I was encouraged to submit reasons for choices and did so, so with that in mind here is my list of top 10 comedies with my feelings/thoughts on the movies.
Also, I decided to go for films I really, really like rather than just choose films that are objectively better and I only had 10 to choose so please don’t remind me that films aren’t in there. I know they aren’t, I wrote this list.
MY TOP 10 COMEDY FILMS
“There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh, sometimes that’s all they’ve got”.
In fact, almost everything written & directed by Preston Sturges could have made my list. Sadly, he isn’t that well known amongst the general viewing public in the UK and seems more enthused about by cinephiles, which is a shame as he is far more accessible and enjoyable than his current pedestal suggests.
In Sullivan’s Travels a filmmaker wants to make a serious film instead of all his light comedies, against the advice of everyone he knows, and gets into all manner of scrapes trying to experience misery so he can write from a position of understanding.
Sullivan’s Travels is a perfect blend of riotous comedy set pieces, snappy dialogue and the dramatic. It is cleverly liberal, subtle yet clear in its politics and, most importantly, incredibly funny. The scene where the chain gang visit the Black Church is incredibly powerful and seems (in retrospect) years ahead of its time and the opening 9 minute scene which is practically all in one shot is a master class in writing, acting and directing comedy.
There isn’t a bad bit in it. There isn’t a duff performance, joke that falls flat or set piece that doesn’t deliver the goods. It’s the sort of film that I never tire of watching and is also my segue film to get reticent people into black and white films. Incredibly watchable and re-watchable it is tightly and cleverly scripted, expertly performed from all involved and includes a number of brilliant cameos.
03: The Castle
A true Gem. An incredible little film full of excellent characters, brilliant performances and wonderful dialogue with catchphrases and running jokes. A realistic plot and mock free approach to the working classes and underdogs helps give the film an emotional core that elicits genuine concern for the plight of the Carrigan Family, you really care what happens to them. A feel good movie that isn’t shit but actually leaves you feeling good, which is a real rarity. The camera is static apart from about 6 shots. You don’t need to be unduly flashy when you have a solid story and acting &writing quality like this.
04: Office Space
UK TV’s The Office is good, sure, but I never had a David Brent as a boss. All my bosses were Lumbaugh. This is the movie that has best summed up my experiences of work when I had a ‘proper’ job and I know from showing to loads of people that I am not alone. “It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care” should be the mantra of every office worker with a soul. Really funny even if you haven’t done dead end data entry, the film even manages to survive having Jennifer Anniston in it. Really Funny.
Written by and Starring Weird Al Yankovic, UHF is a very silly but clever film about a cable channel that become the most popular Channel in town thanks to Stanley Spadowski’s Fun House, a kids show hosted by the station’s Janitor played by Michael Richards. A gleeful celebration and satire of American TV that was so accurate people apparently didn’t know it was all a joke when it was first released. This is a film that I loved as a child and that has always made me laugh as I have rewatched it through the years. There is always a reference or joke that you didn’t notice the last time. It features incredibly funny spoofs of films, in jokes, sight gags, musical numbers, romance & action. The jokes come thick and fast and the whole film is an incredibly fun watch from start to finish. The Spatula City bit on its own is funnier than most comedies made in the last 10 years
06: Withnail & I
Difficult to add any more praise to this already beloved film. A lesser filmmaker would have turned this into a maudlin study in introspection instead of the gloriously unabashed celebration of a hope, boredom, drunkenness and failure.
Incredibly well acted with a marvellous script that has plenty of unexpected opportunities to get massive laughs from situations without betraying the realism of the characters or their setting, everyone involved in this project either in front of or behind the camera comes out of it incredibly well.
A very British film in the best tradition of Iconic, memorable & outstanding British Filmmaking
Growing up this was my ideal comedy movie. Rik Mayall & Adrian Edmonson AND Peter Cook. Add to that an amazing turn by Nicholas Bloody Parsons playing himself, expert direction by Stephen Frears, an anarchically off kilter script and the best drunk acting ever put on screen, Mr. Jolly is an immensely quotable, hugely enjoyable piece of comedy carnage. Also, if you bought this on VHS it came in a double bill with Dirty Movie. Brilliant!
08: Galaxy Quest
An incredibly joyful and funny film full of fantastic characters, performed brilliantly by the impressive ensemble cast with a script that provides exciting and convincing action & adventure as well as a continual stream of good gags, set pieces and excellent dialogue. It manages to fully delve into the world of Sci-Fi, actors & Space Battles without being just for boys or alienating anyone for whom that world is a mystery. It knows its subject matter inside out, but beyond that it’s really funny, accessible and a joy to watch. It’s also the film that showed us that Sam Rockwell wasn’t just a huge talent but a star in the making. Seriously, it’s great.
09: Back to School
Much better than Caddyshack in so many ways, but mainly in being the best vehicle to showcase the comedy of talents of Rodney Dangerfield who is by far one of the best comedians of all time. A self-made millionaire divorced from his cheating wife, he decides to enrol at his son’s college to get an education and, naturally, all manner of shenanigans ensues as he tries to buy his way through school, date his English teacher and reconnect with his son. Doesn’t sound like much of a movie but Back to School’s success is (a) the appeal of the always watchable, loveable and hilarious Dangerfield and (b) it is chock full of proper jokes and really, really funny from start to finish
10: Dirty Work
Objectively, this is hardly a technical or cinematic masterpiece. In fact, your enjoyment of this film will be entirely down to whether you like Norm MacDonald or not. I happen to be a massive fan. His weekend updates on SNL were great, his Burt Reynolds in the Jeopardy Sketches is fantastic and his comedy albums are brilliant. This film about a revenge for hire business co-stars Don Rickles, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley and Chevy Chase (pre-Community resurrection). It is incredibly puerile, infantile and stupid – however, it fulfils the main requirement I have for a comedy which is that it makes me laugh continually from the minute it starts to the minute it ends.