Take it from me, trying to expand your cinematic horizons is usually a bad move. It can lead to tedious conversations with boring people who use the word ‘seminal’ a lot, as well as viewing films – not movies – that feature such annoyances as subtitles, Swedes and a heavily accented Meryl Streep.
But going beyond the usual suspects of mainstream mall flicks for laughs, is a different story. There is, after all, only so much mileage you can from another former SNL star vehicle about a lovable dork saving the soccer team/office/world and winding up with a way-out-of-his-league girlfriend.
The following subtitle-free movies should be kept in mind when you’re hungry for laughs but have lost your appetite for another helping of Adam Sandler.
10. A Face in the Crowd
Andy Griffith stars as a thuggish-but-lovable lush who takes a dizzying ride from beloved good old boy to corrupt power broker. It’s hard to imagine anyone besides Griffith bringing to vivid life this dim-witted confederate charmer. But then anyone who’s survived the last eight years may recall a certain confederate charmer’s performance that (accidentally) rivals Griffith’s in comedic intensity.
9. Confederate States of America
This Mockumentary images that the south had won the civil war and persuaded its northern neighbors to give the institution another go. Slavery in the 21st century! What an endless font of laughter that would be!
Yeah, I admit that CSA’s premise didn’t sound like a recipe for an evening of laughter, but somehow it won me over with its deadpan style and democratically applied mockery.
8. Flirting with disaster
Remember the Ben Stiller movie about a neurotic newly hitched man and his quest for parental approval? Sure, Meet the Parents packed a few chuckles, but 1996’s Flirting with Disaster followed a similar blueprint to mint more and deeper laughs, without forcing you to endure an uncomfortably miscast Robert DeNiro.
7. Love Serenade
Comedies doesn’t get quirkier or more deadpan than this quiet Australian charmer from director Shirley Barrett. The laughs sneak up on you in this subtle story of two sisters who make the mistake of falling for a local disc jockey blessed with the charisma of a cactus.
Unfun fact: the bizarre final scene filmed atop a silo resulted in the death of stuntman.
6. Boeing Boeing
This surprisingly clever and fast-paced romp through a tangled web of international romances will satisfy the most voracious appetite for screwball silliness without subjecting us to cornball romance. Tony Curtis plays the role he was born to play – the smooth-talking lothario – while an uncharacteristically subdued Jerry Lewis proves he can garner laughs without falling over the furniture.
5. Kentucky Fried Movie
If you’re too young to recall the strange forgotten era known to historians as ‘the seventies’ some of KFM’s gags will likely slip through the cracks. Among the bits that still hold up are: the Bruce Lee parody ‘a Fist Full of Yen,’ and the blaxploitation take-off
‘Cleopatra Schwartz.’ The creative team behind this comedic hodgepodge – director John Landis and screenwriters David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker – have since become rich beyond their wildest dreams making movies that you’ve actually heard of, seen and wet your pants laughing at.
How weird is Schizopolis? Schizopolis tells the tale of Fletcher Munson a corporate drone for a Scientology-like self-help organization called Eventualism. It has no opening or closing credits. Oh, and it features a psychotic exterminator named Elmo Oxygen who goes around the town seducing lonely wives and taking photographs of his genitals. It’s either the weirdest comedy I’ve ever seen or the funniest weird movie I’ve ever seen.
Fear of a Black Hat is to hip-hop what Spinal Tap is to rock – a laugh-laden mockumentary that spares none of its genre’s pretensions. For ‘Fear’ that means poking fun of the rap world’s excessive fondness for violence, misogyny and bling-bling. It helps if you’re a fan of the genre, but also helpful is the belief that the realm of hip-hop could use some skewering.
2. After Hours
Yes, Martin Scorsese can make a comedy – albeit quite possibly the darkest comedy in the history of motion pictures. But between the shrieks of horror the laughs do come in great abundance. Before our protagonist escapes a Dante-like series of hellish circles, he encounters such laugh-inducing obstacles as a violently applied Mohawk haircut, a death he gets accidentally blamed for and being stolen by Cheech and Chong.
And weird stuff happens too.
1. American Movie
Does a documentary count as a comedy? It does when the subject is a strange and delusional filmmaker whose ratio of talent to drive is hilariously unbalanced. Add to that a ragtag supporting cast of overachieving underdogs (including the ’96 Green Bay Packers!) and you’ve got a gently mocking tale that Hollywood couldn’t equal if it tried.
Written by David Copper