The 25 best comedy movies to see before you die (of laughter)

15. The Jerk (1979)

The movie: Steve Martin's first starring role put him on the map as the nice-but-dim Navin Johnson, a white man raised by a black family.  He's both loveable and dumb, a buffoon who embarks on a series of amusing adventures that introduced Martin's wild and outlandish humor to the world. Where other comedians might have begged director Carl Reiner for the chance to play it cool, Martin does the exact opposite. At every opportunity he makes Navin into an even bigger fool than we imagined, whether he's joining the circus or cooking up inventions. 

Like all good comedies it doesn't laugh at him, but instead makes us treasure his goofiness. It set the bar for the Farrelly Brothers comedies of the '90s and even some early Adam Sandler's movies - well, back when they were funny.  

Funniest moment: "You mean I'm gonna stay this color?" says Navin when he discovers the truth about his adopted heritage.   

14. Caddyshack (1980)

The movie: Caddyshack might look like it's a comedy set on a golf course. Which it is, of (golf) course, but more than that it's an ode to the weirdos and oddballs of the nation. Director Harold Ramis struck gold bringing in Chevy Chase, Michael O'Keefe, Rodney Dangerfield and a young Bill Murray, as the determined greens keeper's assistant, for this early eighties blast of silliness.  

The story takes place over the summer, when a young up-and-coming caddy lands the gig of working for a star golfer. Like all good cult classics, it truly shines in its flat-out bizarre plot choices and character development, that for one poor schmuck consists of whether or not he catches a wily gopher. 

Funniest moment: Take your pick. There's loads of batty one-liners, from: "I've often thought of becoming a golf club" to "I smell varmint poontang" which only add to Caddyshack's legacy. 

13. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)

The movie: Stanley Kubrick's reputation for pushing his actors makes the stuff David Fincher gets up to seem breezy in comparison. But buried inside his desire for perfection lay a dark wit. 

Barely perceptible before, Kubrick's wicked sense of humor surfaced when he chose to helm this superb cold war spoof.   Peter Sellers stars in multiple roles, contributing much of the amusement, while the movie deals with the seriousness of conflict. Well, it does in its own special way. Like all the best comedies, Kubrick takes a pop at an important issue through satire. In this instance, his attention is aimed at people in power during wartime.  

Things go awry when the US Air Force General loses his marbles. Believing that communists are out to pollute Americans, he initiates a nuclear attack on Russia. It's up to the President and his Chiefs to put things right. 

Funniest moment: "You can't fight in here! This is the war room!"  

12. Clueless (1995)

The movie: It's true, Jane Austen's Emma is the loose inspiration for this 90s teen comedy. But Emma's plotting is a skeleton for a razor-sharp script, stuffed with gags. The credit belongs to writer-director Amy Heckerling, who managed to make a witty, fashion-centric expose on high school life that's still hilarious today.   

The movie transformed model Alicia Silverstone into a star for her turn as spoiled Valley girl Cher Horowitz. It's a shame she didn't pursue comedy post-Clueless, as its best jokes are down to her impeccable timing.   

Where darker movies present high school as an experience to be endured Clueless happily skips along, making clear that it ain't easy but it's ultimately what you make of it. Cher's journey from supposed airhead (which she never really was) to considerate member of society is proof. Very, very funny proof. 

Funniest moment: Cher's dad completely tears apart his daughter's date Christian. "What's with you, kid? You think the death of Sammy Davis Jr. left an opening in the rat pack?" 

11. Zoolander (2001)

The movie: Dumb, beautiful models are the butt of the joke in Zoolander. The movie asks one pertinent question, over and over again through joke after joke: what's the point of being really, really good looking if you don't harbor any common sense whatsoever? The point is, we get a really funny film that achieves slapstick perfection in practically every scene.   

Like the one where Derek Zoolander fails to grasp the concept of a scale model. Or where Hansel fails to grasp the basic concept of a computer. There's just so many of these sight gags, it's easy to forget the bananas plot at its core. You know, where it turns out models are behind every major political assassination.  

Funniest moment: A group of pals engage in a car wash montage, but forget they're actually dousing each other with petrol at a gas station and blow themselves up.  

10. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

The movie: Not every comedy appeals to every palette. Some people like broader physical humor, others might prefer satire. When it comes to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it's tough to imagine who wouldn't enjoy it. It's got everything. Slapstick shenanigans, fourth wall-breaking, innuendo, deadpan delivery and surrealism all play a part.  

The story is a loose reimagining of King Arthur's quest to find the Holy Grail. That medieval set-up makes way for some of Monty Python's most memorable jokes; the Knights who say NI, the French soldiers who sling insults at Arthur and his knights, the coconut-horses gag... There's loads.  

Watching it today, you can spot styles and ideas pinched by later comedians, but no-one does this mishmash of absurdity better than this bunch. After all, a great joke is only told the first time once.  

Funniest moment: "Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!" 

9. The Naked Gun (1988)

The movie: What makes a spoof genuinely funny? We'd be here all day to be honest if we're going to count everything, but ultimately it boils down to the cast and the script. Without either, a potentially good idea can flounder (see: every spoof movie of the last decade). The team who cooked up The Naked Gun understand what makes broad slapstick work. They should: David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams gave us Airplane, before turning to their hands to the cop movie genre. The result is The Naked Gun. It's simply one of the funniest spoofs ever made.   

The fact that the screenwriters penned it with Leslie Nielsen in mind helps; he had already played the character in a short-run TV series. Reprising the role of idiotic Lt. Frank Drebin again for the big screen, Nielsen plays Drebin like a true dolt. His bad luck and absent-mindedness are unrivalled in the whole of cinema. This is an officer of the law who can't frisk a suspect without accidentally kickstarting an international incident. You'd be hard pressed to find this many visual and verbal puns in any another movie.  

Funniest moment: Drebin parks his car, forgets to put the brakes on, watches it roll down a hill, assumes it's been stolen and starts shooting at it. 

8. Dumb and Dumber (1994)

The movie: Dumb and Dumber. How many friendships were formed over endlessly quoting its dialogue or re-enacting the most annoying sound in the world? That's what's so timeless about this modern slapstick. It's the type of movie that you can sit and watch with your besties, and fall about laughing over. Every. Single. Time. 

It works for many reasons. Mostly because The Farrellys know how to make you care about characters who are total imbeciles. Harry and Lloyd are prime examples. Neither is particularly smart, but they're not so stupid that you're facepalming their every blunder. Both behave like juveniles, and yet the biggest laughs come when they're pranking each other, when we're chuckling along at their victories.   

Funniest moment: Harry sells his decapitated parakeet - with his head sticky-taped back on - to a blind kid. 

7. The Big Lebowski (1998)

The movie: "I'm The Dude!" Jeff Bridges probably had no idea the first time he uttered that iconic line that he'd forever be associated with the character. The Coens cast Bridges against type as Jeffrey Lebowski, a layabout whose idea of a good time is kicking back with his buddies down at the alley. Until life beckons and he's caught up in a giant case of mistaken identity that involves a truly cracking supporting cast, including John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro.  

It's one of the sibling filmmakers' most unexpected hits. Now universally adored, it's a madcap caper bristling with energy and wit. It defies proper labelling - because how can you quickly slap a label on a detective-mystery-comedy that's fundamentally about a stoned bowler? Oh, and there's musical interludes, too. 

Funniest moment: The Dude gets his favourite carpet peed on and yet remains stoic and calm. "I'm The Dude!" he says, “Or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.” 

6. Young Frankenstein (1974)

The movie: Mel Brooks pokes fun at Frankenstein with a knowing wink and a lot of affection for the original. His 1974 spoof zips over the same story we've heard before, packaging in a new twist: the madcap scientist who creates a patchwork man is actually the grandson of Victor Frankenstein. Dr. Frederick Frankenstein is played with wide-eyed enthusiasm by Gene Wilder, who sets about recreating his grandfather's experiments and ropes in a motley crew to help him.   

Parodies rarely succeed when it comes to mimicking their source - usually because there's only a couple of gags worth telling. But they flow and thick and fast here, especially during the batshit song and dance number Frankenstein orchestrates to prove his monster is civilised.  

Funniest moment: Igor's helpful decorating tips when the Dr. realises his lab is a mess; “I don’t know…a little paint, a few flowers, a couple of throw pillows…”