Instructional Media Center
• April Film Feature - Modern Comedy •
Contemporary comedy film is in decline. Big budget studios are reluctant to provide major financial backing due to poor overseas performance – the “lost in translation” effect. Some funny films have fallen out of favor due to shifts in cultural sensitivity. Academia has long ignored the craft of cinematic comedy (an interesting thesis on the topic here). When choosing to, the concentration is often limited to the canon of Chaplin/Keaton/Marx and other pioneers, with a focus on the foundations of comedy in the medium but rarely progressing into modern works. The recent explosion of television/streaming content has pushed the majority of comedic talent towards the more lucrative, small-screen arena. Given these formidable challenges, it seems all the more important to highlight achievements of this genre, films that have provided endless ill-advised watercooler reenactments, quote fodder, and intellectual maturity stunting milestones. To that end, the IMC brings you the best contemporary comedy films in our collection, starting in 1970 because that is this author’s arbitrary dividing point. But if you want a pseudo-cultural-generational definition, it’s something about post-60s social commentary in 70s cultural ennui, combined with a paradigm shift in censorship, and the U.S. film rating system of 1968.
M*A*S*H* (1970) - PN1995.9.C65 M385 2005 DVD
IMDB Plot - The staff of a Korean War field hospital use humor and hijinks to keep their sanity in the face of the horror of war.
Line – “I wonder how a degenerated person like that could have reached a position of responsibility in the Army Medical Corps!?”…. “He was drafted.”
Who’s funny – Robert Altman and Ring Lardner Jr.
Bananas (1971) - PN1995.9.C55 B36 2000 DVD
IMDB Plot - When a bumbling New Yorker is dumped by his activist girlfriend, he travels to a tiny Latin American nation and becomes involved in its latest rebellion.
Line – “We fell in love. I fell in love - she just stood there.”
Who’s funny – Woody Allen
Young Frankenstein (1974) - PN1995.9.C55 Y68 2006 DVD
IMDB Plot - Dr. Frankenstein's grandson, after years of living down the family reputation, inherits granddad's castle and repeats the experiments.
Line – “For as long as I can remember people have hated me. They looked at my face and my body and they ran away in horror. In my loneliness I decided that if I could not inspire love, which is my deepest hope, I would instead cause fear. I live because this poor half-crazed genius, has given me life. He alone held an image of me as something beautiful and then, when it would have been easy enough to stay out of danger, he used his own body as a guinea pig to give me a calmer brain and a somewhat more sophisticated way of expressing myself."
Who’s funny – Brooks and Wilder
Blazing Saddles (1974) - PN1995.9.C55 B55 2004 DVD
IMDB Plot - To ruin a western town, a corrupt political boss appoints a black sheriff, who promptly becomes his most formidable adversary.
Line – “Well, it got so that every piss-ant prairie punk who thought he could shoot a gun would ride into town to try out the Waco Kid. I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille. It got pretty gritty. I started to hear the word "draw" in my sleep. Then one day, I was just walking down the street when I heard a voice behind me say, 'Reach for it, mister!' I spun around... and there I was, face to face with a six-year old kid. Well, I just threw my guns down and walked away. Little bastard shot me in the ass.”
Who’s funny – everyone
Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1975) - PN1995.9.P32 M663 2001 DVD
IMDB Plot – King Arthur and his knights embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many silly obstacles.
Line – “I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!”
Who’s funny – The British
The Jerk (1979) - PN1995.9.C55 J47 2005 DVD
IMDB Plot - An idiotic man struggles to make it through life on his own in St. Louis.
Line – [singing]“I'm picking out a Thermos for you. Not an ordinary Thermos for you. But the extra best Thermos that you can buy, with vinyl and stripes and a cup built right in.”
Who’s funny – Steve Martin
Airplane (1980) - PN1995.9.C55 A447 2005 DVD
IMDB Plot - An airplane crew takes ill. Surely the only person capable of landing the plane is an ex-pilot afraid to fly. But don't call him Shirley.
Line – “Surely you can’t be serious”... “I am serious - and don’t call me Shirley”
Who’s funny - Everyone
Blues Brothers (1980) - PN1995.9.M86 B584 2005 DVD
IMDB Plot - Jake Blues, just out from prison, puts together his old band to save the Catholic orphanage where he and brother Elwood were raised.
Line – “It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses.”
Who’s funny – Belushi and Aykroyd
Stir Crazy (1980) - PN1995.9.C55 S75 2006 DVD
IMDB Plot - Skip and Harry are framed for a bank robbery and end up in a western prison. The two eastern boys are having difficulty adjusting to the new life until the warden finds that Skip has a natural talent for riding broncos with the inter-prison rodeo coming up.
Line – “That's Grossberger. The biggest mass murderer in the history of the southwest? My dear, he killed his entire family and all of his relatives in one weekend and then he killed some more people that reminded him of his family.”
Who’s funny – Pryor and Wilder
Tootsie (1982) - PN1995.9.C55 T66 2008 DVD
IMDB Plot - An unemployed actor with a reputation for being difficult disguises himself as a woman to get a role in a soap opera.
Line – “Oh I know what y'all really want is some gross, caricature of a woman to prove some idiotic point that power makes a woman masculine, or masculine women are ugly. Well shame on you for letting a man do that, or any man that does that. That means you, dear. Miss Marshall. Shame on you, you macho shit head.”
Who’s funny – Dustin Hoffman
This Is Spinal Tap (1984) - PN1997 .T488 2000 DVD
IMDB Plot - Spinal Tap, one of England's loudest bands, is chronicled by film director Marty DeBergi on what proves to be a fateful tour.
Line – “Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?"... “These go to eleven.”
Who’s funny – Spinal Tap and Meathead
Ghostbusters (1984) - PN1995.9.C55 G55 2005 DVD
IMDB Plot - Three unemployed parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.
Line – “I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us. Mr. Stay Puft.”
Who’s funny – Bill Murray et al.
Lost in America (1985) - PN1995.9.C55 L57 2001 DVD
IMDB Plot - A husband and wife in their 30s decide to quit their jobs, live as free spirits, and cruise America in a Winnebago.
Line – “He'll buy that boat from that stupid boat catalog he's been making me look at for the last two months, and he will crash that boat off Catalina Island, and he will drown and die and seals will eat him.”
Who’s funny - Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty
The Breakfast Club (1985) - PN1995.9.C55 B74 2008 DVD
IMDB Plot - Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought.
Line – “Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you're crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain... and an athlete… a basket case… a princess… and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely, The Breakfast Club”
Who’s funny – The Brat Pack
Better Off Dead (1985) - PN1995.9.C55 B48 2002 DVD
IMDB Plot – A teenager has to deal with his girlfriend dumping him among family crises, homicidal paper boys, and a rival skier.
Line – “Two brothers... One speaks no English, the other learned English from watching The Wide World of Sports. So you tell me - which is better, speaking no English at all, or speaking Howard Cosell?”
Who’s funny? John Cusack and Curtis Armstrong
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) - PN1995.9.C55 F47 2006 DVD
IMDB Plot – A high school wise guy is determined to have a day off from school, despite what the principal thinks of that.
Line – “Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, 'I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.' Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I'd still have to bum rides off people.”
Who’s funny – Matthew Broderick
Withnail and I (1987) - PN1995.9.C55 W5856 2001 DVD
IMDB Plot - London 1969 - two 'resting' (unemployed and unemployable) actors, Withnail and Marwood, fed up with damp, cold, piles of washing-up, mad drug dealers and psychotic Irishmen, decide to leave their squalid Camden flat for an idyllic holiday in the countryside, courtesy of Withnail's uncle Monty's country cottage.
Line – “I feel like a pig shat in my head.”
Who’s funny – The British
Hollywood Shuffle (1987) - PN1995.9.C6 H65 2001 DVD
IMDB Plot - An actor limited to stereotypical roles because of his ethnicity, dreams of making it big as a highly respected performer. As he makes his rounds, the film takes a satiric look at African American actors in Hollywood.
Line – “Winky Dinky Dog! Winkey Dinky Dog!”
Who’s funny – Townsend and Wayans
A Fish Called Wanda (1988) - PN1995.9.C55 F53 1998 DVD
IMDB Plot - In London, four very different people team up to commit armed robbery, then try to double-cross each other for the loot.
Line – “I love robbing the English. They’re so polite.”
Who’s funny – Cleese, Kline, and Curtis
Heathers (1988) - PN1997 .H428 2011 DVD
IMDB Plot - A girl who half-heartedly tries to be part of the "in crowd" of her school meets a rebel who teaches her a more devious way to play social politics - killing the popular kids.
Line – “If you were happy every day of your life you wouldn't be a human being. You'd be a game-show host.”
Who’s funny – Ryder, Doherty and Slater
The Princess Bride (1988) - PN1995.9.C55 P75 2012 DVD
IMDB Plot - A classic fairy tale, with swordplay, giants, an evil prince, a beautiful princess, and yes, some kissing (as read by a kindly grandfather).
Line – “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Who’s funny – Wallace Shawn and Andre the Giant
Soapdish (1991) - PN1995.9.C65 S67 2011 DVD
IMDB Plot - An ambitious TV soap actress connives with her producer to scuttle the career of the show's long-time star, but nothing works as they plan.
Line – “One more date - we would've had a Greek tragedy on our hands.”
Who’s funny - Everyone
Man Bites Dog (1992) – PN1995.9.F7 M34 2002 DVD
IMDB Plot - A film crew follows a ruthless thief and heartless killer as he goes about his daily routine. But complications set in when the film crew lose their objectivity and begin lending a hand.
Line – translated “If you kill a whale, you get Greenpeace and Jacques Cousteau on your back, but wipe out sardines and you get a canning subsidy!”
Who’s funny? Benoît Poelvoorde
Groundhog Day (1993) - PN1997 .G76 2002 DVD
IMDB Plot - A weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again.
Line – “Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today.”
Who’s funny - Bill Murray
Serial Mom (1994) - PN1995.9.C55 S354 2008 DVD
IMDB Plot – A sweet mother takes a little too much at heart for the defense of her family.
Line – “He killed people mom”… “We all have our bad days.”
Who’s funny – John Waters and Kathleen Turner
Mallrats (1995) - PN1995.9.C55 M34 1999 DVD
IMDB Plot - Both dumped by their girlfriends, two best friends seek refuge in the local mall.
Line – “Listen, not a year goes by, not a year, that I don't hear about some escalator accident involving some bastard kid which could have easily been avoided had some parent - I don't care which one - but some parent conditioned him to fear and respect that escalator.”
Who’s funny – Kevin Smith
Friday (1995) – PN1995.9.C55 F75 2009 DVD
IMDB Plot - Craig and Smokey are two guys in Los Angeles hanging out on their porch on a Friday afternoon, smoking and drinking, looking for something to do.
Line – “I know you don't smoke weed, I know this - but I'm gonna get you high today, 'cause it's Friday, you ain't got no job... and you ain't got shit to do.”
Who’s funny – Chris Tucker and Ice Cube
The Big Lebowski (1998) - PN1995.9.C55 B54 2005 DVD
IMDB Plot - "The Dude" Lebowski, mistaken for a millionaire Lebowski, seeks restitution for his ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help get it.
Line – “Yeah, well. The Dude abides.”
Who’s funny – Brothers Coen
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999) - PN1995.9.C55 S68 1999 DVD
IMDB Plot - When the four boys see an R-rated movie featuring Canadians Terrance & Phillip, they are pronounced "corrupted", and their parents pressure the United States to wage war against Canada.
Line – [singing] “Blame Canada! Blame Canada! It seems that everything's gone wrong since Canada came along.”
Who’s funny – Parker and Stone
Shaolin Soccer (2001) - PN1995.9.H3 S58 2011 DVD
IMDB Plot – A young Shaolin follower reunites with his discouraged brothers to form a soccer team using martial art skills to their advantage.
Line - [talking to a TV camera] "I want to say hello to my parents and my Kung Fu master, but they're all dead."
Who’s funny? Stephen Chow
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) - PN1995.9.C55 A53 2004 DVD
IMDB Plot - Ron Burgundy is San Diego's top rated newsman in the male-dominated broadcasting of the 70's, but that's all about to change for Ron and his cronies when an ambitious woman is hired as a new anchor.
Line – “Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means a whale's vagina.”
Who’s funny – Will Ferrell
Napolean Dynamite (2004) - PN1995.9.C55 N37 2004 DVD
IMDB Plot - A listless and alienated teenager decides to help his new friend win the class presidency in their small western high school, while he must deal with his bizarre family life back home.
Line – “Last week, Japanese scientists explaced... placed explosive detonators at the bottom of Lake Loch Ness to blow Nessie out of the water. Sir Cort Godfrey of the Nessie Alliance summoned the help of Scotland's local wizards to cast a protective spell over the lake and its local residents and all those who seek for the peaceful existence of our underwater ally.”
Who’s funny – The eponymous hero
Shaun of the Dead (2004) - PN1995.9.C55 S43 2004 DVD
IMDB Plot - A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.
Line – “Look, I don't care what the telly says, all right? We have to get out of here. If we don't they'll tear us to pieces, and that is really going to exacerbate things for all of us.”
Who’s funny? The Brits, again
Borat (2006) - PN1995.9.C55 B67 2007 DVD
IMDB Plot - Kazakh TV talking head Borat is dispatched to the United States to report on the greatest country in the world. With a documentary crew in tow, Borat becomes more interested in locating and marrying Pamela Anderson.
Line – “I will forgive Pamela, and I will go to California with my friend Mr. Jesus, and together we will take her!”
Who’s funny – Sacha Baron Cohen
Superbad (2007) - PN1995.9.C55 S87 2007 DVD
IMDB Plot - Two co-dependent high school seniors are forced to deal with separation anxiety after their plan to stage a booze-soaked party goes awry.
Line – “McLovin? What kind of a stupid name is that, Fogell? What, are you trying to be an Irish R&B singer?”
Who’s funny - McLovin
Le Petit Nicolas (2009) - PN1995.9.F7 P478 2010 DVD
IMDB Plot - Nicolas has a happy existence, parents who love him, a great group of friends with whom he has great fun, and all he wants is nothing to change. However, one day, he overhears a conversation that leads him to believe that his life might change forever, his mother is pregnant! He panics and envisions the worst.
Line – translate “I’m going to have a baby brother”... “Hide your toys”
Who’s funny? Everyone
Four Lions (2010) - PN1995.9.C55 F68 2011 DVD
IMDB Plot - Four incompetent British jihadists set out to train for and commit an act of terror.
Line – “You can't win an argument just by being right!”
Who’s funny? Chris Morris
Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) - PN1997.2 .G736 2014
IMDB Plot - The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.
Line – “You're looking so well, darling, you really are... they've done a marvelous job. I don't know what sort of cream they've put on you down at the morgue, but I want some.”
Who’s funny? Wes Anderson et al.