A couple of years ago, you may have seen the list that the American Film Institute put out of the top 100 funniest movies ever made. Chances are, there were movies on the list that had you scratching your head. Even more likely, you had issues about where your favorite funny movies placed. Apparently you weren’t the only one. Since the A.F.I. list came out, both Reader’s Digest and Bravo TV have compiled their own lists. Personally, these made me wonder more than ever, just who makes these lists.
The A.F.I. web site says that it’s list was voted on by 1800 A.F.I. members. I have no idea what the critereon is for becoming a member of this organization is, but I’m guessing you have to be something of an old movie afficiando to join based on the fact that the most recent movie they list is from 1998. The Reader’s Digest site does not say who put together the list and theirs is not a ranking, merely a listing, in chronological order of what they deem to be the funniest movies. It almost looks like they decided they needed to include movies from every decade which means they had to leave out some true gems and makes it obvious that the 1970’s was not a good decade for comedy. Theirs is the only list to include any foreign films Considering the demographics of the average Reader’s Digest consumer, it’s not surprising to find movies dating back to 1925 on the list. Bravo TV does not even have a link to their listing on their web page. Judging from the fact that none of the movies on their list date prior to 1960 and based on their selections, I’d say the panel at Bravo must be made up of men, nearly all of whom are in their twenties and thirties.
So which list is most accurate? Looking over the lists, it quickly becomes obvious that “funny” is largely a matter of opinion and that whether or not a movie should be classified as a funny movie is as well. The Bravo list is almost entirely made of movies that were made to be and marketed as comedies. Very few “dark” comedies make the lists, although Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, does appear on all three lists. The Reader’s Digest list contains more movies that had comedic elements, although they were not necessarily meant to be strictly comedies, such as Shakespeare In Love and Singin’ In The Rain.
Twenty-four movies appeared on all three lists which is probably a good indication that they are the true comedy classics and are movies that everyone should see. These movies are (in no particular order): Silver Streak, Tootsie, Lost In America, Ghostbusters, City Slickers, Nutty Professor, Broadcast News, This Is Spinal Tap, Private Benjamin, Dr. Strangelove, American Graffiti, 9 to 5, Harold and Maude, Good Morning Vietnam, Beetlejuice, Groundhog Day, Annie Hall, A Fish Called Wanda, Big, M*A*S*H, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, The Producers (1968), Airplane, and There’s Something About Mary. You’re probably looking at these and already saying “Uh? What about Young Frankenstein, Bananas, and Blazing Saddles? Blame those omissions on the folks at Reader’s Digest; those three movies and another eleven were on both the Bravo and A.F.I. lists. The Reader’s Digest panel apparently decided that 1976’s Car Wash and The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings were funnier movies. Yea – I had the same reaction to those being on anyone’s list as you probably just had. Fifty-two movies appeared on both the A.F.I. and Reader’s Digest lists; many of these where the movies that were made between 1925 and 1960. Six movies appeared on both the Reader’s Digest and Bravo lists that didn’t appear on the A.F.I. list; these were all movies made after 1982.
Cary Grant and Woody Allen were two of the big winners on the A.F.I. and Reader’s Digest lists but Bravo completely ignored Grant and only one of Allen’s films, Bananas, made the Bravo list. Only the Bravo list included series (the Police Academy series came in at 59 and the Naked Gun series came in at 13).
Comparing the list rankings, I put together a composite top ten list of movies (because the Reader’s Digest list did not rank the movies, I gave each movie one point for each list it appeared on in order to give that list some weight). And the winners are: #10 Arthur, #9 Dr Strangelove, #8 A Fish Called Wanda, #7 Animal House, #6 Annie Hall, #5 There’s Something About Mary, #4 M*A*S*H, #3 The Producers, #2 Airplane, and – -drumroll, please – coming in at #1 Blazing Saddles.
I recommend you take these lists with you the next time you head to your local video rental store. Be sure to read the backs of the boxes, however, before you rent them. If you’re a big fan of Spencer Tracy’s comedies, you might not care much for the crude humor in Southpark: Bigger, Longer & Uncut or Team America: World Police. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and The Aristocrats, you may find The Thin Man or Harvey a little too tame for your tastes. On the other hand (wait, doesn’t that make three hands???), try something new – you might just find your tastes are more varied than you thought. Get ready to laugh and don’t forget the popcorn!