Best Comedies
Photograph: Time Out

The 100 best comedy movies: the funniest films of all time

Giggle along with our list of the best funny movies like ‘Borat’ and ‘Mean Girls’, as chosen by Time Out writers and top comedians

Phil de SemlyenMatthew Singer
Written by: Matthew Singer
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Comedy gets no respect, no respect at all. Sure, everyone loves to laugh, and just about every film buff has a comedy movie they hold close to their heart. But for some reason, when it comes to awards and canonisation, comedies still get short shrift in the history of cinema. That’s probably because, more than any other genre, comedy is dependent on context. What’s funny in 1924 might land with a thud in 2024. And that’s to say nothing of varying tastes in humour. 

That makes coming up with the best comedy films of all time especially tricky. We had to ask ourselves: what makes a truly great comedy? There’s many criteria, but one of the most important is the question of: ‘Is this film still funny now, and will it still be funny five years, ten years… a century from now?’ With the help of comedians like Diane Morgan and Russell Howard, actors such as John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker and a small army of Time Out writers, we believe we’ve found the 100 finest, most durable and most broadly appreciable laughers in history. No matter your sense of humour - silly or sophisticated, light or dark, surreal or broad - you’ll find it represented here. 

Recommended:

🔥 The 100 best movies of all-time
🥰 The greatest romantic comedies of all time
😬 The best thriller films of all-time
🌏 The best foreign films of all-time

Best comedy movies of all time

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  • Comedy

‘What’re the hours?’

Director: Rob Reiner

Cast: Christopher Guest, Rob Reiner

You're asking, how much more funny could this be? And the answer is none. None more funny. Yes, our experts have cast their votes and the winner by a clear margin is Rob Reiner's genre-setting mockumentary – or, if you will, rockumentary – about England's largest-livin', heaviest-riffin', filthiest-lyric-singin', biggest-hair-havin', fluffiest-jumper-ownin' heavy rock combo. Sporting arguably the most quotable script in movie history ('no... these ones go to eleven') and some of the meatiest metal melodies this side of Bon Scott-era AC/DC, this is simply a perfect film: from the first chord of 'Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight' to the very final line ('I dunno, what are the hours?'), there's literally nothing about it that could be improved.

It also, lest we forget, defined an entire genre, accidentally inventing everything from The Office to The Blair Witch Project (not to mention lead axe-man Christopher Guest's entire subsequent career). Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer would keep gigging as Spinal Tap for three decades – proof that they were so much more than just a joke band in a funny movie. Spinal Tap: for those about to rock, we salute you.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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Airplane! (1980)
Airplane! (1980)

‘Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.’

Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty

‘Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?’ A movie that raises belly laughs after countless viewings, this was the second film (after 1977’s Kentucky Fried Movie) from Jim Abraham and the Zucker brothers, who went on to make the Naked Gun and Hot Shots movies. Overflowing with on-target visual gags and one-liners, it’s a playful and deeply silly spoof of 1970s disaster movies and stars Robert Hays as a troubled ex-pilot forced to land an airliner when the real pilot collapses from food poisoning. Leslie Nielsen steals the film as an onboard doctor. Just don’t call him Shirley.

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Dave Calhoun
Chief Content Officer, North America & UK
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Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)

‘He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy.’

Director: Terry Jones

Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin

The Pythons’ second feature is their masterpiece. The story is rooted in purest farce, as the Three Wise Men arrive at the wrong manger and unsuspecting everyman Brian Cohen is declared the Messiah. He duly bumbles alongside The Greatest Story Ever Told, ending the film on a Calvary Cross for a reluctant chorus of ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.

What a dizzying achievement this is. The Life of Brian takes potshots at everything from schoolroom Latin to Biblical epics (most of which it shames with its attention to period detail) and religious hypocrisy – but, crucially, never religion itself. Needless to say, this didn’t stop predictable accusations of blasphemy.

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Annie Hall (1977)
Annie Hall (1977)

‘I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me as a member.’

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

'Annie Hall' is as Woody Allen as Woody Allen gets – hilarious, neurotic and occupied by the realisation that whatever happens, life is going to trample all over you. It’s also one of the greatest romantic comedies every made (with some of the funniest lines: ‘Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love’). Allen is Alvy Singer, who’s just split from scatty singer Annie (Diane Keaton, his real-life ex). What follows is an anatomy of their relationship. Allen has said that the film is not autobiographical – he co-wrote it with Marshall Brickman – but that’s not what we want to hear.

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Groundhog Day (1993)
Groundhog Day (1993)

‘I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life.’ 

Director: Harold Ramis

Cast: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell 

Bill Murray gives his most iconic performance as a grumpy, self-absorbed Pennsylvania weatherman who, by some inexplicable cosmic glitch, is forced to live the same day over and over and over and over (and over and over and over and over…) until he learns to look outside himself and let a little love into his heart. Enough movies and TV shows (Palm Springs and Russian Doll, to name two) have lifted the time-loop concept to explore similar themes, usually with a heavier hand. But Groundhog Day remains the gold standard by taking a more lighthearted approach that nonetheless manages to deliver a poignant message about the things that really matter.

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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The Jerk (1979)
The Jerk (1979)

'There's something I want to say that's always been very difficult for me to say: "I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit".'

Director: Carl Reiner

Cast: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters 

When people claim that certain movies ‘couldn’t get made today’, it’s usually just anti-woke grumbling from humourless dolts. But it is a bit hard to imagine many contemporary films opening with a plainly white derelict sitting in a stairwell and proclaiming ‘I was born a poor Black child’. So begins one of the most brilliantly stupid comedies ever. Of course, high-concept stupidity was Steve Martin’s raison d’etre as a standup, and his turn as a spectacularly guileless twentysomething orphan – adopted by African-American sharecroppers as a child – leaving home to discover himself and his ‘special purpose’ made him a bona fide movie star. 

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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Withnail & I (1987)
Withnail & I (1987)

‘I feel like a pig shat in my head!’

Director: Bruce Robinson

Cast: Richard E Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths

The funniest parts of Withnail & I are the early scenes, when, festering in a Camden flat resembling the inside of a cancerous lung, Withnail and Marwood stumble towards the end of an epic speed and booze bender. There are delirious flights of fancy, bouts of druggy nonsense (‘my thumbs have gone weird’), an abortive attempt to clean the kitchen and a cherishable visit from terrifying drug dealer Danny (Ralph Brown). Later, though, tragedy looms large – and Withnail’s despairing traipse through rain-sodden Regent’s Park ranks among the most heartbreaking closing scenes in all cinema. 

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Team America: World Police (2004)
Team America: World Police (2004)

‘I’ve got five terrorists going south-east on Bakalakadaka Street!’

Directors: Trey Parker, Matt Stone

Cast: Trey Parker, Matt Stone

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had no idea what they were taking on when they decided to make a Thunderbirds-style puppet movie about the War on Terror. A year of 20-hour days later – Stone described it as ‘the worst time of my life’ – the film was unleashed, and justified every minute of the duo’s hard work. As concerned with skewering the twin pomposities of mainstream action cinema and liberal Hollywood as it is with the terrorist armies of Durkadurkastan and North Korea, the film borders on genius in its self-aware use of wooden marionettes, particularly in the notorious sex scene. Even Matt Damon thinks it’s funny.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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Duck Soup (1933)
Duck Soup (1933)

‘I could dance with you till the cows come home. But I’d rather dance with the cows till you come home.’

Director: Leo McCarey

Cast: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx

What to say when a film is creeping towards its first century but still feels as timely, relevant and subversive as it did on release? The Marx Brothers’s best movie, Duck Soup takes them far out of their New York music hall milieu and into a kind of twisted miniature Mittel-Europa filtered through immigrant memory and fairytales, where war is brewing between the proud people of Freedonia and the crypto-fascists of neighbouring Sylvania. With a far lighter touch than Chaplin’s Great Dictator, the film lampoons not just fascism but patriotism and politics in general: this is satire deployed both with a sledgehammer and a scalpel, often in the same scene.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

'Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!’

Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones

Cast: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Michael Palin

We all love Monty Python’s slapstick savaging of the legend of King Arthur, but we always forget about the llamas: according to the credits, Holy Grail was the creation of Reg Llama of Brixton, and thousands of his llama friends across the world (as well as Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones). Well, Reg and co. created a masterpiece. With its Bergman-ribbing credit sequence, its one-liners and its extravagantly gruesome violence, Holy Grail was Python’s launchpad to international stardom. Neil Innes’s music and Gilliam’s animations are touchstones for British absurdist humour, while the late Graham Chapman, playing it straight as King Arthur, was never finer. 

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Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

‘When you chase a dream, especially one with plastic chests, you sometimes do not see what is right in front of you.’

Director: Larry Charles

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian

No one who saw Borat should claim to have been surprised by the election of Donald Trump, or the general social climate of the country today. Spinning off from his brilliant Channel 4 and HBO series, prankster genius Sacha Baron Cohen criss-crosses the United States in the guise of Kazakhstani journalist Borat Sagdiyev, saying and doing offensive things which, in turn, causes the real-life Americans he interacts with to say and do things that are even more offensive, precisely because they are real. In terms of committing to the role, Baron Cohen outworks any Method actor you can think of; last we checked, Jared Leto does not have a naked hotel brawl on his résumé. 

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Big Lebowski (1998)

‘That’s just, like, your opinion, man.’

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Cast: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore

For its strongest adherents, The Big Lebowski is as much a lifestyle as a movie. If the number of fans who show up to repertory screenings and country-wide ‘Lebowski Fests’ wearing bathrobes and flip-flops is any indication, there is a sizable demographic that has modelled itself after Jeffrey Lebowski, aka ‘the Dude’, Jeff Bridges’ perpetually unbothered slacker philosopher. And hey, why not? It’s one of the truly iconic performances of all-time. Bridges almost seems to float through the entire movie, even as a case of mistaken identity lands him and his bowling buddies in the crosshairs of a gang of criminal nihilists, and there’s hardly a line of dialogue that doesn’t deserve to be endlessly quoted. 

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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The Naked Gun (1988)
The Naked Gun (1988)

‘I promise you: whatever scum did this, not one man on this force will rest one minute until he’s behind bars. Now let’s grab a bite to eat.’

Director: David Zucker

Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, OJ Simpson

Second only to Airplane! in the gag-for-gag hit-rate stakes, The Naked Gun never met a dumb pun, slapstick pratfall or deadpan one-liner it didn’t like. The film made Leslie Nielsen a bigger star than he’d ever been playing straight-man roles in ‘proper’ disaster movies – though it has to be said, he tossed away that goodwill almost immediately in the likes of Dracula: Dead and Loving It – and spawned a fistful of sequels, of which the first is well worth watching for the amazing ‘awfully big moustache’ line alone.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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‘Hey, want to hear the most annoying sound in the world? ARGHHHGHHHER...’

Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels

Imagine the contents of your hyperactive little brother’s brain splatted on to a TV screen and you have Dumb & Dumber. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels star as a pair of stupendously stupid no-hopers who head on a road trip across America to return a woman’s briefcase. Unapologetically gross-out, the movie’s a mulch of butt jokes, toilet jokes, snot jokes and sex jokes. It’s totally regressive but in a whoops-just-snorted-my-drink-everywhere-laughing kind of way.

Kate Lloyd
Contributing writer
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Some Like It Hot (1959)
Some Like It Hot (1959)

‘Real diamonds! They must be worth their weight in gold!’

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis star as Jerry and Joe, two musicians who are forced to flee Chicago after witnessing the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre and disguise themselves as female members of a band travelling to Florida. Joe falls for the band’s seductive singer, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), while Jerry has to fight off the lusty attentions of a wealthy old man. Billy Wilder delivers a pacy, racy cross-dressing farce, full of gags and sauce.

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Dave Calhoun
Chief Content Officer, North America & UK
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Trading Places (1983)
Trading Places (1983)

‘It ain’t cool being no jive turkey so close to Thanksgiving.’

Director: John Landis

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis

America’s love-hate relationship with capitalism has rarely been more cannily explored than in this sadistic fairytale of two conniving businessmen who decide to replace one of their finest employees – Harvard elitist Dan Akyroyd – with Eddie Murphy’s sharp-witted street bum. The image of Aykroyd, drunk and suicidal in a Santa suit on Christmas Eve, says more about the realities (and brutalities) of Wall Street than a hundred financial-crash docs – and means that when he and his erstwhile rival pull together for the big climactic switcheroo, you’re firmly in their corner.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

‘Please. Have mercy. I’ve been wearing the same underwear since Tuesday.’

Director: John Hughes

Cast: Steve Martin, John Candy, Laila Robins, Michael McKean

An underdog contender for the best film in John Hughes’ beloved oeuvre, Planes, Trains & Automobiles isn’t just a Thanksgiving movie. It is the Thanksgiving movie. But it’s not just that, either. Even if the holiday doesn’t exist where you live, its themes resonate: everyone has people they’d go through hell to get home to – and if you don’t, you recognise the loneliness that sits just outside the movie’s zany core. It helps, of course, that Steve Martin and John Candy are an unbeatable comic dream team: hilarious when arguing in cramped hotel rooms and burned-out rental cars, and emotionally devastating in the film’s tearjerking final moments. 

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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Dr Strangelove: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
Dr Strangelove: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)

‘Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!’

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Peter Sellers, George C Scott, Sterling Hayden

Stanley Kubrick only made one comedy but when that one is Dr. Strangelove, what’s the point of even trying another? Seizing upon Cold War anxieties and dripping with cynicism, and initially intended as a serious thriller, based on the Peter George novel ‘Red Alert’, it wrings nervous laughter from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Comedies are rarely so boldly scathing. Even rarer? Peter Sellers’ all-timer triple-threat performance as British RAF officer Lionel Mandrake, American President Merkin Muffley and the titular ‘ex’-Nazi scientist. If there were a comedy Mount Rushmore, three of the heads might just be dedicated to those incredible turns. 

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

‘Apparently my son was on something called acid, and was shooting a bow and arrow into a crowd.’

Director: Adam McKay

Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd


Will Ferrell stepped up from the big-boned manchild of Zoolander and Elf to musky, manly movie star in a film that recalls a simpler, polyester time. A time when a man was not judged by the contents of his character but on the raw, unchecked ferocity of his cologne, the lustre of his moustache and the quantity of leather-bound books that lined the mahogany shelves of his apartment. But although everyone is ultimately in the shadow of the glistening chestnut bombast of Ron’s towering hair, Anchorman is very much an ensemble effort, and everyone brings their A-game to the bullpen.

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Four Lions (2010)
Four Lions (2010)

‘Rubber-dinghy rapids, bro!’

Director: Chris Morris

Cast: Riz Ahmed, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak

This first (and so far only) feature from British TV and radio comedian Chris Morris dared to mock the stupidity of homegrown British jihadis in the wake of 2005’s terror attacks on London. Framed as a slapstick sitcom and built on solid satirical foundations, Morris and his co-writers based much of their script on evidence and court transcripts relating to real cases of DIY terrorism. In the years since, the film has become a regular reference point in the news as life – tragically and comically – continues to imitate art.

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Dave Calhoun
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‘For what we are about to see next, we must enter quietly into the realm of genius.’

Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle

Mel Brooks’s finest genre parody succeeds as a hilarious send-up because it’s also a love letter to the classic 1930s Frankenstein movies. As the old Baron’s grandson (co-writer Gene Wilder) brings the family business back to life, Brooks milks the familiar material to the point of absurdity – notably when Wilder performs a tuxedo-ed song-and-dance duo to prove his monster (Peter Boyle) is a civilised creation. The knockabout is great fun, but knowing the originals only increases one’s appreciation. 

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‘Don’t cross the streams!’

Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd

When New York is invaded by ghastly ghouls, who you gonna call? You know the answer: four self-styled Ghostbusters ready to dash in and zap the spirits into oblivion. Much of this sci-fi-comedy’s charm lies in its have-a-go-heroes: these underdogs are thrown into the spotlight with delightful results. Bill Murray’s deadpan, womanising scientist is an undoubted highlight, while Rick Moranis brings crazy character humour as the dork living in the most haunted building in Manhattan. 

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Tootsie (1982)
Tootsie (1982)

‘I have a name. It’s Dorothy. Not Tootsie or Toots or Sweetie or Honey or Doll.’ ‘Oh, Christ!’ ‘No, just Dorothy.’

Director: Sidney Pollack

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Bill Murray

Sure, this is Dustin Hoffman’s show – he’s the gut in a dress, after all. But it’s Bill Murray who sticks in the memory: the source of most of the film’s big laughs and a goodly portion of its soul. Looking back, the concept of a guy dressing up as a woman to get a better job is a vaguely uncomfortable one, and its approach to feminism is badly out-dated. But the performances still shine, the script still sparkles and director Sydney Pollack’s smooth ’80s style still charms. Now hang on while I fix my lippy.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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Play It Again, Sam (1972)
Play It Again, Sam (1972)

'No, my parents never got divorced. Although I begged them to.’

Director: Herbert Ross

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts

Woody Allen establishes his on-screen persona as a haplessly neurotic would-be lover in this sparkling adaptation of his 1969 Broadway play, where he’s a movie critic so obsessed by Casablanca that he’s conjured up an imaginary Humphrey Bogart to dispense hard-boiled wisdom. Bogey’s kiss-or-kill strategies couldn’t be less appropriate, which is where the fun starts, and Diane Keaton makes a most appealing romantic foil as events head to a wittily achieved airport finale with deliciously misappropriated classic movie dialogue.

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'Help me I'm poor...'

Director: Paul Feig

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy

Bridesmaids is way more than just a lads comedy with the genders switched. Sure, there are some of the bad-taste trappings, but it more than outgrows them with its silly-but-smart script and the lively direction from Freaks and Geeks legend Paul Feig. Even better, though, is the note-perfect casting. Kristen Wiig's performance as Annie is raucously hilarious (her impersonation of a penis is a highlight), as is Rose Byrne, whose deadpan performance as Helen is severely underrated. Mostly, though, it works because the relationships between the women feel real and honest.

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The Castle (1997)
The Castle (1997)

‘Compulsorily acquired? You know what this means, don’t you… They’re acquiring it. Compulsorily.’

Director: Rob Sitch

Cast: Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry

Voted Australia’s favourite homegrown film, this modest fable about ordinary folk battling the vested interests who have issued a compulsory purchase order on their property manages the rare trick of laughing with its characters while getting significant comic mileage from their deficiencies of taste, common sense and general knowledge. The Kerrigan household aren’t the sharpest tools in the box, but their affectionate family bond creates a sense of home as something you just can’t put a price on. An irresistible feelgood charmer.

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Blazing Saddles (1974)
Blazing Saddles (1974)

‘What’s a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?’

Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Gene Wilder, Cleavon Little, Slim Pickens

‘My movies rise below vulgarity,’ Mel Brooks once quipped in the salad days of his career. Exhibit A for that claim, surely, is Blazing Saddles. A satire of Hollywood’s white-centric accounts of the American West, and told from the perspective of the first black sheriff in an all-white town, the film can be wince-inducing in the politically-charged, highly racial tone of its humour. Co-written by Richard Pryor (and co-starring Gene Wilder), it remains a riot of bad taste. John Wayne was offered a cameo role, Brooks once claimed in an interview. After reading and considering the script, the iconic Cowboy declined the opportunity. The dialogue, he said was ‘too dirty’. Amen to that.

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‘Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?’

Director: Ben Stiller

Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell

Did someone say fish in a barrel? Okay, so the fashion world isn’t exactly a challenging subject for satire but Ben Stiller’s tale of international intrigue, haute couture and ludicrous pretension has such great gags, committed performances and cod sincerity that it’s hard not to guffaw. Stiller’s Zoolander is a supermodel on the slide, threatened by up-and-comer Owen Wilson, exploited by grasping designer Will Ferrell and constrained by his gargantuan stupidity, source of most of the big laughs. But he’s also insecure, well-meaning and basically quite sweet, which makes his story all the more amiable. 

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

‘Lawrence Fells. Lawrence Feings. Forest Lorenston. Low. Lars. LARS. Lawrence. Lawrence. Luch. Lawrence. Tuh. His name is James Jesenthon. Lawrence Fell. Lawrence Jesterton. LAWRENCE JESTERTON!’

Director: Frank Oz

Cast: Steve Martin, Michael Caine, Glenne Headly

Scoundrels is the perfect description of Steve Martin and Michael Caine’s characters in this remake of 1964’s Bedtime Story. The duo play a pair of conmen who’ve been tricking the rich women of the French Riviera out of their fortunes before realising they share the same turf. Thus begins an increasingly ridiculous duel, with Caine’s buttoned-up Lawrence making the perfect foil for Martin’s goofball Freddy. Their behaviour could easily come off as mean, but by the end of the film they’ve conned you into thinking they’re loveable rogues.

Kate Lloyd
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South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

‘Hey Stan, tell them about the part where Terrence calls Phillip a testicle-shitting rectal wart.’

Director: Trey Parker

Cast: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes

What’s the greatest musical of all time? Singin’ in the Rain? Too cute. West Side Story? Too butch. Meet Me in St Louis? If Judy Garland had called Margaret O’Brien a donkey-raping shit eater, it might have stood a chance. Surely, the finest example of the musical form in cinema has to be this rites-of-passage tale of life in a quiet Colorado mountain town, where all the folks need to worry about is parking provision, bad language, gay dogs, an impending land war with Canada, Satan’s fuck-buddy Saddam, whether it really was Cartman’s mother in that German scheisse video and, of course, those goddamned Baldwins. Aw, shucks. 

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Tom Huddleston
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¡Three Amigos! (1986)
¡Three Amigos! (1986)

‘Would you say that I had a plethora of piñatas?’

Director: John Landis

Cast: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short

Pitched somewhere between Seven Samurai and The Artist (only with much bigger hats), this goofy Hollywood comedy sees three fading silent-era stars travelling to Mexico to appear at a warlord’s birthday party only to wind up leading a peasant’s revolt. It’s all deeply silly – most of the jokes come at the expense of wacky accents, donkeys and Martin Short falling over – but Alfonso Arau’s thunderous performance as the villainous El Guapo is a major treat, as is Randy Newman’s whacked-out cameo as a singing bush.

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Tom Huddleston
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‘How’s that for a slice of fried gold?’

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield

Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright emerged from the cult TV bliss of Spaced fully formed to take over the midnight-movie circuit with this daffy, hyperkinetic zom-rom-com that defined the director’s unique visual style from the get go. The quips and sight gags come a mile a minute, but the secret to Shaun’s success is in its respect for the source material: This isn’t a parody. It’s a loving homage, complete with a sly social commentary of the Romero mold lurking behind the gags and gore, both of which hit the screen with glorious frequency. There’s an effortless balance between laughs, genuine thrills and touching pathos. That it all looks so effortless is some sort of miracle. 

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A Night at the Opera (1935)
A Night at the Opera (1935)

‘I saw Mrs Claypool first. Of course, her mother really saw her first but there’s no point in bringing the Civil War into this.’

Director: Sam Wood

Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx and Harpo Marx

Even funnier than the overblown Queen album of the same name, this was the Marxes at their anarchic apogee, an excoriating dissection of snot-nosed, jazz-age, high-society wags that contained some of their most memorable comic riffs. The story, in which Groucho falls in with a moneyed has-been and has to assist a struggling opera company, plays second fiddle to an intense barrage of puns, tongue-twisters and wisecracks. Chico’s on hand, too, with his unhinged cod-Italiano witterings, while Harpo’s energetic feats of slapstick repeatedly threaten to steal the show. And if you’ve ever pondered how many people can fit into the cabin of an art deco transatlantic ocean liner, then this is the movie for you. 

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Dan Jolin
Freelance film journalist, critic and editor
  • Film

"I'll have what she's having." 

Director: Rob Reiner

Cast: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher

We love Rob Reiner and screenwriter Nora Ephron’s bar-setting romantic comedy for many reasons. We love the way it deftly weaves the witty, adult conversationality of Woody Allen into a satisfyingly familiar romcom setup. We love the leads, of course, who perfected the archetype of the clashing A and B types who are nonetheless drawn together, but we also love Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby as their instantly compatible opposites. Really, it might be the most lovable comedy ever, because it truly understands the silliness of love, and the strange, almost inexplicable ways people end up together. Just about every romcom since has been chasing it. 

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)
National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)

‘Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the fucking Peace Corps.’

Director: John Landis

Cast: John Belushi, Karen Allen, Tom Hulce

National Lampoon’s 1978 effort follows a wild fraternity of party lads, playboys and misfits put at danger of being shutdown by the dean of their straight-laced university. If that plotline sounds familiar it’s probably because it’s been aped by a whole host of college movies since, from the American Pie sequels to the recent Zac Efron film Bad Neighbours. But none of them have the same gutsy energy brought by Animal House cast members like John Belushi.

Kate Lloyd
Contributing writer
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The General (1926)
The General (1926)

There were two loves in his life: his engine and…’

Directors: Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton

Cast: Buster Keaton, Marion Mack

Viewed today, the natural reaction to Buster Keaton’s civil-war masterpiece isn’t so much laughter as sheer, jaw-on-the-floor astonishment. In a world long before health and safety, here is a man literally risking life and limb to present some of the most astonishing sight gags ever performed, from ducking cannon balls to flipping railroad ties to chucking an entire, full-size locomotive off a bridge. It’s hilarious too, of course: the birth of the chase movie, and the template for everything from the Looney Tunes cartoons to Mad Max: Fury Road

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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'So, good news...I saw a dog today.'

Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart

This story of Buddy the 'elf', a human raised in the north pole by Santa and his real elves, and his journey to find his real dad is fast becoming a festive family staple. The juxtaposition between Ferrell's Buddy, a guileless simpleton who accidentally causes havoc and destruction, and his stiff-lipped and gruff businessman of a father provides genuine moments of humour and heart. Meanwhile, director Jon Favreau delivers any cornball sentiments with an adept balance of irony and sincerity.

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Nuts In May (1976)
Nuts In May (1976)

‘“I want to see the zoo,” she said. “I want to see the zoo.”’

Director: Mike Leigh

Cast: Roger Sloman, Alison Steadman, Anthony O’Donnell

Of all the films Mike Leigh made for TV in the 1970s, this comedy about two ‘green’ middle-class Londoners who pitch up at a Dorset campsite and make fools of themselves is almost as enduring as the better known Abigail’s Party. Arriving in the countryside, priggish Keith (Roger Sloman) turns up his nose at non-free-range eggs (this was 40 years ago), while his wife Candice Marie (Alison Steadman) might not be as floaty and submissive as she first appears. Squirm, and squirm some more.

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Dave Calhoun
Chief Content Officer, North America & UK
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Coming to America (1988)
Coming to America (1988)

‘The royal penis is clean, your highness.’

Director: John Landis

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones

Just a few years after he became the biggest box-office draw in America, Eddie Murphy’s golden period was already drawing to a close. But this tale of African princes and fast-food heiresses is a scrappily suitable swansong for the Eddie we loved in the ’80s, offering his signature blend of crudity, sweetness, wit, style and vague politicking, all wrapped up in a high-concept romcom package. The highlight, though, has to be ER star Eriq LaSalle in full Jheri curl nightmare as hair product salesman Daryl. Just let your Soul Glo... 

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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The Pink Panther (1963)
The Pink Panther (1963)

‘Simone, where is my Surété Scotland Yard-type mackintosh?’

Director: Blake Edwards

Cast: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner

The first in a series of five films featuring the clumsy antics of Peter Sellers’s bungling pseudo-French detective Chief Inspector Clouseau, The Pink Panther is also the most measured, languorous and subtle of the lot. While often very funny, Sellers’s incompetent character only came to the fore from the second film, A Shot in the Dark, onwards. Consequently, anyone seeing this expecting wall-to-wall Sellers may be a mite disappointed. But hey, it knocks spots off the awful 2006 remake.

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‘Just follow your heart. That's what I do.’

Director: Jared Hess

Cast: Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Efren Ramirez

‘Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills… like bow hunting skills, computer hacking…’ It’s safe to say that lanky Idaho high schooler Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) doesn’t really understand girls – or conversation. This social misfit makes for a terrific underdog hero, and when he decides his skill is dancing, things get really funny. Look out for a hilarious turn from Efren Ramirez as Napoleon’s best friend Pedro, a transfer student running for class president. Vote for Pedro!

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His Girl Friday (1940)
His Girl Friday (1940)

‘Never mind the Chinese earthquake, take Hitler and stick him on the funny page. No, no, leave the rooster story alone – that’s human interest!’

Director: Howard Hawks

Cast: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

Where would screen comedy be without His Girl Friday? The double-edged cynicism of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s oft-adapted Broadway play The Front Page couldn’t be more modern. But director Howard Hawks had the inspired brainwave of turning the male Hildy into a female firebrand played by Rosalind Russell – detonating one of the most incendiary, yet affectionate, sex-war duels in cinema history.

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The Blues Brothers (1980)
The Blues Brothers (1980)

‘Boys, you got to learn not to talk to nuns that way.’

Director: John Landis

Cast: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd

The controversy around The Blues Brothers has been raging since its release. Is this a case of two white comedians exploiting the heroes of soul music to make themselves look cool? Or is the film actually a loving tribute to a great American art form? The truth is, a bit of both. But luckily, there’s a brilliantly paced plot, a punchy script and a riot of car chases to keep you distracted every time Belushi and Aykroyd’s mugging gets a bit much. Of course, the heart of the movie is in its musical performances: Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and James Brown all hit hard, but it’s Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ that’ll have you jiving in your seat.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

‘If you take my advice I think you’ll become one of the great balloon-folding acts of all time!’

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte

Woody comes to both bury and praise his hero Danny Rose in this lyrical note to the dimmer lights of the Great White Way. A cock-eyed optimist and full-time dreamer, guileless theatrical agent Danny dotes over his woeful stable of one-shot novelty acts – blind xylophonists, uniped tap dancers, ice-skating penguins dressed, naturally, as Hassidic rabbis – but it’s clear to everyone else that an age is swiftly passing. It would be an easy world to mock, but Allen gives it a generous, mournful, affectionate send-off that pays far richer, far funnier dividends.

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'Best play ever, man.’

Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams

Some films create an entire world, with its own rules and its own geography. Rushmore is one of the greatest of these. The grounds and environs of Rushmore Academy are at once familiar and strange, populated by bored millionaires and Scottish vagabonds, lost aquatic heroes and their grieving lovers, gruff headmasters and winsome Asian teens, and of course Max Fischer, arguably the most complex, original, loveable but infuriating movie creation of the past three decades. Yes, there’s a little Harold and Maude here, a little Hal Hartley there. But even as it approaches its third decade, Rushmore still feels blindingly original and unique.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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The Producers (1967)
The Producers (1967)

‘I was born in Dusseldorf and that is why they call me Rolf.’

Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn

The beginning of the Brooks empire, and still his funniest film, The Producers combines old-school kvetch comedy, Broadway backstage hi-jinks and outright headline-grabbing bad taste to intoxicating effect. Wilder steals the show as the accountant to Mostel’s portly, conniving stage producer. The con itself – an elaborate plan to run with the takings of a show so dreadful it closes overnight – keeps things ticking along at a brisk pace, but it’s that Busby Berkeley ‘Springtime for Hitler’ scene that remains most vividly in the memory.

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Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

‘I never forget a pussy... cat.’

Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York

Take Sean Connery’s suave James Bond out of his ’60s-martini-bar comfort zone and you’re left with Austin Powers. He’s a flouncy-collared, womanising secret agent who was cryogenically frozen in the 1960s, then awoken in 1997 to battle cat-stroking villain Dr Evil. Written and starring Mike Myers in both the lead roles, the film’s storyline is as silly as it sounds but that’s what makes it so much fun. Shame about the sequels. 

Kate Lloyd
Contributing writer
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The King of Comedy (1982)
The King of Comedy (1982)

‘Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime!’

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard

Martin Scorsese isn’t exactly known for his comedy, although his 2013 hit The Wolf of Wall Street was perhaps the most out-and-out funny film he’s made so far. This 1982 film, which followed Raging Bull, thrives on awkward laughs as Robert De Niro’s sociopathic and deluded Rupert Pupkin is so desperate to become a successful stand-up comic (despite an apparent total lack of talent) that he hatches a crazy kidnap plot involving a chat-show host played by Jerry Lewis. It’s watch-through-the-fingers stuff – amusing, yes, but also seriously uncomfortable.

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Dave Calhoun
Chief Content Officer, North America & UK
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In the Loop (2009)
In the Loop (2009)

‘I don’t want to have to read you the riot act, but I am going to have to read you some extracts from the riot act.’

Director: Armando Iannucci

Cast: Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini

Scabrous and smart, Armando Iannucci’s political satire is the sort of film that rewards repeated viewing, if only to catch the jokes you laughed through last time round. It opens out the action from original sitcom The Thick of It by sending mad-eyed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, hapless government minister Simon Foster and their cohorts to the States, where they flip and flop for our entertainment, groping towards a coherent policy. The vulgarity is tumultuous, the wit pointed and the performances impeccably judged. Proof that transferring a great sitcom to the big screen need not be difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

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‘Does the Pope wear a funny hat?’

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter

The Coen Brothers did a full 180 turn after the nihilistic noir of Blood Simple to deliver perhaps their most madcap comedy: a live-action cartoon full of wildly conceived characters, tongue-twisting dialogue and a huge amount of heart. Sure, Raising Arizona is about a couple – a manic Holly Hunter and an oddly subdued Nicolas Cage – who snatch a baby from a millionaire, then flee opportunistic criminals and a battle-scarred biker seemingly forged in hellfire across the same hoodoo-laden Arizona desert Wile E Coyote calls home. This is a Coen brothers movie, after all. But it’s also their sweetest and most warmly deranged, highlighted by a deeply felt pair of central performances and whisked along by Carter Burwell’s yodel-intensive score.

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Sons of the Desert (1933)
Sons of the Desert (1933)

‘Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into.’

Director: William A Seiter

Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy

Eccentric man-child Stan Laurel and roly-poly fall-guy Oliver Hardy make the screen’s most revered comedy double-act and this is reckoned to be their finest 68 minutes, as the boys plot to evade their domineering wives and slope off to their fraternal lodge convention. It all goes horribly wrong, of course, setting off a whole series of inventive, exquisitely timed sight-gags as the hapless twosome wind up hiding out in their own attic. Short, sharp and delightful. 

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The Odd Couple (1968)
The Odd Couple (1968)

‘He's too nervous to kill himself. He wears his seat belt in a drive-in movie.’

Director: Gene Saks

Cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau

Unrepentant slob Oscar (Walter Matthau) and cleaning-obsessive neurotic Felix (Jack Lemmon) make a perfect match as two old pals driven by marriage troubles to sharing a Manhattan apartment. This film version plonks Neil Simon’s Broadway smash on screen without rethinking it for celluloid. Still, the obvious theatricality allows the performers to play to their contrasting strengths, whipping up a frenzy of love-hate exasperation underpinned by life-long friendship. It’s so funny because it’s so believable – everyone knows an Oscar and a Felix.

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Bedazzled (1967)
Bedazzled (1967)

I, Stanley Moon, hereinafter and in the hereafter to be known as “the damned”… The damned?’

Director: Stanley Donen

Cast: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron

Forget the underwhelming remake with Brendan Fraser and Liz Hurley. The original Bedazzled is a vintage piece of swinging London comedy and probably Pete and Dud’s finest big-screen outing. Dudley Moore is a sad-sack cook mooning after a waitress (Eleanor Bron) and Peter Cook plays the devil, who procures his soul in exchange for seven wishes. What follows is a Faustian series of set-pieces – some witty, some garish, some a tad aged – that offer plenty of opportunities for the duo’s distinctive power play. 

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The Man With Two Brains (1983)
The Man With Two Brains (1983)

‘Into the mud, scum queen!’

Director: Carl Reiner

Cast: Steve Martin, Kathleen Turner, David Warner

The early Steve Martin movies catch comedy at a crossroads: on the surface they’re old-school slapstick romps complete with dubious innuendo, pratfalls and happy-ever-after endings, a short step from Abbott and Costello. But they also manage to incorporate the best of everything new that was happening in comedy at the time: the sight-gag overload of Airplane!, the romance of Woody Allen, the confrontational attitude of the new stand-ups and perfect surrealism of Martin’s own live act.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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‘That wasn’t flying! That was falling with style!’

Director: John Lasseter

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles

In the past, there were cartoons made for children and cartoons aimed at adults, but scant few intended to appeal equally to both demographics. It’s probably not historically accurate to say Pixar’s debut feature was the first movie to thread that particular needle, but it certainly did so better than any before and maybe even since. A kind of Planes, Trains and Automobiles in (literal) miniature, it introduces anthropomorphic playthings Woody the Cowboy (Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Allen) as a squabbling odd couple trying to make it back home to their beloved owner Andy. Jokes shoot at the screen at a rate that would impress the Zucker brothers, and for each that might fly over the little ones’ heads, there’s another just behind that will hit them square in the funny bone. 

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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It Happened One Night (1934)
It Happened One Night (1934)

‘I don't know very much about him, except that I love him.’

Director: Frank Capra

Cast: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert


Ask a film historian: what was the first ever romcom? Chances are they’ll tell you that it’s this this deliciously fizzy 1934 screwball comedy. Clark Gable is the newspaper hack who stumbles across a spoilt heiress (Claudette Colbert) on the bus to New York – she’s running away from her rich daddy to marry a fortune hunter. Pay attention and you’ll see elements that romcom scriptwriters have been ‘paying homage’ to ever since: a couple who can’t stand each other at first sight, quick-fire bickering and the realisation that they’re head-over-heels. Irresistible.

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'He was hit by a Guinness truck. So it was quite literally the drink that killed him.’

Director: Chris Columbus

Cast: Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan

The set-up of this 1993 family comedy might be slushy and very, very silly, but it showcases Robin Williams at his most anarchic. He plays struggling actor and divorced dad Daniel who tries to stay in his kids’ lives by dressing up as an (unconvincing and slightly creepy) older woman and getting hired by his ex-wife (Sally Field) to be the children’s nanny. What comes next is a whole lot of meddling.

Kate Lloyd
Contributing writer
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‘Insanity runs in my family… it practically gallops.’

Director: Frank Capra

Cast: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey

This 1944 jet-black farce about serial-killing old dears was years ahead of its time. Cary Grant’s a real trouper, all wide eyes and double takes, as he uncovers the dark secret of his dotty aunt’s cellar. He shifts into another gear when his sinister murderous brother (Raymond Massey) enters the fray. Plotted with precision, delivered with panache, still a model of controlled comic hysteria. 

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‘Why should I listen to you, anyway? You're a virgin who can't drive.’

Director: Amy Heckerling

Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy

Based on Jane Austen's Emma, Clueless follows Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), a teenager obsessed with shopping and clothes, as she guides newbie Tai (Brittnay Murphy) through high school. It's much more than a teen movie, however - for a film that's nearly 30 year old, Clueless still holds a lot of cultural clout, whether it's inspiring music videos, fashion trends or on-going cries of 'As if!' Mostly, though, it's that stellar performance from Silverstone that gives this film so much charm and wit.

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Midnight Run (1988)
Midnight Run (1988)

‘Nothing personal, but fuck off.’

Director: Martin Brest

Cast: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin

A film whose reputation seems to grow with each passing year (it’s shot up by 34 places since the last time we put together this list), Midnight Run comes on like just another buddies-on-the-road comedy thriller. That is, until you notice just how flawlessly written and ferociously performed it is. Robert De Niro wisely plays it straight as the bail bondsman tracking down mob informant Charles Grodin, who proceeds to whinge and whine all the way from New York to LA. The pace is relentless, the supporting players are brilliantly sketched and the script cuts like a scalpel.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

‘You’re the vulgarian, you fuck!’

Director: Charles Crichton

Cast: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin

Perhaps the best British comedy since the heyday of Python, since John Cleese deliberately attempted to move away from satirical silliness and back to a more inclusive, plot-driven, unmistakably British brand of comic caper. (He even went so far as to hire 78-year-old Ealing stalwart Charles Crichton to direct.) The result is a film which, like its slippery American heroine, is madly in love with language, from tongue-teasingly delicious sarcasm to some truly outrageous swearing. Add to this four iconic performances (five if you count the inimitable Tom Georgeson as cockernee gangster George ‘Unbe-fackin’-lieveable!’ Thomason), and the result speaks for itself.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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  • Comedy

‘Did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he put on a dress and played girl bunny?’

Director: Penelope Spheeris

Cast: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Tia Carrere

Penelope Spheeris captured the easygoing slacker rapport of Mike Myers and Dana Carvey’s cable-access SNL heroes perfectly, speaking to the emerging aimlessness of the grunge era that directors like Cameron Crowe were simultaneously trying to deify. Perhaps we weren’t worthy: Wayne’s World is a gift of slice-of-life absurdism with a huge heart that has endured well beyond the shelf-life of most early ‘90s teen-centric cultural phenomena. And sure, without Wayne’s World, there would be no A Night at the Roxbury or It’s Pat. But there would also be no MacGruber or Austin Powers. We’ll take that as a win.

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Bananas (1971)
Bananas (1971)

‘I once stole a pornographic book that was printed in braille. I used to rub the dirty parts.’

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalbán

The plot of Woody Allen’s second feature movie sounds like a Seth Rogen stoner comedy: lazy guy stumbles into job as leader of a South American revolution. Except this is a Woody Allen film, so amidst daft slapstick, cutting one-liners and guerrilla warfare you’ll find commentary on the corruption of power and the role of the media. It’s a bit mad – there’s one scene where someone orders 1,000 grilled cheese sandwiches – but it’s one of Allen’s best.

Kate Lloyd
Contributing writer
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‘You’re so money and you don’t even know it.’

Director: Doug Liman

Cast: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Heather Graham, Ron Livingston

An endlessly quotable slice of life about LA transplants struggling to make it in Hollywood, Swingers is anchored by the real-life friendship between Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, effectively playing themselves as then-underemployed actors whose competing personalities – the former sensitive but self-defeating, the latter obnoxious yet loyal – form a crucial balance for each other, and their peers. Some of the details have aged poorly – there’s no explaining Gen X’s brief obsession with swing music – but as long as there are confused twentysomethings in the world, its smart observations and themes of career anxiety and romantic despair will resonate. 

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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Heaven Can Wait (1943)
Heaven Can Wait (1943)

'It’s a father's function to save his son from the mistakes he made.’

Director: Ernst Lubitsch

Cast: Gene Tierney, Don Ameche, Charles Coburn

A satirical portrait of a womaniser who messes up the great romance right in front of him, this Technicolor delight from the legendary Ernst Lubitsch features the screen’s most elegant visualisation of hell: all marble columns and shiny floors, presided over by Laird Cregar’s suave Satan, who decides whether new arrival Don Ameche is to go ‘down below’ or ‘up above’. This is a sophisticated watch – if a little forgiving of male foibles, and more likely to give you an attack of wry smiles than out-and-out guffaws.

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Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

'There's a lotta things about me you don't know anything about, Dottie.’

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton

Tim Burton’s first feature might just be proof that the blockbuster visionary is better off with lower budgets, so long as he has a solid collaborator. Kicking off with an iconic score from Danny Elfman (then simply known as ‘that guy from Oingo Boingo’) and culminating with an ultra-meta spy spoof, Pee-Wee is pure joy: A classic road film in which a hyperactive manchild becomes a nigh-mystical roadside prophet brightening the lives of drifters and wayward souls as he searches for a lost bike. Burton’s signature style is everywhere, from the menacing roadside dinosaurs to the nightmarish dream sequences and the generation-scarring Large Marge. But it’s Paul Reubens’ finely calibrated mania that makes the film as essential now as it was when it launched its creators’ careers: the comedian captures the essence of childhood joy one obnoxious giggle at a time.

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Take the Money and Run (1969)
Take the Money and Run (1969)

'Nobody wears beige to a bank robbery!’

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Janet Margolin, Marcel Hillaire

If you try to rob a bank, it helps if you can convince the bank you’re a robber. And if you play the cello, it’s maybe best not to join a marching brass band. Such is the life of Virgil Starkwell, the remarkably committed and useless criminal who, as a kid. Take the Money and Run, Woody Allen’s directorial debut, is a messy, at times romantic, often baggy film, full of sight gags, overlaid with some of Allen's most trusted nightclub material. If this lacks the emotional dexterity of Allen’s mid-career film, it remains a remarkable early calling card for one of the twentieth-century’s defining comic actor/directors.

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‘You’re not even a person, you’re a testicle!’

Director Armando Iannucci

Cast Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Rupert Friend, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs

First time round, we were too busy laughing to notice just how dark Armando Iannucci’s Stalinist satire really is. With the benefit of hindsight – not to mention three more years of contemporary demagoguery under our belts – it feels a lot more like Animal Farm than Animal House: nasty, venal politicians vying for power in a game of snakes and ladders where the loser ends up in the gulag. The kind of world where Jason Isaacs’s Marshal Zhukov feels like a hero because, hey, at least he’s honest enough to be openly psychotic. Of course, it’s bloody funny too – just very literally so.

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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
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Top Secret! (1984)
Top Secret! (1984)

‘I know a little German. He’s sitting over there.’

Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

Cast: Val Kilmer, Omar Sharif, Billy J Mitchell

Eager to parody the WWII spy flick but keenly aware that, despite what Mel Brooks might think, the Nazis really weren’t all that funny, the Airplane! team of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker hit upon the notion of a dimwit American rock star sent into East Berlin to infiltrate the Russkies. The result isn’t quite as rampantly gag-stuffed as either Airplane! or The Naked Gun, but the jokes there are land hard: Peter Cushing’s amazing giant eye, Kilmer’s pitch-perfect Beach Boys parody and some timeless wordplay (see above).

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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The Cable Guy (1996)
The Cable Guy (1996)

‘Free cable is the ultimate aphrodisiac.’

Director: Ben Stiller

Cast: Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick, Leslie Mann

Produced by Judd Apatow, directed by Ben Stiller and starring Jim Carrey, Jack Black and Matthew Broderick, The Cable Guy has all the building blocks of a legendary lad comedy. The film is no bromance though – Carrey plays a manic cable guy who drags newly single Broderick into his twisted fantasy world. Featuring a weird scene where a trip to a Medieval-themed restaurant leads to the two pals jousting viciously, this dark comedy’s strengths lie in revealing the nasty side of Carrey’s acting persona.

Kate Lloyd
Contributing writer
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Mr Hulot’s Holiday (1953)
Mr Hulot’s Holiday (1953)

'Mr. Hulot is off for a week by the sea. Take a seat behind his camera, and you can spend it with him.'

Director: Jacques Tati

Cast: Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Micheline Rolla

A sleepy French seaside resort becomes the playground for director-star Jacques Tati’s lanky, kindly middle-aged bachelor Monsieur Hulot, whose efforts at enjoying himself invariably end in disaster. Former mime Tati essentially dispenses with dialogue, but while his approach certainly draws on silent comedy, he's less interested in quick-fire slapstick than slowly escalating complications whose intricate choreography often proves more whimsical, or beautiful even, than out-and-out hilarious. Filled with sunny nostalgia and bittersweet longing, its funny-sad demeanour is quintessential Tati.

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Way Out West (1936)
Way Out West (1936)

‘Any bird can build a nest, but it’s not everyone that can lay an egg.’

Director: James W Horne

Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy

Laurel and Hardy’s frontier tale is their most varied featurette, and ranks with their very best. Having witlessly contrived to hand over a valuable property deed to a scheming saloon owner, their attempts to make amends involve an airborne mule, an ill-fated piano and much tickling. All this plus several utterly charming old-timey musical numbers (including 1970s novelty number one ‘Trail of the Lonesome Pine’) and the convincingly surreal sight of Ollie using his thumb as a lighter. Solid gold. 

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Best in Show (2000)
Best in Show (2000)

'Bratwurst and shillelaghs... Paging Dr. Freud!’

Director: Christopher Guest

Cast: Jane Lynch, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey

The best of Christopher Guest’s post-Spinal Tap mockumentaries (see also Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind and… actually, don’t see For Your Consideration), this chronicle of a dog show overflows with hilarious caricatures, from yuppies and A-gays to laconic backwoodsmen and addled commentators. The largely improvised material is generally geared around character rather than out-and-out gags but the simmering neuroses and blithely inane foot-in-mouth outbursts build to a fist-biting tsunami of excruciation. 

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Kingpin (1996)
Kingpin (1996)

You’re on a gravy train with biscuit wheels.’

Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Bill Murray

The oft-overlooked oddity squeezed between the giant blockbuster tentpoles (oo-er) of Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin sees the Farrelly Brothers drawing on some mysterious inner pool of inexplicable comedy genius and coming up with the ludicrous tale of a thatch-headed Amish bowling prodigy (Quaid) and his bitter, one-handed mentor (Harrelson) as they head cross-country to the national championships. Lin Shaye’s turn as Harrelson’s grotesque, sexually rapacious landlady is unforgettably despicable.

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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‘“Vamonos, amigos,” he whispered, and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight.’

Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Luke Wilson

Wes Anderson’s third feature film follows three child prodigies turned adult burnouts, called back to New York by their dying father. Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller play the siblings, who function in a typically Anderson world painted in hyper-stylised strokes and grubby pastel shades. The script (especially the narration from Alec Baldwin) is full of dry wit, but it’s the sweetly sad narrative about love and disappointment that gives the film its magic.

Kate Lloyd
Contributing writer
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‘If I’m not back in five minutes... just wait longer.’

Director: Tom Shadyac

Cast: Jim Carrey, Courteney Cox, Sean Young

When ‘Snowflake’, a 500-pound dolphin and mascot of American football team the Miami Dolphins, is stolen on the eve of the Super Bowl, the only person with the animal instincts to solve the crime is Ace Ventura. Played by Jim Carrey, he’s a second-tier detective with a penchant for Hawaiian shirts and the hyperactive energy of a six-year-old. It’s Carrey at his most Carrey. Be warned: there’s a lot of toilet humour. 

Kate Lloyd
Contributing writer
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The Great Dictator (1940)
The Great Dictator (1940)

‘Heil Hynkel!’

Director: Charlie Chaplin

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard

Charlie Chaplin’s courageous 1940 satire sees him sending up Adolf Hitler as the fictional despot Adenoid Hynckel. The famous scene where he dances with a giant globe offers a comic pisstake on vaunting megalomania, though there’s also a murderous reality to Hynkel’s behaviour – and prescient talk of ‘concentration camps’. Overall, it’s more a movie about the power of comedy than a chuckle-fest in itself, since the subplot with Chaplin also playing a plucky barber rather struggles to raise a smile.

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'It's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care.’

Director: Mike Judge

Cast: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston

As the world rethinks the concept of the workplace post-pandemic, Mike Judge’s furious satire of capitalist drudgery seems both sharper than ever and increasingly anachronistic. Will future generations even understand the joyless forced camaraderie of the breakroom birthday party? Or the intense desire to curb-stomp a malfunctioning copy machine? Then again, where we work might change, but as long as there are barely-definable corporate jobs, there’ll be drones dreaming of escaping and/or defrauding them….and even if there isn’t, Diedrich Bader’s stone-serious delivery of the line ‘two chicks at the same time’ will remain forever hilarious.

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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‘Compared to Clouseau, Attila the Hun was a Red Cross volunteer!’

Director: Blake Edwards

Cast: Peter Sellers, Christopher Plummer

Eleven years after A Shot in the Dark, Edwards and Sellers revived the Clouseau franchise. And though several dismal cash-ins followed, quality control is still in evidence for this sequel to the first movie, with Christopher Plummer now the gem-snaffling Sir Charles and Catherine Schell battling to keep a straight face as his slinky spouse under close surveillance by a disguise-swapping Sellers. Twitchy boss Herbert Lom and ninja butler Burt Kwouk rather overplay their hand, but Sellers’ mangled Gallic vowels remain resplendent.

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‘I may be bald, but at least I'm not chickenshit like you.’

Director: George Roy Hill

Cast: Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean

Paul Newman thrives in what’s surely the least-heroic, worst-dressed role of his career as the has-been player-coach of a lower-league ice hockey team, threatened by closure just as their fortunes improve by whacking the living daylights out of their opponents. Pilloried at the time for its relentlessly salty language, George Roy Hill’s film has since gathered a considerable cult following and now stands as a milestone sports comedy that’s also a telling portrait of threatened masculinity in a declining America. Well worth discovering.

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'Every now and then I get a little bit nervous then I see the fuckin’ look in your eyes...’

Director: Todd Phillips

Cast: Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn

Director Todd Phillips found critical and commercial acclaim with The Hangover and, more surprisingly, Joker. But he forged his cult with this early aughts Animal House riff that serves as an appetiser for a decade of Apatow-adjacent bro comedies. The plot is pretty boilerplate (old guys start an on-campus frat for outcasts, blowhard dean can’t deal with it), but it’s all executed with chaotic zeal thanks to a stacked Frat Pack cast that includes an especially manic Vince Vaughn. The real breakout, though, is Will Ferrell, whose internal battle between middle-aged family man and party-obsessed Frank the Tank provides the film a Jekyll and Hyde dynamic soaked in bong water and cheap beer. Old School announced the arrival of Will Ferrell, Movie Star, and it did it in the most Ferrell way possible: by going streaking. 

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‘There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh. It isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing in this cock-eyed caravan.’

Director: Preston Sturges

Cast: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake

Sullivan’s Travels is perhaps best known today as being the movie that ‘inspired’ the Coens’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but this meaning-of-life masterpiece deserves so much more. At once witty, wacky, wholesome, devious and devastatingly smart, it showcases director Preston Sturges at the absolute pinnacle of his game, offering up not just a wildly entertaining Hollywood romp but a razor sharp (and explosively political) examination of why comedy matters at all. A work of genius, plain and simple. And damn, Veronica Lake!

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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83. The Big Sick (2017)

‘So... to fully know I love someone, I have to cheat on them?’

Director: Michael Showalter

Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano

There aren’t too many modern comedies with the chutzpah to pull off a 9/11 joke. There are even fewer to give us a Pakistani-American culture-shock romance that isn’t awash with clichés (okay, ignoring at least one killer Uber gag). Take a bow, then, Emily V Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, the real-life couple who penned an inspired-by-real-life gem that does both – and a whole lot more besides. We meet Emily (Zoe Kazan plays Gordon’s on-screen surrogate) and Kumail (Nanjiani playing a version of himself) doing all the standard stuff: dating, having sex, watching Vincent Prices movies. Then she falls into a coma and suddenly for Kumail, there’s heartache, hospitals and parents to deal with. Funny and wise, The Big Sick is one of those rare comedies with something genuinely fresh to say.

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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
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Waiting for Guffman (1996)
Waiting for Guffman (1996)

‘People say, “You must have been the class clown.” And I say, “No, I wasn’t. But I sat next to the class clown and I studied him.”’

Director: Christopher Guest

Cast: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara

As axeman Nigel Tufnel, Christopher Guest was part of the timeless success of This Is Spinal Tap. But he also picked up the filmmaking baton, going on to direct masterworks of situational improv such as Best in Show, For Your Consideration and this movie. The superb cast play members of a small-town, amateur-dramatic society pinning their hopes on a visit from a big-shot critic, though what he’ll make of the pageant ‘Red, White and Blaine’ is regrettably clear to everyone else. Often painful, sometimes moving, frequently hilarious, it’s an oddball delight and a tribute to self-deluding ambition everywhere. 

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‘God of Rock, thank you for this chance to kick ass.’

Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Jack Black, Mike White

Under certain circumstances, Jack Black cranked to 11 can be a form of comedic tinnitus. In the case of Richard Linklater’s rock’n’roll underdog story, it’s hard to imagine the movie working with anyone else, or with his Jack Blackness dialed down even a single decibel. Black is remarkably endearing as a headbanging ball of unhinged enthusiasm named Dewey Finn, a slacker musician who cons his way into a substitute teaching gig and ends up unleashing the inner rock gods in a group of nerdy band kids – and their buttoned-up principal, wonderfully played by Joan Cusack. It sounds corny on paper (and a little like Sister Act 2) but Black annihilates all shreds of cloying sentimentality through sheer force of energy. The kids are all pretty good, too.

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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‘Ever since I was born, I was dope.’

Director: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone

Cast: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer

Like Spinal Tap on Adderall, The Lonely Island’s mile-a-minute lampooning of modern pop stars and their egos and, in the case of fast-fading solo artist Conner4Real (Andy Samberg), the 30 people they have around them to make them look dope is a wild and ridiculous ride. There are hilarious riffs here on everything from boyband politics to the perils of celebrity weddings (avoid wolves, basically). Fittingly, Connor’s PR person gets one of the best – and most stinging – lines:  ‘I'd love to get Connor to the point where he's just kind of everywhere – like oxygen or gravity or clinical depression.’

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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
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‘Sssss-smokin'!’

Director: Chuck Russell

Cast: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Riegert

Long before Marvel’s Loki, there was the Jim Carrey variety – an altogether more high-intensity kind of trickster in a comedy that saw Carrey consolidate his Ace Ventura stardom back in 1994. Looking back, the film’s Looney Tunes energy offers the perfect showcase for Carrey’s madcap maximalism: when he turns from klutzy bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss and into the Mask, it’s the cue for CG-enhanced scenery-chewing as he runs through a profoundly silly gamut of fart jokes, Edward G Robinson impressions and Cameron Diaz-wooing. The effects may have lost their lustre but Carrey’s performance still packs some comic voltage.

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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
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'Climbing! Plodding! Mushing! Back and forth... back and forth.'

Director: Charlie Chaplin

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Mack Swain

Chaplin’s little tramp finds himself braving the Alaskan gold rush in this celebrated silent feature, whose surreal invention – watch him fend off starvation by chomping down his boots – has gone down in screen history. The romantic asides (his poignant longing for a flighty showgirl) still play too, showcasing the sophistication of Chaplin’s acting as well as his facility for balletic knockabout. Lovely stuff, but do try to see the silent original rather than the awkwardly narrated sound reissue.

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“Getting your dick stuck in your zipper was the best thing that ever happened to you.”

Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

Cast: Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller, Matt Dillon

By 1998, the Farrelly brothers had firmly established themselves as the new masters of the unapologetically dumb comedy. A romcom, however, seemed far out of their depth. But There’s Something About Mary turned out to be their career highpoint; a movie with genuine heart that sacrifices none of the duo’s body-fluid-intensive comedic sensibility. Give much of the credit to the chemistry of its leads. Ben Stiller is perfect as Ted Stroehmann, an anxiety-riddled sports agent still carrying a torch for his high school crush. And Cameron Diaz, as the titular Mary, proves exceedingly game to get down and dirty: how many ascendant It Girls in history would agree to a gag about inadvertently styling their hair with semen? 

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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‘Who allowed you to take my breath away?’

Director:
 Olivia Wilde

Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein

Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are two high-school besties on the cusp of living their best Ivy League dreams. But on graduation day they discover a cruel fact: a life of bookish abstinence isn’t the only pathway to those ivory towers. Their cooler, sexier, harder-partying classmates are likewise heading to elite universities. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut captures the friends’ hilarious (and heartfelt) attempt to grab the fun they deserve before leaving town. Following her scene-stealing role as Saoirse Ronan’s sidekick in Lady Bird, Feldstein yet again proves she’s one of the funniest actresses around (and the one we’d really, really love to be pals with IRL). 

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‘They should have warned us that there was a danger of running out of pecan pie.’

Director: Elaine May

Cast: Charles Grodin, Cybill Shepherd, Jeannie Berlin

Improv pioneer Elaine May completely changed comedy through her influential stage work with Mike Nichols, yet as a director she’s mostly associated with the unfairly maligned mega-bomb Ishtar. In a just world, her Heartbreak Kid would be her calling card – a proto cringe comedy from the pen of Neil Simon that features one of the best jittery performances of Charles Grodin’s career. In a masterpiece of awkward tension, Grodin stars as an aloof salesman who suddenly – as in, en route to the honeymoon – realises his new bride (Jeannie Berlin, May’s real daughter) is the absolute worst, then promptly falls for another guest (Cybil Shepherd) while his unsuspecting spouse heals from a bad sunburn. Grodin and Shepherd do wonders in making their shallow characters believable, and the fact that charming Ben Stiller and Michelle Monaghan couldn’t do the same in the Farrelly Brothers’ ill-conceived remake is a testament to the tightrope walked by May in her underseen classic.  

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Harold and Maude (1971)
Harold and Maude (1971)

‘Harold, everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves.’

Director: Hal Ashby

Cast: Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon

Genre-non-specific movies like Harold and Maude have suffered on this list: is it really a comedy? Isn’t there a bit too much death and holocaust talk for that? But if it’s not a comedy, what is Harold and Maude? Therein, of course, lies its genius: it’s not anything, except real. Controversial on first release, forgotten for decades and then happily rediscovered (at least in part thanks to Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary), Harold and Maude is now firmly established as one of the all-time romantic classics. The central relationship may be unconventional – teenage boy falls for 79-year-old concentration camp survivor – but the themes of self-discovery and universal love speak to all of us. 

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)

‘The course of true love gathers no moss.’

Director: George Cukor

Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart

A romcom that sparkles like champagne, The Philadelphia Story is a delicious comedy of misunderstandings and misdemeanours. Which of three men will win the heart of Katharine Hepburn’s icy heiress on the eve of her wedding: her millionaire ex-husband Cary Grant, snooping reporter James Stewart or her dull businessman fiancé John Howard? At the end you might decide that she picks the wrong man, but you can’t argue with the fact that this witty, charming and romantic movie is a near-perfect comedy. 

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Tom Huddleston
Arts and culture journalist
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'We've been invaded by America. We're all gonna be rich!'

Director: Bill Forsyth

Cast: Peter Riegert, Burt Lancaster, Peter Capaldi

There’s nothing quite like an hour or two in the company of Bill Forsyth’s evergreen comedy to fill your bucket. Peter Riegert, a genuinely underrated ‘comic’ straight man (see also: The Mask, Animal House), is a lawyer sent to scope out a Scottish fishing village that’s in the sights of an American oil company, only to fall under its spell. The story of the little man thumbing his nose at a corporate behemoth, here even the corporate behemoth – represented by Burt Lancaster’s oil baron – catches the bug. Maybe there is more to life than chasing dollars after all?

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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
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Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

‘Goddamnit, this is a dark fucking period!’

Director: Jake Kasdan

Cast: John C Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Kristen Wiig

Spoofs of the grandly silly Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker variety were decades out of style in 2007, but the genre almost had to be resurrected in order to deliver an all-out roasting of an ascendant brand of awards bait: the prestige musical biopic. Reilly’s Dewey Cox is a well-meaning rube turned rock’n’roll pioneer who never quite sheds his dopey innocence, even while getting hooked on stronger and stronger drugs and writing increasingly indulgent songs featuring ‘an army of didgeridoos’. While plenty absurd, Walk Hard lacks the anarchic zaniness of its parodic forebears but makes up for it with direct-hit explosions of its chosen target. If it had been a bigger hit, it might have spared us Bohemian Rhapsody – just out of sheer embarrassment.      

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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‘The idea of working in your shirt sleeves! Think of the shock to your customers, women of culture and refinement!’

Director: Fred C Newmeyer

Cast: Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis

Always sporting round specs and straw boater, silent comedian Harold Lloyd’s shtick was to cultivate a likeable boy-next-door persona, then put his protagonist in hair-raising jeopardy. In his best-known feature, his plan to get an athletic acquaintance to climb a department store facade as a publicity stunt backfires, so Harold tackles the perilous ascent himself. Cue pesky pigeons and an inconvenient clock face in a beautifully constructed, very funny set-piece whose clever use of perspective creates vertiginous thrills without back projection – or a single computer pixel! 

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The Nice Guys (2016)
The Nice Guys (2016)

‘Sweetheart, how many times have I told you? Don't say “and stuff". Just say, "Dad, there are whores here”.’

Director: Shane Black

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice

Nowadays we know that Ryan Gosling can do it all – and that comedy may be his strongest suit. But back in 2016, he hadn’t had many opportunities to show off his comedic chops. Neither had Russell Crowe. Leave it to the writer of Lethal Weapon to pair them together as a new Riggs and Murtaugh. In this polyester-laden send-up of ’70s noirs, Crowe is a tough-guy-for-hire forced to work with Gosling’s bumbling P.I. on a convoluted missing persons case, the details of which matter less than their bickering interplay. Gosling, in particular, gives a tour-de-force performance full of quippy banter and old-school, Abbott and Costello-style slapstick. That it flopped hard at the box office is the real crime here.

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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The Trip (2011)
The Trip (2011)

‘I think anyone over 40 who amuses themself by doing impressions needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Cast: Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan

Here’s what happens in The Trip: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing fictionalised versions of themselves, drive across the English countryside, eating fancy meals, bickering about their careers, singing ABBA and doing a lot of celebrity impressions. That’s literally the whole thing – and that’s all it needs to be. Trimmed to film length from a six-episode BBC television series, it’s arranged by director Michael Winterbottom as a series of vignettes that all play out more or less the same way, and yet it’s hysterical. Coogan and Brydon have the kind of comic chemistry where the concept can sustain itself across three, almost equally funny films. Make this your starter.

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Matthew Singer
Film writer and editor
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'You can't sit with us.'

Director: Mark Waters

Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Jonathan Bennett

When Cady (Lindsay Lohan) moves from being home-schooled by her parents in Africa to an American high school, she has rude awakening. Confronted by the school's hierarchy where popularity means everything, she finds herself infiltrating the girl clique The Plastics. Loaded with laugh-out-loud moments, the script, penned by Tina Fey, is filled with zingers. It's a film that provides genuine insight and empathy as well as a hefty dose of putdowns and comeuppances.

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Meet the Parents (2000)
Meet the Parents (2000)

‘I have nipples, Greg. Could you milk me?’

Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro

Meeting your partner’s parents is bound to be stressful – but Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) has it worse than most. Turns out his potential father in law (Robert De Niro) is a former CIA agent with a suspicious nature – and a polygraph lie-detector machine at his disposal. Over the course of an eventful visit, Focker’s misfortune builds to a farcical crescendo as his intended (Teri Polo) looks on. Stiller is on hilarious, hapless form and De Niro has never been funnier.

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Not so much ‘fast and furious’ as slow and serene, Thelma is a nonagenarian action-comedy that’s taken its pills and will stop at nothing on a madcap quest for justice. Apart from platform lifts and particularly steep steps. Writer-director Josh Margolin draws inspiration from his own family for a likeable indie that wants you to think about ageing differently – and succeeds in warm-hearted style. His debut delivers pearls of wisdom about intergenerational family dynamics and the constraints (and freedoms) that come with old age, as Thelma, a 93-year-old grandma, sets off to track down the scammers who have ripped her off.  Played by the wonderful Squibb and based on the director’s own gran, Thelma Post is still a life force: living independently and knocking about with her loveable but lost grandson Danny (Fred Hechinger, soon to be a villain in Gladiator II). Then comes a mysterious call: Danny has been arrested and $10,000 is needed to bail him out. To the horror of her fretful daughter (Parker Posey) and know-it-all son-in-law (Clark Gregg), she mails a bundle of cash to the San Fernando Valley PO Box address specified by the fraudsters. Thelma is neither as funny nor as Marmite-y as Little Miss Sunshine, a kindred spirit in the quirky indie realm, but its light shines in myriad little character beats. Many of them involve Richard Roundtree – John Shaft himself – as Thelma’s old pal Ben, who reluctantly absconds from his care home, mainly because Thelma has stolen his mob

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Part comedy, part environmental lament, all vibes – Sasquatch Sunset is a very weird, largely gross, yet somehow very charming chronicle of a year in the life of a group of sasquatch, or bigfoots (bigfeet?). Directed by David and Nathan Zellner (2014’s Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter) it follows a family of these apparently mythical beings as they face threat from the natural world and the encroachment of humans on their habitat.  The group of four sasquatch are an alpha male (Nathan Zellner), a pregnant female (Riley Keough), a second male (Jesse Eisenberg), and a child (Christophe Zajac-Denek). Although, you would be unlikely to ever guess that Keough and Eisenberg are in the cast as they’re beneath prosthetics and the sasquatch speak only in grunts and hoots. Their days pass with in-fighting – often because one male or another wants to have sex with the female – searches for food, encounters with other animals, and occasional straying into areas where humans have decimated the forest.  There’s not a great deal more to it than that. Its humour is of the puerile kind, with plenty of farting, vomiting and pathetically wagging sasquatch erections. In one scene, when the sasquatch encounter a road, a sight that terrifies them, they show their distress by taking it in turns to pee and crap all over it. But if there are times when the joke feels rather repetitive, or the screentime stretched a little thin, even at 88 minutes, there is also some well-earned poignancy to it.  It’s very

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Imagine Pedro Almodóvar directing Sicario and you’re close to the tenor of this exuberant cartel-thriller-stroke-musical – which, as if those elements weren’t heady enough, comes with a tender trans twist. That’s no slight on its actual director, Jacques Audiard, whose films tends are less authored but just as richly humanist as the Spaniard’s. It’s just so unlike anything the Rust and Bone and A Prophet director has done before. Or, really, anyone has. Zoe Saldaña is set up as the story’s heart, a hard-striving Mexico City lawyer called Rita whose professional woes are introduced through rabble-rousing musical numbers. Smart and capable, but wasting her talents getting powerful, abusive men off the hook, she agrees to a covert meeting that puts her in front of a ruthless cartel boss called Manitas del Monte. But Rita is not the angel you’d expect – her actions are humane, but also unethical and illegal – and the brooding, grill-wearing Manitas is not your conventional ruthless crime boss. Desperate to escape the shackles of his assigned sex, he needs Rita’s help to arrange gender confirmation surgery and get his wife (Selena Gomez) and kids into hiding. Obviously, there’s a shallow grave for her if she slips up.  Imagine Pedro Almodóvar directing Sicario and you’re close to its tenor Saldaña is striking in a role that showcases her dancing and vocal range (a reminder that she once played Nina Simone on screen). But it’s trans Spanish actress Karla Sofía Gascón who steals the

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

A fictional G7 summit at a German chateau to prepare a statement addressing an unspecified global threat may sound like a dry old time, but Rumours is an off-beat comic delight. There’s all the oddball charm, noirish atmosphere and visual flourishes you’d expect from experimental Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin, who co-directs with Evan and Galen Johnson again after their found-footage collaboration The Green Fog. This G7 line-up is stacked: Cate Blanchett is German Chancellor Hilda Ortmann; Charles Dance plays American President Edison Wolcott (with an English accent, for some reason); and Denis Ménochet is French premier Sylvain Broulez. As you’d expect with that cast, it’s consistently smart and well-acted.  After posing for press photos with 2000-year-old human remains in the chateau’s neighbouring forest, the seven world leaders sit at a bandstand, eating and drinking in comfort. A conversation between troubled Canadian Prime Minister Maxime Laplace (veteran Maddin collaborator Roy Dupuis) and British PM Cardosa Dewindt (Knock at the Cabin’s Nikki Amuka-Bird) suggests the pair had a one-night stand previously, though it’s Maxime and Hilda who have their own secret tryst this time. There’s endless talk about broad topics from climate change to finance, but they never quite manage to get into any details, merely bloviating about nothing instead. Each character is deliberately and hilariously self-regarding, while facial expressions and line readings are often accompanied by

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