I’ll never forget the first time I saw A Shot in the Dark (1964, .358 batting average, No. 556 all-time movie, No. 45 all-time comedy) during its initial theater run. Besides being one of my first car dates ever, I found myself laughing out loud repeatedly at the antics of Peter Sellers as the inept Inspector Clouseau. What burned the experience into my memory was the reality that very few films have ever made me howl with laughter. That, and the reaction of my date, who thought the movie was ridiculously stupid, and chastised me for my lack of public decorum.
The conclusion was, and is, simple. Not everyone’s fancy is tickled by the same sense of humor. Here’s another guiding fact: While it is always easy to recognize a film intended as pure comedy, movies that evoke laughter are not always just a comedy. Indeed, very few films ever produced are totally void of at least one dramatic moment, or one chuckle.
What tickles your fancy? Chances are that at least one of these best comedy selections will get you to at least crack a smile.
The best comedies OF ALL-TIME
1. It Happened One Night (1934, .436 batting average, No. 7 all-time movie)
A reporter learns the true identity of the runaway heiress at his side and helps her getaway, hoping for a scoop. This one spawned Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam when Friz Freleng saw it.
2. Tom Jones (1963 Great Britain, .434, No. 9)
A fatherless lad raised as a gentleman in 18th-century England has a weakness for the ladies…and they have a weakness for him. The only film to ever garner three Oscar nominations for best supporting actress.
3. The Graduate (1967, .428, No. 17)
An aimless college graduate “dances” with a mother and daughter to the music of Simon and Garfunkel. In real life, Anne Bancroft was only 6 years older than Dustin Hoffman, and 8 years older than Katharine Ross.
4. *Singin’ in the Rain (1952, .423, No. 23)
A silent movie star with an earwax-rattling voice is snubbed in love, then dubbed on-screen as films evolve to talkies. Chaos reigns as she gets wise to both. There was a water shortage in Culver City the day the title number was filmed.
5. Some Like it Hot (1959, .421, No. 29)
After witnessing a gang slaying, two musicians join an all-female band and even dress like girls to avoid getting knocked off. Banned in Kansas upon release…The cross-dressing was just too much for farmers.
6. *The Gold Rush (1925 silent, .421, No. 31)
The Little Tramp prospects for both gold and romance in the Klondike. Re-released in 1943 with a music score and received two Oscar nominations for sound.
7. *The General (1927 silent, .417, No. 41)
Yankee spies make the mistake of nabbing a Rebel engineer’s two loves: his girl and his locomotive. He goes to the end of the line. Based on a failed incident in the Civil War.
8. *City Lights (1931 silent, .416, No. 45)
The Tramp falls in love with a blind flower girl, then luckily gains the funds necessary for her healing eye operation. A clear look at devotion. Albert Einstein accompanied Chaplin to US premiere. Orson Welles’ favorite flick.
9. The Rules of the Game (1939 France, .416, No. 49)
Just prior to WW II, a wild weekend in the country for French aristocrats includes the romantic games of servants. A metaphor for folly under siege. Banned by the Nazis during occupation of France.
10. *E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982, .412, No. 64)
A young boy bonds with an alien stranded on Earth and, with the aid of siblings and friends, helps him return home. E.T.’s face modeled after Carl Sandburg, Albert Einstein, and a pug dog.
* These flicks are considered family-friendly by one expert or another.
The rules of the rating game
A .300 “batting average” equals a 3-star rating on a 4-star scale. A film’s numerical ranking indicates it’s all-time position in motion picture history. Soc Dolager’s movie batting averages, statistics, and rankings are objectively computed from critical opinions and daily box office data. Batting averages move up and down to reflect the opinions of the current generation of movie fans. Try one of these selections…. Soc hasn’t seen a “bad movie” in over seven years. For more information on Soc’s system or to submit an idea for featured movie listings, e-mail Soc at (email@example.com) info (at) thebuzzmagazines (dot) com.