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 parody “Dr. 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.
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