Premiere Magazine's
50 Greatest Comedies
of All Time

Part 1

Premiere Magazine compiled a list of the 50 Greatest Comedies of All Time in the July/August 2006 issue - the unranked list in chronological order represented a wide range of some of the best comedies ("the funniest stories ever told on film"), from "the Little Tramp to the Wedding Crashers". Descriptions are from the original source. See also this site's descriptive section on the Comedy Films genre, and illustrated listings of the Funniest Movie Moments and Scenes in the best comedy films in film history.

There were many missing films in this list that should have been included or mentioned, for example: Sherlock Jr. (1924), Trouble in Paradise (1932), Sons of the Desert (1933), It's a Gift (1934), Way Out West (1937), The Lady Eve (1941), Sullivan's Travels (1941), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949, UK), Born Yesterday (1950), Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953, Fr.), The Graduate (1967), The Odd Couple (1968), Manhattan (1979), Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979, UK), The Blues Brothers (1980), Tootsie (1982), Local Hero (1983, UK), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Ghostbusters (1984), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), Broadcast News (1987), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), The Princess Bride (1987), Raising Arizona (1987), Roxanne (1987), Withnail & I (1987, UK), Beetlejuice (1988), The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), When Harry Met Sally... (1989), Wayne's World (1992), Clerks (1994), Dumb and Dumber (1994), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994, UK), Toy Story (1995), and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999), Amelie (2001), to name just a few.

Premiere Magazine's
50 Greatest Comedies of All Time
(part 1, chronological)

1. SAFETY LAST (1923)
Energetic, all-American Harold Lloyd will do anything to convince his girl that he's a big success in the big city. How this results in his hanging from a clock face on the side of a tall building is just one of the pleasures of this death-defying slapstick classic.
2. THE GOLD RUSH (1925)
Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp goes prospecting and winds up eating his shoe. The most pleasingly frantic and inventive of the actor-director's silent era features.

3. THE GENERAL (1927)
The Great Stone Face and his two great loves—his girl and a train. Buster Keaton at his best, enduring hilarious hell to win them both.

4. DUCK SOUP (1933)
Throwing linearity and logic clean out the window, the Marx brothers and director Leo McCarey concocted a thoroughly bonkers send-up not just of politics but of…everything. Priceless exchange: "I didn't come here to be insulted…" "That's what you think!"

This Frank Capra-Robert Riskin concoction laid the groundwork for many of the screwball comedies that followed—madcap heiress on the lam, down-to-earth guy who pigheadedly resists her charms, oodles of innuendo but it also wears its heart very prominently on its sleeve. You don't just laugh at Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, you get to know them, and like them an awful lot.

A bit too heavy on the Thalberg-imposed softening of the Marx Brothers' anarchic antics, it still has great bits [that stateroom scene among them] and an actual story line, for those who go for that sort of thing. Groucho Marx, opera critic: "Boogity boogity boogity."

7. MY MAN GODFREY (1936)
In which the screwball comedy meets the forgotten man. Quintessential madcap heiress Carole Lombard adopts down-on-his-luck William Powell with designs to make a butler out of him; he turns the tables and makes a woman out of her. Class war was never so amusing, at least until the original Swept Away.

Two marrieds [Cary Grant and Irene Dunne] divorce—rather arbitrarily—begin seeing other people, and reunite—again, rather arbitrarily, albeit with the intervention of a very engaging canine.

A leopard, a dinosaur bone, and the crackling chemistry of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant make this a screwball gem. The stars are more romantic in The Philadelphia Story, but they were never funnier.

10. HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940)
Legend has it that this rapid-fire gender-bent slant on The Front Page was kicked off by a reading of the play at Howard Hawks's house, with a woman taking the part of Hildy Johnson. Whatever the inspiration, this classic, alternating between near-moronic farce and quasi-tragedy and blasting all the notes in between, features Cary Grant at his weaseliest, Rosalind Russell at her toughest and tenderest, and Ralph Bellamy at the height of Bellamyness.
11. A CHUMP AT OXFORD (1940)
Long before Back to School and Billy Madison plumbed the comic possibilities of goofball students in the groves of academe, there were Laurel and Hardy, wreaking havoc on ivory towers and ivied halls.
12. THE BANK DICK (1940)
Misanthropic, boozy W.C. Fields just wants to, well, lie around and drink. But there are all these people distracting him—e.g., his family—and all these things that these people want him to do. When a misunderstanding makes a hero out of him, he tries to ride his newfound esteem for all it's worth. And then things go even more wrong for him…

13. TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942)
Carole Lombard's final bow, and perhaps her finest hour, as the queen bee of a Polish theatrical group that gets up in the Nazis' grill before the invasion. Ernst Lubitsch's picture (co-starring Jack Benny) is remarkably graceful, humane, and sidesplitting.

14. ROAD TO MOROCCO (1942)
The success of the previous Road To films emboldened stars Bob Hope and Bing Crosby to ad-lib more and ignore the fourth wall; the result is comedy that's as relaxed as it is hilarious. Classic line: "It's all right Ma, I'll get a job tomorrow."

The put-one-over-on-the-censors audaciousness of Preston Sturges's most frantic farce, about a small-town woman in a delicate condition writ large, is best exemplified by its heroine's last name: Kockenlocker.
Alec Guinness plays a toothy and scrupulous criminal who rents a room from the world's sweetest old lady, then enlists her unwitting participation in his gang's bank heist. But when the thugs decide they must rub out Mrs. Wilberforce, events give new meaning to the word "backfire."
Or, The Gang That Couldn't Rob Straight. In which a motley crew of Italian layabouts plan the perfect crime and execute the perfect disaster. A fortuitous one-time-only coupling of slapstick and the neorealist ethos.

18. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)
Using a girl with a ukulele and two guys in skirts on the lam, Billy Wilder turned the gangster film on its ear and made a timeless comic gender-bender. C'mon - have you ever seen a cuter couple than Jack Lemmon and Joe E. Brown?

19. THE APARTMENT (1960)
Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine fall in love in a series of small, bittersweet moments that provide shelter from their lives in big business. Moviewise, it's charming.

20. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)
Stanley Kubrick's deep dark satire about how general (as in military) buffoonnery could trigger nuclear annihilation features Peter Sellers as an RAF officer, an impotent president, and the titular German scientist. Cold War comedy at its finest.

21. A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964)
The second time was the charm for Peter Sellers as fumbling French detective Jacques Clouseau. Sent to investigate a murder, the inept inspector ignores all facts and falls for the most obvious suspect, a beautiful maid with a knack for holding the murder weapon.
22. THE PRODUCERS (1968)
A shady theatre producer and an accountant set out to stage the worst play in history and ended up, sadly, with a huge hit. And they need only one song, "Springtime for Hitler," to do it.

23. M*A*S*H (1970)
It's hard to remember, after 11 seasons of the TV series, how startling and subversive Robert Altman's original was. It still boasts a splendid ensemble, a breezy anti-establishment attitude, and more going on in the margins than most comedies can deal with front and center.

24. SLEEPER (1973)
Woody Allen paid homage to his favorite funnymen - Groucho, Chaplin, Keaton - and in the process concocted a zany sci-fi story full of unforgettable sight gags and one-liners. If only the future really included the orgasmatron and society governed by a nose.
With this no-holds-barred spoof of Hollywood's westerns, Mel Brooks delivered a raunchy blend of slapstick silliness, sexual innuendo, and enough racial epithets to fill a Spike Lee movie. Unforgettable line: "Mongo only pawn in Game of Life."

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