30 movies representing a century of comedy on film

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/11/23/30-movies-representing-a-century-of-comedy-on-film.html

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Naturally it’s an American-based list. I have quite few of those in my collection, including “The General”. If anyone wants some UK period comedy, you could try “Hobson’s Choice” (1954) set in sunny Salford! (That’s the bit across the river from Manchester.) With a very young John Mills! Hobson’s Choice
And there’s “The Plank” (1967 vintage.) with Tommy Cooper and Eric Sykes. The Plank
(I’m trying hard not to mention the Carry On films. They are an acquired taste.)
If anyone’s interested in take a trip back in time through Japanese cinema, I’d like to recommend the animé “Millennium Actress”.
Wiki on “Millennium Actress”

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1939-1959 is a rather large gap which means that all of Preston Sturges’ films (as director) don’t make the cut. I’d recommend The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story most highly, but all are worthwhile.

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I know it’s a matter of taste, like arguing who makes the best pizza, but I’m surprised that “Arsenic and Old Lace” isn’t on the list. IMO it should be close to #1.

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Watch it every year, and it’s still hilarious.

There are so many great comedy films out there, so it’s useless to try and pick 30. But a few I’d consider for this list:

  • This Is The End
  • Tropic Thunder (theatrical version)
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  • UHF
  • Zoolander
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Really? No Clerks? That seems wrong…

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The Plank should be required watching for anyone who ever aspires to physical comedy. If you have never seen it give yourself a treat. It’s only half an hour long and features many of the era’s greatest UK comic actors. (Including a young Joanna Lumley, briefly.)

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Some of the ways they describe these films makes me wonder if we’re seeing the same thing. Dr. Strangelove has a sense of pure warmth? Groundhog Day is about smiling through the pain?

Kind of nails it with Ghostbusters, but I have to wonder how much SMBC affected that:

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I won’t bother making an argument for “The Importance of Being Earnest,” because maybe it’s for a niche audience, although I do think it belongs on the list; but you can’t have a funniest-movies-ever list without “Some Like It Hot”, if only for the fact that it has the funniest last line in any movie, ever. (Yes, they mention it on the entry for “The Apartment”, and they’re wrong.) I saw it in a rep cinema some years back, the house was full, and the entire audience went berserk at the end. A fair few people would argue it’s the funniest movie ever made.

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Nothing wrong with this as a list of funny movies, but five out of thirty from before 1940 and the rest post-1960 suggests that the compiler doesn’t watch enough TCM. No Laurel & Hardy? Only a '30s/sound-era example of Chaplin? Pull the other one, sonny, it’s got bells on.

Aside from snubbing the non-Keaton silents, this list ignores many of the movies that established what “funny” means in American film: “His Girl Friday,” “My Man Godfrey,” “The Thin Man,” “Philadelphia Story,” and the careers of W. C. Fields, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and the Three Stooges. (Nobody cares about Wheeler & Woolsey or Olson & Johnson any more, though the Lindy Hoppers’ dance routine from “Hellzapoppin’” is a classic.)

But then, “best” lists combine the least attractive features of click-bait and a mug’s game, so why am I complaining.

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It’s pretty much the entire screwball era (although they included Bringing Up Baby), which is mind boggling.

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Severe lack of ‘what’s up doc?’

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What’s the funniest movie you’ve ever seen?

Well, since you asked, among those not already on the linked list: O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Impostors, Noises Off, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Muppet Movie.

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Remove:
Popstar (be serious)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (forgettable)
Planes Trains and Automobiles (I know most people aren’t on my side here)
Lost in America (Broadcast News was better)
9 to 5 (cute, but not great)
Add:
Caddyshack
Animal House
Annie Hall, Take The Money and Run, Bananas, Sleeper
Life of Brian

How is there not a single Woody Allen movie? I’m not saying I want him as a babysitter, but the MOVIES!!!

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Came here to mention Sturges. The Palm Beach Story feels very modern and nuanced (aside from the unfortunate racist train steward scenes) and should be on this list.

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I really like many of those films listed. Some definite classics.

The one missing that I think should be added: South Park: Bigger Longer Uncut. It by far was the movie that made me laugh the most in a theater. SO much so, that it to this day is still the only movie that I saw 3 times in the same week when it came out. I didn’t plan it that way, I just ended up having 3 different groups of friends who wanted to see it, and I was like, “Hell yeah, lets go!” each time.

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What about When Harry Met Sally or LA Story…

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Wrong.

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I came across this list a few years ago. Much more recent and only since 2000, but it’s a great list. Lots of Edgar Wright, Charlie Kauffman, Kung Fu Hustle, I heart Huckabees, A Mighty Wind etc.

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