Special Report

The Funniest American Movies of All Time

Hollywood has left America in stitches since silent films first flickered in the cinema screens more than 100 years ago. From slapstick to parody, from low brow to biting satire, movie mythmakers have created some of the most famous, and quotable, films of all time while leaving audiences laughing.

Before talking pictures, the silent medium drew on slapstick to engage audiences. It was the ideal platform for Charlie Chaplin to use his gift for physical comedy to create The Tramp, moviedom’s first iconic character. 

The advent of talking pictures allowed directors such as Frank Capra and Howard Hawks and writers like Garson Kanin to create memorable banter and repartee. Screwball comedies, popular during the Great Depression, featured farcical situations and fast-paced dialogue. Films such as “His Girl Friday,” “Bringing up Baby” and “The Philadelphia Story” helped make stars out of Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart. (These are the best romantic comedies of all time.)

The 1930s also produced wonderfully chaotic Marx Brothers farces like “Duck Soup” and “A Night at the Opera” and introduced the urbane humor of the “Thin Man” series that starred William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Director Billy Wilder pushed the boundaries of comedy on the big screen in 1959 with his cross-dressing romp “Some Like it Hot,” starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. Filmmakers became bolder in the 1960s, making black comedies like the Cold War parodyDr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” and satirical commentary about American society like “The Graduate.”

Comedy has become a bit randier in more recent times, with R-rated films such as There’s Something About Mary.” But Americans will always make time for a good rom-com — for instance, “Groundhog Day” — one of the best comedies starring Bill Murray.

24/7 Tempo reviewed The 100 Funniest American Movies Of All Time, curated by the American Film Institute, a non-profit. Each movie’s starring actors were obtained from IMDb. 

Click here to see the funniest American movies of all time

50. Cat Ballou (1965)
> Starring: Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin, Michael Callan, Dwayne Hickman

Jane Fonda plays the title character, who is bent on revenge against the man (Lee Marvin) who killed her father. Critic Matthew Lucas described the film as a “lovably scruffy Western send-up” and the spoof helped lift Lee Marvin into stardom.

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49. To Be or Not to Be (1942)
> Starring: Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart

Ernst Lubitsch directed, produced, and co-wrote this satire about the Nazi takeover of Poland and a theatrical troupe’s attempt to help the Polish resistance. The movie was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1996. It was the last film that Carole Lombard appeared in before she died in a plane crash.

48. A Shot in the Dark (1964)
> Starring: Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom

This “Pink Panther” sequel has Peter Sellers’ Jacques Clouseau in full slapstick form, much to the exasperation of his long-suffering superior, played by Herbert Lom. The cast includes Elke Sommer and cinema’s greatest rogue, George Sanders.

47. Shampoo (1975)
> Starring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant

Warren Beatty plays a Beverly Hills celebrity hairdresser whose life becomes complicated when his womanizing ways conflict with his ambitions. A strong cast includes Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, and Jack Warden.

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46. Manhattan (1979)
> Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Michael Murphy

“Manhattan” is another Woody Allen valentine to his favorite city, populated with people as socially dysfunctional as the characters he plays. The film has a 94% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 92% of audiences liked the movie.

45. Harold and Maude (1971)
> Starring: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles, Cyril Cusack

“Harold and Maude” attracted a cult following after its release. The story is about a 20-year-old man weighing suicide who develops a relationship with a zany 80-year-old woman at a funeral.

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44. My Man Godfrey (1936)
> Starring: William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady, Gail Patrick

William Powell took time out from the “Thin Man” franchise to star in this 1930s screwball comedy about a down-and-out gentleman hired by a socialite to be her servant. The satire about the privileged class has a Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 97%.

43. American Graffiti (1973)
> Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith

A coming-of-age film set in the early 1960s that, because it cast Ron Howard, drew comparisons to the 1950s-themed situation comedy “Happy Days.” George Lucas directed the film and Francis Ford Coppola produced it.

42. Big (1988)
> Starring: Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard

Tom Hanks plays a boy whose wish to be a grownup comes true and he lands a job as a toy-tester at a company in New York City. Hanks’ natural boyishness infuses the movie with charm, and the film is remembered for the scene in which he and actor Robert Loggia tap dance to the songs “Heart and Soul” and “Chopsticks” on piano keys on a floor.

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41. Moonstruck (1987)
> Starring: Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello

Cher won an Oscar for her role as an Italian-American woman who falls in love with the brother of the man she’s supposed to marry. The film won two other Academy Awards and holds a 94% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

40. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
> Starring: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney

A driver dying from a car accident tells other motorists he’s buried a fortune, setting off the longest and wildest chase in movie history. The list of famous actors and comedians in this Stanley Kramer-directed romp might be the longest in filmdom. Peter Falk, Buster Keaton, Jack Benny, and Jerry Lewis are just a few of them.

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39. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
> Starring: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest

One of Preston Sturges’s greatest cinematic triumphs tells the story of a movie director (Joel McCrea) who believes he needs to experience life at its lowest level to create a motion picture masterpiece. To do so, he dresses like a hobo, gets into trouble, and is put on a chain gang. The film holds a 100% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 35 reviewers.

38. City Lights (1931)
> Starring: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee, Harry Myers

“City Lights” registered a Freshness rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the story of a luckless tramp in love with a blind flower girl who is thwarted in his attempts to keep her and her family from getting evicted. But their fortunes change when a millionaire rewards them for saving his life.

37. The Great Dictator (1940)
> Starring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner

In his first full talking picture, Charles Chaplin altered his trademark mustache to resemble that of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in this comedic rebuke of fascism. Chaplin’s dictator character is the spitting image of a Jewish barber and eventually the two become mixed up.

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36. National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
> Starring: John Belushi, Karen Allen, Tom Hulce, Stephen Furst

Though he didn’t have a huge role in “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” John Belushi stole the film, which tells the story of a fun-loving dissolute college fraternity about to be kicked off campus. Other stars include Kevin Bacon and Donald Sutherland.

35. Harvey (1950)
> Starring: James Stewart, Wallace Ford, William H. Lynn, Victoria Horne, James Stewart, Wallace Ford, William H. Lynn, Victoria Horne

James Stewart plays a wealthy man with a drinking problem who claims he sees a six-foot rabbit named Harvey. Critics were charmed by the whimsical story based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play written by Mary Chase.

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34. Groundhog Day (1993)
> Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky

“Groundhog Day” is a rom-com about a jaded newsman (Bill Murray) caught in a time loop of reliving Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pa., who falls in love. Harold Ramis directed, co-produced, and co-wrote the film.

33. Modern Times (1936)
> Starring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Tiny Sandford

Charlie Chaplin’s iconic tramp character returns in this film about a man struggling to find his way in the modern workplace. With a 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating, it is one of Chaplin’s highest-rated films, a vehicle for his superb timing and slapstick genius.

32. The Thin Man (1934)
> Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan, Nat Pendleton

The first of the six “Thin Man” films pairing William Powell and Myrna Loy as the breezy, boozy sleuthing team of Nick and Nora Charles. It has a 98% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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31. Raising Arizona (1987)
> Starring: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, John Goodman

“Raising Arizona” was a product of the co-writing team of Ethan and Joel Coen. Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter play a couple who are unable to have children and decide to kidnap a baby and keep the secret to themselves. New Yorker critic Pauline Kael said the film had a “rambunctious charm.”

30. Arsenic and Old Lace (1943)
> Starring: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, Jack Carson

This kooky comedy, directed by Frank Capra, is about a man (Cary Grant) who gets married on Halloween and when he delivers the news to his screwball relatives, discovers they’re serial killers. This was a different turn for two of the movie’s screenwriters, Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein, who co-wrote “Casablanca.”

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29. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
> Starring: Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Kimberly Stringer

Rob Reiner’s documentary-style roasting of heavy metal bands was well-received by critics and fans alike, getting a 95% Freshness rating from Rotten Tomatoes as well as a 92% audience score. New York Times critic Janet Maslin said “It stays so wickedly close to the subject that it is very nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.”

28. Ghostbusters (1984)
> Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis

Propelled by the appeal of “Saturday Night Live” alums Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, and co-written by Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, “Ghostbusters” became one of the biggest hits of the 80s. The film about the spectral-battling squad enjoys a Rotten Tomatoes Freshness rating of 97%.

27. There’s Something About Mary (1998)
> Starring: Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Ben Stiller, Lee Evans

Robert and Peter Farrelly’s sophomoric comedy about a man trying to reconnect with his high school crush was a box-office smash, pulling in $176.5 million.

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26. Being There (1979)
> Starring: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden

“Being There,” based on the satirical novel of the same name by Jerzy Kosinski, is about how a simple gardener becomes an advisor to the president of the United States. The film has a 95% Freshness rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

25. The Gold Rush (1925)
> Starring: Charles Chaplin, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, Malcolm Waite, Georgia Hale, Jack Adams, Frank Aderias

Charlie Chaplin plays a prospector who goes to the Klondike during the 1890s gold rush and falls in love with a girl he meets at a dance hall. The American Film Institute in 1998 named it one of the 100 greatest films ever made.

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24. Born Yesterday (1950)
> Starring: Judy Holliday, William Holden, Broderick Crawford, Howard St. John

“Born Yesterday” marked Judy Holliday’s Oscar-winning star turn as the unrefined girlfriend of a roughhewn millionaire (Broderick Crawford). Hired to make her socially acceptable, journalist William Holden falls in love with Holliday. The George Cukor-directed screwball comedy has a 97% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

23. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
> Starring: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby

Rob Reiner-directed and Nora Ephron wrote this rom-com starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan about two people trying to maintain a platonic relationship. The film is famous for Ryan’s scene in Katz’s Deli.

22. Adam’s Rib (1949)
> Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell

One of nine film pairings of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, “Adam’s Rib” is about the comedic tension between two lawyers on the opposite sides of the same case. The film was buoyed by Garson Kanin’s witty, urbane screenplay and holds a 96% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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21. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
> Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin

This zany comedy with a 96% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes is about British gangsters and American criminals trying to pull off a diamond heist. The film combined the comedic talents of Monty Python alumni John Cleese and Michael Palin with those of the versatile Kevin Kline.

20. The Apartment (1960)
> Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston

Jack Lemmon stars as an ambitious office worker who allows his apartment to be used by his supervisors to carry on affairs. Complicating matters for him, one of the women he’s interested in is involved in one of the trysts. Billy Wilder’s cynical view of corporate culture has a 93% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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19. His Girl Friday (1940)
> Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart

Howard Hawks’ screwball film — a remake of “The Front Page” — is about an unscrupulous newspaper editor (Grant) who uses any tactic to keep his top reporter (Russell) from getting married. The film enjoys a 99% Freshness rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

18. The General (1926)
> Starring: Buster Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender, Jim Farley

Buster Keaton plays a train engineer from Georgia whose heroics helped the Confederacy during the Civil War. The movie was not a success when it opened but it has risen in stature over time, and was selected by the Library of Congress for the U.S. National Film Registry as culturally significant.

17. The Odd Couple (1968)
> Starring: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, John Fiedler, Herb Edelman

Oscar and Felix, the hopelessly mismatched, divorced, middle-aged New Yorkers, were introduced to cinema audiences in 1968. The movie led to the long-running television situation comedy.

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16. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
> Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen

This may be the quintessential MGM musical, featuring the dazzling dancing talent of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. Often overlooked is the comedic turn of Jean Hagan as a jealous silent screen queen trying to adjust to talking pictures in 1920s Hollywood.

15. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
> Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey

“The Philadelphia Story” reunited Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, with Hepburn playing the self-absorbed society woman torn between Grant and James Stewart. The film won two Oscars, including a Best Actor statue for Stewart.

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14. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
> Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Charles Ruggles, Walter Catlett

“Bringing Up Baby” is the apex of the screwball comedy, full of madcap scenes, mix-ups, and pratfalls. Directed by Howard Hawks, the film is about a paleontologist (Cary Grant) seeking money for his museum from a wealthy society matron whose flighty niece (Katharine Hepburn) — with a pet leopard in tow — falls for the scientist.

13. Young Frankenstein (1974)
> Starring: Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle

Mel Brooks took aim at horror films with this black-and-white comedic homage to the genre. Gene Hackman is memorable as the blind hermit who inadvertently burns the monster, played by Peter Boyle.

12. A Night at the Opera (1935)
> Starring: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Kitty Carlisle

The Marx Brothers are unleashed on the high-brow world of music. The film is famous for its stateroom scene in which an ever-increasing number of waiters, manicurists, janitors, maids, and engineers enter the room where the brothers are stowing away on a luxury boat.

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11. The Producers (1967)
> Starring: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars

Mel Brooks, who had made his name in television comedy, put his comedic stamp on motion pictures with “The Producers,” a screwball flick about two shysters who try to produce a Broadway bomb to swindle investors.

10. Airplane! (1980)
> Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

This is a send-up of disaster films from David Zucker and Jim Abrahams, in which actors and athletes not known for comedy — such as Peter Graves, Robert Stack, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — played their absurdist roles straight.

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9. The Graduate (1967)
> Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, William Daniels

One of the touchstone movies of the counterculture, with a soundtrack provided by Simon and Garfunkel, “The Graduate” is about a recent college graduate unsure of his future, a situation made more complicated by his affair with his neighbor’s wife.

8. It Happened One Night (1934)
> Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns

“It Happened One Night” was one of the iconic screwball comedies of the 1930s, the story of a newspaperman who romances a socialite on the run. Directed by Frank Capra, it won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress and was named the American Film Institute’s third-greatest romantic comedy of all time.

7. MASH (1970)
> Starring: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman

Robert Altman’s groundbreaking black comedy about the Korean War made stars of Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould. It also helped launch one of the longest-running situation comedies in television history.

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6. Blazing Saddles (1974)
> Starring: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman

Mel Brooks’s brilliant lampoon of the American Western includes veteran Western character actor Slim Pickens and ex-football player Alex Karras (as a monosyllabic brute who decks a horse).

5. Duck Soup (1933)
> Starring: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx

The Marx Brothers’ chaotic masterpiece features Groucho as the leader of a bankrupt nation about to go to war with a neighboring country. Among the memorable scenes is the “mirror moment” when Harpo, playing a spy, breaks the mirror in Groucho’s room and pretends to be Groucho’s image.

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4. Annie Hall (1977)
> Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane

Woody Allen directed and starred in this story about the complications of relationships. The film holds a 96% Freshness rating and was named American Film Institute’s No. 2 romantic comedy. “Annie Hall” won four Academy Awards in 1978.

3. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
> Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn

This Black comedy about nuclear armageddon features Peter Sellers playing multiple roles, including a German-accented adviser to the president, also played by Sellers. The film, directed by Stanley Kubrick, came out after a thriller with the same theme, “Fail Safe,” was released the same year.

2. Tootsie (1982)
> Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman

Out-of-work actor Dustin Hoffman dons a dress to boost his career and becomes a soap-opera star. The Sydney Pollack-directed farce enjoys a 90% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed more than $177 million worldwide. Jessica Lange took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1983.

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1. Some Like It Hot (1959)
> Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, George Raft

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon play two jazz musicians forced to become cross-dressing members of an all-women band to avoid being killed by mobsters after witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Directed by Billy Wilder, “Some Like It Hot” is an homage to gangster movies, screwball comedies, and silent films. It was named BBC Culture’s funniest comedy film of all time.

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