The best comedy film of each of the last 10 decades (according to Letterboxd)

Comedy as an art form has changed and improved over the last century, which includes how it is used in film. The genre has steadily grown in popularity from its early examples of classic black-and-white films to today’s international blockbusters that highlight how far it has come.

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Users of Letterboxd – a social media platform for movie buffs – have identified the best comedy movies of the century through their ratings. The top-rated comedy films of each decade are representative not only of the state of the genre at that time, but also of the topics and jokes that entertained audiences the most.


The 1920s

Sherlock Jr. (1924) – 4.3

Available to rent on Apple TV+.

Directed by and starring Buster Keaton in the lead role, Sherlock Jr. tells the story of an aspiring young detective who learns to become a while working as a projectionist at the local cinema. He is even more motivated to pursue his dream when he meets a beautiful woman whose father’s pocket watch accidentally disappears.

It’s one of Sherlock’s first and best iterations as a character on the big screen. The 45-minute black-and-white silent film makes every second count, with its director including a plethora of sight gags and perfectly choreographed scenes, keeping viewers’ eyes from the screen.

The 1930s

City Lights (1931) – 4.3

City Lights 1931 Charlie Chaplin Virginia Currill

Available to stream on HBO Max.

Directed, produced and performed by legendary comedian Charlie Chaplin, city ​​lights is a silent romantic comedy that revolves around its iconic character, the Tramp, who has fallen in love with a beautiful flower seller. Things get complicated when he realizes that she mistook him for a rich man, when he is in fact penniless and unemployed.

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The stunning black-and-white film is full of iconic Chaplin gags, but it’s the heartwarming love story that’s the film’s real highlight. Fans who have seen the film may not remember all the jokes, but they will certainly never forget its surprisingly emotional ending.

The 1940s

The Corner Shop (1940) – 4.1

James Stewart watching Margaret Sullavan in The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Available to rent on Apple TV+.

The corner shop is a critically acclaimed black and white romantic comedy that follows the amusing story of Klara Novak and Alfred Kralik, both employees at the same leather goods store. They can’t stand each other at work and fight constantly, unaware that the pen pals they fall in love with behind closed doors are actually each other.

It’s as fun a premise to watch as you’d expect, especially thanks to the well-written script that often focuses on the couple’s hilarious bickering. It should also be noted that secondary characters such as the store owner, other employees and some customers also add to the comic aspect of the film.

The 1950s

Let’s Sing in the Rain (1952) – 4.3

Let's sing in the rain 1952

Available to stream on HBO Max.

Directed by and starring Gene Kelly, Sing in the rain is widely recognized as one of the best musicals of all time. The romantic comedy centers on its protagonists’ attempts to follow film industry trends by converting a silent film into a more groundbreaking “talkie” – Don Lockwood falls in love with Kathy Selden in the process.

The movie is packed with moments that will keep fans laughing and smiling, with an iconic scene being Don’s ridiculous idea of ​​starting to sing in the rain after sharing a kiss with Kathy. The over-the-top nature of the perfectly choreographed sequence will impress and amuse audiences even today.

The 1960s

The Apartment (1960) – 4.3

Available to rent on Apple TV+.

Bud Baxter has found a seemingly ingenious way to get a quick promotion at work, as he has begun lending his Upper West Side apartment to his managers who use it for their extramarital affairs. Directed by Billy Wilder, The apartment explores how everything changes for Bud once he realizes one of the big bosses has taken the woman he’s in love with into his home.

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The rom-com flick takes some surprisingly dark turns at times, but still manages to bring audiences back with light-hearted banter and goofy encounters between Bud, his bosses, and even his neighbors.

The 1970s

Paper Moon (1973) – 4.2

Tatum and Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

moon paper is often mentioned alongside the best black and white films in the history of cinema. Set during the Great Depression, director Peter Bogdanovich introduces audiences to the odd couple of 9-year-old Addie Loggins and con-man Moses Pray. Moze, as Addie likes to call her, has no choice but to travel with the girl after she successfully persuades him that he owes her $200.

The pair develop an unusual bond, with Addie eventually showing that she also has a knack for scamming others. Its dark humor may not be for everyone, but those who watch it will appreciate how well it captures the spirit of this period in cinema and society at large.

The 1980s

Tampopo (1985) – 4.2

Tampopo's Goro

Available to stream on HBO Max.

Anyone who has seen director Juzo Itami Tampopo knows it’s a wild Japanese comedy with hilarious scenes that often border on the absurd. Its main storyline follows the titular owner of a ramen shop who strives to improve her business. A fateful encounter with two truck drivers leads to a wacky process as she tries to perfect her recipe.

While the basic narrative itself is already very entertaining, it’s the subplots that tell a variety of stories about people and food that really steal the show. From a couple exploring erotic methods of using food to a dying housewife who gets up one last time to cook a meal for her family, these truly unique shorts are incredibly fascinating in their own right.

The 1990s

Chung King Express (1994) – 4.3

Faye Wong looks at her reflection in Chungking Express

Available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Rarely have the genres of romance, crime, comedy and drama been combined as well as director Wong Kar-wai does in his award-winning film, Chung King Express. The film is separated into two seemingly different stories, each featuring a cop who falls in love.

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It’s impossible not to feel invested in both romances, as the highly stylized film does an amazing job of creating an overall atmosphere and mood that invites the viewer to fully immerse themselves in the film. While the comedic aspects don’t particularly become the highlight of the film, they’re evident in the charming will-power dynamic that certain characters get caught up in.

The 2000s

A Dog’s Will (2000) – 4.5

Based on a play by Ariano Suassuna, A Dog’s Will is a well-known comedy in Brazil that tells the misadventures of João Grilo and Chicó. The two cowardly men are known to have deceived and defrauded the inhabitants of a picturesque town in northeast Brazil. They realize they must finally pay for their mistakes when they encounter Christ, the Devil, and the Virgin Mary after their death.

The comedic masterpiece is deservedly one of the top performing films on Letterboxd, and it’s easy to see why. With its creative use of magical realism and heartbreaking gags, it’s a film that can be enjoyed by audiences around the world.

The 2010s

Parasite (2019) – 4.6

Parasite poster.

Available to stream on Hulu.

Audiences can’t be blamed for forgetting that director Bong Joon-ho Parasite is a comedic film, as it certainly leans into the darker aspects of humor. The international hit needs no introduction at this point, as most viewers are likely already familiar with its deceptively simple premise. It tells the story of a poor family who sneak into a wealthy family’s house posing as skilled laborers.

For those who haven’t watched it, it’s a film best seen for the first time knowing as little as possible about its narrative and shocking twist. He uses dark humor to address important themes such as class conflict, poverty and social inequality.

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