What makes a good comedy? Is it a film that makes you laugh so hard you hyperventilate? Is it a film that defies genre to teach a lesson or leave you with warm-fuzzies at the end? Is it a film that delivers not just snickers, but enduring cultural significance?
BBC Culture, with the help of 253 film critics, has boldly attempted to answer the question with their latest ambitious entertainment list: the 100 greatest comedies of all time.
Naming the best comedy movies of all time is a task inherently fraught with challenges. All art is subjective, but somehow comedy seems especially so. “Greatest”, too, is an entirely individual designation. And then there’s the question of volume – when you’re dealing with the entirety of cinematic history, in every country in the world, it’s impossible that even the most dedicated critic has the expertise to judge it all.
To quote the infamous final line of the #1 film, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
Still, BBC made a crack effort to get a diverse list. The 253 film critics break down into 118 women and 135 men from 52 countries and six continents. Movies from any country made since the dawn of filmmaking were eligible. Critics were provided no definition of what does and does not constitute a comedy; they were simply asked, “What do you think are the 10 best comedies of all time?”
The resulting list is a fascinating mix of old and new. Recent hits like The Hangover and Anchorman claimed places alongside classics like Blazing Saddles, Animal House, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Some of the winners go ever farther back, including 1934’s It Happened One Night and 1923’s Safety Last!
As for whether any of your favourites were funny enough to make the cut, you’ll find the top 10 above and the full list of history’s best comedy movies here.