Bracketology #2: The Greatest Comedy Film of All Time

The Purpose: To determine the greatest comedy film of all time

Once again Retrospace sets its sights on proving the unprovable.  We are, through a rigorous scientific method, attempting to conclusively determine the single greatest comedy film of all time.  As you may recall from the previous Bracketology post, this is no easy feat.  Hundreds of hours of deliberation, testing and reanalyzing data were spent to present you with our findings.... to once and for all settle the debate of "what is the greatest comedy film of all time".  At last we have an answer.

The Method:

Over a hundred movies that could be contenders for the Best Comedy Film Ever title were selected. This ruled out objectively awful movies like Deuce Bigalow and Are We There Yet? which have no business even being in contention.

I employed a “bracketology” approach to the process; very similar to NCAA basketball tournaments. There are four initial brackets, with each bracket beginning with 16 comedies which are pitted against each other and evaluated (see the criteria below). In addition, the 16 are seeded with 4 top seeds - a preliminary rating system was used to determine the seeding.

The Criteria:

Each movie was evaluated based on a series of standards. The two movies in competition were rated on these standards, with the victor being determined by who had the greatest number of W’s (wins). A tie was settled by the highest IMDb rating.

I don’t see how you could say a comedy film is good if it’s not worth re-watching. This wouldn't be a good criteria for all genres of film (i.e. Schindler's List may be a great movie, but rather hard to re-watch). However, I think a comedy that's worth its salt is something that can be watched again and again without getting stale.

Interesting Characters
Without a novel personality on screen there’s not much reason to watch…. Exhibit A – A Night at the Roxbury

This goes without say, I think.  A comedy that isn't funny (i.e. DC Cab, Best Defense, Doctor Detroit) is by definition a shitty comedy.

A famous quote from a critic of The Beverly Hillbillies: “One joke, nine years.” Indeed, a lot of comedies are uproariously funny, but don't have a stitch of originality.  In other words, they're just riding off another comedy's creativity.  For instance how different was Bustin' Loose from Stir Crazy, See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Silver Streak? They're all pretty much the same movie.

When you’re judging the acting on a comedy, I think it’s important to not focus on dramatic Academy Award winning performances; you’ve got to look at comedic timing. How well do these actors and actresses deliver their lines? Funny Farm and Foul Play were lousy movies, but Chevy Chase's comedic genius somehow elevates the final product.

Sex Appeal
When we watch a comedy, much of our judgement stems from how entertained we are.... and for a large segment of the population, both male and female, sex appeal is a huge factor in calculating its entertainment value.  You can't discount it, especially considering the fact that the majority of comedies employ the device.  It's a cheap thrill, but a thrill nonetheless.

When football players are graded by scouts, one category looked at is always something called “intangibles”. It cannot be easily explained, yet you know it to be true. This player is simply someone you want to have on your team regardless of his numbers. In the case of comedies, the  film that is just intrinsically superior, with no explanation necessary, gets the win.

Note: In the event of a tie, the IMDb rating was used to determine the winner.

Caddyshack ends up the champion.  Disagree if you like, but the numbers are hard to argue with. Click here to view the brackets.

If you're interested, you can click here to view the data used to seed and play the brackets.

I'm glad to finally put this question to rest. I'd be interested in hearing your comments on the topic.


  1. Scrooged beat Uncle Buck?


    Also not sure how the Royal Tennenbaums even makes the first round over Rushmore.

  2. Fast Times beats Airplane in Round One?

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  4. Well, I would put Raising Arizona over Caddyshack.

    I know I am really picky about my comedies because most of these wouldn't even be in my top 100. In your NW bracket there's only three that I would even consider (of those I've seen) and Back to the Future, Sixteen Candles and Monty Python all get beat by the second round.

    Putting Spinal Tap against Young Frankenstein is a rip off when you've got so many others than need to be knocked off sooner. Both of those should end up higher.

    I should say that *for the most part* I agree with the winners. But, what's the point of doing it if you don't get discussion?

  5. Nothing from laurel & Hardy, Keaton, Chaplin, Harold Russell, or even Some Like it Motherfucking Hot? Are you shittting me? Try again next year. Andthe next time, watch something older than you are.

    ps Animal House is overrated. And I'm not sure how Stir Crazy and Silver Streak are the same movie just because they both star Wilder and Pryor if Animal House and Caddyshack aren't, even if AH and the Shack share the same plot elements (snobs vs. slobs, slobs win) and the other two movies have nothing in common except the stars. Holy fuck.

  6. Missing: The Blues Brothers, The Big Lebowski, The Princess Bride, Tootsie, City Slickers, anything before 1978...

  7. The final should have been This Is Spinal Tap vs Life of Brian. That would have been like Brazil vs Italy at football. Having Caddyshack win is like when Germany wins the football...sure, there's a lot to admire but you're not quite sure how they won.

  8. You must be kidding.
    Blazing Saddles was beat out by Christmas Story?

    And I know you can't post a "winner" that everyone agrees with, but you started out with an incredibly small pool of contenders. Blazing Saddles is the oldest film you considered? 1974? That leaves out and incredible number of comedies that, unlike "Scary Movie" have stood the test of time.

    And "Scary Movie"??? Now "Scary Movie 3" I would understand. But Scary Movie was a one shot novelty that I could not even finish. . . It was that predictable.

    As you said, no list will please everyone.
    But if you are going to TRY to find the "greatest comedy film of all time" realize time started before 1974.

  9. Yeesh. I sense a little disagreement among the audience.

    The Blues Bros. and Big Lebowsky were oversights, I'll agree. However, they'd have got knocked off sooner or later.

    Scary Movie had funny moments, I like the horror parody. Granted, the movie still sucks overall.... and it came nowhere near winning. So, I'm not sure the grounds for disagreement.

    And, no, I did not include movies from the sixties and earlier - I should have put that in the post. I didn't feel like they needed to be on the list because I don't find them funny.... Laurel and Hardy, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and Chaplin just don't do it for me.

    I didn't find Rushmore to be even slightly humorous - I liked it, but didn't even know if it should be called a comedy. Tannenbaums was a stroke of genius with some genuinely funny moments.

    And, lastly, I know Caddyshack seems like a yawn inducing winner - couldn't Gilligan come up with something original, a little more obscure? I don't see it that way. It's like when people say in public they love Miles Davis' music, but when they get home they listen to ABBA. The same is true for movies - you can say you love Buster Keaton's movies and those old B&W films, but something tells me that you're probably watching Summer School for the hundreth time just like I am.

    I could be wrong, but I think that I'm right. :-)

  10. Caddyshack my arse. Godda be Caddyshack 2.

  11. To quote Mr. Hand: What are you people...on dope!? You are thinking with your heart, not your head. Look at the data.

    Craig, if you look at the data, you will see that Scrooged and Uncle Buck tied, and IMDB gave the edge to Scrooged by a tenth of a point. Now that is evenly matched.

    And Retro hound, when I first looked at the bracket, I expected Raising Arizona to win it all, but you have to use the set grading criteria. There is no way Raising Arizona is funnier than Caddyshack from start to finish.

    Oh, and Chadwick, Life of Brian and Spinal Tap, to use your soccer analogy, would be like Monaco vs. Lichtenstein, not Italy vs. Brazil.

  12. No Arthur? No MASH? Too many movies with Will Ferrell (1 would be too many), which kills the credibility.

  13. Gilligan! I love your site and I respect your thoroughness with respect to culture, history and so on, but....the answer to your question is Some Like It Hot.
    Caddyshack is funny but not a work of genius like Some Like It Hot. It is original on so many levels, (sexual frankness, cross dressing) it has great musical jazz score, the icon Marilyn Monroe, and it mixes gangster action film with light comedy, not to mention that it is the first film to mock or make fun of gangster culture stereotypes LONG before The Sopranos.

  14. No sign of "Three Amigos!"


  15. Predictably inane choice. Heaven forbid it should be a great movie and I guess there are actually movies too dumb even for you. This is right in the middle, a so-so comedy about the level of a pretty good TV show episode. Eh.

  16. Gilligan is my God, & I'm not a fan of the older stuff either (Three Stooges yes, Marx Bros no) and I know this site favors my favorite retro-years, but I'm with the "Some Like it Hot" group.

    I'm in my late forties and I saw that movie for the VERY FIRST TIME less than a year ago & laughed my ass off for 2 hours--it's friggin' timeless!

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  18. Well Hitch, I have to disagree. I haven't watched Caddyshack more than a couple times, but I've seen Raising Arizona dozens of times. Raising Arizona is much, much funnier.

    And I do watch His Girl Friday (Cary Grant, 1940), The Marx Brothers, and similar movies more than just about any movie on this list, but I know that isn't common. Some people really do like Miles Davis.

  19. Here's the difference between Scrooged and Uncle Buck.

    I saw Scrooged once and never needed to see it again.

    I could rewatch Uncle Buck once ever six months from now until the end of time.

    Off the top of my head, here are some quotes from Uncle Buck:

    "I'm Buck Melanoma, Moley Russell's wart."

    "Here's a quarter. Go downtown and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face."

    "You should see the size of the toast!"

    "In the field of local live home entertainment, I'm a GOD!"

    "What are you, Mother Cabrini, you never touch the stuff?"

    "Now get in your mouse, and get the hell out of here."

    Off the top of my head, here are the lines I remember from Scrooged:

    I got nothing.

  20. Hey , I'm still hung up on "Blazing Saddles" from the mid 70's , that western comedy ~!

  21. Sorry Hitch, I couldn't hear you over the sound of a thousand jaws dropping.

  22. The Jews taught me this great word: Schmuck. I was a schmuck, and now I'm not a schmuck! - Bill Murray as Frank Cross on Scrooged.

  23. Also: Uncle Buck is one of the funniest movies ever! As much as I love Rushmore, Royal Tennenbaums definitely has an edge over it...."Four minutes, forty-eight seconds. We're all dead. Burned to a crisp."

  24. MalacandraMarch 18, 2011

    Too bad you didn't include anything from the '60's because you had two Mel Brooks movies but his first, The Producers, was IMO funnier - and more re-watchable - than either of them.

    Not the musical - the original Zero Mostel / Gene Wilder flick.

  25. Gilligan, I think you've left out one really important criteria for judging great comedies...


    A great comedy should is one that people quote from again and again. The ones that have lines and jokes that stay in the memory until they become a form of cultural currency. Spinal Tap and the Python movies score heavily in quotable lines whereas Caddyshack has memorable scenes but not as many quotable lines.

  26. AnonymousJuly 14, 2011


    The two Python classics (Holy Grail and Life of Brian) are head and shoulders above ANYTHING in your competition.

    And The Blues Brothers is even better than that.

  27. Life of Brian. One classic scene after another, written and performed by Ox-bridge grads (and directed by a renowned historian, Terry Jones).
    Withnail and I, anybody? especially if you introduce a clever drinking game I devised to go with it...