The 100 Funniest Films of All Time, According to 253 Film Critics from 52 Countries

Does com­e­dy come with an expi­ra­tion date? Schol­ars of the field both ama­teur and pro­fes­sion­al have long debat­ed the ques­tion, but only one aspect of the answer has become clear: the best com­e­dy films cer­tain­ly don’t. That notion man­i­fests in the vari­ety of cin­e­mat­ic eras rep­re­sent­ed in BBC Cul­ture’s recent poll of 177 film crit­ics to deter­mine the 100 great­est com­e­dy films of all time. Most of us have seen Harold Ramis’ Ground­hog Day at some point (and prob­a­bly at more than one point) over the past 24 years; few­er of us have seen the Marx Broth­ers’ pic­ture Duck Soup, but even those of us who con­sid­er our­selves far too cool and mod­ern to watch the Marx Broth­ers have to acknowl­edge its genius.

That top ten runs as fol­lows:

  1. Some Like It Hot (Bil­ly Wilder, 1959)
  2. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Wor­ry­ing and Love the Bomb (Stan­ley Kubrick, 1964)
  3. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
  4. Ground­hog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
  5. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
  6. Life of Bri­an (Ter­ry Jones, 1979)
  7. Air­plane! (Jim Abra­hams, David Zuck­er and Jer­ry Zuck­er, 1980)
  8. Play­time (Jacques Tati, 1967)
  9. This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Rein­er, 1984)
  10. The Gen­er­al (Clyde Bruck­man and Buster Keaton, 1926)

The BBC have pub­lished the top 100 results (the last spot being a tie between the late Jer­ry Lewis’ The Ladies Man and Mar­tin Scors­ese’s The King of Com­e­dy) on their site, accom­pa­nied by a full list of par­tic­i­pat­ing crit­ics and their votescrit­ics’ com­ments on the top 25, an essay on whether men and women find dif­fer­ent films fun­ny (most­ly not, but with cer­tain notable splits on movies like Clue­less and Ani­mal House), anoth­er on whether com­e­dy dif­fers from region to region, and anoth­er on why Some Like It Hot is num­ber one.

Though no enthu­si­ast of clas­sic Hol­ly­wood would ever deny Bil­ly Wilder’s gen­der-bend­ing 1959 farce any hon­or, it would­n’t have come out on top in a poll of Amer­i­can and Cana­di­an crit­ics alone: Stan­ley Kubrick­’s Dr. Strangelove wins that sce­nario hand­i­ly. “Intrigu­ing­ly, East­ern Euro­pean crit­ics were much more like­ly to vote for Dr Strangelove than West­ern Euro­pean crit­ics,” adds Chris­t­ian Blau­velt. “Per­haps the US and coun­tries that used to be behind the Iron Cur­tain appre­ci­ate Dr. Strangelove so much because it ruth­less­ly satiris­es the delu­sions of grandeur held by both sides. And per­haps Some Like It Hot is embraced more by Euro­peans than US crit­ics because, although it’s a Hol­ly­wood film, it has a con­ti­nen­tal flair and dis­tinct­ly Euro­pean atti­tude toward sex.”

Oth­er entries, such as Jacques Tati’s elab­o­rate moder­ni­ty-cri­tiquing 70-mil­lime­ter spec­ta­cle Play­time, have also been received dif­fer­ent­ly, to put it mild­ly, at dif­fer­ent times and in dif­fer­ent places. But if all com­e­dy ulti­mate­ly comes down to mak­ing us laugh, the only way to know your own posi­tion on the cul­tur­al comedic spec­trum is to sim­ply sit down and see what has that sin­gu­lar­ly enjoy­able effect on you. Why not start with Keaton’s The Gen­er­al, which hap­pens to be free to view online — and on some lev­el the pre­de­ces­sor of (and, in the eyes of may crit­ics, the supe­ri­or of) even the phys­i­cal come­dies that come out today?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Mak­ing Intel­li­gent Com­e­dy Movies: 8 Take-Aways from the Films of Edgar Wright

The Gen­er­al, “Per­haps the Great­est Film Ever Made,” and 20 Oth­er Buster Keaton Clas­sics Free Online

The 10 Great­est Films of All Time Accord­ing to 358 Film­mak­ers

The 10 Great­est Films of All Time Accord­ing to 846 Film Crit­ics

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, etc.

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (5)
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  • Pryor says:

    These are great films, and great come­dies. But fun­ni­est? Do peo­ple real­ly laugh more often while watch­ing Some Like it Hot than they do, say, Young Franken­stein? It would be inter­est­ing to know the thought process­es of the crit­ics when they made their choic­es. The thing we call “com­e­dy” has more ele­ments than just “mak­ing us laugh.”

  • MerryMarjie says:

    I agree with Pry­or, these are great come­dies but not the fun­ni­est. “Blaz­ing Sad­dles,” “High Anx­i­ety,” any Mon­ty Python and Lau­rel and Hardy films were all side-split­ting fun­ny, and though I enjoyed the “Top Ten,” none pro­voked the laugh­ter that oth­ers have. Com­e­dy is so sub­jec­tive at any rate, and it is a most dif­fi­cult task to com­pile a ratio­nal list, so I appre­ci­ate the effort, but we all have our favorites.

  • Kevin says:

    Yep, I agree with every­one’s com­ments. These are fun­ny movies but not the fun­ni­est. Fun­ny thing about that, before I even saw the arti­cle I knew it would be wrong. I ref­er­enced Cad­dyshack. Crit­ics said it sucked, prompt­ing the pro­duc­er to kill him­self. It opens in the­aters and is a HIT! Crit­ics are idiots when it comes to movies. Only the fans know how good a movie is.

    I’m shocked Air­plane is towards the top, I loved it but did­n’t know crit­ics like it too.

    Mel Brooks needs to fill the top 10 list or split it with Leslie Niel­son.

  • Paso says:

    Dr Strangelove makes me laugh, but it is not a com­e­dy: no hap­py end.
    Pulp Fic­tion ends well (black com­e­dy ?) but you don’t real­ly laugh, real­ly.
    Is a COMEDY a sto­ry with an hap­py end ?
    What is a FUNNY movie ? (in ital­ian lan­guage the genre COMICO is dif­fer­ent from the genre COMMEDIA)

  • Justin Case says:

    Open Cul­ture resorts to click bait? NOOOOOOOooooooooo!!!!!

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