It is with great humility that I submit to you the following. I realize that ever couch-potater in the world has a list just like this so thanks for finding mine interesting enough to read. Please enjoy and feel free to agree with me completely or, if necessary, disagree. As I know most people are familiar with these movies I will dispense with synopses and just offer a few thoughts on each.
These movies are going to have to be unordered because, on any given day, they can all be my favorites.
The first film to make my illustrious list is Young Frankenstein. It fits my criteria for greatness in that I can watch it repeatedly with no diminished enjoyment, I usually will find something that I haven’t noticed before and I love sharing the experience with either someone who has never seen the movie before or someone who loves it as much as me. Not being a huge Gene Wilder fan I am amazed that I love him in this movie. It would not be the same without him. The cast is tremendous and it is a Mel Brooks movie that actually isn’t as over-the-top as most of his others. The look of the movie, shot in black and white and utilizing many of the same sets as the original James Whale Frankenstein, is very authentic. To me, that authentic look is what makes some of the gags and one-liners so funny. Marty Feldman’s Groucho line “You grab the blonde and I’ll take the one in the turban” uttered in response to Wilders “Give me a hand with these bags” is one that makes me laugh really hard still after many viewings. If you haven’t given this classic a look I urge you to do so right away.
Next is another Mel Brooks movie called Blazing Saddles. It’s a very non-pc movie with lots of offensive gags and jokes, but despite this it is hilarious. The infamous campfire scene with Slim Pickens and a bunch of gassy cowboys is great. Again, Gene Wilder is inexplicably great in this movie, as are Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman and Cleavon Little. It was co-written by Richard Pryor so that should give you an idea of the type of material here, but it is funny nonetheless and just shows how good Mel Brooks can be when we really finds a good concept.
It’s tough for me to pick a Monty Python movie for my list as I love all of their films, but the Holy Grail is a cut above the rest. With all the guys at their peaks, great material and unforgettable characters this is Monty Python at their best. There are so many memorable scenes that are so easily repeated and tossed around and made into t-shirts etc that you forget how funny the movie is despite being transformed into a “hip” movie to be in on. Also, for those of you into such things, the extras on DVD are outstanding, particularly the documentary which reveals the source of some of the movies famous attributes (who would have guessed the coconuts were due to budget constraints?). Also, the Lego version of the movie is very original. I would also recommend to fans to watch the rest of the catalog- The Meaning of Life, Life of Brian etc.
As you might have noticed, my favorites tend to be in groups from the same directors/writers etc. This next one follows that trend. This Is Spinal Tap is frequently number one on my list for good reason. It is absolutely brilliant. Rob Reiner established himself as a genius to me with this movie. The incredible characters created by Michael Mckean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer are unforgettable and, believe it or not, fooled many people into believing they were an actual band. An aspect of this movie that impressed me is the attention to detail. The guys actually play, they play on top-quality gear which lends an air of authenticity, and they play the characters straight. These guys are absurd but they don’t seem to realize it and that makes them endearing. And all the cameos are great: Howard Hesseman as an arrogant star, Fran Drescher, Paul Schaffer, Billy Crystal and even Dana Carvey show up. This is a must-own for any true fan of rock and roll and comedy.
Fitting nicely with the above film are a trio of “mockumentaries” by Christopher Guest. Waiting For Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind are all cut from the same cloth as Spinal Tap. Each deals with a differnt subject but utilizes many of the same actors: Eugene Levy, Catherine O’hara, Michael Mckean, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, Bob Balaban and John Michael Higgins, among others. My favorite of these three is Best in Show at the moment. It deals with a dog show and many of the owners of the contestants. Very funny, especially Guest as the owner of a bloodhound and aspiring ventriloquist/singer/performance artist. Waiting For Guffman is set in a msall town and deals with a community theater group while A Mighty Wind concerns the death of a famous folk music producer and the concert put together to honor his memory. The brilliance and uniqueness of these movies comes from the method of writing them. Guest and company write a basic story outline but very little else. They allow the talented casts to improvise and ad-lib to a tremendous degree and it really lends a unique feel to the interaction between the characters. There are times when you could swear the actors are going to break character and lose it but they never do, which is amazing to me.
And here are a few “honorable mentions” in the comedy category, for what it’s worth…
The Princess Bride: Not usually considered as a comedy as much as a “fantasy” it is still hilarious.
Army of Darkness and Evil Dead II: These are both early Sam Raimi films. The former is more of a fantasy/comedy while the latter is more in the horror genre but very funny. Bruce Campbell is a genius at portraying the cartoonish hero character.
M*A*S*H: Just a great movie. Very funny and distinctly different than the TV series. Robert Altman’s best.
Airplane: The grandfather of the genre which includes Hot Shots, The Naked Gun and all the rest. Stupid and juvenile yes but very funny. “Don’t call me Shirley.” One of the best lines in a comedy ever.
Raising Arizona: This is the Cohen Brothers’ best in my book. Quirky and hilarious. Brilliant dialog.
Some Like It Hot: This one is supposed to be #1 on everyone’s list I know but it’s a bit further down for me. It is brilliant though, especially Jack Lemmon. He was an amazing actor then and continued to be until the end.
Caddyshack: Not really a great movie in some ways, but Bill Murray’s Carl was enough to put it on my list.
Groundhog Day: Another great Bill Murray performance, although not as over-the-top as his old persona, it established him in my mind as a great actor with great comic timing and not as a comedian who maked movies.
A Fish Called Wanda: Not a big surprise considering my affinity for Python-esque humor. Kevin Kline is fantastic as a criminal with self-esteem issues. I still use the “Don’t ever call me stupid” line from time to time, although most people think I’m just being a moron. I still think it’s funny…
Ok, there you are folks. My officially sanctioned list of great comedies. If I were to write this list next week, there may be some additions or modifications but this is a good representation of my sense of humor. I hope you take my advice and watch or re-watch some of these movies and please feel free to comment.