Who doesn’t love a pleasant laugh once in a while? Better question, what makes a comedy movie stand out years later they come out? Anybody can consider themselves funny, but they have to deliver on what’s most important: making people laugh at what’s funny. This can come from a joke, a performance, or a premise that’s simple or straight-up dumb and goes for it.
I love comedy, and it’s always the bright spot we need every day. The genre, itself, is tricky to handle when you have to know who you’re targeting. It changes within time and how it’s able to become different and not be the same things repeatedly with leaving you smiling at the very end. Nowadays, it’s considered a challenge to make a hit since it depends on the general reaction it receives after. More well-known writers and directors are easy enough to know if it’s going to be worth it. It’s a major win if a movie gets me to laugh over five times. But today, I thought hard about doing this, and it seems like a good time to finally put together my TOP 20 FAVORITE COMEDIES OF ALL-TIME.
Honestly, this was the toughest list to compile because there are so many I feel deserve a spot somewhere here, and wondered if expanding this to be another ten would help. But, I’m sticking to 20. These are comedies that are perfectly re-watchable and can always get the job done, whether it’s a teen movie, slapstick, or a sub-genre. I believe these are the best to come out, which means this is all completely subjective (like the genre itself) since this my own taste. However, if you like every single movie I included on this list, then you’re good in my book. The only movies that weren’t included here on animated movies or the occasional dramedies.
Right below are my Honorable Mentions, which I separated into decades since I at least need to shout out to the other comedies that are awesome, and there are a lot I had to include.
1970s: Blazing Saddles, National Lampoon’s Animal House
1980s: The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack, Coming to America, The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad!, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally…
1990s: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Dazed and Confused, Groundhog Day, Home Alone, Liar Liar, Mrs. Doubtfire, Rushmore, Wayne’s World, The Wedding Singer
2000s: The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I Love You, Man, Napoleon Dynamite, Old School, School of Rock, Tropic Thunder, Wet Hot American Summer, Wedding Crashers, Zombieland
20) ‘Clerks’ (Kevin Smith, 1994)
“I’m not even supposed to be here today!”
How could I not put a Kevin Smith classic on this list? Between this and Chasing Amy, I have to go with his 1994 directorial debut, Clerks, with a $27,575 budget and shot in black-and-white. The day in the life of Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) and Randall Graves (Jeff Anderson) working at the Quick Stop might not sound much on the surface, but those who’ve worked lame jobs and usually slack off during them will find this both relatable and humorous, tailored made for fans of Smith. A standout independent film that’s the perfect launching point for Smith’s career as a filmmaker. Plus, its 2006 sequel (in color) wasn’t half-bad.
19) ‘This is The End‘ (Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen, 2013)
“A huge earthquake happens, who do they rescue first? Actors. They’ll rescue Clooney, Sandra Bullock, me. If there’s room, you guys will come.”
It’s the end of the world as these actors know it, and they might seem more than fine. This is the End is the directorial debut of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on the 2007 short Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, where actors Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill have to keep themselves inside Franco’s house as the apocalypse unfolds. After watching it at the end of last year, this 2013 film needs more attention is that it does a superb job at not taking itself seriously while poking fun at themselves, and you can tell all these guys had a great time while filming. Want a comedy with a coked-out Michael Cera? Or how about a possessed Jonah Hill in a hysterical parody of The Exorcist? It’s all here. Fans of the actors will have no trouble getting the best laughs from any of them.
18) ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ (Nicholas Stoller, 2008)
“When life gives you lemons, just say ‘F-k the lemons,’ and bail.”
Has there ever been a movie where a breakup has one individual completely naked for an entire scene? Hopefully not, and it probably wouldn’t get made now. 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall cracked a place on this top 20 after re-watching it this past summer rightfully for showing it gets funnier for me and everyone else. The situation is even worse when you decide to go to Hawaii to get away from her and she’s vacationing there as well with her new rockstar boyfriend. It’s a great romantic comedy that’s all about the breakup (relatable to some) but shows hope of how to bounce back and find new love. I’ve always thought of this as an unexpected surprise. Every joke hits and the performances from Jason Segel (who wrote the script), Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, and Russell Brand made it a success in my book. Also, the spin-off, Get Him to the Greek, ain’t too bad either.
17) ‘The Hangover’ (Todd Phillips, 2009)
“Hey, you guys ready to let the dogs out?”
Nobody imagined The Hangover was going to be the surprise hit when it came out in the late 2000s, especially when it won the Golden Globe for Best Picture- Musical or Comedy. This could’ve been a forgettable movie about these guys tracing their steps to find the groom after a wild bachelor party in Las Vegas, but credit to director Todd Phillips and his writers for delivering a clever and unexpectedly fun comedy that worked, even if not all the jokes land today. The trio of Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis made them established stars, and it proves that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, especially if it has anything to do with a tiger and Mike Tyson. And it should’ve stopped at one since the following two sequels from 2011 to 2013, respectively, were an absolute waste of time and didn’t come close to matching the critical success of the original.
16) ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, 1975)
“I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!”
How could anyone not like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, since many regards it as the funniest movie of the 1970s from one of the most iconic comedy groups in history? This cult classic probably took a while for the American audience to get behind it, but while it offers fourth wall breaks and too many hilarious moments after the other, it’s rightfully considered great now, same as Life of Brian. The comedic take on the quest of Arthur, King of the Britains (the late Graham Chapman), and his men to find the Holy Grail doesn’t go for a straightforward route in its storytelling when it offers that absurd humor the British sketch group is known for. With memorable characters like The Black Knight, The French Taunter, or the Knights Who Say Ni, you can’t deny this is their best work ever. Just the thought of a single joke and saying it without cracking up would be impossible.
15) ‘Ghostbusters‘ (Ivan Reitman, 1984)
“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”
Ghostbusters is one of the few movies in life that makes the genius move of combining sci-fi, comedy, and action into one awesome flick all can enjoy. It’s about scientists catching ghosts over New York City, what more can you ask for? We now see this as an ’80s classic in watching it for the smart writing, humor, and some of the funniest performances (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson) that will always be entertaining. And it ain’t a failure to have a catchy theme song to associate it with. Only a movie like this can have a gigantic Marshmallow monster be unnaturally threatening. A very popular property of its time with merchandise and follow-ups (2016 reboot is good. Everyone saying it’s horrible is wrong.), let’s just hope the upcoming sequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, can be a hit with Reitman’s son, Jason, directing it.
14) ‘10 Things I Hate About You‘ (Gil Junger, 1999)
“There’s a difference between like and love. Because, I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack.”
It would be fairly easy to say 10 Things I Hate About You is a teen comedy “I burn, I pine, I perish,” but it’s the truth. And honestly, it might just be my favorite teen movie of the decade. This ’90s re-telling of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shew can find its demographic in handling this loose adaptation in a comedic way and make it simple to understand what’s going on. Predictable? Sure, but that doesn’t take away from the good amount of laughs and its grounded approach to teen relationships, not to mention a cast of who would be up-and-comers actors, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles, and one of my favorites Heath Ledger as Patrick Verona. There’s nothing more romantic than performing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” to show a girl you love her. Even if you’re not the biggest Shakespeare fan, this is a huge recommendation.
13) ‘Dumb and Dumber’ (Peter Farrelly, 1994)
“Hey, I guess they’re right. Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose. I’ll be right back. Don’t you go dying on me.”
You can have a movie that’s both stupid and funny. Dumb and Dumber is just the perfect example. The Farrelly Brothers’ first outing in the genre is one that any living person can’t dislike. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as friends Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn go on a wacky road trip to Aspen to return a briefcase of the husband of a wealthy heiress, and it’s one to never use your brainpower to critique. With a buddy movie that’s full of hard laughs to come by and great chemistry from its two leads, it keeps you grinning from start to finish in all its quotable glory. And 1994 was Carrey’s breakout out year as a comedic force of nature with this, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and The Mask. But I can never get enough of this. Even if a joke doesn’t hit, they do something better, and totally redeem themselves. Now, the less said about its prequel and sequel 20 years later, the better.
12) ‘Hot Fuzz’ (Edgar Wright, 2007)
“You’re a doctor, deal with it!”
As this is the second installment in the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy following Shaun of the Dead, 2007’s Hot Fuzz pays homage to the cop movies in the style of director Edgar Wright. Action and comedy never looked so good when it’s smarter than an actual spoof and its take on action cliches made it even better. Maybe for the greater good. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost will never disappoint me when they’re together, and it’s not hard to see why many have this as their favorite out of the trilogy we have now. I had a poster for this when I was young; still have no clue what happened to it. That will always be the biggest mystery in my life.
11) ‘Anchorman: The Legend of the Ron Burgundy’ (Adam McKay, 2004)
“I’m a man who discovered the wheel and built the Eiffel Tower out of metal and brawn. That’s what kind of man I am. You’re just a woman with a small brain. With a brain a third the size of us. It’s science.”
Just like Brick love lamp, I loved Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy on the first viewing while it probably took some time with others to understand it since it’s kind of a big deal. Before he became a two-time Oscar-nominated director, Adam McKay’s ridiculous news comedy might not be everyone’s sense of humor, but how it pokes fun at the ’70s culture of the male-dominated news world was amusing to me, which is lead by an on his game Will Ferrell as news anchor Ron Burgundy and his sweet mustache, along with a talented ensemble with Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, and Steve Carell. This is what you’ll call a popular movie that still cracks me up just when thinking about it and I can’t help it; it’s fantastic. The jokes are indeed odd, but they never leave your mind. Even when its 2013 sequel doesn’t quite reach legendary, it doesn’t taint what we deserved already.
10) ‘Elf’ (Jon Favearu, 2003)
“I think you’re really beautiful and I feel really warm when I’m around you and my tongue swells up.”
It was difficult to choose between Elf and Home Alone to represent a Christmas movie that’s able to be funny. But Elf has been a part of my childhood ever since I saw it when I was seven and instantly became my go-to classic when the holidays hit. You honestly have to be dead inside to not find Jon Favreau’s throwback to the Rankin/Bass specials completes with incorporating a fish-out-of-water story of a grown man who believes he’s an elf does its job not only at keeping you laughing non-stop but puts you in a delightful mood, even after a day of feeling out of it. Out of all the movies Will Ferrell has been in after leaving SNL, his performance as Buddy is his greatest, and nobody else could play this part like him. What would the world be like if this hasn’t gotten made? A terrible one.
9) ‘Bridesmaids’ (Paul Feig, 2011)
“What are you gonna, you guys gonna ride around on bikes with berets and f—king baguettes in the basket on the front of your bikes?”
Bridesmaids has the honor of celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, and I can still comprehend how I thought this was going to be this dumb comedy from Universal Pictures just based on the trailers. Thankfully, this Paul Feig-directed/ Judd Apatow-produced female comedy, which was a box office hit and landed two Oscar nominations, slapped me at the back of the head and made a movie everybody will remember as one of the freshest film, with the bonus of finding it relatable of the stress one must go by in planning a best friend’s wedding. There’s more to expect when it becomes crazy with every planned event, which includes a fitting gone wrong with food poisoning or a cringe-worthy toast. Funny throughout, well-written, and has a great ensemble of hilarious ladies from Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, and Wendi McLendon-Covey. Bridesmaids also paved the way wisely for more raunchy female comedies of the future.
8) ‘21 Jump Street‘ (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, 2012)
“Hey! stop f—king with Korean Jesus! He ain’t got time for your problems! He’s busy… with Korean s-t!”
Another movie I thought was going to be terrible but WAY better than many expected, 21 Jump Street still reigns highly as the funniest movie of the last decade and one of the best movies based on a television series. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller took the high stakes drama of the popular show and made it into a comedy with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in the leads as two undercover cops in high school infiltrating a new drug that pokes fun at itself. That shouldn’t have worked, but the results made it a clever and memorable buddy cop comedy that knew what it was without playing dumb to the viewers, especially those who watched the show. Nothing beats the chemistry between the pairing of Hill and Tatum together as Schmidt and Jenko that worked better than we thought with a movie that didn’t need to rely on nostalgia for those who weren’t familiar with the source material. Not only that, but we also got 2014’s 22 Jump Street, the best comedy sequel ever made.
7) ‘There’s Something About Mary’ (Peter & Bobby Farrelly, 1998)
“I couldn’t believe that she knew my name. Some of my best friends didn’t know my name.”
With anything the Farrelly’s directed in terms of comedies, There’s Something About Mary is undoubtedly their best movie to date, and their last great comedy. It’s absolutely hysterical, has an unexpected heart to buy into, and its three main stars (Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller, and Matt Dillon) are at their best here, especially Diaz as the lovable Mary. They made this for those who enjoy crude humor done right, like the infamous zipper moment or the “hair jell.” Any scene with its stars where either of them sharing scenes is great, and the chemistry is impeccable. It was the word of mouth that got people’s attention and made it a blockbuster the year it came out. Why is that? It’s a romantic comedy that turns over its head with its charm and all. Everybody has always thought about their former crushes in life, especially me. Do some of them go for the gross-out humor or even have lines that aren’t politically correct? It does. Watching this again made me miss the old days of funny Farrelly brothers’ movies.
6) ‘The Big Lebowski’ (Joel Coen, 1998)
“Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”
The sense of humor the Coen Brothers brings to some of their films is definitely for a certain group who understands their taste. Though nothing is funnier than one of their best, The Big Lebowski. Here is a comedy you can have on in the background and still be in the most chilled mood with his unusual story of mistaken identity mixed in with White Russians, bowling, and a rug that tied the room together. Jeff Bridges as Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski is the definition of iconic, while John Goodman should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination for his performance as Walter Sobshak making for a surreal good time. I mean, you’re seriously out of your element to not appreciate this cult classic. Only the Coen could make this, which is why it holds true to being mentioned 23 years later.
5) ‘Mean Girls‘ (Mark Waters, 2004)
“She doesn’t even go here!”
Just like the ’90s had Clueless, the 2000s’ had Mean Girls for the Gen Z crowd to get a kick out of, even if you’re not part of the demographic. I saw this in theaters not knowing anything about it and walked out loving it. A teen movie like this wouldn’t likely appeal to everyone, but it does the impossible in perfecting a hilarious and easily quotable movie upon every watch that never gets old, adding to how we define popularity and cliques. With a well-thought-out script from Tina Fey and the best performances to come from Lindsay Lohan as Cady Heron and Rachel McAdams as Regina George, I’d say this is so “fetch.” Such a shame those who tried to copy it failed to recoup the same success.
4) ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off‘ (John Hughes, 1986)
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
John Hughes was the master of the teen movies when he was alive, coming out with hit after hit. Though my favorite from his filmography is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, with Planes, Trains and Automobiles a very close second. An almost relatable movie to some people out there where you want to skip school and have a fun day without getting caught. Just the antics of following Matthew Broderick’s fourth-wall-breaking, charismatic titular character and his friends (Alan Ruck as Cameron and Mia Sara as Sloan) is classic Hughes that captures youth in a bold perspective. For me, this is a comedy that’s impossible to not respect, unless you consider yourself a Rooney.
3) ‘Airplane!’ (Jim Abrahams, David & Jerry Zucker, 1980)
“No, thank you, I take it black, like my men.”
Spoofs have fallen downhill over the past decade, putting an embarrassing name on the genre severely. None of them can even compare to a comedic masterpiece like Airplane! from David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams. As a parody of disaster movies the likes of Airport 1975 and Zero Hour!, the fact is capable of having every joke fly at you unexpectedly despite being completely stupid is made it hard to not keep smiling after it’s over. It’s an accomplishment to be a great comedy with an abundance of hilarious jokes, puns, and visual gags that’s worth re-winding along with getting a kick out of the performances of Lloyd Bridges and a rare comedic performance from Leslie Nielsen at the time of its release.
2) ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (Edgar Wright, 2004)
“Take car. Go to Mum’s. Kill Phil – “Sorry.” – grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?”
All you have to do to make someone an Edgar Wright fan is show them Shaun of the Dead, a brilliant and outrageous homage to popular zombie movies. For what I thought was going to be a stupid movie that would not take itself seriously set in a zombie apocalypse ended up being the best fast-paced horror comedy we’ll ever get and the most fun until the zombie craze tired itself out, all thanks to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s infectious chemistry as Shaun and Ed, respectively, and a story that while knows when it wants to be funny, surprisingly doesn’t shy away from its serious moments. Believe it or not, this might’ve been the first British movie I’ve watched, which makes sense for being Wright’s breakout film.
1) ‘Superbad‘ (Greg Mottola, 2007)
“All right, you look like a future pedophile in this picture, number 1. Number 2: it doesn’t even have a first name, it just says “McLovin”!”
No comedy has stayed attached to me for the longest time than Superbad. This ain’t the first raunchy comedy with teenagers in the role, but it’s the one that stood out the most. Ever since I saw this in theaters in fifth grade, I honestly thought it was the funniest movie to ever come out, and still, after 14 years later, I feel like this very influential how we see the genre today. The coming-of-age story of best friends Seth and Evan trying to score some booze for a party and the quest to hook up with their crushes before high school concludes sounded right up my ally, except with the shenanigans that come in their way in what’s arguably stupid when you think about it. Either way, you’re just there for a wonderful time from beginning to end. Directed by Greg Mottola, produced by Judd Apatow, and written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg when they wrote it in their teen years, hit never has a beat that misses in terms of every joke being memorable, the performances from Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Rogen, Bill Hader, and then-newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fogell/ McLovin’.
Why it still works today is because it was a critical and box office success, it’s an R-rated high school flick on par with its similar movies in the past, and it’s a great story of a friendship that hits home. The closest we’ve ever had to something be almost similar is 2019’s equally lovable Booksmart, which co-stars Hill’s little sister, Beanie Feldstein. Superbad isn’t just my favorite comedy of all time, it’s legitimately one of the best movies I’ve ever seen to where it can replay in my head whenever I’m feeling down and need to be cheered up.