BBC Culture polled more than 250 critics from around the world to build a list of the 100 greatest comedies of all time, but there are a few they forgot.
According to the BBC, they polled 253 film critics — 118 women and 135 men — from 52 countries and six continents. Critics were allowed to submit a ballot with their picks for the 10 best comedies of all time. Those ballots were tallied to create a list of 100.
The newest film on the list is Toni Erdmann, a German film that was released in theaters just last year. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.
The oldest film on the list is Safety Last! Released in 1923 and starring Harold Lloyd, Safety Last! is a silent romantic comedy. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you are probably familiar with the iconic image of Harold Lloyd hanging onto a clock on the side of a skyscraper.
Directors Ernst Lubitsch and Charlie Chaplin both have four films on the list, more than any other director. The top ten features some classic favorites including Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot and Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.
The full list is available below, but first check out five picks that definitely should have made the list!
Jason Reitman’s 2007 film Juno was a massive hit that helped launched Ellen Page’s career and cemented Diablo Cody as one of the most interesting voices behind Hollywood films today. The movie tells the story of Juno, a teenage girl dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.
What makes the film so special is the way humor is used as a technique to allow the characters to deal with the unexpected situation they’ve found themselves in. Juno’s pregnancy affects the characters in a variety of ways, but her conflict with each of them — whether it’s her boyfriend, father, or the woman planning to adopt Juno’s child — uses humor to imbue the film with a necessary honesty.
This is a hallmark of Diablo Cody’s writing, the woman who wrote Juno and went on to win an Oscar for it. Throughout her films, including Young Adult and Jennifer’s Body, humor is used to make otherwise unbearable or uncomfortable situations more identifiable and relatable for the audience. In doing so, they demonstrate a dark humanist quality that is sharply original.
Noah Baumbach’s 2015 film starring Greta Gerwig is an underrated comedic gem that captures more comedy in its 86-minute runtime than several of the films on BBC’s list combined.
Perhaps more than any other genre, comedies rely on their scripts in order to land with audiences. Mistress America captures tone and humor of a classic screwball comedy and turns up the speed. Baumbach and Gerwig wrote the script as a team and it shows in Gerwig’s performance as the titular Mistress America. She embodies the character perfectly, delivering gut-busting comedy and genuine levity in equal measure.
Mistress America is often overlooked in favor of Frances Ha, Baumbach’s other film starring Gerwig. While both films are fantastic, Mistress America captures a high-energy comedy that is also deceptively profound in its examination of interpersonal relationships and class. It’s rare to find that combination in movies today. It may not have made the BBC’s list, but it’s worthy of our consideration.
‘Lost in America’
It’s a shame that a filmmaker as talented as Albert Brooks didn’t make the BBC’s list. Brooks wrote, directed and starred in several great comedies including Real Life and Modern Romance. But it’s his film Lost in America that deserves to be included.
The film follows a husband and wife who quit their jobs and decide to cruise across the country in a Winnebago while living off their savings. However, things get complicated when they lose all their money gambling.
Lost in America is an incisive and hilarious take on the way the myth of the American dream manipulates our outlook on life. The couple begin the film as the embodiment of the American dream, but they are unhappy and unfulfilled. They leave their situation to try to escape those feelings only to find that they cannot survive outside the very world they are running from.
Brooks’ ability to take a perceptive cultural critique and turn it into a quick-witted and clever comedy should be celebrated and deserves a spot on the list.
‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’
Romantic comedies often get pushed to the side when people list their favorite or the best comedies ever made. The list compiled by the BBC reflects that. Sure, films like Annie Hall might be liberally described as romantic comedies, but it doesn’t reflect the genre as well as a film like My Best Friend’s Wedding.
Released in 1997, My Best Friend’s Wedding stars Julia Roberts as Julianne. After her best friend Michael reveals her engagement, she realizes that she loves him and makes it her mission to win him over.
It’s an easy film to overlook or write-off, but it deserves more serious consideration as the best of what the genre has to offer. Julia Roberts’ performance grounds the film and easily treads the boundary between charming and unlikable. My Best Friend’s Wedding uses trademarks of romantic comedies that are familiar to the audience, but uses them in ways that feel fresh. It’s an offbeat choice that deserves more recognition for conquering the romantic comedy genre.
‘Heaven Can Wait’
In 1978, Warren Beatty wrote, directed, and starred in Heaven Can Wait, the story of a professional football player that dies in a tragic accident. But wait, it’s a comedy! Beatty goes to heaven where the angels realize they took him before he was meant to die. They let him return to earth in the body of a recently murdered millionaire. Hilarity ensues.
It’s a special kind of comedy that doesn’t shy away from how weird it is. In fact, it embraces it. Warren Beatty shines in the role, one that allows him to play up his comedic strengths. The movie grounds the silliness of the concept by building up Beatty’s relationships with other characters and giving his own character an arc that displays personal growth.
Death looms throughout the film, both literally and metaphorically, in a way that both contributes to and conflicts with the film’s comedic elements. Beatty’s film earned nine Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay. It’s an oddity in the world of comedy, but one that stands out as an important achievement in comedy.
Take a look at the BBC’s full list below. What movies do you wish had made the list?
100. (tie) The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1982)
100. The Ladies Man (Jerry Lewis, 1961)
99. The Jerk (Carl Reiner, 1979)
98. The Hangover (Todd Phillips, 2009)
97. The Music Box (James Parrott, 1932)
96. Born Yesterday (George Cukor, 1950)
95. Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984)
94. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
93. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Trey Parker, 1999)
92. The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel, 1962)
91. What’s Up, Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich, 1972)
90. A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1971)
89. Daisies (Vera Chytilová, 1966)
88. Zoolander (Ben Stiller, 2001)
87. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953)
86. Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949)
85. Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973)
84. Waiting for Guffman (Christopher Guest, 1996)
83. Safety Last! (Fred C Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, 1923)
82. Top Secret! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, 1984)
81. There’s Something About Mary (Bobby and Peter Farrelly, 1998)
80. Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999)
79. The Dinner Game (Francis Veber, 1998)
78. The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987)
77. Divorce Italian Style (Pietro Germi, 1961)
76. Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933)
75. The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges, 1942)
74. Trading Places (John Landis, 1983)
73. The Nutty Professor (Jerry Lewis, 1963)
72. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (David Zucker, 1988)
71. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
70. In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009)
69. Love and Death (Woody Allen, 1975)
68. Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939)
67. Sons of the Desert (William A Seiter, 1933)
66. Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)
65. Caddyshack (Harold Ramis, 1980)
64. Step Brothers (Adam McKay, 2008)
63. Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944)
62. What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, 2014)
61. Team America: World Police (Trey Parker, 2004)
60. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)
59. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
58. Zelig (Woody Allen, 1983)
57. Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004)
56. Broadcast News (James L Brooks, 1987)
55. Best in Show (Christopher Guest, 2000)
54. Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971)
53. The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)
52. My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava, 1936)
51. Seven Chances (Buster Keaton, 1925)
50. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodóvar, 1988)
49. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel, 1972)
48. Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)
47. Animal House (John Landis, 1978)
46. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
45. Big Deal on Madonna Street (Mario Monicelli, 1958)
44. Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
43. M*A*S*H (Robert Altman, 1970)
42. The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey, 1937)
41. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
40. The Producers (Mel Brooks, 1967)
39. A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood and Edmund Goulding, 1935)
38. The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)
37. Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges, 1941)
36. A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton and John Cleese, 1988)
35. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
34. Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995)
33. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004)
32. Raising Arizona (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1987)
31. Tootsie (Sydney Pollack, 1982)
30. Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (Jacques Tati, 1953)
29. When Harry Met Sally… (Rob Reiner, 1989)
28. It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934)
27. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
26. Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)
25. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
24. Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)
23. The Party (Blake Edwards, 1968)
22. Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974)
21. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
20. Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974)
19. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
18. Sherlock Jr (Buster Keaton, 1924)
17. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
16. The Great Dictator (Charlie Chaplin, 1940)
15. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, 1975)
14. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
13. To Be or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)
12. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
11. The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1998)
10. The General (Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton, 1926)
9. This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
8. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
7. Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, 1980)
6. Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
5. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
4. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
3. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
2. Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
1. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
Did your favorite comedy make the list?
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