A Baker’s Dozen Comedy Films of the 1970s

Comedy is my favorite film genre. I enjoy light-comedy, physical comedy, black comedy, satirical comedy and silly comedy. Below are a baker’s dozen (13) of my favorites. These are in no particular order, just as they sprang into my mind.

Bananas – This was hip, irreverent, silly and smart, all at the same time. Early Woody Allen films are the best. This is really a toss-up between with Sleeper. I like the parody that Allen includes in this film, especially the Howard Cosell parts, the courtroom scene and the South American dictator sequences. My 15-year old sense of humor loved it then, and I still laugh at it now.

Slap Shot – One of the best sports films, a failing minor league hockey team that tries to save itself. Paul Newman heads a great cast, directed by George Roy Hill. It is violent, profane and sentimental. The Hanson Brothers.

Young Frankenstein – Mel Brooks has three films on my list, which shows his tremendous success during the 1970s. Brooks is best when he is lampooning film genres as he does here. There is a great cast, the photography and art direction are superb, and the writing is spot-on. Not a sour note in the entire film.

Blazing Saddles – Perhaps the funniest film of the decade. There is no much to love about this film. The writing was daring, but played to perfection. A great cast. Gene Wilder became a star, as did Madeline Kahn.

What’s Up Doc? – This is maybe a better Peter Bogdanovich film than The Last Picture Show. This screwball comedy is amazing. It is funny, smart, and the chase across San Francisco is well-choreographed and very funny.

1941 – Steven Spielberg does not specialize in comedies and maybe this is the reason. This film was a huge disappointment at the box office and with critics. Still, it has some great moments. It reminds me of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in the multiple storylines and everything gets destroyed approach. The film is not a classic, but it is underrated.

The Bad News Bears – Walter Matthau as a former athlete? That stretches believability, but he nails the role as a boozy, easy money, pool cleaner who only wants the check to coach a rag-tag little league baseball team. A great satire on youth sports and expectations of parents/coaches. The youth actors are very good. Deftly directed by Michael Ritchie.

M*A*S*H – The humor was very dark in this film. The back-half of the film featuring the football game is what many remember. This is like two films joined together, the medical part and the football game. The film is at times brilliant, and other times a bit flailing for laughs. All in all, it made a huge impact to start the decade.

The Longest Yard – Is this a comedy or a drama? It is both. Burt Reynolds is quite good in the role, one that launched him to superstardom.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail – I rolled the dice on this one and picked this film over The Life of Brian. Both are really good films. I like the freshness of this film and what they were able to do on a small budget. The humor offended some because it was sometimes both silly and horrific.

Animal House – I never get tired of watching this film. Animal House inspired an entire industry of youth films of drinking, drugs, sex and bringing down authority.

High Anxiety – I almost like this film the best of Brooks’ three on this list. A carefully made homage to Hitchcock films, Brooks said he screened it for Hitchcock who really enjoyed it. The first of Brooks’ films where he took a starring role, and his role stretches his talent.

The Apple Dumpling Gang – Of the 1970s Disney films, this is the best of their comedies. Tim Conway and Don Knotts are worth the price of admission. If you compare this film to others on the list, this G-rated film hardly belongs, based on content. This film is charming and reminds me of Disney films of the past.

Runners-up: Silver Streak, Sleeper, Life of Brian, American Graffiti, Smokey and the Bandit, Heaven Can Wait, Shampoo, The Life of Brian, Support Your Local Gunfighter, The Sunshine Boys, 9 to 5.

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