The 50 funniest films chosen by comedians

From the canonical to the controversial, and in no particular order, we asked 10 standups to pick 50 movies that make them giggle. They made some surprising choices

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Sarah Millican. Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Observer

Sarah Millican

After winning the best newcomer award at the Edinburgh festival in 2008 with Sarah Millicans Not Nice, a show inspired by her divorce, the South Shields-born comedian has toured four successful standup shows, had two Bafta nominations for her BBC2 series The Sarah Millican Television Programme and was voted queen of comedy at the 2011 British comedy awards. Her most recent show, Sarah Millican: Outsider, is out now on DVD.

1 Raising Arizona

Joel and Ethan Coen, 1987

I love the Coen brothers generally, but this is one of my favourites. So beautifully shot, so lean, so wonderfully acted by Nicolas Cage before he had to save the world in everything and ace Holly Hunter. Its farcical, its slapsticky, its daft, its brilliant. Former criminal Cage falls in love with cop Hunter. They want a baby. The local furniture magnate and his wife have just had quintuplets. Surely they wouldnt miss one?

2 The Nutty Professor

Jerry Lewis, 1963

Not the multi-Eddie Murphy fart-tastic spectacular. Rather the far superior 1963 version with the genius of Jerry Lewis. The story is much the same but Jerry Lewis plays an uber-nerd who becomes suave sophisticate Buddy Love once hes knocked back his concoction. Much preferred to the fat shaming of the later version. The scene with the pocket watch gets me every time. I almost forgive Jerry Lewiss views on female comedians. Almost, but not quite.

3 Bridesmaids

Paul Feig, 2011

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Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Rose Byrne in Bridesmaids. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

Every now and again, a brilliant film chock full of excellent women threatens to change things for actresses in Hollywood. Look, we can be loads of things, not just wives and victims and strippers and dead bodies! Look, women of all ages and faces have value! Of course it never takes off but we are still left with these excellent milestones of awesome. I love Bridesmaids. And everyone in it Wiig, Rudolph, Byrne, McCarthy, Kimmy Schmidt! Its rude, its very funny and has the best diarrhoea scene.

4 When Harry Met Sally

Rob Reiner, 1989

I was a naive 15-year-old when it came out at the cinema and had no interest in a film about relationships. We only went me, my sister and parents because Turner & Hooch (a dog that has witnessed a murder, yes please!) had sold out. But I loved it. I dont think Id trust anyone who didnt love this classic romcom. Most romcoms dont have enough com but Nora Ephron was a wonderful comedy writer. My sister and I used to go to a film class where we studied films and dissected them. When the lecturer announced next weeks film was When Harry Met Sally my sister and I stopped going.

Leave it alone.

Also picked by David Baddiel, who says:
Nora Ephrons masterpiece, Ive noticed, just gets better with every viewing. Its the best ever romantic comedy, because it recognises that relationships are also about friendship. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal have the finest chemistry ever seen on screen, and the dialogue is fantastic, particularly in the (now impossible to imagine, a producer would insist on it being cut) long opening driving scene: So youre saying a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive? Naah, you pretty much wanna nail them too.

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David Baddiel

Born in New York and raised in London, David Baddiel first came to fame on BBC2s The Mary Whitehouse Experience, in partnership with Rob Newman, before collaborating with Frank Skinner on projects including the hit ITV show Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned. Since then, he has written screenplays, sitcoms and stage shows, including 2016s one-man show My Family: Not the Sitcom. A prolific novelist and childrens author, his latest book for kids, AniMalcolm, is out now (HarperCollins, 12.99).

5 Pitch Perfect

Jason Moore, 2012

Im going to begin with a curveball. I dont think this will be on that many other lists: those who have not seen it will assume its a musical (which it is), and a teenage girls film (which it is I went to see it, not expecting that much, with my teenage daughter). But none of these things stop it from being brilliantly funny. Zinger for zinger, its up there with the best, Rebel Wilson is hilarious and the singing is accamazing. Just dont bother with the sequel.

6 Play It Again, Sam

Herbert Ross, 1972

Woody

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figcaption class=”caption” caption–img caption caption–img” itemprop=”description”> Woody Allen in Play it Again, Sam. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Paramount Pictures

The perfect point of Woody Allen, just when he was stopping being a total slapstick clown but before he became too serious. The scene where he meets his blind date near the start may be the funniest in all cinema. And the final scene, where he does a speech you half-recognise, and Diane Keaton says: Thats beautiful and Woody says: Its from Casablanca I waited my whole life to say it, always makes me cry and laugh at the same time, a place I like to live in, comically, these days.

7 Team America: World Police

Trey Parker, 2004

When the dust has settled, we may discover that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, with The Book of Mormon, South Park and this ultra-funny potty-mouthed puppet adventure, have won comedy for all time. I started watching this with my son the other day and just wanted to keep watching it with him, but following the Aids musical sequence, his mum insisted it wasnt appropriate. She was right, of course, but at some level I think a film this funny will always be an appropriate education for my children.

8 Borat

Larry Charles, 2006

This is No 1 for me because I can remember more laughs watching this than any other movie. And Im not even thinking of the naked wrestling scene, which, to be honest, makes me feel a bit dizzy and sick. Sacha Baron Cohen finds in Borat a classical, eternal clown like Homer Simpson, no matter how wrong he is, you cant help rooting for him but also something unbelievably modern about globalisation and ethnicity and outsider culture and America. Plus it makes antisemitism hilarious, both in the scene when Borat thinks the Jewish B&B owners have turned into cockroaches and, in the (imaginary) Kazakhstan-set opening, the extraordinary Borat-commentated Running of the Jew ceremony: Wait, here comes Mrs Jew!!!

Also picked by Sarah Millican, who says:
Yes, Sacha Baron Cohens Borat is hilarious. But the day I saw it at the cinema, it wasnt the only funny thing happening. Before the film started, my friend placed his massive tub of chocolate Ben & Jerrys on the seat while he took off his jacket. He forgot hed done that then threw himself fully down on to the ice-cream. I was crying with laughter before the film even started. He scraped the bulk of it off his jeans and we watched the film, knowing full well that at the end, as we left the cinema, he would look like hed shat hisself. The film was still funnier.

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Stewart Lee

Observer columnist and a stalwart of the standup circuit, Stewart Lee also had a Bafta-winning solo show that ran for four series on BBC2: Stewart Lees Comedy Vehicle. Born in Shropshire, he began performing standup aged 20 and in the 90s formed a comedy duo with Richard Herring. In 2001 he co-wrote Jerry Springer: The Opera, which went on to win four Olivier awards. His current show, Stewart Lee: Content Provider, is at Leicester Square theatre until 28 January and touring throughout 2017. See stewartlee.co.uk for details.

9 Carry On Screaming!

Gerald Thomas, 1966

The League of Gentlemen all cite the same 70s TV screening of Carry On Screaming! as an influence. Because it was parodying a cinematic milieu British 50s and 60s horror of which I as a little boy knew nothing, it seemed utterly unanchored, occurring in an incomprehensibly surreal world of saturated-colour Frankensteins, Wolfmans and Draculas. Kenneth Williams, Fenella Fielding, Charles Hawtrey and Harry H Corbett are all superb. And, while remaining tonally accurate, the script bubbles with great stupid jokes. The banquet scene in Carry On Up the Khyber is the series highlight, but this is the funniest Carry On film and its Victorian gothic milieu protects it from the ravages of squeamish social revisionism, which have rightly rendered many Carry Ons unwatchable.

10 Festen

Thomas Vinterberg, 1998

The first time I saw Festens family reunion gone wrong I found it unremittingly bleak. Then, years later, I watched it again and laughed my head off. Its possible to view Festen as the blackest black comedy ever made. If you thought your family parties were bad, try this one. Violent beatings, abuse revelations, racist songs and suicides are all relayed via the puritanical dictates of the Dogme 95s manifesto in a lucid, watery, midnight sunlight. Its the cinematic equivalent of the standup who refuses to crack a smile but gets you in the end.

11 Get Santa

Christopher Smith, 2014

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Jim Broadbent (centre) in Get Santa. Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros.

A family film that pleases everyone on the sofa without being remotely patronising is a joyful thing and a relief for parents. Jim Broadbent, in a career-defining performance, is Santa, who crashes his sleigh into a shed, leaving estranged ex-con father Rafe Spall and his son to save Christmas and round up the reindeer. The scene where Santa, now in jail, talks to the prisoners about their childhoods deftly avoids sugary sentiment. Santas delight at meeting jailbird Warwick Davis, whom he naively mistakes for an elf, is brilliantly handled. Its the funniest film no one has seen, except parents with young families, desperate for a moments respite at Christmas.

12 Who Dares Wins

Ian Sharp, 1982

Why not watch this reactionary antiCND action thriller while imagining it is actually a Comic Strip parody and pretending it stars Keith Allen instead of Lewis Collins? In one of the nastiest films ever made, coming off like Richard Littlejohn writing The Professionals, married SAS man Collins goes undercover with peaceniks to gallantly probe their firebrand leader (an admirably committed and oddly out of place) Judy Davis, only to murder her in cold blood later. Fairport Convention appear as some kind of beardo commie new wave band, playing a weird boingy protest music that never existed anywhere except in the imagination of the makers of this hilarious atrocity. Wines Oz Clarke has a small role as a man looking suspiciously through a window, but refused my requests to appear on stage when I screened Who Dares Wins in the Barbicans Bad Film Club season.

13 The Unbelievable Truth

Hal Hartley, 1989

When I was twentysomething, Hal Hartley seemed to speak directly to me. I was a fan of his in the way Id been a Smiths fan in my teens, eager for his next release. The Unbelievable Truth is his first and funniest film and stars the luminous, now late, Adrienne Shelly. Few of Hartleys subsequent movies are really comedies and I really like his mid-period stuff where he experiments with movement and dance, but his sense of the absurd persists into his current, crowd-funded and criminally neglected work. In The Unbelievable Truth, small-town American parent-child conflict is realised with a kind of Chekhovian minimalism. Deadpan characters spew out lengthy standup soliloquies in crimped cul-de-sacs. Nobody works the jokes. They just lie there, asking for your consideration, indifferent to your approval.

14 Thundercrack!

Curt McDowell, 1975

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George Kuchar and Marion Eaton in Thundercrack!

McDowell took porn money to fund George Kuchars weird comedy noir script. Today, I dont know if Id stomach the hairy 70s hardcore scenes he was obliged to include, but Thundercrack! remains a work of deranged genius. Harsh lighting and ponderous piano frame six storm-tossed travellers pursued by an amorous ape, sheltering in the home of a crazy lady whose sexually deformed son is locked in the cellar. In 1994 I turned away from Kuchars San Francisco door, having failed to pluck up the courage to congratulate him on his ludicrous vision.

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Photograph: Dan Wooller/Rex/Shutterstock

Stephen Merchant

Best known for co-creating the award-winning sitcoms The Office and Extras with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant began his comedy career doing stand-up in his home town of Bristol. In 2010 he and Gervais co-wrote and co-directed the film Cemetery Junction and he has since worked extensively, both writing and performing, in TV and film. He has won four British comedy awards, three Baftas and an Emmy.

15 Monkey Business

Norman Z McLeod, 1931

Theres a punk-like anarchy to the Marx Brothers that I really admire and find very funny. This is my favourite of their films. Its essentially plotless its just them as stowaways on a cruise liner running amok, briefly hitting the land, then running amok again at the end. Most comedy acts try to live within the parameters of society, but the Marx Brothers are like crazy animated characters walking over furniture and over conventions. Everything is fair game for them to mock and they have no respect for anything: authority, people, danger or each other.

16 MacGruber

Jorma Taccone, 2010

I almost never laugh out loud when Im on my own but while channel-surfing in a hotel room I happened to find this film and was in hysterics. It stars Will Forte, whos a Saturday Night Live alumnus. He had this character on the show called MacGruber, who was essentially a pastiche of action movie hero characters, like Bruce Willis in Die Hard. The sketches were quite popular and then they made a film, which was essentially considered a flop at the time. But as times gone on its got a cult following. Im not even a big fan of spoof movies I always think its a bit easy to spoof something but this is just giddily funny in the way that I remember Airplane! was for me as a teenager. It never seems to go for the obvious joke.

17 Meet the Parents

Jay Roach, 2000

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Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents. Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar

I love a film built on a very real-life anxiety like meeting your partners parents. Here, the father is a former CIA agent and the young mans got to impress him. They squeeze every drop of funny out of it; you never feel shortchanged. When we were making The Office, around the same time this film came out, we also played a lot on discomfort and awkwardness, and I think they did that really well in this film. Being given a polygraph test by your prospective father-in-law is just such a great idea for comedy.

18 The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese, 2013

Martin Scorsese for me is one of the great underrated comedy directors. When he goes for laughs, hes really good. I really like After Hours, and The King of Comedy makes me laugh harder every time I watch it. But The Wolf of Wall Street, though not a comedy, has one of the funniest sequences in recent history: the bit where the Jordan Belfort character, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, has taken drugs and theyve zombified him, but he has to get home in his Lamborghini. The scene where he is trying to get down some stairs to his car is one of the best pieces of comedy Ive ever seen. And because the stakes are raised the FBI are on to him, he desperately has to get back its just twice as funny. Then theres that great gag where he thinks he drove back seamlessly and you discover he totalled his Lamborghini.

19 The Road to Utopia

Hal Walker, 1945

I grew up watching Bob Hope films with my dad. The rapport that he had with Bing Crosby in this film is just delicious. Hes lambasted now, seen as a sort of dinosaur of comedy, but when he first came along there was something effortless, cool and contemporary about him. He wasnt just slapstick, he was joking about sex and modern life. He was subversive. Theres lots of looking at the camera, breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience; all the things that we associate with postmodern comedy that came later, like Monty Python. You can see he influenced Woody Allen and Im sure Chevy Chase and Tom Hanks, too.

20 Swingers

Doug Liman, 1996

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Vince Vaughn in Swingers. Photograph: Pictures/Alfred/Rex/Shutterstock

I first saw Swingers when I was reviewing films for a magazine in Bristol. I didnt know who any of the actors were, no one knew them at the time, it was this small, independent film. Within five or 10 minutes, I was completely enamoured of the actors and their world. It captured something about the way that men speak to each other in their early 20s, the attempts at machismo and the vulnerability behind that. I watched it again recently. It absolutely nails everything about those times when you were trying to be cooler than you were or sexier or wittier or smarter. It has so many great lines, such as when theyre in a club and its really going off, its totally wild, and someone says: Lets get out of here and the other says: Yeah, this place is dead anyway, man.

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Photograph: Chris Floyd

Bridget Christie

In 2013, after years on the comedy circuit, Bridget Christie won the Edinburgh comedy award for best show with her feminist-themed A Bic for Her. Christie, now 45, studied at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in Wandsworth and later fell into standup. Her debut book, A Book for Her, was published last year and her live show, Because You Demanded It, is at Leicester Square theatre 31 January to 11 February then touring until June. Details at bridgetchristie.co.uk.

21 Best in Show

Christopher Guest, 2000

I love this mockumentary comedy film so much I can watch it again and again. Its laugh-out-loud funny but also profound and moving. And it has dogs in it. It follows five entrants (four couples and one man) as they travel to, and compete in, a dog show with their beloved pets. Knowing that much of the dialogue was improvised makes it all the more impressive. Eugene Levy and Jane Lynch are especially sublime, but all the performances are glorious.

22 The King of Comedy

Martin Scorsese, 1982

Robert

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figcaption class=”caption” caption–img caption caption–img” itemprop=”description”> Robert De Niro in The King of Comedy. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex

This black comedy stars Robert De Niro as Rupert Pupkin, an aspiring, unsuccessful standup comedian and fantasist. Pupkin, a stage-door autograph hunter, briefly meets the famous comedian and talkshow host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) when he is mobbed by fans. Pupkin sees this chance meeting as his big break. He turns up at Langfords offices with a tape of his standup begging for a slot on the show. After constant rejections from Langford, Pupkin becomes increasingly psychopathic and eventually kidnaps him. Its equal parts hilarious and horrifying and Sandra Bernhard is outstanding.

Also picked by Tim Key, who says:
Scorsese and De Niro have a crack at comedy here and it turns out pretty well, actually. The lengths our hero goes to to make his dreams come true are hilarious and underneath it all theres a grim prescience of the celebrity-worshipping times we are stuck with now. One of their greatest collaborations.

23 This Is Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner, 1984

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Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

A satire on the behaviour of heavy metal bands and a parody of rock documentaries of the time, this classic follows a fictional British heavy metal band, Spinal Tap, on tour. Mainly improvised, and directed by Rob Reiner, it is a comedic masterpiece from start to finish. My family and I were obsessed with it in the 1980s. My brother, who I rarely see because he lives in Sweden, will send a text now and then just saying: Whos in here? No one or: These go to 11 or: Do you wear black? Ill probably quote Spinal Tap on my deathbed.

24 The Aristocrats

Paul Provenza, 2005

The Aristocrats is a documentary comedy in which 100 comedians tell variations on the same joke thats been told by comedians since the vaudeville era. The set-up (a family pitching an idea for an act to a talent agency) and the punchline We call the act The Aristocrats leaves the middle section free for the comedian to think of the worst, most obscene, offensive and taboo act they can imagine. I laughed so much watching this film I was exhausted and covered in sweat by the end; Gilbert Gottfrieds decision to tell the joke at the 2001 roasting of Hugh Hefner is one of the most awe-inspiring pieces of standup Ive ever seen.

25 Men in Black

Barry Sonnenfeld, 1997

While Men in Black certainly isnt the most hilarious film ever made, Vincent DOnofrio as Edgar the Bug, an alien bug who crashes on to Earth and ste

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/dec/18/the-50-funniest-comedy-films-chosen-comedians-stewart-lee-sarah-millican-david-baddiel

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