In a modern sense, comedy refers to any discourse or work generally intended to be humorous or to amuse by inducing laughter, especially in theater, television, film, and stand-up comedy. The origins of the term, however, can be traced to ancient Greece, from where the word comedy derives (komodia). During the age of Athenian democracy, people enjoyed themselves and had a wonderful time at the theaters of that golden era, whereas today people usually do so in front of their home TV screens. With the spread of film throughout the world in the twentieth century, the talent of comedians reached the general public, and Charlie Chaplin, through silent film, became the first global comedic icon. Since Chaplin’s times, however, there have been numerous other comedians who starred in some of the most hilarious films. From Peter Sellers and Gene Wilder, to Chevy Chase and Jim Carrey, these funny and talented actors have made generations of people laugh from their hearts while enjoying a good comedy. So, are you one of those people who loves a good comedy, and if so, which ones are your favorites? Hopefully you find many of them in the 25 Most Hilarious Comedy Films Of All Time that follow.
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Trading Places (1983)
In this classic ’80s film, a snobby investor (Dan Aykroyd) and a wily street con artist (Eddie Murphy) find their positions in life switched as part of a bet by two callous millionaires. The cast is great, and the two leads make the most of their characters (both as brokers and bums) but never overstep the mark, thanks partly to the tight editing. The plot becomes a little bizarre, but by that time you’re already hooked, and the ending is pure joy. To make a long story short, this might be Eddie Murphy’s finest moment.
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
This extremely underrated movie is literally a work of comic genius. Like any good film, the screenplay is at the heart of the belly laughs. Every character is given a detailed personality quirk or two, and then it is shamefully exploited for laugh after laugh. British humor at its best, indeed.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Through a series of freak events, a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying. Robert Downey Jr. playing a hard-core African American soldier is simply epic.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
“The Dude” Lebowski, mistaken for a millionaire with the same surname, seeks restitution for his ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help get it. I personally didn’t love this film, but I know tons of people who consider it one of the greatest comedies ever. I am still trying to figure out what the point of the story is and where the humor is. Sorry guys!
The Hangover (2009)
In what many consider the greatest comedy of this generation, three buddies wake up from a bachelor party in Las Vegas with no memory of the previous night and the bachelor missing. They make their way around the city in order to find their friend before his wedding. Zach Galifianakis is simply hilarious to watch.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Young Frankenstein might not be your typical Mel Brooks film because Gene Wilder, who not only stars but also co-wrote it with Mel, was the inspiration behind the movie. This is one of those odd films that is so outlandish and makes fun of itself so much that it sucks the viewer into its twisted world and doesn’t let up until the final credits roll. If you love comedies but haven’t seen Young Frankenstein, you’re in for a real treat. After four decades, it still makes people who see it for the first time laugh themselves stupid.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
The gritty, ugly reality of rock music is on display in director Marty DiBergi’s unsparing rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, which chronicles the British metal band’s tour through the United States in the latter part of 1982. Rolling Stones called it the funniest film ever about rock ‘n’ roll.
The Jerk (1979)
An idiotic man struggles to make it through life on his own in St. Louis, and this is the best Steve Martin movie ever. Now that we think about it, Steve was pretty funny back then.
The Great Dictator (1940)
In this side-splitting film, dictator Adenoid Hynkel tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber tries to avoid persecution by Hynkel’s regime. This is arguably the best film of the king of comedy Charlie Chaplin, where he picks on Adolf Hitler and delivers a comedic masterpiece.
It’s rare for a director to pull off a successful blend of two different movie genres, but the creators of Ghostbusters did this quite well. On the one hand, you have the comedic charm of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, and on the other, a genuine ghostly spookiness that makes you want to hide under the blanket. This ’80s classic is ideal for all seasons and all ages.
Annie Hall (1977)
Woody Allen’s seminal romantic comedy is not only laugh-out-loud funny, with some of the most quotable dialogue ever written for the big screen, but also sweet and charming without ever turning trite or sappy like so many romantic comedies tend to do. To make a long story short, this is probably Allen’s best film.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
In this hilarious comedy, King Arthur and his knights embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many silly obstacles. Some call it the funniest movie they have ever seen, and in all honesty, it might be.
When it comes to this crazy comedy, you either love it or hate it, which is one of the reasons why the man behind Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) has nearly as many haters as fans. As for what to expect in this movie? A Kazakh TV talking head (Borat) goes to the United States to report on the greatest country in the world and in the process falls in love with Pamela Anderson. I don’t know about you guys, but I am still laughing over this film.
Dr Strangelove (1964)
What makes this film so powerful is the message that it made at the time of its release. This film came out during the height of Cold War paranoia, around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This film depicts a horrible, tragic incident in which a breach in the government and a few diplomatic mistakes result in nuclear holocaust. So, why didn’t this film inspire panic? Because of the brilliant way the great Stanley Kubrick presents it…as a satire.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
This is not the kind of comedy that will make you laugh every minute, but its satirical edge and wit is as clever as the film’s technical side. To get an idea of what the plot is about, Brian is born on the original Christmas, in the stable next door. He spends his life being mistaken for a messiah, and there are so many hilarious misunderstandings.
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
In my humble opinion, this is the greatest comedy of the ’90s. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels give two of the greatest comedic performances ever and are probably the stupidest duo to ever appear in film. Every scene, every sentence they speak, and every body movement is pure genius. If you truly want to laugh from the heart, check out the adventures of these two good-hearted but incredibly clueless friends.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Some call this film the greatest Thanksgiving movie ever, and they are probably right. Way before Dumb and Dumber, Neal Page (Steve Martin) tried to go home for Thanksgiving, but got stuck with boorish shower ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy). Their experiences over the next two days were some of the funniest moments ever to grace the silver screen. The best parts are the “pillow” scene, the car rental scene, and the freeway scene. (Warning: you may very well laugh yourself to death.)
Three Amigos! (1986)
In this comic masterpiece that will make you cry from laughing too much, three unemployed actors accept an invitation to a Mexican village to replay their bandit fighter roles, unaware that it is the real thing. Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short play the three amigos who end up in this crazy predicament yet manage to make the best of it.
Airplane! is the master of all spoofs. A satire of the disaster movies of the 1970s, particularly the Airport series, nothing makes sense, and it doesn’t need to. There’s no real plot; just a man afraid to fly who must ensure that a plane lands safely after the pilots become sick. Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (yep, the basketball star) will make you cry from laughing so hard.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Every summer, Clark (played by Chevy Chase) takes his family on a little trip, but in this film he went too far. In this timeless classic, the Griswold family’s cross-country drive to Walley World theme park proves to be much more arduous (and hysterically funny for us) than they ever anticipated.
Stir Crazy (1980)
Most film fanatics like a prison movie, and pretty much everyone likes a Gene Wilder-Richard Pryor comedy, so combine the two and you’ve got a formidable piece of cinematic history. The two comedians play Skip Donahue and Harry Monroe, a pair of New Yorkers whose lives are going nowhere. After witnessing the scene where they enter the jail cell, you’ll know you’ve witnessed one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, comic scenes in film.
The Pink Panther (1963)
This classic is arguably the greatest comedy of the sixties. If you watch this film today, you will probably find out that the jokes are so underplayed, quiet, and perfectly paced that people accustomed to seeing films like American Pie (which we still love) may not even laugh at the humor of the film. Peter Sellers, considered by many film critics as the greatest comedic actor ever, as Inspector Jacques Clouseau is one of the funniest characters in cinematic history.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
In Blazing Saddles, a corrupt political boss wants to ruin a western town and to do so, he appoints a black sheriff, who promptly becomes his most formidable adversary. Blazing Saddles is without doubt one of the greatest comedies in history and takes us all back to a more innocent era, an era where PC was just a couple of letters stuck together. Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks at their best, again.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Billy Wilder’s screwball masterpiece starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and the immortal Marilyn Monroe gave them the best comedy roles of their careers. One of the all-time great big-screen comedies, Some Like It Hot is Monroe’s best film hands down.
The Naked Gun (1988)
The real question that The Naked Gun poses is not why it’s one of the funniest spoofs ever made, but why virtually no subsequent movie in this genre has been any good at all. Leslie Nielsen is undoubtedly a comedic genius, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is another masterpiece from the creators of the hysterical Airplane!