6. Boudu Saved From Drowning (Jean Renoir, 1932)
Though this is quite possibly the most unknown film on this list, it may just be the best. Of course, coming from a director as fantastic as Jean Renoir is, this shouldn’t be a surprise at all, however, it just has to be said considering how many people seem to miss this one out of his major works. Boudu Saved From Drowning follows, you guessed it, Boudu, who tries to drown himself, but is saved by a middle-upper class man who owns a library, to his family’s disdain.
The real shining part of the film is the next level performance from the brilliant Michel Simon, who must have given every bit of energy that he had, and then some, considering the fact that his character is so relentlessly energetic and constantly bouncing off of the walls in this bizarre way that makes him simultaneously discomforting but so, so funny, with a certain child-like innocence to him, juxtaposing his large, bearded physical character with the husky voice.
Thankfully, the script uses this insane physical performance almost constantly, and the film manages to feel like this wonderful mix of the style of Jacques Tati (as far as the physicality of the performance and the mocking of current times goes) and Luis Buñuel (with the oddball feeling to it and the mocking of the bourgeoisie and their attitudes towards others in particular), which are two massive comparisons to make, but this film really earns both, which is especially impressive when taken into account that this film was released before Buñuel ever made a comedy and before Tati even made his first film.
It may just be the finest comedy ever made. An absolute must for any fans of physical performances, too, as Simon’s deserves the absolute highest praise a performance can be given.
7. Smorgasbord AKA Cracking Up (Jerry Lewis, 1983)
Smorgasbord, undoubtedly one of the most relentless comedies ever made (as to be expected with any late J. Lewis film), is one of the funniest films ever made. The film is just a collection of a group of the greatest gags ever put to screen, with Lewis giving it his all in front of and behind the camera.
As with Simon in Boudu Saved From Drowning, Jerry Lewis gives an all time best performance here as the severely troubled Warren Nefron, a man who decides to visit a psychiatrist after failing suicide (twice, in the opening scene). As hopeless as it may sound, this works as an incredibly dark comedy focusing on a group of gags that don’t really make all too much sense as a narrative, but work so beautifully one by one that it can’t be ignored.
Lewis is completely unhinged here, and it really shows in the way that the plot just jumps around from gag to gag in the way that it does. The same can be said for his next film, the brilliant Hardly Working.
Though Lewis’ late work definitely isn’t the kind of thing that everyone can enjoy, with some finding them unbearably unfunny, it is definitely worth giving Smorgasbord a chance as an introduction to his style, as the pacing is so incredibly fast and the jokes are just so quick and constant that at worst, the 89 minutes will feel like 89 minutes.
8. The Producers (Mel Brooks, 1967)
Though Mel Brooks never manages to make a film quite as sharp again, The Producers is a wonderful film that remains hilarious even now, almost 52 years after it was first released. The film follows Broadway producer Max Bialystock and his new accountant Leo Bloom as they hatch a plan to make money by making the worst possible play they can… that play being a celebration of World War II and Hitler.
Featuring a terrifically unlikeable performance from Zero Mostel as Bialystock and Gene Wilder in one of his earliest and most energetic performances as Leo Bloom, the borderline deranged accountant who is coerced into Max’s dastardly plot, The Producers is frequently hilarious and works as a complete mockery of the Nazis, one that may even make Chaplin jealous.
It really goes without saying that any film featuring the line “Don’t be stupid, be a smartie! Come and join the Nazi Party!” is one hell of a way to start a filmmaking career, it’s just a shame that Brooks lost his strength over the years. However, Brooks’ other films have no effect on this one, which remains as funny as ever and as brutal as ever, too. It’s a classic that most anyone could enjoy, and considering that it is still quite easy to find, it’s well worth tracking down and watching.
9. Evil Dead 2 (Sam Raimi, 1987)
It may not be a clear-cut comedy, however, Sam Raimi’s classic Evil Dead 2 is one of the most easily enjoyable films ever made, with the endless amount of blood and gore splattered across the screen almost constantly, Bruce Campbell in one of his finest performance, if not his absolute best, and Sam Raimi taking his energetic low budget directing to the next level.
With a similar plot to its iconic predecessor, Evil Dead 2 takes the campy nature that was prevalent in the original but not explored much and takes it to up a notch, or four, creating one of the most deranged, funny ‘horror’ movies ever made, one in which the plot constantly escalates and the situation grows more and more bizarre for our hero, Ash Williams.
It never ceases to amaze how Raimi managed to make such a leap between the original Evil Dead and the sequel, and the fact that he manages to stick the landing without creating a complete mess of a film is one of the most impressive things a horror director has ever done, and the fact that Raimi only took it further with the closing film of the Evil Dead trilogy, Army of Darkness, just shows how bold of a director he is. Evil Dead 2 works as the dream film to watch with friends, with the ridiculously fast pacing, the fun campy playfulness to it all and some wonderful directing flair.
10. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
If you enjoy very quippy, quick dialogue, this might just be the perfect film for you. The dialogue is insanely quick, the pacing also matched to the same speed along with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in the cast and Howard Hawks directing in one of the most quippy comedies ever made.
The film moves so quickly, in plot, dialogue and focus, and also merges situational comedy into the blend effortlessly, following David Huxley as he tries to find a bone for his museum collection and eventually ends up with a leopard called Baby.
The film is simply wonderful, working on this unexplainable charm from start to finish that makes it one of the best films to just relax with and enjoy. It’s excellently written, beautifully directed and just so vivacious that it’s a hell of a good time.