10. Airplane! (1980)
This hysterical satirical parody picture from the triple threat producer/director/writer team of Jim Abrahams, and David and Jerry Zucker is their undisputed wacky masterwork. Blowing the raspberry at the disaster film genre, namely such populist hits as Zero Hour! (1957), Earthquake! (1974), and Towering Inferno (1974), Airplane! is best remembered for its lightening-paced slapstick, sight gags and verbal puns. The jokes are juvenile and quite often corny, but the unremitting messing around pays off repeatedly, ensuring that Airplane! is terrifically impossible not to enjoy.
9. Young Frankenstein (1974)
Certainly the most balanced and consistently brilliant film from the prolific and witty writer-director comic legend Mel Brooks, this black-and-white horror spoof, Young Frankenstein, takes on the Mary Shelley classic with winning results. Gene Wilder is genius as the famed cutting-edge brain surgeon Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, who has returned to his family’s castle in Transylvania. Brooks’ cleverly inserts his requisite singing and dancing, playful puns, sexy innuendo, and more, in a movie that moves from silly spoof to serious homage with energy and joy.
8. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
No list of great comedies is worth a lick if it doesn’t include a film featuring the witty and whimsical Cary Grant, and the Howard Hawks classic Bringing Up Baby doubles not just as one of Grant’s finest funny performances but also as the definitive screwball comedy. The lively, anarchic energy, and rapid-fire dialogue, so sublimely suggesting all sorts of sexual innuendo without being outrightly naughty, that binds Bringing Up Baby is brought to dazzling life by its leads, Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Of all the films to be made during the Golden Age of Hollywood it’s easy to see why it is that the comedies have all aged the best, and with the timeless japing, drollery, ridiculous repartee, not to mention the blunt physicality of Grant in particular, Bringing Up Baby is one for the ages.
7. Withnail and I (1987)
Easily the archetypal British cult comedy, writer-director Bruce Robinson’s semi-autobiographical eulogy to unemployment and acquaintanceship, Withnail and I, is a tiny tour de force. Set in a dog-eared Camden-Town flat at the ass-end of the 1960s, Withnail and I fixates on two actors on the dole, and their attempts to return to form. Numerous drinking games accompany the film, a witness to its prestige. Anyone who’s ever struggled, said goodbye to a friend, or gone on a regrettable drinking binge, can find familiarity with this wonderful, witty, and humanly relevant picture.
6. The Big Lebowski (1998)
As the Dude in question, Jeff Bridges will be forever identified as the personable pothead, who’s Raymond Chandler-inspired exploration to nowhere has spawned one of the most fervid fanbases around, and it’s easy to see why. The eccentric characters that the Dude encounters, the brilliantly inspired cast includes Steve Buscemi, Flea, John Goodman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, John Turturro, and many more, in vignette fashion across L.A. and environs, pay careful homage to film noir conventions, along with the witty repartee, dangerous dealings, and unconventional, almost stream of logic maneuverings, making for a verifiable comedic masterwork.
5. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Arguably Stanley Kubrick’s finest film, or maybe at least a close second to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb takes a decidedly unfunny premise, in this case the end of the world brought upon by nuclear conflict, and turns it into some of the funniest frames ever wed to celluloids. Boldly sserting that nuclear war is inevitable, Kubrick presents comedic tragedy and builds it to ascension, largely owing to Peter Sellers in three uproarious roles, and the knife-edged satire all but mushrooms forth from there. Loosely adapted from Peter George’s 1958 novel 'Red Alert' by the brilliant Terry Southern, this is easily one of the greatest black comedies ever made.
4. Annie Hall (1977)
Extolling love while simultaneously pushing it away, Woody Allen, with Annie Hall, made the template that all romantic comedies would aspire to forever afterwards. Certainly sentimental, Annie Hall is also bleak, meta, moving, complex, and artful. It’s the perfect distillation of Allen’s work as a writer, director, and actor, and his muse, Diane Keaton, gives one of the great comedic performances of all time. Certainly the film Allen and Keaton will be most remembered by, Annie Hall was something of a phenomenon when it was initially released and it remains one of the most quirky, quotable and highly valued American films of the 1970s.
3. This is Spinal Tap (1984)
Rob Reiner’s 1984 cult comedy classic This is Spinal Tap has to be near the top of this list… and why not? Easily one of the greatest American comedies ever made, Reiner’s zeitgeist defining mockumentary is also one of the most quotable films around. The improvisational master class lead by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer truly astounds, as does brilliant comic turns from the likes of Bruno Kirby, Paul Shaffer, Tony Hendra, Fran Drescher, and June Chadwick amongst others. The music is as funny as it is furious, at times, and the satire so sharp many on its initial release didn’t grasp it and others were convinced that Tap was a real band.
2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Is there a more quotable comedy than the side-splitting, pants-pissing, so-funny-it-hurts tour de force, Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Considered to be the British troupe’s first film proper, it was comprised of sketches previously seen on their Flying Circus television show, the Holy Grail soared to cult status celebrity almost as soon as it opened in theaters in 1975. Hence the ritualised repeat-viewing audience, ready to sing and shout along in ultra-clever faux English accent. A classic comedy, as absurd as it is uproarious.
1. Duck Soup (1933)
In truth, the top spot of this list could be almost any Marx Brothers film as pretty much every other movie on this list wouldn’t be here at all were it not for the massive influence and groundbreaking hilarity that Minnie’s boys brought to the silver screen and popular culture at large. But it may well be that 1933’s Duck Soup best exemplifies their remarkable work, displaying the legacy of what these quipping, singing, teasing, endlessly ribbing siblings did best as here they bring it all down upon the mythical country of Freedonia. Often considered by film scholars and fans to be the Marx Brothers’ finest film, Duck Soup earns its stripes in part, of course, to the manic brothers, to their great “straight woman” Margaret Dumont, but also to the original music from Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby.