Humor is subjective depending on your style.
For dry humor there is the intellectual category of movies while bawdy comedy comes in the form of the more juvenile variety.
With this in mind, here are my choices for funniest movies of all time:
It was the Thanksgiving season 1987 and my sister and I saw Planes, Trains, and Automobiles at our local hometown theatre. It was a memory we often reference as we nudge each other verbally with well remembered lines. It’s a movie I never tire of watching and one that I relied on heavily for a humor break during the time when my late boyfriend was sick with cancer. From the beginning to the end it never wavered in its hilarity whether it was Steve Martin with his genius animations or the late John Candy, co-star with his hysterical shenanigans the film is great for comic relief.
Animal House, which celebrated its anniversary a few years ago, was John Landis’ first film in 1978 with a low budget but plenty of talent. With the late John Belushi on board the film could not fail and did not. Watching a back story about the filming of the movie on cable it was interesting to find out about how it took on a life of its own at the time and has since. When I was in college we used to play the soundtrack at parties and all of us had each line to every song memorized. We even participated in the “Shout” song complete with the Gator move on the floor.
Caddyshack with the late Rodney Dangerfield is another favorite. It was on the other night and I remembered with fondness about when it came out. Bill Murray improvised the “Cinderella story” sequence from two lines of stage direction. The oil massage scene with Chevy Chase was also completely improvised. The noise the gopher makes is actually vocalized by a dolphin and those sound effects were the same for the old t.v. show “Flipper.” Murray’s Dalai Lama speech was also improvised and the character of Lou is the only character to actually say the word “caddyshack.”
Ladykillers (the new version) starring Tom Hanks is another pick. Though it wasn’t a favorite with critics I loved it more so than the old one. As usual Hanks took on the role with ingenuity and he made the film what it was along with his co-stars who did their part. An eccentric if not charming Southern professor and his criminal crew plan to get a lot of money by renting a room from a religious widow. They pose as a band to rob a casino but things quickly go awry and every time they come up with a new way to get around things events just seem to bite them in the butt every time.
Airplane! was one that my sister and dad went to see when it came out in December 1980. It was also another one I can see over and over. My sister and I still use some of the lines like “Surely, you can’t be serious.” You either love it or not and it takes a certain sense of humor to appreciate it. I’ve heard some say they hated it and I don’t get it. All I can say is your comic appreciation is different.
Naked Gun with Lesley Nielson was one I saw with a group of people during a wedding trip with my sister. One of the best scenes was the Queen Elizabeth one but I won’t give it away. Besides, you have to see it to appreciate it. From the files of “Police Squad” comes a hilarious story involving slapstick and an amusing take on the love story involving sappy sentiment turned hysterical. Co-starring Priscilla Presley, an unlikely comic co-star, the film tells the story of a hapless cop involved with a clueless beauty.
Fast Times at Ridgmont High starring Sean Penn when he was young came out when I was in tenth grade. One of the most hilarious scenes involved Penn’s character ordering a pizza while in class. It was a movie reflecting the times of the 80s when things were cheesy, though we didn’t know it at the time. Everyone wanted to be Phoebe Cates and no one wanted to be Judge Reinhold’s character, the poor guy who had to wear a ridiculous outfit to work all the while trying to score.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective starring Jim Carrey is another either love it or hate it film. I’ve talked to people who missed the humor in it which is amazing to me. The physical comedy alone is what makes the movie hilarious and coupled with the expressions of Carey in each situation finishes the sequence beautifully. A goofy detective (Carrey) goes in search of a missing dolphin and gets involved with Courtney Cox’s character, a straight-laced woman – but not for long.
Mask also starring Carey is a manic’s dream, full of bouncing, off-the-wall hilarity and never-ending energy. Playing “loser” Stanley Ipkiss, Carrey’s character is transformed when he finds a mask and his entire life is changed forever in a good, hilarious way. Ipkiss’ ever faithful and precious Jack Russell Terrier, Milo is on hand, too lending canine hilarity to the mix. Through the mask we all get to see what life would be like if just for a moment we could unleash all our crazy energy and pent-up humor fantasy.
The Birdcage with Robin Williams, my favorite actor and comedian is another one I never get tired of watching. At the time it came out I was visiting my sister in Florida and the setting of the movie seemed apropos at the time. The premise involves two gay men who are partners trying to convince their son’s future in-laws that they are a straight couple through the help of lots of makeup, wig, wardrobe, and brief lessons on acting hetero.