As excitement builds for the all-female Ghostbusters remake, so too does negativity and pessimism. Maybe it’s the fear of an iconic franchise being ruined decades after wrapping-up, but more likely it’s some fans’ fears that a classic “guy movie” will be unrecognizable in the hands of four funny women. Regardless of how the final film turns out, movie fans and executives alike are still discussing the lack of confidence towards women leading films in Hollywood. And while there is definitely a need for more female led comedy films in the industry, there is no shortage of great movies led by talented actresses to look back on. If anything, these films are all the evidence needed to show that female driven films can be funny and successful.
You need look no further than the cast of Ghostbusters to know that there are funny women in the industry; take the massive success of Melissa McCarthy, who has become one of the biggest names in comedy. She’s also an example of how female-led movies aren’t just for women, with such comedies having escaped the label of ‘chick flick’ long ago. However, it’s clear that women have more of a struggle getting offered good leading roles in blockbusters. The Ghostbusters trailer alone is evidence of this: it became one of the most disliked video in YouTube history (until this came along). And yet, if anyone needed proof that a cast of women can produce a hugely successful comedy, look no further than the 15 Greatest Female Led Comedy Films of All Time.
15. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
In fifteenth place comes the laugh-out-loud family favourite that is My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Fresh from just releasing a sequel that critics weren’t too keen on, the original proves just how rare a good comedy is. But let’s ignore the sequel, because this film is seriously funny. This is the kind of movie that causes you to belly laugh and snort shamelessly at its fun and harmless sense of humour. And it all came from a first-time filmmaker with a microscopic budget.
While embracing Greek culture and heritage in the most hilarious way, this adorable film from Nia Vardalos focuses on family and love through a young Greek woman’s eyes. Although the cast may not be filled with A-listers, they all do a great job with their quirky characters and bring the film to life. After all was said and done and My Big Fat Greek Wedding became a sleeper hit, the film was quite rightfully nominated for an Oscar, and all in all is what every family comedy should be – fun, authentic and sweet.
14. The Devil Wears Prada
Meryl Streep teams up with Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. The film is based on Lauren Weisberger’s book of the same name and has not only done the book justice, but contributed to its massive success. The array of characters from the world of fashion will guarantee giggles, from a clumsy Anne Hathaway with her clueless antics, to the superficial and super-stressed workers Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci. Not to mention Meryl Streep playing the cutthroat editor who will make you laugh at the expense of every other character.
All-star cast aside, this movie has plenty else to tempt you into watching it. It achieved both great critical and commercial success, and several nominations for Oscars, BAFTAs, and Golden Globes. It was also noted for shaking up the fashion world, and dividing opinion on the accuracy of its depiction. However accurate it may or may not be, it is definitely worth watching.
13. Baby Mama
Since their legendary time on Saturday Night Live, whenever Tina Fey and Amy Poehler team up there are high expectations. Their 2008 movie Baby Mama was no different, and it ended up being everything we hoped for. As well as bringing their much loved chemistry and impeccable comedic timing to the big screen, their polar opposite characters provide the icing on the cake for this light hearted comedy.
While subtly dealing with issues of women’s fertility in the modern world, Baby Mama manages to avoid getting too deep or political and instead keeps the audience feeling laid back and amused. It is also another film on the list that completely avoids the category of ‘rom com’ and shows that women don’t need a male love interest to make a good comedy. It goes without saying that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler deserved a nod for being great leading comediennes, and Baby Mama is a great film to congratulate them for.
Ellen Page redefines the indie comedy as a pregnant teenager in a quirky coming of age story. Juno has a fresh and alternative take on comedy, and manages to break all comedy formulas without losing out on laughs. It also features Michael Cera in his prime and doing what he does best in his usual role as an awkward teenager. Other big names that make an appearance include Cera’s Arrested Development co-star Jason Bateman and actress Jennifer Garner.
Overall, the movie offers something unique and funny. Don’t take our word for it though, as the film won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay and bagged itself another three nominations from the Oscars, including Best Picture. The general consensus from critics was extremely positive and allowed Juno to prove itself as so much more than your regular teen movie. It surpassed all the film makers expectations and proved itself as the ultimate hipster flick.
11. Bend It Like Beckham
Anyone who doubts women in comedy probably doubts women in sports, too. Well, Bend It Like Beckham kills two birds with one stone by being a stand-out British comedy about women in the world of soccer. The film was originally low budget and expected to not achieve great commercial success, given that it was about a young Punjabi woman trying to fulfill her dreams of being a successful soccer player. Luckily, its breaking down of barriers helped it receive a warm welcome across the world and made for a refreshing comedy that doesn’t rely on over-done jokes or cliché storylines. It was also the film we have to thank for Keira Knightley’s big break, who bagged her Pirates Of The Carribean role shortly after her success in the film.
And if the comedy in the film wasn’t enough, with its witty and authentic dialogue all the way through, then the groundbreaking qualities of the movie surely would have cemented its place in history. With women filling roles in front of and behind the camera – for example, director Gurinder Chadha was the first ever British Asian woman to direct a feature length film – the film proved that regardless of the gender of those involved in a movie as long as it’s funny nothing else matters. For authenticity, diversity, and hilarity there is no film better than Bend It Like Beckham.
10. Pitch Perfect
Not only does Pitch Perfect deliver hilarity and girl power, but it also indulges everyone’s guilty pleasure of cheesy pop music. The talented cast is led by Anna Kendrick who plays an alternative loner who is totally not into a capella, until of course she joins an a capella group. It sounds cheesy, and it is cheesy. But it’s also got some great comedic characters to keep you laughing with jokes that are somehow less predictable than the main characters. It’s like Glee meets Bridesmaids, but with less Glee. Like, a lot less Glee.
With Rebel Wilson’s role noted as a highlight, Pitch Perfect has achieved a great amount of success and has not only subsequently spawned a sequel, but has plans on becoming a trilogy with a third film in the works. If not for the comedy, music, or for inventing the famous cup song, than Pitch Perfect seals its place on the list for the sheer number of female characters in the cast. Let’s hope with each sequel they bring even more.
9. Easy A
Easy A is what every young adult comedy should be. It’s fun, quirky and discusses sex without objectifying the female lead. In the film, Emma Stone plays a high school student who is subject to false rumours, and decides to embrace her new reputation as being ‘promiscuous’ while not once having sex. Stone provides a lot of comedy through her sarcastic and relatable persona, and brings the comedic timing she stole Superbad with to new heights. One stand out laugh comes early on in the film, with Stone singing shamelessly in the shower to a catchy pop song which we can guarantee will be stuck in your head for days after.
The film is not only funny and spot on for the teenage market, but focuses on issues such as slut shaming, bullying and homophobia in the high school setting. It sympathizes with the victims and shows the repercussions without drifting too far from being a light-hearted feel good film. It’s effortlessly funny and has secured its place in the teenage comedy hall of fame. For an easy watch, we recommend Easy A.
8. Legally Blonde
Girly girls everywhere, rejoice! Legally Blonde combines femininity with girl power as Reese Witherspoon plays the iconic Elle Woods, a girl who embraces everything about the dumb blonde stereotype while actually being more intelligent than anyone could suspect. This film illustrates that you can make a girly character be funny without mocking femininity or lowering their IQ. In fact, a lot of comedy comes from Elle proving the people who undermine her wrong. Take note, Hollywood.
What starts as a cliché romantic comedy turns into a mission for personal success as our blonde bombshell hero realizes her true potential. This is what makes Legally Blonde such a classic – it’s unapologetically feminine, hilarious, and not all about love. It also rises above the female rivalry cliché by having Elle befriend her ex’s new love interest. That’s right, Legally Blonde is much more than just the pink outfits and blonde hair that allegedly inspired Paris Hilton’s persona. Although let’s be honest, everyone loves that part of it too.
7. Death Becomes Her
In 1992, Meryl Streep graced us with her presence in the hilarious Death Becomes Her. The film plays out almost like a massive Tom and Jerry episode between the two women and the man they both loved. The two women both get their wish of staying young forever, only to find being immortal has its downsides. Full of slapstick humour and undead themed gags, Death Becomes Her definitely stands out as different from the other comedies on this list and brings something fun and quirky to the table, all wrapped up in a stylistic Robert Zemeckis directed package.
Alongside Meryl Streep, the star studded cast is rounded out by Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis. Although all three bring great performances and chemistry to the table, the girls’ antics no doubt steal the show. Despite playing characters with holes through their bodies, or necks twisted around backwards, their comedic timing and the at times nonchalant attitude to the situation’s physical extremities will leave you in stitches. But let’s face it, we had you at Meryl Streep.
6. Sister Act
The same year Death Becomes Her it our screens, Whoopi Goldberg starred in Sister Act. Whoopi is one of the female legends of comedy, and Sister Act is a perfect example of why. The concept alone leaves plenty of room for laughs, as she plays a mobster wife placed in witness protection as a nun. And while the fish out of water storyline may seem a little dated for audiences used to the dual subtlety and raunchiness of Apatow-era films, Sister Act still holds up well all these years later.
Not to mention the fact that Sister Act isn’t your average set-up, punchline comedy. With some great music and knockout performances by Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith – each providing a range of personalities that gives the movie extra flavour – the film ended up as one of the most successful comedies of the 90s. And it was led all the way to the finish line by a female. Now there’s some 90’s girl power for you.
Clueless is an absolute zeitgeist film of 90s teenage culture. It was somewhat the birthmother of teen films such as Mean Girls and Easy A, and proved that teenage girl comedies deserve respect and can become all time classics. Clueless really does stand out for many reasons – the kooky 90s clothes, the catchy lines of the characters, and Paul Rudd before he was the comedy legend he is today. But more than that, the way the lead female characters made us laugh with their personification of teenage culture. Not only did lead Alicia Silverstone nail the young, rich socialite vibe but supporting actress Britney Murphy got the ordinary-new-girl-who-turns-diva role spot on. The parallels to the Mean Girls characters are uncanny!
All in all, Clueless was a funny and girly flick that paved the way for many more. Not only has it gone on to stand the test of time and become as essential to 90s girl power as the Spice Girls, but it also avoided the curse of the unfunny sequel by remaining a standalone classic.
4. The Heat
The Heat is what everyone wants in a good comedy – dense with jokes, an array of well developed and laugh-out-loud characters and avoidance of soppy romance altogether. Not to mention the legendary pairing that is Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, who play polar opposite law enforcement officers who are reluctantly paired together for a case. Sandra Bullock reinvents her Miss Congeniality persona by playing a by-the-book FBI agent, and manages to raise her comedy game to a career all time high. The combination of this and Melissa McCarthy pulling out one of her classic zany and unruly characters results in a guaranteed laugh a minute. Yes, move aside Starsky and Hutch, the girls are showing you how it’s done.
Everything about this film screams comedy classic – great critical reception, A-list casting, and also the looming threat of a disappointing sequel. But all sequel rumours aside, this film has not only secured a place as one of the top female led comedies of all time, but one of the top comedies of all time. Period.
Anyone who doubts the new Ghostbusters movie obviously hasn’t seen Kristen Wiig and Melissa Mccarthy’s on-screen chemistry in Paul Feig’s hilarious female friendship flick Bridesmaids. In the film Wiig entertains us as a struggling maid of honor whose attempts to please the bride to be go continually wrong. These failures lead to a series of high class – and low class – gags that firmly secure this film its place on the list, including the famous food-poisoning-during-the-dress-fitting scene. If you’ve seen it, you’ll be laughing at the memory now.
Even a predictable romantic subplot fails to ruin the film, and instead manages to provide plenty of hilarity along the way. Not only is Bridesmaids highly praised among critics, it is also often credited for the rise of Melissa Mccarthy, who has gone on to be the ultimate female lead in comedy blockbusters. Of course, we could include each one of her films in this list but had to make room for all the other hilarious women in Hollywood.
Heavily praised for breaking down rom-com stereotypes, Trainwreck sees America’s favourite funny girl of the moment Amy Schumer take centre stage. The film sees Schumer as an out of control journalist who struggles with commitment and eventually falls for the straight edge doctor that she’s writing a story on.
Not only does it have a star-studded cast and great reviews, but it has a balance of both romance and non-romantic subplot. We see the main character as a multifaceted and rounded human being with a focus on her career, her family and her flaws. This provides room for a thicker plot than your average rom com and even has time to include some tear jerking moments. The emotional scenes reach their peak when – spoiler alert – Amy Schumer’s character loses her beloved father and speaks at his funeral. All in all Trainwreck is anything but in terms of comedy films and showcases a promising debut for the now superstar Amy Schumer.
1. Mean Girls
If you talk about female led comedy films, then you have to talk about Mean Girls, the token high school comedy that illustrates ‘girl world’ through a range of well known names. The film marked a career best for lead Lindsay Lohan and kick started the career of the likes of Amanda Seyfried and Rachel McAdams, all while featuring Saturday Night Live legends Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The cast alone promises a combination of teen film magic and comedy gold, and has become an iconic film for 90s and 00s kids everywhere. The jokes are funny, the characters are recognizable, and the lines are full of memorable quotes. Not to mention there is a heavy dose of girl power that you can credit to Tina Fey’s brilliant writing.
Anyone who’s skeptical about watching a teenage movie should hold no reservations about Mean Girls – this film is a fully fledged comedy for a wide range of audiences. Not only is Mean Girls a hilarious modern classic female film that holds a firm place on our list, but it’s so totally fetch.
Which of these Female-Led Comedies is your favourite? Are there any you think we missed? Let us know in the comments – and remember to watch Ghostbusters when it hits theaters on July 15th.