A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

If you don’t own a copy, you’ve either forgotten about this movie or have never seen it. This is arguably each lead’s most famous role of their career. And for good reason: when an disparate team of jewel theives vie for their loot, Deception is the rule of law in what amounts to The Bermuda Triangle of relationships. Love and lust notwithstanding, greed and revenge bring out a range of emotions– and even slapstick– in those subjected to the whims of manipulative Wanda, a woman so dynamic, a beloved pet is named after her.

Some Like it Hot (1959)

When the speakeasy that employs many musicians gets busted, many performers find themselves job hunting. Moreover, when they witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,  two friends in particular find themselves on the run from the mob. As revenge for their playboy antics, their connection at the employment agency pairs them with an all-female band. At least it’s headed out of state! With no choice but to make the most of the opportunity, the duo must pass themselves off as women. But can they keep their cool while surrounded by pretty girls?

Spy (2015)

Though there are both stunts and humor galore, this is no James Bond spoof; comedic actors were actually taught fighting techniques to do most of their own stunts and action stars ad libbed many of the best lines. The result stands on its own two feet (and is perhaps overqualified) as a contender in its […]

Pure Luck (1991)

Could there be anyone with worse luck than otherwise ordinary accountant, Eugene? Actually, yes: the daughter of a wealthy businessman, Valerie who recently went missing. With a chemistry that embodies cinematic fixture, the buddy comedy, detective, Raymond is unfortunately paired with the hapless klutz. Together they endure a series of mishaps, each more wacky than […]

Mystery Men (1999)

The ensemble’s inability to reach consensus– both on and off screen– works for their chemistry, or scripted lack thereof. The final product ultimately fell flat for a large portion of its audience because it’s an awkward meld of spoof, satire and homage. But isn’t that– like it or not– the essence of superhero status? Comic […]

UHF (1989)

Weird Al Yankovic wanted the title to be “The Vidiot” but the studio preferred “UHF,” despite being an obscure reference* to foreign audiences and a now obsolete reference to modern ones. Much of this movie’s slapdash humor was ad-libbed and many incidents and reactions were completely unscripted. Movie references abound, as do sight gags, most of which are without special effects, e.g. the “Wheel of (live) Fish.” With the likes of such a zany ensemble, expect the unexpected.

*Ultra High Frequency (TV broadcasting wavelength for cable, which has since been replaced by satellite)

Houseguest (1995)

It’s a beautiful thing to watch someone in their element, i.e. the shared enjoyment—even between strangers—of someone’s creativity channeled into a well-crafted project. The most complex humor seems effortless, which it may be in that moment, but is resultant of much practice. If a plot is strong enough to withstand a few deviations from its script, an actor with true improv ability will elevate the believability of his character by using natural true-to-life spontaneity to generate chemistry with his costars. This quick-on-their-feet cast collectively sets the essential stage that allows its lead to shine in this hilarious case of mistaken identity.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

So much talent, so little time. One of the numerous highlights of this movie is its timing. Unlike many modern comedies, the actors serve the story, rather than use it to showcase their immature antics, which are only funny when given an equally outrageous context. In this setting, two con artists attempt to outwit each other but both end up getting played. Who gets the last laugh when real-life masters of comedy use their impersonation skills as their characters execute a plot to dupe a wealthy heiress out of her fortune?

See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

Who else could play a deaf man, who witnessed a murder and a blind man, who heard it, other than two incomparable funnymen: the sensitive Gene Wilder and the bold Richard Pryor? It helps that—prior to Wilder turning down his role in the farce—each lead went to a special school—Wilder for the deaf and Pryor blind, respectively—in order to portray these challenges with accuracy. The script was then rewritten for them and their genuine chemistry is what breathes life into the slapstick.