The ten greatest comedy films ever 


This is our personal choice of the ten greatest comedy films ever made. Of course, what is and isn't funny is entirely a matter of personal taste, but to achieve greatness, a comedy should either offer laughs like you've never had, or it should offer something more than laughs.

Please see the ones that just missed out (our highly commended page at the bottom). In the meantime, if you think your list is better, please email julien@orsonwelles.co.uk. Any contributions to the debate are most welcome.


10   modern times (Charles Chaplin, 1936)

Chaplin's satirical masterpiece uses slapstick, lightness of touch and poetry to portray a deep and justified apprehension of the capitalist age. Includes a magnificent performance by the stunning Paulette Goddard and some of Chaplin's most trenchant humour. Contributed to Chaplin's reputation as a communist, which misapprehension the film directly pokes fun at in the celebrated flag-carrying scene.

 

9   blazing saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974)

Only by being as funny as it is, does this bizarre send up of racism in the Old West escape the opprobrium it deserves. Completely outrageous and magnificently well-observed western parody with more quotable scenes than almost any other. "-Rape, murder, arson and rape. -You said rape twice. -I like rape."; "All right. We'll give some land to the niggers and the chinks. But we don't want the Irish."; "Never mind that shit. Here comes Mongo!" etc

 

8   raising arizona (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1987)

The Coens' flair for language and tragicomedy makes this modern screwball farce about a couple's desire for a child truly memorable.  A film full of cruelty and tenderness that manages to make heartache hilarious.   

 

7   kind hearts and coronets (Robert Hamer, 1939)

English class comedy aeons ahead of its time and crackling with the most deliciously vicious dialogue. "I must admit he exhibits the most extraordinary capacity for middle age that I've ever encountered in a young man of twenty-four."; "It is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms." Like Michael Winner's Death Wish scripted by Oscar Wilde.  Alec Guinness takes 7 roles and underplays all of them to comic perfection.

 

6  south park: bigger, longer and uncut (Trey Parker, 1999)

The only film in the list more offensive than both Blazing Saddles and Kind Hearts and Coronets, it's also the best film musical for 20 years, since Bob Fosse's All That Jazz. Toe tappers include "What Would Brian Boitano Do?"; "Uncle Fucker"; "It's Easy Mmm'kay?". A surreal Pythonesque foul-mouthed treat.

 

5  monty python's the meaning of life (Terry Jones, 1983)

A thrown together mish-mash of material which none of the cast could agree about and John Cleese still hates, this actually sees the Monty Python team at the summit of their art.  Every Sperm is Sacred, Mr Creosote, Sexual Reproduction classes, Permanent Assurance and of course, the live organ donor. Fun for all the family.

 

4  his girl friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)

A re-imagining of Ben Hecht's classic play about journalism, The Front Page, this scores a perfect hit by changing one of the two leads into a woman. Rosalind Russell joins Carole Lombard and Diane Keaton in our list of unforgettable female comedy performances. The fastest and sassiest comedy ever, it doesn't give you time to breathe between laughs.

 

3  dr strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)

Tackling surely the hardest subject for comedy (nuclear armageddon) this is still the most powerful of all satirical films by being the funniest. Peter Sellers gives three memorable comic performances in one film, though George C Scott almost steals it by playing it chillingly straight as the deliciously named General Turgidson.

 

2  love and death (Woody Allen, 1975)

Woody Allen's career-long mockery of intellectualism finds its apotheosis here. A spoof of Tolstoy, Bergman and even Vietnam war films. This benefits from setting the silliness inside Ghislain Cloquet's phenomenal cinematography and a Prokofiev score.  Diane Keaton shines.  Allen's funniest picture, which really is saying something.

 

1  to be or not to be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)

Deserves the tag of greatness just for being made at all.  Jokes about Poles fleeing Nazis and concentration camps in 1942... Unites two of the finest comedy performances in one film: Jack Benny teaching comedians for evermore what timing is, and Carole Lombard incandescent. One of the greatest films ever made, not to mention one of the funniest.


highly commended