Here Are Some of the Smartest Comedy Movies Ever Made

Here Are Some of the Smartest Comedy Movies Ever Made

When you hear the word ‘comedy,’ ‘smart’ is usually not the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, one thinks of slapstick humor, silly gags, and hilarious situations that would be deeply embarrassing in real life. So, what causes a comedy to be ‘smart?’ While regular comedies mostly prioritize the funny over other aspects, this subgenre manages to find the balance between profound issues and humor. It deals with subjects like race, class, sexuality, and mental health, to name but a few. However, the blend of satire with these overarching themes often enables smart comedies to present deeper subject matters with more ease, making the experience light-hearted rather than overwhelming. These comedies cause their audience to not only laugh but think.

Throughout the years, many smart comedies have tackled issues that are not discussed enough within the media and entertainment industry. The subsequent list compiles just a few of the great movies which embody the essence of what a smart comedy is. All unique in their own way, these films hold a sense of realism wrapped in iconic humor, allowing for wittiness without insulting the intelligence of its audience. These critically acclaimed movies, both from the past and present century, show what it means to step outside of convention and to ultimately make a film clever enough to translate across generations.

10 Some Like it Hot

Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon
Some Like it Hot Mirisch Company

Some Like it Hot is a romantic comedy directed by Billy Wilder. Starring the legendary Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon, this film focuses on two musicians who, in order to escape vengeful mafia men, disguise themselves as women and join an all-female band. The film was a huge success, which was both to be expected (considering the cast) and a surprise (considering the subject). While the LGBTQ+ related themes within the plot cause the film to be currently adored, it was not celebrated as much in the late 1950s. However, that is what makes this movie so great– Some Like it Hot presented a progressive narrative of two men dressed as women without any connotations regarding sexuality or mental wellness. It challenged the limitations of the archetypal man as well as the view of a woman from a masculine lens. This movie did not represent a lady as weak or needy but rather as independent and liberated. Monroe’s character, Sugar, was everything women were told not to be. She smoked, drank excessively, and was easily seduced by men. Some Like it Hot comically went against conventions, daring to step over the line of normality and paving the way for comedies like Mrs. Doubtfire and Tootsie to be championed.

Related: Here’s How Some Like it Hot Affected the LGBTQ+ Community

9 Trading Places

Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis in Trading Places
Paramount Pictures

Starring the hilarious Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis, Trading Places presents the effects of when the lives of an upper class broker (Aykroyd) and a poverty-stricken man (Murphy) are switched. For the bet of just one dollar, the characters are taken through hell and back for the amusement of two greedy businessmen, Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche, respectively). This film was an achievement as it confronted the topics of class, discrimination, and prejudice in really hilarious ways that criticize the corruptive influence of money. At the end of Trading Places, the heroes (Murphy and Aykroyd) are victorious as they acquire wealth, leaving the Duke’s penniless. After this, they escape to a luxury island which is separate from any life of poverty that they previously suffered in. While this movie proves that you can never truly understand a situation until it is brought upon you, it also sheds light on the power of money and how it changes a person.

8 Back to the Future

Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd
Universal Pictures Amblin Entertainment

Back to the Future, the iconic 80s movie directed by Robert Zemeckis, follows Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) as he is accidently sent back to 1955 by a time-traveling automobile built by his scientist friend, Doc Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Stuck in the past, Marty accidently prevents the meeting of his parents and must get the pair back together so that he can return to the future. Through many memorable scenes like Marty evading the school bullies on a skateboard and later when he plays “Johnny B Goode” at the dance, the maintains an empowering theme of taking personal responsibility over ones own destiny. By taking seriously the dire consequences when Marty alters just one moment in the past, Back to the Future expresses how important the decisions we make are to building a valuable future. Initially, Marty’s home life is fragmented, his father powerless, mother overweight, and siblings lazy. However, after helping his father stand up for himself in 1955, Marty returns to the exact opposite. This humorous classic gives hope that even small changes can dramatically alter our futures for the better.

7 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Orion Pictures

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is an intelligent movie about greed and deception, starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine as con-men trying to swindle Glenne Headly out of $50,000. Overflowing with moments of hilarity, the film simultaneously questions poor ethics and morals while also glorifying them. On one hand, the con-men are seen as heinous as they trick gullible women out of thousands. However, on the other hand, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels presents the men as suave, savvy likable characters who the audience want to see win. And they do. After being double-crossed by Janet, she returns with even more wealthy people to defraud. While Janet’s calculated behavior did break the stereotype of meek and easy-to-fool women in the movie, there is not really any justice. The con-men did not learn anything as the cycle is just going to start all over again. However, in a way this was a win for the audience. We wanted to see them succeed, and therefore it doesn’t feel like an injustice, more of an interrogation of the viewer’s own morals. Consequently, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is clever because, just as the con-men trick their victims with their undeniable charm, they have deceived the audience in the very same way.

Related: Here Are Some of the Best Dark Comedies Ever Made

6 When Harry Met Sally

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal sitting in a diner
Columbia Pictures

Written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, When Harry Met Sally is a timeless romantic comedy that asks whether a man and a woman can ever just be friends. Starring Billy Crystal (Harry) and Meg Ryan (Sally), the plot follows the title characters as they initially meet in Chicago and part ways before seeing each other again through a series of chance meetings over a period of 12 years. The relatable story of romantic confusion between male and female friends has caused this film to resonate with many people over the years. Unlike other romantic comedies that opt for a rushed relationship between the characters, When Harry Met Sally holds an authenticity as it balances humor and the importance of building a friendship and connection with someone.

5 Groundhog Day

Bill Murray drive the truck with a groundhog
Columbia Pictures

Speaking of over and over again, living the same day on repeat only brings one word to mind: torture, which is what Phil Conners (Bill Murray) has to endure. A cynical weatherman covering the annual Groundhog Day event, Conners becomes trapped in a time loop and is forced to relive February 2nd repeatedly with no apparent way out. Groundhog Day allows everyone to stare their worst nightmare straight in the face and laugh as Phil Conners frustratingly wakes up to the exact same thing time and time again. The film is very relatable to anyone afraid of change, as people get caught in a repetitive routine until, eventually, every day feels the same. When Phil stops blaming the world for his problems and accepts responsibility to be the agent of his own positive change, things eventually start going in a better direction. Ultimately, there was a new beginning hidden under his suffering. Groundhog Day uses comedy as a way to inspire its audience to sit back, take a look at life and appreciate what they have, otherwise the days will start to feel as if they are jammed in a never-ending loop.

4 Liar Liar

Jim Carrey and Justin Cooper in Liar Liar
Universal Pictures

Liar Liar is a comedy that is still providing stomach-clutching laughter to this very day. Directed by Tom Shadyac and featuring one of Jim Carrey’s best performances, this film tells the story of a deceptive lawyer who, after a birthday wish from his son, is unable to lie. Delivering many memorable scenes such as Carrey’s breakdown in the courthouse bathroom, Liar Liar presents its audience with the consequences of not valuing our priorities and those around us. While this outcome is quite an exaggerated one, it still delivers the message that not appreciating those around you will lead to suffering. However, this film also creates a dilemma between lying and telling the truth. Throughout life, most of us have been told to always be honest and speak our minds; however, Liar Liar seems to present being truthful to be as damaging as a lie. When Carrey tells lies, he alienates himself from his family, but when he speaks the truth, he is humiliated both privately and publicly. Therefore, what is the message? Should we lie more, or tell the truth? It’s up to the audience, but perhaps it depends on if you’re a lawyer.

3 The Truman Show

Jim Carrey waving in The Truman Show
Paramount Pictures

There are many people who act as if the world revolves around them, however, what if it were actually true? In this psychological dramedy, Jim Carrey grew up living a normal life but, unbeknownst to him, he is the star of a 24/7 reality show and his entire existence is controlled. This film received many accolades, questioning how much control people really have over their lives and what authenticity actually is. While the movie is humorous as Truman starts to see the cracks within his environment, Carrey refreshingly embodies a conflicted and lost man as he realizes his life has never been his own. It is only when he becomes more aware of his surroundings and himself that he’s finally able to see what is real and make the decision to escape. The Truman Show creates a great message of how one can only feel free when they take control of their life but also how the space we live in can influence our minds, both positively and negatively.

2 Mean Girls

Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert and Amanda Seyfried
Paramount Pictures

Mean Girls has earned its position as a classic. Starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert and Amanda Seyfried, this film has produced hundreds of memes and made “fetch” a word, even though Regina George(McAdams) was certain it was not going to happen. Mean Girls presents the social cliques and bullying found in high school through the eyes of teen Cady Heron (Lohan), as she fights to navigate her way through the social hierarchy while struggling to find her own identity. The catty behavior provides comedy on-screen, but also reflects the daily experiences of many young girls in high school. However, through this, Mean Girls is able to ridicule the behavior of school tormentors, providing a comforting escape to those who feel overwhelmed by it each day, but also encouraging them to break free of trying to ‘be cool’ and just be themselves.

1 Birdman

Michael Keaton and Birdman
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Birdman is a dark dramedy that focuses on a faded Hollywood actor, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), best known for playing the superhero “Birdman” as he struggles to put together his Broadway production. The movie is more of an artistic piece, filmed in what appears to be a continuous shot, save for one exception. Through this style, the audience are taken deeper into the mind of Riggan as he searches for his purpose while also dealing with the tormenting voice of his former character, Birdman, in his head. Hilarious moments such as Riggan having to wander through Times Square in his underwear compliment his midlife crisis. The weight of strained relationships and possible failure is explored comically but emotionally in the film, which features a stunning conclusion about mental freedom and clarity.

Bill Murray is stuck in a clock
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