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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
Egon: Don’t cross the streams.
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.