With theaters still closed in many places, that incredible Empire issue highlighting the cinema-going experiences of some of Hollywood’s best is still fresh on our minds. Recently a list of horror films recommended by Edgar Wright was posted in honor of it, but naturally we couldn’t stop there. On Wright’s list of 1,000 favorites alone, there are countless films that are worth talking about, but for this second list, we thought it would be only right to discuss the comedy genre. Since his own filmography is heavily reliant on the genre, and with a list of his 100 favorite comedies out in the world, it’s safe to assume that the genre is among Wright’s favorites. So with this, we’ll have a look at 10 great comedies recommended by Edgar Wright.
1. Waiting for Guffman (1996)
The first entry on this list is one of the most light-hearted comedies coming out of the ‘90s. It follows Corky St. Clair, a former New York theater professional, assisted by Lloyd Miller, a high school music teacher, in their journey of producing the musical “Red, White, and Blaine.” When the news breaks that a highly regarded theater critic, Guffman, will attend the musical, Corky goes all out with his cast of ‘talented’ locals in order to present an unforgettable production.
Christopher Guest directs and stars in this hilarious mockumentary, which is a product of a ton of improvisation by a very talented cast, a trait that many of Guest’s films share. Since there’s so much improv, the film feels very sincere; you can just feel the fun the cast and crew had on set. The story leads up to this insane musical (which is partly scripted, since there are musical numbers in there) that is in a way such a euphoric experience. It’s light, it’s goofy, it’s funny, and it just works. We’re not surprised Wright is a fan of this one; and to expand on this, his recommendation for a double bill includes another Guest mockumentary, “Best in Show.”
2. One Cut of the Dead (2017)
In the vein of “Shaun of the Dead,” there of course is a zom-com entering the list. Shinichiro Ueda’s “One Cut of the Dead” is a ride all the way through. The film follows a film crew shooting a low-budget zombie movie in an abandoned World War II facility, where they are attacked by real zombies. It starts off with a quirky 37-minute-long one-taker that could raise some eyebrows at first impression, but is such a rewarding experience when you’ve finished the film.
“One Cut of the Dead” is a film you should best go in blind for the full experience. It’s such a unique comedy, not afraid of doing its own thing and it’s always a pleasure to see this bravery pay off. Quite literally in this instance, as the film had a budget of $25,000 and made over a thousand times that – a box office record. We couldn’t say it better than Wright himself, who complimented the film for doing something different and called it “super funny and super sweet” on his Twitter. We’d like to add to that, the fact that you should check out Ueda’s COVID-proof short he made with a bunch of the crew somewhat recently.
3. Top Secret! (1984)
Val Kilmer stars as the handsome, somewhat ignorant ‘50s-style rock & roll singer Nick Rivers in the midst of World War II. Nick is sent to East Germany to represent the States in a Nazi-organized cultural festival. Although ordered to keep a low profile, Rivers manages to fall in love with Hillary Flammond, who gets him involved with the French Resistance.
Combining rock & roll with war makes for a spoof movie that’s all over the place and it sometimes feels like “Dr. Strangelove” on psychedelics. Abrahams and the Zuckers top their previous gag-filled film “Airplane” here by having an even tighter gag-density. “Top Secret!” is the less popular movie, but arguably the better crafted one. The suspense element of war films fits perfectly with this type of comedy since every moment of suspense is the build-up to a hilarious punchline. On top of that, you’ve got musical interludes that are actually surprisingly great and complement the pacing of it all. Edgar Wright delights us with another double feature on Twitter, this time pairing up “Top Secret!” with “Team America: World Police” (2004), a hilarious effort from South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
4. The Exterminating Angel (1962)
Edgar Wright once compared Buñuel’s “The Exterminating Angel” with his “The World’s End.” Not in terms of story, but in terms of an early idea of a high concept. Wright and Simon Pegg wanted to take their idea of an all-in-one-night movie to the extreme and make it close to an existential farce. The concept of ‘must get to the 12th pub, whatever the cost’ is a similar one to the idea of “The Exterminating Angel.”
In “The Exterminating Angel,” Edmundo and Lucía are hosting a lavish dinner party after a night out at the opera. Sometime before the party begins, the household servants are all strangely called away from the house one by one, only leaving Julio, the head servant. Twenty bourgeois guests arrive and have dinner with the couple, while only Julio is there to serve them. After dinner they move to the music room where conversations slowly aggravate. When it’s time to leave, the guests come to realize that they can’t; a strange force holds them hostage in this room.
The concept is turned around for “The World’s End,” since that follows ‘must get there’ and this explores ‘must leave here.’ In that way, the concept of Wright’s film might be more in line with Buñuel’s “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie,” which sees a bourgeois group of friends wanting to sit down for dinner, but never actually get to that point. Themes like these are explored thoroughly by Buñuel, who often uses his humor and fantastical imagination to symbolize not only the bourgeoisie, but plenty of social, political, and religious themes. For that and many more reasons, his filmography is one recommended to explore.
5. The Ladykillers (1955)
Widowed Mrs. Wilberforce rents out two rooms in her house to Professor Marcus, who tells her that he and his four odd friends are an amateur string quintet and would like to use the rooms to practice. In fact, the men take advantage of Mrs. Wilberforce’s ignorance and use the rooms to plot a bank robbery.
We certainly couldn’t make a list of Edgar Wright favourites without some British comedies. First up, this Ealing classic. The title might be most familiar for its American remake by the Coen brothers, but that one does not beat the delightful original by Alexander Mackendrick. The film is not only a display of humor, but maybe even more so a display of great performances. Wright especially praised the leading performances of Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers, but it would be wrong to not also mention the best performance of all: widow Mrs. Wilberforce, played by Katie Johnson.