Movies tell stories intended to make us feel something, and so the great movies evoke strong reactions: Happy ones, scary ones and amused ones. Amused reactions, however, are becoming less and less frequent in the current stale and recycled mode comedic era through which Hollywood is currently suffering. While there are a few notable gems, really innovative comedy is a rare treat these days.
And so, many of us are harking back to better days, to the golden ages of comedies past. Certain comedic motion pictures are woefully underrated by the public and even by the studios that made them. It could be marketing – maybe the studios didn’t do an effective job of selling the movie to the public – or it could be that the viewing public wasn’t receptive to that particular sort of comedy upon its release, but with the power of hindsight we can newly appreciate these movies’ genius. Here, we’re bringing to your attention the unwarranted exclusion these hilarious movies have had from the zeitgeist. Whether they were pioneering and formative, wryly derivative or cynically topical commentaries, these five movies contributed to defining their decade’s comedy despite being frequently overlooked.
5. Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
Shaun Of the Dead is a zombie movie. Moreover, it’s a funny zombie movie, that came around before all the other funny zombie movies. It involves the shenanigans of the main character Shaun – a 29 year old slacker living with his two roommates – along with uptight Pete and pot smoking mooch Ed. Their hometown is taken over by zombies and, as in any zombie apocalypse, the dead brain eaters quickly outnumber the living. Despite all the consequent disasters, the movie maintains a uniquely comedic tone, with various scenes that are downright hilariously memorable; like when Shaun and his friends are being surrounded by zombies while Pete talks on the phone trying to make one last drug deal.
This clever black comedy was released around the time when every comedy fan was talking about Napoleon Dynamite, but this one has withstood the test of time much more comfortably than the latter.
4. Planes Trains and Automobiles (1987)
John Hughes was arguably the mastermind of 80s – and some 90s – comedy. The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Home Alone, even Flubber; you name it, Hughes was the master behind it. Despite all these great movies, some of his works have been underrated and even neglected by the public.
One such beautiful work is Planes Trains and Automobiles, starring Steve Martin and the late and great John Candy. Basically, it’s a farcical movie in which whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Martin plays Neal Page, a New York advertising executive who’s trying to make it back home to Chicago for Thanksgiving Dinner. While his trip involves losing a cab twice – one of them to Kevin Bacon in a short but memorable cameo – he’s also saddled with Candy’s character Del Griffith, a loud and obnoxious shower curtain ring salesman. As problems mount so does the humor. It’s classic 80s slapstick comedy and a heartwarming ending, and a perfect movie to unearth around Thanksgiving.
3. Coming To America (1988)
Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall are legends in the comedy community and they’ve collaborated on several projects together. Although Murphy is known for movies like The Nutty Professor (1996) and Trading Places(1983), some of his other works don’t have such a prominent place in the limelight. One such movie is Coming To America(1988). The movie takes Murphy and Hall out of their usual comfort zone and portrays foreign nationals in an amusing (if questionable, in terms of political correctness) fashion. Murphy’s character Akeem is a prince from the fictional African country of Zamunda and Hall is his personal servant and friend. Although Akeem’s father (James Earl Jones) wanted to have him married on his 21st birthday Akeem feels he needs true love to be married.
So he travels to America with Semi (Hall) in search for an American bride. Akeem’s antics make for some humorous encounters. Although it’s all a bit predictable and cheesy movie, the spot-on performances of and chemistry between the leading actors make this one deserving of a lot more kudos than it received.
2. Quick Change (1990)
Bill Murray‘s impressive body of comedic work includes Groundhog Day(1993) What About Bob(1991) Ghostbusters(1984). Like so many great comedic performers, however, some of his greatest works have been neglected or again underrated. It’s not that they’re bad, but he has so many great projects out there that some get lost in the shuffle.
One of these great movies is Quick Change(1990). Bill Murray was arguably at the very top of his game here. He plays Grim, a burned out average guy working for the Department of City Planning in New York. Wanting to get out of his miserable routine existence he dresses up as a clown and holds up a bank along with friends played by Geena Davis and Randy Quaid posing as hostages. Of course, everything goes NOT according to plan and a madcap comedy of errors ensues.
1. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Is this the most underrated black comedy of all time? Perhaps. And it’s a shame really, as it’s probably John Cusack’s best work. The story line follows Martin Blank (Cusack), a professional killer suffering an existential crisis. He’s under a lot of stress; his boss wants him to join a hit man union, he’s lost his taste for his work and his secretary (Joan Cusack) playfully pesters him with the recent invitation he got to attend his 10 year High School reunion. All these issues he talks over with his therapist… Who is, understandably, terrified of Martin.
As fate would have it Martin is tasked with a hit on a target in Grosse Pointe, at the same time and place as his High School reunion. He goes to town and starts catching up with old friends, still mesmerized by his sudden legendary disappearance on prom night. He also meets with his old flame Debbie (Minnie Driver) whom he stood up on that said prom night. With the scene set for total disaster, the madness takes off – but it’s all wrapped up with a happy ending. Worth watching if just to remember Cusack in the halcyon days before he became maligned on the comedy scene.