These are my five favourite films, probably. I decided on them very quickly to try to avoid the trap of over-thinking it. As a result it is a slightly unbalanced selection that possibly gives the impression I love comedies more than I really do. I’m quite sure I’ll have overlooked many films that on another day I might say were the greatest ever, but of course that’s the nature of only choosing five. I’m happy to stand by these.
Dr Ray Stantz: Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.
So much to love. Bill Murray at his deadpan best. The best named character in movie history (Egon Spengler). And if it weren’t for the unfortunate tokenism of the Winston Zeddemore character you might call it a perfect comedy film. It’s pretty close.
DR STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964)
President Muffley: Gentlemen. You can’t fight in here. This is the war room!
Kubrick’s best film I reckon. A hilarious but also scary look at the craziness of war and the true powerlessness of our world leaders. Most comedy has no hope of aging as well as this. It probably helps that “war is stupid” is a pretty timeless theme but I think it’s also that so many of the performances are played straight that’s helped keep this relatable after all these years. Indeed, the outlandish performance of the title character might be the most dated element. Regardless, it’s great to see this in the top 50 of the AFI’s list and I can’t wait to watch it again.
WITHNAIL & I (1987)
Withnail: Listen, we’re bona fide, we’re not from London.
Genuinely too quotable. I turned against the film in my early twenties after being surrounded by bores at university who treated it as a de facto creed for debauchery and who would witlessly regurgitate lines from it on an hourly basis. But when we recently revisited it (after only a couple of small ales) it was the same riotously funny film I first fell in love with. There are no bad performances in it and at the end it has an important message about knowing when enough is enough.
GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)
Monsieur Gustave: You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, fuck it.
Not to be confused with the abominable Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that came out a few years earlier, this is all about Ralph Fiennes’ masterclass of a performance. Monsieur Gustave might be my favourite film character of all time, but that’s not all there is here. Wes Anderson’s direction keeps the story rattling along at a frenetic pace and it looks like something from a magical pop-up story book. Seriously, if this doesn’t make the AFIs top 100 when it’s next updated it will be an outrage.
Norman Bates: It’s not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?
There is so much more to this film than the shower scene it is most famous for. Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense for very good reason. Happily it’s at 14 in the AFI list so I don’t need to say too much about it here but safe to say I can’t wait for the excuse to rewatch it.