The Writers Guild just voted on the 101 funniest screenplays ever
. As I've noted before, it's sometimes hard to tell whether it's the original screenplay or things that happened afterward that made the comedy work, but there's little question it all starts with words on a page.
The titles aren't too surprising--fairly predictable, in fact. Here's the list with comments.
1. Annie Hall
Hard to complain about this one.
2. Some Like It Hot
Also should be up there.
3. Groundhog Day
Way too high--and not that funny for the funniest screenplays.
4 . Airplane!
Good choice, though I'm starting to thing the WGA is ignoring great comedies from the first half of the 20th century, which are as funny or funnier than anything else.
Good call, though this one was written by a bunch of writers and a star and director who fought every step of the way, showing how it sometimes works.
6. Young Frankenstein
Too high, and not even Mel Brooks' best. (And a bunch of better stuff from Woody Allen should be above it.)
7. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Definitely top ten.
8. Blazing Saddles
More Mel. Once again, too high (and not his best).
9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
10. National Lampoon's Animal House
11. This Is Spinal Tap
This best screenplay was mostly improvised.
12. The Producers
Finally. But boy, Mel has three in the top 12 while Woody has only one.
13. The Big Lebowski
From cult film to greatest pretty quickly. Good, but too high (and I think Raising Arizona is better)
A lot of SNL
people involved in this list.
15. When Harry Met Sally…
A solid screenplay, deserves to be on the list somewhere.
Ridiculous. Shouldn't be on list. Certainly shows it's weighted toward the modern.
17. Duck Soup
Should be even higher, along with other Marx Brothers scripts.
18. There's Something About Mary
Good to see this modern classic in top twenty. Perhaps the best comedy of the past quarter century.
19. The Jerk
20. A Fish Called Wanda
Interesting. John Cleese is the best writing Python, I guess.
21. His Girl Friday
Should be on list. An update of a fine play--keeping much of the original--but the gender twist turns out to make it even better.
22. The Princess Bride
23. Raising Arizona
Good to see it made it.
24. Bringing Up Baby
It's taking a while, but we're starting to get the classic screwballs in (especially with Cary Grant and directed by Howard Hawks).
Not much of a screenplay--not really that much of a movie, though fun.
26. Monty Python's Life Of Brian
Three Python or Python-related titles in the top 26.
27. The Graduate
Should be even higher.
28. The Apartment
Fair enough, but rated too high.
29. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Another improvised movie that the Guild thinks is a great screenplay. Could it be that they're judging the movie and not the script?
30. The Hangover
Maybe the best comedy of the last decade.
31. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
We're started to get into the world of Judd Apatow, though this movie, and presumably the screenplay, is a bit of a mess.
32. The Lady Eve
Finally, some Preston Sturges--maybe the king of comedy writers in Hollywood.
33. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Good call. John Hughes' best.
33. Trading Places
A well done piece--not sure if Eddie Murphy ever topped it.
35. Sullivan's Travels
More Preston, though I'm starting to worry they won't have my favorite, Hail The Conquering Hero
36. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
A not so great piece from John Hughes. An acceptable movie, but a top 100 screenplay?
37. The Philadelphia Story
A fine play, an even better adaptation. Should be higher.
38. A Night at the Opera
The second and I'm guessing only other screenplay for the Marx Brothers. Should be higher.
40. Waiting for Guffman
One of Guest's best, and again, a "screenplay" that's largely improvised.
41. The Odd Couple
One of the funniest plays ever written, and a screenplay by the same author who doesn't screw it up.
42. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
Pretty good, but maybe not top 100.
43. Office Space
Another cult film that made it big. Well done, but not great, and falls apart in second half.
45. National Lampoon's Vacation
A funny movie, if not the best constructed screenplay. John Hughes gets one in before directing his own--in fact, they made so many changes to his script he felt he had to start directing.
46. Midnight Run
Pretty well done. Maybe should be on list.
47. It Happened One Night
Probably Riskin's (and Capra's) greatest. Should maybe be top ten.
Should be much higher. Ironically, Ring Lardner, Jr. was incensed by the liberties Robert Altman took (or at least was until he won an Oscar).
49. Harold and Maude
Another cult film. Shouldn't be on the list.
50. Shaun of the Dead
Fun, but top 100?
51. Broadcast News
A bit long, but a great script by James L. Brooks, the kind of script you know was written, and I mean that as a compliment.
Sort of a miracle--came out of nowhere and revived romantic comedy, and did it with really good jokes.
53. Four Weddings and a Funeral
Well constructed, maybe should be on the list, but not too high.
54. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Okay, but shouldn't be here.
54. Dumb and Dumber
The second best by the Farrelly Brothers, but not sure if it deserves a spot.
56. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Launched a franchise, but too minor to make the list.
57. The General
About half the top comedies of all time are silent, but don't expect much love from the WGA. Glad to see we finally got something.
58. What's Up, Doc?
A fun movie, and a tribute to older screwball (which is already on list, but some major titles are still missing).
59. Wedding Crashers
A good, modern (21st century) comedy, even if some have trouble with the third act.
Finally, more Woody. Hope we get Love And Death
before we're done.
61. Galaxy Quest
A well done script, even if the film didn't get the respect it deserved at first.
62. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
A massive monstrosity. Shouldn't be on list, unless we're judging by length.
63. Best in Show
64. Little Miss Sunshine
Decent, but shows modern bias.
65. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
I liked it, but really?
66. Being There
A tricky adaptation by the novelist that pays off.
67. Back to the Future
Brilliantly constructed script. Should be studied.
Probably the best comedy from the Judd Apatow world, even if he didn't write it.
More Woody. Good.
A beautiful script from a playwright who did it right.
Good script, but not top 100.
72. The Palm Beach Story
I love Preston Sturges, but this title has been overrated--at least compared to his others.
73. The Pink Panther
Not the greatest script, but fun.
74. The Blues Brothers
A bit of a mess. What is this doing here?
75. Coming to America
Another one of Eddie's best comedies.
76. Take the Money and Run
I think Woody has the most titles on the list now.
Good, but overreated.
78. Love and Death
Woody does it again. Should be even higher.
79. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
An okay adaptation, but shouldn't be here. And if you want to pick something by Dale Launer, what's wrong with Ruthless People
or My Cousin Vinny
79. Lost in America
I was waiting for something by Albert Brooks. This is his best and should be much higher.
I think Woody doubles anyone else. Perhaps not a pure comedy, but why argue?
82. Modern Times
The funniest man of all time finally makes an appearance.
83. My Cousin Vinny
So they did get to this one.
84. Mean Girls
Okay, but not top 100.
85. Meet the Parents
Not even very good.
87. My Favorite Year
Fun film, Nice to see it here.
89. Beverly Hills Cop
Shouldn't be on list.
90. City Lights
It's never too late for more Chaplin.
A good film, but shouldn't be on list.
92. Broadway Danny Rose
I'm going to have to say this--enough Woody, already.
An interesting choice. Deserves a spot.
94. The Gold Rush
Chaplin makes the hat trick, if a bit low. This should probably be top ten.
95. The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek
, but I can't complain about more Preston.
96. All About Eve
An old classic that's overrated.
97. Arsenic and Old Lace
Fun, but they left out so many older comedies (including other by Capra, not to mention Lubitsch and La Cava and a few others) that I wonder why this chose this.
98. The Royal Tenenbaums
Probably doesn't deserve it.
99. Mrs. Doubtfire
What is this doing here?
100. Flirting with Disaster
Nice way to end the top 100.
101. Shakespeare in Love
Not a great way to start the next 100.
So that's the list. Nothing too surprising. A lot of greats that always make it, a bunch of relatively new stuff that will likely drop by the wayside as time goes on.