Comedy is a notoriously subjective genre. With tastes running the gamut from dry and droll to loud and crass, there is no argument more unwinnable than a disagreement about whether or not something is worth a laugh.
That being said, some comedies manage to be so well executed that the results are undeniably enjoyable.
Movies that are just like these- five of the funniest ever made.
1. City Lights, the Funniest Film with Staying Power
Charlie Chaplin is still widely acknowledged as a comedic genius. Charlie Chaplin was born in 1889. Just go ahead and let that sink in for a minute.
In an age of constantly shifting tastes when a comedian may be heralded as hilarious one year and totally out of touch the next (I’m looking at you, Farrelly Brothers), true staying power like Chaplin’s is a rarity. If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching the master work, then stop reading immediately and go youtube “The Oceana Roll.”
Now, back to business.
A great example of Chaplin’s unparalleled sense of parody, character, and physical precision is his 1931 film City Lights. In addition to featuring the classic Chaplin character “The Little Tramp,” City Lights is an early predecessor to every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen. But believe me, City Lights is no How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. It’s better.
2. The Sting, the Comedy That Even Made the Academy Laugh
Established film institutions are notoriously wary of recognizing comedies. Perhaps most difficult to please are the Academy Awards, which last awarded the venerable Best Picture prize to an outright comedy in 1974 for Annie Hall.
The key to award season success for the comedy film usually comes at the cost of its comedy classification. To some people, Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love was a comedy… but only insofar as it was not strictly a drama. Still, there remains the rare film that manages to win over the academy while playing out and out funny.
1973 caper The Sting proves what can happen when you give the right comedic material to big, serious actors like Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Nominated for ten Oscars, The Sting took home seven, including the awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, as well as stuffier technical awards like Editing and Art Direction.
The Sting has an impressive Oscar haul for any movie. And it’s record remains unmatched by any comedy since then.
3. Shrek, the Funniest Movie For Every Age
Now I know what you’re thinking, Shrek? Really?! That movie is going to take up a spot on this list before classics like Animal House or The Jerk?
But before you discount this entry entirely, forget everything you know about the series (meaning Shreks two through, what are they up to? Five?) and think back to the original. Before Pixar totally dominated as the animation studio that made films for everyone, Shrek burst onto the scene as a clever send-up of the fairytale genre.
Layered with subtle parody for grown-ups and plenty of gross out gags for both the young and the young at heart, Shrek is an undeniable delight.
There may be plenty of animated movies these days that pander to every age in the audience with a cynical and skewed bite. But Shrek did it first.
4. Beverly Hills Cop, the Funniest Movie for Your Dollar
Before he was relegated to watered down family friendly fare, Eddie Murphy was a revelation. He joined the cast of Saturday Night Live at the age of nineteen, and his raunchy, riotous standup sold out stadiums.
Nowhere is his wild popularity more apparent than in the 1984 film Beverly Hills Cop. Murphy’s fish out of water tale of a Detroit cop transplanted to the foreign world of LA, is the perfect demonstration of what can happen when you get out of the way and let a comedy superstar carry a film. No one is watching Beverly Hills Cop for the plot, but the story and cast of side characters support Murphy with faultless execution.
Audiences everywhere seem to agree. With a box office total of $234,760,478 USD, Beverly Hills Cop is the highest grossing comedy film of all time. Adjusted for inflation, the film’s total would today amount to $433,887,669.
It’s not as if Murphy was a one trick pony. In just a few years, he churned out other big earners such as Beverly Hills Cop II, Coming to America, and Trading Places, proving once again that, at least for Eddie Murphy, the eighties really were a better time.
5. Airplane, the Funniest Movie Ever Made, Scientifically Speaking
Before we get going on this one, let’s just get one thing out of the way: I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.
There’s a reason that you’ve probably quoted that line, even if you haven’t seen the movie. And that reason is that the 1980 film Airplane, following the attempted landing of a doomed flight, is the funniest of all time.
Don’t believe, me? That’s fine, I’ve got science on my side.
A study conducted by subscription service LoveFilm ranked movies according to the average number of laughs per minute experienced by a viewer. Coming in at number one, with a rate of three laughs a minute was Airplane, which beat out the next funniest film (The Hangover) by a margin of .6 laughs.
Airplane is perhaps best remembered for putting Leslie Nielsen’s experience as a procedural TV fixture to use as the greatest straight man ever. Parody, sight gags, and one-liners abound in this delightfully wacky romp that manages to balance them perfectly. That alone would be enough, but Airplane succeeds by allowing its broad, satirical characters enough room to still come off as human and likable.
Comedy may be subjective. But there are some movies-like these five- that anybody can enjoy.
Remember that the next time you get together to watch a movie with friends, and someone suggests the vague and potentially disagreement laden genre of “something funny.”
Let’s give an honorable mention to more recent comedies like “Anchorman”, “Superbad”, “Team America” and “The Hangover” – What’s in your top 5 though?