Thirty-one Comedies That Are Actually Worth Watching

There is a reason comedians describe unsuccessful stand-up performances as "dying" on stage. Bad comedy is painful for all involved. Anyway, here are some movies that are definitely worth your time.
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Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A distant poor relative of the Duke of D'Ascoyne plots to inherit the title by murdering the eight other heirs who stand ahead of him in the line of succession. (106 mins.)
Director: Robert Hamer
“ One of the funniest movies ever made (and completely deadpan at that), a fact that few are aware of, but true all the same. Evident in his many collaborations with Alec Guiness, Robert Hamer had as deft a touch with light comedy and suspense as Hitchcock, albeit with a fraction of the hype (he had the grace to drink himself out of existence before he had the oppurtunity to become overrated). The plot and dialogue is pretty clever in itself, but it's the performance(s) by Guinness that is particularly of note. You won't be laughing out loud, but it isn't that type of movie. If you are the type of person who hates foreign movies and black and white movies and only likes dick and fart jokes, you frankly don't deserve to see this film. And no one will miss you. ” - Tin_ear
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically tries to stop. (95 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
“ Another intelligent, black comedy (you should spot the trend now), Stanley Kubrick never settled for lesser material or actors. The script, based on a very unfunny story about SAC bombers run-amok, was adapted to screen by Kubrick and writer Terry Southern, albeit in a more satirical vein. The film is full of lines and characters that simply don't age even if the Cold War has been over for twenty years. And if you didn't already know, Peter Sellers is pretty good in it. ” - Tin_ear
Groundhog Day (1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A weatherman finds himself inexplicably living the same day over and over again. (101 mins.)
Director: Harold Ramis
“ Most existentialist comedies fall flat, simply because the prospect of an absurd, inconsequencial human existence and the complementary nihilistic despair is not particularly laughable. Groundhog Day manages to at least present its weighty concept without bogging down the audience with philosophical minutia or didactic or sentimental nonsense. As a bonus, it is actually funny without any cheap gags. Bill Murray yet again plays his stock cynical, sarcastic, woman-chasing role, but the film is written in such a manner that practically only Murray could play the lead. ” - Tin_ear
Religulous (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Bill Maher's take on the current state of world religion. (101 mins.)
Director: Larry Charles
“ Bill Maher, a noted pain-in-the-ass and atheist, makes one the best cases to date why religion and their long respected institutions have probably outlived their usefulness. He depicts organized religion and faith as repulsive, counter-productive, and illogical, and that's just the segment on Mormons' 'magic underwear.' Utilizing a lot Michael Moore-like editing (and much more effectively) he manages to liven up, what in all fairness, should be a tedious, academic debate into something a normal person would actually enjoy, and intellectually benefit from. His detractors should take note, his zombie-like, ever-cheering audience from his TV show does not make an appearance. Perhaps his most shrewd decision. ” - Tin_ear
Beetlejuice (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
When a recently-deceased ghost couple find their now-vacant home invaded by an obnoxious family, they hire a sleazy ghost who gets rid of humans to help them. (92 mins.)
Director: Tim Burton
“ Michael Keaton never had a better role in his career. Tim Burton might have stopped with all the redundant morbid goth-shlock here, because he never made a better film save Ed Wood. The titular character is one the greatest slimeball/perverts ever written for film. There are enough gags and in-jokes to warrant multiple viewings, as if this wasn't a movie funny enough to watch more than once. This is probably one the most perfectly cast movies, despite the fact it includes the seemingly incongruent talents of Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, and Dick Cavett. Sometimes strangeness isn't strange at all, but simply a wonderful accident. There is a moral in there, but it isn't really important. ” - Tin_ear
Ghostbusters (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Three former parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service. (105 mins.)
Director: Ivan Reitman
“ The Bill Murray role was originally written for John Belushi, but it is hard to imagine him or anyone else outdoing Murray. Though, the Harold Ramis character 'Egon' routinely steals every scene he's in. The Stay-Puft-Marshmallow-Man, the slimy overzealous EPA guy, the Parcheesi party broken up by a demonic entity... it's the type of bizarre masterpiece that comes along once in a generation that validates Hollywood's existence. It took me twenty years to get the 'don't cross the stream' joke; every time I go back, the film always seems to have more to offer. ” - Tin_ear
Life of Brian (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Brian is born on the original Christmas, in the stable next door. He spends his life being mistaken for a messiah. (94 mins.)
Director: Terry Jones
“ I should warn you, many people find the parodying of Jesus or the Gospels in general as blasphemous and immoral. Though, I suppose since none of the Monty Python members were ever threatened with death, the Christians can at least claim to have a better sense of humor than some of our Muslim friends. In any event, this is a remorseless satire, not just about religion but society in general. Critics often miss the fact that the target in the sights of nearly all Monty Python jokes is essentially the whole of mankind. But, enough of that. The production isn't epic, but allows for enough authenticity to suit the film. The songs are silly but they are probably what makes the film work so well. This film was bound to have been made at some point, the Pythons just were the first and only ones with the balls and skill to do so. ” - Tin_ear
Annie Hall (1977)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditzy Annie Hall. (93 mins.)
Director: Woody Allen
“ Woody Allen, quite frankly, spun his wheels in the following decades, no film he made really ever escaped the shadow of Annie Hall. Though it only figures, most movies look paltry in comparison to this one. Many of best gags and his iconic persona are at the sharpest here. Filmed at the peak of his intellectual and artistic life, there is scarcely a shot that is out of place, a line that cannot be stolen, or misplaced scene. One throwaway gag only a second or two long, features a ditsy Hollywood type (Jeff Goldblum) calling up his guru after forgetting his mantra. It's this type of gem that is more biting and profound than most medicore comedies are in their entirey, and shows the magnitude of the comedic muscle that Allen could flex in his prime. ” - Tin_ear
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Satirical comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son. (92 mins.)
Director: Jason Reitman
“ A politically-incorrect, smart comedy that it is (nearly) family friendly. ” - Tin_ear
To Be or Not to Be (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
During the Nazi occupation of Poland, an acting troupe becomes embroiled in a Polish soldier's efforts to track down a German spy. (99 mins.)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
“ Far funnier than Chaplin's limp Hitler parody The Great Dictator, To Be or Not To Be ages remarkably well. Mostly because the well-crafted one-liners and the fact the screenwriters were wise enough not to preach bland propaganda, or insult the audience's intelligence by having to resort to depicting Hitler as a bumbling clown for easy laughs. ” - Tin_ear
Raising Arizona (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
When a childless couple of an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family's quintuplets, their lives become more complicated than they anticipated. (94 mins.)
Director: Joel Coen
“ The only Coen Brothers film that I will stand up for even though it is not traditionally ranked highly in their canon of work, Raising Arizona manages to successfully juggle comedy, drama, slapstick, and melodrama; in fact it does so far better than any Coen Bros film before or since. And not to mention the most enjoyable and accessible film they made by a wide margin. ” - Tin_ear
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/11 X  
Spinal Tap, one of England's loudest bands, is chronicled by film director Marty DiBergi on what proves to be a fateful tour. (82 mins.)
Director: Rob Reiner
“ This is an obvious entry, but considering it is parodying eighties hair bands and still has not aged one day is remarkable. I can't say much that hasn't already been said or reference any scene that hasn't been mimicked ad nauseum or immortalized in a thousand homages. If you haven't seen it yet, I'll just presume that you are consciously trying to avoid it. ” - Tin_ear
Duck Soup (1933)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Rufus T. Firefly is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale. (68 mins.)
Director: Leo McCarey
“ One of their earliest films and also their funniest, Duck Soup, while uneven at parts, marks the introduction of the Marx Brothers into the world's consciousness. While the first half is somewhat formulaic and reminiscent of their later established films, the final twenty minutes are some of the most clever moments I've ever seen, a pinnacle which the troupe, or anyone else, would never again match. ” - Tin_ear
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Seven segments related to one another only in that they all purport to be based on sections of the book by David Reuben... (88 mins.)
Director: Woody Allen
“ One can dissect and classify and analyze (my hunch is there is at least a hundred film classes somewhere doing precisely this) Woody Allen's career into distinct chapters. This film would definitely typify his early body of work. It is easily his most disjointed film, but that is very much the point and easily excusable because it is the one of the most brilliant of any of his movies, whether it be 1969 or 1999. I never thought the ex-stand-up comedian Allen worked well within the typical narrative style of comedy filmmaking, with some exceptions. Instead the episodic, completely absurd, charmingly crude and irreverent style gives him room to breath and fully express his strongest attributes, that is the straight gags and one-liners that was the very foundation of his initial acclaim. ” - Tin_ear
Team America: World Police (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Popular Broadway actor Gary Johnston is recruited by the elite counter-terrorism organization Team America: World Police. As the world begins to crumble around him, he must battle with terrorists, celebrities and falling in love. (98 mins.)
Director: Trey Parker
“ By now most people know who Trey Parker and Matt Stone are and their resume. Just considering this film on its own merits, it stands alone as a biting and unconstrained take on mid decade paranoia, political disunity, and international affairs. The fact that this film is populated solely by puppets is enough to warrant attention, but the fact the thespian-puppeteering allows a level of accessibility and whimsy without becoming too distracting or condescending to the issues at hand is a credit to Stone and Parker as directors and writers. ” - Tin_ear
Wayne's World (1992)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Two slacker friends try to promote their public-access cable show. (94 mins.)
“ This is the movie that is responsible for the likes of countless terrible SNL skits-turned-films. You shouldn't hold that against it, though. Avoiding that sense of prolonged agony that many gimmick movies are renowned for producing in viewers, Wayne's World is well-paced, superbly written, and extremely funny. And this is largely due the skillful work of the director Penelope Spheeris, who is better known for a documentary on the Eighties, LA metal scene. Thus, showing that nobody was more suited to the material and teenage-boy mentality than her. And also showing a woman could make a great comedy, regardless of whether it is male-oriented. ” - Tin_ear
The Man in the White Suit (1951)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
An altruistic chemist invents a fabric which resists wear and stain as a boon to humanity, but both big business and labor realize it must be suppressed for economic reasons. (85 mins.)
“ A bleak yet intriguing comedy from Ealing Studios in England, this film prefers a rather sarcastic slant on the labor issue. The final scene takes what should be a meager, predictable ending and manages to create what is actually a very profound and intense scene that is sure to aggravate both hardline Marxists, Wall Street cronies, and Ayn Rand afficionados alike. Ealing and Alec Guinness churned out several high quality comedy films in the late Forties and early Fifties. It's almost hard to remember now, considering The Bridge On the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, among others, that Guinness originally became famous for his humorous roles. ” - Tin_ear
Georgy Girl (1966)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A homely but vivacious young woman dodges the amorous attentions of her father's middle-aged employer... (99 mins.)
“ Charlotte Rampling chillingly portrays a sociopathic, pregnant, swinging Londoner. Did I mention this was a comedy? ” - Tin_ear
The Last Detail (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Two Navy men are ordered to bring a young offender to prison but decide to show him one last good time along the way. (104 mins.)
Director: Hal Ashby
“ Who cares if Jack chews the scenery, he was never more entertaining. Filmed while Vietnam and parts of the US were falling apart at the seems, Hal Ashby had the wisdom to depict his low-level losers sympathetically, and even with dignity and a sense of compassion, when it would have been so much easier to make them stereotypical heels or mouthpieces for his own political preaching like some other directors. Before his later real life turn as a criminal psycho, Randy Quaid proved why he was once one of the most promising stars in the biz. ” - Tin_ear
The Kid (1921)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
The Tramp cares for an abandoned child, but events put that relationship in jeopardy. (68 mins.)
Director: Charlie Chaplin
“ It's hard to do sentimentality and comedy at the same time. Chaplin didn't even always manage to pull it off in all his movies, despite his legendary skill. At the time this was probably the funniest movie ever made, and still holds up well today, ninety years after the fact. ” - Tin_ear
Vampire's Kiss (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
After an encounter with a neck-biter, a publishing executive thinks that he's turning into a vampire. (103 mins.)
Director: Robert Bierman
“ Eighties Manhattan, a depleted horror genre, occultism, psychoanalysis, sexism in the business world, method acting (Nic Cage reportedly ate two live cockroaches on a whim and his mouth prosthesis is an allusion to Brando's method acting in his uncle's Godfather film) and probably acting in general (notice Cage's absurd Mid-Atlantic accent), true love, happy endings, brooding anti-heroes, romanticized mentally ill, etc., are all ripe targets for satire. Just in case the Spy Magazine on the bedstand was too subtle a hint, this is not to be taken seriously. The unprovoked, aloof glances from real life Manhattanites is an unintentional satire in itself.

Inspired by the 'transformation genre' (note the framed photo of Franz Kafka, another clever allusion), the film plays it straight the entire running time, and there are no inherently funny lines or scenes in the entire script. This leads me to believe an up-and-coming Nic Cage pretty much realized he was in the middle of a just another forgettable B-horror movie and decided to play it as a subversive meta-horror comedy. After this, it is frankly difficult to take any horror film seriously. ” - Tin_ear
The Dream Team (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Four mental patients on a field trip in New York City must save their caring chaperon, who ends up being taken to a hospital in a coma after accidentally witnessing a murder, before the killers can find him and finish the job. (113 mins.)
Director: Howard Zieff
“ Michael Keaton again shows off his comic range, this time as the lead paired nicely with the deadpan Christopher Lloyd and always versatile Peter Boyle. The brillance of the script (abandoned mental patients trying to make sense of the normal world) is reminiscent of Preston Sturges in his prime. A little maudlin, and little cheesy at times, the film regardless overcomes Keaton's mullet and the jaw-droppingly terrible 'Walk the Dinosaur,' maintaining a steady stream of one-liners and script as effective as anything the Marx Brothers ever devised. ” - Tin_ear
Chimes at Midnight (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
The career of Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff as roistering companion to young Prince Hal, circa 1400-1413. (119 mins.)
Director: Orson Welles
“ While not exactly a comedy in the classical sense, it's a wry, worthy adaption of one of the greatest writers of all time. It is also noteworthy for being what is probably Orson Welles' last great film. ” - Tin_ear
My Man Godfrey (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A scatterbrained socialite hires a vagrant as a family butler...but there's more to Godfrey than meets the eye. (94 mins.)
Director: Gregory La Cava
“ If nothing is to be taken away from this list, at least remember that aside from her stunning looks, Carole Lombard also possessed exceptionally good comic range. As Roger Ebert expertly observed, this film is as much fantasy as The Wizard of Oz, but the the general message and commentary on human behavior holds true all the same. The aloof and pure are most often the ones to stumble over and recognize treasure in plain sight. They are too crazy to know better. With such sincerity and eccentricity, even in the most hardened of societies, no man is doomed to oblivion as long as there is someone looking. ” - Tin_ear
Office Space (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Three company workers who hate their jobs decide to rebel against their greedy boss. (89 mins.)
Director: Mike Judge
“ While I can't guarantee that you haven't been irritated by somebody quoting this film, you shouldn't let that ruin your appreciation of it. This film almost singlehandedly ruins my theory that cult movies are all pieces of $%^&. ” - Tin_ear
Risky Business (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A Chicago teenager is looking for fun at home while his parents are away, but the situation quickly gets out of hand. (99 mins.)
Director: Paul Brickman
“ Along with the less than stellar Porky's, pretty much paved the way for every raunchy teen-drama/comedy from John Water's films to American Pie, though I'm not sure it deserves to be blamed for Superbad. ” - Tin_ear
Trading Places (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A snobbish investor and a wily street con artist find their positions reversed as part of a bet by two callous millionaires. (116 mins.)
Director: John Landis
“ If not for a rather predictable, corny ending and a gorilla suit this might have been masterpiece. Though, the mediocre train scene is worthwhile if only for the sight gag of the corporate goon reading G. Gordon Liddy's autobiography. ” - Tin_ear
The Loved One (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Satire on the funeral business, in which a young British poet goes to work at a Hollywood cemetery. (122 mins.)
Director: Tony Richardson
“ In the Sixties, cinema was chock-full of socially-minded pictures, and almost as many irreverent, black comedies. The problem is that many weren't very funny or intelligent. The Loved One, adapted from an Evelyn Waugh novel by Terry Southern, is unique in that it predates the hippie-dippie $%^& and dispenses with the slapstick routine that ruined practically every other supposed satire or culturally-conscious comedy in that decade (Peter Sellers, I'm looking at you). The film's brilliant and sarcastic take on British arrogance, American conspicuous consumption, and the funerary-industrial complex seem as relevant now as it did fifty years ago. One is almost grateful that Luis Bunuel was such a habitual failure at securing funding as he was; the thought of him turning this into yet another humorless, surrealist bourgeoisie bashing sends a chill up my spine. A compelling case why Tony Richardson might have been one the best British directors of the Sixties, now mostly (and sadly) forgotten. Also noteworthy, for the fact that, at the time I wrote this, only one IMDb staffer had ever seen it and they gave it an outrageously low rating of four. Even What's New Pussycat, Casino Royale ('68), and The Party garnered more respect. Yikes. ” - Tin_ear
Miami Connection (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
A martial arts rock band goes up against a band of motorcycle ninjas who have tightened their grip on Florida's narcotics trade. (83 mins.)
Director: Richard Park
“ Cult movies are anomalies, a special mix of obliviousness, sincerity, and aged failure. They can't be planned or predicted, and everyone knows it when it happens. While I'm pretty sure Vampire's Kiss was supposed to be a comedy, Miami Connection was definitely not intended as such. Thus this taekwondo-musical-family drama ranks a spot on this list. Frankly every dramatic moment of this film inevitably succumbs to bathos. Every scene loaded with overly optimist sentiment and wholesomeness, when not knee deep in cursing, gratuitous biker tits, over-enthusiastic high fives and fist pumps, and decapitation. The opening scene itself contains continuity errors, a board-breaking fail, and some epic air-guitar playing. The sheer horrendousness of the film on every level combined with the honesty and good-natured vibe of its filmmakers who also directed, wrote, edited, choreographed, and likely financed the movie with their friends and family, makes it impossible to hate this creation. As corny as the film's central musical segues are, the songs are rather glorious in their 80s synth-silliness. The force-like power of taekwondo not only grants superhuman fighting ability, and unbreakable friendship, but also serves as lyrics in a pop song. Other intangible features such as a repeated and bizarre emphasis that the story takes place in 'Central Florida,' the fact that the main villain refers to himself as the 'Miami Ninja,' and the long lost father subplot makes this film an undeniable cult masterpiece. I would rather watch this twenty times before I'd watch Rocky Horror Picture Show Evil Dead II again. ” - Tin_ear
The Jerk (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
An idiotic man struggles to make it through life on his own in St. Louis. (94 mins.)
Director: Carl Reiner
“ It's hard to be this unabashedly and successfully stupid. Which gives you some idea how unbelievably hard it is to pull off deadpan idiocy. Despite the irony of Steve Martin's title role, there's still something endearing and realistic about his portrayal of a corrupted moron. Between the get-rich quick schemes, lunatic gun aficionados, and critique of Americans' fascination with consumerist crap and narcissistic need for fame and fortune, you could probably write a term paper on this film if you wanted to. As witty as Being There, and far less annoying than any of Will Ferrell's two-hour long memes, The Jerk is a rare combination of broad and high-brow humor that actually works. This is the type of brilliant labor of love that guys like Jerry Lewis strived his entire film to make, to no avail. Martin and Carl Reiner make it look effortless. ” - Tin_ear
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
The cross-country adventures of two good-hearted but incredibly stupid friends. (107 mins.)
Director: Peter Farrelly
“ Speaking of straight-faced stupidity... Funny people don't always make funny movies, if Truman Capote is to be believed actors aren't much more than sheep. But something tells me that Jim Carrey is the primary secret to the movie's success. ” - Tin_ear