MY 30 favorite screwbal comedies

A uniquely American movie genre emerged during the dark days of the Great Depression. The screwball comedy, depressed America’s most popular escapist fantasy, drew its name from baseball. New York Giants southpaw, Carl Hubbell, threw a “screwball” pitch that changed direction, surprised batters, delighted fans and won games. Screwball comedies are romantic comedies with a twist. The “battle of the sexes” is at the core of these hilarious movies. A misunderstanding, class differences or an awkward encounter place the protagonists at odds. The audience usually likes both of them and wants to see them get together but their mutual antagonism seems insurmountable. The principals are surrounded by zany characters who often unwittingly contribute to the misunderstanding that keep the principals apart. The plot twist--the “screwball” change of direction--that eventually allows the couple to get together and “live happily ever after” is what makes a romantic comedy a screwball comedy. The golden age of screwball comedies was 1931 to 1945. The masters of the genre were directors Frank Capra, Preston Sturges and Howard Hawks, screen writers Robert Riskin, Billy Wilder and Sturges, and actors Cary Grant, Wiliam Powell, Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow. The following is a list of my favorite screwball comedies ranked from best to fortieth:
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1.
The Lady Eve (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A trio of classy card sharps targets the socially awkward heir to brewery millions for his money, until one of them falls in love with him. (94 mins.)
Director: Preston Sturges
 
2.
It Happened One Night (1934)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A spoiled heiress running away from her family is helped by a man who is actually a reporter in need of a story. (105 mins.)
Director: Frank Capra
 
3.
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
While trying to secure a $1 million donation for his museum, a befuddled paleontologist is pursued by a flighty and often irritating heiress and her pet leopard, Baby. (102 mins.)
Director: Howard Hawks
 
4.
Ball of Fire (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A group of ivory-tower lexicographers realize they need to hear how real people talk, and end up helping a beautiful singer avoid police and escape from the Mob. (111 mins.)
Director: Howard Hawks
 
5.
Libeled Lady (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A newspaper man, his ignored fiancée, and his former employee a down on his luck reporter hatch an elaborate scheme to turn a false news story into the truth, to stop a high-society woman from suing for libel. (98 mins.)
Director: Jack Conway
 
6.
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
 
7.
Ninotchka (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A stern Russian woman sent to Paris on official business finds herself attracted to a man who represents everything she is supposed to detest. (110 mins.)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
 
8.
Sullivan's Travels (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A director of escapist films goes on the road as a hobo to learn about life, which gives him a rude awakening. (90 mins.)
Director: Preston Sturges
 
9.
The More the Merrier (1943)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
During the World War II housing shortage in Washington, two men and a woman share a single apartment and the older man plays Cupid to the other two. (104 mins.)
Director: George Stevens
 
10.
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
After an all-night send-off party for the troops, a small-town girl wakes up to find herself married and pregnant, but with no memory of her husband's identity. (98 mins.)
Director: Preston Sturges
 
11.
Platinum Blonde (1931)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A young woman from a very rich family impulsively marries a reporter, but each assumes the other is the one whose lifestyle must change. (89 mins.)
Director: Frank R. Capra
 
12.
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Longfellow Deeds, a simple-hearted Vermont tuba player, inherits a fortune and has to contend with opportunist city slickers. (115 mins.)
Director: Frank Capra
 
13.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Boxer Joe Pendleton dies 50 years too soon due to a heavenly mistake, and is given a new life as a millionaire playboy. (94 mins.)
Director: Alexander Hall
 
14.
The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A tycoon goes undercover to ferret out agitators at a department store, but gets involved in their lives instead. (92 mins.)
Director: Sam Wood
 
15.
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A food writer who has lied about being the perfect housewife must try to cover her deception when her boss and a returning war hero invite themselves to her home for a traditional family Christmas. (102 mins.)
Director: Peter Godfrey
 
16.
Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Woodrow is discharged from the military for hay fever, but fabricates receiving an heroic honorable discharge before returning home. (101 mins.)
Director: Preston Sturges
 
17.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs, and that insanity runs in his family. (118 mins.)
Director: Frank Capra
 
18.
Nothing Sacred (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
An eccentric woman learns she is not dying of radium poisoning as earlier assumed, but when she meets a reporter looking for a story, she feigns sickness again for her own profit. (77 mins.)
 
19.
The Awful Truth (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Unfounded suspicions lead a married couple to begin divorce proceedings, whereupon they start undermining each other's attempts to find new romance. (91 mins.)
Director: Leo McCarey
 
20.
Trouble in Paradise (1932)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A gentleman thief and a lady pickpocket join forces to con a beautiful perfume company owner. Romantic entanglements and jealousies confuse the scheme. (83 mins.)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
 
21.
You Can't Take It with You (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A man from a family of rich snobs becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family. (126 mins.)
Director: Frank Capra
 
22.
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
 
23.
The Palm Beach Story (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
An inventor needs cash to develop his big idea. His wife, who loves him, decides to raise it for him by divorcing him and marrying a millionaire. (88 mins.)
Director: Preston Sturges
 
24.
His Girl Friday (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A newspaper editor uses every trick in the book to keep his ace reporter ex-wife from remarrying. (92 mins.)
Director: Howard Hawks
 
25.
Theodora Goes Wild (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
The author of a controversially racy best-selling book tries to hide her celebrity status from her provincial small-town neighbors, who'd be scandalized if they knew. (94 mins.)
 
26.
Midnight (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A chorus girl stranded in Paris is set up by a millionaire to break up his wife's affair with another man. (94 mins.)
Director: Mitchell Leisen
 
27.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand each other, without realizing that they are falling in love through the post as each other's anonymous pen pal. (99 mins.)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
 
28.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
When a rich woman's ex-husband and a tabloid-type reporter turn up just before her planned remarriage, she begins to learn the truth about herself. (112 mins.)
Director: George Cukor
 
29.
Easy Living (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
During the Great Depression, a wealthy banker throws away his wife's expensive fur coat; it lands on the head of a stenographer, leading to everyone assuming she is his mistress and has access to his millions. (88 mins.)
Director: Mitchell Leisen
 
30.
Twentieth Century (1934)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A flamboyant Broadway impresario who has fallen on hard times tries to get his former lover, now a Hollywood diva, to return and resurrect his failing career. (91 mins.)
Director: Howard Hawks