Published in June 2019, we present our list of the Best Comedy Movies Ever.
To begin a week in which we’ll be exploring a wide range of comedy movies, we’d like to begin with something we take very seriously: this list. Just like our 50 Best Horror Movies Ever and 50 Best Romantic Movies Ever lists, the process of selecting the 50 films that ultimately ended up below was a rigorous one. It involved numerous rounds of voting by our entire team of contributors, a few clever tweaks from our editorial team, and several rounds of review before we got to a list that felt right. And even though you may read the following list and find it to be anything but “right,” we feel like it’s right for us — a representation of the collective taste of the team behind this website and One Perfect Shot.
In fact, that’s why the following list is not ranked but presented in chronological order. We like to think of it as a summer road trip through the history of cinematic comedy, except you don’t have to go outside where it’s hot. In our eyes, every film on this list represents some kind of import milestone or moment in the history of comedy cinema. We can’t wait to spend the week talking comedy movies with you on Twitter (@OnePerfectShot) and for you to let us know what films would be on your list, even if they didn’t make it onto ours. Without further ado, our list of the 50 Best Comedy Movies Ever…
The General (1926)
Buster Keaton created one of the all-time great silent comedies in 1926’s The General. Our hero cannot enlist in the Civil War because he is too valuable as a train engineer. Not enlisting makes him seem cowardly in the eyes of his fiancee, but that changes a year later when Johnnie is pivotal in stopping Union spies. In a series of spectacular and hilarious sequences, Keaton performs crazy stunts on a moving locomotive and builds toward an epic climax with over 500 extras filling the screen in one of the most awe-inspiring finales. It’s easy to say that films aren’t made like this anymore, but it’s true in this case. The General continues to leave a mark on the history of film almost 100 years later. (Max Covill)
The Awful Truth (1937)
Cary Grant in the 30s and 40s was an irresistible force, especially when he’s playing for laughs, and this screwball comedy is a perfect example of why that’s the case. He plays one half of a married couple opposite the great Irene Dunne, and we meet the pair en route to getting a divorce. It should be a simple process, but despite their bluster, neither of them can stomach seeing the other move on meaning they each go about sabotaging their soon to be ex’s new attempts at love. It’s a rapid-fire delight watching Grant and Dunne go for each other’s throats while clearly still holding each other’s hearts, and director Leo McCarey keeps pace with them the entire way. The story may not be as slyly hard-hitting as His Girl Friday (1940), but it’s every bit as hilarious as indelible. (Rob Hunter)
The Women (1939)
An all-female cast?! Madness. Beautiful, funny, heartwarming madness as over a hundred women appear on the screen without a man among them! George Cukor directs, but the script is written by two funny ladies (Anita Loos and Jane Murfin) adapting another woman’s (Clare Boothe Luce) funny play, and the result is one of cinema’s great comedies as women bond and clash over the men in their lives. Sure it fails the Bechdel Test, but the women here are funny, smart, strong, and when it matters, independent. The cast is equally unforgettable with Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, and (my black & white crush) Joan Fontaine all showcasing acting chops and great comic delivery. It was remade decades later to far lesser effect, so stick with the original and you can’t go wrong. (Rob Hunter)
His Girl Friday (1940)
The great irony of Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday is that for a film so focused on words — both the speed at which dialogue is delivered and the ingenious wit of what is said — it’s difficult to put into words exactly what makes this film so perfect. This is a film that on the umpteenth viewing still finds ways to surprise me or provide me with details I didn’t catch before. The comedy of remarriage starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as a newspaper editor and his star reporter/former wife is famous for being the first film to feature overlapping dialogue and with good reason. The sheer pace of the line delivery makes this film a whirlwind. What can sometimes get lost in the discussion about the dialogue, however, is Hawks’ work as a director. Watch for how he frames the characters and the absolute brilliance of his blocking. It all comes together to make this not only one of the best comedies ever but one of the best movies period. (Anna Swanson)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Frank Capra’s bonkers, brazen, and macabre comedy is a spectacle of incredulous wit. Starring Cary Grant as Mortimer Brewster, a man who, while on the way to his honeymoon discovers a secret his aunts have kept buried (literally — in the basement) and finds his world enveloped in antics and plot twists. The film plays with cinematic references and a cultural understanding of its suave leading man to continually turn the story on its head and find new ways to surprise audiences. The film is sheer madness in the best way possible. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny with hijinks and quotable lines that ensure there’s always something new to catch on second, third, fourth, fifth viewings. And, of course, leave it to a scene-stealing supporting performance from Peter Lorre to cement Arsenic and Old Lace as one of the greatest comedies of all time. (Anna Swanson)