I’m taking a respite from book-focused Friday Fiction. Perhaps this is better titled a Friday Favorite post, since I wanted to talk about some favorite films.
While writing about American vs. British English, I watched part of A Fish Called Wanda – which sparked me thinking about other movies that skillfully poke fun. Over the years, there have been plenty of satires, deadpan comedies, and silly plots that have had me holding my gut, tearing up with laughter, and falling off the couch as I watched. I have a sarcastic sense of humor to begin with, and thankfully certain filmmakers are happy to indulge the likes of me.
Here is my Top 10 list of clever and quirky comedy films. Which ones have you seen?
10. Fargo (1996). A car salesman hires criminals to kidnap his wife, but the crime goes awry and ends up with murders that are investigated by the local police chief, who is seven months pregnant. A brilliant dark comedy starring William H. Macy and Frances McDormand, you’ll enjoy this quirky film set in snowy North Dakota.
9. The In-Laws (1979). In preparation for his daughter’s wedding, a mild-mannered dentist meets the groom’s father who is a traveling “consultant.” When the groom’s father talks the dentist into breaking into a safe, a series of escapades ensue which call into question the real career of the bride’s father. Peter Falk and Alan Arkin make a perfect pair in this comedy about merging families and discovering secrets.
8. Lost in America (1985). The IMDB description says it better than I could: “A husband and wife in their 30s decide to quit their jobs, live as free spirits and cruise America in a Winnebago.” Of course, their free-spirited life backfires a bit. Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty beautifully portray the married couple trying to find themselves and an elusive life of bliss.
7. Little Shop of Horrors (1986). Put together a nerdy florist, a shy but sexy woman, a sadistic dentist, and a man-eating plant, and you’ve got Little Shop of Horrors. Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene are terrific as the unlikely couple trying to find love and eventually each other, while Steve Martin delivers a perfect performance as a cruel dentist and boyfriend. Great music as well.
6. I Love You to Death (1990). Rosalie is married to a pizza shop owner who is also a big-time cheater. As a Catholic, divorce is out of the question, but murder sounds like a good idea. However, it isn’t as easy as she thinks to killer her husband. Tracy Ullman and Kevin Kline are joined by a great supporting cast with William Hurt, River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, and Joan Plowright.
5. The End (1978). A man is given a year to live but decides to take his own life rather than suffer his inevitable decline and the pain of terminal disease. He enlists the help of a fellow psychiatric patient in his attempt to end it all, but without the expected result. Burt Reynols, Dom DeLuise, and Sally Field star.
4. Young Frankenstein (1974). Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson tries to distance himself from his grandfather’s notoriety. However, when he inherits the family castle and visits the estate, he becomes intrigued and decides to repeat the experiments. This Mel Brooks film includes the acting talents of Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Teri Garr.
3. Raising Arizona (1987). An ex-con and ex-cop marry and try to conceive. But after the continuous heartbreak of infertility, they decide to steal one of another couple’s quintuplets; after all, that family has one to spare, right? Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter are as believably kooky as they come, and John Goodman and Frances McDormand join the supporting cast.
2. A Fish Called Wanda (1988). An ensemble of criminals plots a heist, but everyone is trying to double-cross everyone else. When an English barrister gets involved in the trial, the relationships become even more complicated. John Cleese stars as the barrister, Jamie Lee Curtis as a sexy diamond thief, Kevin Kline as a short-tempered weaponry expert, Tom Georgeson as the theft’s mastermind, and Michael Palin as the stuttering right-hand man.
I can’t decide on my number #1, so I cheated and made it a tie! (Yes, I know that means my Top 10 includes 11 picks.)
1. This is Spinal Tap (1984). Director Rob Reiner gives us a faux documentary of a heavy metal band taking a tour through third-rate venues. This one is hard to describe, but Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer will have you collapsing in laughter. It’s a classic for a reason.
1. Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). A U.S. general gone crazy orders a nuclear strike of the Soviet Union. It’s left to the president, advisors, and other military personnel to try to stop the madness. Peter Sellers and George C. Scott deliver amazing performances in this satire written by Stanley Kubrick.
Do you have your own recommendations for quirky film comedies? What would be on your Top 10 List?