Comedies are a dime a dozen. The truly hilarious, the preposterously uproarious, the heart-stoppingly hysterical? Those are harder to come by. With American Ultra and She’s Funny That Way about to try their luck with a movie-going public hungry for a hearty chuckle, Screen Rant looks back at a few films – some already classics, some that should be – that are so funny they produce a visceral reaction.
No matter what your preference, there’s something for everyone. Here are 18 Comedies That Will Make You Cry With Laughter.
22 Jump Street (2014)
Though Christopher Miller & Phil Lord have already made some of the best comedies of the last half-decade, they seem to keep getting better. After the one-two punch of 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, they returned for 22 Jump Street, in which their baby faced detectives (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill) move from high school to college to take down a drug ring.
The hyper meta humor moves at twice their usual speed, but knowing the two clowns in the center of the carnival makes a lot of difference. Miller & Lord spare them no embarrassment, but they always get up, brush it off like they meant to fall down, and ask for more. Tatum, apparently good at everything, is the real revelation, proving just as good at physical comedy and acting dumb as he is at seducing women with the movement of his hips.
Slap Shot (1977)
Blue Collar Comedy means something very specific today, but if you were looking for something that fit the bill forty years ago, you could find it in comedies like Michael Ritchie’s Bad News Bears, Sam Peckinpah’s Convoy or most legendarily George Roy Hill’s Slap Shot. On the one hand, it’s a film about a hockey team that represents the last hope for a dying steel town. On the other, it’s the funniest American movie for twenty years in either direction.
It’s mixture of physical-bordering-on-painful humor, Hill’s razor sharp pacing, and a host of perfectly exhausted and exhausting performances from a game cast led by Paul Newman, Slap Shot makes you laugh so hard it hurts. The first game played by the stunted, bespectacled Hanson brothers (David Hanson, Steve and Jeff Carlson) in particular is so rife with assaultive humor it’ll make you reach for an airplane sick bag.
Less a stab at 80s action films than a total commitment to its abrasive excesses, Will Forte and Jorma Taccone’s 2010 comedy is the most colorfully shameless comedy of the 21st century. Forte plays the title character, a mixture of 80s Tom Cruise and Richard Dean Anderson’s resourceful crimefighter MacGuyver. He’s been in retirement (like John Rambo before him) but the government needs him to stop his old nemesis Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer, discovering a hidden gift for deadpan humour).
As played by a marvelously over-the-top Forte, MacGruber is a character with no bottom and no top to his desperation or braggadocio. He’s flagrantly incompetent and panics regularly, but recovers moments later just to unleash a cloud of noxious self-aggrandizement on his capable sidekicks (Ryan Philippe and Kristen Wiig). MacGruber can leap from an “awesome” high to a sickening low in a single sequence, provoking gut laughter that’ll turn your stomach in the best way possible.
They Came Together (2014)
Those looking for something else after devouring all of David Wain’s Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp are invited to check out his funniest feature, 2014’s They Came Together. While ostensibly a parody of the Nancy Meyers and Nora Ephron school of romantic comedies (see Sleepless in Seattle or the upcoming The Intern), it’s actually just a delivery service for Wain and co-writer Michael Showalter’s peculiar sense of humor.
Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler relate their cliché-ridden tale of meeting and falling in love despite their many differences. Once they find common ground (“You like fiction books?” “Like? Try love!”) they’re soon gallivanting around New York, playing in piles of leaves and finding dead bodies in a montage set to Norah Jones.
It’s a banquet of absurdist visual and verbal gags, Rudd, Poehler and a cast that includes Christpher Meloni, Cobie Smulders and Melanie Lynskey selling it all with a knowing smile. When the film gets into a groove, you’ll laugh so hard you’ll be unable to contain yourself.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
Though less celebrated than its older brother, Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Life of Brian has the edge on laugh count, brains and also has the advantage of not having been quoted to death by fans. Life of Brian concerns the man who was almost Jesus.
Brian of Nazareth (Python stalwart Graham Chapman at his best) tries to get through every day life in Judea, but keeps falling in with the wrong crowd, constantly mistaken for a greater man than he is. Life of Brian’s heretical humor runs the gamut from introducing aliens out for a joyride in Judea, women dressing like men to attend public stonings and a good friend from Rome named “Biggus Dickus.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll throw up.
Hot Fuzz (2007)
A spot-on parody and tribute to the works of Jerry Bruckheimer (Bad Boys, Beverly Hills Cop, a host of other buddy cop movies), Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz is the British maximalist’s sharpest, funniest film. Detective Nick Angel (co-writer Simon Pegg) is sent to a small town after proving a little too intense for a big city police force. There, he’s partnered with the slackjawed movie lover Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) who teaches him the value of kicking ass and making police work look as cool as Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys 2.
Wright’s visual humor is some of the keenest in modern cinema, and Hot Fuzz is his crowning achievement, each new shot and blistering cut sending viewers into new dimensions of hysteria. He’s the master of the comic reveal and he moves at such a relentless pace that you won’t be able to control your reaction, including what the laughter brings up from your intestines.
Jackass 3D (2010)
One of the few film series made funnier with a commentary track from its warped stars, the Jackass movies are an all-you-can-eat buffet of self-inflicted harm and bodily fluids. The crew, led by Johnny Knoxville and his million dollar smile, crank up the stakes for Jackass 3D, their final on-screen outing. They use a jet engine to interrupt lunch, crawl through a taser-augmented obstacle course and let all manner of wild, angry animals loose on each other.
The spirit of the Jackass movies can be summed up by the film’s best prank – a giant hand high-fiving people with the force of a speeding car, knocking the cast over one by one. These films feel like hanging out with your grossest friends for a few hours as they figure out just how much humiliation they can dream up for one another. If the countless gross-out gags don’t make you puke, Danger Ehren getting his tooth pulled by a Lamborghini or Ryan Dunn getting attacked by a ram while dressed as a mariachi Tuba player might do the trick.
Mr. Freedom (1969)
Photographer William Klein was so sickened by American policies in the 60s that when work brought him to France, he stayed there to make art. Of the four films he made, the best and most unsparingly funny of these was Mr. Freedom, about a jingoistic superhero (John Abbey) who routinely shoots people and pushes them off of balconies without due process, or much indication that they’ve done anything wrong.
Klein’s superhero (complete with a self-sung theme tune that misspells his own name) is the raging ID of Nixon’s America, sent to France to solve the murder of his friend Captain Formidable (Yves Montand). While there he routinely stops in his tracks to deliver endless diatribes on the American virtue. “My father worked in the sewers. Then came the depression, they closed the sewers.” “I was a boxer, a dishwasher, a striker and a strikebreaker, yeah.”
Mr. Freedom is the best Simpsons episode you’ve never seen, a bombastic parade of topsy-turvy politics that’ll send you searching for a safe place to wretch.
Four Lions (2010)
Chris Morris was like Jon Stewart before anyone realized you could get away with it. On the British radio show On The Hour and TV shows Brass Eye and The Day Today, Morris passed himself as a real pundit and news anchor covering today’s issues with false earnestness that Stephen Colbert would be envious of. Once he realized he couldn’t get away with pretending to be a right wing talking head, he tried his hand at directing fiction, and the results are as disturbingly hysterical as you’d expect from a man who once aired an hour long special entitled “Paedogeddon” on British TV, warning against pedophiles disguising themselves as churches to ensnare children.
His directorial debut, Four Lions, is like an episode of The Office, except it’s about suicide bombers. Every sacred cow in politically correct post-9/11 society is taken out back and shot as Morris finds the humor in everything from accidental combustion to misidentifying a costumed terrorist a few seconds too late. “That’s a wookie, not a bear.” That feeling in your stomach may be queasiness at finding tragedy so funny, or it could just be uneasiness from howling with laughter for so long.
In The Loop (2009)
Writer Armando Iannucci was a veteran of Chris Morris’ comedy juggernaut The Day Today when he broke out on his own and found his voice mixing discomfort comedy with satire on the hit BBC show The Thick of It. In The Loop was the film extension of the series, and it kept Iannucci’s his scathing language intact, turning England and America’s role in the Iraq War into a three ring circus.
Peter Capaldi’s foul mouthed Director of Communications chafes his elbows against the usual sniveling British upstarts and a host of dimwitted American politicians, unleashing a torrent of some of Iannucci’s finest and most vulgar bons mot. “You sound like a Nazi Julie Andrews…” is one of the kinder insults. Out of context that might not float your boat, but sandwiched between 90 minutes of coarse insanity, it’ll make you reach for the anti-nausea meds.
The preposterous argument that men insist on having year after year about whether women are funny is usually inaudible over the sound of everyone else laughing at Melissa McCarthy films. After a long run as the adorable second fiddle to America’s favorite single mom on Gilmore Girls, McCarthy finally did a cartwheel onto movie screens as the cantankerous wild card in Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids.
Stocky, foul-mouthed and violent, McCarthy reinvented herself in front of our eyes. She’s all comedic muscle, using a preternatural mastery of improv, diction-based and physical humour to get fans into hysterics. Bridesmaids, about a woman (Kristen Wiig) coming to terms with growing apart from her best friend (Maya Rudolph) in the lead-up to the latter’s wedding, had a strong cast firing on all cylinders, including Chris O’Dowd, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Jill Clayburgh, Wendi Mclennon-Covey, Franklyn Ajaye and an uncredited Jon Hamm, but McCarthy committed to gags with such ferocity that she couldn’t help but walk away with the film.
Step Brothers (2008)
“This is a house of learned doctors!” Will Ferrell and Adam McKay tried for years to recapture the blunt force trauma comedy of their breakout hit Anchorman, but nothing made quite the same splash culturally. In 2008 they struck gold but removing the bells and whistles, and realizing that all Ferrell needed was a few excellent foils and a small space in which to be his worst self.
John C. Reilly and Ferrell play overgrown children who realize they’ll be sharing a house because their parents (Mary Steenburgen & Richard Jenkins) are getting married. What follows is a battle of (dim)wits as the new brothers try to one-up each other in their shared space. Things get even better when they decide to team up (“Did we just become best friends?” “Your voice is like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.”). The non-stop insults give way to a tagteam fight against the world in order for Ferrell and Reilly to reshape it in their slovenly, profane image.
A New Leaf (1971)
Many people know Walter Matthau as a craggy character actor, the jowly avuncular crank who knows more than he lets on in classics like Fail-Safe, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and Charade. In A New Leaf, he plays three different characters in one: insufferable millionaire, unlikely romantic lead and scheming murderer.
An heir who’s recently run through all his money, his solution to the money trouble is to marry a daffy heiress played by the film’s writer/director Elaine May, in one of the most charming performances ever put on film. Matthau and May’s oil-and-water chemistry is hilarious enough, but Matthau’s asides to his butler (George Rose) about the torments of spending pleasant afternoons with May are so torturously funny they’ll have you stifling vomit and laughter in equal measure.
The Color Wheel (2011)
Imagine someone took a standard rom-com and shook it like a container of Boggle letters, jumbling the conventions, characters, allegiances, tropes and gags until they bore almost no resemblance to what Americans were used to. Boy genius Alex Ross Perry did just that for his sophomore feature, the demented, abrasive tale of a brother and sister on a road trip to end her relationship with a college professor. P
erry and Carlen Altman play the siblings and their greeting quickly gives way to squabbling, which lasts the course of the entire film, only joining forces to help put down a pest they can both agree deserves their ire. Altman and Perry’s characters are outcasts too weird to be accepted in any polite society, which is perhaps why no matter how ruthlessly they insult each other, they keep getting back in the car and moving closer to their destination together. This ensures that their cutthroat bickering can get as stomach-churningly funny as it wants with no regard to how much the insults might hurt the average person.
Miracle Of Morgan’s Creek (1944)
Preston Sturges is rightly regarded as one of the most singularly hilarious writer/directors of all time. With a string of wins to rival a Russian hockey team, Sturges created an ecosystem of ridiculous names, secret societies, and flappable leading men under the thumb of brassy, formidable dames. His best movie may be the film-about-film Sullivan’s Travels, but his funniest is Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.
When Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton), the daughter of the chief of police (William Demarest) gets pregnant by a soldier who leaves for the front the next day, it’s up to her besotted sweetheart, bumbling Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken) to do the right thing. Sturges had many gifts as a writer, and they get the work out of a lifetime in Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. The elastic wordplay, nomenclature and enthusiastically deranged diction will have you dry heaving with laughter.
Best In Show (2000)
Christopher Guest may have more beloved cult comedies under his belt than any single writer/director. Starting with his crew’s first hit, This Is Spinal Tap, Guest’s pointed skewering of the entertainment industry has become an American institution.
His 2000 film Best In Show, a good natured ribbing of dog shows and pageant culture in general, displays not only his eye for details, but also the gifts of his team of stellar improvisers. Guest, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean, Jane Lynch, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Jennifer Coolidge, Larry Miller and a never-better Fred Willard are at the absolute peak of their powers, eliciting guffaws with the most innocuous, simple ideas stretched further and further past logical extremes.
Guest’s cast is The Avengers of improvisation, Willard’s gormless host being a particular standout. His continued attempts at ingratiating himself with the pageant officials is so perfect it’ll turn paroxysms of laughter into a rush outside to hurl.
What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
One-time wunderkind Peter Bogdanovich (whose latest home-run She’s Funny That Way hits theatres this week) was intent on bringing back the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1970s one genre at a time. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of 30s and 40s comedy, Bogdanovich crafted What’s Up, Doc? as a vehicle for red hot leading lady Barbra Streisand. But the real star of the show was Madeline Kahn.
Kahn, known for unforgettable turns in classics Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, occupies one subplot in the byzantine screwball homage, but she walks away with the film. In one scene, literally. The sight of Kahn walking down a hallway may be the funniest thing in the film, if not indeed in all of western civilization. She plays the fiancé of Ryan O’Neal, playing a hapless patsy caught in Streisand’s web of intrigue.
Streisand and O’Neal capture some of the chemistry once supplied by Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, but in her few scenes Kahn keeps the film so funny you’ll need a bucket to get through it.
Seven Chances (1925)
Buster Keaton, like his peers Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, had an edge on modern comedy filmmakers in that their patrons had seen less on screen. Though those same audiences were lucky that Keaton never for a second believed he could get away with anything less than the most audacious comedic feats achievable.
In Steamboat Bill, Jr., he knocked the facade off a house and stood beneath it, escaping only because he placed himself carefully in the path of a window, narrowly avoiding his own death. In Sherlock, Jr. he broke his neck performing a complicated stunt. In The General he derailed a train. Seven Chances is perhaps his most winning feature, and one of his funniest sequences to boot. Keaton plays a man will only inherit his family fortune if he marries before the end of the day. His friends put an ad in the paper and soon every single woman in town is after him for his riches. This culminates in one of the best setpieces in all of silent comedy as he races down a hill away from the brides-to-be and accidentally starts an avalanche of falling rock.
The look on his face as he weighs the choice between the rocks and the bachelorettes may cause spit takes… or something more.
Of course, there are many more comedies that can cause one to chunder. Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!
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