My Favorite Classic Comedies


My Favorite Classic Comedies

Back in May of 1997 I offered up a list of my 50 favorite movie comedies of all time. Eventually it seemed to me that it was time to update the list, adding a few more, perhaps dropping one or two. Of course, that didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped, and now I have a list of my 77favorite comedies! Thanks to those of you who suggested some I’d missed.

As before, I’ve tried to avoid listing films by the same directors or actors over and over. Thus you won’t find 20 Woody Allen films here, even though I love them all. Nor all the Monty Python or Mel Brooks films, either.

These are mostly pure comedies, not comedy/dramas or musical comedies or action/adventure. They are all sound films, because the silent film comedy is a genre unto itself, which I hope to deal with separately. I also wanted to list films that are easily available on videotape.

There are no current films on this list (and only a handful from the 90s, including one fairly recent film which is already a cult classic), because one of my requirements is that the movie has to make me laugh out loud even after repeated viewings


The mid-60s through the mid-70s was my favorite period, representing close to half of the films on this list. I’m sure that’s just a personal thing; the decade after I graduated from high school was probably when I had the most fun and saw the most movies. (Even though I didn’t inhale, I still found myself laughing a lot!) And it might seem as if hardly anybody has made me laugh since 1989 except Billy Crystal, but sometimes a person just gets on a roll. I felt the same way about Jack Lemmon in the late 50s and early 60s, Barbara Stanwyck in 1941, and Mel and Woody in the 70s. Who can explain it?

With all that having been (probably unnecessarily) said, here they are, in chronological order, with links to the Internet Movie Database.


It Happened One Night (1934) – Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Frank Capra (dir)

A Night At The Opera (1935) – The Marx Brothers

The Awful Truth (1937) – Cary Grant, Irene Dunne

Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Howard Hawks (dir)

You Can’t Take It With You (1938) – Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, Frank Capra (dir)


The Bank Dick (1940) – W.C. Fields

The Philadelphia Story (1940) – Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, George Cukor (dir)

The Great Dictator (1940) – Charlie Chaplin

Ball of Fire (1941) – Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, Howard Hawks (dir)

Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) – Robert Montgomery, Claude Rains

The Lady Eve (1941) – Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Preston Sturges (dir)

Sullivan’s Travels (1942) – Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Preston Sturges (dir)

To Be or Not To Be (1942) – Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Ernst Lubitsch (dir)

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) – Cary Grant, Peter Lorre, Frank Capra (dir)

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) – Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, Preston Sturges (dir)

Life With Father (1947) – William Powell, Irene Dunne, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Curtiz (dir)

The Paleface (1948) – Bob Hope, Jane Russell

Adam’s Rib (1949) – Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, George Cukor (dir)


Born Yesterday (1950) – Judy Holliday, William Holden, George Cukor (dir)

Harvey (1950) – Jimmy Stewart

We’re No Angels (1955) – Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, Aldo Ray, Joan Bennett, Michael Curtiz (dir)

No Time for Sergeants (1958) – Andy Griffith, Nick Adams, Mervyn LeRoy (dir)

Operation Petticoat (1959) – Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Blake Edwards (dir)

Some Like It Hot (1959) – Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Billy Wilder (dir)


The Apartment (1960) – Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Billy Wilder (dir)

Irma La Douce (1963) – Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Billy Wilder (dir)

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) – Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, Dorothy Provine, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, Stanley Kramer (dir)

The Pink Panther (1963) – Peter Sellers, David Niven, Robert Wagner, Blake Edwards (dir)

Tom Jones (1963) – Albert Finney, Tony Richardson (dir)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964) – Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Stanley Kubrick (dir)

Shot in the Dark, A (1964) – Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, Blake Edwards (dir)

Cat Ballou (1965) – Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin

A Thousand Clowns (1965) – Jason Robards, Barbara Harris

What’s New, Pussycat? (1965) – Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen

The King of Hearts (1966) – Alan Bates, Genevieve Bujold

The Wrong Box (1966) – John Mills, Ralph Richardson, Michael Caine, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Peter Sellers

The Flim-Flam Man (1967) – George C. Scott, Michael Sarrazin, Sue Lyon

The Odd Couple (1968) – Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Neil Simon (author)

The Party (1968) – Peter Sellers, Blake Edwards (dir)

The Producers (1968) – Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks (dir)

Take The Money and Run (1969) – Woody Allen


M*A*S*H (1970) – Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Robert Altman (dir)

The Out-of-Towners (1970) – Jack Lemmon, Sandy Dennis

The Twelve Chairs (1970) – Frank Langella, Don DeLuise, Mel Brooks

Bananas (1971) – Woody Allen, Louse Lasser

A New Leaf (1971) – Walter Matthau, Elaine May

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) – Woody Allen and a cast of thousands, including John Carradine, Lou Jacobi, Louise Lasser, Anthony Quayle, Tony Randall, Lynn Redgrave, Burt Reynolds, & Gene Wilder

The Hot Rock (1972) – Robert Redford, George Segal

Sleeper (1973) – Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

The Sting (1973) – Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, George Roy Hill (dir)

Blazing Saddles (1974) – Mel Brooks, Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Corman, Slim Pickens, Madeline Kahn

Young Frankenstein (1974) – Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Mel Brooks (dir)

Love & Death (1975) – Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) – Monty Python Troupe

The Sunshine Boys (1975) – Walter Matthau, George Burns, Richard Benjamin

Silver Streak (1976) – Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh

Annie Hall (1977) – Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) – John Belushi, Tom Hulce, Stephen Furst, Karen Allen, Peter Riegert, Tim Matheson, John Landis (dir)

The Jerk (1979) – Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Carl Reiner (dir)

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) – Monty Python Troupe


Airplane! (1980) – Robert Hays, Julie Hegarty, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielson, Robert Stack, Abrahams & Zuker (dir)

The Blues Brothers (1980) – John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, John Landis (dir)

Caddyshack (1980) – Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Harold Ramis (dir)

My Favorite Year (1982) – Peter O’Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna, Richard Benjamin (dir)

Tootsie (1982) – Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray, Jessica Lange, Terri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Sydney Pollack (dir)

A Christmas Story (1983) – Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley, Bob Clark (dir), Jean Shepard (author, narrator)

Trading Places (1983) – Dan Ackroyd, Eddie Murphy, Denholm Elliot, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, John Landis (dir)

Ghostbusters (1984) – Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Ivan Reitman (dir)

This is Spinal Tap (1984) – Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner (dir)

The Princess Bride (1987) – Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Rob Reiner (dir)

Raising Arizona (1987) – Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Joel & Ethan Coen (dir/writer)

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) – John Cleese, Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline

Big (1988) – Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Penny Marshall (dir)

When Harry Met Sally… (1989) – Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby, Rob Reiner (dir)

City Slickers (1991) – Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby, Jack Palance

My Cousin Vinny (1992) – Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Fred Gwynn

Groundhog Day (1993) – Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott

Ed Wood (1994) – Johnny Depp, Martin Landau

Babe (1995)

Shakespeare in Love (1998) – Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck

Office Space (1999) – Ron Livingston, Gary Cole, Mike Judge (dir)


Other classic movie checklists that you’ll enjoy.

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