For the start of a week in which we will be looking at a wide variety of comedy films, we’d like to begin with this list. The process of picking the 50 films on our 50 Best Horror Movies Ever and 50 Best Romantic Movies Ever lists was just as arduous. Our editorial team had to make a few adjustments and go through multiple rounds of voting until we came up with a correct list. Although you may find the following checklist to be everything but “correct,” we believe it to be an accurate depiction of the collective taste of the One Perfect Shot team and this website.
As a result, the following list is given in chronological order instead of rated. When it comes to humour, we think of it as a summer road trip, but You don’t even have to leave your house to enjoy it! In our opinion, every film on this list symbolises a significant occasion in the history of comedy films.
We’re looking forward to chatting about comedies with you on Twitter (@OnePerfectShot) this week and hearing about the films that didn’t make it onto our shortlist.
The Biggest Thing (1926)
The General, a silent comedy directed by Buster Keaton and released in 1926, is one of the all-time greats. Because he is a train engineer, our hero cannot join the Civil War. His fiancee thinks he’s a coward for not enrolling, but a year later, when Johnnie plays a key role in halting Union spies, she changes her mind. It’s a roller coaster ride that culminates in the most breathtaking finale in cinematic history, with more than 500 extras filling the screen in one of the most spectacular scenes. That films no longer follow this format is a simple statement to make, yet in this particular instance, it is correct. Nearly a century after its release, The General is still impacting cinema. This is what Max Covill had to say about it:
The Awful Truth (1937)
Iconic star Cary Grant was a force to be reckoned with in the 1930s through 1940, and this screwball comedy is a wonderful example of why. We first meet him as one half of a married couple with Irene Dunne, who portrays the other half as they prepare to file for divorce. No matter how hard they try, neither of them can bear to see their soon-to-be ex-partner move on, so they go out of their way to sabotage their new attempts at romance. Seeing Grant and Dunne go toe-to-toe for one other’s throats is a fast-paced joy, and director Leo McCarey keeps up with them the entire time. His Girl Friday (1940) may have been more subtly hard-hitting, but this story is just as amusing and memorable.
The Women (1939)
Is this a one-woman show? Madness. Madness when over a hundred women emerge on the screen, all without a single male in sight! When two funny women (Anita Loos and Jane Murfin) adapt a humorous play written by another funny woman (Clare Luce), the outcome is one of the greatest comedies in cinema history as women bond and conflict over males in their life. Although the film does not meet the Bechdel test, the women in this film are intelligent, strong, and independent. Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, and (my black and white crush) Joan Fontaine are all memorable in their roles, displaying their acting talents and terrific comic delivery in this film. To avoid disappointment, stick to the original, and you won’t go wrong.
His Girl Friday (1940)
His Girl Friday, directed by Howard Hawks, is an oddity because it’s a movie that’s all about words — both the rapid-fire delivery of language and the clever wit that comes through in what is said — yet it’s hard to put into words exactly why it’s so brilliant. This is one of those movies that never ceases to amuse or educate me in new ways even after seeing it a hundred times. Because of its groundbreaking overlapping-dialogue style, the romantic comedy of second chances stars Cary Grant as a newspaper editor and Rosalind Russell as his star reporter/former ex-wife. This picture is a whirlwind because of the rapid pace of the dialogue. However, Hawks’ work as a filmmaker can frequently go overlooked in the dialogue debate. Be sure to pay attention to the way he frames the action and the sheer genius of his blocking. Ultimately, it all comes together to create one of the greatest comedies in cinematic history.