The funniest film screenplays of all time

I enjoy comedies so I was interested in this list of the 101 funniest screenplays of all time. The list ranks them in order but while such rank ordering is good for getting people to click and argue about which films are better than others, I tend to ignore the rankings and use such lists merely as general guides to identify good films that I might have missed.

And this list gave me some good ideas that should keep me busy for some time. Most of the films are well known but there are some I had never heard of and I was curious if readers had any recommendations for the lesser known ones.

There were of course some films that I had seen and did not think were particularly funny. I did not get the appeal of the Austin Powers films, for example. On the other hand, the list is for screenplays of films, not the films themselves, so maybe some films failed in the execution.


  1. says

    On the other hand, the list is for screenplays of films, not the films themselves, so maybe some films failed in the execution.

    Yes. I did not like the Blackadder series after the first one, but when I got the chance to read the scripts I realised how brilliantly funny they would have been but for overacting.

  2. MikeMa says

    I would add Nobody’s Fool to the list. The actors were excellent. Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, Bruce Willis & Phillip Seymour Hoffman. A riot. Richard Russo’s novel, Robert Benton Screenplay.

  3. DonDueed says

    It’s tough to know what to recommend among the films that are on the list, not knowing what you may have seen. But if you have any interest at all in the Star Trek franchise, you really have to see Galaxy Quest. It’s been described (humorously) as the best Star Trek movie, and that’s not far wrong.

    And I may have missed it, but I didn’t see The Lavender Hill Mob on the list. I’d certainly include it in my top 100. And The Italian Job (the original from the ’60s) isn’t strictly a comedy but it has some hilarious scenes, including the very end.

    Meta: I’m a bit surprised at how many of the listed films I’ve seen. Usually when lists like this come out I’m lucky if I’ve seen a third of them. This time it’s about 90%. I guess I like comedies.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    If you enjoyed Dr. Strangelove, you may also like The Manchurian Candidate. Cold war black comedy at its finest.

  5. mnb0 says

    Apparently movies only can be funny if English spoken.
    So to compensate I present three movies that you have to see or you won’t understand fully the meaning of “funny”:

    and as a bonus, because put entirely put into rhyme:

    Just because in continental Europe they have sense of humour as well ….

  6. says

    Thank you MikeMa, Nobody’s Fool is one of my favorite films. Great script and Newman’s performance was amazing.
    Sorry but I have to be negative for a moment: BRIDESMAIDS?????!!!! WTF???!!! I turned it off after about 30 minutes due to the fact that my cliche-counter doesn’t go that high.

  7. moarscienceplz says

    I’ve seen about 2/3 of the list and am in agreement that nearly all of the ones I’ve seen are very funny. However, I saw The Hangover for the first time about 2 weeks ago, and I shut it off halfway through. I gave it a try because Roger Ebert liked it a lot and he was usually a good barometer for me, but I don’t think I laughed once in the hour I invested in that thing.

  8. moarscienceplz says

    And I may have missed it, but I didn’t see The Lavender Hill Mob on the list.

    I suspect the list is limited to American films, because, yes, there should be a whole lot of British films in there. TLHB, of course, but also Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Ladykillers (Alec Guiness version, not that Tom Hanks fiasco), The Man in the White Suit, The Captain’s Paradise, also The Mouse that Roared, all of the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple movies, and I’m sure I’m missing many others.

  9. DonDueed says

    Yes, I think you’re right, they’re all American films. Another great comedy is the original French movie The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe. This is another one that was remade badly with Tom Hanks in the lead role.

  10. al kimeea says

    If you haven’t seen The Producers it is well worth a look. Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars and Dick Shawn all give inspired performances bringing ‘Springtime for Hitler’ to Broadway.

    Galaxy Quest and What’s Up Tiger Lily? are good choices too.

  11. Cementer 2000 says

    Among the lesser known films on the list, I’d recommend My Favorite Year — many memorable and hilarious scenes, a sweet story, and a great performance from Peter O’Toole.

  12. sonofrojblake says

    I think you’re right, they’re all American films.

    Apart from number 9. And 20. And 26, 29, 50, 53, and arguably 56.

    It’s a technical point, but funniest screenplay seems a strange place to see the almost entirely improvised Spinal Tap, but they did at least have the sense to ensure it appeared at 11. On the same logic, one would have hope to see the movie of the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy at number 42.

    For foreign languages, I’m not sure the screenplay would do it justice, but I laughed until I cried at “A Town Called Panic”.

    The most curmudgeonly and efficient way to engage with such generally-OK lists is to disparage them for what’s NOT on there, so I’ll note the absence of Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, Withnail, Four Lions, any Carry On films and anything at all by Pixar and be on my way.

  13. Mano Singham says

    It may help to specify what films I have seen and they are:

    That makes up 67 films or about 2/3 of the list.

  14. Holms says

    This list has no credibility, as it does not contain The Castle.

    Also, I don’t find the distinction that this concerns the funniest screenplays useful at all, as this is asking people to consider the strength of the script in the absence of its execution, a fairly large abstraction that seems designed to invite pontification from overly-serious-movie-buff- types. The only real thing we can judge with any real clarity is the final product that we actually experienced; attempting to peel away the layers is piling more subjectivity on something that is already entirely subjective.

  15. Mano Singham says

    I agree that The Castle definitely belongs on any list of the funniest films. It may get omitted because so few have heard of it. I stumbled upon it quite by accident.

  16. Friendly says

    Of the films I’ve seen that you haven’t, Mano, I can definitely recommend “His Girl Friday,” “It Happened One Night,” “Harold and Maude,” and especially “What’s Up, Doc?.” “Big,” “Ferris Bueller,” and “Clueless” are all quite good. “Young Frankenstein” is also good (although Marty Feldman gets most of the best bits IMHO), but I don’t really understand why so many people put it on a comedy pedestal. “Blue Brothers” is lots of fun (and very musically enjoyable) despite being kind of dumb; “South Park” is funny despite being relentlessly crude and profane. I remember mildly liking “Coming to America” but I can remember very little about the movie itself. I keep trying to watch “Bringing Up Baby” and keep getting hung up on Cary Grant’s character being treated as a verbal doormat. “Trading Places” is OK but contains some sophomoric material and an element of male rape that’s both stupid and offensive. “The Gold Rush” is amusing, but it wore a little thin for me after a while. I don’t think I’ve seen any of the Preston Sturges films on the list and that’s a deficit that I badly want to correct.

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