The 10 Best ’70s Comedies
When people think of the ’70s, usually the first thing that pops up is disco, bell-bottoms, or sideburns. For others, it’s maybe School House Rock. Chances are, if you’re a bit older reading this you’ve actually lived through this time and reminded many people about how it was the best decade and nothing ever came close to it. Or, you’ve heard someone in your family talk about how it was the best decade ever. Apparently, everything was better in the ’70s. The drugs. The music. The food. The fashion. The drugs. Everything was better when your father was younger. Everyone had it easier than they do now. Heck, it was before DNA profiling, so even the criminals had it easier! Some folks even argue that the movies were funnier. We’ll be the judge of that, as we take a look at the funniest films of the decade which gave us the overwhelming star power of Danny Bonaduce and Jan-Michael Vincent.
Animal House (1978)
Directed by John Landis (Trading Places, The Blues Brothers,) and written by Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters,) Doug Kenney (Caddyshack,) and Chris Miller, this movie is the quintessential college comedy. It paved the way for everything that came after it. Movies like American Pie and most of Todd Phillips’ catalogue probably wouldn’t exist without this movie. At Faber College, one frat house is the worst of the bunch. Dean Wormer will do whatever it takes to rid the campus of The Delta House, but the boys will do whatever it takes to fight back. Sporting an all-star cast of young greats, including Tom Hulce, Karen Allen, Mark Metcalf, and Peter Reigert, this film should be required viewing for all college students. The film also stars the always-good John Vernon and Sir John Belushi in the iconic role of John ‘Bluto’ Blutarsky. National Lampoon’s would then run this college party formula into the ground over the next 40 years, but this is the first and best.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978)
Before you say anything: NO. This is not a good movie. But, that’s the point. The entire film (along with it’s three sequels) is a parody of big budget sci-fi movies. Created by John De Bello, this zany movie is keeping more in the vein of Airplane! than more grounded parodies like Tremors or Hatchet. There’s musical numbers, an undercover tomato infiltration plot, the smallest conference room ever seen, the greatest unplanned helicopter crash of all time, and…Hitler? It also has a theme song which would rival the likes of John Williams. While it may be slow compared to most modern films, there are still plenty of laughs to be had. Watch it now on Amazon.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
This is another movie which falls into the category of “couldn’t be made today.” The irony of this film is that it’s poking fun at racism throughout time, but would still be considered culturally insensitive by today’s standards. Directed by comedy master Mel Brooks, and co-written by Brooks with help from Richard Pryor, this is one of Brooks’ most quoted films. The plot is basically about a town which gets a new sheriff. The first black sheriff in the West. It’s a plan by the politicians to bring the town down so they can build a railroad through the land. This is one of Gene Wilder’s most memorable roles. Cleavon Little is also probably best known as Sheriff Bart. Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, and Brooks himself also give memorable roles throughout. Nobody can deny that this movie indeed paved the way for all future comedies (and farting scenes.)
The Jerk (1979)
One of the funniest and most ridiculous movies ever made. Also, apparently one of Stanley Kubrick’s favorite films. This was the strange brain-child of Steve Martin and Carl Reiner, but would definitely not be the last time they worked together (Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man With Two Brains.) The plot is essentially the story of one man’s journey to find himself and along the way discover the American Dream. A true rags to riches to rags story. Think Citizen Kane meets Dumb and Dumber. Navin Johnson (Martin) is born a poor black child, and on his 18th birthday decides he wants to get out and see the world and be somebody. Hilarity ensues. Even though it’s R-rated, the movie is pretty tame. There’s nothing overly offensive by today’s standards. Kids could watch this, as they’ve probably heard and seen worse in video games and modern cartoons. Watch it now on Amazon.
The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
Speaking of offensive…directed again by John Landis, and written by the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams, this movie is really more of a collection of sketches. It pokes fun at TV, movies, commercials, self-help, and pretty much anything it can. Even the gratuitous sex scenes have something to laugh at. This was the cinematic translation of what Abrahams and the Zuckers had done with their own Kentucky Fried Theater, and it paved the way for their own movies to come (Airplane!, Top Secret!, The Naked Gun.) This movie was also the deciding factor of hiring John Landis to direct Animal House. It also has what’s easily Donald Sutherland’s most important role to date. This film is best viewed with a group of friends. Just turn off your brains first.
Life of Brian (1979)
Fans of the comedy troupe Monty Python will no doubt recognize this in all its blasphemous glory. The story of Brian, born next door to Jesus on the same day, pokes fun at religion in the most zany ways possible. Brian of Nazareth takes many different turns throughout his journey, even being mistaken for a messiah. But he inevitably ends up in the same place as the son of God. John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam & Michael Palin collectively play 40 characters to comedic perfection. In fact, the members believe that this movie was their high point. As one would think, this movie caught a lot of flack upon its release, being banned in several areas. As troupe member Graham Chapman said, “We don’t deliberately set out to offend. Unless we feel it’s justified. And in the case of certain well-known religions, it was justified.” Justified or not, it’s a blast.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
This might be one of the funniest comedies of all time. It’s pure nonsense from beginning to end. It’s probably the most quoted of the Python movies. With their usual sketch comedy format, the gang tells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table on the quest of the Holy Grail. The journey is long and hard, and the knights must face certain terror in the forms of evil invincible knights, riddles, the French, and bunnies. Apparently, the actual filming was no picnic, either. Technical problems, arguments, and personal demons plagued the production. The troupe often remarks about how miserable they were during filming. No matter how many times this movie is viewed, it will still make you laugh. This film is so funny that there’s a certain amount of envy for those who haven’t seen it. If you haven’t, be careful. Someone might just say “Ni!” to you.
Slap Shot (1977)
A must for any hockey fan. But, just like Caddyshack, you don’t have to be familiar with the sport to enjoy this classic. This movie is still quoted in locker rooms around the country. Reg Dunlop (Paul Newman) is the aging player/coach of the Charlestown Chiefs, the worst hockey team in the League. When he gets word the local mill will be closing, he knows that there’s not much hope for the team. Through violence and buffoonery, Reg forms a plan to gain back the fans and actually start to win games, thereby increasing the value of the team. Watching this, you can tell the cast is having a good time. In fact, Paul Newman maintained until his death that this was his all-time favorite movie to work on.
Up in Smoke (1978)
The first ever Cheech and Chong movie. The story concerns two stoners who meet, start a band, and then unexpectedly end up in Mexico and have to smuggle back an entire truck made of high-grade weed. You know, that old story. The whole time a “vicious” game of cat and mouse is being played with Sgt. Stedenko (Stacey Keach) and his team of narcotics agents. Can they make it back home in time for the battle of the bands? Many folks agree their first outing was their best. This movie not only opened the doors for Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong in Hollywood, but it also was the beginning of a new sub-genre: the stoner comedy. There would be no Half Baked or Harold and Kumar…without this movie. Watch it now on Hulu.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Pronounced: (FRONK-EN-STEEN) Many folks would argue that this is Mel Brooks’ best movie. Every single person in this cast is outstanding. Gene Wilder is Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of the famous Victor Frankenstein, known for reanimating a dead body (bodies?) Freddy follows in his grandfather’s “vootshteps” with the help of Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr). Only this creature (Peter Boyle) has the potential to become a cultured, sophisticated, man-about-town. This movie really does fit right in with the classic Universal monster films it’s parodying, even utilizing actual props from the original Frankenstein films. Even when the humor dips into low-brow, the movie is still charming. There are moments in this which are still laugh out loud funny even on subsequent viewings. Is Mel Brooks a genius? That goes without saying.
Do you agree with this list? Any of your favorites we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments.