Good comedy movies can lift your spirits after a tough week, and there’s even scientific evidence to suggest a link between laughter with improved health. While I’m no Patch Adams, I do care about the well-being of my readers, so that’s why I’ve put together this list of 12 good comedy movies that might otherwise go unnoticed. A few modern comedy classics are included, but you’ll also find foreign comedies, cult comedies, and even classic comedies.
Groundhog Day (1993) – Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a misanthropic television weatherman who’s unhappy about having to cover the annual Groundhog Day ceremonies in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. But imagine his surprise when a blizzard strands him in the small town, and Phil suddenly finds himself living the same day over and over. Murray is perfect as the wisecracking jerk who slowly finds redemption, and Andie MacDowell makes a beautiful love interest.
The Princess Bride (1987) – Framed as a fairy tale read by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage), The Princess Bride tells the story of Westley (Cary Elwes), a farmhand who tries to reunite with his true love, Buttercup (Robin Wright), after being presumed dead. But Buttercup is in the clutches of the wicked Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), and so Westley must seek help from the massive Fezzik (Andre the Giant) and a Spaniard named Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin). A wonderful comedy for all ages, it also features plenty of romance, fantasy, and action.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) – Cary Grant plays Mortimer Brewster, a newlywed who learns that his aunts and brother are completely insane. The two aunts have been poisoning elderly bachelors and burying them in the basement, and Mortimer’s brother is convinced that he’s Teddy Roosevelt. But things get even more complicated for Mortimer when his other brother, Jonathan (Raymond Massey), arrives. As it turns out, Jonathan is completely psychotic, and he’s soon plotting to kill the only stable member of the family. Despite the gruesome nature of the crimes committed, the film is a comedy (and a darn good one at that).
The Perfect Crime (2004) – A black comedy from Spain, The Perfect Crime follows Rafael (Guillermo Toledo), a department store salesman bucking for a promotion. He’s also slept with every woman in his department expect one: the homely Lourdes (Monica Cervera). But when an accident suddenly produces a fresh corpse, Rafael finds himself in debt to Lourdes, and she intends to collect…with a vengeance.
The Big Lebowski (1998) – If you’d like to experience what’s been called “the first cult film of the Internet era,” then be sure to watch this slacker comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen. Jeff Bridges stars as The Dude, a stoner who’s mistaken for a millionaire with the same name and drawn into a web of intrigue. Hardcore fans attend an annual celebration known as Lebowski Fest, and the film is chock-full of quotable dialogue. Also starring John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sam Elliott.
The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) – Before Airplane! and the Naked Gun films, writers Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker created this zany sketch comedy film that parodies everything from educational films to kung-fu flicks. The unusual cast includes Bill Bixby, Tony Dow, Donald Sutherland, and George Lazenby. Directed by John Landis, who would later helm successful comedies such as National Lampoon’s Animal House, Trading Places, and Three Amigos.
Hollywood Shuffle (1987) – Robert Townsend directed, produced, co-wrote, and stars in this tale of an actor struggling to make it big in Hollywood. Filled with humorous daydreams and spoofs lampooning the stereotypical roles often given to minorities, the film was paid for with Townsend’s credit cards. A number of future stars make appearances, including Keenan Ivory Wayans and Damon Wayans.
The Kid (1921) – The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) takes in an abandoned child (Jackie Coogan), cares for him, and teaches him the finer points of being a con-man. But when welfare workers try to separate the duo, the Tramp is willing to do whatever it takes to be reunited. As with most classic comedies from Chaplin, the film mixes laughs with moments of sadness and social commentary. It’s a silent film, by the way, but don’t let that stop you from experiencing the magic of Chaplin.
Cabin Boy (1994) – Former David Letterman writer Chris Elliott stars as Nathaniel Mayweather, the arrogant heir to a hotel empire. Seeking to board the Queen Catherine to Hawaii, he instead stumbles onto a dilapidated fishing vessel named The Filthy Whore. Now stranded on the sea with an unhappy crew (including Brian Doyle-Murray and James Gammon), Nathaniel must earn his keep and contend with all the dangers of Hell’s Bucket, including a jealous giant (Mike Starr), an iceberg monster, and a cupcake that likes to spit tobacco. While it’s a bizarre comedy, it should be perfect for those whose taste in humor is unconventional.
EuroTrip (2004) – After finding out that his longtime pen pal is actually a beautiful girl, recent high school graduate Scotty Thomas (Scott Mechlowicz) heads off to Germany to make things right. He’s joined by three other pals (including Michelle Trachtenberg), and their adventures include soccer hooligans, amorous Italians, and a nude beach filled with only men. Watch for Matt Damon in a cameo as the lead singer of a band.
Soapdish (1991) – The plotlines of soap operas are funny enough on their own, but this film raises the ante by taking a look behind the scenes of the fictitious The Sun Also Sets. The all-star cast includes Sally Field, Robert Downey Jr., Kevin Kline, Whoopi Goldberg, Teri Hatcher, and Elizabeth Shue.
The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (1972) – Remade in America as The Man with One Red Shoe (starring Tom Hanks), this French comedy classic stars Pierre Richard as Francois Perrin, a hapless violinist who gets caught up in the power struggle between two members of the French secret service. Filled with slapstick comedy, action, and a liberal dash of French eroticism.