10 Greatest 1990s Comedies
Posted In: 1990s, Bill Murray, comedies, Friday, movies
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No one ever says so, but the 1990s had some great comedic movies. Smarty-farty folks may rave about Mel Brooks or Woody Allen’s 70s stuff, but the Clinton years produced a wide variety of great, funny films: some really smart looks at working life, some really low-brow ‘gross-out’ movies and some quirky idiosyncratic flicks that you’d have to see to really appreciate. So we decided to list 10 of the movies that inspired us to shoot goofball sketches and post them on the Internet. Some of these will make you literally Laugh Out Loud and some are chucklers that will have you snickering to yourself for days after. But all are comedic gold from a decade that had more than its fair share of hilarious films.
Yeah, we know we’ve been ODing on 90s nostalgia lately…there are worse addictions to have.
#10 American Pie (1998)
Waitaminute–this movie is about what? That was a pretty common reaction in 1998 when this innocent tale hit theaters. THe premise–four high school friends trying to lose their virginity before prom–has been done to death since Porky’s, but …Pie is full of little details that raise it above its predecessors and peers. Seann William Scott’s obnoxious turn as scene-stealer Stifler may have many of the movie’s best-remembered lines, but its the everyman likeability of the unlucky protagonist Jim (Jason Biggs) that keeps the film grounded, even as things get crazier and crazier–with certain bodily fluids being ingested and home-baked pastries getting violated.
#9 House Party (1990)
If you are surprised by its inclusion on this list, you probably should go watch it again. Another high school comedy, the movie that transformed Kid N Play from B-list pop-rappers to pop culture phenomenon (sort of), House Party is a perfect mix of youthful exuberance, raunch and music that manages to present the hip hop experience at its most innocent and joyful–in a way that’s somehow both authentic and universally-relatable. But besides all of that, its funny as hell–with an endless string of hilarious setpieces and a star-making turn from a young Martin Lawrence.
#8 Dumb and Dumber (1994)
They let you know, right there in the title, what this movie was going for. And they succeeded in creating a film this defiantly stupid. It is a masterpiece of lowbrow, slapstick, brain-dead humor. As goofball best friends Lloyd and Harry, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are pretty close to flawless in their chemistry and the effortless way that they play off of each other. And the plot, involving the buddies traveling cross-country to return a briefcase, only serves as the backdrop for a series of wacky vignettes. If fart jokes and decapitated birds are above your bad taste threshold, this is not the movie for you. But Carrey was on fire in the mid-90s, and this movie is him at his limb-flailing, rubber-faced best.
#7 Election (1999)
Reese Witherpoon seems to have channeled an adolescent Hillary Clinton as Tracy Flick–the uber-motivated, hyper-ambitious teenager at the center of this warped high school comedy. Matthew Broderick stars as the frazzled teacher who seeks to undermine Flick’s campaign for class president by recruiting a dim-witted-but-very-popular jock (Chris Klein) to run against her. The movie is a biting satire of high school, type-A personalities, mid-life crises and sexuality that wrings more than its fair share of uncomfortable laughs from a brilliantly subversive premise. The role made Witherspoon a star–and for good reason; she succeeds at making Tracy formidable, vulnerable–and a little terrifying.
#6 My Cousin Vinny (1992)
There have been several fish-out-of-water comedies over the years, but very few are as on-the-nose and warm-hearted as My Cousin Vinny. Joe Pesci is perfect as ambulance-chaser Vinny Gambini, a small-time lawyer called down to Alabama to defend his cousin on a murder charge. As his smart-and-sassy girlfriend, Marisa Tomei is stellar as well, and the script features several smart examinations on small-town southern life as filtered through the eyes of a hapless New Yorker. Joe Pesci tried his hand at several comedic roles, but he was never better than here.
#5 Rushmore (1998)
A movie that manages to be cynical and sentimental all at once, Wes Anderson’s second film was his masterpiece. The odd tale of gifted teen Max Fischer, his millionaire 40something best friend Herman Bloom and their mutual love for a school teacher, the movie is so quirky its almost precious; but the characters are so well-developed that it never feels forced. Jason Schwartzman is excellent as Max, who’s both an overachieving prodigy and an underdeveloped outsider; and Bill Murray’s performance as the bitter Bloom should be required viewing for fans of nuanced comedy.
#4 Groundhog Day (1993)
Smart. Funny. Original. This Harold Ramis-directed gem is probably Bill Murray’s greatest comedic performance. Murray is entirely believable as jerky local newscaster Phil Connors, and when the cosmos decides to cruelly trap him in the same day for eternity, his various reactions–from fear to opportunism to morbid depression–are as relatable as they are hilarious. Murray’s gift for obvious insincerity and dry sarcasm is on full display and the repetiveness of each scene affords Phil new ways to approach every scenario that he’s already lived a thousand times before.
#3 The Big Lebowski (1998)
“That rug really tied the room together.” A bizarre comedic masterpiece from the Coen Brothers, the story of a burned-out L.A. hippie, his angry Vietnam vet friend and their quest to manipulate a ransom involving a wheel-chair bound millionaire and his porn star wife; this movie’s plot is so quirky, you’d only get weird looks from anyone you ever tried to explain it to. Nonetheless, Jeff Bridges, as “The Dude,” is brilliantly lackadaisical through a series of weird misadventures. And John Goodman’s Walter? A ticking timebomb of comedic volatility.
#2 Office Space (1999)
Anyone–and I mean anyone–that has ever had to work a desk job can relate to this note-perfect satire of white-collar workplace hell. Soul-crushing middle managers, undeservedly-perky secretaries, copiers that don’t ever work, meetings about meetings, reports and forms–its all there. Unlike most of the other movies on this list, Office Space doesn’t sport a lot of big names, but its script–written by “Beavis & Butthead” creator Mike Judge–is packed with smarts and insight into what makes cubicle crusaders so irritable. And it’ll make you think twice before taking your co-worker’s stapler.
So what was the best comedy of the 1990s? Many will disagree, but we claim the title for a lil low budget stoner movie shot in South Central…
#1 Friday (1995)
Is there a comedy from the 1990s that is more quoted and more enduring than this humorous look at 24 hours in the life of two buddies from the ‘hood? Probably not. With an amiable script that fits the pot-smoking themes and a comedic performance from Chris Tucker that ranks among the very best, Friday is a movie that transcended its target audience to become a stoner classic and one of the 90s most beloved comedies. Everyone from dope boys to aging hippies has it in their collection–and its not hard to understand why. The pot jokes are there, but there’s also the non-stop one-liners from Tucker, and every vignette–and there are many–is a hilarious look at life in a neighborhood that, up to that point, had been mostly portrayed in cinema as grim and violent. The two sequels are a mixed-bag, and hood comedies would wear out their welcome rather quickly, but Friday stands as a comedy classic that has, oddly enough, proven to have staying power.
And that’s that. Let the hatemail commence…
Honorable Mentions: Clueless, The Nutty Professor, City Slickers, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Swingers, Clerks, Sister Act, There’s Something About Mary, Boomerang, Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone, Bottle Rocket, Wayne’s World, Life, Hot Shots!, The Birdcage, The Wood, Tommy Boy, Dazed and Confused, Happy Gilmore