Hilarious Comedy Movies for a Good Time
From a timid giggle to a hyena guffaw, laughing is a natural human reaction. It stimulates the circulatory system, increases oxygen intake and releases disease-fighting endorphins.
But what does LOL actually mean? Just like emoticons and emoji, it has become a part of Internet slang that reflects our mood.
The Great Dictator (1940)
This hysterical Cold War satire was controversial in 1940 when it was first released. It was only a few years after Hitler took power in Germany and many Americans were ambivalent about getting involved in another European war. The movie mocks the dictator’s lust for world domination and his persecution of Jews but does so in a comic fashion without diminishing those crimes. Peter Sellers’ zany performance and Stanley Kubrick’s wry direction make this movie timeless comedy.
Despite the political climate when it was made, the film was a major success at the box office and it was Charlie Chaplin’s highest grossing movie of the year. He acted in the picture and also directed it. He took advantage of the fact that Hitler looked a bit like his character from The Little Tramp and used the resemblance to craft his satire. It was his first full talkie and he did a bang up job with it.
The humor varies from simple but perfect slapstick to gracefully hilarious scenes that deflate the dictator’s vaunting megalomania. The famous scene where he dances with a giant globe is the most memorable but there are many other great moments in this movie. The DVD version of the movie includes an extensive behind the scenes (silent) making-of documentary and early short films by Chaplin.
The Marxes (1940)
Having worn out his greasepaint mustache and developed a real one, Groucho returned to radio with this live show. As his eyesight deteriorated, he started to wear glasses onstage. Despite his best efforts, the program didn’t last long and he moved on to a series of television shows.
The second of the Marx Brothers’ post-Thalberg films, this cartoonish spoof of WWII spy thrillers isn’t as good as Duck Soup, but it still boasts plenty of on-target sight gags and verbal witticisms. A must-see for fans of the era and anyone who has ever wondered how many people can fit into an art deco transatlantic ocean liner.
A zany trio heads west in search of gold in this wild western spoof, which includes a scene that satirises the “separation of church and state.” It was the first film to feature Paul Reubens, then an unknown comedian who would go on to become famous for his role as Pee Wee Herman.
Thalberg had the genius to put a firm structure around the Marx Brothers’ free-for-all brand of comedy. He had them test out scripts with audiences before filming, to retain jokes that worked and discard those that didn’t. He also added a low point in the story, to highlight how desperate the Marxes were for laughs. The result is a surprisingly successful mixture of romance and comedy, with the added bonus of Chico’s jazzy cod-Italiano witterings.
The Great Gatsby (1957)
F Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel gets a few cinematic adaptations, from a drab noir to creaky prestige to the kinetic “spectacular” of Baz Luhrmann. But none of them really live up to the spirit of the book, which was short on plot development but long on poetic wordplay. Eccentric man-child Stan Laurel and roly-poly fall-guy Oliver Hardy make this film their finest 68 minutes, tickling us with a series of inventive sight gags as they try to evade their domineering wives and slip off to a fraternal lodge convention.
A satirical look at the morally vacuous society of 1920s America, The Great Gatsby is an indelible classic. The rags-to-riches story centers on Jay Gatsby, a wealthy Yale graduate who throws extravagant parties at his West Egg home and attempts to win the heart of Daisy Buchanan, a former college sweetheart now married to the abusive Tom. But Gatsby’s pursuit of wealth and his obsession with Daisy prove to be hollow. He’s finally killed by George Wilson, who clings to the belief that the world is only what one makes of it.
Long before he devoted his time to banjo albums and tours, Steve Martin proved himself as one of the funniest actors working. He’s at his best here as a complete moron who rises from gas station and traveling fair to become super rich before losing it all. This timeless comedy still raises a smile after countless viewings.
The Muppet Movie (1983)
Featuring Muppets like Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and Rowlf the Dog, this film – which tells the story of how they got their start in show business – is the original of what would eventually be eight theatrical motion pictures. It is a genuinely funny comedy movie, though it has a less cohesive style than the later films. Still, it is enjoyable, and a true classic for families to watch together. There is no violence, sex or profanity in this movie, so it can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
This is a Muppet movie, so there are plenty of slapstick gags, physical comedy and a variety of musical numbers. The humour is broad and a little odd, but it works well. There is also a liberal amount of breaking of the fourth wall, in which characters talk back to the audience.
Most of the cast are familiar to fans of The Muppet Show, but there is a plethora of celebrity cameos as well. These include Edgar Bergen (in his last film appearance), Madeline Kahn, Steve Martin, Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor.
In a nice touch, the DVD includes director Jim Frawley’s original camera test footage of the puppets in a variety of outdoor settings. This is a great way to see how hard it is to make the Muppets appear real.