Saturday, October 27, 2012

My favorite comedy screenplays

Someone asked me to list my top ten favorite comedy screenplays. Fine, as long as I don’t have to do it in order and don’t have to limit myself to ten. These are my favorites, which means these are the movies I wish I had written.

ALL ABOUT EVE – Joseph Mankiewicz. Sharpest dialogue I’ve ever heard. The film is 60 years old and still crackles. Saw it again recently. What a pleasure to watch, especially now during the dumbing down of America.

SOME LIKE IT HOT – Billy Wilder & IAL Diamond. Disproves its classic last lane. Somebody IS perfect.

HEARTBREAK KID – Neil Simon (although the hand of director Elaine May is clearly evident). Jewish men generally love this movie, Jewish women hate it. A young Charles Grodin gives the comic performance of his career. And Eddie Albert (yes, Eddie Albert) will make you laugh out loud. Ignore the remake.

THE LADY EVE – Preston Sturgess, story by Monckton Hoffe & Preston Sturgess. Screwball comedy at its funniest and most sophisticated. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda – not who you naturally think of as a comedy team but they pull it off with ease.

HIS GIRL FRIDAY – Screenplay by Charles Lederer, based on the play by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur. Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell trade quips at a pace that makes THE NEWSROOM seem slow. And every word out of their mouths is a gem.

ARTHUR -- Steve Gordon's masterpiece. For more info on Steve and scenes that were cut from his original draft, check out my archives.

TOOTSIE – Larry Gelbart (although fifteen other writers also had a hand in it). If there seems to be a pattern in the comedies I like its men posing as women or “Eve” in the title.

TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN – Woody Allen. This movie was a revelation, especially when you consider that at the time (late 60’s) most “comedies” were lame Doris Day type films.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN – Mel Brooks & Gene Wilder. “Putting on the Ritz” scene alone puts this in my top ten.

ANNIE HALL -- Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman. For my money the perfect romantic comedy. (How could the same guy write HOLLYWOOD ENDING?)

MOONSTRUCK – John Patrick Shanley. Okay, so there are two perfect romantic comedies.

CHASING AMY – Kevin Smith. Funny, real, pitch perfect.  What happened to Kevin after this? 

AMERICAN GRAFFITI – George Lucas and Gloria Katz & Willard Huyck. A consistently funny movie that doesn’t even try to be a comedy. And what a soundtrack!

DR. STRANGELOVE – Stanley Kubrick and Peter George and Terry Southern. The perfect black comedy. And there are no other perfect black comedies.

THE PRODUCERS – Mel Brooks. The movie not the movie of the musical based on the movie. That was dreadful.

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES – Jean Poiret, Francis Veber, Edouard Molinaro, Marcello Damon. Even the subtitles were funny.

FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL -- Richard Curtis. Even Andie McDowell couldn't kill this English confection. But boy did she try.

SHOWGIRLS – Joe Eszterhas. So unspeakably terrible on every level that you can’t help but laugh throughout. (Okay, so that’s one I’m glad I didn’t write). It's a tribute to Elizabeth Berkley's talent that after starring in this movie she still has a career.

Everyone is invited to list your favorites. Including VOLUNTEERS is not mandatory.

75 comments:

bill said...

You forgot one two of my favorites:

Sullivan's Travels
Harold and Maude

chris said...

Not my favorite movie but loved the screenplay for Broadcast News. What's funny is in the screenplay it is Tom who is the genuine everyman and the news pros he works with who are the pretentious phonies.

James L Brooks you magnificent bastard - I read your screenplay!

Nick from Hamburg said...

No PRINCESS BRIDE, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY or THIS IS SPINAL TAP? What did Rob Reiner, William Goldman or Nora Ephron do to you? And where's TO BE OR NOT TO BE or NINOTCHKA? Of course everyone has their own taste, but those should be in everyone's selection.

Gary said...

I would add two Billy Wilder gems -- The Apartment and The Fortune Cookie. Very funny movies with some serious themes underneath.

unkystan said...

Ok everybody, time for your two cents. I love all of Ken's picks and (just off the top of my head) I would add "Support Your Local Sheriff".

VincentS said...

Saw just about every one of your picks, Ken, and I couldn't agree more! But as Andie MacDowell's biggest fan, I think she was terrific in FOUR WEDDINGS.

Mitchell Hundred said...

I actually prefer The Birdcage to La Cage Aux Folles, if only because you get to see Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a gay couple.

Also, the 1970 version of The Out of Towners.

basura said...

Being a teenager at the time, the first time I saw Dr. Strangelove I thought it was a serious war movie.

Debby G. said...

Loved all the ones you listed, except for Chasing Amy, which I thought was pretty good but not "list-worthy."

I think it should be a crime to leave out When Harry Met Sally. It belongs on the top of the list.

I'd also include:

There's Something About Mary
Love, Actually
Bad Santa
Animal House
Fargo
Forty-Year-Old Virgin

Debby G. said...

Oh, and:

Broadcast News
Life of Brian
Lost in America

Now I feel like watching comedies all weekend. So many great ones!

Debby G. said...

Forgot to say I hated Heartbreak Kid. Yep, I'm a Jewish woman.

404 said...

Kevin Smith seems to get a lot of crap for his post-Amy career, but I'll be honest my favorite ones by him were both later, relatively speaking: DOGMA (which is just irreverently hilarious and reverently respectful at the same time, and seriously not many people could pull that off) and CLERKS 2. Yep, I said it. Sorry. Laughed my ass off at that movie as hard as anything I've ever seen, and every time I've seen it since then.

Also
OFFICE SPACE
PRINCESS BRIDE
RAISING ARIZONA

There are so many more I could list, but these ones not only are funny, but to me they get funnier every time I see them.

Mr. Hollywood said...

I'll throw my hat in with THE IN-LAWS ... the original one with Alan Arkin and Peter Falk. A gem ... and AIRPLANE as well ...

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the selections, I would have "Life of Brian" on my list .

Two Mel Brooks masterpieces, Young Frankenstein and The Producers made your cut. Both had wonderful performances by Kenneth Mars, first as Inspector Hans Wilhelm Fredrich Kemp in YF, and as Frank Liebkind (the nazi) in the Producers.

I was shocked to see Ken Mars overlooked in the annual Academy Awards recent passings segment. Perhaps his demise in February 2011 was too close to the telecast, but his omission in 2012 was egregious. Ken's scene stealing romp as Hugh Simon in "What's Up, Doc" alone was worthy of inclusion in the Oscar list of life's latest losers.

I am sure dear Ken would prefer to not be eligible for consideration, but this does highlight a strange phenomenon, even in death, actors audition.

Johnny Walker said...

Fantastic movies. As witty as ALL ABOUT EVE is, I don't think I considered it a comedy! The titular Eve is a pretty evil character...

Loved the others though (the ones I've seen, at least), although I find it difficult to stretch my disbelief quite so far for THE LADY EVE. (Want to see who the Coen Brothers have tried to emulate most of their career? Check out this movie!)

I guess I need to watch THE HEARTBREAK KID and LA CAGE AUX FOLLES.

Personally I'd definitely add THIS IS SPINAL TAP and THE BIG LEBOWSKI to this list (they're both growers!).

So many great movies!

Johnny Walker said...

Also, saw this on the BBC news site today. Possibly of interest:

What sitcoms say about American voters

Mac said...

I think most of mine are in that list, although i've never seen "Chasing Amy" - but I'll check it out now as it's in such good company. My others would be -
Way out West
The Big Lebowski
Withnail and I
Dumb and Dumber
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Local Hero
Get Shorty

Too many to list when you start thinking about it. I read an interview with Mel Brooks where he said the "Putting On The Ritz" scene was Gene Wilder's idea, and Wilder had to fight to get it in the script. Mel Brooks was gracious enough to admit that it's the best scene in the movie.

Jim Gabriel said...

Not necessarily the greatest, but two that are close to my heart: Andrew Bergman's The Freshman and Bill Forsyth's Gregory's Girl. Both loopy, absurdist, awfully touching.

Johnny Walker said...

The theatrical cut of THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN was fantastic. One of the best comedies I'd seen in years. Sadly the version they released on home video (with an additional 20 mins) pretty much ruined it for me, and from what I can tell, I'm not alone.

What were you thinking Judd Apatow??

Jonathan Ernst said...

I agree with Ken's his choices (except Chasing Amy). Here's what I would add:


To Be or Not to Be
The Thin Man
Duck Soup
Bringing Up Baby
The Twentieth Century (Preston Sturges, Howard Hawks, John Barrymore, Carol Lombard, and I believe that Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein channels John Barrymore from this film)
Father of the Bride (Spencer Tracy version)
Adam's Rib
One, Two, Three (unsung Billy Wilder film where he drove James Cagney into retirement by nearly working him to death)
Harold and Maude
Airplane!
Monty Python's Holy Grail
Fletch
This is Spinal Tap
Vacation
Animal House
Caddyshack
The Jerk
The Big Lebowski

Birdie said...

I third Broadcast News. I like Moonstruck, but I remember being slightly pissed that year than it won screenplay over BN, which would easily be in my top 5 screenplays of all time. I would actually be curious to know your opinions on BN, as I know you are a big Jim Brooks fan (before his huge fall from grace).

Others:
Hannah and Her Sisters
Crimes and Misdemeanors (the comedy parts are SO funny I think it counts, and as a whole I consider it the Woodman's finest film, which takes a lot)
Flirting with Disaster (again, would LOVE to know your thoughts on this movie).
National Lampoon's Vacation (but given your feelings on Chevy Chase, somehow I doubt this is anywhere near making your cut)
Lost in America (yes, big Albert Brooks fan. I actually just remembered that you are not - maybe that's why no Broadcast News?)


I love The Heartbreak Kid, and my father is Jewish (or atheist really). Interestingly enough, I know the daughter of the person who wrote the screenplay (Bruce Jay Friedman) - like me, she has a Jewish father and Irish Catholic mother. Maybe there is something to that after all.


But my favorite will always be Tootsie. I'll pretend that if you did make a list, this would be your number one.:-)

And for the "camp" slot, who can deny Mommie "I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at the dirt" Dearest?

Anonymous said...

Might not be real witty, bu for pure laugh-ability ..."It's a Mad Mad Mad World"

Birdie said...

Forgot about Fletch and The Freshman, two of my other favorites, both by Andrew Bergman. Anyone else remember when New York Magazine deemed him the New King of Comedy (hey, another favorite movie) back in the mid-80s? His reign didn't really last long, did it? Which is a shame.

laconic said...

Life of Brian
Blazing Saddles
Mash
Catch22
Dr. Strangelove
Young Frankenstein
Mr. Beans Holiday
Crocodile Dundee
Blues Brothers
The Birdcage

Christodoulos said...

Great list, Ken. The only one I haven' seen yet is HEARTBREAK KID -- I saw the stupid remake, unfortunately, but I'll look up the original. And great suggestions too from the other posters.

Here's my list. No particular order.

My Girl Friday
Victor Victoria
Noises Off
Baby Mama (I'm a great fan of Tina Fey)
Arsenic And Old Lace
One, Two, Three (my favorite Billy Wilder movie)
Swingers
Top Secret
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Adam's Rib
The Ref (1994, with Kevin Spacey, Dennis Leary, Judy Davis)
Clerks
Love and Death
My Man Godfrey

Noises Off is the comedy that made me laugh the harder. At some point, there were literally tears streaming down my face, my right eye couldn't open, I had cramps in my belly. Fortunately I was watching it alone at home in my VCR. I still don't want to watch that movie again, because I don't want to dilute the memory of watching it the first time.

johnachziger said...

The Gods Must Be Crazy. Every time I see the scene with the jeep in the tree I fall off the couch.

Arsenic and Old Lace. The Cary Grant movie--just hilarious throughout.

Monkey Business. "Anyone can type."

Babe (and to a weirder extent, Babe 2). Funny animals indeed).

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Mark Evanier will be Mad at you for not including this.

johnachziger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adam said...

I've always thought that Groundhog Day is a fantastically written and directed comedy.

Anonymous said...

Parenthood
Mrs. Doubtfire

Tudor Queen said...

Soapdish - everything and everyone is funny and gets funnier. One of my favorite comedies from which to quote:

"I'll take my one-man Hamlet to Canada. They LOVE me in Canada!"

"Of course I'm an egomaniac! I've got America's Sweetheart dangling from my drainpipe!"

"He doesn't have a head! How am I supposed to write for a guy without a head?"

"She's under a lot of pressure." "She's a psycho bitch."

The entire live scene in the restaurant. And so forth.

Also want to endorse "Princess Bride" and "When Harry Met Sally".

Henry said...

I'd add:

Vegas Vacation - most underrated comedy of all time

Groundhog Day

Blazing Saddles

Harold and Maude

Princess Bride

Bob Harlow said...

Duck Soup
Sullivan's Travels
His Girl Friday
Some Like It Hot
The Palm Beach Story
Horse Feathers
Young Frankenstien
Hannah & Her Sisters
Fargo
Fortune Cookie
Bringing Up Baby

Wendy M. Grossman said...

chris: where does one find this original screenplay? I'd love to read it.

I think people are confusing the best comedy movies with the best comedy screenplays here. The Marx Brothers are great in Duck Soup, but I don't think the screenplay is up there with the greatest ones (how would anyone write the mirror scene?).

wg

Mel Ryane said...

WAITING FOR GUFFMAN

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING,THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING

THOSE LIPS, THOSE EYES

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

THE PRODUCERS – Mel Brooks. The movie not the movie of the musical based on the movie. That was dreadful.
Thank you. To be fair, Zero Mostel set a standard that I don't think anyone could have met, even without Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane (who have been great in other stuff but were terrible in The Producers) and (I'm sorry to say) the overly heavy hand Mel Brooks has developed in the last few years.

What a great thread! I could spend the whole day re-watching some of these movies. A couple I would add, just as favorite/underrated comedies I don't see:
A New Leaf (I'm a sucker for Walter Matthau, especially the perennially middle-aged WM playing a WASPy young playboy-trust funder, and nephew of James Coco), see also the underrated Hopscotch
The Lavender Hill Mob, my favorite of the Ealing comedies
Harvey
Quickchange, maybe my favorite Bill Murray movie

gottacook said...

Birdie: Sometime in the mid-1960s Bruce Jay Friedman wrote the original, very brief (not even 10 pages), short story "A Change of Plan" on which the movie was based; he didn't write Heartbreak Kid (although he does have writing credits for Splash, Stir Crazy, and other originals).

Oh, and another vote for Local Hero.

I realized just now why I'm in no hurry to see Tootsie again - the music has become so dated, which is not a problem with Mark Knopfler's Local Hero music even though both movies are from the same era.

Nothing against Dave Grusin the composer; it's the arrangements of his music in Tootsie that are dated, not the music itself - I heard him play a solo piano version of "It Might Be You" (sung in the movie, gloppily, by Stephen Bishop) on Marian McPartland's radio show years ago and it was fresh and new.

Anonymous said...

What about
Harold and Maude
Mean Girls
Fargo

So glad to see Moonstruck on your list! :p

John Greenleigh said...

Hi Ken. I'd add My Favorite Year, and the much underappreciated Robin Willims film, Best of Times.

Phillip B said...

Not a baseball film mentioned. Once got literally pummeled in a writing class for praising Ron Shelton's Bull Durham - but I'll stand by my own judgement.

Jerry Belson's Smile seems to have been completely forgotten - it may not be Top 10 material but I always suggest it, as so few people have seen it.

Alan Rudolph's Choose Me is my kind of rom com, and I've tested several relationships by making women watch Richard Curtis' The Tall Guy.

The Graduate was startling enough for me to find out who Buck Henry was - and follow him for the next 35 years. I thought To Die For was the funniest, blackest, comedy ever - even though I've been unable many others..

Johnny Walker said...

Wendy, is this it?

Broadcast News Script

-bee said...

Agree with you on Dr. Strangelove and Chasing Amy, Ken!

I'm presuming silent movies don't count as they more had 'scenarios' than screenplays - anyway, here are some of my favorite comedies with dialogue!

The Shop Around the Corner

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Pygmalion

Monkey Business

Three/Four Musketeers (Richard Lester versions)

The Band's Visit

Bombshell

Draftee Daffy (Warner's Cartoon)

Napoleon Dynamite

This is Spinal Tap

Passing Fancy (early Ozu film)

Mac said...

Play it Again Sam!
Planes, Trains And Automobiles.
Bowfinger is another favourite of mine. Not one of Steve Martin's big hits (or Eddie Murphy's) but I love it.

Ken Levine said...

Lots of great additions here, guys. I agree with most of them. For the record, I love BROADCAST NEWS. Also ONE TWO THREE, THE GRADUATE, SPINAL TAP, MASH, BULL DURHAM, and LOCAL HERO is a little gem. If you haven't seen it, try to find it. SWINGERS is also an interesting choice. As is SMILE. I once wrote a whole post praising that forgotten film.

Keep 'em coming. And thanks for participating.

Janice said...

I also have to champion "When Harry Met Sally".

My other picks:

Sideways
The Out-of-Towners (original)
America's Sweethearts
That Thing You Do!
City Slickers
Mr. Saturday Night (I've still never met anyone else who's ever seen it)
The Money Pit

Guilty pleasure: Vegas Vacation

Ron said...

Why is there no love for Used Cars? It is just a bit more crass than many of the comedies listed it uses sexual jokes both as something to laugh at and as satire. A remarkable set of performances by Jack Warden and a young Kurt Russell and one of the funniest scenes ever this movie goes on any of my lists.

Mac said...

Bullets Over Broadway is terrific. The dialogue is so frenetic it's like a screwball movie.
I Love You Alice B Toklas is one of my favourites that I keep re-watching. I swear the scene where Seller's parents (Jo Van Vleet and Salem Ludwig) accidentally eat hash cookies, is the funniest stoner scene in any movie before or since.
A Shot In The Dark
Return of the Pink Panther
Ghostbusters
Team America
The Jungle Book

RyderDA said...

If it's about awesome, inventive writing:

THE THIN MAN (and many of the sequels)

AIRPLANE!

GOOD NEIGHBOUR SAM

Plus what everyone else wrote!

Jim said...

I'm glad that La Cage aux Folles got a mention, because that's just one of a series of masterpieces written by the greatest screenwriter that you've never heard od. Probably because he's French, and because comedy dialogue doesn't travel well - sadly translation strips out all the ambiguities and other meanings that mnake stuff funny in the first place. The writer's name was Michel Audiard (and yes, if you like the poncey sort of French films, then the guy you have heard of, Jacques, is his son) and he's a bit of a comedy god in France. If you look at his credits on IMDB from the fifties to seventies then you'll see that he had a hand in just about every decent film from that era. He usually gets credited as "dialogue writer," the then term for punch-up guy, or script consultant, I guess.

You want somewhere to start with his films? Try Les Tontons Flingueurs, where a retired gangster gets summoned to the deathbed of his old partner-in-crime to fulfil two requests: to take over his crime empire and to look after his teenage daughter. Who of course has no idea that daddy was involved in anything illicit, and is also dating a rather posh young man from a terribly nice family. A corny scenario? Who cares. The script is written 100% for laughs, but played absolutely deadpan straight. This scene (don't be scared, it's subtitled) is the most famous. Two men from a rival gang has come to the hero's house to sort out a dispute, they have been disarmed and now all are sitting around the kitchen table. Making sandwiches for the teenagers who are having a party in the main part of the house. Someone suggests they have a drink, but said teenagers have cleared everything out. Except for that one mysterious bottle at the back of the cupboard. The one that's been there untouched for longer than anyone can remember.

OK, maybe that one's a bit too French. He also directed a few films in the early seventies, so try a clip from Faut pas prendre les enfants du bon Dieu pour des canards sauvages (snappy titles were his weakpoint - this one was released in English as Leontine) with Marlène Jobert, more often spoken of today as the mother of Bond Girl Eva Green, but hotter and funnier than her daughter by a long way. Just don't ask me to summarise the plot.

Then there's Elle boit pas, elle fume pas, elle drague pas, mais... elle cause! (that title thing again) in which Annie Girardot is a cleaner working for three different households who just can't stop talking. She lets slip secrets about each employer to the others, and a circle of blackmail begins. Probably the only chance you'll ever get to see the Quasar Unipower City Car unless someone else should come up anew with the idea of bolting a mini chassis to a shower cubicle.

Or Les Barbouzes, perhaps the closest anyone has ever got to recreating the classic Mad strip Spy vs Spy on celluloid (no subtitles, but it's the trailer so doesn't make sense even if you hear the words).

And unrelated to all that, but consider it a Friday question - why no Lubitsch? My top 10 would probably include 5. And a couple of his silents.

Jason Roberts said...

Ken,

Love your list. Instead of adding a list of my own, I'm going to call you out on something. Surprisingly, I might be the only one who might think that you, as a writer, would not give credit where credit is due. In particular, with regard to the amazing Larry Gelbart (Realizing what an important role model, friend and professional guide he was to you.) isn't it a disservice not to acknowledge Murray Schisgal as the co-writer of "Tootsie". While Murray wasn't as well known as Larry, he too is an accomplished playwright and screenwriter with an Academy award nomination to his credit. The same can be said of not mentioning Mickey Rose as the co-writer of "Take the Money and Run". Once again, Woody is an icon. He's a phenomenal writing and directing talent and deserves the accolades. However both of these fine writers / gentlemen contributed enough, some or all (who really other then them knows how much) to garner a full writing credit on the projects. I just figured as a writer you would be a proponent of not glossing over the people who make a project whole.

By the way, I am a huge fan of you and your blog. Bought your book and even helped get a friend into your upcoming weekend seminar.

Best,

Jason Roberts
Jasechase@gmail.com

Kirk said...

How about LARCENY, INC, BACHELOR MOTHER and THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES (not to be confused with the X-rated THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES)?

Kirk said...

Also NINOCHTA, SONS OF THE DESERT, and, since someone mentioned USED CARS, how about I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND by the same writing team?

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Victor Victoria - or is that the funniest mvie and not the funniest screenplay?

michael said...

DIPLOMANIACS (Wheeler & Woolsey) screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Henry Myers

HIGHWAY 61 screenplay by Don McKellar (story by Bruce Mcdonald and Allan Magees)

MAD MISS MANTON screenplay by Phillip G. Epstein and Hal Yates

THE SENATOR WAS INDISCREET screenplay by Charles MacArthur

SIMON screenplay by Marshall Brickman

WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CHEFS OF EUROPE? screenplay by Peter Stone

Harkaway said...

What great taste you have, Ken!

I'll add only one: Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), a classic if ever there was one.

Question Mark said...

All these comments and suggestions and NOBODY has mentioned "A Fish Called Wanda"?!

Makalaka said...

Great list! I'd add...
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
To Be or Not to Be
Napoleon Dynamite
Death Becomes Her

Anonymous said...

For funny and profound, Milos Forman's "The Fireman's Ball," is a work of pure genius.

Steely Dan said...

Maybe it reads better on the page, but I am at a loss for all the love for "Some Like It Hot" which I never laughed at once. I think a lot of it has to do with the Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon performances (I found neither of them the least bit convincing as women and it completely disrupted my ability to suspend my disbelief).

That said, here is my list:

Duck Soup (1934)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
To Be or Not to Be (1943)
The Trouble with Harry (1955)
The Three Musketeers / The Four Musketeers (1973-74)
Tootsie (1982)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Bull Durham (1987)
Roxanne (1987)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Broadcast News (1987)
Funny Farm (1988)
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Metropolitan (1990)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Flirting with Disaster (1996)
Mr. Jealousy (1997)
Rushmore (1998)

Jeremy Kareken said...

Gotta include GROUNDHOG DAY and GALAXY QUEST in the moderns, and for the oldies, THE GENERAL and SINGIN IN THE RAIN (yes, it's a comedy too). I always felt that SOME LIKE IT HOT was the most overrated comedy in comedy history.

For some reason BRAIN DONORS made me laugh until I almost puked. And of course its ancestor A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is amazing.

DwWashburn said...

Head and Horse Feathers

Steve said...

Ken, for extra fun, go to allmovie.com and compare the reviews for the two versions of The Heartbreak Kid.

Pat Reeder said...

I like your list (especially happy to see "All About Eve" on there, even though it's not exactly a comedy), but I think for unbridled hilarity, the funniest movies ever made were "Duck Soup," "Airplane," "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" ("Life of Brian" is a more cohesive script, but I don't think it's quite as funny, although close) and the first "Naked Gun." I have a warm spot in my heart for "Moonstruck" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" for personal reasons. I think "Love & Death" was Woody Allen's perfect film, or at least the pinnacle of his "early, funny ones" (after that, he broke away from pure comedies, I think because he knew he'd never top that -- it's his "Duck Soup"), while "Radio Days" is my favorite of his later ones (sue me, I'm a fan of old time radio). "This Is Spinal Tap" and "Waiting for Guffman" would probably make my top 10. And people these days tend to forget W.C. Fields, but how about "The Bank Dick"?

As far as big tentpole comedies go, the only ones on the list of giant moneymakers that I thought deserved to be there were "Ghostbusters" and "Animal House." I hated that whole unfortunate vogue for gross-out comedy.

And I guess I'm the only person on Earth who didn't care for "Tootsie," but the only thing I remember laughing at when it came out was Bill Murray's ad-libs. Maybe I've just seen too much British comedy and am too used to seeing guys in dresses. I thought Dustin Hoffman was funnier in "Wag The Dog."

darmund said...

Chasing Amy may indeed be a great screenplay, but the actual movie was puketastic shit.

You ask what happened to Kevin Smith?

Simple: he doesn't know how to direct. He has no goddamn clue what to do with a camera or what the correct shots should be used with what scenes.

As it happens Showtime for whatever reason, has been running Amy on a semi-continuous loop and it's it's just embarrassing.

Jason Lee shrieks/screeches/screams EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HIS LINES.

And the whole premise is such bullshit. I've never sat around with my friends and talked about lesbians and said "She's done things we've only read about in books."

Seriously?

What books is this referring to?

The BIG Book of Lesbian Sex?

What a complete waste of shit of a movie.

D. McEwan said...

I'd agree with most of these. I have not seen Showgirls, I'm glad to say, so I have no opinion on its screenplay.

I would disagree about the inclusion of Chasing Amy, which I have seen. Speaking as a gay man who's known a LOT of Lesbians in his life I can safely say that Chasing Amy is a straight guy's fantasy of lesbians, unrelated to real Lesbians, who are not generally given to responding sexually to men, not even to Ben Affleck's charms. On its topic, it's about as realistic as Goldfinger was on the same subject.

D. McEwan said...

"Johnny Walker said...
Fantastic movies. As witty as ALL ABOUT EVE is, I don't think I considered it a comedy! The titular Eve is a pretty evil character...


How would Eve being evil (An aspect of her chartacter made explicit when Bette Davis salls her "Eve Evil") disqualify All About Eve from being a comedy? Do you think the gangsters, who are MURDERERS, in Some Like It Hot disqualify it from being a comedy? I could list about 300 other evil characters in comedies. Please don't make me.

D. McEwan said...

My major quibble with this list, apart from the inclusion of Chasing Amy (See my comment above), is the general moderness of the list, modern in this case meaning, made during my lifetime, which all but The Lady Eve (Hurray! My favorite Sturges movie!) and His Girl Friday were. (Well, technically All About Eve was made during my getstation. It was released the week I was born. So whether it was made during my lifetime or not depends on where you stand on the Republicans "Life begins at Conception" fiat)

So I am bothered by the exclusion of the first 7 Marx Brothers films, the entire oeuvre of Keaton's and Chaplin's silent features, WC Fields's The Old-Fashioned Way, The Bank Dick, and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (and most though not all of Bill Fields's other features), Laurel & Hardy'd Way Out West and Sons of the Desert, Mae West's I'm No Angel, and all the other movies Preston Sturges wrote (Except Sullivan's Travels which I find self-agrandizing, simplistic, and not-funny.)

And finally, a film that was made during my lifetime, and though a musical, is undeniably a comedy, and Comden & Green's best screenplay, Singin' in the Rain.

D. McEwan said...

On foreign films, well, maybe they need a seperate list, because I would include ALL of Monty Python's features (And don't get me started on the Ealing comedies. How could The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets be excluded?), and the only reason to exclude Jean Dujardin's two OSS-117 movies and his Brice de Nice is because you haven't seen them. Trust me, they are HILARIOUS! No, don't trust me. See them yourself, then send me a "Thank you" note.

D. McEwan said...

"darmund said...
Chasing Amy may indeed be a great screenplay, but the actual movie was puketastic shit."


Although "puketastic shit" is a tad farther than I'd go, it's nice to know that you saw the same movie I did. I don't know what movie Ken saw with the title Chasng Amy was.

Oh, and as I'm gay, I am legally obligated to include Auntie Mame on any list of great comedy screenplays.

jbryant said...

My favorite film of all time is a comedy, Leo McCarey's RUGGLES OF RED GAP (1935), adapted from Harry Leon Wilson's novel by Humphrey Pearson, Walter DeLeon and Harlan Thompson.

I don't think anyone has mentioned Albert Brooks' great MODERN ROMANCE (1981), which he wrote with Monica Johnson.

chuckcd said...

Blazing Saddles by Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, et al.

Johnny Walker said...

D. McEwan: The presence of an evil character doesn't automatically disqualify a film from being a comedy, but the content of a film does.

As ALL ABOUT EVE is all about Eve (the hint is in the title) and her (completely non amusing and played for drama) attempts to manipulate and coerce those who have placed their trust in her, then no, I don't believe you could categorise it is a comedy. Despite its brilliant, witty dialogue.

Are you seriously trying to argue that the presence of humour in a film means it can be categorised as a comedy? Or are you just being incredibly pedantic about how I worded my point?

(Don't worry, I know the answer.)

danrydell said...

I read Dogma before it came out and the script was HILARIOUS. The movie...eh.

When Harry Met Sally
Groundhog Day
Quick Change (or is it just that I love Bill Murray?)

Jim said...

Jean Dujardin's OSS-117 films are indeed brilliant, but the kindest thing I can say about Brice de Nice is that it's up there with the best of anything Will Ferrell ever made.

Matt Patton said...

OK, here are a few --


THE WHITE SHEIK -- Amazingly, the story for this script was concocted by Michaengelo Antonioni, who wrote and directed all of those weepies-on-Nembutal that were the rage of the art houses in the early 1960's. A young couple from the Italian provinces come to Rome for their honeymoon and all hell breaks out for them. Directed by Federico Fellini, who seemed to be having the time of his life, as did the cast.

SOME LIKE IT HOT -- enough has been said already.

DIVORCE, ITALIAN STYLE -- A Sicilian nobleman wishes to rid himself of his devoted, if smothering wife so he can marry his 16-year old cousin. As there is no divorce in 1962 Sicily, he decides to murder the poor woman and claim a Crime of Honor, which means that first of all he has to find someone for her to cheat on him with. The script is wildly farcical, but pitch-black at heart, and made writer/director Pietro Germi, then known mostly in Italy and for his dramas, as the comic sensation of the year (he shared an Oscar for this script).

SEDUCED AND ABANDONED -- Another laugh-out-of-the-wrong side-of-your-mouth masterwork from Pietro Germi. A young woman is seduced by her sister's wormy fiancee, who then refuses to marry her because she's "damaged goods." The young woman's father essentially destroys his family while trying to save their "honor." Chilling and hilarious at the same time.

WHAT'S UP, DOC? -- Four identical suitcases and their owners essentially destroy large swathes of San Francisco in this semi-remake of BRINGING UP BABY that I've always thought was funnier than the original.

A LETTER TO THREE WIVES -- The script that got Joseph Mankiewicz the Oscar the year before he won it all over again for All About Eve, and funnier in my opinion. The letter of the title informs the three wives of the title that the author, never-seen Addie Ross, has run off with one of their husbands, leading to much worry and reminiscence. The sequence involving the courtship of Paul Douglas and Linda Darnell is little short of a masterpiece, and there's the added benefit of Thelma Ritter's epic battle with a folding screen.

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY - The trouble with Harry is that he's dead, and that's also a problem because one of the residents of a small town in Vermont may have accidentally killed him. Before they figure out how he died, however, the poor slob is dug up and buried four times over the course of one day. One of the last scripts that John Michael Hayes wrote for Alfred Hitchcock before spending the next several years as Hollywood's official sanitizer of trashy best-sellers such as PEYTON PLACE and THE CARPETBAGGERS.

Janice said...

The ones I watch most often are Love, Actually; The Freshman; CarWash; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; Office Space; His Girl Friday; Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House; St. Trinians (the recent version)