Funniest Movies Ever

Earlier this week I read an NBC News blog post that cited a Telegraph (UK) post concerning the funniest movies ever. The British article involved a study by a movie subscription service. The study attempted to rank the funniest films ever based on laughs per minute. The NBC article added their own informal staff picks to the mix.

What tickled me is that the Brits named Airplane! as the funniest movie ever. I’m not sure I have a definite all-time #1 pick, but Airplane! is unquestionably in the top three. A while back, I wrote about my funniest films, and Airplane! was my first pick (of four—third place had a tie).

So the Brits and I share a funniest movie pick, but we diverge from there.

None of my other three picks were in their list, and I very much disliked one of them (Borat). The NBC folks selected five, and it’s not clear if their five are in addition to Airplane! or not. Regardless, I’m much more in synch with the NBC five, although I’d quibble—especially in once case—on funniest ever.

In case those article links go dead, here’s the Lovefilm Ten:

  1. Airplane!
  2. The Hangover
  3. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
  4. Superbad
  5. Borat
  6. Anchorman: The legend of Ron Burgundy
  7. American Pie
  8. Bridesmaids
  9. Shaun of the Dead
  10. Life of Brian

My first thought is that these are all fairly mainstream, and they’re all fairly current. My guess is that if you polled long-time dedicated movie lovers, the list wouldn’t look at all the same (my list sure doesn’t).

The NBC folks picked:

  1. Airplane!
  2. Blazing Saddles
  3. Team America: World Police
  4. A Christmas Story
  5. His Girl Friday
  6. Anchorman: The legend of Ron Burgundy

It was that #4 entry that inspired me to write this post.

I’ve long thought His Girl Friday is one of the best films ever (and very funny). I believe I would include it in my top ten.

The inclusion of A Christmas Story seems also to reflect a broader view than the UK list. (I confess, it’s a shameful gap in my film background that I’ve never seen it, but I’ve had it highly recommended. One of these days I’ll fix that gap!)

I would easily include Blazing Saddles and Team America among my favorites (perhaps not quite making my top ten).

I don’t believe I would include Anchorman. I’m not much a Will Ferrell fan, although I did like Anchorman and Talladega Nights. But generally speaking I find him annoying, not funny. I’m not saying he’s not talented; I’m just saying he’s not my cup of tea.

Speaking of which, several of the films here have Judd Apatow as producer (Anchorman, Superbad, Bridesmaids).

I get decidedly mixed results with Apatow films. His humor can be a bit broad for my tastes, but sometimes he does one I really like. I loved Pineapple Express, and thought Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin were pretty good.

Returning to the British list, I’ve already mentioned disliking Borat.

I’d pick Holy Grail over Life of Brian for the Monty Python slot.

American Pie was pretty good, and it has endured. Not really my kind of humor, but I’m okay with it being on the list.

The Naked Gun movies are pretty funny, but there’s already a Zucker, Zucker, Abrahams entry, and there’s also the discomfort of seeing that mega-asshole, O.J., in them (somewhat balanced by what happens to him in those films).

I understand Superbad is pretty good, but as with American Pie, not really my kind of humor from what bits I’ve seen.

The Hangover was very funny and clever, but I deduct points for the sequel being so utterly unwatchable (literally; turned it off after 20 awful minutes). And I’m not sure the first one will end up being a classic.

Bridesmaids surprised me! Not what I expected, and I enjoyed it very much. It has a surprisingly dark and real edge to it that I liked. Not sure it rates top ten, but it was quite good.

Which leaves Shaun of the Dead. Definitely the best Simon Pegg movie, and definitely a great film (made my buy list). But top ten funniest? I donno about that. Can we settle on top 25?

Last Laughs

Above I said some things weren’t my type of humor, so what is my type of humor?

One way to put it is that I have experienced tastes. I’ve been actively interested in humor, both as creator and as audience, for most of my life. I’ve been the class clown. I used to read joke books, and I’ve been a fan of a wide variety of comedians over the years.

As such, I like a bit of true comic art in my comedy.

When it comes to comedy, you sometimes hear the phrase, “painting with a broad brush,” to describe slapstick or simplistic humor. In some cases, where the comedy is extremely broad, I like to say it was painted with a roller! And that’s not a compliment.

I most like comedy that’s painted with a fine brush.

I like comedy that surprises me, that I can’t predict. I like comedy where I can’t guess the punchline. I like comedy that plays against expectations. I like comedy that requires something from me, some thought or some knowledge.

I’m not particularly a fan of the comedy of the just plain weird.

Some comics toss together a strange mixed salad of ideas, and the juxtaposition of those elements is supposed to be funny. I call that “mix-master” comedy, and it usually doesn’t tickle me much. It’s too easy. All good art requires effort.

It’s a bit like throwing paint at a canvas.

Randomness isn’t funny or art to me, but when the artist chooses a color palette and guides the paint, then the result can be stunning (Jackson Pollock always springs to mind here).

Low-brow humor tends to bore me if all it is is shock value.

That’s one issue I have with Apatow’s work. A lot of it is designed to make you laugh because he made you feel uncomfortable. I’m long past being uncomfortable with such things; they now just seem lame and juvenile. (Compare his work with, say, comedian Jim Jefferies, whose work is very crude, but also very funny.)

In the end, comedy is a form of storytelling, and there isn’t much new under the sun. The trick is finding a way to make old material fresh and interesting. That takes real skill or talent. All the greats can turn old gags into new laughs.

What would be my top ten funniest movies ever?

That’s a hard one, in part because I don’t really categorize funny movies separately from others. The movies I like best are a blend of humor and drama (and sometime action). So I’ve never really thought about it, but here’s a rough cut:

  1. Airplane!
  2. Monty Python’s Holy Grail
  3. The Man Who Knew Too Little
  4. Galaxy Quest
  5. L.A. Story
  6. His Girl Friday
  7. Groundhog Day
  8. Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
  9. It Happened One Night
  10. Desk Set
  11. Earth Girls Are Easy (guilty pleasure)

(I reserve the right to change this list at will!)

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

24 responses to “Funniest Movies Ever

  • thegreenstudy

    Humor is such a subjective thing but I love “A Fish Called Wanda”, “Napoleon Dynamite”, anything with Steve Martin and “Stripes”. I love extremely awkward moments as long as they’re not happening to me. And I always wait about 5 years before I get around to watching a movie, so I’m never current.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I love A Fish Called Wanda! That’s a great film! I need to see Napoleon Dynamite again; the first time I saw it, I was just kind of, “Huh! Okay.” Sometimes I need to see a film more than once to truly appreciate it.

      Not only am I a long-time Steve Martin fan (“wild and craaaazy guy” and “let’s get small” and the arrow through the head!!), he’s one of a very small group of famous people I wish I could be friends with. Everything I’ve heard about him makes him seem really cool and very intelligent. I even have one of his banjo albums!

  • afterdinnerblog

    Pretty solid list. I too love A Fish Called Wanda! I would also include Groundhog Day, His Girl Friday, and Galaxy Quest on my list. I would have to add The Thin Man, Dodgeball, and Young Frankenstein (which I prefer to Blazing Saddles). I think I tend to prefer stand up or humorous TV shows to comedy movies because most of the time, a comedic movie just can’t keep my interest for an hour and a half or however long it is. The plots are usually shoddy or there just aren’t enough funny moments to make it worth it.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I thought about including the The Thin Man, but finally decided it wasn’t a comedy, per se, and that allowed me to include others. That said, I love Nick and Nora! I’ve got the entire set on DVD (even the musical one). Dodgeball was pretty funny, but doesn’t quite make the cut.

      There are so many that it’s hard to choose. I considered The Philadelphia Story, Adam’s Rib, Dr. Strangelove and Annie Hall (there really should have been at least one Woody Allen movie on the list). But I figured I had His Girl Friday, and as much as Kate Hepburn has done some wonderful comedies, I had to go with that one (which is in my top ten favorite movies, period). Strangelove I excluded on the basis of being so much more than just a comedy, and I already had Desk Set in the lineup. (Such tough choices!)

      I had to go back and edit the article, as you made me realize I’d said I would include Blazing Saddles and Team America in my top ten, but then didn’t! The latter would be in the top 25 for sure, though. And between Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein… very, very tough choice. I love the fourth-wall breaking and self-aware genre-savviness of BS, but YF has more (for lack of a better word) “class.” And Cloris Leachman was hysterical! (“He vas …. my boyfriend!”)

      I think some of it is that I’ve never been entirely down with Wilder as leading man; I don’t like him quite enough (and for some odd reason Terri Garr always vaguely annoyed me). I think BS wins by a farts’ width (if no ties are allowed) due to casting. I’ve always loved Madeline Kahn (I made her laugh once!), but that doesn’t help, since she’s in both. Cleavon Little, with Wilder as sidekick, is the tie-breaker for me. 😀

  • rorypond2020

    Some great choices there. For me (off the top of my head), I would include somewhere on my personal list WHAT’S UP, DOC?, A NEW LEAF (a mess of a movie, but very funny), THE WOMEN, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN and BRINGING UP BABY.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Oh, my, outstanding picks all! See, this is exactly why “10 funniest movies” is so hard. Just picking a favorite Christopher Guest or Elaine May movie is tough. Guffman vies with Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind… Actually more between Guffman and Wind (kinda got a thing for Parker Posey).

      Do you mean The Women from 1939 or 2008? Given you picked Bringing Up Baby (see, there again, how does one pick just between Hepburn/Grant and Hepburn/Tracy comedies?), I’m guessing you mean the 1939 one? [I’ve managed to miss that one; I’ll add it to my list, thanks!]

      Everyone who’s commented has illustrated the point that “funniest movies” is such a rich topic. All the contributions here have revealed how contemporary that British list is! Clearly my readers have far superior tastes in movies!! 😀

  • bronxboy55

    This was fun to read. But Dirty Rotten Scoundrels needs to be in your top-ten list of eleven movies, so something has to go — just not Galaxy Quest or Groundhog Day.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      That’s another great one! Can’t honestly say it would make my top ten, but that’s the beauty of this: we each have our own! What would your top ten look like?

      (And welcome. Thanks for stopping by and joining the fun!)

      • bronxboy55

        I don’t have a favorite, but here are ten I really like:

        Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
        A League of Their Own
        The Terminal
        Galaxy Quest
        Groundhog Day
        As Good As It Gets
        Fever Pitch
        Cool Runnings
        My Cousin Vinny
        The Sandlot

        (I can’t count any better than you can.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Hard keeping it to ten, isn’t it! All excellent choices; My Cousin Vinny is definitely in my runners up. And A League of Their Own is in my top ten favorite baseball movies… with three baseball movies in your top ten comedies, you must be a fan, too? A Bronx boy, but not a Yanks fan? 🙂

        (I was actually born in Manhattan General Hospital, but we lived in the Bronx! Moved when I was five.)

  • bronxboy55

    I’ve always loved baseball — the game itself, playing it, and the way the pros used to play it. I was one of those rare New Yorkers who liked both the Mets and the Yankees. But it’s changed so much. Or maybe I have. There’s something called Vintage Base Ball, a Midwestern phenomenon, I think. I’d love to see a game.

    Where did you live in the Bronx? And where did you move to?

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Baseball is the only sport I follow (and I love baseball; always thought the George Carlin bit comparing baseball and football was hysterical and true). It’s been tough being a Twins fan the last couple years! (Ironically, I only got seriously into baseball–stats and such–in 2010 when they did pretty well.) That VBBA looks interesting; I’ll have to check it out. Pre-steroids era!

      At first we lived on Morris Park Ave and then on Fteley Ave. Then Minnesota, then Los Angeles and now I’m back in Minnesota. I figure if I ever return to NYC the loop closes and I end. 🙂

  • Chyina

    Have you ever had that moment in a conversation when someone mentions something and you know for a fact you have a great reply but can’t think of it to save your life? I’m having one of those moments. 🙄

    I am sure there are tons of comedy, or comedy containing films, on my “best of” list, but I can’t think of them now. 😛 The only one that popped into my head was “A Philadelphia Story”. *sighs*

    I just know there are more titles rattling around my dust covered memory somewhere. *sneeze* I really should keep the place more tidy.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      A Philadelphia Story is wonderful! I have a copy on my “Shelf Of Favorites.”

      When I try to come up with lists, I sometimes suffer the same “quiz time” blank out. I’ve found it useful to have a reference or even a list of possibles. I’ll go through my DVD or CD catalog for ideas, for example. (“Oh, yeah, that one! I loved that one!!”)

      What’s worse is, at my age (and with all those gleefully killed brain cells), I do think of a good reply, but by the time I get a chance to speak it, I’ve forgotten it. And then when I remember it the conversation has moved on. [shrug]

      • Chyina

        I think I’m getting my replies mixed up, lol. I mentioned what you said in this comment in a different comment. O_o I think I need more coffee.

        Trust me, age has nothing to do with it. I’m only 30 (31 in less than a month) and I’ve been having those brain lapses my whole life. It’s moments like those that I wish I could turn back time, because my replies were usually killer (at least in my own head).

        Another problem I have is when I can’t think of a name or something and then about 3am, long after I needed to remember, it pops into my head. 😛

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It’s even harder from the Comments Manager, since I can’t see the post or the chain of previous comments from here. But if I go to the post, I don’t get the nice editing features. (Sometimes I do have to pull up the actual post to review before I can even frame a reply!)

        I’ve been wondering about your age (but gentlemen never ask). Your picture looks young (which means nothing, but it matched pictures in your heat rash and tee-shirt alteration posts, so I assumed it was current). But you write as someone far more mature than the photo seems to indicate, and your background seems to include elements that are contemporary with me (but that would put you in your 50s).

        Apparently you have some taste for the past. Mary Tyler Moore, A Philadelphia Story (that one kinda blew me away), even knows, has and loves vinyl. So you’re one of those young-old people… no wonder you’re having brain lapses! You’ve gone and confused your poor brain; it probably thinks you’re supposed to be hanging out at clubs, spending lots of time on Facebook and doing all the other things 30-year-olds do these days.

      • Chyina

        I usually use the WP Notification page. It gives a one line of the previous post, but that doesn’t really help. 😛 Plus no editing options of a reply.

        As to my age, I’ve noticed a lot of people say I sound more mature/older than I actually am. Mind you the first time I “stepped foot” into a chat room I was sixteen. I would talk to people who would guess my age to me at least 20 yours older. I have often been better friends with people older than me and in fact all but one of my romantic relationships have been several years older than me. 🙂

        By the way, I don’t offend easily. So even if you had asked my age it wouldn’t have been a big deal. 😉

        Yes that photo is current. Actually it’s only a couple of weeks old. Though people think I sound older they always say I look much younger (often by at least 5-10 years), which is fine with me.

        As to my taste in “oldies but goodies”, The Philadelphia Story is only a very small chip of the ice berg. I love old movies, books, music. To give you a taste…

        Silent films (Charlie Chaplin comes to mind along with the movie Metropolis), “Harvey”, “African Queen”…. well it could on and on from there. (My fave actor to this day is Danny Kaye)

        Love old music like Billie Holiday, Luis Armstrong, Red Nichols (which Danny Kaye played brilliantly in “The Five Pennies”), swing, jazz, blues, rock, and on and on through to today. (music is big for me, very big)

        Don’t even get me started on books, lol. That would take years. 😛

        As for the mix up in my brain with age and acting like it… I had never considered that. I may have to sit down with myself in the near future and sort out the crossed wires. (Ps. Only been in a club once, lol. Probably does help the citation any.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’ll use the Notifications page for shorter replies. I don’t like the small editing window on the right or the lack of editing tools. I get so tired of having to type “<em>” and “</em>” to make a word or phrase italic. I’ve also discovered that under some circumstances it’s unusable. If you’ve applied a filter, sometimes the bottom of the page covers the [Reply] button.

        I can relate. Even as a grade kid, I had access to (professional) adults and preferred their company. I was a total geek as a kid. Had I not gotten into the arts in high school, I’m pretty sure “scientist” would have been my future job title.

        Ha! I just (well, if “just” means sometime last year) bought the new version of Metropolis and held a screening for some friends, and African Queen is on the same shelf as The Philadelphia Story. (Along with another cherished favorite: It Happened One Night. Did you know that the whole Bugs Bunny carrot thing is based on Clark Gable in that movie? Audiences at the time exactly understood the reference.) But one of my favorite movies of all time is His Girl Friday (which is based on the play The Front Page; there are at least two other movies versions of it).

        I just realized. There’s a picture of that favorites shelf I keep mentioning:

        I’m less enamored with the older music. I went through a brief period working with music recording, and I find I really like the modern “close mic” sound. For some reason the recording techniques of the older eras interfere with my ability to fully enjoy the music. I suppose, too, I lean more towards complex arrangements than the simple down home stuff. Folk music, for example, is pretty far down my list of tastes. I do like all music generally, but I guess I prefer modern rock and jazz most. I’m a big fan of U2, David Gray and Springsteen, for example.

        I think we’re both pretty bananas over books!

      • Chyina

        I have to say that I’ve seen most, and own probably half, of the movies on your shelf. I admit though that I have yet to actually see “Casablanca”, which is odd for me.

        I love music of any kind really, old or new. The only exception being the country music that is around today. I think it sounds to much like everything else, rather than country, or at least what I think of as country music.

        Even with the bands/singers I don’t like I can usually find at least one song by them that I enjoy.

        Slightly off topic, but when I first got my dog I wanted to name him Springsteen. I was big into him at the time. In the end it was a family decision to go with Copper (from the movie “the Fox and the Hound”). Which in hindsight Copper fits his personality better than Springsteen. 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Well, I guess I am kind of surprised you haven’t seen Casablanca! For most people, I wouldn’t be, but given your tastes… how did that happen?

        Speaking of the golden oldies: The Thin Man movies?

        Even Chicago, a band I generally found nothing of interest in (not big on horn bands), had that one tune I really liked. Of course, that one tune sounded nothing like their usual work… On the flip side, a friend turned me on to the movie, Brassed Off, which was (a) great and (2) completely revised my opinion of what horns could do.

        I was a big Springsteen fan for a while, but cooled off somewhat. The iconic rock god thing makes me vaguely uncomfortable and reduces my interest. I love an underdog and tend to be allergic to trendy and popular. (You’ve seen my Night of Springsteen post, I believe?)

      • Chyina

        I know. It still surprises me sometimes that I haven’t seen it. Then someone will mention it or I’ll see a clip or picture from it and be like man I need to see that. *sighs*

        I have seen two of the Thin Man series, and maybe a third, but not sure. I love them. Powell is awesome in them. Have you heard about the remake that’s in the works, with Johnny Depp?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Did not know about Depp. That could be okay; he’s a serious guy who’s done some really cool stuff. (He did one, Nick of Time, I think, where the movie takes place in real time. If you set your clock to match the first clock you see, all other clocks you see will match yours.)

        The first Thin Man is the best; the next two are okay; the last two get pretty silly. The last one is a musical of sorts.

      • Chyina

        Yeah I think Depp could do well in the role. It looks as though it’s on delay at the moment. So will see if it gets shelved completely or not. 🙄

        I know I’ve seen the first and second, just not sure about the rest of them.

      • Chyina

        Okay, I hit the reply button too soon, lol.

        I haven’t seen Brassed Off but I’ve heard about. From a friend actually. I will have to add that to my list of movies to watch. At this rate I’ll still be watching movies from my grave.

        I know what you mean about the rock god thing, but I have to admit, sometimes I can’t help myself. Though at the time Springsteen was my favorite, now he has tapered off considerable.

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