The 50 Best Comedies of the Past 50 Years: 50-41
The problem with lists that count down the best comedy movies of all time? They have to include classics by the Charlie Chaplins and Keystone Kops that don’t necessarily hold up today. Influential? Sure, but Harold Lloyd hanging off a clock doesn’t inspire a lot of guffaws among 2022 audiences.
So your friends at ComedyNerd decided to rank the best 50 comedies of the past 50 years, with the reasoning that the farting scene in Blazing Saddles (1974) can still get some chuckles. (And Blazing Saddles didn’t even make our top 50 list.)
We’ll be counting down the hits every Tuesday, starting today with numbers 50 through 41. Ready? Let’s do this.
Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery (1997)
The “Do I make you horny, baby?” catchphrases might want to make you punch somebody right in the “oh, behave,” but there’s a reason they were repeated so many times. Before its sequels squeezed out every last bit of the franchise’s mojo, Austin Powers deserved its blockbuster status, combining spy spoofs, period nonsense, and goofy sight gags into a hilarious comedy quiche. The fact that Dr. Evil was not-so-secretly Lorne Michaels still works for us.
Tommy Boy (1995)
We’re guessing if the late Chris Farley was still with us, he would have made a comedy even funnier than Tommy Boy. But Tommy Boy is what we have, and it’s pretty damn hilarious. Credit to Lorne Michaels for deciding that Farley and David Spade would make a great movie team -- Spade’s dry sarcasm and bottled-up angst is a perfect counterpunch to Farley’s joyous physicality. We’ll never get enough of a filthy Farley being hosed down to the strains of Maniac. And if he needed to eat paint chips to make that scene happen? So be it.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
Our vote for the most underrated comedy of the 2010s. The Lonely Island guys pair dumb dick jokes with an absolutely wicked satire of the world of pop music. It’s like McCartney and Kanye, yo, the best music mockumentary since This Is Spinal Tap. The movie is practically overstuffed with in-jokes--and any flick that features Bill Hader kicking over guitars as a flatlining roadie is dope as hell, y’all.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
John Hughes was a wacky wunderkind, graduating from the counterculture pages of the National Lampoon to create uber-80s comedies Vacation, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. For various reasons (most involving jokes that have aged terribly), none of those films play as well today as Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. The jokes still work and unlike Hughes’ Chevy Chase vehicles, there’s an actual heart beating at its center. It never hurts to cast Steve Martin and John Candy in their primes -- could these be career-best performances for both comics? If not, they’re damn close to the top.
Girls Trip (2017)
Let’s pour one out for Girls Trip, our last comedy blockbuster. (Check Box Office Mojo -- take out animated kiddie flicks and Girls Trip is the last comedy to break $100 million.) Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah got top billing but Tiffany Haddish stole the movie out from under them, launching her career as a bawdy comedy queen. Can someone PLEASE bring back the raunchy R-rated comedy?
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
Gather all the evil ex-boyfriends! It’s time for an epic rewatch of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, one of the funniest and best comic book adaptations ever. Don’t be surprised to find yourself shouting out the names of silly stars who were nobodies in 2010 (Aubrey Plaza, Chris Evans, Kieran Culkin, looking at you). Can we go back in time to the days when Michael Cera could be one of our biggest movie stars? This movie is still on like Donkey Kong.
The jokes are OK but the comedy cast is one of the best ever assembled. Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Bill Murray, even Chevy Chase (cough) breathe chaotic life into the slobs vs. snobs trope. This isn’t apex Harold Ramis (we’ll get to that later), but he somehow transformed a historically disorderly shoot, filmed in a drug-fueled haze, into an all-time laugher. It didn’t hurt to have young Billy Murray spinning comic gold as a befuddled groundskeeper straight out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. That damn gopher is probably still out there somewhere.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Funniest Eddie flick ever? Debatable. But it’s the one that absolutely, undeniably made him a huge freaking movie star. Beverly Hills Cop had everything that made Eddie such a killer -- quicksilver transformations into hilarious characters, that infectious laugh, and a badass cool that made him the Elvis of comedy. The Hollywood Reporter marveled about the “silver-bullet performance from star Eddie Murphy that's practically criminal in its accuracy.” A star was born.
The Hangover (2009)
Despite the fact that it made Ken Jeong ubiquitous on obnoxious Fox reality shows, we still love The Hangover. It was the last movie that Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis would make as non-movie stars--the film's mega-success launched each of them into the comedy cosmos. It’s an unbelievably drunken Three Men and a Baby, a slappy, sloppy farce that hits harder than a Mike Tyson cross to the chin. Give us two aspirin and we’ll be ready to watch it again.
Back to the Future (1985)
Great Scott! Back to the Future and all of its tropes are so interwoven into our pop-culture consciousness that it’s hard to remember how funny and fresh it was in 1985. Yeah, the Oedipal stuff is weird, but it also gives a fizzy concept some psychological weight. This is top-of-the-mountain Michael J. Fox, proving that little funny guys can carry big movies. Crank up the Huey Lewis!
Check back next Tuesday for numbers 40-31 in our Top 50 Comedies of the Past Fifty Years.
For more ComedyNerd, be sure to check out:
Comic Relief Characters: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
15 Killer Alt-Comedy Comedians You Should Know About
Bill Hader: 13 Now-You-Know Facts
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Top image: Cracked illustration