My Favorite Things – ‘Top 5 Funny Movies’

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Last summer when I started my recurring series, ‘My Favorite Things’, I documented a whole series of categories and stored them away for a rainy day. So far we’ve covered my favorite Scary Movies, Individual Scenes, Film Endings, Comic Book Flicks and of course, the five flicks that made this grown man cry. I thought it was time that we lighten the mood a bit and focus in on those flicks that never fail to make me laugh.

Once again, this is not the list of the Top 5 Comedies of all time. That definitive list has already been compiled somewhere, somehow, by some people much wiser than I. Although as smart as they may be, that doesn’t make their list right. Nope, for this list, ‘My Top 5 Funny Movies’ is purely driven by opinion only. And one’s opinion is the only one that truly counts.

Which brings me to my usual plea. Let us know how you feel. What’s in your Five? Use the Comments below to let me know which flicks or even individual scenes in your favorite films, never fail to turn your frown upside down.

Enough about you, let’s talk about me. Without furth ado, my Top 5 Funny Movies.

5.    National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

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Clark:   Hey, Kids, I heard on the news that an airline pilot spotted Santa’s sleigh on it’s way in from New York City.
Eddie:   [after a pause] You serious, Clark?

I’m sure I will be ostracized with this pick. Where’s Stripes? Animal House? Caddyshack? Hell, where’s Vegas Vacation?

Yes, yes, yes – they’re all funny movies. But not one flick in that list rates as required viewing in my household each year – a title that National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation secured the year it was released (1989) and has held ever since.

The funny thing is I’m not even much of a Chevy Chase fan. I was soured on the man in my twenties when Howard Stern would often catch up with him and find a mean old man who couldn’t take a joke. That’s fine for your regular man on the street… but a comedian??? That’s a distinction he also shares with fellow funnyman Billy Crystal who is one giant sourpuss… and a Yankee fan to boot. “It’s not fun… and it’s not funny!”

Anyway, Chase be damned, the third flick in the Vacation quadrology (I’m sure I made that word up) is the proverbial gift that keeps on giving. This is one of those flicks that I can recite chapter and verse as the characters voice the script. “The blessss-innnnggggg“. “I wouldn’t be more suprised if I woke up tomorrow morning with my head sewn to the carpet.” And of course, the immortal “Shitter was full!!!” Words to live by, Cousin Eddie.

Like all great comedies, this one just makes me feel real good when its over. I love Christmas and all the tradition that adorns it so my love for this flick may have something to do with that but above all, this is just a great heart-warming comedy.

4.   The Big Lebowski (1998)

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The Stranger:   I guess that’s the way the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin’ itself.

Those poor misunderstood Coen Brothers.

Joel and Ethan followed up their critical darling, Fargo, with this warped comedy noir that wraps kidnapping, Desert Storm, pornography (Logjammers), Wagner’s Viking women and bowling in one majestic tapestry. At the center of it all is a rug which really ties the whole movie together yet brings about much crisis to The Dude’s mellow.

Jeff Bridges stars as Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski who gets mistaken for the other Lebowski, the titular ‘Big Lebowski’. When ‘The Dude’ visits the Big Lebowski seeking reparations for a soiled rug, he gets pulled into a bizarre kidnapping plot. Unfortunately, he has help from his pin pals Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi) who conspire to send ‘The Dude’ further down the rabbit hole.

Although this film released to lukewarm reviews, it’s stature has grown over the years and The Big Lebowski has become a bonafide cult classic.

This makes my list on the strength of its comedic characters. John Goodman’s Vietnam Vet Walter – who refuses “to let this agression stand”. John Tuturro’s pedophile bowler, ‘Jesus Quintana’. Flea and Peter Stormare’s nasty Nihilists. The film is just teaming with unique characters that we had never seen before.

But it’s Bridges’ Dude who really ties the whole thing together.

The Dude:   Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not “Mr. Lebowski”. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

3.   Kingpin (1996)

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Ernie McCracken:   It all comes down to this roll. Roy Munson, a man-child, with a dream to topple bowling giant Ernie McCracken. If he strikes, he’s the 1979 Odor-Eaters Champion. He’s got one foot in the frying pan and one in the pressure cooker. Believe me, as a bowler, I know that right about now, your bladder feels like an overstuffed vacuum cleaner bag and your butt is kinda like an about-to-explode bratwurst.
Roy Munson:   Hey. Do you mind? I wasn’t talking when you were bowling.
Ernie McCracken:   Was I talking out loud? Was I? Sorry. Good luck.

Hands down, the funniest bowling flick since my number four selection.

Ask people what their favorite Farrelly Brothers flick is and the overwhelming answer will be There’s Something About Mary. Maybe Dumb & Dumber. While I think both movies are funny, I think Kingpin is wall-to-wall hilarious mostly due to the fact that in this flick, the Farrelly’s stick to that cardinal rule of comedy – if you are going to offend, make sure you don’t take it easy. Be an equal opportunity offender and nail friggin’ everyone.

To steal a page from those quote spewing junket whores, Kingpin is the Rocky of Amish Bowling Movies. Woody Harrelson stars as Roy Munson, a former bowling champ who lost his hand in the ball return machine years earlier. Munson looks to reclaim some of those glory days when he discovers Randy Quaid’s Amish bowling phenom. The two partner up to take on the world of semi-professional bowling – culminating in a revenge match against Bill Murray’s Ernie McCracken at the 1995 Odor Eater’s Invitational.

The pleasures of Kingpin are many. Ishmael’s frozen nips. Bill Murray’s untamed hairdo. Roy Munson’s landlord from hell – a character who is featured in the most revolting Graduate parody ever committed to film. And then of course there is Chris Elliot’s cameo as a high stakes gambler who offers up his own indecent proposal to Woody for one night of sin with Ishmael.

Had that last bit not been revealed to be a dream, this title would have leap frogged to number one on my list.

2.   Army of Darkness (1992)

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Arthur:   Are all men from the future loud-mouthed braggarts?
Ash:       Nope. Just me baby… Just me.

Who knew that the third sequel to The Evil Dead – a nasty piece of low-budget horror – would transform into one of the funniest flicks I have ever experienced in a theater?

I have a theory on comedy – it’s best experienced with a crowd. Nothing outside of bird flu is as infectious as a good laugh.

Army of Darkness cements that opinion as fact. I saw this film the weekend it came out (probably the only weekend it played first-run theatrically) in the fall of 1992 while a Junior at UMASS Amherst. The audience that packed the South Hadley Cinema 8 theater was made up of my fellow constituents and before the film began there was a certain electricity in the air. It probably helps that we were as deep into a Friday night as most of the crowd was in their pre-film quarterkegs. Anyway, once that film started, director Sam Raimi and Bruce ‘The Chin’ Campbell had everyone eating from the palm of their chainsaw-fused hands.

From the initial title (Bruce Campbell vs. The Army of Darkness) to the last shotgun showdown in S-Mart, the crowd was rolling. This was the cinematic equivalent of the Wave. Campbell was testosterone prime as he infused the time-traveling dufus Ash with a potent blend of machismo and moronic wit.

Although it features reanimated skeleton warriors and shotgun blasts to the face, director Raimi made Ash legend through the generous sprinkling of instant catch-phrases.

“THIS… is my BOOMSTICK!!!”

“First you wanna kill me, now you wanna kiss me. (Pause) Blow!”

“Give me some sugar, baby.”

Despite fanboy wishes it’s doubtful we’ll ever get a true Ash follow-up. Director Sam Raimi hit the stratosphere with his helming of the Spider-Man flicks and its unlikely he’d ever come crawling back to muck around in this glorious mire. Well, maybe there is a tiny sembance of hope. Afterall, Raimi has gone on record as saying he loves these films as it gives him the great opportunity to torture his high school pal Campbell as payback for his good looks. Personally, I don’t think we need another one as Army of Darkness was a great swan song to a truly memorable comedic character and I can’t see them topping it.

“Hail to the king, baby.”

1.   Ghostbusters (1984)

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Winston Zeddemore:   “Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a God… you say YES!!!”

I must have seen this film 25 times from 1984 to 1988 – with the lion’s share of viewings coming when our family embraced the high tech world of VHS. This is one of those few films that I wore the tape out. And here comes my embarrassing revelation. My first Walk-Man featured Ray Parker Jr’s titular hit single Ghostbusters in heavy rotation throughout the summer of ’84. No wonder I didn’t start dating until 2005.

This is one of those rare films where every element comes together perfectly. You have an expert droll performance by Bill Murray as Peter Venkman. Dan Ackyroyd and Harold Ramis fill out the polar extremes in their portrayals of Ray and Egon. The supporting characters are expertly cast, with Rick Moranis and William Atheron delivering stand-out roles. “Yes, this man has no dick.” In addition, the effects are rock solid for the day and Ivan Reitman’s comedic direction is inspired.

I think one of the reasons this film is so good is it doesn’t look down on the supernatural phenomena. The film never descends to parody or feels it needs to wink to the audience. In the film’s universe, ghosts and evil demons exist and its fortunate that we have an ambulance driving squad of paranormal investigators to rid New York of the phantasms and save the day. And if those specters happen to take the form of the friendliest, most harmless characters from their childhood – The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man – all the better.

And as timeless as the film is, it’s the morals and messages that really endure.

Egon:   There’s something very important I forgot to tell you.
Venkman:   What?
Egon:   Don’t cross the streams.
Venkman:   Why?
Egon:   It would be bad.
Venkman:   I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, “bad”?
Egon:   Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Ray:   Total protonic reversal.
Venkman:   Right. That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

Comments now closed (8)

  • Ed, it is tough to get down to five so I went top 10 in no particular order. Just movies that make me laugh and when I am cruising though the channels and stumble across one of them, I invariable end up watching the rest of the movie.

    Clerks – The whole “Star Wars” debate was classic.
    Better of Dead – “Sorry I blew up your Mom Ricky”.
    Weird Science – Lisa, “She kneed him the nuts”. Large black man in a deep voice, “the family jewels?”
    Office Space – I have just become more and more a fan of this the more I work in an office. “Always say to yourself, is this good for the company?”
    Naked Gun – I was so happy when they made this movie as I one of 10 people who remember it was the TV show “Police Squad” first. “Nice beaver.” “Thanks, I just got it stuffed”.
    Garden State – I wasn’t expecting to like this movie, but enjoyed a lot. Zach Braff and Natalie Portman were good in it. “Hey, didn’t you play the retarded quarterback in that TV movie? You were so good. I can’t believe you’re not retarded. You were way better than that Corky kid and he was retarded in real life.”
    Parenthood – Although I don’t have kids yet, I can imagine this is what it is like sometimes. Lights go out and Gill looks for a flash light. Hey I found one, and it starts buzzing. “What the… “ Lights come on and he is holding a vibrator. Little girls asks “What’s that”. “It’s an electric ear cleaner”. “Wow, it’s big.”. Grandmother says with smile, “yes it is!”.
    Rushmore – Actually saw this in the theater. Tour de force Bill Murray.
    Annie Hall – Haven’t seen it a while. Classic scene with Christopher Walken, who plays Annie’s brother. They at Annie’s house and tells Woody, “Sometimes when I am driving along, I think what would happen if I just veered into incoming traffic.” Then later he is driving Woody to the airport and pure look of terror on his face is classic.
    Young Frankenstein – ”What name was on the brain that you got from the morgue?” “Abby something.” Uhhh.. Abby Normal.”

    If you ask me tomorrow I’m sure it would it change. I was going to put Full Metal Jacket as we watched the first half of the movie I college, probably 100 times and found it funny how the drill Sergeant just beat them down with his comments. Private Pyle, Private Snowball,etc.. Not meant to be funny we found it so.

  • @ckiatos: My childhood buddy Steve and I are among those 10 other people who enjoyed Police Squad way before The Naked Gun came out. We were huge Airplane fans and rented out the entire line of faded Police Squad tapes from our local Mom & Pop video store over and over again. My favorite gag involved a key store where in the background you could see the following “keys” hanging – Monkeys, Turkeys, Florida Keys. Obvious, or couse, but funny when you weren’t expecting it.

    I also loved how they closed each episode in freeze frame but they didn’t actually freeze the shot – all the actors just froze in place and tried to stay still while the credits rolled – usually in mid-laugh. The operative term is ‘tried’.

    Naked Gun almost made my list if it wasn’t for that real-life murderer Nordberg.

    You make a great point though. I think the best comedies are those that stop you dead in your tracks when channel surfing. Better off Dead and Office Space are also in my faves. Also, now that I write this, Old School, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Sixteen Candles jump to the fore front.

    Helll – I even have a soft spot for Cabin Boy.

  • I’m a big Cabin Boy fan. Yes, I’m that one guy!

    I think, if I were to put together a list like this, I’d have to make a distinction between movies that are, by genre, “comedies” and “movies that make me laugh.” I mean, I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed at a Hollywood movie as much as I have any given episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

    But if I had to pick movies that make me laugh out loud, the list would probably include the aforementioned Cabin Boy, as well as Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, and the Austin Powers movies. I remember laughing (in the theater!) until tears were in my eyes during the silhouette sequence in the tent in the second AP movie.

  • @JFCC – That’s the beauty of these lists, there’s no need for proper form and function. I’m sure Blockbuster doesn’t shelve Army of Darkness in their Comedy section but that’s where I placed it. Therefore, any movie that makes you laugh is fair game. I mean, who would have thought Full Metal Jacket was funny? Obviously ckiatos and his insensitive band of college cut-ups did.

    As for silhouette scenes, even though the joke was played in the second AP movie, I cried laughing in Goldmember when they played that bit again – only it featured a grown man giving birth to Mini Me. And that fountain scene caught on security camera almost killed me.

  • I forgot about Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Now I need to amend my list. This why these are so freaking hard! I enjoyed Old School, and it still makes me laugh, but I am not sure it will hold up over time for me like Better of Dead or some of the others.

  • I have thought about this for more than 24 hours, so it is now or never:

    5. American Pie 2
    4. Caddyshack
    3. Ghostbusters
    2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    1. Better Off Dead

    I could easily throw others in there like Mary, D&D, Old School, Austin Powers (probably 2 over the others), but I want my list to be a nod more to the past than the present. Not sure why though… but, ultimately, of the *new* funny movies, I don’t think I have laughed harder in the theater recently than when watching AP2, so it is #5.

  • Oh, and I meant to mention Home Alone, but then, that is only tremendously funny when Kevin is whaling on them in the house and the rest is mostly just cute. Anyway, I thought of that when you were talking about Christmas Vacation.

    Lastly, on that same thought, Elf has become my annual Christmas movie must-see along with A Christmas Story, if only because you can’t NOT watch it during that 24 hours…

  • Far too many, though the more I think about it the better comedies are the ones where they used to be able to get away with what they couldn’t dare say today.

    “Dong, Where’s Grandpa’s automobile?”

    5. Slap shot
    4. Better off Dead
    3. Ferris Beuller’s Day off
    2. Caddyshack
    1. Stripes