Comedy and intelligent are not exactly synonymous, or at least not anymore. The era of sex /gross-out comedies and parodies is here, and it seems that any truly funny movie you can show to your friends or family and still feel cultured and intelligent is just a dream. Judd Apatow and his crew are doing a lot of good for the comedy world, with surprisingly sharp writing and even gaining critical acclaim (something almost unheard of with sex comedies), but can their films really be considered classy and smart? Well there’s good news. You can be pretentious and elegant but still have your laughs at the same time. Here are the top ten films (in no particular order; we’re on the internet, I don’t want to start any trouble here) that prove this to be true:
10. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
In a word, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is ingenious. Probably one of the most quotable movies ever, Monty Python has stood the test of time. Almost 25 years after it first came out, Monty Python is still regarded as one of the funniest movies of all time. The entire film is a spoof of the numerous legends surrounding King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail. What makes this film so smart is the sheer innovation and daring of it, but what more do you expect from one of the greatest comedy troupes of all time? One of these innovations is the long-time running gag “breaking the fourth wall,” in which the bridge between the audience and the actors is destroyed, and there is no longer a distinct line between the film itself and the production taking place offscreen.
In fact, just see for yourself.
One of the many classic scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
9. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Starring the always reliable George Clooney who is coupled with an extremely talented supporting cast, O Brother, Where Art Thou is one of the most acclaimed comedies of all time, with two Oscar nods (Best Cinematography and Best Screenplay) to back that claim up. Comedic timing works especially well for Clooney, whose delivery of lines greatly enhances the movie’s already jocular humor. What makes this film so smart, however, is the story, which is loosely based on Homer’s epic The Odyssey. It tells the tale of convicts sprung from a chain gang trying to obtain lost loot from a forgotten bank heist. While that doesn’t sound anything like The Odyssey, there’s enough references and similarities to satisfy our Inner Greek.
8. Airplane! (1980)
Monty Python was a parody of a legend, but Airplane! managed to spoof the entire disaster movie genre. In the movie, the flight crew and several passengers aboard a commercial jet all succumb to food poisoning through a series of unfortunate circumstances. Luckily for them, Ted Striker is here and he knows how to fly planes. Unfortunately, he’s been traumatized and is deathly afraid of flying. With horrendous weather and an immense amount of pressure from the situation and the characters themselves, Striker must conquer his fear of flying and land the plane while dealing with relationship and other social issues.
Airplane! parodies and references so many films that you have to wonder whether it was all premeditated or if we’re just finding things that aren’t actually there. Airplane! retains its hilarity, even after three decades from its release, and remains one of the most quotable movies today. You might recognize some of these:
Reporter: “What kind of plane is it?”
Johnny: “Oh, it’s a big pretty white plane with red stripes, curtains in the windows and wheels and it looks like a big Tylenol.”
Rex Kramer: “Striker, listen, and you listen close: flying a plane is no different than riding a bicycle, just a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes.”
Rumack: “Can you fly this plane and land it?”
Ted Striker: “Surely you can’t be serious.”
Rumack: “I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.”
7. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The terms zombies, comedy, and movies aren’t really that unrelated nowadays. It’s even starting to become a definite genre in itself, but it was Shaun of the Dead that revamped the genre and set an entirely new standard.
The story focuses on ordinary Shaun who tries to reconcile relationships with his ex-girlfriend, parents, and friends throughout the film, all the while trying to fight off a horde of zombies. The brilliant script gives the impression of a parody but it still retains its independence and remains one of the most original and creative films in horror. Simon Pegg’s flawless performance as a normal man under extraordinary circumstances along with his comedic timing and delivery greatly adds to the overall comedic appeal to the film.
6. There’s Something About Mary (1998)
There’s Something About Mary is about a man (Ben Stiller) who misses his chance with his dreamgirl in high school, but has the fortune to meet up with her again as an adult. Unfortunately for him, he’s not the only one. Private detectives, ex-boyfriends, and con artists fall for Mary as well, and they all use a variety of tactics, from inducing drugs onto dogs to pretending to be a cripple, to court Mary. Every minute of this film borders on political incorrectness to gross-out comedy to the cruel and unusual, but somehow remains sharp and witty after all that. There truly is something about Mary.
5. In Bruges (2008)
Though this one’s a drama as much as it is a comedy, In Bruges is a breath of fresh air for the comedy genre with it’s fantastic writing and superb acting.
After a “difficult” job, two hitmen are forced to hide out in Bruges, Belguim and as they are forced to get used to the more quiet lifestyle, their lives begin to take a turn in another new and unfamiliar direction.
The funniest part about this film is the dialogue and interaction between the characters. Each one is written so uniquely and lively and the film is wickedly dark, in a totally hiliarious sort of way.
The film won a BAFTA award and was nominated for an Oscar for its screenplay.
Just one example of some of the character’s side-splitting but still eloquent interactions:
4. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
How do the words “British gangster comedy” strike you?
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is almost a perfect blend of comedy, action, and drama. But it’s mostly the comedy part.
Four poor, young men decide to pool all their money into an extremely high-stakes poker game, but things go wrong, and they end up owing half a million pounds to one of London’s most notorious and brutal gangsters.
While it doesn’t exactly have the strongest plot to stand on, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels survives solely on its dry wit. With a very fitting soundtrack and great delivery of the lines by the actors, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is just full of gems and quotes. It’ll do no good explaining, so it’s best to just show you:
Eddie: “They’re armed.”
Soap: “What was that? Armed? What do you mean armed? Armed with what?”
Eddie: “Err, bad breath, colorful language, feather duster… what do you think they’re gonna be armed with? Guns, you tit!”
“We grow copious amounts of ganja here, and you’re carrying a wasted girl and a bag of fertilizer. You don’t look like your average horti-fucking-culturalist.”
And the goldmine…
Bacon: “Harry didn’t think that he did a very good job, so he grabbed the nearest thing to hand, which just so happened to be a 15 inch black rubber cock, and proceeded to beat poor old Smithy to death with. And that was seen as a nice way to go. Now, that, is why you pay Hatchet Harry, when you owe.”
3. Beetlejuice (1988)
Tim Burton never fails to make people laugh as he always seems to incorporate some elements of dark humor into his movies, even in the gorefest musical Sweeney Todd. But Beetlejuice is his comedic masterpiece, however dark it may be, and the kooky rhythm and flow of the movie makes it unique and edgy.
Adam and Barbara were a normal couple until the day of the car accident. Now they’re dead, but they still haunt their house as ghosts. Unfortunately, a new family is trying to move into their home, but the couple won’t go down without a fight.
The funniest part of this movie is Michael Keaton’s performance. Brilliant and quirky, Keaton brought “eccentricity” to a new level and proved himself to be one of the most versatile actors of his generation.
You cannot explain Beetlejuice’s dynamics with words, but perhaps a clip will help:
2. American Psycho
American Psycho stars Christian Bale who expertly plays a wealthy executive that desperately tries to hide his more psychopathic alter ego from his co-workers and friends. As time passes, he slowly drops his seemingly normal mask, and becomes the American Psycho.
American Psycho is one of the most potent combination of comedy and horror ever to be filmed. Bale’s performance is both disturbing and yet comical, the epitome of a true psycho.
Though it’s almost unnecessarily violent and grotesque, American Psycho has many moments that will have you dumbfounded, and then laughing until you become slightly delirious. Never before has anyone managed to write a classic horror tale and embed the amount of comedy between the words that American Psycho has.
The scene below is a prime example of what I’m talking about and will leave you appalled, scared, and cackling:
1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Dr. Strangelove is probably the highest-rated comedy of all time. It was actually nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Writing, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Picture, nearly unheard of for a comedy film. Indeed, Dr. Strangelove deserves all the nominations/awards and more. The story centers around a mentally unstable US Air Force general who impulsingly orders a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Eventually, the US President, his advisors and other saff, and even the Royal Air Force all attempt to recall the bombers in order to prevent the evident nuclear apocalypse. The film was in made in 1964, and the topic of nuclear war was frighteningly sensitive. But this did not stop the filmmakers. Taking numerous shots at the Cold War and the controversies surrounding it, Dr. Strangelove is arguably one of the best if not the best political satires in media.
The Trailer of Dr. Strangelove.