7.29.2006

20 Funny Films

Yes! It's finally the weekend! The crowd breathes a sigh of relief as I cast aside griping about my busy schedule and focus on comedy. When Darrell posted his 15 funniest films, I was inspired to compile my favorite twenty, because I'm competitive and enjoy rhyme as well as alliteration. These aren't all good movies per se, but they're the ones that have made me laugh the most, ranging from the very silly to the silly with heart back to the very silly.

Before we get to the list, which was a challenge to narrow down, I'll note my Honorable Mentions, which were also hard to narrow down: Airheads, Back to School, Blazing Saddles, Brewster's Millions, The ‘Burbs, Groundhog Day, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, High Anxiety, History of the World: Part I, Hot Shots!, Johnny Dangerously, Major League, The Man with Two Brains, The New Guy, So I Married An Axe Murderer, ¡Three Amigos!, Throw Momma from the Train, Undercover Brother, Van Wilder, and Zoolander

And now, my TOP 20:

20 Easy Money
In this 1983 classic, Rodney Dangerfield plays an average man set to inherit his mother-in-law's millions. The catch? He has to lose weight, clean up his gambling, drinking and other vices, and transform into the sort of man she would have approved of for her daughter. A young Joe Pesci steals the show at times, at one point referring to the Statue of Liberty as “That big statue of the broad in the harbor.” It's all a showcase of Dangerfield's comic beats though, a slob like any of us struggling to be something more, and his final line is one of the funniest in movie history.

19 Gung Ho
Michael Keaton teamed with Gedde Watanabe in a film about a failing American automobile plant taken over by Japanese businessmen. Keaton's character negotiates the deal that saves his hometown's main business, but the work ethic of the new owners conflicts with the laid back attitude of his old drinking buddies. Caught between two worlds, can his quick wit save the day? This was one of those comedies with a little bit of everything, from the silly to the serious to the inspirational to the frightening. After one particular scene, I kept my distance from conveyor belts and heavy machinery...

18 UHF
This is a cult classic and geek favorite, favored by geeks with specific tastes. In the tradition of such stupid films as The Kentucky Fried Movie and Amazon Women on the Moon, the loose plot about a man who turns around a small UHF television station is in place solely to connect a series of funny skits and spoofs from the mind of Weird Al Yankovic. I spent a good portion of high school quoting this movie. Gedde Watanabe shows up in this one as an irate chef, and Emo Philips proves that not everyone can handle a knife(“Call me mis-ter butterfingers...”). The breakout star here is Michael Richards, as a mentally challenged janitor who becomes the station's biggest star. In Stanley Spadowski you can clearly see the roots of Cosmo Kramer.

17 Super Troopers
This one surprised me. I didn't think much of the trailer, and expected a rip-off of a classic comedy about police officers(see #16 below). A friend of mine raved about it, and when I finally did see it I understood the buzz. Was it the typical formula where a group of zany misfits rise to the occasion to face their competition? It was indeed, and it was a formula I didn't realize I was missing until I saw Super Troopers and thought, “they really don't make these kinds of comedies anymore.” It starred a comedy troupe known as Broken Lizard as state troopers with a penchant for messing with the people they pull over. One officer bets the other how many times he can work the word “meow” into a conversation. “Meow, do you know how fast you were going?” There's a great sequence where they pull over a group of teenagers who do a really bad job of concealing their drugs. Broken Lizard's next comedy Club Dread wasn't as good as Super Troopers, but still very funny.

16 Police Academy
I'm citing the first film, but at least the first four were hilarious before cast members started leaving and the premise was simply drawn out too far. You can only make so many sequels. Still, this was the original band of wacky law officers in training, led by Steve Guttenberg, and deserves respect. The characters were caricatures, living cartoons, and everyone who saw the film must have had a favorite. What fan of ‘80s comedies didn't love Jonesy, a showcase for Michael Winslow's true talent as a human sound effects machine? I also liked David Graf's gun-crazy Tackleberry, and I was sad to read that the acto passed away at the age of 51 a few years ago. A new Police Academy is planned for next year, with most of the cast returning. Will it be as good as the earlier movies? Is there a reason to revisit the franchise? And most importantly, will Bobcat Goldthwait return as Zed and reclaim his trademark voice from pretenders like Fred Fredburger?

15 Airplane!
They don't make them like this anymore. Oh, they'll try, and they might even get Leslie Nielsen, but none of the Scary Movie's or other modern stupid comedies hold a candle to the original stupid comedy. I speak jive, I am serious, and don't call me Shirley. Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit blogging...

14 Mystery Men
I'm a comic book geek. I collected for eight solid years, amassing a collection numbering in the 4000s, and an encyclopedic knowledge that easily dwarfs my limited social skills. Of course a film about a group of misfit superheroes makes my list. Ben Stiller is Mr. Furious, a character who believes he has powers when he gets angry. He works very hard to maintain his dark image, struggling to impress ridiculously hot waitress Claire Forlani. When she asks for his real name, he stammers through an impromptu list of tough guy names: “It's Phoenix....Phoenix Dark....Dirk. Phoenix...Darkdirk....I was christened Dirk SteeIe, and I changed it to Phoenix...” Of course his real name is as ordinary as “Roy”. He's just one part of a comedic dream ensemble that includes Hank Azaria as The Blue Raja, a faux British utensil tosser living with his mother, Janine Garafalo as The Bowler, following in her father's footsteps with his skull and spirit sealed inside her bowling ball, and the versatile William H. Macy as the Shoveler, badgered family man by day and honest and idealistic hero by night. Geoffrey Rush hams it up as the classic comic book supervillain, and Greg Kinnear is the public's beloved icon Captain Amazing, a sellout who may or may not benefit from a little help from the wannabes. It's a must see for any comic book fan. I'll also toss out another honorable mention here to the lesser-known superhero comedy, The Specials.

13 Shrek/Shrek II
Gun to my head, I'd say that while both had great soundtracks, clever writing, and tons of heart, the first had more emotional value in making me care about these characters while the second had more solid laughs. I had to cheat and count both as one, and in a year when the next sequel comes out I'll probably regard it as a solid, hilarious trilogy. Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy make an hilarious team as Shrek the Ogre and Donkey(the donkey), while the sweet tones of Cameron Diaz make Princess Fiona all the more lovable. In the sequel, Antonio Banderas brought in suave swashbuckling as the deadly cute Puss In Boots. It's for the kids, but they sneak in a few jokes for the grown ups too, such as Puss In Boots telling a knight that's pulled the group over the the catnip he's concealed isn't his. The blend of historical fairy tale characters with a modern score and a sharp wit excels and thrives in a digital medium.

12 Team America
This movie is so wrong. From an explicit sex scene involving puppets to the depiction of real world menace Km Jong-il as a diminutive Bond villain, I felt guilty for laughing so much. Whether spoofing Rent with characters on stage singing “Everyone has AIDs”, or oozing patriotism with the song, “America! &*^% Yeah!”, it's sure to extract a guilty laugh from even the stodgiest viewer.

11 Young Frankenstein
I could probably dedicate an entire post to Mel Brooks' body of work. This classic cut makes my list with a black-and-white send up of the gothic tale and sidesplitting performances from bug-eyed Marty Feldman, wacky Gene Wilder, and lumbering Peter Boyle. I laughed hysterically when Wilder as the doctor engages in a broadway song and dance number with Boyle as the monster, and Boyle bellows the refrain to ”Puttin' on the Ritz'”. It may in fact be one of the funniest sequences in film history. Also of note is a scene in which Gene Hackman plays a blind man and pours hot soup on Boyle. I've always been a Brooks fan but it took me years to see this one in its entirety, and I was sorry I waited so long.

10 Clerks
Twelve years ago, did even Kevin Smith realize what he was starting? A record low-budget film, made for only $27,575, it became a cult favorite that spawned at least five more movies set in the same View Askewniverse, including one actual sequel and an extremely funny but short-lived animated series. Smith excels at dialogue, and geeks and minimum wage workers alike related to what he had to say in the film. Snootch to the nootch.

09 The 40 Year Old Virgin
Steve Carell is a funny, funny man. There's an appeal to the loveless loser he plays here, an underdog we both laugh at and root for. He's a genuinely nice guy that just got stuck in his lonely life at some point, and suffers ordeal after ordeal as well-meaning coworkers try to bring him out of his shell. I definitely rate this one a full two bags of sand.

08 There's Something About Mary
What is it about loveless losers? Ben Stiller pines for his high school crush, Cameron Diaz, and the film works because there's something about Diaz. Bobby and Peter Farelly somehow mix gross out humor with a sweet tale, their trademark specialty, and we're along for the whole roller coaster, including one or two stunning moments where we think, “Oh no, they didn't!” Oh, yes. They did.

07 Office Space
Obnoxious coworkers. Meaningless paperwork. Soul-sucking monotony. Obligatory celebrations. A boss whose whims can devour personal time. Mike Judge describes the plight of any office worker in this marvelous comedy. I've never encountered the situations depicted in the film, or even similar situations, in any office I've worked in of course, but I laughed just the same. Those poor fools; glad they're not me.

06 Happy Gilmore
At the time, I wasn't much of an Adam Sandler fan. Billy Madison appeared stupid and unappealing, another vehicle for an SNL veteran that didn't deserve first billing in any feature. My friends dragged me to the theater, mostly because I was older and could drive them, and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did I see a different side of Bob Barker, witness a villainous Ben Stiller torment and old woman, and chuckle at a random and inexplicable midget, but I would forever refer to Christopher McDonald as “Shooter McGavin”. Before that, Shooter was just some guy that played a truck driver in an episode of Knight Rider that also featured James Cromwell. Some Sandler fans miss the days of the more immature comedies as he incorporates more and more themes of romance and family and even takes on more serious roles as in Punch-Drunk Love and Spanglish. These are the same people that think Little Nicky was a masterpiece. Don't listen to those people. Don't be those people. Sandler is growing and evolving, and elements of his more successful films originated in Happy Gilmore, from his character's devotion to his grandmother to the supporting caricatures he's surrounded by.

05 The Princess Bride
A wonderful movie and one of my all-time favorites, it set the standard for the funny fairy tale followed by movies like Shrek. Its lines are memorable, its hero dashing, its damsel lovely, its villain dastardly, its perils perilous, and its palaces palatial. It's a story of love summed up in the words “as you wish”. Cary Elwes' Westley loves Robin Wright Penn's Buttercup. Mandy Patinkin loved his father, whose death he seeks to avenge. Wallace Shawn loves his own brain, in a battle of wits that warns us to “never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!” Narrating the tale, Peter Falk shows the love of a grandfather for his grandson, played by a young Fred Savage. And countless fans love this movie.

04 Ghostbusters
“Who ya gonna call?” This is as much a spooky horror piece as it is a comedy, but with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd heading up the great cast, there are as many jokes as scares. I love when Murray is flirting with the girl at his university during the ESP “test”, administering shocks to the male subject even when he guesses the correct cards while sparing her no matter what. The original and still the best, you'll laugh at moments and lines from beginning to end. “Listen! Do you smell something?”/“What did you do Ray?”/“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together—mass hysteria!”

03 Wayne's World
In 2006, many might consider it blasphemous to list this instead of Mike Myers' more popular Austin Powers series. I wouldn't even argue that Myers was on top of his game in the multiple roles he played, or in the way he captured the ‘60s style of filmmaking. Just last night I watched the choppy 1967 Casino Royale, and witnessed a lot of trippy psychedelic filmmaking that the Powers movies were faithful to. Wayne's World is just an extended SNL skit, from a time in my life in which I had a few favorite movies that I watched repeatedly, very nearly memorizing. The Austin Powers movies showcase Myers but lack the camaraderie and teamwork he had with costar Dana Carvey, whose heart problems have kept him out of the spotlight for some time now, save for the horrendous mistake The Master of Disguise. Wayne's World has great music, quick hits, and unexpected sequences. I love the product placement sequence as well as Ed O'Neill's crazy rants. Tia Carrere; ‘nuff said. And then there are the cameos, like Alice Cooper, Meat Loaf, and of course Robert Patrick, still looking for John Connor as he reprises his T-1000 role. I could write paragraphs about this stupid movie, all the while listening to Bohemian Rhapsody. Instead I'll simply link to a highlight reel and move on.

02 Spaceballs
Mel Brooks makes the list again, and while this certainly isn't his best film, for a geek like me this send up of science fiction was one of the funniest. The hits are quick, nary a pause between jokes, registering what a character said even as something more unlikely is happening. Bill Pullman is a heroic rogue, John Candy is his human canine(Mog) sidekick, and Daphne Zuniga is the pretty but bitchy princess. Rick Moranis plays an unlikely Vader, and Brooks himself shows up as both a galactic president and a diminutive master of the “Schwartz”. It also features a space ship transforming into a giant (maid) robot, so my requirements are well met.

01 The Naked Gun
This is the clear winner. It has everything. Leslie Nielsen. Zucker and Abrahams Airplane! humor. OJ Simpson hadn't (possibly) stabbed anyone yet, and so was very funny. It had zany sequences, trumpet fanfares, and a climax at a baseball stadium that may be one of the funniest things I've ever watched. Enrico Pallazzo! Nielsen is at his best, delivering tongue-in-cheek lines with a perfectly straight face. The more ridiculous the things he says are, the more earnestly he says them. Don't let him catch any of you guys in America.

* * *


Whew. I started writing this last night, fell asleep around 3 AM, and spent another three hours finishing it this morning. I'm sure this list will change and rearrange as I grow older, tastes change, and new films make their way into the mix. These might not be the funniest movies you've seen, but right now, they're my favorites.

14 Comments:

Blogger Curt said...

I can respectfully disagree with a few of these movies being included and about what you have in your head to rank Spaceballs above Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. But how can you call yourself a geek when you make a list like this and don't even include The Holy Grail in the honorable mentions? NEE, I say!

7/29/2006 4:05 PM  
Blogger Rey said...

We no longer say Nee.

We say Ekky-ekky-ekky-ekky-z'Bang, zoom-Boing, z'nourrrwringmm.

7/29/2006 4:38 PM  
Blogger Kev said...

Some of those movies I completely agree with - others are, IMO, just not on the same level as the others.

Also, I agree with Curt and Rey - No Holy Grail?! What were you thinking?!

Final Note: Kudos for including UHF!

7/29/2006 5:28 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Rey: Ekky-ekky-ekky-ekky-z'Bang, zoom-Boing, z'nourrrwringmm

I bow to your ability to spell this phonetically.

So much to agree on here, so much to disagree on.... Of course, giving Blazing Saddles only an honorable mention instead of naming it the funniest film of all time is bad, bad, bad... but putting Team America on the list (a film I forgot all about) makes up for it.

7/29/2006 8:16 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

Yeah, mark Holy Grail down as a major oversight. At one point the list of honorable mentions was turning into a list of every comedy I've ever seen, and I had to cull The Toy, Not Another Teen Movie, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, American Pie, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Wedding Crashers, The Wedding Singer, Anchorman, Kingpin, Me Myself & Irene, The Cable Guy, City Slickers and on and on and a whole lot more. Despite all this, somehow Holy Grail never even entered the preliminaries, which reminds me that the list was devoid of Army of Darkness, The Meaning of Life, The Pink Panther and probably a lot of other good ones. It wouldn't be in my Top Ten, but it probably would have snuck in somewhere between 11-20.

As for Blazing Saddles, I had that at #11 and Young Frankenstein in Honorable Mentions, but when I got to writing about it, I found there was more to be said about Young Frankenstein and I swapped them. I saw Saddles when I was a kid, and Young Frankenstein like last year, so it's probably just fresher in my mind.

7/29/2006 10:57 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

I'm not quite dead yet.

7/29/2006 10:59 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

Really, it's just a flesh wound...

7/29/2006 10:59 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Oh, don't be stupid, you've got no arms left!

7/30/2006 6:57 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I contend that The 40 Year-Old Virgin is the funniest non-quotable movie ever made.

7/31/2006 8:33 AM  
Blogger Scott Roche said...

Wow. Making this list would be a monumental task for me. It's a mountain I just might climb, but not today.

I do have to say that I heart "40 Year Old Virgin" in a big way. I didn't think that I would. Also Dodgeball deserves at least an HM and may take a place on the top twenty on my list. One-two combo of Stiller (As a bad guy!!!) and Vaughan was excellent.

7/31/2006 12:37 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

Don't forget Hasselhoff and Steve the Pirate! Yeah, Dodgeball is at the very least an honorable mention and at most an understudy for one of the movies in the 11-20 slot. I liked that one a lot too.

Maybe I should have done a top 100...

7/31/2006 10:57 PM  
Blogger neolithic said...

Nahhhh... a top 100 would have watered down the strength of your top picks. Though what happened to Animal House or Best in Show? Or are all my tastes too eclectic or eccentric for the modern age?

8/01/2006 12:20 AM  
Blogger MCF said...

Animal House deserves an honorable mention, but I'd probably list A Mighty Wind before Best in Show. The world of Folk Songs is closer to worlds I've travelled in than the world of dog shows. Great eccentric characters in both films, though.

8/01/2006 12:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the Party? or other Peter Sellers greats!!!

12/29/2006 11:45 PM  

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