BBC Just Released A List of The 100 Greatest Comedies Ever (So To Speak)

So I’m feeling a bit “meh” about this list, as I’m pretty sure other classic film fans will be, but am fairly pleased with the top 25. At least this list didn’t leave out some obvious choices. Yeah, I’m looking at you, sad little first edition of AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list, which practically forgot silents existed.

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Of course, there probably wouldn’t be any Harry Langdon shorts on this list, I allowed myself to presume. Probably no Roscoe Arbuckle, either. And heh, the Charley Bowers short Egged On probably juuust missed the cut.

Anyways, BBC asked 253 film critics (135 men and 118 women) from 52 countries to name what they thought were the top ten best comedies of all time. You can check out the list yourself right here. Like most modern lists of this sort there’s a bias towards a few of the modern hits  but the list does shape up a bit once it hits #40 or so.

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Ah, much better.

Now, aside from the outrage of not including Charley Bowers’s obscure 1920s comedy shorts featuring surreal stop-motion animation sequences, there’s a few oddities. Pulp Fiction is a “comedy”? The Producers and A Night at the Opera rub shoulders with Borat? More critics apparently voted for Team America: World Police and There’s Something About Mary than The Music Box, which just barely made it to #97?!

Hold on–The Exterminating Angel? Yeah, that’s a barrel of laughs I always put on for all my friends. I’m always inviting people over for beer and guacamole and throwing on The Exter–wait, freakin’ Bridesmaids is on there?! Bridesmaids is a timeless masterpiece worthy to be mentioned in the same context as Safety Last?!

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Harold and Mildred Davis are not happy about this.

Praise be, there are still quite a few comedy classics. Of the top 25, half are pre-1960 films and three of those are silent. There could stand to be a few more silents on the list, it being such a perfectly-paced artform with a phenomenal understanding of where to place gags and all, but sometimes we have to take what we can get. For future reference, critics: Fatty and Mabel Adrift, One Week, The Strong Man, The Kid Brother, Our Hospitality, and Mickey.

The #1 comedy as voted by these 253 critics? Some Like It Hot (1959). A reasonable choice, ah yes, quite reasonable. As much as I like Some Like It Hot I’d give #1 to The General or The Kid or even The Music Box–but that’s me, of course.

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon (Credit: Alamy)

BBC grandly extols: “…Billy Wilder’s sparking diamond of a comedy about role-playing and the fluidity of gender and identity could not be more relevant today.” Hee hee, that interpretation of Wilder’s sparking [sic] comedy has a bit of a 2017 vibe, but ah well.

Generally speaking, I think even more pre-1960s comedies could’ve been included but I’m glad the list does have a respectable amount classic films. I’m not sure if some of the recent films on there will stand the test of time and I’m not sure if historical significance was always taken into account. (In fairness, the top ten lists of all the 253 critics polled are quite eclectic and at least one includes A Trip to the Moon.) And it’d be nice to see a film list that didn’t somehow include Annie Hall in the top ten (nothing against Annie Hall, but man, that chick is everywhere).

So what do you think of BBC’s list? Do you agree with it? Disagree with it? Feel like they left a few things out? Comment away!

23 thoughts on “BBC Just Released A List of The 100 Greatest Comedies Ever (So To Speak)

  1. I’m more interested in such lists by individuals than in large lists like this one. And the only interest I have in this list is individual opinions like you’ve shared.
    I enjoyed reading your post 🙂

  2. These lists should always be taken with a truck load of salt as taste is subjective, which many people seem to forget thus are in no way definitive at all.

    I was personally glad to see many classics in there but like you, question the inclusion of films like Exterminating Angel and Pulp Fiction.

    Bridesmaids however, can do one! Awful film! 😡

    • Seeing Bridesmaids on there did not make my day. 😀

      Speaking of which, I might question the idea I’m seeing (elsewhere online not just here) that these lists are always 100% subjective. Most well-rounded critics who have studied the balance of editing, cinematography, acting, etc. in films for years have a better understanding of what makes good cinema than regular Joe down the street, which is why it’s interesting to read these lists. (And which explains why they tend to dislike a lot of the blockbusters out there–they see the cliches way, way more often than we do and get sick of them much faster.) Most, not necessarily all, considering some of the choices on the list.

      After all, no one argues that thinking The General or Duck Soup are great films is simply “subjective”! 🙂

      • In this day and age of people unable to separate their own opinions from fact you can never be too sure…. 😉

        To be honest without knowing what the criteria was these people were given to base their choices on I suppose I am assuming it was based on extrapolating the top votes from selected lists of personal favourites. Even if it was constructed through more discerning means there will still be disagreements on what constitutes things like influence, joke value, etc.

        I do appreciate that is gratifying to see less predictable entries on lists like this one but by virtue of the criteria you mentioned, this is still a reflection of taste insofar as the pool of references will be wider and less mainstream reliant than those of the average cinema goer, if that makes sense.

        Anyway I am usually cynical about these lists by default so as long as people remember these aren’t gospel and we are still free to like what we like, my truck of salt will always be parked nearby! 😛

  3. I certainly regarded “Pulp Fiction” as a comedy when I saw it in the theater. Did it stop being funny since then?
    “The Exterminating Angel” may not Be FUN, but it is certainly a biting satire.
    Surprised to see so much Tati on there, but “Playtime” beats “Hulot” and “Mon Oncle?”
    Anyway, I find this sort of thing interesting enough, but not worth getting too worked up over.

    • Well, sure, but they’re fun to discuss. 🙂 They can also introduce people to films they haven’t seen or haven’t considered watching, so that’s useful.

      Sure, Pulp Fiction has plenty of funny lines and dark comedy, but I’ve never thought of classifying it strictly as a comedy. It’s interesting how many critics do. I still think The Exterminating Angel is a weird selection. 😉

      I’m with you about Playtime, that was a strange choice over Hulot and Mon Oncle!

      • I bet British critics are more open to “darker” movies being seen as comedy than Americans are. I also saw “Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie” on there, so Bunuel obviously has his fans.

  4. I’ve never been able to see the appeal of Some Like It Hot, to be honest. For me, the only big laugh was right at the end. On top of that (I feel like I’m about to say a blasphemous thing), I don’t care for Marilyn Monroe.

    Oh, well. The world would be boring if we all liked the same things!

  5. I’m half a decade late to this party, but to be honest, lists like this and award shows occupy the same importance level for me: none at all. Often the choices are made to appear relevant or clever, and comedy is so subjective anyway. What one person finds funny, another might find dumb or boring.

    • I like lists myself–if they’re actually well curated–but something like the once-a-decade Sight & Sound list is probably the most helpful: seeing what the critic consensus is on the greatest films, and what films tend to stay on the list or drop off, etc.

      • I will admit that a nicely curated list can at the very least be useful for new movie geeks looking to learn more about film history. When I was first getting into classic films, I watched a lot of films on the AFI top 100 list just to get a basic “survey” of what’s considered significant.

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