The 30 Most Underrated Comedy Films of All Time
Fall’s upon us, seasonal depression is setting in, and there’s no finer time for viewing some comedy gems. You need a little cinematic joy in your life right now. It’s my unasked for duty to recommend an onslaught of treasures you may have overlooked over the years.
I’ve scavenged the net, sorting through lists and opinion forums to surface great comedies that aren’t frequently mentioned. The amount of hours I’ve spent watching comedies both known and obscure is outright pathetic. All those lonely nights chuckling alone at my laptop might actually benefit you, however.
For your research purposes and viewing pleasure, I’ve compiled a list of what I believe to be the 30 most underrated comedies in recent history. Please feel free to share with me what you felt should have made it. Also note there is no particular order here. .
Quick Change (1990)
Bill Murray’s first of several appearances on the list. “Quick Change” follows Grimm (Murray) as he pulls off a bank robbery with the help of his girlfriend, Phyllis (Geena Davis), and buddy Loomis (the great Randy Quaid.)
Since we’re on the subject of underappreciated film, it’s worth noting Randy Quaid is one of comedic acting’s most underrated talents. We all love him as Uncle Eddie, but check him out in Quick Change as a doofy, childlike accomplice to armed robbery. The story’s engrossing, the circumstances are nutty, and there’s genuine, gripping character development. Add great performances and you have an enjoyable heist comedy.
Nothin’ But Trouble (1991)
Not sure if Nothin’ But Trouble is under the radar or just poorly regarded, but it deserves a lot more credit than it’s given. This is a delightfully silly venture, packed to the brim with stars: Chevy Chase, Dan Akroyd, John Candy, and a distractingly attractive Demi Moore.
A husband and wife dodge police in a yokel town and end up in some strange backwoods mansion, where they’re tormented by an insane judge. That’s a vague, goofy summary, and the film is every bit as nonsensical as it sounds. Nothin” But Trouble is worth watching solely for Akroyd’s performance as the grotesque-looking, bonkers judge. You won’t consider this an outstanding effort, but it’s a laugh-filled ride in which you don’t need to invest much mind or emotion.
Summer Rental (1985)
John Candy, for me, was the greatest funny man on film. He brought a light-hearted hilarious charm to the screen that will forever remain unmatched. Regardless of what he was in, he added a warm, endearing quality to all the humor.
You’re more than likely familiar with and fond of his most prominent works. Not loving Uncle Buck is a definite sociopath sign, and Planes, Trains, & Automobiles should undoubtedly be among your top 10 comedies. Another one of his more known, yet underappreciated movies will pop up later. For now you must get hip to the merriment of Summer Rental.
It’s your textbook light and fun 80s comedy. A family beach trip spirals into a nightmare. It never steeps to vulgarity, nor does it reach over-the-top. Consider it standard Candy fare — All the gentle allure of a John Hughes film without being penned by him. In fact, if Hughes had written this it probably would have been better and bigger. As it is, Summer Rental is a laid-back, loveable flick you’ll revisit with your kids one day.
One of the few post 2000 selections, Wanderlust is an absurd rom com from the brilliant mind of David Wain. The man has been a pioneering voice in comedy since MTV’s The State, and is responsible for several overlooked treasures. Stella is television’s most undervalued comedy series ever, and a fine place to start. Role Models is a laugh riot of a film which I debated including. I decided it’s too known to qualify. Cult hit Wet Hot American Summer is arguably Wain’s best, and already on any humor fan’s radar.
Wanderlust, the subject at hand, deeply deserves your affection. Paul Rudd and Jennifer Anniston star as a distressed yuppie Manhattan couple who move to Atlanta after Paul Rudd’s character loses his job. They join a community of hippies in the hopes of beginning anew, which only creates another slew of issues.
This comedy is everything. It pulls at your heartstrings, and hardly ceases from inciting big laughs for even a second. Wain simply understands comedy. He can be brilliant, and outright stupid. He can do outrageous and switch directly to subtle. Wanderlust encapsulates it all.
What About Bob? (1991)
Essential Bill Murray. Him and Richard Dreyfuss star as a neurotic patient and psychiatrist who become friends. What About Bob? is an ideal platform for Murray’s manic persona. Richard Dreyfuss hits it out of the park as well. This is a sharp, dark comedy you won’t want to miss.
National Lampoon’s Senior Trip (1995)
Let’s not beat around the bush: Senior Trip is a heap of trash, as a National Lampoon label in the 90s should indicate. It’s dumb, uninspired filth in its most pleasurable form. The film doesn’t take itself seriously, and you should go in with the same perspective. In doing so you’re in for a memorable treat.
Catch Jeremy Renner, AKA Hawkeye, in his younger days as a substance abusing high school slacker on a class trip to DC. Along the way him and his classmates drug their principal and get inebriated on a school bus driven by Tommy Chong. If that doesn’t entice you I can’t be of any more assistance.
The film’s truest amusement comes from Kids In The Hall’s Kevin McDonald, who plays a disturbed Trekkie crossing guard. Please just watch this.
Weird Science (1985)
While Weird Science isn’t exactly obscure in the lineup of Hughes classics, it’s not as well regarded as his other teen films. It may not have the wit and wide appeal of Ferris Bueller or everlasting allure of The Breakfast Club, but it’s his funniest high school affair next to Sixteen Candles. Admittedly, I consider that to be his most hysterical youth-centered movie.
I’m upset by lack of Weird Science appreciation for one primary reason: The drunken Anthony Michael Hall bar scene is in the running for “top 5 funniest movie scenes of all time.” Please give it a watch if you haven’t. Horned up teenage boys comprise Hughes’ target audience, but Weird Science is packed with hearty laughs for everyone.
I’m not aiming to stir controversy with die-hard Big Lebowski fans (losers) when I claim Kingpin is the mother of all bowling movies.
If the numbering of this list had any meaning, we would be looking at a top 3 pick right now. Woody Harrelson and Randy Quaid form a phenomenal straight man/goof pair, and Bill Murray tears the roof off. You’d be pressed to find a better comedy movie villain. Make this one of your initial choices from the catalogue.
Top Secret! (1984)
The Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams created what is widely marked the funniest movie ever made. Airplane! hit big, pioneered a new style of comedy, and paved a path for so many outstanding writers and comics to follow. In later years they made The Naked Gun films, which also rank among the funniest stuff in existence, but before that was a seldom-mentioned work of mastery called Top Secret!
Johnny Dangerously (1984)
A Michael Keaton vehicle I was pleasantly surprised by. Johnny Dangerously satirizes mob movies in perfect, goofy parody fashion. If you’re a fan of Michael Keaton and joke-after-joke bombardment you’ll love it.
PCU is an excellent showing from the understated David Spade. It’s set on a university campus and based on student life, yet far more intelligent than your average, sophomoric college comedy. In fact, PCU is eerily ahead of its time in sardonically commenting on the ridiculousness of impending “PC Culture.” Not only does it hold up, it seems more close-to-home than ever.
Puddle Cruiser (1996)
Here we have the very first project from “Broken Lizard,” the team who brought you Super Troopers and Beerfest. Puddle Cruiser isn’t as uproariously funny as their major films, but it’s smarter, more down-to-earth, and more inherently special in nature.
It views the university experience with a realistic, relatable eye that’s not present in any other college movie. Puddle Cruiser follows gentle Felix as he fights for the affection of a pretty girl with a huge, Rugby captain boyfriend. Along the way we meet likeable, real characters and hear lots of shrewd dialogue. You won’t find graphic sex, excessive boozing, or murdering of animals in Puddle Cruiser. You will, however, find a vivid, funny depiction of college life and young love. The film has heart.
Brewster’s Millions (1985)
With a duo like John Candy and Richard Pryor, Brewster’s Millions should be more noted. Pryor stars as a former minor-league pitcher who learns his dead uncle has left him $300 million, but in order to inherit the money he must spend $30 million in 30 days.
Brewster’s Millions’ main appeal is a clever plot and talented cast. Don’t anxiously await any standout hilarious moments, because there really aren’t any. Just sit back and enjoy Pryor, Candy, Rick Moranis, and all the twists.
Waiting For Guffman (1996)
Eugene Levy is yet another genius comedic mind that doesn’t receive the credit he’s due. Everyone knows him as Jim’s dad from American Pie, but Eugene has written and created some impressively brilliant projects. Most vital is Best in Show, which could have made it on here if it were less popular. It ranks up with Airplane!, Blazing Saddles, and others as one of the funniest movies ever made.
For now let’s focus on a lesser-known Eugene Levy work, Waiting For Guffman. Christopher Guest and Catherine O’Hara star in this mockumentary, which follows a veteran of off-off Broadway who pulls together a cast of non-actors for a play about the little Missouri town in which it takes place. Pure gold.
Funny Farm (1988)
I find it difficult to verbally convey the sheer delight of Funny Farm, considering it doesn’t sound all that riveting on the surface. Chevy Chase and a stunning Madolyn Smith play a young husband and wife who move from the city to a farmhouse in the country where Chevy’s character plans to pen his debut novel.
As is standard in 80s comedies, everything possible goes array. Funny Farm is similar to Summer Rental in its ability to garner to laughs without a hint of vulgarity, and touch viewers’ hearts. However, it exceeds Summer Rental both in terms of humor and overall story. The undeniable chemistry between Chevy and Madolyn, plus the additional cast of zany characters make this entry a must-see for 80s comedy lovers.
Cabin Boy (1994)
Cabin Boy is a remarkable representation of American treasure Chris Elliot and his bizarre brilliance. Many non-comedy geeks don’t seem to be up on the late 80s SNL star, and it’s a shame. We should all be encouraged to indulge in Chris Elliot’s unique brand of comedy. Part of your viewing necessity is Get a Life, his short-lived early 90s sitcom that warrants a wider audience than its small cult following.
Film-wise, Cabin Boy is his vehicle. It’s without question the wackiest entry on the list. Elliot plays an out-of-touch, sickeningly rich boy who gets on the wrong boat and ends up cruising with a crew of filthy sailors. Andy Richter and the great Dave Letterman make rare film appearances in this trippy excursion, and it couldn’t be weirder.
Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
Before Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers took off with Airplane! (ugh), they wrote and acted in the John Landis-directed cult hit Kentucky Fried Movie — Aptly named after their Milwaukee-based sketch group Kentucky Fried Theater. Their style of clever nonstop jokes delivered in deadpan is very present, despite the film being one long series of sketches and satiric vignettes. If sketch comedy isn’t your taste it may not be up your alley. Those tickled by Airplane!’s humor will likely get a kick out of it. Not all of the sketches hold up, but there are real sparks of genius throughout.
After Hours (1985)
One might consider this Scorsese’s most unheard of outing. After Hours is his only true comedy, though it’s of the darkest variety. The story sounds simple: A young man gets a girl’s number at a coffee shop, he heads over to her place late in the evening, and seemingly endless strange occurrences ensue. After Hours is really one you have to delve into without much knowledge. As a dark comedy and film in general it’s fantastic.
Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)
Possibly the ultimate sleeper of 90s teen films, Can’t Hardly Wait is everything you could hope for from the genre. No ground is being broken. It’s a standard high school party flick with the “guy chases out of his league girl” storyline. Regardless, it’s fun-filled hilarity. Seth Green plays a wannabe rapper dork, and he alone makes Can’t Hardly Wait worth your time.
Dirty Work (1998)
Those who are also obsessed with living legend Norm MacDonald are no doubt big fans of Dirty Work. Everyone else, it’s time to get on board.
Norm and dirtball Artie Lange are two slacker buddies (and more) who start a revenge for hire business. Dirty Work is loaded with dirty jokes and comedy legends. Greats in the mix include Chevy, Jack Warden, and Don Rickles. Chris Farley plays a huge role; his last one before passing.
A disheartening fact of the film is it could have been funnier than it was. In two different Howard Stern interviews, Norm and Chevy Chase discuss its coming to life. Apparently the production company convinced Norm to make it a PG-13 comedy as opposed to R, which required him to delete and change a great deal of the script. If he hadn’t agreed to make switches for the sake of a rating, it could have been a staple in filthy comedy. Despite what it could have been, Dirty Work is still a laugh-out-loud, endlessly re-watchable gem.
Ruthless People (1986)
David Zucker from the Kentucky Fried Theater wrote Ruthless People with Dale Launer and O. Henry, and directed with his two usual partners in crime. It ended up being the last film they co-directed together.
Ruthless People stars Bette Midler as a spoiled rich woman who gets kidnapped. Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater play the kidnappers, and Danny Devito’s her awful husband who’s responsible for it all taking place. It lacks the madness of Airplane!, Naked Gun, and Top Secret!, in lieu of witty twists and vile, zany characters driven by vengeance. Ruthless People is an uproarious, smart film by anyone’s taste.
The Wrong Guy (1997)
Kids in the Hall’s Dave Foley comes with heavy shtick in The Wrong Guy. It spoofs the Hitchcockian “wrongly accused man on the run” trope, and does so with absurdist bits around every corner. Loaded with hysterical lines. Foley shines here, in what many online proclaim the funniest overlooked film in existence.
The Great Outdoors
We could debate on whether or not The Great Outdoors is underappreciated. Many, probably older folks, regard it as a classic. However, I don’t believe general movie fans fully understand how hilarious and likeable it is.
Give The Great Outdoors a re-watch if you haven’t seen it in awhile. If you never have, get on that as soon as possible. John Candy is of course a joy, and Dan Akroyd is at his best. It has a laundry list of funny scenes and classic lines, and way more heart than any comedy you’ll see today. You pick up on new hilarity with every revisit, or so I’ve found. It’s absent of raunchiness, and packed with good fun.
Used Cars (1980)
Used Cars stars Kurt Russell as a sleazy car salesman, a role in which he clearly enjoys himself. The great Jack Warden is his aggressive, inappropriate boss, who delivers an arsenal of non-PC wisecracks. It’s sharp, raunchy, slapstick, and quite dark for a 1980 comedy. Mark it one of the biggest sleepers in this compilation.
Spies Like Us (1985)
A Chevy and Dan Akroyd joint that may not fit the constitutes of “underrated.” They’re legends, but a lot of Chevy stuff is wrongfully forgotten. Spies Like Us, for prime example, is a genuine good time many are missing. It’s not on the level of Fletch and Foul Play, but I feel those are too renowned to include. Spies Like Us has an always-fantastic Akroyd paired with Chevy, and for that it warrants inclusion.
Career Opportunities (1991)
Despite backlash I may receive, I stand firmly behind this choice. Career Opportunities is widely considered one of John Hughes’ duds. That’s a completely fair assessment. It’s not his most inspired. He’s essentially recycling his own claim-to-fame tropes. For whatever reason, though, it’s a true joy to watch.
By “for whatever reason,” I mean “entirely due to Jennifer Connelly.” Lord have mercy. Jennifer Connelly in this movie is quite possibly the most attractive woman ever on a film screen. She’s way out of Frank Whaley’s league, and that’s the plot’s entire attraction. A void of purpose, smooth talking young 20s kid gets an overnight custodian job at Target. He’s locked in alone on his very first night, until who turns up but the hottest girl in town. Spending a night locked in Target with the woman of your dreams is ultimate fantasy material. The very concept makes it feasible, but Jennifer Connelly makes it unforgettable.
Night Shift (1982)
I confidently proclaim this a top 3 contender for most underrated comedy film of all time. Night Shift was my first introduction to Michael Keaton, and fairly monumental. With this he convinced me he was one of the most brilliant comedic actors ever.
Keaton and Henry Winkler, who plays a charming straight man, get into the pimping business. Keaton’s out of his mind and Winkler’s the easily influenced voice of reason. There’s a taboo romance you’re sure to invest emotion into. Phenomenal dialogue. Overall a smart, riveting comedy and love affair that packs just the right amount of insanity.
Back To School (1986)
Rodney fans know it and love it. General comedy fans probably do as well. With that being said, it’s not usually mentioned in the “best comedies” discussion when it rightfully deserves to be.
Rodney Dangerfield is classic loony, one-liner cracking Rodney, but he reveals a warmer side in Back To School. He plays an uneducated, self-made millionaire who enrolls in a university along with his son. The father-son relationship is fairly adorable, and it’s evident he has his son’s best interest at heart. Audiences still get a plethora of Rodney zingers, but also a touching little story.
The ‘Burbs (1989)
Beloved by some but not enough, The ‘Burbs is one of Tom Hanks’ funniest endeavors. The story revolves simply around the nutty goings on of eccentric neighbors in a culdesac, and it makes for a joyously humorous film. Hanks is excellent per usual, but the supporting cast really shine through in this. Rick Ducommun, another gifted comic actor who’s rarely brought up, nearly steals the show as a loveable bumbling slob. He would have if everyone weren’t so good. A very young Corey Feldman pulls through with some great lines, while Bruce Dern is up to his manic antics. The writing’s just about as good as the performances. If you don’t already appreciate The ‘Burbs, do yourself a favor and watch it.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
One can’t be certain how known this movie really is. I had never heard of it prior to a few weeks ago, and nobody ever mentioned it to me. After the first watch I fell in love with Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.
Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino star as ditzy pals in their late 20s living in LA, but not doing much of anything. They decide on traveling back to Arizona for their 10-year high school reunion to prove they’re happier and more successful than the rest of their graduating class.
Lisa Kudrow is an amazing talent, and the chemistry between her and Mira Sorvino is perfect. Their comedic timing is on point, as well as the assortment of goofy lines they’re delivering. This is by no means what one would call an average “chick flick.” It’s weirder and more comically sound than any other female buddy movie. Regardless of how known Romy and Michele’s High Reunion is, it’s certainly not spoken of enough.
The Squid and The Whale (2005)
High Anxiety (1977)
Serial Mom (1994)