elf is instant holiday merriment. —Greg Smith & Jeremy Medina


96. 21 Jump Street (2012)
Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

21-jump-st.jpg

Against all odds, 21 Jump Street—a movie based on a Fox television series remembered mainly for helping launch the career of Johnny Depp and briefly reminding the world that Dom DeLuise had a son—is an immensely enjoyable, frequently hilarious film. The premise is unchanged. Two youthful-looking (and since this is a comedy, spectacularly incompetent) police officers are assigned to a special division that places undercover agents in schools in an attempt to stop illegal activity. For officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), fresh out of the academy, this is not so much an opportunity as a richly deserved exile. Their mission, as delivered by a purposefully prototypical Angry Black Police Captain (Ice Cube): Contain the spread of a dangerous new drug that has shown up at a local high school. For Jenko, the return to high school represents a return to his glory days. For Schmidt, it’s more of a return to the scene of a crime where the body outlined in chalk looks suspiciously like his own. Unlike so many comic remakes, reboots and long-delayed sequels, 21 Jump Street doesn’t overly rely on nostalgia to generate its laughs. Hill isn’t doing anything he hasn’t done before, but that doesn’t make his deadpan-acerbic delivery any less funny, especially alongside the earnest doofus-ness of his partner. Hill and Tatum are supported by a strong ensemble of recognizable faces, including Rob Riggle, Ellie Kemper and Chris Parnell. But though “ensemble piece” usually refers to cast and crew, 21 Jump Street is even more impressive when viewed as an ensemble of comedic approaches. There are laughs to suit all tastes—from sarcastic jibes to pratfalls, from pokes at film conventions (“I really thought that was going to explode.”) to exuberant, undeniably infectious, juvenile displays. And each is conveyed in a measure appropriate to its form. As a result, there’s just not much time spent watching 21 Jump Street without at least a smile on one’s face. —Michael Burgin


95. In the Loop (2009)
Director: Armando Iannucci

in-the-loop.jpg

If clever verbal humor were easy, we’d have more comedies like In the Loop from Veep and The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci. But it’s not, and this one stands in a class of its own. It’s the most quotable film of the 2000s—by miles—and the cynical potty mouths on screen are so articulate and creative that, after the avalanche of witticisms, you’re left with the lingering sense that you’ve seen not just a funny movie but also a wicked political satire of the highest order, the kind where the absurdity speaks for itself. —Robert Davis


94. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
Director:   Adam McKay  

talladega.jpg

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly go together like reconciliation and getting thrown out of Applebee’s. In one of the finest films directed by Adam McKay, the duo play race-car drivers in a loving send-up of NASCAR culture. Sacha Baron Cohen is perfect as Ferrell’s European foil Jean Girard, and the film is jam-packed with both sight gags (the live cougar in the race car) and brilliant dialogue (the prayer to eight-pound-six-ounce-newborn-infant Jesus). His sons Walker and Texas Ranger, the random appearance of Elvis Costello and Mos Def in Girard’s back yard, and Amy Adams recreating the Whitesnake video in the bar all provide Hall of Fame moments from the Judd Apatow canon. —Josh Jackson


93. What’s Up, Doc (1972)
Director: Peter Bogdanovich

whats-up-doc.jpg

Half the pleasure of Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? is its velocity. The other half, of course, is its treasure trove of punchlines, but those punchlines aren’t merely delivered to us at rapid speed: They’re enhanced by it. A slower version of this film doesn’t work as well. The humor is predicated on overwhelming the audience with too much laughter, keeping us in fits of giggles without a chance to regain composure. The effect is additive, best exemplified in a scene where mischievous Judy (Barbra Streisand) accidentally orchestrates the combustion of Howard’s (Ryan O’Neal) hotel room. Rube Goldberg couldn’t invent a more roundabout means of setting a space on fire, much as the Coen brothers, or even Alfred Hitchcock, couldn’t come up with a “mistaken identity” plot this convoluted. What’s Up, Doc?’s habit of tying itself in knots is perhaps its greatest claim to fame, more so than its pronounced irreverence and fundamental bedlam. Comedies need not be straightforward. When occasion calls, they can be utterly labyrinthine. Bogdanovich effortlessly leads us through the maze, even as its many moving parts close in on each other and the story grows ever more madcap, culminating in a car chase that ends with everyone in court and Liam Dunn passed out on his desk. By the time the credits roll, you may be so out of breath that you’ll join him soon after. —Andy Crump


92. Girls Trip (2017)
Director: Malcolm D. Lee

girls-trip.jpg

While it’s great to experience movies that are powerful and groundbreaking and devastating—we all love to weep at the theater or in our homes, wiping away tears as the credits roll on movies like Call Me By Your Name—but some of the best movies can be both well-written and unapologetically fun. And I’m not sure anybody had more fun this year than those of us who experienced Girls Trip. You go in likely expecting a solid, heartwarming tale about a group of friends who reconnect on a trip to New Orleans, but you leave wondering how you’d gone your whole life without experiencing this sort of black, female-centered version of The Hangover. It’s not just that Girls Trip, is so reminiscent of those raunchy, absurd (and kind of disgusting) comedies, it’s that the shocking, laugh-out-loud moments are so earned and so excellently delivered that it’s easy to forget there’s some kind of message wrapped up in it all. That’s a good thing, because it makes those final confrontations and confessions at the end of the film all the more compelling. Of course, what really made this movie one of the most beautiful and hilarious movies of the year was its cast, featuring performances from an incredible group of women with the kind of chemistry you dream of seeing on screen: Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah all turned in phenomenal work. Haddish has been (rightfully) celebrated as the breakout star, but her comedic prowess could have been lost on a lesser script. Luckily, writers Tracy Oliver, Kenya Barris and Erica Rivinoja laid an impeccable foundation for director Malcolm D. Lee, and the result was one of the biggest blasts—among any genre—of the year. —Shannon M. Houston


91. The Jerk (1979)
Director: Carl Reiner

the-jerk.jpg

From the first couple of lines, co-writer/star Steve Martin and director Carl Reiner establish how much they’re willing to sidestep any traditional narrative norm in favor of whatever joke pushes the limits of irreverence and extreme silliness. Here is the pale image of Steve Martin’s face, about to invite us into a melodramatic series of flashbacks concerning his character’s tragic life, and he begins the story with, “I was born a poor black child.” From there, whatever episodic shenanigans that Nevan—Martin’s ode to painfully self-unaware idiots everywhere—finds himself in, these plot points are used only as excuses to string together as many dumb jokes as possible. It’s hard to call The Jerk a parody, since it’s not necessarily lampooning a specific genre or a popular movie (Martin and Reiner left that to Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and The Man with Two Brains), but its manic addiction to extract as many chuckles out of any random situation, pushing the boundaries of exaggeration and then pushing it some more, places its tone squarely into the Zucker, Abrams, Zucker camp, who were on their way to perfect that approach with Airplane at the time of The Jerk’s release. Just look at the scene where Nevan storms out of his house, taking random belongings out of spite. It reaches an extreme point of comedic exaggeration, and then pushes it even further, finding a spot beyond mere parody. —Oktay Ege Kozak


90. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Director: Jared Hess

napoleon-dynamite.jpg

Napoleon Dynamite was never really intended to become a pop-cultural touchstone of the mid-2000s. Made for a shoestring budget of $400,000 (star Jon Heder was originally paid just $1,000 for his performance), this was just meant to be a quirky, indie awards show novelty, not a generator of countless memes and catchphrases that would persist in the high school lexicon for years to come. But as we all know, the film took on a life of its own and became a huge sleeper hit. This had the effect of making it far better known to general audiences, yes, but it simultaneously obscured a bit of the film’s brilliance in terms of its critical appraisal. Because with success and overexposure, came some level of derision. Napoleon Dynamite, its title character and its quotes were thrown around as shorthand for “dumb comedy,” but the truth of the film is a rather cutting satire of American unexceptionalism. Napoleon and the residents of his Idaho town are a uniquely pathetic lot, and Napoleon Dynamite is a comedy that dares to present an entire universe of ugly personalities, fragile egos and social ineptitude. The character of Uncle Rico alone, best captured in his endless, masturbatory, self-shot football videos, is someone who you might typically expect to appear in a tragedy rather than a comedy, so crushing is his characterization. Hell, the most popular kid in Napoleon’s school looks like a young Jake Busey, for God’s sake. The film’s unusual sense of Midwestern ennui may have been lost on some audiences, but it’s the element that makes Napoleon Dynamite more than just a Comedy Central weekend afternoon feature. —Jim Vorel


89. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
Director: Robert Hamer

kind-hearts-coronets.jpg

There’s nothing kind about familicide, but Robert Hamer improbably takes the subject of offing one’s family for revenge and personal gain and turns it into giddy black comedy bordering on the absurd. It helps that the victims of our spurned hero, Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price), are each played by Alec Guinness, wearing the guises of dukes, bishops, and suffragettes alike and posing in increasingly ridiculous scenarios, from boating mishaps to balloon accidents, as Louis exacts his vengeance on the family that ruined his life. His mother, you see, was the youngest daughter of the 7th Duke of Chalfont, until she married an opera singer and was promptly booted out of the clan for daring to find love from outside of her social strata; this single act of cruelty is the sole source of Louis’ misery in life, and so he finds reparation in death. You may, at first, balk at the notion of murder as comedy, but Kind Hearts and Coronets carries out its grim duties with such cheer that you surrender morality to Hamer’s comedy and guffaw at the film’s dry British wit and gallows humor. —Andy Crump


88. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Director:   Tim Burton  

pee-wees-big-adventure.jpg

Tim Burton’s full-length directorial debut is also one of his best. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure brings us into the bizarro world of Pee-wee Herman, the excitable, ageless protagonist that’s hopelessly attached to his bike. After it’s stolen in broad daylight, we see Herman travel across the U.S. to reclaim his baby. And through the adventure and its ongoing discoveries (who knew the Alamo didn’t have a basement?) we’re introduced to unforgettable characters like Herman; his (sort-of) love interest, Dottie; the horrifying trucker ghost Large Marge; the snotty, rich Francis; and Herman’s dog, Speck. Herman’s wacky world is fully realized through the eye of Burton, and this one stands alone as a film that kids and adults can both get a kick out of. —Tyler Kane


87. Deadpool (2016)
Director: Tim Miller

deadpool.jpg

Amidst the deluge of Marvel-related movies that have flooded movie theaters in the last decade, it might be easy to overlook Deadpool’s importance as a genre milestone. Amidst those early signs of viewer interest (Blade), franchise launches (X-Men), moments of director/source material synergy (Raimi’s Spider-Man) and 18 or so MCU films, Deadpool is recognizable as a triumph of perseverance and (baby) hand-in-glove casting, as well as proof that R-rated superheroing is viable at the box office (which in turn smoothed the way for more serious takes like Logan). There’s also the fact that, fueled by the character’s signature irreverence and meta commentary, Tim Miller’s take on the Merc with a Mouth is easily the funniest comic book movie out there. This itself can be seen as a sign of the genre’s growth—just as Airplane produced a relentless stream of verbal and visual gags mined from the serious tropes of big event disaster movies, Deadpool shows how so-called “genre fatigue” can actually translate as “comedy goldmine.” While humor has always been an ingredient in the MCU and elsewhere, Deadpool lifts a leg and lets loose its own deluge of wall-to-wall humor, proving itself the franchise with the most ammo (and biggest bladder?) when it comes to laughs in the Marvel Universe. —Michael Burgin


86. Being John Malkovich (1999)
Director:   Spike Jonze  

being-john.jpg

The feature film debut from director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman is a long, absurd joke whose punchline is its final shot: the view of a man who whimpers as he’s forced to watch his loved ones forget he’s ever existed. Being John Malkovich admits, with sad clarity, that our lives are totally out of our control. In the film, we follow street puppeteer Craig (John Cusack, looking like a small, humming pile of hair) as he confronts the economic viability of his chosen occupation by getting an admin job on the 7½ floor of a building that also happens to hide a tiny door which leads, if one crawls through cobwebs and puddles, to the inside of John Malkovich’s head, wherein for 15 minutes the brain tourist can vicariously live through famous actor John Malkovich’s eyes before getting spit up into a ditch off the New Jersey Turnpike. Having had his way with marionettes for years, Craig slowly understands how to control Malkovich while inside his head, crouching in the man’s sewer of an unconscious to hide away from the requisite 15-minute limit, but not before falling in love with a coworker (Catherine Keener) who seems to be falling in love with Craig’s wife, Lotte (Cameron Diaz), but only via various liaisons through John Malkovich’s manipulable corpus. Throughout, Jonze and Kaufman only afford as much logic as is needed to movie the story from one weird scenario to another, but never letting the bleak heart of the film’s happenings overtake how goofily the plot unfolds. Visual detritus litters Jonze’s shots: A chucked can from a speeding car bounces off Malkovich’s head, the culprit recognizing Malkovich in time enough to call him out by name, though why John Malkovich poorly disguised in a ball cap and covered in ectoplasm would be on the side of the road in Jersey is anyone’s guess; a documentary features Brad Pitt briefly only to ignore him; an alternate universe Charlie Sheen embraces his receding hairline. Ideas pile atop more ideas, until the whole thing collapses in on itself, the film’s centerpiece basically John Malkovich singing his own name to another John Malkovich over and over, attempting to seduce the actor into liking himself. —Dom Sinacola


85. I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Director: David O. Russell

i-heart-huckabees.jpg

By the very nature of how we approached this list (mentioned in that intro you might not have read), the laugh riot ensues immediately, the humor being less “acquired taste” and more “in your face.” Still, there are a few films whose second or third viewing is as likely to “set the hook” as the first, and David O. Russell’s 2004 existential screwball comedy is one of them. I Heart Huckabees features an amazing cast either at the top of their respective game (Jude Law, Naomi Watts, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin), in a game they aren’t typically thought of as playing (Isabelle Huppert), or, well, Mark Wahlberg in the best role he’s ever had. On first viewing, the jargon can overwhelm viewers less philosophically inclined, but in his efforts to find meaning in a series of coincidences, Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is engaged in the same comedy as the film’s viewers—desperately trying find order and meaning in a chaotic world. Whether you deem that particular comedy of the human condition dark, breezy, inscrutable or just “what it is,” will depend on you state of mind. I Heart Huckabees just knows it’s pretty damn funny, regardless. —Michael Burgin


84. Superbad (2007)
Director: Greg Mottola

superbad.jpg

Every generation of teens has its generation of teen movies, and Greg Mottola’s Superbad is the epitome of mine. In Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), my friends and I had a mirror for our own insecurity and awkwardness—they were our modern-day Anthony Michael Halls. In Fogell/McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), we had an icon of weird who somehow ended up a winner, a sort of photonegative of Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick). And in Superbad’s constant dick jokes (care of a script by namesakes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg), we had an accurate representation of the way we all talked, maturity be damned. The film helped create a white-adolescent-boy language made up entirely of lewd, absurd references. It’s a rom-com in many respects, but unlike its predecessors, Superbad is a romance between two buddies, a story wherein the ostensible sex drive is secondary to Platonic need. In the film’s denouement, with the two leads snuggled up close in sleeping bags, Seth literally says, “I just wanna go to the rooftops and scream, ‘I love my best friend, Evan.’” For teenage boys struggling with anxiety over the seeming hopelessness of losing their virginity, Superbad provides a welcome respite, an acknowledgement that focusing your entire life upon your dick is pointless when there’s fulfillment to be had by your side the entire time. —Zach Blumenfeld


83. National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
Director: Jon Landis

animal-house.jpg

John Belushi created an entire character archetype in his too-short career, but it’s best vehicle is quite possibly in John Landis’ party romp as the intoxicated slob, Bluto. Written by the late Harold Raimis, Animal House captures all of the excessive, mindless fun of college in a memento that never becomes any less funny or nostalgic, no matter how many times you rewatch it. —Sean Edgar


82. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Director:   Richard Linklater  

dazed-confused.jpg

Set in 1976 Texas, Dazed and Confused flows from one group of high-school and middle-school students over the course of one night—the traditional cinematic one-night-that-changes-everything.— Richard Linklater’s follow-up to Slacker shows a variety of vantage points on a number of issues, philosophical, political and otherwise. The camera lingers, offering multiple perspectives, and allowing you to take your time and consider all sides of these various excursions. Ultimately, these digressions circle back on one another, and Linklater forms them into a coherent narrative that resembles an updated American Graffiti for a new generation. As the day begins, there is a very rose-tinted-glasses style outlook on the whole scene, one that is, layer by layer, peeled away over the course of the ensuing evening. For all the seeming importance placed on things like playing football, chasing romantic partners and finding some good old-fashioned visceral experiences, there isn’t much in the way of consequences. You may get your ass kicked a little bit, but there isn’t a lot at stake. Whatever happens, you’ll be fine. This is never more apparent than as Dazed and Confused draws to a close and the film takes a dark turn towards what can only be described as adulthood. —Brent McKnight


81. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Director:   Wes Anderson  

mr-fox.jpg

Wes Anderson’s trademark ironic eccentricity and Roald Dahl’s vaguely menacing but entirely lighthearted surrealism combine to form Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson’s first animated effort, which uses the same maddeningly traditional stop-motion techniques as Isle of Dogs. It’s ostensibly a children’s film (Mr. Fox and his family and friends try to outrun the mean farmers), but rather transparently aimed at their parents, who likely read Dahl’s books in grade school, remember stop-motion when it didn’t feel vintage, and have followed Anderson’s work for years. But Fantastic Mr. Fox is broader and more straightforward than any of Anderson’s other films. The tale has been greatly expanded from the Dahl original to cover familiar Anderson themes of family, rivalry, and feeling different. And with its lush autumnal palette and hijinks worthy of Max Fischer or Dignan, the result is a film that only Wes Anderson could have made. —Alissa Wilkinson


80. A Shot in the Dark
Director: Blake Edwards

shot-in-the-dark.jpg

Amazing to think that when the first film in the Pink Panther series was made, it was intended as a vehicle for its top-billed star David Niven. Wisely, director Blake Edwards realized the true star of the show was the bumbling French policeman Inspector Clouseau, as embodied by the brilliant Peter Sellers. So, they rushed another film into production (it was released in the States a mere three months after The Pink Panther) and comedy greatness was born. Ever the sport, Sellers quite literally threw himself into the part, crashing and stumbling through his investigation of murder and mangling the English language each step of the way. Try as they might to recapture the fire of this first sequel, nothing quite matched the freewheeling spirit of A Shot in the Dark. —Robert Ham


79. Step Brothers (2008)
Director:   Adam McKay  

step-brothers.jpg

If we’re judging in terms of pure quotability, the only comedy film of the last 20 years to even exist in the same solar system as Step Brothers is Anchorman. What does this say of us as viewers? That we’re all still schoolyard kids who chuckle at fart jokes, perhaps, but that doesn’t make the fart jokes any less funny. Step Brothers is perhaps the finest distillation of the post-2000s man-child comedy subset, taken to the illogical extreme. Its two central characters are each in their 40s, and equally incapable of taking the barest shred of responsibility for their lives outside of the protective cocoon of home. Brennan (Will Ferrell) doesn’t understand where a person might go in order to obtain toilet paper when they run out. Dale (John C. Reilly) erroneously believes he can inherit his father’s “family business” of being a medical doctor. The characters are so exaggeratedly helpless that the film somehow manages to achieve hilarious punchlines toward the end simply by showing them forced to adapt to the mundanity of normal life—what other film could turn “taking baby Aspirin to reduce my risk for heart attack” into a genuinely laugh-out-loud moment? But more than anything, Step Brothers is what happens when you simply let two of the finest comic actors of a generation play off each other and improvise to their heart’s content, with a rare form of chemistry that would be impossible to fake. The brilliant supporting work from the likes of Richard Jenkins and Adam Scott are simply bonuses. —Jim Vorel


78. Coming to America (1988)
Director: John Landis

coming-to-america.jpg

If this movie consisted of the barbershop scenes inside of My-T-Sharp and nothing else, it would still be one of the greatest comedies of all time. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall teamed up with director John Landis (Blues Brothers) and created a classic. As Prince Akeem from the fictional African country of Zamunda, Murphy travels to the great United States of America to evade his arranged marriage and find true love (in Queens, obviously). Akeem encounters all of the wonders of black America, but the satirical twist is genius—the black preacher (via Hall as the incomparable Reverend Brown), the club scene, the barbershop, hip-hop culture, and Soul Glo—it’s all here. Cameos from actors like Cuba Gooding Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Louie Anderson, and Murphy’s Trading Places co-stars Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy take the Coming to America experience to a whole new level. An excellent comedy and a great tribute to New York City, this story of a prince just looking to be loved is a must-see for everyone—including those of us who’ve already seen it. —Shannon Houston


77. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Director: John Hughes

planes-trains.jpg

Anyone who’s ever endured holiday traffic on their way home for Thanksgiving can relate to this John Hughes tale—although hopefully you’ve never had to endure the sheer number of transportation mishaps (not to mention some accidental spooning) Neal Page and Del Griffith go through. Planes, Trains and Automobiles pits a petulant Steve Martin (Neal) against the usually mirthful John Candy (Del) as they travel home for the holidays. Weather and time are stacked up against them, so they end up traveling together with some disastrous results. Of course, nothing goes according to plan as Thanksgiving gets closer and closer. —Bonnie Stiernberg and Pete Mercer


76. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
Director: Jake Kasdan

walk-hard.jpg

Although Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story claims to be a spoof of biopics and their extreme depictions of artists—especially musicians—biopics’ exaggerations are a reflection of the frailties and eccentricities of the artists which they profile, so it’s hard to distinguish a satire about biopics from a satire about musicians. Regardless of what category the film falls into, Walk Hard does not really tow the fine line of being clever so much as it provides a fun and absurd romp with heaps of laughs. John C. Reilly, who plays rising and troubled music star Dewey Cox, skillfully presents a dopey-yet-conniving and shallow-but-sincere character with a heart of fool’s gold. Looking something like Johnny Cash crossed with Tom Waits, Cox has multiple addictions, wives and musical phases. Aspiring to a level beyond greatness after he accidentally kills his brother by splitting him in half with a machete when they are young boys growing up in Alabama, Cox is compelled to compensate for the loss of his brother, leading to a life of excess and indulgence. But Reilly isn’t the only star of the film. Kristen Wiig shines as Cox’s frustrated wife and the mother of their seemingly infinite amount of children; as Cox’s other frustrated wife and duet partner, Jenna Fischer is superb. Tim Meadows is hysterical with a stand out performance as Cox’s bandmate who can’t seem to stop doing or introducing Cox to increasingly heavy drugs. Additionally, cameos from Jack White (Elvis Presley), Jack Black (Paul McCartney), Paul Rudd (John Lennon), Jason Schwartzman (Ringo Starr), Justin Long (George Harrison), Eddie Vedder, Jackson Browne and Lyle Lovett make the film even more ridiculous. Like most films of its ilk, Walk Hard may go too over-the-top to prove itself, but there is something charming about it, underscored by its genuine love of music and affinity for musicians. It is also obvious from one of the first lines in the film (“Guys, I need Cox!”) that this project neither takes itself too seriously nor asks the same of its viewers. —Pamela Chelin

Recently in Movies
More from Best Comedies