The legendary American comedian Lenny Bruce once said, “The only honest art form is laughter. You can’t fake it.” And as far as cinema is concerned, the comedy genre has produced some of the finest pieces of art of all time.
Whether you’re looking for a piece of cinematic history or you just fancy a giggle, comedy films offer a unique form of escapism.
So, to hopefully offer some inspiration for your next movie night, we’ve put together a list of 20 of the best comedy films of all time…
1. Ghostbusters (1984)
When a team of university parapsychologists find themselves unemployed, they decide to use their expertise in paranormal activity to enter into an entirely different line of work: fighting ghosts.
However, after they come across an ancient supernatural threat, the team of Ghostbusters must battle to prevent the end of the world.
Ghostbusters is regarded as a classic in the world of comedy and for good reason. Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd’s witty script is jam-packed with quotable one-liners, and a stand-out performance from comedy all-star Billy Murray makes it sing on screen.
This family favourite truly stands the test of time – with its poorly-aged special effects only adding to entertainment value.
2. Bridesmaids (2011)
When it was released in 2011, Bridesmaids was immensely successful with audiences and critics alike. It was a landmark in cinema history; breaking all kinds of records at the box office.
Kristen Wiig stars as Annie; a downtrodden and lost young woman who begrudgingly accepts maid of honour duties when she learns her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married.
Leading the way for a motley gang of bridesmaids, Annie struggles to keep things running smoothly in the run up to the big day – not only with the wedding but in her own life as well.
A perfect cocktail of witty and shock comedy, this ensemble flick will have you in bits from start to finish.
3. Duck Soup (1933)
Considered by many to be the best comedy troupe of all time (and certainly one of the most influential), the Marx Brothers specialised in comedy which incorporated slapstick with clever wordplay and witty puns.
The last film to feature all four of the Marx Brothers, Duck Soup revolves around Rufus T. Firefly; the dictator of the fictional country of Freedonia. We follow his journey as he contends with the financial destitution of his nation and an antagonistic relationship with the neighbouring nation of Sylvania.
Jam-packed with bumbling spies and incompetent leaders, Duck Soup takes well-aimed jabs at international politics that are still scathingly relevant today.
Funnily enough, 1993’s Duck Soup, which is now heralded as the Marx Brothers’ finest film, was received by both critics and audiences as a relative disappointment. However, in the years since its release, Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zippo’s zany satire has shuffled its way into the comedy hall of fame.
4. Step Brothers (2008)
Anchorman, Elf, Old School…Will Ferrel films are an absolute staple of the comedy genre, and they’re made even better by his frequent collaborations with actor and comic John C. Reiley. But the film in which this dynamic duo shine brightest is undoubtedly 2008’s Step Brothers.
Ferrel and Reily star as Brennan and Dale – two unambitious and juvenile middle-aged men who still live at home with their single parents. However, things get complicated when their parents get married, forcing the two of them to live together.
Step Brothers is an uproarious flick that puts an absurd spin on step-sibling rivalry. But it also has a lot of heart – reinforcing the age-old message that family is what you make it.
5 & 6. Paddington (1 and 2) (2014 and 2017)
Paddington (and its 2017 sequel) brings the beloved children’s literary character to life. We follow the little bear leaving his home in the Peruvian rainforest and travelling to London, where he’s taken in by the Brown family.
Probably the two most critically-revered flicks on this list, Paddington 2 sports a ‘certified fresh’ rating of 99% on the famous movie review site Rotten Tomatoes – with the original coming in at 97%.
The big-screen adventures of everyone’s favourite marmalade-loving bear, voiced by the excellent Ben Wishaw, are the perfect feel-good comedy films for all the family.
7. Some Like it Hot (1959)
Tootsie, Mrs Doubtfire…men dressing up as women to get themselves out of (or into) sticky situations has been a trusted, if a little problematic, staple of the comedy genre for years. And the flick that started it all was Billy Wilder’s 1959 hit; Some Like it Hot.
Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon star as unfortunate Chicago buddies Joe and Jerry who witness a mob hit. Fearing for their lives, they devise a hair-brained scheme to disguise themselves as women and join an all-female jazz band on their way to Florida.
Some Like it Hot co-stars Marilyn Monroe in one of her most iconic roles; the band’s seductive singer Sugar Kane. This piece of comedy cinema history shares a lot of similarities with popular modern comedies, with a fast-moving, high-energy plot and plenty of laughs.
8. Coming to America (1988)
When a spoilt African prince named Akeem (Eddie Murphy) turns 21, he forgoes tradition and refuses the blind marriage that his father has arranged for him.
Instead, he and his trusted valet (Arsenio Hall) take off to America in search of true love.
Once he arrives in New York, Prince Akeem goes undercover by posing as an exchange student to find a woman that loves him for who he is rather than for his title.
This fish-out-of-water comedy is one of the films that helped cement Eddie Murphy as one of comedy’s all-time greats. Coming to America has remained so popular over the decades that the sequel was made over 30 years later!
9. Booksmart (2019)
The ‘coming of age’ story is certainly well-trodden ground for the comedy film genre, and many of them have undoubtedly become classics. There’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Superbad, and Dazed and Confused, just to name a few.
But one newcomer to this hall of fame subgenre group that’s worth a mention is Olivia Wilde’s hilarious 2019 directorial debut; Booksmart.
Set on the eve of their high school graduation, academic high-flyers Amy (Kaitlyn Denver) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) come to the realisation that they’ve spent too much time studying, and not enough time doing, well, everything else.
Determined to recapture their teenage years in one epic night before they head off to college, the girls set out on a zany adventure.
10. Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1975)
Monty Python and The Holy Grail might be a slightly controversial choice for this list. While this is undoubtedly one of the most critically-acclaimed and treasured comedies of all time, we haven’t included the beloved sketch group’s later instalment: Life of Brian, which many herald as their finest work.
Laugh for laugh, we think this absurd re-telling of Arthurian legend takes the top spot.
In this hilarious film, King Arthur of Camelot (Graham Chapman) and his Knights of the Round Table are recruited by God to find the Holy Grail. Throughout their journey, they’re sidetracked by a series of ludicrous adventures and ridiculous characters.
This piece of comedy history will have you laughing from start to finish.
11. Withnail and I (1987)
In Withnail and I, Paul McGann and Richard E. Grant star as a pair of unemployed actors who spend their days in an alcoholic stupor in the squalor of 1960s Camden.
Desperate for a change, they head to the countryside to stay in Withnail’s uncle’s cottage. When they arrive, they find that the trip is far from the idyllic and restorative vacation they had in mind.
Withnail and I wasn’t exactly a box-office hit when it came out in 1987, but in the years since it’s become somewhat of a cult classic. This is largely due to two career-defining performances from McGann and Grant, as well as a sharp script from writer and director Bruce Robinson.
Withnail and I explores a very British kind of melancholy in a hilarious, yet poignant way.
12. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Simon Pegg stars in this 2004 horror-comedy mash-up as the titular Shaun; an unambitious and aimless salesman whose girlfriend has just broken up with him.
Along with his friend Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun spends his life either playing video games or at the pub. But when he finds himself in the middle of a zombie outbreak, it’s up to him to start taking some action to protect the people he loves.
Shaun of the Dead is the first instalment of what later came to be known as the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’ – a trio of films where writer and director Edgar Wright teamed up with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Bill Nighy, and Martin Freeman.
A spoof of the immensely popular zombie sub-genre, Shaun of the Dead is jam-packed full of laughs. It also sports plenty of well-observed satirical commentary on the increasing vapidity of modern society.
13. My Sassy Girl (2001)
Since the success of Bong Joon-ho’s 2020 Academy Award-winning Parasite and the mega popularity of the Netflix series Squid Game, Korean film and television is having a bit of a boom globally. And, Korean cinema has been producing great films of all genres for years.
When it comes to comedy, one of Korea’s most celebrated flicks was 2001’s My Sassy Girl, which has been remade countless times by Hollywood, Bollywood, and more.
It follows the story of Gyun-woo (Jun Ji-hyun); a young man who gets involved with a girl (Cha Tae-hyun) determined to humiliate him at every turn.
14. Airplane! (1980)
Although it can be argued that some of this 1980 flick’s jokes haven’t aged well, Airplane! is undoubtedly a hilarious and fundamental piece of comedy cinematic history.
Written and directed by the legendary team of Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker, Airplane! follows Ted Striker (Robert Hayes) – an ex-fighter pilot who’s afraid of flying.
When Ted finds himself on a commercial flight where most of the crew and passengers have been laid waste by a food-borne illness, it’s up to him to land the plane safely.
This lampoon of popular 1970s disaster movies like The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure is a never-ending joke machine that’ll hit you with a new gag before you’ve finished laughing at the previous one.
So, if you’re looking for a fun-filled film that delivers laugh after laugh, then surely you can’t do much better than Airplane!? And no, I’m not calling you Shirley.
15. Sorry to Bother You (2018)
In this surrealist comedy, Lakeith Stanfield (of Atlanta and Get Out) stars as Cassius Green; an African American telemarketer who adopts a ‘white voice’ to up his sales.
As he becomes more and more successful, Cassius gets drawn into a shady corporate world and must choose between making money beyond his wildest dreams and doing the right thing.
Written and directed by rapper and activist Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You is a riotous and refreshingly original comedy that takes a look at race and issues of greed in the United States.
16. School of Rock (2003)
After Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is dropped from his band a few short weeks before the legendary Battle of the Bands competition, he hatches an out-of-the-box plan to get back in the game.
Step one: impersonate his flatmate to secure a job as a substitute teacher at a local prep school. Step two: turn his students into the greatest rock band the world has ever seen.
A fun flick for the entire family, School of Rock is Jack Black at his absolute best. The 2003 film became so popular that it inspired a stage show of the same name with a score from the celebrated composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber.
17. A Fish Called Wanda (1998)
From the minds of legendary British film director Charles Crichton and Monty Python’s John Cleese (who also stars), comes this uproarious story of deception and double-crossing.
This 1998 cult hit follows a motley crew of career criminals who pull a jewellery heist. After one of them is caught, the rest scramble and scheme to get their hands on the loot.
Featuring the talents of Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin, and Kevin Kline (who nabbed an Oscar for his role), A Fish Called Wanda is a hysterical crime comedy. It proved so popular that the four leads teamed up for another project (Fierce Creatures) nearly a decade later.
The irreverent and zany fingerprints of the Monty Python members involved are all over this film. So if you’re a fan of the legendary comedy troupe, you’ll love A Fish Called Wanda.
18. His Girl Friday (1939)
In the 1930s and early 1940s, Cary Grant became a staple leading man of screwball comedies – a sub-genre that was defined by quick-talking, witty dialogue, and farcical love stories.
Popular films in this category include Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story, but for many, none is more treasured than Howard Hawkes’ His Girl Friday.
Cary Grant stars as Walter Burns, the editor of a successful newspaper, whose life is thrown into disarray when he finds out that his star reporter and estranged wife, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russel), is not only leaving the paper, but him as well.
We follow the characters through a series of shenanigans, as Walter uses everything up his sleeve to persuade Hildy to stay.
19. Bad Boys (1995)
Turner & Hooch, Starsky and Hutch, and 21 Jump Street are just a few examples of the brilliant buddy cop comedy that many of us love. And if it’s action, explosions, and boisterous banter you’re looking for, why not choose 1995’s Bad Boys for your next movie night?
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star as Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett; two narcotics detectives that find themselves in quite a bind when $100 million worth of heroin is stolen from their HQ.
With their superiors giving them five days to track down the loot before their department gets shut down, the pair get to work. But things get farcical when Burnett, a dedicated family man, has to assume Lowery’s identity as a womaniser to gain the trust of a beautiful witness.
A thrill ride from start to finish, Smith and Lawrence’s electric chemistry makes for comedy gold.
20. Carry On Up The Khyber (1968)
And finally, we couldn’t talk about the best comedies of all time without mentioning the Carry On films. With producer Peter Rogers and director Gerald Thomas’ trademark silliness, the Carry On series is truly a British institution, holding the record for the most films of any British series.
Carry On Up the Khyber is, for many, the Carry On film packed with the most laughs. Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond (Sid James) is in charge of a British outpost close to the Khyber Pass. When one of the members of the feared ‘Devils in Skirts’ regiment is discovered wearing underpants, the Khasi of Kalabar (Kenneth Williams) plans to incite a rebellion against the British.
While some of the jokes don’t translate well over time, the film’s funniest moments focus on the ridiculousness of British pomposity and political diplomacy. With hilarity at every turn and action-packed sequences, Carry on Up the Khyber makes for a fun film night.
Whether you’re into black, deadpan comedy like Withnail and I or something a little more family-friendly like Paddington or School of Rock, we hope that this list of comedy films has given you some inspiration for things to watch.
For more ideas, why not visit the film and tv section of our website? Here, you’ll find a wide range of articles, from 19 movies everyone should see to 16 of the best romantic comedies for a feel-good film night.
Did your favourite comedy film make the list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.