(1980) D: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
(1982) D: Ken Finkleman. Starring Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty.
The sequel is not as good as the original, but I LOVE slapstick, so I can’t get much more satisfied than these low-brow comedy classics. The original is one of those films everyone has to see, just to experience it. Even if it’s not your kind of humor, you’ve got to give props to whoever gave Robert Hays a movie franchise.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Air Mexico was the only airline to show the movie on its flights.
THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT
(1995) D: Rob Reiner. Starring Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox.
I guess I’m just a sucker for these behind-the-scenes movies. It’s rare that Michael Douglas doesn’t creep me out, but he is wholeheartedly lovable and Annette Bening is every bit his equal. But it is the screenplay, by the master of intelligent quip dialogue, Aaron Sorkin, that makes this movie totally accessible and smart.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The Oval Office set was originally constructed for Dave (1993) and subsequently used for The West Wing (1999). Anna Deavere Smith has appeared in all 3 productions.
(1981) D: Steve Gordon. Starring Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud.
What an odd combination on paper: Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud. But the result is a pure comedy classic.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Arthur was director/writer Steve Gordon’s only feature film as a director—he died the year after its release.
AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY
(1997) D: Jay Roach. Starring Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley.
AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME
(1999) D: Jay Roach. Starring Mike Myers, Heather Graham.
AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER
(2002) D: Jay Roach. Starring Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles, Michael Caine.
Austin Powers movies are like Woody Allen and Coen Brothers films: you either love them or you hate them. I love them. Mike Myers is hilarious as the geeky James Bond wanna-be, but he steals the show every time as the misunderstood villain Dr. Evil. Low brow humor has never been so clever.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Proving as a testament to the word-of-mouth interest that the first Austin movie generated, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me made more money in its opening weekend than Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery made in its entire theatrical run.
BACK TO SCHOOL
(1986) D: Alan Metter. Starring Rodney Dangerfield, Sally Kellerman, Keith Gordon, Robert Downey, Jr.
Rodney Dangerfield at his absolute best.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The room in which Thornton Mellon takes his three-hour oral exam is the same room in which Alex Owens makes her successful dance audition in Flashdance.
BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM
(2002) D: Gurinder Chada. Starring Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Johnathan Rhys-Meyers.
Well, besides the OBVIOUS reasons I love this movie (English soccer, anyone?), Parminder Nagra is a chick who totally kicks ass!
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: In the original plot, Jess and Jules were in love with each other, not with Joe.
BEST IN SHOW
(2000) D: Christopher Guest. Starring Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Michael McKean, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Larry Miller.
Enjoy satire at its comic best in this perfect ensemble masterpiece.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: There is only one unscripted bark in the entire movie.
BEVERLY HILLS COP
(1984) D: Martin Brest. Starring Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton.
Those who didn’t believe the genius of Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live were believers as soon as they saw this landmark ’80s action comedy.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The first film to be shown at over 2,000 theatres in the U.S.
(1988) D: Penny Marshall. Starring Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, John Heard, Jared Rushton.
People forget that Tom Hanks was nominated for his first Oscar for this role, but because the Academy doesn’t take comedy seriously, he didn’t have a chance. But this is truly Tom Hanks at his best.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Penny Marshall became the first female director to ever direct a movie that grossed more than $100 million at the box office with this movie.
(1996) D: Mike Nichols. Starring Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane, Dianne Wiest, Hank Azaria.
It’s hard to upstage perennial attention-grabber Williams or eternal diva Lane, but Azaria manages to do it, in spades. Your sides will hurt as you watch Azaria master physical comedy while turning in the flamiest performance of all time. The rest of the film is enjoyable too, but Azaria will win your heart.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Robin Williams was originally cast as Albert, but he wanted a change from flamboyant characters, and asked to be cast as Armand. Mike Nichols agreed, and re-cast him.
(1980) D: Harold Ramis. Starring Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Michael O’Keefe.
How many comic geniuses can you get together in one movie? What other result can there have been other than a pure comedy classic.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Bill Murray improvised the “Cinderella story” sequence from two lines of stage direction. Director Harold Ramis simply asked Murray to emulate a kid announcing his own fantasy sports moment, and Murray took it from there.
(1995) D: Amy Heckerling. Starring Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, Jeremy Sisto, Breckin Meyer.
If I had grown up in the 90s, would this film be my Breakfast Club? Nah, not political enough. And too sweet. But who needs political when a film is this well-written and charming.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Director Heckerling also directed another teen classic, Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
(1993) D: Ivan Reitman. Starring Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver.
I’m the first one to give credit to a screenplay when it deserves it. But this is one movie where an ordinary script is elevated to DVD-collection-worthiness by tremendous peformances (not to mention chemistry) by the two leads.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Kevin Kline got the part after Warren Beatty and Kevin Costner both turned it down.
DEFENDING YOUR LIFE
(1991) D: Albert Brooks. Starring Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep.
Yes, there is a Meryl Streep movie on this list….shocking, I know. BUT, for the record, this is not a Meryl Streep movie. This is through-and-through an Albert Brooks film. And we are all the better for it. And you know the film must be pretty darn funny for me to even sit through it with She-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named in it.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Meryl Streep has only been in 5 comedies, and 4 of them were 4 in a row (She-Devil, Postcards From the Edge, Defending Your Life and Death Becomes Her) in 1989-1992. Her only other comedy was Manhattan, in 1979.
(1999) D: Alexander Payne. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Matthew Broderick, Chris Klein.
Fabulous dark comedy that will forever make me root for Reese Witherspoon, even if she makes bad choices for the rest of her career. Somewhere between Heathers and Clueless is Election….and it is in that netherworld where this film truly stands apart.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Apples are featured prominently in the movie, usually before trouble arrives for a character. They are used as an analogy to entice Paul Metzler to enter the election, an apple tree is shown before Mr. McAllister is stung by a bee, apples hang above the doorway to Mr. McAllister’s living room right before he discovers his wife knows he cheated on her, and Mr. McAllister wins the Apple Teacher of The Year Award at the beginning of the movie.
FATHER OF THE BRIDE
(1991) D: Charles Shyer. Starring Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Kimberly Williams.
Schmaltzy, sappy, manipulative, predictable, corny and idealized. But with Steve Martin, I call it heaven. And yes, I cry like a little girl EVERY time.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: This is a remake of the 1950 film of the same name, which starred Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. The premiere of the original took place two days after Elizabeth Taylor’s real-life marriage to Nicky Hilton and the publicity surrounding the event is credited with helping to make the film so successful.
FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF
(1986) D: John Hughes. Starring Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara.
A pure 80s confection.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The actors who played Ferris’ parents, Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward, met and fell in love shooting the film and got married when it wrapped. They have since divorced.
(2005) D: Bobby and Peter Farrelly. Starring Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon.
Maybe I’m seeing this movie through red-colored glasses, but I honestly think this movie is totally cute, charming, funny and endearing. Ok, maybe I am a little biased.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The film is based on Nick Hornby’s autobiographical book about his fanatical obsession with the English soccer team Arsenal.
A FISH CALLED WANDA
(1988) D: Charles Crichton. Starring John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin.
I’m the first to admit it. If I hadn’t re-viewed this film through the eyes of a fan, I never would have seen how brilliant it is. Of course, the first time I saw it I just didn’t GET it. And it seemed mean. Now that I can see it, I recognize it as one of the best comedies of my lifetime. If you didn’t appreciate it the first time, give it another chance.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Michael Palin went on to found the London Centre for Stammering Children after a group of stutterers confronted him regarding the sensitivity with which he dealt with Ken’s handicap in this film.
FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (2008) D: Nicholas Stoller. Starring Jason Segal, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand.
Who saw this one coming? A raunchy guy movie with a heart. And when something is funny, it’s just funny.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Screenwriter and star Jason Segel told New York Times interviewer Dave Itzkoff that both the naked breakup and Dracula puppet musical scenes were drawn from his real life experiences.
THE 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN
(2005) D: Judd Apatow. Starring Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Jane Lynch.
Definitely the best Apatow movie. Exceptional dialogue, great characters and wonderful performances all the way around. A great ensemble piece led by the completely lovable Steve Carell. No other movie has turned me completely around like this one did. It’s proof that an open mind can allow great things to enter.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The entire “You Know How I Know You’re Gay” scene was improvised by Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen.
(1999) D: Dean Parisot. Starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell.
A comic gem that came out of nowhere. Despite the formidable cast, this film seemed doomed to the formulaic Hollywood comedy factory waste heap, but it found an audience because of its pure wit and comic charm. This film is why it’s worth it to sift through the crap…you never know when you’ll stumble on a diamond.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The evil warlord Sarris was named for film critic Andrew Sarris, who once trashed producer Mark Johnson’s The Natural.
(1996) D: Dennis Dugan. Starring Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, Frances Bay, Julie Bowen.
Don’t scoff. Give it a chance, keep an open mind and I PROMISE you’ll laugh.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Co-screenwriter (with Adam Sandler) Tim Herlihy was a college roommate of Sandler’s and got a perfect score on his LSAT (law school admissions test).
THE HUDSUCKER PROXY
(1994) D: Joel Coen. Starring Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Newman, Charles Durning, John Mahoney.
Definitely the most unheralded (and most unknown) Coen Brothers film, but I think one of the best. Tim Robbins gives one of his best performances in yet another Coen style-over-substance piece. But the difference is I’d rather watch the Coen’s style over anyone else’s substance anyday.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: This was the Coen’s film between Barton Fink and Fargo and I bet you’ve never even heard of it.
I LOVE YOU, MAN
(2009) D: John Hamburg. Starring Paul Rudd, Jason Segal.
Isn’t this where the term “bro-mance” started? Well, it should’ve. Paul Rudd is at his absolute dorky best.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: J.K. Simmons, who plays Paul Rudd’s father, is only 14 years older than him.
IN & OUT
(1997) D: Frank Oz. Starring Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Tom Selleck, Matt Dillon.
I still can’t decide whether I am offended by this film or not. But I laugh out loud every time either way.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The Oscar statuette used in the film is Kevin Kline’s. He won it in 1988 for Best Supporting Actor in A Fish Called Wanda (1988).
(1979) D: Carl Reiner. Starring Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters.
Steve Martin plays the most adorable idiot you could possibly imagine.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Carl Reiner directed 4 straight movies starring Steve Martin from 1979 to 1984 (The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man With Two Brains, All of Me).
(2007) D: Jason Reitman. Starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons.
So much has been said already about this film and it deserves it all. For me, it’s about the screenplay and the performances of Ellen Page and Michael Cera. This film was a true breath of fresh air.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Jennifer Garner dropped her A-list salary to a percentage point agreement for Juno when it was expected to be a small, low grossing indie film, but the decision paid off when Juno became a breakout smash at the box office – giving Garner her best payday yet.
(2001) D: Robert Luketic. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair.
Am I really recommending a formula fish-out-of-water movie? When it’s got Reese Witherspoon, yes.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: As agreed in her contract, Reese Witherspoon kept all of her costumes after filming.
THE LONELY GUY
(1984) D: Arthur Hiller. Starring Steve Martin, Charles Grodin.
Classic. Comedy. Genius.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Playwright Neil Simon co-wrote the screenplay.
MEN IN BLACK
(1997) D: Barry Sonnenfeld. Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino.
The word clever was invented to describe this film.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Linda Fiorentino won her part in a poker game from director Sonnenfeld. In addition to the part in the movie, she won around $1200.
(2000) D: Donald Petrie. Starring Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt, Candice Bergen.
Julia Roberts may be the queen of romantic comedies, but nobody can touch Sandra Bullock in the self-effacing comedy department.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: There is a scene from the trailer, which is missing in the final version of the film: Her father asks her if she’s a lesbian. She laughs and answers “I wish”.
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL
(1975) D: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. Starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin.
If you think it’s impossible to create humor that’s silly AND smart, meet Monty Python. A cult classic.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Funds earned by Pink Floyd’s album “The Dark Side of the Moon” went towards funding The Holy Grail. The band were such fans of the show they would halt recording sessions just to watch “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” (1969).
(1996) D: Albert Brooks. Starring Albert Brooks, Debbie Reynolds.
Who can’t relate to the push-pull relationship of a grown child’s relationship to their parents? The generation gap has never been funnier.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Since she had received no alimony from ex-husband Paul Simon, Albert Brooks asked good friend and daughter of the movie’s star Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, if she would ask her ex to give Brooks the right to use an adapted version of his famous song “Mrs. Robinson”, originally used in the film The Graduate along with his equally famous partner Art Garfunkel. As “Simon & Garfunkel”, both artists refused to allow anyone use of their iconic song. In the early eighties, the duo were offered a lot of money to rework the song for a “Mr. Coffee” commercial. They refused that and all other offers. However, because of his relationship with Fisher, Simon agreed and the song was rewritten using the name “Mrs. Henderson” instead.
(1993) D: Chris Columbus. Starring Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan.
There is a place in this world for frothy family comedies. Especially when they are this entertaining and well-cast.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: In real life Robin Williams divorced his wife in order to marry his nanny. In this film he divorces his wife and becomes her nanny.
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S EUROPEAN VACATION
(1985) D: Amy Heckerling. Starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Dana Hill, Jason Lively.
My personal shout-out to every ugly American tourist I ever saw in Europe…and probably was myself!
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: You wouldn’t think a film about a wacky family traveling around Europe would be the only movie that perennial 80’s teen-movie darlings Amy Heckerling (Fast Times At Ridgemont High) and John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful) would work together on. Hughes co-wrote the screenplay and Heckerling directed.
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION
(1983) D: Harold Ramis. Starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron.
The original has to be on everyone’s must-see list. Part of the classic American comedy trifecta, along with Caddyshack and Animal House.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: In the Walley World scenes, Anthony Michael Hall is taller than Beverly D’Angelo, than from previous scenes in the film where he matched her height. This occurred because Hall grew three inches after principal photography, and the ending was re-shot months later, after the initial ending failed with test-audiences.
9 TO 5
(1980) D: Colin Higgins. Starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Dabney Coleman.
Comedy the way it’s meant to be. And it’s SO ’70s!
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: This was Dolly Parton’s first film. In preparation for her role as Doralee Rhodes, she not only committed to memory her own part, but the parts of every other actor in the film.
(1999) D: Mike Judge. Starring Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman, Ajay Naidu.
How can a seemingly silly and basic movie generate such legions of devoted fans? Because it’s basic and silly, of course. Sometimes the most relatable and simple comedy can be the most satisfying. I am a full-fledged and proud member of the cult.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The movie has such a massive cult following that director Judge is always asked about doing a sequel, but he says it’ll never happen because the box office showing of the original was so poor.
(1987) D: Joel Coen. Starring Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman.
You either love it or you hate it. That’s because you either get it or you don’t.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Kevin Costner turned down the lead role.
(1987) D: Fred Schepisi. Starring Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich, Shelley Duvall.
I can try to be cool, but a sappy, sweet and silly movie will pop up and I have to admit my love for it. This one is simple, but Steve Martin is so good, you forget Daryl Hannah is so bad. Just go with it.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Steve Martin performed all of his own stunts.
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY
(1998) D: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. Starring Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon.
If you can get past the crudeness (yes, it is funny) and the political incorrectness (hilarious) and the just plain rude (you won’t be able to help yourself), you’ll fall for Ben Stiller’s charm and Cameron Diaz’s egoless magnificence and appreciate this film for all its many layers and moments of silly greatness.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The studio was initially reluctant to allow Ben Stiller – the Farrelly Brother’s first choice – to star, so the brothers decided upon a then-unknown Owen Wilson instead. When the studio were even more reluctant to let Wilson star, they agreed for the Farrellys to cast Stiller.
THIS IS SPINAL TAP
(1984) D: Rob Reiner. Starring Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner.
Rob Reiner takes spoofing to a new hilarious level, as the satire of the “rockumentary” hits every perfect note. A comedy classic.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The actors are all competent musicians, and the soundtrack is actually them playing.
(1982) Directed by Sydney Pollack. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Bill Murray
My favorite movie of all time. Hands down.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: All of Bill Murray’s lines were improvised. He is also uncredited.
THE WEDDING SINGER
(1998) D: Frank Coraci. Starring Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Christine Taylor, Matthew Glave.
The soundtrack. The hair. The campy acting. Still, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are perfect together in this innocent and sweet love story that’s almost more about its setting (the 80s) than it is about the story. This is one of those great movies to watch when you’re home sick.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: One of only 4 movies directed by Coraci, a former NYU classmate of Adam Sandler.
(1988) D: Mike Nichols. Starring Melanie Griffith, Sigourney Weaver, Harrison Ford.
Am I really recommending a Melanie Griffith film? Yes, it’s THAT good. And Sigourney Weaver’s over-the-top memorable performance certainly helps.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Kevin Spacey was brought in as a last-minute replacement for another actor in the part of Bob Speck. On the day the scene was shot, Mike Nichols, who had previously directed Spacey in Heartburn (1986), sent a car to Spacey’s New York apartment, with a copy of the script in the back seat. Spacey learned his lines while on the way to the shoot. Nichols was under pressure to finish the scene so he wouldn’t have to postpone his wedding to Diane Sawyer two days later.
(2001) D: Ben Stiller. Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor.
Ben Stiller became my new favorite comedic actor with this zany, brave and completely endearing portrayal of a dim-witted supermodel who is entrusted with saving the world.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Ben Stiller wrote the part of Hansel specifically for Owen Wilson and said that no one else was even considered for the role.