What is the funniest film of all time? Quite the question. But that’s what the Writers Guild of America tasked its members with answering in a poll for the 101 funniest screenplays.
In a ceremony hosted by Rob Reiner, the members named Woody Allen’s 1977 film Annie Hall as the funniest screenplay. Allen wrote the screenplay along with Marshall Brickman, both of whom won an Academy-Award for the film’s original screenplay. Annie Hall also took home Best Picture, Best Director for Allen, and Best Actress for Diane Keaton.
- Some Like it Hot
- Groundhog Day
- Young Frankenstein
- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
- Blazing Saddles
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- National Lampoon’s Animal House
All told, Allen had six scripts make the list, including Sleeper, Bananas, Take the Money and Run, Broadway Danny Rose, Love and Death and Manhattan.
Some fun facts from the list:
-Harold Ramis had four scripts make the list, with Groundhog Day (3), Animal House (10), Ghostbusters (14) and Caddyshack (25).
–Preston Sturgess also had four scripts on the list: The Lady Eve (32), Sullivan’s Travels (35), The Palm Beach Story (72), and The Miracle of Morgan Creek (92).
-Mel Brooks had three scripts on the list: Young Frankenstein (6), Blazing Saddles (8), and The Producers (12).
-The oldest film on the list was The Gold Rush (94), a silent film made in 1925 by Charlie Chaplin. The only other silent film on the list was The General (56), which was made in 1926 with a script by Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman.
–Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo had the distinction of penning the most recent screenplay on the list in Bridesmaids (16), which was made in 2011. The second most recent film script was Jon Lucas and Scott Moore’s The Hangover (30), which was released in 2009. And the third most recent film was Superbad (68) by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, which came out in 2007.
-Other notable placements: Ghostbusters (14); There’s Something About Mary (18); The Graduate (27); Borat (29); The 40-Year-Old Virgin (31); Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (33); Rushmore (39); Big (44); Shaun of the Dead (50); Anchorman (54); Dumb and Dumber (54-tied); Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (56); Wedding Crashers (59); Galaxy Quest (61); Little Miss Sunshine (64); Back to the Future (67); Clueless (71); My Cousin Vinny (83); Mean Girls (84); Fargo (86); The Royal Tenenbaums (98); Mrs. Doubtfire (99); Shakespeare in Love (101).
It isn’t too surprising to see Annie Hall at the top of this list, but that fact, along with others towards the upper tier and others included throughout, does leave some questions. Of course, everyone has a different criteria for comedy, but this being a poll, it’s at least somewhat democratic.
That being said, when I think of a comedy, a film like Fargo doesn’t immediately jump out to me. It has comedic moments, but it’s much more than a comedy. I think the same is true for Annie Hall, which is admittedly very melancholy. Like Fargo it has comedic elements, but neither of those films are laugh-out-loud, laugh ’til you cry. Now if the question is best comedic screenplay and not funniest comedic screenplay, I think the results will change. It matters how the question is asked- “What is the funniest screenplay for a film?”, versus, “What is the best screenplay for a film that happens to be a comedy?” When it comes to technique, intent, and overall framework, than a screenplay like Annie Hall topping the list makes sense (although then a screenplay like Fargo’s should be much higher up, in my opinion). But if the questions is simply, what is the funniest film of all time, I think the results will be different. Also, I think it’s safe to say, like the members of the Academy in general, this guild is made up of somewhat-older members, and so older movies perhaps get more acclaim than newer ones.
All that being said, this list makes for a great collection of some of American cinema’s greatest comedies. What do you think of the guild’s list? Any blaring omissions or questionable inclusions? Or how about that order? Also: Shakespeare in Love…