We live in a world of high-stakes controversy over issues that, a few years ago, would have seemed nonsensical to debate. Giving tax cuts to banks? Reopening coal mines? I know it’s hard to remember, but we used to live in a world where things like this would have been considered beneath us as a nation. Those were the days.
Given our culture’s red-line status on internal conflict, and its recent track record in handling differences, you would be right to wonder what the hell I think I’m doing, claiming to have listed the greatest comedy movies of all time.
Comedy is, after all, perhaps the most controversial category in film. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re at a party, let it be known throughout the gathering what you consider a good comedy movie or even just your favorite movie on Netflix. Then position your back against the wall (for safety) and prepare to endure an onslaught of aggressive protestation of your choice. People are protective of their brand of humor, man.
With all that being said, this is one writer’s opinion, and disagreement is welcome. These are just movies we’re talking about. Save your strength. In no particular order, these are the best comedy movies of all time and we’ve rounded up the best comedy movies on Netflix to stream.
“When I invite a woman to dinner I expect her to look at my face. That’s the price she has to pay.”
Let’s kick things off with a classic movie and an undisputed icon of comedy. Three of them, actually. The Marx Brothers, a real-life family that rose to fame as a vaudeville troupe, then took Hollywood by storm with their series of raucous comedy movies. A Night at the Opera is a contender for their very best, thick with rapid-fire wordplay, ingenious insults, and racy innuendo that they only got away with because the film production business hadn’t been regulated yet.
In this film, Groucho Marx plays Otis B. Driftwood, the squirrelly business manager for a wealthy opera investor, while brothers Chico and Harpo Marx play the bumbling sidekicks of a humble background singer who is on the other side of a love triangle with a famous tenor. All of them end up on a steamer ship sailing from Italy to New York, where high jinks ensue. The three Marx Brothers end up coming together in a plot to sabotage the opera’s opening night so that the arrogant tenor will be replaced by the background singer. If you’re confused, don’t worry — the plot isn’t so much the point in this movie as the frenetic pacing that moves the brothers from one gut-busting situation to another. As amazing as the Marx Brothers are in this film, their zany antics wouldn’t be half so hilarious without straight man … excuse me, woman … Margaret Dumont, who finds a hundred different ways to look aghast as the brothers run circles around her hand-wringing image of propriety, dealing out embarrassment, outrage, and general chaos.
Directors: Sam Wood, Edmund Goulding
Main Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx
Runtime: 96 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.9
Read more: Classic Movies Everyone Should Watch
“106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses. … Hit it.”
This movie showcases Saturday Night Live founding legend John Belushi in his comedic prime. As retired musician Jake Blues, Belushi says more with an eyebrow in this movie than most actors can muster in three acts. Pair him with Dan Aykroyd’s Elwood Blues, and you have cinematic and comedic gold. They got the band back together and they gave us a million laughs in the process, each with their own idiosyncratic take on goofball physical comedy and subtle-as-a-razor’s-edge delivery. As if that weren’t enough, The Blues Brothers is a roll call of celebrities from the late 1970s, each cameo appearance clearly relishing their chance to get a piece of the action. And don’t get us started on the musical performances by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown and Cab Calloway, with Jake and Elwood grooving hard in the background.
Director: John Landis
Main Cast: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd
Runtime: 133 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.9
“Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!”
Another easy pick for the comedy GOAT list as well as one of the best movies for drinking games. The four lads from London trade the numerous roles of King Arthur and his round table of knights, including legends such as Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad, as well as lesser-known heroes like Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot and Sir Not-Appearing-in-this-Film, as they caper around the English countryside in search of the Holy Grail. Along the way, they encounter villains such as the knights who say “Ni!,” a three-headed knight, a castle occupied by rude French soldiers, and a ferocious rabbit. But don’t get any ideas about a linear plot. The movie meanders down all sorts of absurdist sidetracks, with plenty of anachronisms, snide camera commentary, looks behind the scenes, and a musical number for no good reason at all. In other words, a lot easier to follow than the Monty Python TV show.
Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Main Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle
Runtime: 133 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.2
Read more: Best Comedy Movies on Netflix
“No wait, it’s gotta be your bull.”
It wasn’t easy to pick which Chris Farley movie to put on this list. Oh, who am I kidding, it was super easy. The prize alumnus of 1990s-era Saturday Night Live made a lot of great buddy comedies, but this one has to be the most endearing of them all. In it, new college graduate Tommy Callahan returns home to find he must save the family business by stepping into his father’s shoes, with a little guidance from a snide secretary played by David Spade. A cross-country trip’s worth of hilarious shenanigans ensues, as well as severe damage to a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX. Never has Farley and Spade’s frenemy rapport been sharper — like a late 20th century Laurel and Hardy, the two were born to work together. We dare you to watch this movie for the first time and not die laughing.
Director: Peter Segal
Main Cast: Chris Farley, David Spade, Brian Dennehy
Runtime: 157 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Filmed and completed during his acting marathon, Jim Carrey is joined by the very successful dramatic actor Jeff Daniels in an absolutely ridiculous and out-of-norm (for Daniels) performance as two well-intentioned imbeciles who just want to do right. When Lloyd (Carrey) intercepts a briefcase left behind by a woman he drives to the airport, he and his friend Harry (Daniels) go on an unnecessarily difficult journey halfway across the country in hopes to win her heart and return her briefcase, but the adventure escalates when they discover the contents of said luggage. This film ranked pretty high on the list for best Jim Carrey movies.
Director(s): Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly (uncredited)
Main Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly
Runtime: 107 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.3
“I was born to rub you, but you were born to rub me first. What do you say we take this out on the patio?”
This movie has it all. Chevy Chase plays the dude we all aspired to be, a rich ladykiller with effortless sports ability. Bill Murray plays a dimwitted slacker with a Zen master’s dedication to groundskeeping. Rodney Dangerfield plays himself. Like so many comedies, the actual plot is pretty well besides the point, as is the main protagonist. It’s all the “side characters” that make this comedy gold, and Caddyshack also is one of the best Bill Murray movies of all time, so it has that going for it as well. The soundtrack also is 1980s amazing.
Director: Harold Ramis
Main Cast: Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield
Runtime: 158 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Read more: Best Bill Murray Movies
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room.”
Since the cinematic world considers this a black comedy, it’s on top of our list. To call a Kubrick picture a comedy seems an injustice, despite the numerous absurd scenes that could only bring smiles and laughter. Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers: An actual genius who plays three parts in one of the greatest performances in film history.
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Main Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden
Runtime: 155 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.4
“In Southeast Asia, we’d call this kind of thing bad karma.”
There are Tom Hanks lovers out there who have never seen him in the funniest role of his career. To those people, allow us to present The ‘Burbs. Nothing too exciting happens at the end of a cul-de-sac on a normal summer weekend, right? Wrong. Bruce Dern as a longing veteran with the trophy wife delivers a legendary performance to support Hanks and Rick Ducommun as the other incompetent neighbor. You’ll laugh your ass off as sure as a femur is a human leg bone.
Director: Joe Dante
Main Cast: Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher
Runtime: 162 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.9
“Ah, that’s the Mississippi. The mighty Mississip. The Ole Miss, the Old Man.”
In 1979, an apocalyptic blizzard trapped writer John Hughes in his house. To pass the time, Hughes wrote a short story about a family of Midwesterners who take an unfortunate trip to Disneyland, tracking their story along the way on a Rand McNally road atlas. This, friends, is how the world got the Family Truckster, Aunt Edna, “We like to send out a mailer,” dog piss sandwiches, The Old Miss, The Old Man, directions, one of the greatest sex symbols of the 1980s in a red Ferrari and naked in a pool, Eddie, a non-CGI actual 1980s station wagon flying 80 feet through the air, dead aunt roof racks and a dog that tried to keep up for the first few miles. By the end, your stomach will be more worn out than that sad station wagon by the end of the movie.
Director: Harold Ramis
Main Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Imogene Coca
Runtime: 158 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.4
“This is a very complicated case, Maude. You know, a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous.”
Loosely based on the detective novels of Raymond Chandler, this Cohen Brothers comedy follows consummate slacker Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, who is rudely interrupted mid-toke by a pair of thugs who have mistaken him for a wealthy philanthropist with the same last name. When they realize their error, one of them takes a contemptuous piss on The Dude’s rug, sending The Dude on a mission to get a replacement from the rich guy they mistook him for. But the Big Lebowski has a different mission for The Dude — to find his missing trophy wife, Bunny. Against orders, The Dude enlists the help of his bowling buddies, rageaholic Walter and dimwitted Donny. From there, the plot twists and coils in on itself like a riled-up rattlesnake. Aside from the richly bizarre characters and the labyrinth of red herrings, one of the best things about this comedy is how it demands multiple viewings to fully appreciate it. You’ll know you’ve watched it enough times when you can have an entire conversation just using quotes from the film, which made it almost to the top of our best Jeff Bridges movies list.
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Main Cast: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore
Runtime: 158 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.1
Read more: Best Jeff Bridges Movies
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