10 Funniest Movies Of The 1970s, Ranked

Movies


Great comedy films have the power to stand the test of time. While some comedies do not age very well if they reference recent events or lampoon current trends, comedies that have a universal sense of humor can remain just as funny several decades after their release.


The 1970s were a particularly noteworthy time for the comedy genre. It’s impressive that many of the decade’s most groundbreaking comedies still hold up today. Whether because of their witty screenplays, timeless performances, or now-iconic sequences, these films stand out as the best and funniest from the 1970s. They certainly influenced the way the comedy genre evolved in the subsequent decades, but they’re also just plain hilarious.


10 ‘Slap Shot’ (1977)

Director: George Roy Hill

Image via Universal Pictures

Slap Shot may have been screened “out of competition” at the Cannes Film Festival, but it’s decidedly not a prestigious title. Paul Newman gives one of the funniest performances of his career as Reggie Dunlop, the player-coach of a goofy hockey team that makes waves with their violent style of playing the game. Reggie learns that the team will attract much more attention if they generate controversy by not strictly adhering to the rules.

The film features an unusually goofy turn from Newman, who is generally considered to be a more “serious” actor. Slap Shot is the rare sports comedy that manages to treat the sport with respect despite an admittedly absurd approach. Even though Reggie and his team are considered outsiders, Slap Shot celebrates their achievements as athletes and progression as a team. It’s the genuine compassion that the film shows for its characters that makes it so delightfully rewatchable.

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9 ‘The Jerk’ (1979)

Director: Carl Reiner

Steve Martin as Navin R. Johnson talking while putting his hands together in The Jerk
Image via Universal Pictures

Steve Martin made a stamp on the comedy world with his work in the 1979 comedy The Jerk. Martin stars as the Mississippi native Navin Johnson, who narrates his life story to the audience as he lives on the streets of Los Angeles. Navin is naive about human nature, and finds himself accidentally becoming both a circus performer and a business person. Even though Navin is hopelessly ignorant and completely unintelligent, Martin never turns him into a grating character. It’s impressive that he goes to such extreme lengths with his physical comedy in one of his breakout performances.

The Jerk is notable for how it parodies drama movies with the framing of its narrative. Navin tells his story in an overtly melodramatic address to the audience that resembles similar moments in supposedly “prestigious” films. Although The Jerk is often satirical of its main character’s complete incompetence, it’s much less mean-spirited than many of the comedies of today.

the jerk

The Jerk

Release Date
December 14, 1979

Runtime
1 hr 35 min

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8 ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ (1975)

Director: Jim Sharman

Patricia Queen, Tim Curry, and Little Nell as Magenta, Dr. Frank N' Furter, and Columbia in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Image via 20th Century Studios

The Rocky Horror Picture Show may be the single most successful cult film of all time. Ever since the film made its initial debut in 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been circulated by an avid group of cult enthusiasts who attend midnight screenings all over the world. Some fans know every note of the film word-for-word. Not all cult films are necessarily “good,” as even The Room has its followers. However, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has such a unique blend of comedy, horror, and music that makes it just as hilarious for first-time viewers.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show combines the influence of classic science fiction B-movies with wonderful musical numbers; while some parodies are inherently mean-spirited, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a love letter to the genres that it draws inspiration from. Tim Curry‘s performance as the enigmatic Dr. Frank-N-Furter is one of his best, and the film’s celebration of the LGBTQ community has continued to earn new fans.

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7 ‘Annie Hall’ (1977)

Director: Woody Allen

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton as Annie Hall and Alvy talking while holding drinks in Annie Hall
Image via United Artists

Annie Hall isn’t just the funniest film that Woody Allen ever made but also his most empathetic and relatable. The 1977 romantic comedy follows the complex relationship between the comedian Alvy Singer (Allen) and his girlfriend Annie (Diane Keaton). Although the couple often can’t stand each other, they’re even more miserable when they’re forced to spend time apart.

While the film spends much of its runtime focusing on the main contentious relationship, it always shows why they fell in love with each other in the first place. Rather than placing the characters in unbelievable scenarios, Annie Hall feels surprisingly authentic and relatable, softening its insightful flaws with remarkably witty and funny dialog. Annie Hall created a formula that many modern rom-coms still adhere to today and took home the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actress for Keaton.

annie-hall-movie-poster

Annie Hall

Release Date
April 19, 1977

Rating
PG

Runtime
93

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6 ‘Animal House’ (1978)

Director: John Landis

John Belushi as Bluto Blutarski yelling in Animal House
Image via Universal Pictures

The writers of the National Lampoon publication changed the course of American comedy forever, and that genius was channeled into their first film production, Animal House. John Landis‘ 1978 comedy classic follows the highly unusual members of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, who make it a personal goal to create a chaotic sense of fun on the Faber College campus. The film is best known for John Belushi’s breakout performance as Bluto, the campus’ wildest partygoer.

The absurdist physical comedy and gross-out gags have made Animal House one of the most influential films of the 1970s, regardless of genre. Landis epitomized the “frat comedy” formula that inspired future films like Old School and American Pie. The films of National Lampoon are often celebratory of “outsiders” who buck up against systems and generate chaos. Although the members of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity are certainly unruly, the film exposes how they aren’t really less civilized than any of the other groups on campus.

The official poster for Animal House

Animal House

Release Date
July 27, 1978

Cast
Tom Hulce , stephen furst , Mark Metcalf , Mary Louise Weller , Martha Smith , James Daughton

Rating
R

Runtime
109

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5 ‘Young Frankenstein’ (1974)

Director: Mel Brooks

Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein holding Peter Boyle as The Monster by the chin in Young Frankenstein
Image via 20th Century Studios

Young Frankenstein is one of two great parody films that director Mel Brooks made in 1974. Gene Wilder stars in the horror comedy as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the goofy son of the infamous “Dr. Frankenstein” from Mary Shelley‘s iconic novel. Frederick’s attempts to “create life” like his father did do not exactly go as planned. Brooks has a universal sense of great comic timing with the jokes that he constructs; even those with no familiarity with the original Frankenstein novel or film can find something to laugh at in this hilarious adventure.

The best horror comedies are those that are as funny as they are scary, and Young Frankenstein manages to satisfy the requirements of both genres. With its clever running gags, uproarious performance from Gene Wilder, and engaging music, Young Frankenstein has not aged a day since its initial release.

young-frankenstein

Young Frankenstein

Release Date
December 15, 1974

Cast
gene wilder , Peter Boyle , Marty Feldman , Cloris Leachman , Teri Garr , Kenneth Mars

Rating
PG

Runtime
106 minutes

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4 ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (1975)

Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones

Graham Chapman as Arthur leading his army in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'
Image via EMI Films

Monty Python and the Holy Grail shows what the British comedy troupe could do at the height of their influence. The members of Monty Python star as various characters within Arthurian legend in the hilarious send-up of medieval movies. Graham Chapman‘s King Arthur and Eric Idle‘s “forgotten” knight Sir Robin are among the funniest characters. In addition to inspiring Monty Python’s success with their subsequent comedies Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life, this 1975 comedy also led to the development of the stage musical Spamalot!

While there have been many films about the King Arthur legends, Monty Python and the Holy Grail lampoons the cliches within the genre and depicts some of the well-known archetypes humorously and unforgettably. With its clever puns, comic violence, and fourth wall breaks, Monty Python and the Holy Grail established precedents within the comedy genre that continue to be influential today.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Film Poster

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Release Date
May 25, 1975

Rating
PG

Runtime
91 minutes

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3 ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ (1972)

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Barbra Streisand as Judy pushing Ryan O'Neal as Howard on a cart down the street in What's Up, Doc?
Image via Warner Bros.

Director Peter Bogdonavich changed American cinema forever with his groundbreaking independent drama The Last Picture Show, but that shouldn’t suggest he didn’t have a sense of humor. Bogdanovich perfected the screwball comedy formula with his 1972 masterpiece What’s Up, Doc?, which gave Barbra Streisand one of her best roles as the charming troublemaker Judy Maxwell. The film follows a group of characters whose bags are mixed up as they stay at an overnight hotel and examines the chaos that unfolds in the aftermath.

Streisand is at the top of her game opposite an equally charming Ryan O’Neal. Embracing everything that makes the screwball genre great without overdoing it, What’s Up, Doc? is a masterclass in physical comedy. Just as important is the screenplay’s clever dialog, containing some of the most iconic lines in 1970s movies. What’s Up Doc? is as funny and refreshing as it was in 1972, a true comedic gem and one of the decade’s best and most consistently hilarious comedies.

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2 ‘M*A*S*H*’ (1970)

Director: Robert Altman

Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland as Trapper and Hawkeye standing with another soldier in M*A*S*H
Image via 20th Century Studios

Both M*A*S*H and the television series that it inspired have held up very well half a century later. The 1970 black comedy follows the American military surgeons “Hawkeye” Pierce (Donald Sutherland) and “Duke” Forrest (Tom Skerritt) during their new assignment to a mobile hospital in Korea. M*A*S*H* stood out for its unique political commentary; although the film takes place during the Korean War, it drew many comparisons to the Vietnam conflict.

While at the time of its release the film’s satire of the Vietnam conflict felt very timely, its anti-war themes continue to be relevant today. Still, M*A*S*H* found a way to celebrate the soldiers who served in the conflict without necessarily lionizing war itself. M*A*S*H* serves as the perfect time capsule to a specific era in America’s cultural development, and the enduring legacy of the show that it inspired is only further indication of its game-changing importance to cinematic history.

mash

Release Date
February 18, 1970

Rating
R

Runtime
116

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1 ‘Blazing Saddles’ (1974)

Director: Mel Brooks

Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little as Jim the Waco Kid and Sheriff Bart smiling to each other in Blazing Saddles
Image via Warner Bros.

Brooks outdid himself in 1974 with the hilarious comedy Blazing Saddles, which lampooned the cliches found in many Western films. Blazing Saddles follows the adventures of Bart (Cleavon Little), a black sheriff assigned to protect a town deeply steeped in Southern racism. While Blazing Saddles pokes fun at both the Western genre and Hollywood itself, Brooks handles the film’s message about America’s historical racism with the insight it warrants. The film is keen to show how destructive racism can be and turns Bart into an empowering hero.

The Western genre has evolved since the 1970s, but Blazing Saddles continues to provide insight into why certain archetypes within the genre permeate. It’s also a testament to Brooks’ unique sense of humor; Blazing Saddles breaks the fourth wall in order to satirize the very system that inspired it. Out of all the comedies from the 1970s, Blazing Saddles might be the funniest and most memorable, which is saying something considering the many excellent offerings that came out during these crucial ten years.

blazzing-saddles-movie-poster

Blazing Saddles

Release Date
February 7, 1974

Cast
Cleavon Little , gene wilder , Slim Pickens , Harvey Korman , Madeline Kahn , Mel Brooks

Rating
R

Runtime
93

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