Entertainment The Top 25 Must-See Quintessential Screwball Comedies  

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List Rules Vote up the screwball movies that define the genre and should be required viewing for beginners in an Intro to Slapstick class.

When it comes to films, there are certain sub-genres that get overlooked. Drama, mystery, romance, and horror are pretty easy to pick through, but when you get to comedy, it's time to look closer. There are far more types of comedy films than most people know about and screwball comedies are a special variety. Screwball comedies feature over the top situations, fast-paced dialogue, and plots featuring strong willed female protagonists. Consider the films listed below screwball comedies for beginners. If you're new to the genre, these films are essential to understanding the ins and outs of this unique sub-genre of comedic film! 

Some of the most famous films ever made are screwball comedies. The genre had its Golden Age throughout the Great Depression. People were broke and they had little to no prospects, but they could head over to their local movie theater and spend a nickel to watch movies all day. Not many people during that time were looking for an escape that mirrored their own troubles, so Hollywood began cranking out comedies like crazy. The unrealistic situations portrayed in screwball comedies were particularly resonate with audiences, so films like Some Like It Hot and It Happened One Night became sensations. Some of the most popular films of the era were screwball comedies, and directors still make movies that follow the conventions of the genre today. Slapstick gags and fast-paced dialogue are used by modern filmmakers in smash hits like Meet the Parents. These are movies everyone should watch when they're in need of a lighthearted laugh! 

These must-see screwball comedies are great for a heavy dose of escapism. Consider this list an intro to screwball comedies. Sit back, relax, and watch a few of the films listed below. Then, give your favorites a thumbs up! 


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Bringing Up Baby is a 1938 American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The film tells the story of a paleontologist in a number of predicaments involving a scatterbrained woman and a leopard named Baby. The screenplay was adapted by Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde from a short story by Wilde which originally appeared in Collier's Weekly magazine on April 10, 1937. The script was written specifically for Hepburn, and was tailored to her personality. Filming began in September 1937 and wrapped in January 1938; it was over schedule and over budget. Production was frequently delayed due to uncontrollable ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, Charlie Ruggles, + more

Initial Release: 1938

Directed by: Howard Hawks

Also Ranked

#21 on The Best Movies for New Parents to Watch

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Clue is a 1985 American mystery comedy film based on the board game of the same name. The film is a murder mystery set in a Gothic Revival mansion, and is styled after The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which also starred Tim Curry. The film was directed by Jonathan Lynn, who collaborated on the script with John Landis, and stars Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren. ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, Lesley Ann Warren, Michael McKean, + more

Initial Release: 1985

Directed by: Jonathan Lynn

Also Ranked

#59 on The Best Movies with Only One Word for a Title

#88 on The Funniest '80s Movies

#14 on The Best Movies of 1985

#15 on Movies You Wish You Could Still Watch for the First Time

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Some Like It Hot is a 1959 American comedy film set in 1929, directed by Billy Wilder, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The film is about two musicians who dress in drag in order to escape from hoodlums whom they witnessed commit the Valentines Day Massacre. The supporting cast includes George Raft, Pat O'Brien, Joe E. Brown, Joan Shawlee and Nehemiah Persoff. The film was filmed in black and white, even though color films were increasing in popularity. ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Grace Lee Whitney, George Raft, + more

Initial Release: 1959

Directed by: Billy Wilder

Also Ranked

#87 on The Best Musical Movies of All Time

#67 on The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars

#93 on The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

#79 on The Best Movies That Pass the Bechdel Test

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Raising Arizona is a 1987 American comedy film directed, written, and produced by the Coen brothers, and starring Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, William Forsythe, John Goodman, Frances McDormand, and Randall "Tex" Cobb. Not a blockbuster at the time of its release, it has since achieved cult status. In a manner typical of Coen Brothers fare, the movie is replete with symbolism, visual gags, unconventional characters, flamboyant camera work, biblical references, pathos, and idiosyncratic dialogue. The film ranked 31st on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Laughs list, and 45th on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies" list. ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Nicolas Cage, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Frances McDormand, M. Emmet Walsh, + more

Initial Release: 1987

Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Also Ranked

#51 on The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

#32 on The Funniest '80s Movies

#82 on The Most Quotable Movies of All Time

#52 on Best Kidnapping Movies & Hostage Movies of All Time, Ranked

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