The BBC loves stirring some shit. You may recall last year around this time, when the broadcast service released its list of the greatest films of the 21st century so far, the response online was predictable—which is to say people basically lit their hair on fire from the flames shooting out of their eyes about what made the list and what didn’t. So naturally, this year the BBC decided to go with a far more universal language—that of man getting hit in groin with football. After polling 253 film critics from 52 countries (fairly evenly divided by gender, though a few more dudes), today sees the release of the 100 greatest comedies of all time, and we have a few questions.
First of all, while we may not have chosen the same top ten as the BBC’s list (our own A.A. Dowd, who participated in the survey, overlaps with the poll on five of the top ten selections), they’re all worthy representatives. (Also, it seems to confirm the idea that when America and England laugh, the world laughs with them: Jacques Tati’s Playtime is the only non-US/UK film in the top 20.) Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot takes the top spot, which is a great film, if nowhere near the funniest comedy on the entire list, let alone the top ten. And spots two through five are taken up, respectively, by Dr. Strangelove, Annie Hall, Groundhog Day, and Duck Soup. Good stuff. But here’s our big question:
Who the hell thinks Life Of Brian is funnier than Monty Python And The Holy Grail? That’s just crazy talk, and yet Brian ended up at number six, and Holy Grail at 15. Look, it’s got some great bits, and an unstoppable closing number, but apparently many people are fundamentally wrong about Monty Python’s finest hour.
There are some other issues, too, though less pressing. Blazing Saddles ended up at number 20, whereas Young Frankenstein—clearly the superior Mel Brooks comedy, though they are both excellent—is two places behind it, at number 22. False. Similarly, Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve comes in at a respectable 19, but his Unfaithfully Yours doesn’t even make the list? And let’s not even get into the inclusions from the 21st century, which blasphemously don’t start until way down at number 33 with Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy. We’ve posted the top 20 below, but you can see the entire list over at the BBC, where they will no doubt love to hear your thoughts about the fact that Steve Martin’s The Jerk just barely squeezes in at number 99.
20. Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974)
19. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
18. Sherlock Jr (Buster Keaton, 1924)
17. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
16. The Great Dictator (Charlie Chaplin, 1940)
15. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, 1975)
14. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
13. To Be or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)
12. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
11. The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1998)
10. The General (Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton, 1926)
9. This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
8. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
7. Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, 1980)
6. Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
5. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
4. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
3. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
2. Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
1. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)