The 50 Funniest Comedies Ever

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As voted for by you!

After tens of thousands of votes, 14 cracked ribs and seven split sides, we have assembled the very funniest films ever made – according to you, the Empire readers. Here are the films to make you howl with laughter, the films that give your funny bone a workout and prove the best medicine for what ails you. Read it and weep.

50. Kingspin

DIRECTOR: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

CAST: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Bill Murray


"From the idiots that brung you Dumb & Dumber" – that's Peter and Bobby Farrelly to you and me – came this ten-pin tickler, a typically outrageous slew of rubber hands, bodily fluids and aroused oxen. Where other movies pay homage to Battleship Potemkin and Citizen Kane, this one was so off-the-wall it pays homage to Indecent Proposal - only here it's Amish Randy Quaid in the Demi Moore role. To say that this is one of the least gross moments in the movie tells you everything thing you need to know about the Farrelly's queasy comedic delights. Somewhere in here is the story of a loser in life finding the right stuff despite his many disadvantages and a haircut straight out of The Name Of The Ros... but wait, look over there! Boobs!

MOST VALUED PLAYER: A toss-up between Harrelson and Murray, with the SNL alumnus taking the honours for his super-sleazy turn as bowling vet Big Ern McCracken.

BEST JOKE: To a suitably bombastic ELO accompaniment, Big Ern makes bowling his bitch in a dazzlingly over-the-top final reel montage. No words are needed: the hair says it all.

49. Bringing Up Baby

DIRECTOR: Howard Hawks

CAST: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Charles Ruggles

Bringing Up Baby

The quintessential screwball comedy, this combines dinosaur bones, a case of mistaken leopard identity, women's clothing worn by men and a large amount of money to delightful effect. Amazingly, Katharine Hepburn had never played comedy before and was completely unsure how to go about approaching it; happily she learned from her co-stars and is delightfully ditzy here. Old hand Cary Grant shows off his feel for the form and goes from buttoned-up paleontologist to demented drag queen as Hepburn puts him through hell – but even he has to admit that he enjoys it really. After all, she may be manic and scatterbrained, but she's a lot more fun than his uptight fiancée, so really everything – as in the best screwball comedies – turns out for the best.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Grant, who gets to show off some range here, going from meek academic to despairing jailbird without ever leaving the audience behind.

BEST JOKE: It's the loss of her train here.

48. Happy Gilmore

DIRECTOR: Dennis Dugan

CAST: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen

The phrase "Adam Sandler golf comedy" might not be one to immediately fill most observers with great optimism, but 1996's Happy Gilmore was, and remains, one of the best films on the SNL veteran's CV. Full of quality elements like Ben Stiller's Nazi nursing home manager and Carl Weather's wooden-handed coach, it successfully walks the line between sentimental and stupid that other Sandler films fall off. Happy, the psychotic hockey goon who loves his grandma is one of best pegs on which Sandler has hung his angry man-child schtick, and there's even a sweet romantic sub-plot, which Sandler would successfully enhance two years later for The Wedding Singer.

Happy Gilmore

MOST VALUED PLAYER: The aforementioned Mr Weathers as Chubbs Peterson, a former golf pro forced into early retirement by a disagreement with an alligator.

BEST JOKE: Stiller reinforces his strict rest home regime: "Good news; we're extending arts and crafts time by four hours today! What's that? Your fingers hurt? Well now your back's gonna hurt because you just pulled landscaping duty!"

47. Knocked Up

DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow

CAST: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd

Knocked Up

Traditionally, unplanned pregnancies are the stuff of melodrama rather than comedy. Handwringing Lifetime movies called 15 AND PREGNANT are the usual approach – or they were, until Judd Apatow decided to take a less hysterical approach and discuss the funny side. So it's not just the likeable but laughably unprepared Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl who are affected, but their friends and family too. Played out in a free-wheeling, improvisational style, to the extent that Ben's friends all go by their real first names for ease of banter, it plays up the comedy without ever underplaying the serious issues involved in having a child – and teaches us that nightclub admissions policies really suck.

MOST VALUED PLAYER Eric Bana. Because without him, there wouldn't have been a pregnancy to deal with.

BEST JOKE We rather love Kirsten Wiig's hilariously unsupportive executive here.

46. Pineapple Express

DIRECTOR: David Gordon Green

CAST: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Gary Cole

Pineapple Express

A distinctly, and deliberately, odd mix of stoner comedy, buddy comedy, action movie and indie, this doesn't quite fit into anyone's comedy canon. Luckily, it's really funny and strangely sweet, the unlikely friendship between Seth Rogen's stoner and James Franco's dealer carrying them through an urban jungle filled with corrupt cops and, er, Gary Cole. The bemused banter is consistently hilarious, and while the third-act shift into full-on action movie still feels bizarre – despite the lengthy fight scene at Red's house to provide a little foreshadowing – it's bizarrely in keeping with the whole off-kilter feel of the piece, and the sheer absurdity of these two slackers tooling up and laying the smackdown remains a joy to behold.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: James Franco, who had really only done brief comic sketches online prior to this, and was a revelation as he went from dreamboat / serious actor to buffoon.

BEST JOKE: For undermining action movie clichés, it has to be Franco's attempt to kick out a damaged windshield at 0.30 in this clip.

45. The Jerk

DIRECTOR: Carl Reiner

CAST: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Catlin Adams

The Jerk

"I was born a poor black boy..." explains Steve Martin at the beginning of this rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches story. It continues in a similar vein, with his Navin R. Johnson growing up the adopted son of a black sharecropping family and leaving to make his way in the world after he discovers he's white. It's less a plot and more a string of ridiculousnesses, clinging together thanks to the manic electricity of Martin's innocence in the central role. Such is Johnson's dimness that his own father doubts that he knows the difference between shit and Shinola (as the Americans put it) – and carefully explains it to him. There are the makings of a great comic hero – or a total jerk. It's sometimes hard to tell.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Aside from Martin himself, we love the deranged psycho played by M. Emmet Walsh. Senseless violence: it's fun!

BEST JOKE: "Wait a minute, what's happening to my special purpose?!" Johnson is seduced by a stunt rider.

44. Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery


CAST: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York

Austin Powers International Man Of Mystery Transplanting a dayglo-coloured, sexually voracious '60s spy to the modern day has been done before, of course – see the Bond franchise – but never quite as outrageously as here. Mixing smart movie spoofery, dumb sight gags (the nude scene), ridiculous word play ("No, this is me in a nutshell!") and jokes that extend for so long that they go from funny to tired to funny again (Dr Evil's evil laugh, for instance), the formula proved a huge hit. It's a strange thing about Myers' comedy that it seems to become briefly ubiquitous, culturally speaking, to the extent that they're then seen as something uncool. But give this one another chance: any film that sees a man unconvincingly deny using a penis extender is perennially funny.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: It has to be Myers himself, but probably in his Dr Evil guise rather than his Powers incarnation. Bad guys just have more fun.

BEST JOKE: The three-point turn. A simple gag played out beautifully.

43. In The Loop

DIRECTOR: Armando Iannucci

CAST: Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini

In The Loop

The English have a reputation for refinement across the Atlantic, especially when it comes to our politicians and rulers. Well, say fuckety-bye-bye to that impression as Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) and his foul mouth descends on Washington DC to stave off a diplomatic incident involving Tom Hollander's hapless minor minister. Transporting his cult TV show The Thick Of It to the big screen, director and co-writer Armando Iannucci lost none of the bite and profanity that had characterised its small screen incarnation, and in fact raised the stakes by bringing in the characters' brasher, more powerful American counterparts. An object lesson in political satire at its sharpest.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Capaldi's Tucker, who continues to steal every scene he's in with his boundless rage and inexhaustible supply of rude words.

BEST JOKE: Meet the one man angrier and ruder than Tucker himself. "SHUT IT, LOVE ACTUALLY!"

42. Tropic Thunder

DIRECTOR: Ben Stiller

CAST: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr.

Tropic Thunder

A parody of Hollywood excess delivered by a stupidly huge selection of A-list Hollywood stars, Tropic Thunder may be scattershot in its targets but it's often hugely funny along the way. Thrusting a clueless, deluded selection of prima donna stars into the jungle and then abandoning them to their fate, the film manages to make us laugh at war movie clichés, badly-behaved studio heads, desperate agents, bizarro star requests, patently obvious Oscar grabs and everything in between. It also contains Tom Cruise with a comb-over and a fat suit, swearing like a trouper and dancing to disgraceful R'n'B. What more do you want?

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Robert Downey Jr.'s Kirk Lazarus/Lincoln Osiris. For the avoidance of doubt: no, it's not OK to use blackface. But yes, Downey's self-important, self-righteous Oscar-chaser is still freakin' hilarious.

BEST JOKE: Sound advice for actors, and a witty comment on the Oscars. You never go full retard.

41. Wayne's World

DIRECTOR: Penelope Spheeris

CAST: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Rob Lowe

Wayne's World

The product of a Saturday Night Live sketch, Wayne's World had a huge impact in the early 1990s: you could barely move for people saying "SCHWING!", "We're not worthy!" and "NOT!" in blatant imitation of rockers and local cable stars Wayne and Garth. Such was its effect that people of a certain age still have trouble behaving respectably while listening to 'Bohemian Rhapsody' in a vehicle, and still feel aggrieved if stopped from playing 'Stairway To Heaven' in a guitar store ("No Stairway? Denied!"). But strip away all the over-familiarity and this is still a really funny film, with great characters muddling through their own little niche world in an endearing and still amusing way. It's almost enough to make us forgive Mike Myers for The Love Guru. Almost.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Dana Carvey's Garth Algar, a great comic creation and a sweetly loveable idiot. Incidentally, while the sequel isn't as good, it's almost worth it for Garth's post-coital transformation into Cary Grant.

BEST JOKE: It's very short, but Wayne's reaction to being given a gun rack remains a favourite.

40. Caddyshack

DIRECTOR: Harold Ramis

CAST: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray


After writing Animal House and Meatballs, it was only natural that Harold Ramis would move into directing. The golfing nonsense of Caddyshack was inspired by his and co-writer Brian Doyle 'Older Brother of Bill' Murray's genuine experiences of country club caddying. It manages to be marginally less chaotic than its ramshackle predecessors, which is impressive given that it was basically hijacked and improvised into submission during production by Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield, who weren't even supposed to be the stars (teen-lead Michael O'Keefe was apparently not best pleased). Predictably though, it's Bill Murray as the gopher-cidal groundsman Carl Spackler, who steals the show.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: With apologies for being predictable, it has to be Murray, even though (or pehaps precisely because) he improvised all his lines and was only on set for a week.

BEST JOKE: Spackler realising he's been asked to kill gophers and not golfers: "We can do that; we don't even have to have a reason!"

39. Top Secret

DIRECTOR: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

CAST: Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge, Peter Cushing

Top Secret

It might not have landed quite as high on the list as Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker's other, more famous comedy, but Top Secret! still has a huge, dedicated following. It's not tough to see why: an assured parody of World War II spy movies, Elvis Presley musicals and a welter of other topics, it sees American rocker Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer, showing serious deadpan comic chops) becoming involved in the French (German?) resistance's plan to rescue kidnapped scientist Dr. Paul Flammond (Michael Gough). It's inventive, non-stop and loaded with so many tiny jokes and references that it's easy to see why this stands up to endless re-watching. After all, how many films can claim a scene that works both forwards and backwards (on the Swedish bookstore) and lasts for exactly 88 seconds? Only this one.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Kilmer pulls off the trick of being a dashing leading man in the middle of utter stupidity.

BEST JOKE: The famous cow scene is often picked as a favourite, but the best lone gag in that sequence comes from Harry Ditson, aggrieved that Christopher Villiers' Nigel is changing the plan re: who wears the back end of the cow. "All right, be an asshole..."

38. Ferris Bueller's Day Off

DIRECTOR: John Hughes

CAST: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Despite how '80s it is, Ferris Bueller's Day Off remains a timeless slacker classic. A love letter to both Chicago and skiving, John Hughes' coming-of-age comedy introduced us to one of cinema's most righteous dudes while demonstrating how phoning in sick should, ideally, be done. It should, in other words, involve elaborate fake-outs that convince a town to rally around you while you enjoy fine meals, tourist sights, baseball games and parades in the big city. Whatever else Matthew Broderick ever does – and he achieved the kind of cinematic immortality that only an Elton John-accompanied Circle Of Life can grant you in The Lion King – this is the signature role he'll always be remembered for.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Yes, Broderick is righteous, but it's hard to overlook a small turn from a pre-Tiger-blooded Charlie Sheen who pops up as a rebellious drug user. Insert your own gag about life imitating art here.

BEST JOKE: Not so much a joke as an oft-quoted example of how amusing a droning monotone can be when repeated, the attendance call for Ferris is the sort of line fellow movie geeks will slip in to any roll call given the opporchancity.

37. In Bruges

DIRECTOR: Martin McDonagh

CAST: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Elizabeth Berrington

In Bruges

Here's a film that starts off as pure comedy, Colin Farrell's sullen, put-upon hitman acting like a schoolboy next to Brendan Gleeson's tolerant but exasperated older partner. What sets this apart, however, is the turn for the dark it takes halfway through, turning into something closer to a tragedy. Ralph Fiennes' gangster with a code ("I want a normal gun for a normal person") provides the sinister contrast to the guilt-ridden Farrell and sympathetic Gleeson. That the laughs continue right down to the final minutes, amid bloodshed and heartbreak, is only a testament to just how funny writer/director Martin McDonagh's script is.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Gleeson does a lot of the emotional legwork and provides the perfect foil, but this is Farrell's movie. He perfectly portrays a basically goodhearted dimwit dealing with issues way out of his emotional range. And making endless insulting cracks about the people he meets along the way.

BEST JOKE: After his initial delight at discovering him ("They're filmin' wit' midgets!!") Colin Farrell's relationship with Jordan Prentice's Jimmy turns sour. Back off, short arse!

36. Four Lions

DIRECTOR: Christopher Morris

CAST: Will Adamsdale, Riz Ahmed, Adeel Akhtar

Four Lions

Few knew what to expect from comic provocateur extraordinaire Chris Morris when he graduated from shorts to his first full-length film. Well, except that everyone guessed that it would be both memorable and offensive to some, which is his usual MO. And so it proved. But while demonstrating that there is almost no subject Morris won't tweak for incisive laughs, Four Lions is a genuine delight, a scathing, twisted, and very funny look at the world's least effective terrorist unit. With a script by Morris and some of Team Thick Of It (Simon Blackwell, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong), it's a topical comedy with real edge and committed performances from its leads, even as the director never strays from harsh truths about terror and those who practice it. And the ending is blindingly audacious.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Nigel Lindsay steals scenes as self-appointed team leader Barry, the perfect blend of dedicated and deluded.

BEST JOKE: Omar (Riz Ahmed) tries to get back into the Jihadists' good books by taking down a predator drone with a rocket launcher. The result? It's... not what he hoped for.

35. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

DIRECTOR: Tom Shadyac

CAST: Jim Carrey, Courteney Cox, Sean Young

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Despite being generally slammed upon release, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was a surprisingly huge hit that catapulted rubber-faced comedian Jim Carrey (then best known as 'Fire Marshall Bill' from TV series In Living Color) straight into Hollywood's A-list. The plot is largely unimportant and exists merely as a loose clothesline for Carrey to hang his manic bag of tricks on; the gurning facial contortions, the loose-limbed goofing, the madcap impressions and so on. Certainly, those not enamoured with JC's antics need not apply, but there's plenty of Carrey charm on display as he goes all Doctor Dolittle on our asses, aided by some crazy Hawaiian shirts and a massive quiff.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: It's essentially The Jim Carrey Show, with the stolen dolphin plot there merely as an excuse for the contorting comic to strut his zany stuff.

BEST JOKE: Carrey's William Shatner impersonation runs it close, but this sliding door deduction is timeless pet detecting.

34. Duck Soup


CAST: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx

Duck Soup

The Marx Brothers' final film for Paramount is the apex of their career, a perfectly formed masterpiece before their move to the forced-romantic subplots and overblown musical interludes of the MGM years. Predictably, it was considered a disappointment on release in 1933. It sees Groucho as Rufus T. Firefly, installed by his frequent nemesis Margaret Dumont as leader of the bankrupt Freedonia, an arrangement that obviously takes the country into anarchic war with neighbouring Sylvania. A surprisingly excoriating war satire as well as a thoroughly ridiculous knockabout, Duck Soup is probably most famous for with the "mirror sketch" between Groucho and Harpo, but there's SO much more to it than that.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Well, it's always Groucho, obviously. But he's at his best when he's being Groucho at the expense of Margaret Dumont.

BEST JOKE: "Where is your husband?" / "He's dead." / "I bet he's just using that as an excuse."

33. The Blues Brothers

DIRECTOR: John Landis

CAST: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cab Calloway

The Blues Brothers

Whether you come for the jokes and stay for the music or vice versa, this offers the best of both worlds. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are the titular musical siblings (adoptive), on a mission from God to save an orphanage. The pair had an easy chemistry that drives the film, neither wasting a word, but still able to raise a laugh with nothing but a twitch of the eyebrow. Never before (or since) in human history has the quest to pay a tax bill resulted in so much vehicular carnage, so much damage to the Illinois Nazi cause, and so much great music.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: It's a tough call: Carrie Fisher? Steven Spielberg? Henry Gibson? We're going to go for Kathleen Freeman's Mother Superior, however, as the only person onscreen capable of even briefly cowing the central pair.

BEST JOKE: The entire movie summed up in one iconic line.

32. Clerks

DIRECTOR: Kevin Smith

CAST: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti


They say the best stories come from writing about what you know. In this case, 'they' are right. Filming at night in the Quick Stop Shop where he used to work, first-time filmmaker Kevin Smith took his experiences of store work drudgery and infused them with pithy dialogue, pop culture hat-tips and enough dick-related profanity to make Malcolm Tucker blush. Shot in grainy black-and-white with a shoestring budget (Smith sold many of his comic books and maxed out some credit cards to finance the project), it's a raw, low-fi affair, but one which the bearded, hockey shirt-wearing writer-director has yet to better.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Most viewers will probably favour Jeff Anderson's sarcastic customer-baiter Randal, but Brian O'Halloran's responsible and visibly frustrated Dante is undeniably the heart of Clerks. Even though he wasn't supposed to be there that day.

BEST JOKE: Clerks isn't so much littered with 'gags' as it is well-observed conversations. Of course, each fan will have their own, but it's hard to argue against Randal's dissection of Return Of The Jedi's climax.

31. A Fish Called Wanda

DIRECTOR: Charles Crichton

CAST: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline

A Fish Called Wanda

With the Python collaborations in the past, John Cleese moved on to solo efforts, kicking off with 1986's Clockwise. But A Fish Called Wanda, which he also wrote, proves his masterpiece. Mixing an Ealing Comedy sensibility and British stuffiness with freewheeling American spirit (especially in Jamie Lee Curtis' sexy Wanda), it's a transatlantic triumph. Ostensibly a crime story involving the hunt for the ill-gotten (and then misplaced) gains from a heist, it is in fact a mean-spirited caper in a way that still lets you care for many of the characters, particularly poor, stuttering Ken (Michael Palin). Rarely has food been funnier.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Kevin Kline's rarely been better than as the blindly confident, utterly ignorant Otto. Just don't call him stupid.

BEST JOKE: The staggering difference between the bedtime routines of Otto and Wanda and Archie (Cleese) and wife Wendy (Maria Aitken). Volare!

30. Annie Hall

DIRECTOR: Woody Allen

CAST: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts

Annie Hall

The dividing line between Woody Allen's "early, funny™" films and whatever you want to call what came after, Annie Hall saw the nebbish auteur aiming for greater profundity than in the likes of Take The Money And Run and Bananas. That's not to say there aren't still abundant laughs, but there was now also wistful romance in the relationship between Diane Keaton's Annie and Allen's Alvie, and the beginnings of the love affair with New York that Allen would expand into Manhattan. Allen's preferred title was Anhedonia, which is the inability to experience pleasure from things usually considered enjoyable. His co-writer Marshall Brickman's suggestions meanwhile, apparently included It Had To Be Jew and Me And My Goy.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: An early appearance by Christopher Walken, cementing his screen persona for years to come by talking about driving into headlong traffic.

BEST JOKE: One for the smartarses: Allen produces philosopher Marshall McLuhan to win an argument in a cinema queue. "Boy, if life were only like this."

29. American Pie

DIRECTOR: Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz

CAST: Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas

American Pie

It's come a long way since the debut of a script called "Untitled Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Most Readers Will Probably Hate But I Think You Will Love". A runaway hit that spawned hundreds of (lesser) imitators, this sneakily hides huge amounts of sweetness and heart behind a thick bush of knob gags and pie-fucking, making it a film that you can fall in love with even as you grimace in horror at what's happening. The chemistry between the largely untested cast gave it a feeling of reality, and let's face it: a guy shagging a giant bakewell is always going to be outrageously amusing.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: At the risk of being obvious, for laughs per seconds onscreen it has to be Eugene Levy as Jim's Dad. Just the right mix of awful, awkward and affectionate, there's a reason he was the one they called back for every subsequent instalment.

BEST JOKE: It is, of course, Michelle's revelation about her activities at Band Camp.

28. There's Something About Mary

DIRECTOR: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

CAST: Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon

There's Something About Mary

A penis in a zipper, a violent dog attack, a serial killer and a cluster of obsessive stalkers all chasing the same woman: this sounds more like the stuff of scary movies rather than beloved comic hits. And yet here, thanks to the addition of, er, foreign substances to hair dos, comedy braces and occasional background troubadours, it all seems charming and rather sweet. Ben Stiller is the stalker / lovelorn suitor of the smart, fun, funny Mary (Cameron Diaz), and is so likeably hangdog that you can almost forgive him the chaos he causes, while Diaz has never been fizzier. Another film that captured lightning in a bottle that none of its imitators could replicate.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Matt Dillon wasn't really known for comedy, but he was a revelation here, his scuzziness providing a nice contrast to Stiller's earnestness.

BEST JOKE: It has to be that pre-prom zipper scene. Excruciating in every sense.

27. Old School

DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips

CAST: Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell

Old School

The Frat Pack generation of comedians owe their name, and much of their early ability to get a green light, to this tale of disgraceful college shenanigans among grown men who should know better. Luke Wilson's the guy reluctantly forced to find a new home by a college campus; Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell are the reprobates along for the ride, reliving the most reprehensible bits of their youth with abandon. Based (extremely loosely) on Fight Club, this turned into a fair-sized hit and launched all its stars into leading men territory. Well, leading men in the comic sphere at least.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Will Ferrell, who emerged from relative obscurity here to steal the film's best scenes. The sight of him doing a gymnastics floor routine with a ribbon is not one we'll soon forget.

BEST JOKE: It's always fun when someone shoots himself in the neck with a tranquiliser dart, right? Kids: don't try this at home.

26. South Park: Bigger, Longer And Uncut

DIRECTOR: Trey Parker

CAST: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman

South Park Bigger Longer And Uncut

Holding the record for the most obscenities in an animated feature (at a whopping 399!), Trey Parker and Matt Stone take vulgarity to new levels in the big-screen version of their infamous TV series. Incredibly, they also find a host of new ways to be offensive, grafting their usual ingredients (toilet humour, thinly-veiled satirical jabs, deliberately-crude animation) onto a plot which involves a war between Canada and America, a love affair between Satan and Saddam Hussein and – seriously – a shitload of musical numbers. As always, just as many viewers will love it as hate it, yet there are moments of comic brilliance here (see the ER send-up featuring George Clooney's voice) in amongst the digs at cinematic censorship, sweary movies and Jar Jar Binks. Just like Cartman, this movie will warp your fragile little mind.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Cartman, who undergoes a Clockwork Orange-type experimental treatment which shocks him every time he swears. And he swears a lot.

BEST JOKE: There's nary a scene where the profanity isn't bursting out from the screen, but the classroom exchange really captures the 'essence' of the movie.

25. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

DIRECTOR: John Hughes

CAST: Steve Martin, John Candy, Laila Robins

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

John Hughes' keen eye for character comedy was rarely on better form than in this cross-country transport nightmare, shoving together Steve Martin's uptight, nervy Neal Page and John Candy's endlessly upbeat Del Griffith, a man who singularly fails to grasp the concept of personal space. Martin has since commented that it's his favourite film and performance, and you can see why: it's perfectly pitched, ratcheting up the frustration to ever-increasing levels as Page struggles to get home, and endlessly relatable (although most people are better at identifying the difference between a pillow and, well, Steve Martin). It's a miracle that it turned out so well. The hellish shoot was made worse by a grumpy director beset by personal travails and the need to create the film's transport companies from scratch thanks to Amtrak, Greyhound and co refusing to be associated with travel chaos.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Martin is on top form, but it's Candy who deserves the plaudits, spicing his gregarious Griffith with real notes of both sweetness and sadness towards the end.

BEST JOKE: Pushed too far, Martin's Page unloads on an unsuspecting car rental desk jockey with a stream of invective. As each use of the F-word spills from his mouth, you can almost see the steam shooting from his ears.

24. Withnail & I

DIRECTOR: Bruce Robinson

CAST: Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths

Withnail and I

Endlessly quotable, and the focus of many a drinking game, Withnail & I is both farcical and moving in its depiction of the end of the '60s, and of the friendship between its two leads. It's one of those films that's so good, it's almost an albatross around the necks of its cast and crew. Writer/director Bruce Robinson has struggled to repeat its scurrilous success and Richard E. Grant will be forever associated with demanding to have some booze, going on holiday by mistake, and wanting to fork things. Still, how better to be remembered than as part of one of the most intelligent, literate, and fundamentally funny British comedies of all time?

MOST VALUED PLAYER: A tie between Richard Griffiths as the sexually predatory terrible c-word Uncle Monty, and Ralph Brown as the boggle-eyed drug dealer Danny.

BEST JOKE: More a favourite scene, in which Withnail and Marwood negotiate cooking a chicken. "What are we supposed to do with that? Eat it? The fucker's alive!"

23. The 40 Year-Old Virgin

DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow

CAST: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd

The 40 Year Old Virgin

Even though audiences largely ignored his TV shows, Undeclared and Freaks And Geeks, the runaway success of The 40 Year-Old Virgin saw screenwriter-turned-showrunner-turned-director Judd Apatow suddenly crowned as Hollywood's new king of comedy. Indeed, ever since Steve Carell's virginal toy collector sought to pop his cherry with Catherine Keener's GILF while trying to cram pimpage, it's hard to think of a mainstream bromance not influenced in one way or another by Apatowian sensibilities. Stoner humour, dick jokes, the notion that schlubby nerds can land hot women who are accepting of geek culture: Apatow's dominance of modern comedy started here.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: The supporting players score big laughs – especially the advice-dispensing trio of Seth Rogen, Romany Malco and Paul Rudd – but Steve Carell deserves the lion's share of the credit for providing real heart amongst all the sweary improv and vulgar sex chat.

BEST JOKE: Seeing as Steve Carell – who can easily rival Ben Stiller in the Hairy Comedian stakes – did it for real, we're going to go for the waxing scene.

22. Zoolander

DIRECTOR: Ben Stiller

CAST: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor


It's possible that poking fun at the world of modelling – and its tiny sub-section, male modelling – is like shooting fish in a barrel. But it would take a very small barrel and a very big gun for most people to make as good a job of it as Ben Stiller and co. do here, making Stiller's Derek Zoolander into a figure as adorable as he is dimwitted and giving him the perfect foil in Owen Wilson's equally dim Hansel. The incidental gags – Derek and Hansel transforming themselves into janitors, Mugatu's "so hot right now" tic – are legion, and we're never not going to laugh at Derek's pronunciation of the word "eulogy", or the models' "freak gasoline fight accident". Sublimely silly.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Will Ferrell's Mugatu, who's just smart enough to know how stupid Derek is, but not smart enough to see his own ridiculousness. Or at least, not smart enough to care.

BEST JOKE: "So I was rapelling down Mount Vesuvius..." Hansel tells the best anecdotes.

21. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

DIRECTOR: Rawson Marshall Thurber

CAST: Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor, Vince Vaughn

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Before its release, Dodgeball was almost written off as a lesser offering from the Frat Pack of Stiller, Vaughn and the rest. But for all its silly slapstick, OTT character work from Stiller and sweet-natured story of triumph over smug adversity, Dodgeball works on every levels. The pratfalls are rewind-rewatchable, the dialogue sparkles even at its dumbest and the quote-ability factor is high. Vaughn makes an earnest hero worth cheering for and the supporting cast is premier league across the board, including Justin Long, Joel David Moore, Alan Tudyk and the always-reliable Stephen Root. Once seen, you'll never forget the five 'D's of Dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Rip Torn's angry, wrench-slinging former champ-turned-trainer Patches O'Houlihan is a standout. He even boasts a hilariously emotional back-story courtesy of Hank Azaria's younger Patches.

BEST JOKE: The wrench-throwing antics get plenty of love, but we vote for Root's adventures dodging traffic.

20. Team America: World Police

DIRECTOR: Trey Parker

CAST: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller

Team America Word Police

One of the most purposefully offensive movies of the modern age, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone simultaneously lampoon US foreign policy, Michael Bay action movies and liberal Hollywood stars in one combustible satire. Though it's hard to credit the movie with any form of subtlety, there are brilliant moments (such as the hammer suicide gag or the utter destruction of Paris) and the decision to use marionette puppets is a masterstroke which allows the filmmakers to get away with any amount of ludicrousness. From Alec Baldwin to Kim Jong Il to Michael Moore, nobody is safe from Parker and Stone's wrath, while all your cherished Thunderbird memories will be soiled forever after seeing these puppets swear, puke and – yes, they went there – having sex. Despite not having any genitalia.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: We're partial to the half-melted, supremely idiotic version of Matt Damon, who can only say his own name. It's funny because it's not true.

BEST JOKE: There are more than a few effective barbs aimed at the action oeuvre, yet we're particularly fond of the montage-lampooning montage. You'll never watch the time-passing segment of your favourite '80s movie in the same way again.

19. Young Frankenstien

DIRECTOR: Mel Brooks

CAST: Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman

Young Frankenstein

Slap bang in the middle of Mel Brooks' 1970s run of movie parodies, this is arguably the best, with only Blazing Saddles pipping it to the post. Shot in black & white, it's slavish in its devotion to the Universal take on Frankenstein's monster (down to using the same props and lab equipment as the 1931 film) but also willing to go to any length for a gag. Physical humour brings the wordplay to life, and there's even a legendary dance number in 'Puttin' On The Ritz'. Brooks and co had so much fun shooting that the writer-director even added scenes near the end of production just so they could keep on going, resulting in a disastrously long first cut that required a marathon editing session to bring down to the swift, 106 minute final running time.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: It's got to be Marty Feldman's lab assistant, a never-ending stream of goofy one-liners and vamping performed by someone with the perfect Igor face.

BEST JOKE: Igor's response to "Will you help with the bags" remains a strong candidate.

18. Ghostbusters

DIRECTOR: Ivan Reitman

CAST: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver


Originally, the Peter Venkman role was written for John Belushi; the Rick Moranis part for John Candy. But having seen the greatest effects comedy ever made, it's impossible to imagine anyone else doing such a good job as this cast – in particular Murray's free-wheeling Venkman. And there are genuine scares in here to make the laughs all the louder by comparison (don't know about you, but we still jump a little at the Library Ghost). The lead trio expertly mine every facet of the supernatural for every possible laugh, from crooked researchers to gross-out slime ghosts to enormous inter-dimensional invasions. They even turned Sigourney Weaver into a terrifying ridged black beast, something even the Alien franchise never quite managed.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: The entire cast is on top form, but there's no real question: it has to be Bill Murray. Offering the sardonic, wiseguy contrast to Ray's sweet enthusiasm and Egon's nerdishness, he drives everything forward.

BEST JOKE: No one can deliver quasi-bureaucratic nonsense like Dan Aykroyd. And no one can follow that up like Bill.

17. Dr Strangelove...

DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick

CAST: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden

Dr Strangelove

Stanley Kubrick's jet black comedy famously stars Peter Sellers playing three separate roles and wildly improvising in all of them. He's the buttoned-down British Group Captain Lionel Mandrake; the ineffectual US President Merkin Muffley; and the mechanically-armed cartoon ex-Nazi Dr Strangelove (real name "Merkwürdigliebe") who can't quite get out of the habit of calling the president "Mein Fuhrer". Sellers was also supposed to play Texan Air Force Major TJ "King" Kong, but injured himself and couldn't work in the fighter plane's cockpit (he was replaced by Slim Pickens). Devastatingly deadpan, this has the darkest of all imaginable endings, which is all the more impressive given that it originally climaxed with a pie fight. Kubrick, wisely, thunk again.

MOST VALUED PLAYER Sellers aside, it has to be George C. Scott, who reluctantly allowed himself to be egged on by Kubrick to heights of lunacy he'd never previously dared reach.

BEST JOKE Muffley on the phone to his opposite number in Russia: "Why do you think I'm calling? Just to say hello? Of course I like to speak to you!"

16. Hot Fuzz

DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright

CAST: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Bill Bailey

Hot Fuzz

Whether it's a 'better' overall film than Shaun Of The Dead (discuss!), Hot Fuzz remains a dazzling assault of comic brilliance. With writer/director Edgar Wright, frontman and co-writer Simon Pegg and his partner-in-crime Nick Frost reuniting, the creative super-trio hit us with the same blend of smart writing, clever foreshadowing and well-measured references. Doing for the action genre what they did for zombies in Shaun, the hat tips range from subtle to purposefully rammed down your throat, and virtually all of them prove wittily hilarious. We can't wait for the third part in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Timothy Dalton, no question. Sure, the supporting cast is bursting with quality (Steve Merchant, Martin Freeman, Olivia Colman, Steve Coogan, Paddy Considine, Jim Broadbent, Edward Woodward), but it's hard to beat a moustache-toting former Bond playing a villainous supermarket manager.

BEST JOKE: A welcome callback to Shaun Of The Dead, it has to be the priceless demonstration of how to take a shortcut. Although "You mothers!" is also deep-fried comedy gold.

15. Groundhog Day

DIRECTOR: Harold Ramis

CAST: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott

Groundhog Day

A decade after Ghostbusters and 13 years on from Caddyshack, Groundhog Day saw Harold Ramis and Bill Murray in more thoughtful form. Murray's cynical weatherman Phil Connors makes a Scrooge-like emotional journey from recluse to romantic, via a karmic time loop that sees him endlessly revisiting the same day until he gets it right. Murray's hangdog exasperation is a joy as always, but he's also revealed here as a surprisingly credible romantic lead. The specifics of what happens to him are never explained (some guff about a voodoo curse was thankfully dropped), and his time in limbo is up to individual interpretation: Ramis has said it's anything from ten years to 10,000. Coincidentally, that's also the number of times you can watch the film without it getting old.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Given that this is almost a one-man show, Murray is the obvious choice. But among the supporting players, we particularly love Stephen Tobolowsky as good ol' Ned "The Head" Ryerson.

BEST JOKE: Murray sings the praises of Punxsutawney Phil: "This is one time where television really fails to capture the excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather."

14. Some Like It Hot

DIRECTOR: Billy Wilder

CAST: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon

Some Like It Hot

Everybody knows that Marilyn Monroe was gorgeous, but people don't give her enough credit for her comedy chops – and they're brilliantly showcased here. Sure, she was a nightmare to work with on set, an emotional mess who required scores of takes on the simplest lines, but director Billy Wilder persisted until he captured her unique lightning in a bottle. Not that this is a one-woman show. The male leads do the heavy lifting: Jack Lemmon was on top form, and Tony Curtis never funnier than here, playing two jazz musicians on the run from the mob and disguised as women in an all-girl band. Men in drag may be a cheap way to mine laughs, but this is the absolute pinnacle of the form, Wilder and his cast turning a cheap sex comedy into a fizzy, flawless farce.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: You wouldn't want to give up either Jack Lemmon or Marilyn Monroe, both sublimely accomplished comedians. But for sheer revelatory force, we're giving this one to Tony Curtis, who was never this funny in anything else – and he's the straight man here!

BEST JOKE: We're partial to Lemmon's attempts to unmask Curtis' millionaire persona just after he's first made contact with Monroe's Sugar.

13. Superbad

DIRECTOR: Greg Mottola

CAST: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse


Co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg mined their shared teen years to produce this sparkling coming-of-age comedy. With assured direction by Greg Mottola and producing assistance from Judd Apatow (a man who can spot talent like few others), Superbad is both a loving tribute to real friendship and a crazed spin on After Hours. Our heroes are Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), who are desperate to finish up their high school years with a booze-soaked party and the chance to pop their cherries. Naturally, it all goes wrong, especially with the "help" of Fogell/McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). For all the lunatic moments, it works because it feels real. And it also launched the film career of one Emma Stone. Thanks, Superbad!

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Mintz-Plasse makes his debut and instantly etches the name McLovin' into our shared cinematic consciousness.

BEST JOKE: The cops (Rogen and Bill Hader) try to investigate a robbery without playing the race card.

12. Blazing Saddles

DIRECTOR: Mel Brooks

CAST: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens

Blazing Saddles

It starts with the sight of a chain gang singing Cole Porter, and ends with its heroes watching themselves in the cinema. In between, Blazing Saddles manages to be both crazily scattershot and impressively focused, madly meta but also sweetly traditional. The sheer volume of jokes thrown out onto the prairie of Mel Brooks' comedy western is immense, but it never really forgets its story – black sheriff helps white town defeat the railroad – and actually has thoughtful things to say about the genre's inherent racism, if you care to look beyond the farting. It also gets better and better the more Westerns you watch. Richard Pryor was one of the co-writers, choosing to get the train rather than fly from New York to LA for the production, since it allowed for more drinking time. Gotta have priorities.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Everyone's awesome, but let's say the veteran Slim Pickens, whose presence makes Blazing Saddles that much more like an authentic classic Western. And he's funny too!

BEST JOKE: The soundtrack that segues into the church congregation singing the final verse of 'The Ballad Of Rockridge': "Now is our time of great decision / Are we to stay or up and quit? / There's no avoiding this conclusion / Our town is turning into shit."

11. This Is Spinal Tap

DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner

CAST: Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest

This Is Spinal Tap

If you're a fan of The Office (and, given that you're reading a feature about great comedy, chances are high), then you can thank Rob Reiner's inspirational mock-doc for the show. Based on Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz, Reiner's scarily plausible rockumentary is both a brilliant depiction of the music business and one of the best comedies ever to strut onto the big screen in tight leather pants and improbable hair. The fruit of hundreds of hours of footage with a large amount of improv, the authenticity on show is quite staggering, while the hit rate of the gags goes all the way up to eleven.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: It's really hard to pick a favourite out of the three leads, but co-writer Christopher Guest really is the self-deluded soul of Tap. Though he went on to spearhead his own comedy projects, to us he'll always be Nigel Tufnel.

BEST JOKE: The 18-inch Stonehenge model, the bread that's too small, the mispronunciation of "Dolby", the band getting lost backstage, the stage pod refusing to open... and so on. But if pushed, we've have to go for the sound system which is one louder.

10. Shaun Of The Dead

DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright

CAST: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield

Shaun Of The Dead

A film so original that it formed the basis for a new genre, the rom-zom-com (see also: Zombieland), Shaun saw the Spaced team of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright bring their talents for writing likeable losers and inventive genre spins to the big screen. The results are frankly hilarious, with Shaun and hetero-life-partner Ed (Nick Frost) trying to save those they love amidst a zombie apocalypse. Their plans are persistently rubbish, their weapons of choice bizarrely selective (only the bad records can be used to behead the undead) and their leadership all messed up. It's a welcome change from the more gung-ho American responses to these outbreaks, and the sublimely effective contrast of twee tea-making and zombie mayhem makes it a slice of fried gold.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: While Pegg does the heavy lifting, plot and emotion-wise, and is never more than a minute from making you laugh, it's really Nick Frost who has the highest breath-to-funny ration.

BEST JOKE: While there are no shortage of contenders, nothing better demonstrates the film's unique charm like Shaun's illustration of his plan.

9. Dumb & Dumber

DIRECTOR: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

CAST: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly

Dumb & Dumber

Peter and Bobby Farrelly announced themselves as a comedic filmmaking duo to watch with this unrelentingly silly road-trip-meets-buddy movie. The big secret weapon for the directors – first showcased here in the friendship between inveterate loons Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) – is the ability to sneak real heart into the mix of fart gags and gurning. Inspired by silent movie stars (check out the first names of those two leads), the Farrellys seriously tinkered with Bennett Yellin's first draft of the script and created two idiots for the ages. Even if their original first choices (Nicolas Cage and, perhaps surprisingly, Gary Oldman) passed, they found the perfect leading men in Carrey and Daniels. And we mean that as a compliment.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Daniels scores this one for his sheer commitment to sweet-natured simpleton Harry.

BEST JOKE: A warning never to accept a lift from these two idiots.

8. Borat

DIRECTOR: Larry Charles

CAST: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Luenell


Bringing the second of his three popular personalities from Da Ali G Show to the big screen, opinion-splitting comedian Sacha Baron Cohen scored a hugely-successful mega-hit with this this lengthily-titled opus opus (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) that's probably best referred to, simply, as Borat. Having learned a few lessons from Ali G Indahouse, Cohen wisely returns to interacting with real people who are unaware they're talking to a film character, with the semi-improvised style both revealing the hidden side of the American mindset and yielding hilariously discomforting moments. The movie's instant impact was such that when it was first released you couldn't turn round without hearing "Niiice!" or "Hiiigh five!".

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Though many have argued that Borat is a sketch show idea stretched too far, the backwards Kazakhstani journo is another brave and fearless creation from Cohen. Plus, any person willing to wear that mankini deserves the MVP.

BEST JOKE: The naked fight scene. Imagine Viggo Mortensen's clothes-free scrap in Eastern Promises, but with two schlubby naked guys and more body hair.

7. The Naked Gun

DIRECTOR: David Zucker

CAST: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, O.J. Simpson

The Naked Gun

The sixth episode of Police Squad could have been the last we saw of Lieutenant Frank Drebin. Cancelled by ABC, reportedly over fears that it required the audience to pay too much attention, the show languished for six years before it was resurrected for this, the first of three films. As with Zucker-Abrams-Zucker's pervious Airplane! the biggest joke is the dead seriousness of Leslie Nielsen. Here, however, he's finally and gloriously centre stage, spouting ludicrous hard-boiled cop clichés as chaos reigns around him (much of it chaos of his own making). Props too, to George Kennedy and Priscilla Presley as, respectively, Drebin's long-suffering boss and newly put-upon love interest. These days though, it has to be said that the presence of OJ Simpson as Nordberg feels bloody weird.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: The guy in the baseball crowd that stands up and says "Hey! It's Enrico Pallazzo!"

BEST JOKE: "Nice beaver!", "Thank you, I just had it stuffed."

6. The Hangover

DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips

CAST: Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha

The Hangover

With the likes of Old School and Starsky & Hutch already behind him, Todd Phillips wasn't exactly a newcomer to comedy films, but he really took off into the stratosphere with this oh-so-simple but oh-so-well-executed premise. Casting a group of lesser-known (and therefore less expensive) leading men in Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis and sending them off on a disastrous bachelor party in Vegas, he stretched his budget here to fit in as much Vegas-based madness as possible. Galifianakis steals many scenes with the beyond-eccentric Alan, but everyone gets something funny to do and (more-or-less) straight man Cooper is the perfect foil for the madness. As writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore pile on the misadventures, so we're drawn into a hilarious web of nutty criminals, sun-baked grooms, tigers and a crooning Mike Tyson.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Everyone points to Galifianakis, but Ed Helms deserves credit for making the wussy Stu into a reliable joke factory. And he's musical, too!

BEST JOKE: Alan's halting, cracked speech about the "Wolfpack". A new comedy team term is born.

5. Monty Python And The Holy Grail

DIRECTOR: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones

CAST: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle

Monty Python And The Holy Grail

The first real film from the surreal superstars of the Pythons, the Holy Grail contains some of the most inspired writing ever committed to celluloid, with the team playing King Arthur and his loyal(ish) knights on a ragtag quest for the titular cup. Sure, the budget appears to have been about 50p, but that spurs the team to greater heights of fancy, substituting coconut halves for horses' hooves and using excellent inanity instead of epic scale. The jokes have spawned a billion student imitators, from claims that "it's just a flesh wound" to Gallic insults to knights who say "ni" and demand shrubberies to elaborate discursions on the appropriate base for a system of government. Worth it for the Trojan rabbit gag alone.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: We're going to nominate Graham Chapman. He may be the closest thing the film has to a straight man – so only as crooked as a thrupenny bit – but he unselfishly makes everyone else look funnier, and sneaks in some big laughs.

BEST JOKE: There were very nearly fistfights in the office in trying to determine this one, but let's plump in the end for the French insult scene. Just for the outrageous accent.

4. Life Of Brian

DIRECTOR: Terry Jones

CAST: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin

Life Of Brian

Hailed by many as the pinnacle of the surrealist troupe's work, Monty Python's Life Of Brian is a contender for the greatest comedy ever made – although it clearly doesn't quite make thay grade for you lot. The film famously came into being when Eric Idle flippantly announced at a press conference that their next project would be called 'Jesus Christ: Lust For Glory'. Despite blasphemy allegations from the Catholic Church and funding issues (until Python fan George Harrison stumped up the cash simply because he wanted to see the movie), the Pythons pulled together an irreverent feast of clever allegory, sharp satire and in-depth discussions of Latin grammar as it applies to anti-Roman graffiti.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Michael Palin deserves some sort of comedy medal for playing 12 characters (and for being so relentlessly nice), but John Cleese takes this one for the blasphemer stoning sequence. Even Basil Fawlty would approve.

BEST JOKE: Brian's "I'm not the Messiah" speech is a timeless example of inspired comedy writing. "You've got to think for yourselves, you're all individuals!" he cries. "YES, WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS," the crowd responds simultaneously.

3. The Big Lebowski

DIRECTOR: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

CAST: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore

The Big Lebowski

The Coen Bros' version of a Raymond Chandler noir, The Big Lebowski sees Jeff Bridges as The Dude, drifting, Philip Marlowe-like, around and through the middle of a tortuous mystery with nebulous results. He stumbles onto kidnapping, embezzlement, nymphomaniacs and nihilists – And all he wanted was compensation for his rug. There's also, of course, plenty of time for bowling with crazed 'Nam vet John Goodman and simple Steve Buscemi, leading to some cherishable face-off's with John Turturro's pink-clad, backwards-dancing, sex-offending Jesus Quintana. The bowling was important in suggesting an anachronistic time-period, Joel Coen explained. "It sent us back to a not-so-far-away era, but one that was nevertheless truly gone." The Big Lebowski is truly gone indeed.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: Would this film be the same without Sam Elliott's weary old-west narration, intoning that The Dude abides? It would not.

BEST JOKE: If you stuck a pin in this screenplay blindfolded, you'd hit a classic line. Let's go with Walter: "Nihilists... Fuck me... I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, but at least it's an ethos."

2. Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy


CAST: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell


It really shouldn't work. Adam McKay and Will Ferrell's rambling, surreal and dementedly illogical film doesn't sound on paper like it would have such a consistently high hit rate for its gags, but astute work on both sides of the camera see to that. So much footage was shot that an entire (funny) bonus film was created from alternate scenes and discarded subplots, handily released as Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie, and what was winnowed to appear in the main film is barmily brilliant. Though it may not have made a huge impact at the box office, some films are destined to grow from humble beginnings into cult behemoths. When endlessly quote-worthy dialogue enters everyday conversation (as it has at Empire Towers), you know it's something special. Never seen it? Resisted watching it because you were worried it wouldn't live up to the hype? We invite you to the pants party. The party… with the pants. And the DVD. Get happy that a sequel is finally on the way...

MOST VALUED PLAYER: It's so very tough to choose from the ensemble, but Steve Carell's Brick Tamland has to take this one. We love lamp, too.

BEST JOKE: Rumble in the Bronx! Well, in San Diego. The news teams do battle.

1. Airplane!

DIRECTOR: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

CAST: Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Julie Hagerty, Peter Graves

Airplane! still

Zucker, Abrams and Zucker's magnum opus is pretty much unchallenged at the top of this list. It's easy to see why. The filmmakers were ruthless, playing numerous rough cuts of the film to college audiences and excising anything that didn't get a big laugh. The streamlined disaster movie riff that is left, then, is pure quadruple-distilled comedy, with a gag rate of about three hilarious jokes per minute and a perfect mix of surrealism, wit, parody and inspired physical gags. It has inspired approximately a billion quotes and homages in the 30 years since it first hit screens and still hasn't ever been equalled by its many, many imitators. Looks like it paid off for the ZAZ team to kill so many of their babies – comedy like this is a seriously tough business.

MOST VALUED PLAYER: While it's Leslie Nielsen who went on to great heights of further comic parody in the Naked Gun series, he's not a clear stand-out here: that honour belongs to Robert Hays' likeably lunkheaded Ted Striker, with an honourable mention for Lloyd "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit glue sniffing" Bridges.

BEST JOKE: Ted takes a drink and spills it on himself, explaining how it was, "The beginning of his drinking problem."

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