November 13, 2015

These Are the 101 Funniest Screenplays According to the Writers Guild of America

After watching a plethora of horror films during October, nothing cleanses the palate quite like comedy.

If you're looking to put away the slashers and bust out the funny stuff, the Writers Guild of America West and East held events in both L.A. and New York to decide on a list of 101 of the funniest screenplays ever written, including live-action, animation, silent, and documentary.

What tops the list? (I couldn't be happier with this decision!) Woody Allen's Annie Hall.

  1. Annie Hall (Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman)
  2. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder and I.A.L.)
  3. Groundhog Day (Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis)
  4. Airplane (James Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker)
  5. Tootsie (Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal)
  6. Young Frankenstein (Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks)
  7. Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, Peter George, and Terry Southern)
  8. Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, and Alan Ugor)
  9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin)
  10. National Lampoon's Animal House (Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, and Chris Miller)
'Annie Hall' (1977)

Most of the 101 films come from the 80s -- perhaps the judges considered it comedy's "golden age". In fact, almost 75% of the "funniest screenplays" come from films made after the 60s, however only 1 film from the current decade (2010-present) made it on the list (Bridesmaids). Here's a breakdown of where each film falls in terms of time period:

  • 1920s: 2
  • 1930s: 6
  • 1940s: 7
  • 1950s: 2
  • 1960s: 8
  • 1970s: 15
  • 1980s: 28
  • 1990s: 18
  • 2000s: 13
  • 2010s: 1
'Bridesmaids' (2011)

Regardless of whether or not you agree with the list (I wouldn't mind if every Monty Python movie was banished to the deepest reaches of hell), these films are in fact hilarious -- to most people at least, especially to the WGA and their judges for this event, which means they're definitely worth watching and studying. 

New York Times writer Paul Brownfield says something about this list that might add some perspective for those who are interested in writing something comedic, but are unsure of what makes a comedy good:

One question that this list asks, however: Should a great comedy simply be gauged by the laughter it elicits? “Satire is what closes on Saturday night,” George S. Kaufman famously quipped. A number of the comedies on this list went under-appreciated at the box office and by critics; years, if not decades, had to pass before the work began to receive its due.

In the end, the variety of films on the list -- indicates how difficult it is to gauge a great comedy by any set of particular criteria. Better to say the best comedy writers and comedians are like astronauts, launching themselves beyond the ozone layer of the tasteful and the expected in order to find the forbidden or the outrageous or the merely uncomfortable -- the goal is still provocation. And truth.

Do you agree with the WGA's list? What do you think is missing? Share your thoughts and comments down below.     

Your Comment

9 Comments

Annie Hall: most overrated comedy of all time?

Also, Blazing Saddles and A Fish Called Wanda both deserve to be much higher on the list

November 13, 2015 at 6:39AM

0
Reply
Andrew Klein
Camera Department
246

i see a fundamental error with Annie Hall at #1: the articles says "101 Funniest SCREENPLAYS"....if what i have read by the editor of the film is correct, the released film bares very little resemblance to the screenplay as written.Significant reshoots and changes in editing effectively recreated a whole new film from what I read ( " When the Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins" by Ralph Rosenblum)

November 19, 2015 at 2:41PM

18
Reply

Annie Hall ? This movie is just average/bad. I laughed maybe 4 times watching it & found it very boring.

November 13, 2015 at 7:18AM

0
Reply
Andy Tokarski
Director, Editor, Colorist
1432

I'm surprised "40 Year Old Virgin" is on the list, but Annie Hall deserves the top spot. No love for Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay for Sidney Lumet's "Network"?

November 13, 2015 at 8:46AM

0
Reply

#62 It's A Mad Mad Mad World??? This list is tainted.

November 14, 2015 at 12:36AM

0
Reply
Gilly
157

I give credit to Harold Ramis and Woody Allen for writing stuff that stands up decades later. That's not true of most comedy, and I suspect Bridesmaids will be yawn-worthy in another decade.

November 15, 2015 at 10:07AM, Edited November 15, 10:32AM

0
Reply

I'm pleased to see that *This is Spinal Tap* goes to 11.

August 5, 2017 at 12:36PM, Edited August 5, 12:36PM

0
Reply
Clay Smith
Wannabe screenwriter, film editor, director
161

Top Secret? Heathers? They put Mean Girls up these and not Heathers?

August 5, 2017 at 12:51PM

4
Reply
Jake
621

While I haven't read the screenplay, I'm fairly confident that Shane Black's writing translates reliably from page to screen, so KISS KISS BANG BANG needs to be high on this list. ZOMBIELAND for sure deserves acclaim. IN BRUGES is brilliantly funny.

And I query THE GRADUATE listed as a comedy.

August 5, 2017 at 3:26PM

0
Reply