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