What makes a movie funny? Humor is not only a subjective thing, it doesn’t cross language and cultural barriers easily. Also, “comedy movies” describes a pretty broad field. There are action comedies, romantic comedies, and probably other comedy genres yet to be dreamed up. So limiting a list to just ten choices is a daunting task.
And yet, there are some humorous movies that through plot, writing, topic, and comedic performances, transcend boundaries and stand out in this field. Below are a few that cinematic experts think met the criteria of superior comedy films, and why.
10. The General-1925
“The Great Stone Face”, a.k.a. comedian Buster Keaton wrote, directed, and starred in this silent film, one of the biggest hits of his long career. The American Civil War plot deals with a stolen railroad engine, and it’s as watchable for its jaw dropping stunts as its slap stick comedy.
9. Safety Last!-1923
Silent film comedy genius Harold Lloyd plays an efficiency expert who’s going to bring a company up to speed if it kills him. Watching some of the stunts the star performs (including hanging from the hands of a clock) you’ll be amazed that it didn’t.
8. It Happened One Night-1934
This film is not only the granddaddy of all modern romantic comedies, it’s never been equaled by its successors. Newsman Clark Gable tracks down runaway heiress Claudette Colbert, and single handedly destroys the men’s undershirt industry by going bare chested. Seriously.
7. Arsenic And Old Lace-1944
Understandably, movie-goers needed humorous escapes during the war years, and this black comedy based on a hit play is one of the better ones. Hero Cary Grant is horrified to discover that his sweet and elderly aunts are serial killers, bumping off depressed fellow senior citizens.
6. Some Like It Hot-1955
Musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are forced to discover their inner women while on the run after witnessing a gangland killing. Marilyn Monroe offers tipsy assistance to them and a great comedic performance as well.
5. Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb)-1964
A brilliant black comedy about countries on the verge of nuclear war, Peter Sellars and George C. Scott lead a great cast in one of the first films selected for the United States’ National Film Registry.
4. Blazing Saddles-1974
It’s crass. It’s vulgar. And it’s also a very funny sendup of Western movies, courtesy of Mel Brooks, for whom no genre is sacred.
Television comedians vs. the Sta-Puff man? It shouldn’t have worked, but this “horror comedy” remains a highly regarded classic.
2. When Harry Met Sally-1989
Can men and women just be friends? Two of them try, exchanging lots of great one liners along the way in this romantic comedy.
1. Toy Story-1995
Even playthings have their issues, as this animated buddy comedy reveals. The movie was one of the best reviewed of the year, and spawned two hit sequels.