Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Funniest Movies Ever Made

Inspired by David Misch's Funny: The Book, I asked people on Facebook and Twitter to name their favorite funny movies. I wanted to know which movies made them laugh the most, and I was hoping to get some interesting responses. What I ended up with was a list of some 70 films - almost enough for a book on the subject! - that covered a wide range of decades and comedy styles, although some real winners stood out in the final tally. Here are the top ten replies, in order of popularity.

1-2 Tied: BLAZING SADDLES (1974) and RAISING ARIZONA (1987)

These are both extremely funny movies, although the Nicholas Cage comedy, written and directed by the Coen brothers, is the less outrageous of the two. I expected Mel Brooks to end up in a high position on the list, so BLAZING SADDLES came as no surprise, but RAISING ARIZONA was not one that I would have bet on as a top contender. The Mel Brooks movie falls into the broader definition of a "classic," but I'm not so sure about the Coen brothers comedy, even though at this point it is more than 25 years old. It is, however, memorably funny, especially because of Holly Hunter's performance and the Coens' hilarious writing.

3-6 Tied: BRINGING UP BABY (1938), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942), and IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963)

Yes, it's a four way tie for the rest of the top half, with some surprisingly retro choices from the Facebook crowd (maybe I have been a good influence on them!). BRINGING UP BABY is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I was glad to see it make the cut, and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN continues to prove the popularity of Mel Brooks as a comedy king. Both of those would be on my own top ten list. I didn't expect to see THE PALM BEACH STORY make such a strong showing; it's chaotically funny, but my personal pick from the Preston Sturges canon would be THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK (1944). I was shocked that so many people would not only sit through but enjoy all 192 minutes of IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD, but people who responded said that they loved the huge cast of classic stars.

7-10/11 Tied: DUCK SOUP (1933), NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989), ANIMAL HOUSE (1978), THE BIRDCAGE (1996), THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998)

The bottom third really gets into different territory, with only DUCK SOUP making my personal list of top comedies (several people generalized by saying "any Marx Brothers movie" as their choice). Here the generational bias of the responders shows through the most clearly, with more recent movies getting a lot of support. THE BIRDCAGE is the surprise finisher of this group, but it is very funny, and I love Hank Azaria's performance in particular. While I wasn't that shocked to see cult favorite THE BIG LEBOWSKI get votes, I personally can't stand it.

Honorable Mentions: MY FELLOW AMERICANS (1996), THE NAKED GUN (1988), O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000), DUMB AND DUMBER (1994), L.A. STORY (1991), GROUNDHOG DAY (1993), THE PRODUCERS (1967), DR. STRANGELOVE (1964), AIRPLANE! (1980), MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975), THE APARTMENT (1960)

Honorable mentions are movies that at least two people chose, and this set shows the breadth of selections really opening up. Most of these are more recent films, with THE APARTMENT sneaking in as a surprise pick. Almost all of these movies pass my personal comedy test, except for DUMB AND DUMBER (its name pretty much sums up what I don't like about it). My favorites of this group would have to be O BROTHER and GROUNDHOG DAY, both of which make me laugh every time I watch them. I like a good story as the backdrop for the laughs, so I'm giving those two the edge over HOLY GRAIL and AIRPLANE!, even though I can recite most of the gags from both of them.

This, of course, is by no means a scientific survey. Technically, I asked over 2000 people between my Facebook and Twitter accounts. The Facebook crowd, ironically, responded more enthusiastically, even though on Facebook I am mostly connected to people I know in real life who may or may not be that into movies. On Twitter, where most of my active connections actually are movie bloggers and classic film fans, I got a lot fewer replies. Too much noise in the system there, I guess, compared to the 400+ people on Facebook.

Have you seen every movie that made the top ten list? What is your favorite funny movie? Let me know in the comments! If you're interested in learning more about David Misch's book, you can read my review of it here.