This is without a doubt the hardest ‘The 4’ I have ever attempted. I’ve dreaded examining the subject of Comedy movies, but it was topic many people had requested. Comedy is subjective, so no one will be completely happy with this list. Plus humor can mirror the times. What was funny yesterday is lame today. Many funny films will be left off this list that have a valid argument to be included. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I love it when the debate starts, because it gets people talking about their love of movies and that’s something that brings a smile to my face. So let’s not waste anymore time and get to my selections for ‘The 4: Comedy Movies’.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was written and directed by 80’s movie king John Hughes and this won’t be the last time you hear his name associated with this ‘The 4’. Longevity was the key factor in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off making this list. The film gets better and better with each viewing and is still relevant in pop culture today. From start to finish Ferris Bueller’s Day Off keeps us in stitches. Prank phone calls concerning dead grandmothers, Abe Froman Sausage King of Chicago and flowers from the English Department that cause birds to appear. The highlight of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is Jeffery Jones as principal Edward R. Rooney. Jones may be a total creep off camera, but he’s absolutely the funniest part of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and makes the movie with his attempt to bust the popular student skipping school. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of those rare comedies that is entertaining from start to finish that all generations love.
The Naked Gun (1988)
Parody has always been an integral part of the comedy genre in films, so there was no way this type of comedy wouldn’t be represented. The Zucker Bothers set the standard for spoof films with Airplane!, but the truth is their other gem The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, is a far superior film. Based on the short lived cult series Police Squad!, The Naked Gun stars Leslie Neilson as Lt. Frank Drebin in the cop movie spoof. The Naked Gun is funny the whole way through, which is really tough for comedies. There’s the “Don’t ever let me catch you guys in America” opening scene, the hot mic in the toilet, clotheslining couples on the beach, Enrico Palazzo and OJ tumbling down the stadium stairs in a wheel chair. The Naked Gun also succeeds where most comedies fail by having it’s third act be the funniest part of the film. Most comedies run out of gas three quarters of the way through, but Drebin disguised as an MLB umpire creates some of the biggest laughs of the movie. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! still holds up (which is tough for spoofs) and will make you laugh until you hurt.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
I’ll be honest about this selection. The first time I saw The Big Lebowski, I didn’t really get it. Then after seeing it again and again I realized this is one the funniest movies ever made. The story of The Dude grows on you with weird comedy that is sprinkled throughout the Coen Brothers comedy caper of mistaken identity and ruined rugs that tied the whole room together. Plus, to this day I don’t understand why John Goodman was not nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as short tempered bowling buddy of The Dude Walter Sobchak. Maybe the Academy was like me and it didn’t get The Big Lebowski the first time and chose to ignore the scene stealing performance of Goodman. Jeff Bridges is also hilarious as The Dude just moving through life getting high and enjoying some White Russians. The Big Lebowski is full of funny gags, but it’s the random scenes and lines that make The Big Lebowski a comedy treasure. “Over the Line!”, “Eight-year-olds, Dude” and of course The Dude’s disdain for The Eagles is what makes this film a classic. The Big Lebowski is a weird character study with no point (which is the point), but it makes you laugh the more and more you see it. This has made The Big Lebowksi one of the most revered comedies of all time.
Plane, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
John Hughes has his DNA in many of the comedies we love from the past and the director/writer’s best and funniest film is Planes, Trains & Automobiles for a few reasons. For one everyone can relate to the road trip from Hell that is miserable, but you find yourself laughing and relating to it when you’ve reached your destination. Second, the odd couple dynamic always makes for great laughs and John Candy and Steve Martin are perfect as two weary travelers (advertising rep Neal Page and shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith) trying to get home on Thanksgiving. Finally, it’s Hughes most grown up film, because it ends up having a big heart at the end and will make the audience’s eyes tear up not because of laughter, but from a broken heart. It’s not all sad in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. You have the hand between two pillows, “You’re going the wrong way” and one the best scenes of any comedy with Steve Martin’s uptight Neal spouting off the “F” word 18 times in a matter of sixty seconds over a rental car dispute. Plus Planes, Trains & Automobiles will be around forever considering it’s the go to Thanksgiving film in pop culture.