100 Funny Movie Titles
January 28, 2012 by staff
100 Funny Movie Titles, What’s your all-time favorite funny movie? Having trouble picking just one? So did we! So we narrowed the field down to the top 100+ side-splitters of all time. Tell us in the comments what you think the funniest movie of all time.
THE GOLD RUSH (1925) By common agreement (including Charlie’s) this is Chaplin’s greatest silent film. Alternating between heads-on slapstick and poetic mime, the famous Little Tramp pans for nuggets in Alaska–and winds up broke. In a classic scene, he and his customary foil, Big Jim (Mack Swain), get so hungry that Charlie cooks a boot for dinner, carving it like a steak, then delicately twirls the shoelaces around his fork pasta-style. Chaplin’s comic techniques were to set the standard for the next 50 years.
THE FRESHMAN (1925) The third of the great silent film trio (the other two were Chaplin and Keaton), Harold Lloyd did all his own stunts, many of them dangerous, with skill and humor. Here he’s a frosh trying to ingratiate himself with fellow students.
THE GENERAL (1927) Celebrated as the Great Stone Face because he so rarely cracked a smile, Buster Keaton is remembered as an adroit stunt man and knockabout comedian. But he was far more than that, as demonstrated by this extraordinary silent comedy of the Civil War. As a train engineer who recaptures some hijacked rolling stock, Keaton is audacious, poetic and explosively amusing. As the film’s director, he scintillates.
DUCK SOUP (1933) Perhaps the purest film farce ever made. Directed con brio by Leo McCarey, the film offers no love story or subplots, just Harpo, Chico and Groucho Marx at their manic peak. En route to a slam-bang finale they satirize war and the country’s leading politicians. (Groucho: “It’s too late to [prevent a war]. I just paid a month’s rent on the battlefield.”)
DINNER AT EIGHT (1933) The “talkies” grew up with this adaptation of a Broadway hit by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. Under George Cukor’s canny direction John and Lionel Barrymore, sex goddess Jean Harlow, and comedians Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery enliven the sophisticated dialogue, revolving around the lives of financial predators, actors on the rocks, hatcheck girls on the way up and millionaires on the way down, all set against the background of a glittering Manhattan dinner party.
SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933) Mae West became something of a joke in later life, but as her films prove, she was one of the best comedy writers in 1930s Hollywood. Here, she plays a Gay Nineties saloon singer in trouble with the law–impersonated by Cary Grant in an early role. “When a woman goes wrong, the men go right after her.” “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?” The great lines are here, and Mae wrote ‘em all. Lowell Sherman directed unobtrusively.
SONS OF THE DESERT (1933) Arguably Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s best film. The boys slip away from their spouses for some mild carousing; next thing they know, they’re shipwrecked off the Hawaiian coast. Grand farceurs, doing their thing.
THE THIN MAN (1934) William Powell and Myrna Loy play Dashiell Hammett’s married sleuths, Nick and Nora Charles. Notorious wisecrackers and party-goers (the film was shot during Prohibition), the Charleses solve mysteries between drinks: Nora: “What hit me?” Nick: “The last martini.” The pair had such on-screen chemistry they went on to play in 13 other movies, including five more Nick and Noras, but none equals this one. Directed with panache by W. S. Van Dyke, and augmented by Asta, a dog with almost as much appeal as his owners.
IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934) A cynical newspaperman (Clark Gable) and a pampered heiress (Claudette Colbert) collide on an overcrowded bus headed from Miami to New York. It’s hate at first sight as they share the last remaining seat. “Remember me?” Gable demands the next morning. “I’m the fellow you slept on last night.” Predictably they fall in love, but not before a series of tight situations and colorful arguments. Director Frank Capra’s screwball comedy remains fresh after six decades.
MY MAN GODFREY (1936) A spoiled-rotten heiress (Carole Lombard) hires a shabby-looking bum (William Powell) and learns about life. Many a subsequent comedy was influenced by Gregory La Cava’s rambunctious screwball farce.
THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937) Director Leo McCarey had a lot of help from Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. But this story of a divorced couple who try to ruin each other’s new romances owes its accelerated pace and high polish to him. Ralph Bellamy and Mary Forbes supply the straight lines.
PYGMALION (1938) The George Bernard Shaw play that inspired My Fair Lady, exquisitely directed by Anthony Asquith sans music. Witty, beguiling, convincing, with Wendy Hiller as Eliza Dolittle, and Leslie Howard as ‘enry ‘iggins.
HOLIDAY (1938) Cary Grant is engaged to the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. Trouble is, she and her father expect him to become a faceless bureaucrat, and the young man is far too lively for that. Only one person in the family understands him–his fiancée’s younger sister, Katharine Hepburn. A wise and sparkling Philip Barry script, enlivened by two performers at their peak. Lew Ayres was notable as Hepburn’s hapless brother. Another George Cukor triumph, often overlooked.
NINOTCHKA (1939) In her penultimate film, Greta Garbo plays a frigid, rigid Soviet envoy. In Paris she encounters a Play boy of the Western World (Melvyn Douglas), and after a valiant struggle, succumbs to his masculine wiles. The coruscating script, co-written by Billy Wilder before he became a director, lampoons the Stalinist type just as Europe lurches toward World War II. Ernst Lubitsch’s unfailingly light touch emphasizes “those wonderful days when a siren was a brunette and not an alarm.”
THE BANK DICK (1940) The bulbous, droning W. C. has a Fields day as Egbert Souse (“accent grave over the e,” he insists,) a henpecked drunk who gets involved in film-making and foiling a bank robbery–all in the course of a single day. He’s admirably backed by Shemp Howard (one of the Three Stooges) as a bartender, Grady Sutton as W. C. Fields’s awful son-in-law, and Franklin Pangborn as a bank examiner. The film was written by Mahatma Kane Jeeves, one of the Great Man’s many noms de plume.
SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941) A comedy director (Joel McCrae) decides to quit Hollywood to seek a serious subject among the poor. He runs into Veronica Lake and a whole bunch of revelations about the meaning of life. A wise, enchanting gift from Preston Sturges.
THE ROAD TO MOROCCO (1942) “Like Webster’s Dictionary, we’re Morocco bound,” croon Bing Crosby and Bob Hope as they board a camel and head for adventure. Along the way, as always, they encounter Dorothy Lamour, triggering, as always, a battle of one-upmanship to see who gets the girl. In this, the best of the seven “Road” movies, the comedian and singer knock down the “fourth wall” to talk to the audience, kid Paramount studios, and ad lib relentlessly with the movie’s splendid heavy, Anthony Quinn.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942) In Nazi-occupied Poland an acting troupe struggles to survive. Out of this unpromising situation director Ernst Lubitsch served up a banquet of laughter. Peerless Jack Benny stars as a Polish ham; Carole Lombard is his wandering wife. (This was her last movie; she died in a plane crash that year.) The pair is aided by a cast of expert jokers, headed by Sig Ruman as a pompous German administrator. Caveat emptor; the film was clumsily remade by Mel Brooks in 1983.
HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO (1944) Far from home, a shy, 4-F shipyard worker (Eddie Bracken) is mistaken for a World War II combat veteran. Before he can stop them, a group of Marines adopt him as one of their own. They return to the place he ran away from–only now there are cheering, ignorant crowds and a once-snooty girlfriend (Ella Raines) who wants the fugitive to run for mayor. Preston Sturges’s view of small-town archetypes is as funny as his gentle satire of patriotism run amok.
THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN’S CREEK (1944) Wide-eyed Betty Hutton attends a party, gets drunk, gets pregnant, and can’t identify the father. Preston Sturges’s directorial hand is sure, and William Demarest and Eddie Bracken are clowns beyond compare.
BLITHE SPIRIT (1945) The ghost of a man’s first wife tries to break up his second marriage. Noel Coward’s diverting dialogue keeps this British farce afloat, as do Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings, and Margaret Rutherford as an eccentric medium.
WONDER MAN (1945) MGM superstar Danny Kaye was one of those extraordinary performers who could act, sing, dance, crack jokes and make it all look effortless. Here he plays identical twins with divergent personalities. One is a bespectacled intellectual, the other a brash nightclub emcee. When criminals knock off the entertainer, his ghost enters
his brother’s body, with hysterical results. The special effects and Technicolor backgrounds showcase Kaye’s unlimited energy and metronomic timing.
ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) Universal Studios had the ingenious idea of mixing its comedy duo with its horror stars. Result: unsubtle but explosive humor, with Bud and Lou as baggage clerks delivering packages to a haunted house. The occupants are Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr., Vincent Price and other ghouls who want to replace Frankenstein’s malfunctioning brain with Costello’s minuscule one.
ADAM’S RIB (1949) Of the nine films Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn made together, none tops this pairing. They play married lawyers who represent opposite sides in a divorce case–thereby giving scenarists Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin opportunities to provide the stars with effective salvos in this stylish battle of the sexes. Judy Holliday and Tom Ewell co-star as the pair in Splitsville.
KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949) Alec Guinness plays all eight members of the D’Ascoyne family, including Lady Agatha. Each, in turn, is bumped off by an impoverished heir (Dennis Price) who then claims the title of Duke. Only one obstacle remains: Shall he wed steamy Joan Greenwood or icy but elegant Valerie Hobson? Whether he gets away with murder depends on how you interpret the ambiguous ending of this memorable British farce.
FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) Spencer Tracy takes the title role in this family comedy, and shows how to take an everyday event and make it into art. The bride is Elizabeth Taylor at her most radiant; the groom is Don Taylor at his most self-effacing. Billie Burke and Leo G. Carroll are relatively hilarious. Vincente Minnelli directed.
HARVEY (1950) Jimmy Stewart plays a slightly addled gentleman, fond of the bottle and of a six-foot rabbit only he can see. Josephine Hull is his concerned sister; Cecil Kellaway is a shrink who comes to realize that the patient is saner than his critics.
BORN YESTERDAY (1951) Garson Kanin’s famous play about an uncouth racketeer (Broderick Crawford) who hires a tutor (William Holden) for his girlfriend (Judy Holliday). Naturally, teacher and pupil fall in love. With George Cukor at the helm, everything–eventually–goes right.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) It’s the end of the 1920s, and the beginning of the end for silent movies. All very well for the mellifluous Gene Kelly, not so good for the adenoidal Jean Hagen. Young Debbie Reynolds is hired to supply the diva’s offscreen voice, and thereby hangs the tale of the funniest musical ever made. Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” is a gem; Kelly’s title song became his trademark. Adolf Green and Betty Comden wrote the knowing scenario; Stanley Donen, a former hoofer, directed nimbly.
MR. HULOT’S HOLIDAY (1953) With this film and Mon Oncle (1958) French actor/director Jaques Tati paid homage to the great silent film comedians. There’s a soundtrack, but the innocent bumbler barely speaks as he fights a losing battle against technology and creates chaos wherever he wanders. The humor is gentle, the gags indelible, the persona endearing.
THE BELLES OF ST. TRINIAN’S (1954) Cartoonist Ronald Searle’s caricatures of a British all-girl’s school brought
to hideously hilarious life by director Frank Launder. Joyce Grenfell and Alastair Sim (in a dual role) make much of
THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955) Tom Ewell’s wife goes on vacation, leaving him alone in Manhattan. Marilyn Monroe lives in a neighboring apartment. The rest is history, particularly when she walks over a subway grating in her diaphanous white dress. Sophisticated laughter, the Billy Wilder way.
THE MOUSE THAT ROARED (1959) The Duchy of Fenwick declares war on the United States in order to lose–and get money for reparations. Peter Sellers impersonates three different people, and those playing his countrymen (and women) are his equals in risibility.
SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) Director/co-writer Billy Wilder sends up gangster movies in this ribald adventure of two musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.) They witness a mob rubout and join an all-girl band to escape from their pursuers. On the way, the cross-dressers encounter a fabulous cast of caricatures including Marilyn Monroe, the band’s lead singer, and smitten zillionaire Joe E. Brown, who plans to wed Lemmon, even when he learns the truth. “Nobody’s perfect,” claims Brown. This film is.
BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET (1960) Marcello Mastroianni heads the cast in Mari Monicelli’s grand, elaborate spoof of caper pictures. Vittorio Gassman, Toto and Claudia Cardinale make sure that chaos reigns supreme.
IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963) Stanley Kramer’s over-the-top chase movie, with top bananas of comedy, including Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Jimmy Durante, and Jonathan Winters, all outpaced by Mr. Cool himself, Spencer Tracy.
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963) Jerry Lewis usually went overboard when he directed Jerry Lewis, but here he uses a laid-back approach to tell the story of a simpleton who becomes a sophisticate when he partakes of a magic potion. In a dual role, Jerry is laughable and/or loveable, without employing his customary frantic appeal to the audience. Stella Stevens is diverting; Kathleen Freeman is droll.
TOM JONES (1963) Henry Fielding’s great novel of 18th-century England brought to rumbustious life by director Tony Richardson and a stellar cast, headed by Albert Finney as a young man with his eye on the Main Chance. Susannah York supplies the beauty, Edith Evans and Hugh Griffith the sly sense of period and place.
DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) Working with Terry Southern’s mordant script, director Stanley Kubrick met the nuclear jitters with madcap laughter, subtitling his black comedy How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Archetypal casting includes the astonishing Peter Sellers in a triple role (the American President, a British major, and a mad scientist) and Sterling Hayden as the maniacal Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper. George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn and Slim Pickens furnish admirable, if outlandish, support.
A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964) The second of Blake Edwards’s “Pink Panther” films, with Peter Sellers as the hapless Inspector Clouseau trying to unframe an innocent blonde (Elke Sommer). With Herbert Lom as Clouseau’s furious boss, Burt Kwouk as his valet and martial arts trainer, and George Sanders as a wicked old roué.
MARRIAGE, ITALIAN STYLE (1964) Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren display their unique onscreen chemistry in this charming farce about an elusive womanizer and the lady who wants him to marry her. Widely imitated, but never duplicated.
THE GRADUATE (1967) A period comedy of bad manners, starring Dustin Hoffman in his breakout role as Benjamin, a youth struggling to find himself in a materialistic world. A family friend utters one word of advice: “Plastics.” Other than that, he’s on his own, attempting to romance an innocent girl (Katharine Ross) but instead getting seduced by her sly mother (Anne Bancroft). The spirited songs (“Mrs. Robinson” et al.) are by Simon and Garfunkel. Mike Nichols deservedly won an Oscar for direction.
BEDAZZLED (1967) Updating Faust, co-writer Peter Cooke casts himself as a genteel British devil, with Dudley Moore as the Tempted One. Eleanor Bron is the object of Moore’s adoration. With Barry Humphries and Raquel Welch as two of the Seven Deadly Sins. The mirthworks are under the apt direction of Stanley Donen. A newer version appeared in 2000. Stick with the original.
THE PRODUCERS (1968) The basis for Broadway’s biggest hit musical. Two grotesques (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) produce a ghastly show, Springtime for Hitler, hoping it’ll bomb. In the resultant confusion, they plan to steal the backers’ money and get out of town. Behold! The thing turns out to be a smash, and the con men are hoist by their own petard. Mel Brooks’s directorial debut.
THE ODD COUPLE (1968) You know the story. Major slob Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) allows neat freak Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) to move into his apartment. All too soon the divorced men are at each other’s throats. Neil Simon skillfully adapted his sparkling Broadway comedy for a notable cast and director Gene Saks.
M*A*S*H (1970) Robert Altman’s weirdly appealing antiwar comedy that gave birth to the tamer, long-running TV series. With overlapping dialogue, odd camera angles and provocative performances by Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman et. al.
HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971) A cult film, featuring Bud Cort as a 20-year-old and Ruth Gordon as the octogenarian with whom he falls in love. Director Hal Ashby stresses credibility as well as oddball comedy. Ace score by Cat Stevens.
AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) Another coming-of-age movie–with a big difference. George Lucas (Star Wars) directed, and chose a cast of newcomers with real talent, among them Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard and Harrison Ford.
HARRY AND TONTO (1974) Retired teacher (Art Carney in an Oscar-winning performance) goes cross-country with his cat, calling on his children, and former lovers, with mostly comic but sometimes poignant results. Paul Mazursky’s direction is sensitive; Ellen Burstyn and Larry Hagman are exceptional.
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975) The inventive British sketch comedians (John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle) do battle with the Arthurian legend, complete with a Trojan Rabbit and a Holy Hand Grenade. Tradition loses. We win.
SILVER STREAK (1976) A bright parody of Alfred Hitchcck’s “train” pictures, starring Gene Wilder as a mild-mannered executive who boards the Silver Streak from L.A. to Chicago and finds himself embroiled in mystery and romance. Richard Pryor pushes the humor to a new level; Jill Clayburgh contributes the glamour, Patrick McGoohan the villainy.
CAR WASH (1976) Like L.A.’s teeming freeways, disparate lives intersect in this bubbly ensemble piece abut a white-owned car washery and the African-American and Latino crews who work there. This ’70s time capsule sports an irresistible soundtrack and appearances by some of the era’s top comic talent, including Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Franklyn Ajaye.
THE BINGO LONG TRAVELING ALL-STARS AND MOTOR KINGS (1976) The Negro Leagues just before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line. With James Earl Jones, Richard Pryor, Billy Dee Williams and lesser known, but just as enjoyable, performers.
THE GOODBYE GIRL (1977) Aspiring actor Richard Dreyfuss and bitter divorcee Marsha Mason are forced to share an apartment. It’s aversion at first sight. Neil Simon’s script and Herb Ross’s direction assure that there are at least two laughs per minute.
ANNIE HALL (1977) A mix of autobiography, surrealism and romance, this Woody Allen comedy was named Best Picture because of lines like: “Life is full of loneliness, misery, suffering and unhappiness–and its all over much too quickly.” Starring Allen as a Jewish stand-up comedian, and Diane Keaton as his deliciously ditsy WASP girlfriend. In a prototypical scene, a moviegoer bombinates about the meaning of Marshall McLuhan–whereupon Allen brings on the Professor himself to refute the loudmouth.
SEMI-TOUGH (1977)A satire of professional football would have been funny enough, but this film also dispatches such once-fashionable movements as est and Rolfing. Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson are the players; Jill Clayburgh is the love interest; Bert Convy and Lotte Lenya are the hysterical gurus of self-improvement.
THE JERK (1979) Steve Martin was just one of the “Wild and Crazy Guys” of “Saturday Night Live” when he burst onto the screen in this farce about a white moron adopted by black sharecroppers. Like Forrest Gump in a later era, Martin succeeds in spite of himself, and we laugh all the way to the bank. Director Carl Reiner may not be much on nuance, but he knows how to tell a joke.
BREAKING AWAY (1979) A charming tale of youths from blue-collar families growing up in the class-conscious town-and-gown atmosphere of Bloomington, Indiana. Competitive bicycling is the lead character’s way of life, and a series of contests makes for excitement and edgy humor.
THE BUGS BUNNY/ROADRUNNER MOVIE (1979) Disney films got applause and Oscars, but Warner Bros. cartoons engendered nonstop laughter. Some of the very best shorts were created by Chuck Jones, as this compilation demonstrates in overplus.
AIRPLANE! (1980) The ultimate send-up of the disaster genre. The directors/writers Jim Abrahams, and the brothers Jerry and David Zucker provide an avalanche of visual gags, parodies and puns. (“Surely you can’t be serious.” “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”) Don’t like a joke? Wait 10 seconds and there’ll be a new one. With Robert Hays as a failed pilot, Julie Hagerty as a flighty flight attendant, and a grand cast of poker-faced stiffs, including Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges and Robert Stack.
PRIVATE BENJAMIN (1980) A pampered bride (Goldie Hawn) becomes a widow on her wedding night. What to do? In the old days, men would drown their sorrows by joining the French Foreign Legion. She enlists in the U.S. Army. Her rude awakening comes when a tough drill sergeant (Eileen Brennan) introduces Private Benjamin to the rigors of military life.
NINE TO FIVE (1980) When women were women, and men were chauvinists. Three secretaries (Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda) are mercilessly harrassed by their boss (Dabney Coleman). Director Colin Higgins never lets up, and the sexist boss finally gets his well-plotted verbal and visual comeuppance.
MY FAVORITE YEAR (1982) Although he isn’t credited, the spirit of Errol Flynn, Hollywood’s ultimate ladies’ man, hovers over this appealing film. Peter O’Toole plays an aging, hard-drinking roué; Mark-Linn Baker is the kid who brings him home to lower-class Brooklyn, and promptly causes a riot. Richard Benjamin, an actor who knows from timing, directed capably.
VICTOR/VICTORIA (1982) In 1930s Paris, struggling singer Victoria (Julie Andrews) befriends Teddy (Robert Preston) a gay nightclub entertainer. He suggests a career move. Why not tour as Victor, a man posing as a woman? Victor/Victoria becomes a smash–but comic complications attend the gender-bending: pursuit by a gangster (James Garner) and hostility from the thug’s girlfriend (Leslie Anne Warren.) Tastefully directed by Blake Edwards, who might have been vulgar but never goes over the edge.
TOOTSIE (1982) A self-centered actor (Dustin Hoffman) can’t land a job–because the only parts available are for women. So he dresses as one, gets a soap opera part, learns how the other half lives, and becomes a better man/woman for it. Smart direction by Sydney Pollack (who also plays an agent) stresses credibility and gets laughs. So do Bill Murray, Teri Garr, Jessica Lange and Dabney Coleman.
48 HOURS (1982) Nick Nolte is a large white cop with small eyes; Eddie Murphy is a small black convict with big eyes. Under Walter Hill’s direction, they fight crime, spout one-liners and create big-time havoc. A great pairing, done before the two got stale.
FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982) An accurate portrait of Southern California adolescence. All the hormones are in overdrive, with expected but pleasing results. Sean Penn leads the cast. Silver-screen debuts of Nicolas Cage, Eric Stoltz and Forest Whitaker.
DINER (1982) Writer/director Barry Levinson’s funny, fond look in the rearview mirror. What he sees is the city of his youth–Baltimore–and the friends who hung out together in an eatery. First feature-film appearances for Ellen Barkin and Paul Reiser.
TRADING PLACES (1983) The title represents the truth in labeling. Eddie Murphy, a streetwise African American hustler, exchanges jobs with Dan Aykroyd, a very proper Philadelphia stockbroker. The results are everything you’d expect from these two–and more. John Landis directed.
GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) House haunted? Hire Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray, who know how to dispel ghosts and dispense jokes. So do Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis and director Ivan Reitman.
THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984) Rock ‘n’ roll has the courage to laugh at itself in Rob Reiner’s pioneering mockumentary. It follows a British heavy metal group, short on talent and money, as they tour third-rate venues across the United States on their way to oblivion. With wonderfully straight-faced performances by Chris Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Bruno Kirby and Tony Hendra.
PRIZZI’S HONOR (1985) Jack Nicholson is a lightheaded hit man for the mob. He falls in love with Kathleen Turner, who turns out to be a hit woman for another mob, with a very uncomfortable agenda. Black comedy–or rather Black Hand comedy–at its best. Anjelica Huston is as fine as the leads, and her father, John, did a classy job of direction.
AFTER HOURS (1985) Marty Scorsese’s affectionate glimpse of lower-Manhattan’s wildlife. Sheltered yuppie Griffin Dunne loses himself in a downtown Wonderland where, he learns, “different rules apply.” As full of surprises as the world it depicts.
LOST IN AMERICA (1985) A “white-bread” couple (Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty) give up their jobs and drive cross-country to see the flyover country they missed. En route, they find nothing but trouble–funny trouble–especially in Las Vegas, where they lose the better part of their savings and vainly try to recoup. Garry Marshall is unforgettable as a casino owner. Brooks directed, wrote, starred and sparkled.
DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS (1986) A bum (Nick Nolte) attempts to drown himself in the pool of a nouveau riche couple (Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler) becomes involved in their lives, and wrecks everything. Paul Mazursky directed with a trowel, but it’s laugh-filled anyway.
ROXANNE (1987) Edmond Rostand’s play about Cyrano de Bergerac, a man with a talent as big as his nose, is brought up to speed by Steve Martin, who wrote and starred. As in the original, a gifted suitor, C. D. (Martin) is smitten by the gorgeous Roxanne (Daryl Hannah.) Alas, she has fallen for a handsome dimwit, Chris (Rick Rossovich). Since C. D. can’t have her, he generously helps Chris woo the lady with poems and speeches. Martin is alternately droll and poignant in this mini-masterpiece.
GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM (1987) The story, much exaggerated, of Adrian Cronauer. This one-time disc jockey was the
voice of Armed Forces Radio until he was forced out in 1965. Robin Williams takes the bio and runs with it. Uneven but inventive humor with a moral. Forest Whitaker offers strong backup; Barry Levinson directed with heart as well as funnybone.
BROADCAST NEWS (1987) James Brooks’s satiric exposé of TV journalism–as all style, zero substance. William Hurt is the anchorman with good looks and no brain; Albert Brooks is the reporter with smarts and no style. Holly Hunter is their obnoxious boss.
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987) A tired businessman (Steve Martin) tries desperately to get home. Nobody listens, except a lumpish, insensitive passer-by (John Candy.) Disaster follows. The cast plays it for reality as well as laughs, thanks to director John Hughes.
BIG (1988) An unhappy kid wishes he were a grownup. And voilà! He magically becomes one–except that he retains a 12-year-old mind in an adult’s body. Tom Hanks is just as magical as the premise. Penny Marshall directs a glowing cast.
A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988) A shaggy fish tale, written by former Monty Python veteran John Cleese, who also stars in this caper gone mad. Fellow Pythonite Michael Palin helps enormously, as do Jamie Lee Curtis and a frantically stuttering Kevin Kline.
BEETLEJUICE (1988) A young couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) are killed in an automobile accent, and return as ghosts, ready to inhabit their dream house. Alas, the place is occupied by live interlopers. The pair isn’t skilled enough to scare a mouse, so they hire the evil Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton). Fine ensemble work, and director Tim Burton supplies so many sight gags and special effects that you might want to view it twice.
HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS (1989) Children accidentally point an experimental ray gun the wrong way and become minuscule and helpless. Smashing special effects, and delicious performances by Rick Moranis and a quartet of talented minors.
CITY SLICKERS (1991) Afflicted by various midlife crises, three urbanites (Billy Crystal, Bruno Kirby, Daniel Stern) try to sort things out on a cattle drive. The complications are unfailingly merry, and Jack Palance–as the rough-hewn, straight-faced head drover–makes John Wayne look like Shirley Temple.
SOAPDISH (1991) Daytime soap operas make an easy target. However, thanks to fine performances by Kevin Kline as an aging ham, and Sally Field as his ex, there’s a lot to think about and laugh at. Whoopi Goldberg, Garry Marshall. Robert Downey, Jr., and Elisabeth Shue add deliciously to the mix.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992) Penny Marshall’s valentine to a women’s hardball league during WWII when male players were in the service. Terrific performances by Geena Davis, Madonna (!), Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Hanks. (“There’s no crying in baseball.”)
MY COUSIN VINNY (1992) Joe Pesci, a Brooklyn loudmouthpiece heads to Wazoo, Alabama, to defend his innocent cousin (Ralph Macchio) in a murder trial. Ba-da-bing farce, with a star turn by Marisa Tomei as Joe’s amusing side-of-da-mouth girlfriend.
GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) Egomaniacal weatherman Bill Murray spends a night in Punxsutawney, Pa., where the local groundhog is supposed to see his shadow and predict how long winter will last. Trouble is, Murray gets caught in a time trap, and keeps repeating the day, minute by minute, day after day. Scrooge becomes saint, but not before some funny and wise interludes, supervised by director Harold Ramis.
FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (1994) Blithe British comedy about a young man (Hugh Grant) who can’t commit until he meets an unattainable woman (Andie MacDowell). With a choice supporting cast, under Mike Newell’s direction.
BABE (1995) That rarity of rarities, an authentic family comedy, about an orphaned piglet growing up on a farm in the company of dogs, sheep and people, all of whom can talk–except that only the animals can understand one another. Exceptional animatronic effects.
JERRY MAGUIRE (1996) The social commentary never loses its sense of humor in this full-length portrait of a venal sports agent (Tom Cruise) whose client lives by the slogan, “Show me the money.” Adroit backup by Cuba Gooding, Renée Zellweger and some actual athletes.
THE FULL MONTY (1997) Unemployed steelworkers try a new line of work–they become male strippers. Surprisingly sensitive and unfailingly witty presentation of underclass Britain by director Peter Cattaneo. Anne Dudley’s score won an Oscar.
MEN IN BLACK (1997) Alien conspiracy culture takes some good-natured ribbing in this sci-fi farce. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are the titular men sent to save us from space invaders. Fantastic special effects.
YOU’VE GOT MAIL (1998) An elegant update of The Shop Around the Corner (1940), this time with two competitive bookstore owners sending each other anonymous, hostile e-mails. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan shine under the direction of Nora Ephron, who is singlehandedly reviving the spirit of classic cinema comedy-romance.
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998) Writers Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman see the Bard of Avon (Joseph Fiennes) not as a sublime poet/playwright, but simply and amusingly as a writer on deadline, trying to bat out Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter, before the creditors close in. Anachronistic yet effective situations abound, along with some tasty cross-dressing by Gwyneth Paltrow. The amiable cast includes Simon Callow, Geoffrey Rush and Judi Dench.
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998) Indeed there is, as played by Cameron Diaz, and Ben Stiller has craved it since high school. Now that she’s a lady every other man does, too. Sophomoric? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely. Matt Dillon helps.
AMERICAN PIE (1999) Familiar story of young men trying to lose their virginity and being thwarted at every turn. Unlike earlier teenflicks, however, this farce doesn’t put down grownups, and gives some of its best lines to female characters. Ultimately, however, what gives this Pie its tart sweetness is an endearing cast, led by Jason Biggs, Eugene Levy and Alyson Hannigan.
ANALYZE THIS (1999) A mob capo (Robert De Niro) suddenly begins to suffer from panic attacks. Distressed, his bodyguard (Joe Viterelli) seeks out a shrink (Billy Crystal). and the complications begin. The doctor is a family psychiatrist, but this is definitely not the kind of family he had in mind. De Niro displays a great gift for comedy, and a very funny Crystal doesn’t make the obvious choices. Even so, Viterelli practically steals this surprisingly well-made picture.
TOPSY-TURVY (1999) Backstage lives of those 19th-century masters of operetta, W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Richly detailed direction by Mike Leigh, with persuasive performances by Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner and supporting players.
GALAXY QUEST (1999) Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Tony Shalhoub star as the washed-up cast of a long-cancelled TV series. When a marauding race of aliens comes calling, the actors resume their former roles–this time with feeling.
MEET THE PARENTS (2000) Ben Stiller tries to ingratiate himself with his girlfriend’s mom and dad. The trouble is, her old man (Robert De Niro) is ex-CIA, and paranoid about the young man whose job description is Male Nurse. Director Jay Roach keeps this a winner from opening frame to fade-out.
SHREK (2001) Once upon a time there was an Ogre (Mike Myers) whose swamp got overrun by intruders from fairy tales and Disney movies, including Pinocchio, three little pigs and a big bad wolf. All are refugees from the kingdom of the wicked Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). With the help of an articulate donkey (Eddie Murphy), Shrek sets things right and, along the way, wins the love of Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), who has a secret but endearing flaw. Computer animation with great humor and, even rarer, heart.
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (2002) The life story of Toula (Nia Vardalos) whose family instructs her to marry a Greek boy and make Greek babies. Instead she chooses Ian (John Corbett). The collision of cultures is inevitable. (“I’m a vegetarian,” Ian explains to a Greek aunt. “That’s OK. I’ll make lamb.”) Fine performances all around, especially from Michael Constantine as Toula’s ethnocentric dad.
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