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10 Great Overlooked Comedies

Vikram Poddar

This list covers comedy gems that haven’t received the fame or recognition that, in my opinion, they deserve. They’ve largely been forgotten and dropped out of sight, but need a one-time viewing at least. I’ve omitted the films which featured in the AFI or BAFTA all-time lists and tried to ignore cult comedies like Office Space, Blues Brothers, Wayne’s World and High Fidelity. Other than that, they’re basically a personal choice, and so are open to scrutiny, comments and discussion.

10

Little Big Man
1970

This film earns the distinction of being the Forrest Gump before Forrest Gump. Starring Dustin Hoffman, it followed the same script of an extraordinary life, like Forrest Gump. Hoffman plays an ordinary white man whose life takes a sharp turn when he is first captured and then adopted by Native Americans. From then on, hilarity ensues as he struggles to choose between his white roots and native American upbringing. Its an understated film with subtle humor.

9

Lover Come Back
1961

A classic Rock Hudson-Doris Day comedy with quick wit and funny exchanges between Rock Hudson and Tony Randal. Doris Day plays a straight and uptight woman and Rock Hudson is a street smart smooth talker while Tony Randal provides some funny dialogues with great delivery. This was not as well-known as Pillow Talk, another Rock Hudson and Doris Day comedy but is better in my opinion.

8

A New Leaf
1971

One of two Walter Matthau comedies on this list. It largely follows the same story as Arthur, a much more famous film with more-or-less the same story, in that a rich man chooses marriage to avoid getting poor. This was directed by Elaine May who was supposedly unhappy with the final outcome, claiming the studio made some changes to the script and interfered with her directing. This is a great film which got lost in the pre-release drama that followed between Elaine May and the studio and showed just how talented and undervalued an actor Walter Matthau was.

7

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
1988

Probably the most well-known film on this list, but its so good its hard to ignore it. Michael Caine is a cunning and scheming swindler while Steve Martin plays a street-smart and fast-talking (but small-time) con-man. This film is a classic example of two great actors going head-to-head to out-do each other.

6

Animals are Beautiful People
1977

The only documentary which makes this list. Directed by Jamie Uys, the guy who directed The Gods must be Crazy, and about the animals in the African desert. This is a must-watch film on this list simply because it is not a classic film. It’s a documentary with a funny narrative and provides an urban outlook on all sorts of animals – from birds to monkeys to insects and everyone in-between, and compares their lives with modern humans and the same problems. This film takes comedy in a new direction.

5

Wag the Dog
1997

Just how this film is overlooked from the many funniest films lists is a mystery. This film personifies imagination to the maximum; it makes you think and laugh at the same time. It is based largely on the Clinton scandal although it was released before the scandal took place. A rare example of real life imitating reel life. Also, it’s the second Dustin Hoffman entry on this list, and is supported with an all-star cast of Robert De Niro, Anne Heche and a classic Woody Harrelson cameo.

4

Life
1999

No great comedy list can ever be complete without an Eddie Murphy comedy. This is not as famous as Beverly Hills Cop or Coming to America, but a much better film. Murphy himself claimed it to be one of his personal favorites. Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy are on top form throughout the film and it has a strong supporting cast that includes Bernie Mac. Just why it never became a commercial or critical success is a mystery because it was even nominated for an Academy Award.

3

Sonatine
1993

One of two non-English films on the list and directed by Takeshi Kitano. All those familiar with the director would be familiar with either Hana-Bi, a serious and critically acclaimed film, or Brother, his first venture into the American market, although it came before both of them. This film though is filled with a dry humor that never lets you get comfortable. It will leave you hanging between wanting to laugh but risking missing the next funny remark and occasionally surprise you with deep and serious dialogues. A very underrated film, in my opinion.

2

The Fortune Cookie
1966

The second Walter Matthau film to make the list and has him teamed with his good friend Jack Lemmon. Unknown to the many who are familiar with The Odd Couple, this came before that film, and it was their chemistry in this film that gave the brains in the studios the idea to cast them together for The Odd Couple. Arguably, it is much funnier than The Odd Couple and even won Walter Matthau an Academy Award. One of the reasons why this comic gem is so overlooked is probably because its in Black & White.

1

L’argent de Poche a.k.a. Small Change
1976

This Francis Truffaut film is centered around kids in a small French town. Although the director is well known for many more famous and successful films, this is one that stands out for me because it portrays the innocence of children in a light-hearted and comical way that even grown-ups can enjoy. It’s a sweet comic film that’ll have you feeling good and light-hearted by the end.