Top 10 Must See Comedies

Neal Damiano takes a look at the best comedy movies of all time to pick 10 “must sees” including classics like Some Like It Hot, spoofs like Airplane, teen comedy like Weird Science, and character-driven comic-dramas like Swingers and Clerks

10. Swingers (Liman, 1996)

Top 10 Films of Vince VaughnStarting the careers of John Favreau and Vince Vaughn, who have said the script was partly based on their real-life friendship, this indie comedy was made for $200,000 after studios gasped at director Liman’s plan to recast the unknowns in the lead roles. I’m glad they stayed with the original plan, the interaction between Favreau and Vaughn is undeniable. You can’t manufacture that kind of chemistry. Vaughn is completely off the wall with childish charm that bounces off of Favreau’s insistent pessimism. When Favreau reconnects with his friends in Los Angeles they kick off a series of bar crawls, dating disasters, and witty heart to hearts that feel so genuine and recognizable.

9. Clerks (Smith, 1994)

Clerks - Top 10 FilmsWhen Kevin Smith went to a screening of the indie classic film Slacker by Richard Linklater, a virtually unknown director at the time, Smith had a revelation of sorts: “Hey I could actually make a movie about anything”. So he wrote about what he knew, using his job at Quick Stop as a location and his silly conversations on pop culture with his friends. Smith utilized what he had, with help from family and friends he went on to make an hilarious film that reinvented comedy in the early 1990s.

8. Zoolander (Stiller, 2001)

Derek Zoolander, Ben Stiller, Top 10 Films,The movie is more satire than comedy but that’s what makes it funny. The jab at the fashion industry is so spot on, it makes you wonder if there really are characters out there like this. Ben Stiller deliberately made it over the top and exaggerated because anything serious would be giving in to the celebrity style pretentiousness the very film pokes fun at. Zoolander turns superficiality into a fine art; someone like this may just save the world. And the Blue Steel pose is brilliantly hilarious.

7. Airplane (Zucker/Zucker/Abrahams, 1980)

Airplane - Top 10 FilmsAirplane is the mother of all spoof movies. The film pokes fun at the flooding of disaster and panic stricken films of the 1970s. What makes Airplane so damn funny is the actors come off serious as if they don’t know they’re in a comedy. The over-exaggerated incidences going on through the entire film seem to have no affect on the actors. And there’s some funny stuff happening. Leslie Nielson is perfect casting with deadpan one-liners and biting jest. It’s one of those films you laugh the whole way through.

6. Some Like It Hot (Wilder, 1959)

Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder, Tony Curtis, Jack LemmonRisky for its time, Some Like It Hot bases most of its humor on cross dressing. Director Billy Wilder‘s film boasts an all-star cast with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe enjoying an onscreen chemistry that has rarely been matched. Lemmon and Curtis play musicians disguised in drag to hide from the mob; the shenanigans that conspire will leave you in fits of laughter. Furthermore, this is Monroe’s greatest and funniest film, she almost steals the show with her charming demeanor. Some Like It Hot is one of the greatest American comedies and timeless.

More top 10s you might like:
Top 10 Comedy Films That Stand The Test Of Time | Top 10 1980s Films About The Eighties | Risky & Risque: Top 10 Comedies That Take A Chance & Win | Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s

5. The Big Lebowski (Coen/Coen, 1998)

The Big Lebowski, Film, Jeff Bridges, CoenThe Big Lebowski was a commercial flop for the Coen Brothers but went on to become a cult comedy classic. The movie defines zany humor with over-exaggerated characters who get themselves in screwball situations. But what really makes the movie funny is the outlandish dialogue. It’s filled with quotable one-liners in just about every scene. Jeff Bridges as The Dude delivers one of his funniest performances and the film features one of the most memorable turns from Steve Buscemi. The Big Lebowski remains the Coens’ most amusing comedies, the kind that gets better with every viewing.

4. Weird Science (Hughes, 1986)

Weird Science, Top 10 Films, John Hughes,John Hughes’ nod to the classic Frankenstein sees two geeks, Gary and Wyatt, create the ultimate woman using their computer. In the form of the beautiful Lisa, played by Kelly Lebrock, the two fight against the popular jocks including a young Robert Downey Jr. Lisa is every young boy’s dream physically but she also helps Gary and Wyatt gain confidence within themselves to win over their high school crushes. The film is loaded with one-liners by Lebrock and the late, great Bill Paxton, who plays Wyatt’s antagonizing older brother Chet. The party scene is hilarious. The movie’s concept is completely off the wall but so darn entertaining. Hughes went over the top creating a comedy classic.

3. Trading Places (Landis, 1983)

Billy Ray Valentine, Trading Places, Film, Eddie MurphyJohn Landis delivered one of the most endearing comedies of the 1980s. Eddie Murphy, a con man, and Dan Akroyd, a stockbroker, see their lives swap as two slimy millionaires bet $1 on the age old argument of nature vs nurture. Filled with comedy disguises and strange payoffs (the randy gorilla), Murphy really displays his comedy chops here with successfully quotable lines. Then best known as THE “Scream Queen”, Jamie Lee Curtis takes a break from horror and turns in a hilarious performance as a sassy prostitute. When people ask what my favorite Christmas movie is, I always say Trading Places.

2. Stripes (Reitman, 1981)

Bill Murray, Stripes,

Bill Murray and Harold Ramis star in Stripes (1980)

This movie is just good old fashioned humor. Stripes is comic havoc starring a young Bill Murray as slacker John Winger, who decides joining the army might straighten him up. Throw in Harold Ramis as his joining partner and we got ourself a party. The film is a typical fish out of water story but Murray takes his deft comic arrogance to new heights setting an all out war with authority. There is plenty of slapstick humor, we get an exaggerated violent mini war with Russian soldiers including explosions, flame flowers, armored trucks, and the usual mishaps. We even get well endowed mud-wrestling girls that are totally irrelevant to the story but somehow make it all the more funny. The film intended to be a satire on military life, however, Murray managed to shift it towards comedy with his hilarious adolescent pranks. Perhaps the comedic beauty of the film is just how self aware Murray is with his over the top juvenile humor. He makes no apologies about it. Murray has an arsenal of witty liners that he fires off like a shotgun.

1. Animal House (Landis, 1978)

Animal House - Top 10 FilmsDirector John Landis really captured college life and the time of the 1960s in the fraternity romp Animal House. The film is often duplicated and imitated but none have managed to present the debauchery, parties, and mischief quite like Animal House. The breakout star of course is John Belushi, who plays Bluto Blutarsky with a zany madness as he spies on sorority girls pillow fighting and chugs down massive amounts of alcohol. What makes Animal House one of the funniest films of all time is the characters. The story is simple, it’s the offbeat characters that drive the film to complete hilarity. The food fight is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history and when the guys have given up to the Dean, here comes Bluto with a triumphant speech that’s both uproarious and inspiring. So many humorous scenes throughout the film such as the parade, the guitar smashing at the party, the date at the blues club, sleeping with the Dean’s wife. If you don’t laugh watching Animal House you don’t have a sense of humor.

Written and compiled by Neal Damiano

Your turn: what are your “must see” comedy movies?

About the Author
Neal Damiano calls himself “an unhip film geek” who mixes his passion for movies with an enthusiasm for travel, music and journalism.

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  1. Dan Reply

    Terrific choices Neal. Love that you included classics like Some Like It Hot alongside newer films like Zoolander.

    I definitely think these are “must sees” for fans of not just comedy but cinema in general. They’re all great films.

    Of course, it’s great to see John Hughes included here but perhaps I would have gone with Planes, Trains and Automobiles over Weird Science as my “must see”. But love them both.

    Other “must see comedies” I’d suggest people watch: Withnail and I, This Is Spinal Tap, Dr. Strangelove, one of Steve Martin’s other great films (The Jerk or The Man With Two Brains), one of the Monty Python films, Bad Santa, Stir Crazy and The Blues Brothers.

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      Thanks Dan,

      I thought Weird Science was much funnier but I love Trains Planes & Automobiles.

  2. Callum Reply

    Brilliant selection of comedies! Swingers needs to be seen by more people, it’s so cool. Clerks is genius, Airplane is so rewatchable and The Big Lebowski is the funniest film I’ve ever seen. Others I might have considered: The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Bowfinger and Tropic Thunder.

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      Thanks Callum!
      Swingers is a very cool film!

      • Callum Reply

        Love the vibe Swingers has. It makes me want to hang out in Vegas with close friends.

  3. Florie Reply

    Nice list. Animal House is my favorite film.

  4. Roger Keen Reply

    This is a good top 10 Neal. Can’t argue with your choices. Great to see such a mix of comedy films. My favourites would be Some Like It Hot, Airplane and The Big Lebowski. I also really enjoy Clerks (my favourite Kevin Smith film).

  5. CineGirl Reply

    Great list. Clerks is a brilliant debut from Kevin Smith, love Airplane and Some Like It Hot and Weird Science. Animal House and Stripes are so much fun and I think Swingers gets better with each viewing. Trading Places is a wonderful film and The Big Lebowski always makes me laugh.

    I think Bridesmaids would be another must see and I also think of Caddyshack very highly. What about Office Space and Anchorman too?

  6. Killian Reply

    Cool choices. Swingers is a perfect “must see”, a great film. Vaughn’s class in it, and Favreau’s cool. Love that phone scene at the beginning. The the trip out west. Love the way they filmed that, the look is just great…sunshine, desert, neon lights etc. Can’t beat Animal House and The Big Lebowski for laughs for me. Clerks is intelligent fun. I love it. Prefer Naked Gun over Airplane if I’m honest. Never seen Some Like It Hot but I did see The Apartment which was class – honest and humorous and warmhearted and beautiful.

    My other must sees: Truman Show, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Annie Hall, The Princess Bride, His Girl Friday and The Man With Two Brains

  7. ArchE Reply

    It must have been harder than a well endowered choir boy at the swimming baths putting together just 10 and leaving off Monty Python, Charlie Chaplin, the Marx brothers, Steve Martin, Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.

    What about Ramis with Groundhog Day, one of the greatest comedies of them all Tootsie, or Kubrick’s Doc Strangelove?

    Airplane, Some Like It Hot, The Big Lebowki and Trading Places are definitely keepers though.

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      Well see that’s the thing, it’s my list I wrote it
      ( laughing)
      Thanks for reading ArchE!
      I get you, but I tend to not go for the obvious with my lists.

      • ArchE Reply

        I commend you for finding 10. It can’t have been easy.

  8. Lowiq Reply

    What!? No Farrelly brothers… no Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin or There’s Something about Mary!?

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      I agree Kingpin could easily make the list I already have one bowling film on here and Big Lebowski is one of the funniest films ever made and a must see. Thanks for reading.

      Dumb and Dumber was ridiculous way overrated film.

  9. Lowiq Reply

    Also would’ve liked to have seen Christopher Guest featured… if not This Is Spinal Tap then Best In Show, the guy’s a genius.

  10. J. Gott Reply

    Reitman’s Stripes over Ghostsbusters – bold call.

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      Stripes is much funnier than Ghostbusters! Thanks for reading.

  11. Red Reply

    Great list. Good to see underrated movies like Stripes and Swingers in there.

  12. Rory Reply

    Some really bold calls, calls I really like – Clerks, Swingers, Stripes. There’s a real American independent vibe about this top 10. Just goes to show that some of the best comedy comes from guys who dream big and take a chance.

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      I don’t like the obvious, Rory. Lol

      Thanks for the read

  13. Tom Brook Reply

    Swingers and Clerks are two of my favourite films. Great choices.

  14. Dan Grant Reply

    Thats the fact JACK!

    STRIPES is awesome!

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      Stripes is a hilarious American comedy. I laughed the whole way!!
      Thanks Dan G

    • Callum Reply

      You can’t go! All the plants are gonna die!!!

  15. Tom Reid Reply

    …nice list.

    I get what you’re saying about these being “Must See”. Airplane, Animal House and Sone Like It Hot are three of the greatest comedies ever made.

    I’m glad you’ve put The Big Lebowski right alongside them.

    Swingers and Clerks are nice choices too.

    Chasing Amy is another brilliant Kevin Smith film.

    I also love Monty Python and anything starring Peter Sellers.

  16. Little Jon Reply

    Zoolander is so overrated.

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      Yeah ok, but it’s funny,. The film is hilarious if you don’t get it, you don’t have a sense of humor!

      Thanks for reading.

      • Little Jon Reply

        Zoolander made me laugh when I was 7, maybe I had a sense of humour then?

        • Neal Damiano Reply

          Yes, you should get one again, helps you win in life. It’s. comedy dude.

  17. Harry Cowes Reply

    Love Airplane, The Big Lebowski and Animal House.

  18. Huckerby Reply

    Some great choices. Not the obvious ones which is good to see.

  19. Dan Grant Reply

    Okay, I have a bit more time today to get a bit more detailed. Terrific list Neal. I love pretty much every film on this list. Swingers is so money baby. Vaughn with a career best performance. I know we share a love for Clerks and there’s just too many great lines in the film to quote just one….but one of the funniest is “Hey try not to suck any dick on the way to the parking lot!” Zoolander is gut splitting hilarity. “Yes, but why male models?” “Are you serious, I just told you.” Airplane is an original and still the best ZAZ film.I haven’t seen Some Like it Hot…I really need to watch more films before 1970. You Want a Toe? I can get you a toe!” “How about a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?” Damn, Bill Paxton is so good in Weird Science and I still saddened by his death. Trading Places is arguably Murphy’s best comedy. I personally like BHC just a little more. Stripes is the one movie, besides JAWS, that I can (or at least used to be able to) recite every line from. “You can’t go! All the plants are going to die!” And Animal House is an absolute classic. Really terrific and eclectic list here. I think this is a TERRIFIC piece Neal.

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      Dan, you should see Some Like It Hot. Staple comedy Lemmon and Curtis are dynamic

  20. Alice Reply

    so many great films. haven’t seen stripes in ages.

  21. Ryan Mitchell Reply

    Groundhog Day is a top ten comedy for me. Could feel rotten and that movie would make me forget my woes & have me cracking up.

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      Didn’t like it, I know one of the few.

      Thanks for reading

  22. Peter Reply

    Must see comedy movies:

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    Some Like It Hot
    Airplane
    Dr Strangelove
    Office Space

  23. Calla Reply

    Nice selection. My favourite comedies are Groundhog Day, Planes Trains and Automobiles, and Withnail and I.

  24. JG Reply

    solid list! 10,9,8,5,4,3,1 classics (I’d squeeze in Groundhog Day)

  25. G. Man Reply

    No Groundhog Day. Funniest movie ever!

    • Callum Reply

      Great film. One of my faves too. But what would you take out of Neal’s list to get Groundhog Day in there. I’m not sure I could take any out!

      • G. Man Reply

        I’d take out Weird Science for Groundhog Day. I’d also swap Dr. Strangelove and Blazing Saddles with Zoolander and Stripes.

        • Callum Reply

          Great additions. Love Blazing Saddles. Young Frankenstein too.

        • Neal Damiano Reply

          Dr Strangelove is a great film but it wasn’t that laugh out loud funny to me. It’s not universal humor.

          Thanks for reading

  26. Neal Damiano Reply

    I didn’t like Groundhog Day I know one of the few in the world who didn’t , lol.

  27. Chris Reply

    A good read Neal, reminded me I want to rewatch Clerks and Swingers. Strikes me shouldn’t your list be titled Top 10 Must-See American Comedies, surely? …and don’t call me Shirley…

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      Not really, I put down what I felt were must see comedies. They just all happen to be American films. I know I didn’t show England any love but they have some of the best comedy (no intentional shun)

      Thanks for reading

  28. Movie Morris Reply

    some very funny movies.

    some definite must sees.

    but comedy are very subjective things. just cos someone doesn’t laugh at the same thing as you doesn’t mean they have no sense of humour. my must sees would be totally different.

    • Callum Reply

      Totally agree. Tropic Thunder and The 40-Year-Old Virgin are two of the funniest films I’ve ever seen but not everyone agrees with me.

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      True and these are my must sees. This wasn’t the best comedies ever made list It’s simply a must see list of comedies I feel people should see ( my opinion) .

      Thanks for the read, mate.

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