Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Top 10 Funniest Movie Scenes of All Time

Comedy is tough. Writing gags for the screen is always risky as you never know which ones will sink or swim. A joke may cause offence. It may hit too close to home. It could be too highbrow or too lowbrow for your target audience. What matters is that the joke makes you laugh. You don't need to know why it's funny; you just have to feel it. The ten scenes in this post are all very amusing to me. Some of them have made me laugh to the point of tears, while others work on a more subtle level. If you're expecting a masterclass in what makes good comedy, don't get your hopes up. I'll try my best to explain why I find each of these scenes funny, but in some cases, no amount of explanation will account for the subjective nature of comedy. Enough of this small talk...let's get to my picks!

10. The Monopoly Guy - Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (Steve Oedekerk, 1995)

First of all, I think the first Ace Ventura (Pet Detective) is mostly an unfunny bore, and that When Nature Calls is one of the better comedy sequels of all time. This is the film where Jim Carrey peaked, comically speaking. His mannerisms are exceptionally funny. This film should be used as an instructional video on how to be funny with your body. In this scene, we have Carrey's Ace Ventura sticking it to a man from high society, who is accompanied by a woman adorned with the fur of a fox. Ace cannot stand this couple's elitism, and when the woman encourages him to "enjoy the fruits of nature", he snaps. The man's resemblance to Monopoly mascot Rich Uncle Pennybags is not the only funny thing here. Ace's confidence and nonchalance in assaulting the man is an hilarious comment on the clash between high and low culture. Of course, there's also the guttural noises Ace makes while parading the man, and his mock dance routine. What completes the scene is Ace's closing remark, "It's lovely, but I fancy myself in autumn." Ace believes he has committed no wrongdoing, just like those who wear animal furs as fashion statements.  

9. Truth or dare - The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 2012)

This scene is ultimately a tragic one, but it derives its comedic power from the idea that it could happen to you, as well as the overall feeling of awkwardness that pervades it. First, a little bit of context: Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a painfully shy teenager who has made some new friends in his freshman year of high school. He has developed a crush on Sam (Emma Watson), but Sam has a boyfriend. Sam's friend, Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) forces herself onto Charlie and they become a couple against Charlie's wishes. All of this underlying tension reaches breaking point during a seemingly harmless game of truth or dare. Patrick (Ezra Miller) asks Charlie, "How's your first relationship going?" I am not going to repeat Charlie's response here, because I want you to watch the clip. I saw this film at the movies, and everyone in the cinema let out a gasp of shock before dying in a fit of laughter. It's such an uncomfortable scene...such a sad and painful line, but it is also one of the most hilarious things I have ever heard uttered in a motion picture. Things get worse when Patrick dares Charlie to kiss the prettiest girl in the room, and he doesn't kiss Mary Elizabeth. Ezra Miller is the glue that holds this scene together. We know how tragic the scene is, but it never feels depressing because of lines from Patrick such as, "Notice I charitably said girl and not person, because let's face it...I'd smoke all you bitches!" Logan Lerman is also brilliant in his delivery. He treads a fine line between stoicism and nervousness, and I'm reminded of Roger Ebert's praise for Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, where Murray was commended for his subdued comedic presence. Ultimately, this scene is funny because none of the actors (and by extension, the characters) are aware they are in a movie.

8. Drug deal gone wrong - Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)

This scene combines hilarity and suspense in a way that few other films have mastered. Dirk, Reed and Todd have gone to Rahad's (Alfred Molina) house with the promise to sell him cocaine. That cocaine is actually half a kilo of baking soda. They sit down on the couch, and if they didn't already have enough to be nervous about, there's a mysterious child named Cosmo who is setting off firecrackers FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON! These loud bangs are the heartbeat of the scene, and I can't help but laugh each time one of the men is startled by the noise. Later on in the scene (not shown in the above clip), all hell breaks loose when Todd tries to rob Rahad. The use of Night Ranger's Sister Christian and Rick Springfield's Jessie's Girl also adds to the comedy of the scene. These songs are not a perfect fit for the action that's unfolding, but if they were, some of the humour would be lost.    

7. Impersonating Michael Caine - The Trip (Michael Winterbottom, 2010)


Okay, I realise this may count as cheating since The Trip was edited from the sitcom series of the same name. Nonetheless, if this scene doesn't have you in stitches, you may want to check your pulse. What a pleasure it is to watch two talented comics sit across from each other and trade wits. We're not laughing at how closely their impressions resemble the veteran English actor. We're laughing at how they're delivering the expressions. You may have been expecting a standard, run-of-the-mill "My name is Michael Caine..." impression, but Rob Brydon quickly dismisses Steve Coogan when he is accused of this easy, tired routine. What follows is so enthralling to watch. If you got someone to close their eyes and listen to this, they'd probably assume Caine was talking about himself in the third-person. Coogan's impression is just as impressive as Brydon's, and by the time he gets to Caine's "emotional" voice, your stomach will be hurting from all the guffawing. 

6. Meow - Super Troopers (Jay Chandrasekhar, 2001)

This is far from the most intelligent scene you'll ever see. It's a stupid scene involving stupid characters. But who cares? It achieved something that many modern comedies fail to do—make me laugh. The ineptitude of these cops is hilarious in itself. Their complete lack of regard for their duty makes you wonder how they secured their jobs in the first place. I think this scene is funny because all of the characters are in on the joke. Imagine if you were the man in that car. If you heard a cop repeatedly say "meow", you'd get curious about it, wouldn't you? Hence, it's realistic! Also, pay attention to the policeman who's doing the counting. Watch his belly move through the passenger seat window as he laughs. It's a great sight gag.

5. Any scene involving Francis the Driver - Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)

Again, this may be cheating since I haven't highlighted a particular scene. The bottom line is that Francis steals every single scene he enters. Everyone knows a person who behaves like Francis. If he was a character on The Office, he would be Creed. When he tells Seth and Evan that he will do ANYTHING for them if they don't report him to the cops, we actually believe him. We laugh at his subtle creepiness when he says, "You guys know a guy named Jimmy? You totally look like his brother. You totally look like his brother, man." Personally, the scene that gets me the most is when he's driving Seth and Evan to the party. He interjects to encourage Seth to have sex with Jules, and it's so fucking hilarious how oblivious he is to his own inappropriateness. The scene gets funnier when he follows that line with something that borders on a non-sequitur: "You guys on Myspace, or...?" Of course, it's no surprise when he later gets beat up by Mark, the party host. I've got to hand it to Joe Lo Truglio for absolutely nailing this eccentric character. I can't imagine anyone else playing this role.

4. Duane Hall - Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)

Everyone forgets that Christopher Walken is in Annie Hall, and I don't blame them—he gets very little screen time. It's a shame, because he is absolutely fantastic in this scene. Everyone should be familiar with Woody Allen's on-screen persona of the intellectual, nervous, neurotic nebbish. It really comes to the fore in this scene. Notice how Alvy (Allen) is condescending towards Duane without being nasty. The pitch of his voice suggests he is talking to a child rather than an adult. When he leaves Duane's room, he says he has to return to 'Planet Earth'. Poor Duane probably doesn't have the social skills to deduce what Alvy is implying. Nevermind...Duane gets his revenge when he is asked to drive Alvy and Annie to the airport. Just look at how the camera pans from Duane to Annie to a frozen, perspiring Alvy. The death-phobic Alvy knows it is no certainty he will reach his destination.

3. The accidental killing of Bill Murray - Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer, 2009)

I remember watching this film at the movies with a friend. We were just about the only two people in the cinema. When the film arrived at this scene, we were both in absolute hysterics. I had tears rolling down my cheeks caused by a minute of solid laughter. My stomach was aching. I could not stop myself. The only reason this scene isn't higher on this list is that I've watched the scene a few times since and it hasn't provoked the same reaction. This scene works because Murray is playing himself. If he were playing a random person disguised as a zombie, the scene would lose most of its power. I also love how Murray states his only regret in life is voicing Garfield in the 2004 film adaptation of the comic strip. This scene is a testament to the idea that something can still be funny even if you can see it coming from a mile away. 

2. Yard sale - Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)

Sometimes when I need a laugh, I just go to YouTube and watch this scene on repeat for a few times. It always does the trick. Have you ever fantasised about walking into Pizza Hut and asking for a Big Mac? I have, but I've never done it. You want to do it because you're genuinely curious about how the person behind the counter would react, but you ultimately refrain because you don't want to look like an idiot. When Enid charges 500 dollars for one of her old dresses at a yard sale, that's the equivalent of asking for a Big Mac at Pizza Hut. It's just something you should never say because it's too ridiculous to be anything more than a passing thought. But it's hilarious because Enid is deadly serious about it. The customer's facial expression is priceless, but what gets me the most is the way Enid's face scrunches up when she says, "Well, why do you want it? I mean, it would look stupid on you anyway." The customer retorts with "God! Fuck you!", making for one of the greatest and funniest scenes in the history of cinema.     

1. Ted wrestles Puffy - There's Something About Mary (Bobby & Peter Farrelly, 1998)

First of all, I apologise for the poor video quality. It's the best I could find on YouTube. Now, I know many of you were shocked when I made this list of the 10 funniest films I have ever seen and you saw that There's Something About Mary took the top spot. You probably weren't expecting a scene from it to take the crown in this list, but hey, that should teach you to never assume. Yes, I can appreciate biting satire and sharp wit, but sometimes there's nothing funnier than seeing a man toss a dog around a room like a rag doll. This, coupled with my previous post about liking cats, will probably ignite rumours that I am a dog-hater. Let me put those to rest right now and say Ben Stiller could be fighting any animal (yes, even cats) in this scene and I would explode with laughter. It's just a movie, and knowing no dog was harmed gives us free rein to laugh. Actually, the most hilarious part is that the small dog seems to have the upper hand over this pathetic grown man. When Ted's nails claw at the floorboards, I'm reminded of something out of The Evil Dead. It's comic exaggeration at its very best. Seeing Puffy fly out the window is the perfect final touch to this uproariously funny scene which is not for everyone.   

1 comment:

  1. “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” is one of the funniest movies of all time and an excellent sequel to the original movie. It really has its funny moments with Jim Carrey at his best.