What makes a comedy a classic? Something that floats on the changing tides of time and taste, remaining relevant – and hilarious? It probably takes more than a football to the groin or a juiced-up fart on the audio track. (Though we’re not not saying those can sometimes be the pinnacle of professional-grade jokes.) We don’t have the answer, but with our Essential list assembling 150 of the best comedies ever made, we’re getting closer to laugh-out-loud enlightenment than humanly thought possible. We’re melting minds, splitting sides, and slapping knees here.
To that end, we’ve included all forms of the comedy movie. From slapstick (Dumb & Dumber, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) to silent (The General, Modern Times). Rom-coms (Moonstruck, Annie Hall) to screwball (It Happened One Night, Bringing Up Baby). Parody (Airplane!, Scary Movie) to postmodern (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Galaxy Quest). These 150 movies will take you to college (Animal House), past some fan favorites (Step Brothers, Super Troopers), and all around the globe (Kung Fu Hustle, Amelie).
There’s no minimum review count for this list. We opened it up to movies of yesteryear, which typically don’t get as many reviews as their modern comedy rivals. Many of these inducted films have high Tomatometer scores and are Certified Fresh, but the Tomatometer was not our only guide. Some comedies that stand the test of time did not necessarily pass the critical test on release, and we’re honoring those here. These are not the best-reviewed comedy films ever released, but they are the essential comedies, movies that broke the Laugh-O-Meter – we’ll totally trademark that soon, so dibs – shaped the genre, molded generations, and which audiences return to time and again, to lift the spirits.
And with our most recent updates, we’ve added the latest and greatest in new funny movies (Booksmart, Blockers, Game Night), and some more comedy classics that have definitely earned their place in the pantheon of guffaws (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harold & Maude).
Ready to whip out your funny bone and bash it violently on the nearest flat surface? Then you’re ready for our list of the best comedy movies ever: Rotten Tomatoes’ 150 Essential Comedies!
Critics Consensus: Jim Carrey's twitchy antics and gross-out humor are on full, bombastic display in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which is great news for fans of his particular brand of comedy but likely unsatisfying for anyone else.
Synopsis: When the dolphin mascot of Miami's NFL team is abducted, Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey), a zany private investigator who specializes... [More]
Critics Consensus: With a terrific cast and a surfeit of visual razzle dazzle, Crazy Rich Asians takes a satisfying step forward for screen representation while deftly drawing inspiration from the classic -- and still effective -- rom-com formula.
Synopsis: Rachel Chu is happy to accompany her longtime boyfriend, Nick, to his best friend's wedding in Singapore. She's also surprised... [More]
Critics Consensus: A robust ensemble of game actors elevate Clue above its schematic source material, but this farce's reliance on novelty over organic wit makes its entertainment value a roll of the dice.
Synopsis: Based on the popular board game, this comedy begins at a dinner party hosted by Mr. Boddy, where he admits... [More]
Critics Consensus: Simultaneously broad and progressive, Spy offers further proof that Melissa McCarthy and writer-director Paul Feig bring out the best in one another -- and delivers scores of belly laughs along the way.
Synopsis: Despite having solid field training, CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has spent her entire career as a desk jockey,... [More]
Critics Consensus: While its premise is ripe for comedy -- and it certainly delivers its fair share of laughs -- Priscilla is also a surprisingly tender and thoughtful road movie with some outstanding performances.
Synopsis: When drag queen Anthony (Hugo Weaving) agrees to take his act on the road, he invites fellow cross-dresser Adam (Guy... [More]
Critics Consensus: Despite sometimes sitcom-like execution, Meet the Parents is a hilarious look at familial relationships that works mostly because the chemistry between its two leads is so effective.
Synopsis: Everything that can possibly go wrong for groom-to-be Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) does. The problems begin with Greg's disastrous first... [More]
Critics Consensus:Girls Trip is the rare R-rated comedy that pushes boundaries to truly comedic effect -- and anchors its laughs in compelling characters brought to life by a brilliantly assembled cast.
Synopsis: Best friends Ryan, Sasha, Lisa and Dina are in for the adventure of a lifetime when they travel to New... [More]
Critics Consensus: What Friday might lack in taut construction or directorial flair, it more than makes up with its vibrant (albeit consistently crass) humor and the charming, energetic performances of its leads.
Synopsis: It's Friday and Craig Jones (Ice Cube) has just gotten fired for stealing cardboard boxes. To make matters worse, rent... [More]
Critics Consensus: Deftly balancing vulgarity and sincerity while placing its protagonists in excessive situations, Superbad is an authentic take on friendship and the overarching awkwardness of the high school experience.
Synopsis: High-school seniors Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) have high hopes for a graduation party: The co-dependent teens plan... [More]
Critics Consensus: A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell's funny and charming performance as one of Santa's biggest helpers.
Synopsis: Buddy (Will Ferrell) was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa's elves.... [More]
Critics Consensus: Thanks to the impeccable chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy, as well as a deft mix of humor and heart, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a hilarious, heartfelt holiday classic.
Synopsis: Easily excitable Neal Page (Steve Martin) is somewhat of a control freak. Trying to get home to Chicago to spend... [More]
Critics Consensus: Filled with inspired silliness and quotable lines, Anchorman isn't the most consistent comedy in the world, but Will Ferrell's buffoonish central performance helps keep this portrait of a clueless newsman from going off the rails.
Synopsis: Hotshot television anchorman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) welcomes upstart reporter Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) into the male-dominated world of 1970s... [More]
Critics Consensus: A hilarious satire of the business side of Hollywood, The Producers is one of Mel Brooks' finest, as well as funniest films, featuring standout performances by Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel.
Synopsis: Down and out producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel), who was once the toast of Broadway, trades sexual favors with old... [More]
Critics Consensus: A career highlight for Preston Sturges, The Lady Eve benefits from Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda's sparkling chemistry -- and a script that inspired countless battle-of-the-sexes comedies.
Synopsis: It's no accident when wealthy Charles (Henry Fonda) falls for Jean (Barbara Stanwyck). Jean is a con artist with her... [More]
Critics Consensus: Charlie Chaplin demonstrates that his comedic voice is undiminished by dialogue in this rousing satire of tyranny, which may be more distinguished by its uplifting humanism than its gags.
Synopsis: After dedicated service in the Great War, a Jewish barber (Charles Chaplin) spends years in an army hospital recovering from... [More]
Critics Consensus: Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann prove irresistibly hilarious as two misanthropic slackers in Withnail and I, a biting examination of artists living on the fringes of prosperity and good taste.
Synopsis: Two out-of-work actors -- the anxious, luckless Marwood (Paul McGann) and his acerbic, alcoholic friend, Withnail (Richard E. Grant) --... [More]
Since breaking out on the big screen with her scene-stealing appearance in the hit 2011 comedy Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy has earned a reputation as one of Hollywood’s most fearless — and gut-bustingly funny — stars, proving her willingness to endure even the most awkward situations and ego-bruising pratfalls in follow-up efforts like The Heat, Spy, and Ghostbusters. But McCarthy isn’t just here to make us laugh — she’s also proven her dramatic chops in more subdued fare like St. Vincent and Gilmore Girls, leading up to a Best Lead Actress Oscar nomination for Can You Ever Forgive Me?.
Now, we’re ranking all Melissa McCarthy movies by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: Melissa McCarthy remains as fiercely talented as ever, but her efforts aren't enough to prop up the baggy mess of inconsistent gags and tissue-thin writing that brings down The Boss.
Synopsis: Wealthy CEO Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) always gets her way, until she's busted for insider trading and sent to federal... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though The Nines doesn't solidify as well as writer/director John August would hope for, Ryan Reynolds's strong performance makes each of the film's intriguing segments worth watching.
Synopsis: Three actors (Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, Melissa McCarthy) tackle the principal roles in a trio of stories. In "The Prisoner,"... [More]
Critics Consensus:Ghostbusters does an impressive job of standing on its own as a freewheeling, marvelously cast supernatural comedy -- even if it can't help but pale somewhat in comparison with the classic original.
Synopsis: Paranormal researcher Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and physicist Erin Gilbert are trying to prove that ghosts exist in modern society.... [More]
Critics Consensus: Simultaneously broad and progressive, Spy offers further proof that Melissa McCarthy and writer-director Paul Feig bring out the best in one another -- and delivers scores of belly laughs along the way.
Synopsis: Despite having solid field training, CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has spent her entire career as a desk jockey,... [More]
This August, Rotten Tomatoes turns 21 and to mark the occasion we’re celebrating the 21 Most Memorable Moments from the movies over the last 21 years. For this special video series, which we’ve been publishing over the last four months, we spoke to the actors and filmmakers who made those moments happen, revealing behind-the-scenes details about how the moments came to be and diving deep into why they’ve stuck with us for so long. You’ll find big ’90s twists – yep, he sees dead people – as well as super-recent cliffhangers, like Thanos’s universe-halving Snap. There are laughs (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Elf, Bridesmaids) and romance (The Notebook, Spider-Man) and more than a few scares (The Blair Witch Project, 28 Days Later…). But which moment is the single most memorable of the last 21 years? Well, that’s where you come in. We’re asking you to watch the below videos and then vote on your favorite movie moment of the last two decades (and a bit).
Voting is open now and runs until midnight Friday August 16 and we will announce the winner on August 19. Fans get a single vote – so choose wisely – and moments are listed in the order they were published over the past few months, most often to tie in with anniversaries and relevant occasions.
Director George Miller: “It’s a moment by the way, I think, is available only to her. I don’t think any other character could have done it. I remember the line. I remember Charlize on that day said that she wanted to say the line. It wasn’t a written line. She said, ‘Look, I feel like I really want to say it. OK by you?’ I said, ‘Great.’ It just hit a sweet spot in amongst that action, and it was a little pause before the brutality of the moment and the continuation of the action that was to come.”
Co-director Joe Russo: “Anth and I, through our entire experience at Marvel, always tried to make very disruptive choices with each film. The end of Winter Solider, good guys and the bad guys, we flip everything on its head. In Civil War we divorce the Avengers. With Infinity War we knew we wanted to make a strong narrative choice. There’s an adage where you write yourself into a corner, and you try to figure out how to get out. That usually creates really dramatic moments for the audience. There’s no bigger way to write ourselves into a corner than killing half the characters.”
Director Baz Luhrmann: “I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we put her in a circus trapeze and we did a trapeze number, but we’ll have to have a stunt person. But Nicole being Nicole was like, ‘No way.’ So she trained with a circus person for a good, I would say, two weeks to do that number and when you see her swing around that’s her. It’s her all the way through that footage. She’s on the trapeze, she’s being swung around, she comes down, she falls into all those guys. So she was 100% stunt-free on that moment.”
Makeup artist John Caglione Jr.: “Heath [Ledger] was great in the chair. Special actors like Heath – and my experience with Al Pacino over the years – these actors help you relax so that you can bring your game… I always got the feeling that [Heath] had already worked it out in his head, from what I remember. He knew where he was going. Early on, in first meeting Heath and playing around with the makeup, he already kind of had it all figured out. It was my job to just basically gild the lily and try to catch up with him, really. That’s what I felt.”
Co-writer and co-director Eduardo Sánchez: “The direction was: You’re not going to make it out of here. This is like an internal monologue. We were directing these actors to almost be like their conscience speaking to them. For Heather, it’s like, ‘You’re responsible for this. You’re the one who brought them out here. You didn’t heed the warnings. You knew this is dangerous and you brought these guys out here. Say your goodbyes. If you want to apologize to people, apologize to people, just basically say goodbye.’ We called it a confessional, your last confessional before you’re going. You’re not going to get out, and hopefully, somebody will find these tapes and will be able to tell your story, but tell your mom goodbye, and tell your family goodbye.”
Director Sam Raimi: “In the rain while he was doing the scene, I remember, he was slightly drowning because he couldn’t wipe his nose and the water was falling down into his upside-down nose, into his nostrils. So he was kinda drowning, and the only way he could breathe was through his mouth. It doesn’t look un-pleasurable, but I think it must’ve been.”
Director Danny Boyle: “One of the technical advantages of using these smaller cameras is that you could shoot a location, not multiple times, but you could shoot it from multiple viewpoints simultaneously. Cillian was in no rush, he could just walk across. But you don’t get much time at these locations free of people even at four o’clock in the morning when we shot. So what happened was we hired a lot of students, because they’re cheap, to be our traffic marshals.”
Director Nick Cassavetes: “There was something built up between these two kids, and it has nothing to do with directing. Because when we turned the cameras on, the scene was like: He’s mad at her, she’s mad at him, and then he says that he wrote her every day, and that’s the key that unlocks the door. And when that door got unlocked, I didn’t need to direct nothing. They wound up together for many years after the movie, which is…I don’t know if I’m proud of it, but I think it’s fantastic that they found each other like that. And I think that was the moment, because they weren’t together before that kiss. But they were together after that kiss, so maybe that was one of the deciding moments.”
Crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma(2014)99%
Representative John Lewis: “I truly believe that Oprah, Ava, and the staff working on the film sought my involvement because they knew my history. Selma represented an attempt to redeem the soul of America, to help us move closer to the participation of all people in the political process. This film can educate and inform the mind of hundreds and thousands of young people around America and around the world.”
Actor Vin Diesel: “And it was that moment where we realized that Fast and Furious didn’t need to be restricted in any way. That we were so thorough about story and character, and it’s so much a tale of brotherhood and family, right, that we were allowed these kind of outrageous and fantasy-filled moments, and flying through the air was playing to that. Flying from building to building was playing to that. It was one of those solutions to the riddle, or answers to the riddle, ‘How do we one-up the spectacle of each film?’”
Cinematographer James Laxton: “When Barry alerted us to the storm approaching, we gathered our equipment together as quickly as possible, ran out into the water, and in some respects… I don’t want to say improvised, because what is in the script is on camera, if not in the exact way it was depicted. But we had a lot more shots in our shot list, and [were going to be] much more organized about capturing it. We had to really get out there and… let Mahershala as Juan guide this young man, and [have] me out in the water, as well, trying to capture this swimming lesson as it came. It [was shot] almost like a documentary, less so like a film in some respects. Sometimes your reaction to moments is as good as a well detailed plan might be. Sometimes it’s even better.”
Director Pete Docter: “There’s one moment in that montage where Ellie has to go to the doctor and it’s implied that they can’t have children for whatever reason. That raised some eyebrows even here at work as we were developing the film. So, we did experiment with taking it out. And we thought, ‘Well, maybe [the sequence] could still work [without it] because there’s some really charming stuff.’ But the strange thing was, not only did we not feel the emotion as strongly in that one little sequence, but as we watched the rest of the film the whole film lost a little bit. I can’t really fully explain that other than to say it was a real dark, low moment for them that I think made that relationship feel more real. The sort of pain and loss of that situation bonded those characters together and made you empathize more with them.”
Actor Andy Serkis: “I’d never considered myself a voice actor, just a regular actor, and I had to kind of think my way into it. I started to work on this notion that he’s called Gollum because of the way he sounds – and what would make his voice sound like that? I started to think about constriction of the throat, and as I was doing that, I was actually fortunate enough to witness my cat throwing up a fur ball. It suddenly gave me this idea that the whole physicality of the role would be determined by this force within, which is kind of built out of guilt and torment – this involuntary physical action is what caused this sound coming out of his mouth. The cat throwing up a fur ball is actually what generated the idea for this involuntary spewing out of words.”
The Bridesmaids get Food Poisoning from Bridesmaids(2011)
Co-Writer Annie Mumolo: “We [originally] had a fantasy sequence where they go into the dress shop, and Kristen’s character tries on this dress and she has this fantasy that when she wears this dress, she’s all of a sudden in a castle. And all the men at the wedding are fawning over her. There’s so many of them wanting her so badly [that] just to escape from the castle she goes running out into this field and runs into the forest. And she naturally sees Christian Bale there, who’s chopping wood without a shirt on. And they end up on a bearskin rug, and he was combing her hair, and it was this expansive sequence of her little love affair with Christian Bale. In the meantime, [back in the real world] Helen gets the women to get the dress she wants because Annie is caught up in her fantasy. So that was the original [scene]. And then I think Judd said at one point we’ll never get Christian Bale to do this. And then we tried to put in Matt Damon and then we’re like, ‘As if we’re going to get Matt Damon to do this.’ He was concerned we weren’t going to get anybody to do it. And also he felt it needed harder comedy there, rather than what we had. So, we sadly let that go. We did not want to let that go. We loved that sequence.”
Director David Yates: “Harry sort of carries the spirit of Voldemort, in part, and they have this unity, and I had this idea that Harry and Voldemort are at the top of a school tower, and as they confronted each other… Dan would grab Ralph, and actually pull him off this tower, and they would apparate around the school together, and as they apparated around the school together, we’d explore this weird visual synthesis that exists between the two of them, and they’d eventually tumble down into the courtyard.”
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige: “The moment I realized that this could be an iconic moment, not just for the MCU, but for these kind of films, was on the mix stage. When the effects were final and when Alan Silvestri’s amazing score was coming in, and the timing, and the experience of watching the whole movie up to that point… That[‘s when] I got chills and I realized Joss had pulled it off.”
The government lobby scene from The Matrix(1999)88%
Stunt double Chad Stahelski: “So Keanu and I both had to back up to our number one marks and pretty much try to do all the choreography and the one-handed cartwheel and all the shooting with your eyes closed. Because once the squibs started going off, you couldn’t see anything. You had to count your steps and kinda go into it. And I remember looking at him and going ‘Uh, OK, this could be a little tricky.’ And he’s like ‘Eh, OK.’ And he nailed it first take. So that was pretty cool.”
Actor Haley Joel Osment: “There was an even-more morbid element to that scene that actually ended up getting cut out: When I tell Bruce my secret, [at] the last shot of the scene they pull back from my bed and you look out the window where you can see another entire wing of the hospital and in every window there is a person with some horrible injury or someone who’s gone pale because, you know, being in a hospital is a pretty heavy place for a ghost to linger around in this world. So, you pull back and you see all these people lined up on the other side of the frame.”
Writer-director Judd Apatow: “I basically set up four cameras and we had some basic beats we wanted to hit. We knew that we had to get Steve’s real reactions, so we shot it like a documentary. We wrote out tons of curses, because we did plan the main joke to be that he would just curse right into her face. And we also made lists of words that weren’t real curses that sounded like curses. That’s how we got to Steve screaming ‘Kelly Clarkson!’ Off to the side, Seth Rogen had made this enormous list of curses, and I would just yell them out to Steve, and each time they ripped the hair off of something he would scream out one of the curses.”
Director Patty Jenkins: “I think that the biggest reason I was obsessed with [the scene] was really from a character place. From Diana’s point of view, it is: What is the birth of a superhero? Just like Superman pulling his shirt open the first time and revealing the ‘S,’ these are definitive, incredible moments, and so I knew that Wonder Woman needed an incredible moment and because we were doing her origin story, it really needed to be the moment that she made the decision to go from being a younger person who was hopeful and idealistic to one who decides to be a hero despite knowing more. And so in this story, that was what I cared about.”
Actor Will Ferrell: “That kind of exclamation of ‘Santa!’ and screaming it, that was just my articulation of Buddy literally taking that piece of news [that Santa is coming] at face value and [thinking] what would be his literal reaction. A man without a country in this strange land finally getting to see someone he knows really well – it would just be the most jubilant reaction ever. I know that the first couple takes really took people by surprise, that I would go that big with it. And all of that, ‘Santa, I know him,’ all of that playing around we did, that was all improvised there.”
This year, Jimmy Fallon marks five years as host of The Tonight Show, arguably the most coveted regular hosting gig on the planet. He and his team have been celebrating the milestone with some of the series’ most ambitious episodes ever, episodes that mean a ton to the comedian personally. In February, on the show’s fifth anniversary, Fallon paid tribute to one of his own comedy inspirations, Garry Shandling, by surprising viewers with a faux behind-the-scenes documentary episode, a la The Larry Sanders Show. (A BTS moment in which he’s yelling at teenage animal expert Bob Irwin, son of Steve, is gold.) In January, he kicked off the year by taking a crew to Puerto Rico and shooting an episode on the island, which is still working through the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Fallon says he was inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s staging of Hamilton in San Juan, and at a recent Q&A at the Writers’ Guild of America, described his Puerto Rico episode “one of my proudest moments of anything we’ve ever done on any show I’ve ever been a part of.”
Those who first saw Fallon when he was part of the Saturday Night Live cast during some of the show’s best years – he crossed over with Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Tracy Morgan – would likely be unsurprised to now see the comedian thriving in late night. He stood out back then because he was quick, armed with a flotilla of impressions, and, as a bonus, could sing. Today, he puts those skills to work nightly on The Tonight Show. Fallon says he developed those skills watching and learning from comedy’s greats. As he gears up to close out his fifth year, and come back for a sixth, seventh, and eighth – he is contracted until at least 2021 – Fallon sat down with Rotten Tomatoes to pay tribute to some of those legendswith this list of his five favorite comedy movies ever. (Note, he was quick to caveat that he has so many more than five.)
My personal favorite comedy growing up, and something that really influenced me, was Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, directed by Tim Burton. I love this movie because Paul Reubens is just brilliant; [he] plays this character Pee-wee Herman, and the creativity that’s put into this movie, it was like, what else can you add to make this movie [funnier]? Just the opening shot of him waking up, and there’s like a Rube Goldberg contraption of how he makes toast and breakfast in the morning; he drops a ping-pong ball, it hits a candle that turns on and burns a rope that breaks and swings a hammer… It was so creative. I remember being a kid, I watched that movie probably 300 times. I memorized it. I used to do the voice; I had to stop doing it.
It’s a movie, to me, about how far can you dream. Someone steals his bike, and he tries to get his bike back, and through this adventure he ends up pitching his story to a movie studio, which makes his adventure into a feature film at the end. It’s just great that he thought this movie up and wrote it, with Phil Hartman, who was one of my favorites from Saturday Night Live. It’s for kids, but it’s for adults. He’s just such a good actor in this movie – Paul Reubens should have gotten an Oscar for this.
Animal House is a classic. You should have a DVD copy of it, you should stream it, you should just have it always. You should get the celluloid, and have it playing in your backyard. It is brilliantly written, based off of a National Lampoon article about college life. I personally love John Belushi. I love the casting in this because everyone looks like they’re probably 50-years-old to be honest, and yet they’re in college. (At the time, that’s the way things worked: Grease had John Travolta, so you’re like, really, does he look like a high school kid?) But everybody was cast perfectly in [Animal House]. There are so many subtle jokes. It makes you cheer. You see a young Kevin Bacon, [he] makes a cameo. There’s great music. There are so many quotable lines, and it is definitely a go-to comedy for me.
Bridesmaids: If you have not seen it yet then you probably don’t live on Earth. But if you do live on Earth and haven’t seen it you should check it out. It is one of the more modern of the comedy choices I picked, because if you want to see genius comedy – I mean genius, brilliant comedy – Kristen Wiig will just teach you a lesson, and show you how to be funny. She’s unbelievable in this movie. The story is relatable. If you didn’t think Kristen could be funnier, then get ready for Melissa McCarthy, because she hits you over the head with a cinder block of comedy. It is unbelievably well-written, well-acted, well-directed…one of my faves.
This was spoofing these airport movies that were big in the ’70s. When you watch, there are so many quotable scenes, but one is [where] there’s a little boy who comes up to the cockpit of the airplane, and Peter Graves is the pilot, and he goes, “You ever been in a cockpit before, Joey?” And he goes, “No, sir, I’ve never been on a plane before.” He goes, “You ever seen a grown man naked?” And the kid acts perfectly, acts like he didn’t hear what he said, really, and then the questions get crazier. He’s like, “Joey, you ever been in a Turkish prison?” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the copilot. It is just so well-acted. There are so many jokes – it is jam-packed with jokes. You won’t ever forget Airplane!; [it’s] one of the best comedies I’ve ever seen in my life.
This is a comedy for you movie nerds (but that’s probably why you’re on Rotten Tomatoes anyway, because you are a film nerd). This movie is called American Movie, and it’s a documentary comedy. Man, oh man, I remember seeing this film with Horatio Sanz: we were in the theater, and we were crying so hard from laughing, we were hugging each other and punching each other because we were laughing too hard. It’s about a man trying to make a horror movie. He calls it Cove–en, and it’s about a coven, but he doesn’t like the way “coven” rhymes with “oven,” that doesn’t make sense, so he calls it, mispronounces the title for his film, and calls it Cove-en.
He tries to get his dad to act in the movie, and his dad is going like, “You have something to live for. Jesus told me so.” And he’s like, “All right, Dad, do it again, but your teeth are falling out.” And he goes, “Cole, you have something to live for. Jesus told me so.” And he goes, “Geez, I hear his teeth clickety clacking in the audio, it’s unusable.” I mean it is crying funny.
He takes a dentist, a local dentist [who] wants to be an actor, and he’s ramming his head into a closet that he was supposed to have scored so that it easily breaks away, but he forgets to score the wood so he’s actually ramming a human’s head into a wooden cabinet. [The man] is screaming, and he’s ramming this poor man’s head into the thing. So cut, and the guy’s holding his head. He’s like, “Oh, my gosh.” He’s like “Uh, man, I’m sorry, I forgot to cut that board.”
It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It will make you cry laughing. If you love filmmaking, you will appreciate this. The two guys, the two stars of the movie, are true stars.
Watch: Co-writer Annie Mumolo and director Paul Feig on the making of Bridesmaidsabove.
In 2019, Rotten Tomatoes turns 21, and to mark the occasion we’re celebrating the 21 Most Memorable Moments from the movies over the last 21 years. In this special video series, we speak to the actors and filmmakers who made those moments happen, revealing behind-the-scenes details of how they came to be and diving deep into why they’ve stuck with us for so long. Once we’ve announced all 21, it will be up to you, the fans, to vote for which is the most memorable moment of all. In this episode of our ‘21 Most Memorable Moments’ series, Bridesmaids co-writer Annie Mumolo and director Paul Feig remember the notorious food-poisoning scene and the fantasy sequence from the original script that it replaced.
Few comedies have rocked the movie industry like Bridesmaids did back in 2011. From the first draft of the script to a South by Southwest debut that had Hollywood talking, to a mega opening weekend and multiple Oscar nominations, this was always going to be a special comedy for the beginning of the new decade. But what makes the story of out-of-luck bridesmaid Annie (Kristen Wiig) stand out from so many other buzzy and celebrated comedies is that its impact has lasted, and continues to this day – not just in the career boosts it gave its leads and director, but in the way it changed the playing field for female-driven comedies and the creative minds who wanted to make them. It all started, according to co-writer Annie Mumolo, with an exciting meeting with a Hollywood producer… that never ended up happening, and her own experience as a “perpetual bridesmaid.”
“That planted the seed for us. We thought, ‘Oh, maybe we should write something together.’”
Annie Mumolo: “Kristen [Wiig] and I had been writing and performing together at the Groundlings for years. We had an instant sort of chemistry there and we just had a lot of success with our sketches that we wrote together. So at one point a Hollywood producer approached us after a show and said, ‘You guys, you two have really good chemistry. I’d love to have a meeting with you.’ At the same time, we had been talking about ‘maybe we should think of writing a movie sometime.’ And when he approached us we were very excited, [and] we exchanged information. Then we called him and he never called us back. That was it – I don’t know. A bizarre thing. But it kind of planted the seed for us. We thought, ‘Oh maybe we should write something together.’”
“Everyone I knew was getting married. All my cousins and friends. And I was a perpetual bridesmaid.”
Mumolo: “At the same time, everyone I knew was getting married. All my cousins and friends. And I was a perpetual bridesmaid. I was encountering all kinds of characters in my adventures. So we started talking about that idea and that was where it started. One moment that I think the whole emotional anchor of the movie came from was a moment [at my friend’s] wedding reception. You know how there’s that big dramatic run out of the building, and they get into their car and drive away? And everyone’s celebrating? I remember my last friend that got married, and the feeling I had as they ran out, got into their car – it was this very deep feeling of being left behind. I just remember standing there. You’re very happy for them, and you want this to be happening to them, but you have this complicated sort of feeling. Because it makes you question, ‘Am I doing what I should be doing?’”
“Within five minutes I got a call from Judd saying, ‘Alright we’re going to do this.’”
Paul Feig: “It was in 2007, I was working on another movie and Judd [Apatow, who produced Bridesmaids] called me up and said, ‘Hey, we’re doing a reading of this script that Kristen Wiig wrote.’ Kristen had just been in a movie I did called Unaccompanied Minors, and it was the first time she had ever been in a movie and I just loved her. I thought she was so funny, so I went to that script read. (One of the ironies is that Melissa McCarthy was one of the people reading, but she was reading other roles; she wasn’t even reading that role.) I’d always been wanting to do much more female-led comedy and projects in general, so after the read we all gave Kristen and Annie a bunch of notes and all that. Then I was busy with my movie, and then I would check in with Judd about that one occasionally, and he was, ‘Oh we’re not sure what’s going on yet,’ and then a year-and-a-half later he basically said, ‘It looks like it’s dead.’ [I said] ‘That’s such a bummer because it was such a great chance to have all these great women [in a film together].’ Then it was 2010 when I got a call from my agent saying that that movie was actually going to go. They put me on list of possible directors to Judd and within five minutes I got a call from him saying, ‘Alright we’re going to do this.’”
“I believed so strongly from the beginning there was an audience for this. I just knew it.”
Mumolo: “All women that I know are very, very funny in their own way. And we really wanted to tap into that. I believed so strongly from the beginning there was an audience for this. I just knew it. And so did Judd. I remember there was an article I found, like in Entertainment Weekly or something, at some point, that said women make up to 60% of the moviegoing audience and yet there were no movies [being made for them]. This was back then; there were not a lot of movies that featured women. The women always in comedy tend to be sort of just an accessory: The wife holding a tray of lemonade, and [saying], ‘Honey, you’re not going to go be crazy again are you? Uh-oh.’ The sort of baking, no-opinion woman who just stands there and holds lemonade. Or is always just watching her crazy, funny male partner have all the fun and be funny. But that was because you write what you know. And when men are writing movies, they write what they know. So we really just wrote what we knew. We didn’t set out to make any grand statements or anything. We just felt like this should be done. So we did it.”
THE MOMENT: Food Poisoning Strikes at the Bridal Store
Feig recalls clearly the gory details of Bridesmaids’s most infamous scene – in which, after eating at a Brazilian restaurant chosen by Annie in an effort to upstage her rival Helen (Rose Byrne), the bride and her bridesmaids are struck down by food poisoning and proceed to s—t and vomit all over the bathroom of an upscale bridal store (and in one case, on the street outside). The filmmakers designed a pristine white set on which to stage the carnage, and made buckets of vomit from oatmeal, chopped peas, carrots, and other vegetables for maximum gross-out effect. It was to be the movie’s big “water cooler” moment, and it was one that was both hilarious and groundbreaking – these were comic actresses going for it in the kind of scene only men had been allowed to play in the past. But it was a somewhat controversial sequence behind the scenes: the dress-shop moment played out very differently in Wiig and Mumolo’s original script – no oatmeal was required – and the two writers were not eager to change directions. At least at first.
“Naturally she sees Christian Bale there, who’s chopping wood without a shirt on…”
Mumolo: “We had a fantasy sequence where they go into the dress shop, and Kristen’s character tries on this dress and she has this fantasy that when she wears this dress, she’s all of a sudden in a castle. And all the men at the wedding are fawning over her. There’s so many of them wanting her so badly [that] just to escape from the castle she goes running out into this field and runs into the forest. And she naturally sees Christian Bale there, who’s chopping wood without a shirt on. And they end up on a bearskin rug, and he was combing her hair, and it was this expansive sequence of her little love affair with Christian Bale. In the meantime, [back in the real world] Helen gets the women to get the dress she wants because Annie is caught up in her fantasy. So that was the original [scene]. And then I think Judd said at one point we’ll never get Christian Bale to do this. And then we tried to put in Matt Damon and then we’re like, ‘As if we’re going to get Matt Damon to do this.’ He was concerned we weren’t going to get anybody to do it. And also he felt it needed harder comedy there, rather than what we had. So, we sadly let that go. We did not want to let that go. We loved that sequence.”
Feig: “[The scene] was very funny but when we were in the re-write process, we all kind of felt like well maybe there’s something that’s a little more real-world that we can do with this that doesn’t involve a fantasy sequence. It just came from a lot of talk about, ‘Well, what is her problem?’ Her problem is she doesn’t have any money but she’s trying to keep up with Helen and trying to look like she can outdo or match Helen and all these opulent things that Helen is doing for Lillian [played by Maya Rudolph]. And it just became, ‘Well what if she overextends herself and takes them to a restaurant that’s cheap but she passes it off as being a great place?’”
Mumolo: “I think what Judd said was, ‘This sequence doesn’t have enough hard comedy.’ It was a Friday night, and we had until Monday. He said, ‘Go write something that ends with they all get food poisoning and Megan s–ts in the sink.’ I think [that] is what he said. Of course, when you hear something that way … it’s not going to sit well in the beginning. We went off and did our version. We had to sort of bring the female perspective into how a woman would deal with having food poisoning and trying to cover it up. On the day we started shooting it, while we were shooting it, we started feeling much more at peace with it. We both felt much more relieved, seeing how Paul handled it and seeing his approach to it. And Judd said we’re going to shoot many versions of this, from the most conservative to the most – what’s the word – the most extreme.”
“The funniest thing was just how everybody handles it up until the point when it all falls apart.”
Feig: “I know when that idea was come up with, Kristen was kind of like, ‘Wait what? What’s going to happen?’ Because – very rightfully so – she was nervous that Judd and I, two guys who come from the rough and tumble world of comedy, were going to turn it into a guy’s version of a woman’s movie. And that’s a very, very real concern. But we always just told her… this is the emotional reason why this is here and so this will illustrate this point in a very funny way and also in a way that will showcase her comedy. We wanted a big, physical water cooler scene set piece, as they call it in comedy, that could be super funny and active and really get some attention. But also none of us wanted to do a scene which is just going to be mayhem for mayhem’s sake. To us the funniest thing was just how everybody handles it up until the point when it all falls apart. Will [Annie] admit to her enemy that she did something wrong? And so that’s really what that scene’s about. It could’ve easily just been, oh everybody’s throwing up and s–tting and all of that, and shot at crazy wide angle lenses and just going far, far, far. But it just wouldn’t have been funny without being grounded by the fact that there’s Annie in the middle of it as everything is falling apart around her and all the evidence points to the fact that she really screwed up badly and she just won’t admit it.”
“It took about eight or nine test screenings to get the exact math right.”
Feig: “We shot more sequences, too, where Becca [Ellie Kemper] runs in and finds everybody and the bathroom’s full with everybody throwing up, [and] she goes running down the hall thinking there’s another bathroom at the end and runs into Whitney – the woman who runs the dress shop – throws opens the door of her office thinking it’s a bathroom and projectile vomits across this pristine, white office. And all over this wedding photo of Whitney and her husband. That was one of the first ones we cut out because when we put the sequence together, we’re like OK, that’s just a bridge too far. At that, we’re just settling, just letting the grossness drive us and not the emotional underpinning. But honestly it took about eight or nine test screenings to get the exact math right on that dress shop sequence, because there was some we let go a little too long and others we made too short. It was really having to discover how far we could push the audience without them turning on us. We found we could actually push them pretty far.”
THE IMPACT: Turning on the Green light
Bridesmaids earned $288 million at the global box office and picked up two Oscar nominations: one for Melissa McCarthy for her star-making turn as Megan, and one for co-writers Mumolo and Wiig for Best Original Screenplay. Those numbers and accolades are rarely seen for R-rated comedies – particularly those with scenes that require so much oatmeal. But it’s those numbers that shook the industry. With Bridesmaids proving false the long-held assumption that female-led comedies couldn’t make money, there was a shift. Blockers, Girls’ Trip, Rough Night, Pitch Perfect, Spy, The Heat, and more films would follow; movies where strong friendships took center stage and romance was absent or secondary, movies where women could be flawed, and real, and funny. Many would say the shift hasn’t been big enough, but Bridesmaids showed many in power what Mumolo had known all along: there was an audience for this movie and more like it.
“We jumped in the car and drove to the ArcLight in Hollywood and found a packed theater just absolutely rocking with laughter.”
Feig: “Our budget was $32.5 million and we were told we had to make $20 million opening weekend or else we’d be considered a failure. We were tracking to make $13 million and so I was walking around that week just despondent. It was only [better] as the matinees went on [opening] Friday, when the calls starting coming in like, ‘Well it’s actually looking more like 15’ and then, ‘Oh well maybe it might be 17.’ I invited Melissa and her husband Ben [Falcone] over to our house for dinner. The four of us, with my wife, we’re all sitting around having dinner as day went into evening and I started getting emails – ‘Well it’s actually looking like $19 million,’ then we got the one where it was like, ‘It actually looks like it’s going to hit $20 million.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ By the time it went up to 26 we all just went like, ‘We got to get to the theater.’ So we all four of us just jumped in the car and drove to the ArcLight in Hollywood and ran in and found a packed theater just absolutely rocking with laughter. That was the moment you just go like, ‘Oh thank God.’”
Mumolo and Wiig at the 2012 Academy Awards (Photo by Matt Brown/ABC via Getty Images)
“If you are to be nominated for an Oscar tomorrow, what number should we call you at?’”
Mumolo: “They give you a phone call the night before and they say, ‘If you are to be nominated for an Oscar tomorrow, what number should we call you at?’ You give them your number. You’re like, ‘Haha that’s really funny, that’s hilarious, OK, good night.’ I think I felt as though, maybe intentionally, psychologically, I couldn’t wrap my head around that. So something just shut off and I went to bed. And then they called. My husband was in the other room and he started [screaming], ‘Hey look! Get up!’ And so that’s how I found out.”
“The industry was going to wait and see how we did at the box office before they could even consider green-lighting other movies starring women.”
Feig: “The biggest thing that changed is that the studios saw they can make money off of female-driven comedies. Hollywood is not an altruistic town. We are, as far as our politics and all that, but when it comes to the business, money talks, and you can pitch people all day that they should do a movie because it’s the right thing to do and we need representation and we need this and that, but if it doesn’t make money, then they don’t care, basically. That was the thing that was kind of held over our head the whole [time] through production and even up until the day we got it released. It was looked at as being this sort of oddity, this risky thing that we were doing. The whole industry was going to have to wait and see how we did at the box office before they could even consider development and green-lighting other movies starring women. Which was crazy. So much pressure was on it that if it didn’t do well, the town was going to go, ‘Well, see, movies starring women don’t work.’ Which is insane, because nobody ever says that when a movie starring a bunch of men doesn’t do well. They just go, ‘OK, the movie didn’t work.’ I had female friends who were writers who had pitched ideas, and they were being told around town, ‘We have to wait and see how Bridesmaids does.’”
The reviews were raves and the marketers leant into the idea of a smart, R-rated female-led comedy (Photo by @ Universal Pictures)
“It’s like birthing a baby. And it went on for such a long time.”
Mumolo: “The movie for all of us in the beginning was like having a baby. It’s like birthing a baby. And it went on for such a long time. And there are wonderful, joyful moments. There are moments of despair, there are moments of anxiety, there are moments of relief. I mean it’s such a tremendous experience. There were so many things that changed me as a person. When it comes to that one scene, it was a blip in a six-year experience. But I’m very grateful that it makes people laugh. And that’s what we set out to do. That part of it makes me happy.”
In 2019, Rotten Tomatoes turns 21, and to mark the occasion we’re celebrating with a series of features that look back at the brightest moments on screen of the past two decades – and one year – and the things that have us excited for the future.
Since its inception in 1987, South by Southwest (a.k.a. SXSW or just “South By”) has grown to become one of the most celebrated pop culture events in the world, with its unparalleled mix of music, film, and digital media. It’s one of the best places to scope out both established artists and rising talents, as well as all kinds of innovations in interactive entertainment.
In other words, it should be no surprise that some heavy hitters have graced the stages and screens in Austin, TX, and this is especially true of the film division. In the past 21 years, SXSW has served as the proving ground for up-and-coming filmmakers hoping to make a big splash, and it’s also played a big role in hyping up eventual cult classics and box office hits. With that in mind, and with SXSW 2019 kicking off this weekend, we decided to look back at some of the most memorable movie premieres that have happened at the festival during RT’s existence. Read on for a trip down memory lane at South By.
Director Morgan Neville didn’t even know that SXSW had a film festival component when he was looking to premiere his first documentary, a sometimes breezy and wistful look at an evolving Los Angeles through the lens of the people who shaped it. Variety’s review of the premiere decried the film’s listlessness and its “graceless and too abrupt” editing, the latter of which actually tapped into the associative, nonlinear style that would set Neville’s unorthodox documentarian work apart from the pack. Neville remembers the premiere as “low key” and intimate, surrounded by fellow “neophyte filmmakers” showing their wares. Shotgun Freeway was named runner up for Best Documentary Feature that year, and Neville would go on to win an Oscar (for 20 Feet from Stardom) and an Emmy (for Best of Enemies) and then break box office records with his film Won’t You Be My Neighbor?.
Sean Baker’s first feature followed a group of white suburban young men in a slice-of-life tale, showing the blunt inner workings of the male psyche. It’s not surprising that the town that embraced Slacker fell in love with Baker and his objective, almost journalistic film work. As Baker told SXSW World: “I might not have kept going if it wasn’t for SXSW.” Reviews for the low-budget gem weren’t necessarily glowing, but they hit on Baker’s strength of presenting a character’s world with honesty, a trait he would carry on as he delved into the lives of disparate women in the San Fernando Valley (Starlet), Chinese immigrants in New York (Take Out), a trans sex worker in L.A. (Tangerine), and single moms in Kissimmee (The Florida Project).
(Photo by Thinkfilm courtesy Everett Collection)
Spellbound(2002)97%: A Documentary D-E-L-I-G-H-T (And Awards Contender)
Director Jeffrey Blitz wasn’t even present for the first SXSW screening of his spelling bee documentary. Nervous, he’d taken a flight out from a commercial job and arrived outside the theater just as it was letting out. He told SXSW World: “I heard [people] raving about this spelling bee documentary they had just seen,” and thought it was a prank. Blitz’s first feature, Spellbound won the Documentary Feature Jury Award and became the festival’s first breakout hit, winning an Emmy and getting nominated for an Academy Award.
Guillermo del Toro had already directed cult classics Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, and Blade II before he took aim at the film adaptation of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comic. The unofficial midnight world premiere of the film brought del Toro, Mignola, and star Ron Perlman to Austin, and the ending credits were met with what the Austin Chronicle called “thunderous cheers.” The film became a box office success, grossing nearly $100 million and spawning a sequel, but it also sealed SXSW as a midnights-friendly destination.
It’s difficult to overstate the impact the Duplass brothers had on both filmmaking and the film culture of SXSW. The Puffy Chair would mark their first feature, but the pair had already premiered a few of their shorts at the fest, creating a kind of community with like-minded filmmakers like Joe Swanberg and Andrew Bujalski, who premiered Kissing on the Mouth and Mutual Appreciation, respectively, alongside The Puffy Chair. From this year forward, SXSW was known as the place for Mumblecore, and the Duplass brothers would go on to bring their style to the mainstream.
Film festivals haven’t always been receptive to comedy, especially if the film is a documentary about lesser-known comics popular only on the alt-comedy circuits. But director Michael Blieden found a home for his debut documentary feature with SXSW and brought Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Maria Bamford, and Brian Posehn to the masses of Austin with a premiere that included live stand-up sets by the film’s subjects. The Austin Chronicle called the film “incisively bawdy,” and the well-received live performance set the stage for the massive influx of comedy acts that would flock to the festival every year. Oswalt, Galifianakis, Bamford, and Posehn became some of the defining comics of their generation.
(Photo by Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)
Knocked Up(2007)89%: Apatow Finds His Testing Ground
Judd Apatow raked in the praise for his directorial debut, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but the idea of a comedy with a runtime more than two hours long was still a novelty when his follow-up Knocked Up tested the waters in Austin at a sneak preview. Variety called it “uproarious,” and attendees noted the laughter was so loud in the theater that a good number of the punchlines couldn’t even be heard. Viewers of that preview wondered whether Paramount would cut the film down to under 90 minutes — nope! SXSW became Apatow’s proving ground that longer, more thoughtful comedy could play to wide audiences.
With a budget of $15,000, Mumblecore comedy Nights and Weekends brought Joe Swanberg back to SXSW, but this time with a relatively unknown co-director/co-writer/co-star — Greta Gerwig. Swanberg and Gerwig had collaborated before on 2007’s Hannah Takes the Stairs, but this film would mark Gerwig’s directorial debut. Noel Murray at the AV Club said, “Swanberg and Gerwig also have a gift for constructing the kind of moments rarely seen in contemporary American independent film.” Gerwig had always intended to become a playwright, and though it would be another nine years before she would direct again (Lady Bird), that effort would earn her Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director.
SXSW was no stranger to the type of romantic verité filmmaking Austinite Richard Linklater revived from the Left Bank French New Wave with Before Sunrise. But Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy pried the genre from white hands and showed two African American characters talking from dawn ’til dusk about art, culture, and love. The film starred the unknown Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins, but the buzz out of SXSW was enough to propel Medicine to multiple Indie Spirit Awards nominations, inspiring a generation of black filmmakers, including Justin Simien, Lena Waithe, Ava DuVernay, and Terence Nance.
Lena Dunham’s hour-long feature debut Creative Nonfiction showed so much promise at 2008’s SXSW that when she returned in 2010 with a proper full-length feature, Tiny Furniture, critics were already hip to the wünderkind’s comic sensibilities. The film took the top narrative feature prize, with Dunham accepting a breakout award for women directors, leading IFC Films to acquire and distribute Tiny Furniture. Dunham’s relationship with SXSW continues, and the fest has become a destination for young female auteurs, including Julia Hart, Stella Meghie, and Nijla Mu’min.
(Photo by Liam Daniel/Screen Gems courtesy Everett Collection)
By the time Joe Cornish premiered his feature debut, Attack the Block, SXSW programming had already become known for its Midnights section. Fans of director Edgar Wright knew the Shaun of the Dead helmer had executive produced for Cornish and packed the theater in anticipation of a Wright-anointed genre film, but the general reception was that Attack was so much better than they could even hope for. Writing for Cinemablend, Matt Patches called the film a throwback to early Peter Jackson and said audiences emitted an “audible, pleasantly shocked yelp” throughout the gory action sequences.
Undefeated(2011) : An Oscar Winner Starts Its Journey
Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin knew they were “no-name directors” when they applied to SXSW with their documentary debut about a struggling Memphis football team. The Austin Chronicle said, “Undefeated isn’t just a great sports doc, it’s a great documentary. Period.” The directors credit the festival with helping the film sell for a seven-figure deal after an all-night auction, get distribution, and earn widespread acclaim, leading to their winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary. “That definitely changed our lives, and it all started at SXSW,” Lindsay and Martin told SXSW World.
Paul Feig had already made a name for himself acting in and directing numerous comedies, but when he brought his work-in-progress Bridesmaids to SXSW for a midnight premiere, he says not a single person in the audience knew anything about the film. On top of that, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph weren’t completely known outside of their individual runs on SNL. But Feig said to SXSW World that when the audience burst into laughter that “it was possibly the greatest night of my career.” Bridesmaids introduced audiences to superstar Melissa McCarthy and raked in a whopping $288 million at the box office.
At the SXSW world premiere of Harmony Korine’s teen day-glo crime thriller, only a few audience members squeamish from the provocateur’s film walked out, but those who stayed raucously applauded such an audacious movie. At the same time, fledgling distribution company A24 was trying to make a name for itself and saw the perfect opportunity in Korine. They purchased the film right out of the festival, marking themselves as a company to take a chance on artists and weirdos and bolstering SXSW as a destination for film acquisitions.
(Photo by Cinedigm courtesy Everett Collection)
Short Term 12(2013)98%: The Stars of Tomorrow in a Move That Sets the New Standard
Director Destin Daniel Cretton specifically aimed to finish his feature about a young staff worker in a residential treatment facility for the SXSW deadlines. Producer Asher Goldstein said it felt like the perfect “cultural fit” for this story about simple people trying to live their lives, starring a cast of complete then-unknowns, including Brie Larson, Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, and Lakeith Stanfield. Before the film even premiered at SXSW, sales negotiations began, signaling Short Term 12 was something special. It won both the Grand Jury and Audience Award for Narrative Feature, and prompted The Atlantic in 2014 to ask “Who’s This Year’s Short Term 12?” at SXSW.
Director Karyn Kusama stripped her style down to its indie roots for her horror-thriller The Invitation. She’d faced an uphill battle with high-budget flops, like Aeon Flux and Jennifer’s Body, but burst back on the scene and out of director jail with a psychological stunner she filmed on a bare budget in a single location. Midnighter attendees of the premiere immediately buzzed about the film, with Justin Chang, writing for Variety, calling it a “perfectly pitched exercise in psychological dread.” The Invitation hit many best-of lists when it premiered theatrically, but Kusama credits SXSW with the relaunch of her career. “SXSW means discovery, it means surprise, and it means a jolt of energy, which was there in abundance for us,” she told SXSW World.
Trey Edward Shults’ short film Krisha won big at SXSW 2014. When he stretched that drama — about a woman who reconnects with her family over a disastrous Thanksgiving weekend — into a feature, Shults naturally wanted it to premiere at SXSW as well. For the Q&A portion, Shults brought his stars, his real-life aunt Krisha Fairchild and mother Robyn Fairchild, for an intimate talk about family and filmmaking. “I’ve been a professional actor my whole life, but I had no ambition,” Krisha said, before crediting her nephew for sparking a creative flame in her. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Filmmaking, and the audience went wild when Shults’ entire cast/family stormed the stage.
Tower(2016)99%: A Tense, Moving Hometown Achievement
Keith Maitland is an Austin director whose films revolve around the people, places, and major events of Texas. His documentary Tower was based on a Texas Monthly story from Pamela Colloff, which walked people through the terrifying 96-minute ordeal of Charles Whitman climbing the UT Austin tower and opening fire on a campus of innocent people. The SXSW premiere was an emotional affair, with Eric Kohn of IndieWire saying that Tower “imbues the catastrophe with renewed urgency.” The film won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for Documentary Feature, and Maitland told SXSW World that “sharing this deeply emotional story here, where it happened, was one of the most cathartic cinematic experiences I’ve ever witnessed.”
Before there was Get Out, there was Peter Atencio’s crime comedy Keanu, co-written by Alex Rubens and Jordan Peele in his feature-writing debut. Some fans of the stars’ Comedy Central show Key & Peele waited in line for three hours for the midnight premiere, and Peele and Keegan-Michael Key began throwing out stuffed cats to an audience dreading a time change and an hour lost the next morning. The reception to the film was only warm, but it was enough to propel Peele into writing his next feature, which would earn him an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Ana Asencio’s gritty, spare, 80-minute thriller marked a wicked debut for the writer-director-producer-star, who’d spent a decade perfecting the script. And SXSW proved a perfect match for a 16 mm film about an immigrant woman caught in the most tragic day of her life. At the premiere, audiences gasped, shook by tension and an unnerving ending. Peter Goldwyn of Samuel Goldwyn Films snapped up the rights and said, “Most Beautiful Island is a memorable film, which captured hearts, minds, and the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW,” and although Asencio hasn’t released a follow-up yet, that ending she wrote earned a place on Vulture’s “100 Scares That Shaped Horror.”
A Quiet Place(2018)96%: Silence on Screen, Screams in the Theater as Box Office Monster Is Born
John Krasinski’s horror debut earned what Variety writer Ramin Setoodeh called “enough shrieks inside the theater to please [the] director” at the film’s SXSW premiere. As Setoodeh pointed out, SXSW had become a proving ground for out-of-the-box studio releases, and the fanfare inside the theater that night signaled to Paramount Pictures they’d have a hit on their hands. Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote that “the movie maintains a minimalist dread throughout, with every footstep or sudden move carrying the potential for instant death.” A Quiet Place went on to earn $340 million at the box office, making SXSW a reliable litmus test yet again.
Melissa McCarthy is going back to college — at her less-than-thrilled daughter’s campus — in this weekend’s Life of the Party, adding another comedy to a filmography that already includes some of the biggest laugh-filled hits in recent memory. In honor of her latest outing, we decided to take the opportunity to look back on some of the brightest critical highlights in McCarthy’s career, while inviting you to rank your own favorites. It’s time for Total Recall!
Use the up and down arrows to rank the movies, or click here to see them ranked by Tomatometer!
(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
Her rise to stardom has been slow and steady, but Olivia Munn has come a long way since making her debut on G4’s popular tech and gaming series Attack of the Show! back in 2006. After leaving AOTS in 2010, Munn landed a coveted gig as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show even as she sought opportunities to expand her big screen credentials. She appeared briefly in films like Iron Man 2 and Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, co-starred in short-lived NBC sitcom Perfect Couples, and eventually earned a spot in the cast of HBO’s The Newsroom. Just last year, X-Men fans saw her tackle the role of Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalpse, and she’s already signed to return as the character in the next film, X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
This week, Munn lends her voice to the next entry in the budding LEGO movie franchise, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, as Misako, the ex-wife of the film’s villain Lord Garmadon. She took some time to speak with RT about her Five Favorite Films, pulling nuggets of wisdom from movies like Groundhog Day and Forrest Gump. Read on for the full list!
The Royal Tenenbaums. The style of the movie is so brilliant, and it just had so much character and intrigue, and the characters are all so specific, and funny, and heartbreaking, and as heightened as the world is, everybody’s so grounded. There’s just so much going on in that movie, and it just keeps moving. When you sit through it, you’re never bored through any of it, and I just think that [Wes Anderson] is one of the best directors of all time. I love pretty much everything with Bill Murray in it, so yes, that would be the first one.
The second one would actually be, going off of Bill Murray, it would be Groundhog Day. I watch that movie as if it’s Groundhog Day. I watch it all the time. It is so good. It is one of the best movies ever, and it’s just so clever. Every time I watch it, I just find little things that are different, or I think about something different. I mean, it was a movie that, as seen on paper, may be hard to do, but he is just such a brilliant actor and he’s so lovable without being annoying, and Andie MacDowell was so great in it.
Watching it multiple times and kind of noticing different things, have any of your opinions about something in Groundhog Day changed noticeably over the years? Like, opinions on maybe a character or an event?
Yes, actually, I watched it the other day, and even though I’m sure this is something that everybody else has thought of, it just hit me in a way that… I guess, especially as you get older and you understand life a little bit better, and you’ve had more experiences and stuff, I was like, the whole movie… You know, in the beginning he wants to learn piano, he’s got his money, and he wants to sleep with this girl and that girl, and he’s about the notoriety, and he’s living that life and getting to be amazing every day and never having to worry about tomorrow. You know, when you don’t have to worry about tomorrow, you get to be who you want to be, sleep with who you want to sleep with, spend what you want to spend, and not worry about it.
After he does that time and time again, and day after day, he starts to realize what the real purpose of life is, which is not consuming everything for yourself but to help others. When he starts to give his money away, or wants to go and save this guy, or be there to save that kid. His time is filled with service to others.
Somebody said to me once our lives are like a blank book, and this book is filled with blank pages, and every day is a page. Every day you get to decide what you’re going to write on that page, and whatever you write on that page is that page, and that’s it. Once you turn that page, that’s it. So let’s decide how we want to spend our days. You only have so much room to fit on that page, and so in this movie, in Groundhog Day, it hit me the other day, I was like, at the end, it’s being a service to other people that really was how he wanted to spend his time and his days.
Hearing you say that makes me feel like I would pay attention to that aspect more right now, too, because I feel like that’s exactly what our world needs more of at this moment.
Right, well, I think, even people who aren’t spiritual, if you talk to just your regular run-of-the-mill therapist, everybody will encourage people to give back. You give back, give back. Donate at your charity, donate your time, just give back. It just enriches your life in ways that it’s hard to explain, but you just have to do it. You have to have an element in your life where you’re giving back and you’re in service to other people.
I’m a fan of this. Now it makes me want to go back and watch the movie again, so thank you.
Forrest Gump. That is the longest movie ever, but I will watch it as Forrest is learning how to walk, when his braces fall off of him; when he’s like, going through the swampy puddles of Vietnam; when he’s like, ping-ponging through China. I could watch that movie on Netflix or throw on a DVD, but I’ll end up sitting eight hours, watching it through commercials. I’m sitting there, like, “This is a lot, but I can’t leave. Forrest Gump is on!” “Yeah, you can watch it any time that you want.” “I know, but I’m gonna sit here through these commercials and watch Forrest Gump.” It is like the longest movie ever and becomes the longest movie ever when you sit there through commercials, but I’ll sit there through every stage of Forrest’s life. I will be there.
It kind of feels like it needs no explanation because it’s Forrest Gump. I mean, there are so many stories in one, and it’s just so beautiful. You have a man who lives his life with only love and loyalty, loyalty for the ones he loves, and that’s what drives him. It’s so beautiful to watch how that all unfolds. That part at the end when he goes and he sees Jenny after all that time, back there towards the end, and then he’s this little boy and he’s like, “Is he smart or is he…” She’s like, “No, he’s really smart.” Then he goes and sits down next to him — which is a little, tiny Haley Joel Osment — but then they’re both watching the cartoons, and then they both turn their head and tilt it, and it’s just…
It’s such a beautiful story, because at the end, you know, Jenny’s finally kind of gone through a life and exorcised all of her demons. She goes through this whole thing in her life, where she has this little boy, and only through love and wanting to take care of her child does she get her life together and reach back out to Forrest.
It’s so beautiful at the end. She finally is there, but they don’t get much time together because she’s sick. Then at the end he’s got his little boy with him, and it’s just such a beautiful… It’s such a beautiful movie, and story, and you really feel like you’re with him through all these different stages of his life. The one thing that never changes is his heart. He never gets jaded like the rest of us. The rest of us in the world, we get jaded, we get hardened. Not “we,” but there’s a lot of people who go through the world and feel like they’ve been hurt, they’ve been betrayed, they’ve been beaten down, and so they’re allowed to live life angry, and you just have to give them a big old pass on being upset and angry, but that’s just the story we tell ourselves. S— happens to everybody, and a lot of s— happened to Forrest, but his heart never changed. I think that’s a beautiful story and something we can all take with us.
Bridesmaids. It is hands-down… That’s like the funniest movie that I’ve seen in a very long time. Girls Trip was really funny the other day. I loved that; I saw Girls Trip in my hotel room. Bridesmaids, I remember laughing out loud in the theater, like dying laughing over it. I mean, to watch how all of the actors interact, and the improv, and I love that they interact the way that my girlfriends and I interact. There’s a specific realness to it that I thought was depicted so well and I loved it so much. And I mean, we get to watch Melissa McCarthy in her Academy Award Nominated performance. I mean, she’s genius, she’s brilliant, and Kristen Wiig — all of them, every single actor in that movie is brilliant. I just loved that movie.
Maya Rudolph almost made taking a dump in the middle of the street classy.
Oh, I know! Oh my God, when she did that, I screamed. I was like, “This is the best.” I was howling in the theater. It was the funniest freaking moment. And then she does the thing where she sits down, and she tells the van, like, “Go over. Keep driving.” That moment you know where she’s like, “Ugh.” At that moment, even her shame was s— out of her. She’s like, “I have no more shame. I have nothing. Just keep going. Just move along.”
It’s a newer one, but John Wick or John Wick 2. I’m obsessed. I’m obsessed. I grew up doing martial arts, and I know that Keanu did all of his own fight scenes in it, and then I was working on Predator when I watched John Wick 2, and… I have a gun in Predator, and they were teaching me how to do certain things, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh! Keanu did this really cool thing. Teach me how to do it!” I love… Like, back in the day in kung fu movies, they filmed the fight scenes in wide angles so you get to see everybody doing it, but nowadays, everything’s like cut, cut, edit, edit, close-up of this, close-up of that. But we actually got to see Keanu in these wide shots because he’s doing his own stunts, and he’s kicking ass, and he’s amazing in it.
I just love that, and I feel like we don’t get enough of that in American cinema anymore, or actually ever. You have to go back to, like, old kung fu movies and stuff. I just love watching that movie and the action of that. It’s a good one.
Judd Apatow isn’t just a producer, of course; he’s also a director and writer, and many of his movies find him occupying all three chairs. Still, it’s his list of production credits that runs longest – and may contain a few surprises for those who haven’t been following his career closely – so we thought this weekend’s Apatow-produced Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping would be the perfect time to give them the Total Recall treatment. We did get a little technical, and cut out the films where he served as an executive producer (bye bye, Heavyweights, Celtic Pride, Kicking and Screaming, and The TV Set) as well as associate producer (thus excising 1992’s Crossing the Bridge), and popular favorites like Anchorman, Pineapple Express, and Step Brothers didn’t make the cut. Don’t worry, though – that still leaves us plenty to discuss. Ready to get started? It’s Total Recall time!
Before he launched a second career as an agitator for social justice and economic equality, Russell Brand was a pretty funny guy — and although his particular shtick definitely wasn’t right for every role, it could be quite effective in the proper context. For example, there’s Brand’s scene-stealing supporting turn in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, in which he played the cheerfully hedonistic rock star that the title character hooks up with after dumping poor Jason Segel — a role he reprised a couple years later for Get Him to the Greek. Here, Brand’s Aldous Snow must be shepherded to a crucial gig through a landmine of bad decisions and irresponsible behavior, with responsibility for his whereabouts falling to an increasingly overmatched label rep (Jonah Hill). “The movie’s a good, rude commercial comedy,” argued the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips. “How many good movies have we even seen this year?”
Judd Apatow productions are known for their skillful use of humor that feels real — sometimes squirm-inducingly — so the news that he was co-writing and producing a mock biopic of a legendary musician named Dewey Cox (and that Cox would be played by the mercilessly funny John C. Reilly) was greeted with enthusiasm by critics and fans hungry for more 40-Year-Old Virgin-style laughs. Ultimately, expectations for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story proved slightly unreasonable; although critics applauded the film, moviegoers chose not to follow Apatow down this particular path, and it failed to recoup its budget. Still, despite being one of Apatow’s rare commercial misfires, Walk Hard is one of the better-reviewed entries on his resume, and boasts the approval of no less a critical luminary than Roger Ebert, who applauded its restraint when he wrote, “instead of sending everything over the top at high energy, like Top Secret or Airplane!, they allow Reilly to more or less actually play the character, so that, against all expectations, some scenes actually approach real sentiment.”
Pee-Wee Herman entered the 1990s as a fairly tired joke (and an unwillingly dirty one at that), but given enough time and nostalgia, almost everything old is new again. Herman’s creator, Paul Reubens, discovered as much after exhuming the character for a series of public appearances that led into a revival of his stage show — and a lengthy development process for a third Pee-Wee movie. Reubens ultimately hooked up with Apatow to produce Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday, a 2016 release that bowed on Netflix alongside its theatrical run. While the movie’s rollout might have been cutting edge, the story — and Pee-Wee himself — remained substantially the same as his heyday, adding up to a film offering a high-grade flashback to a franchise many critics remembered so fondly they were willing to let its narrative deficiencies slide. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s David Wiegand put it, “After all these years — his and ours — Pee-wee Herman is still a Peter Pan who can lead us back to innocence with a corny joke or a childish jape.”
Judd Apatow isn’t the first person you’d think of to produce a movie from the guy who gave us the tenderly mournful indie drama Once, but that’s just what we got with 2014’s Begin Again — and it was pretty darn good, too. Admittedly, the movie offered something of a slicker spin on Once‘s story of two damaged souls connecting through music, but while there were similarities between the two films, they weren’t overwhelming. And as he had with his previous outing, Carney showed a tremendous flair for following the tentative, skipping beat of a developing relationship — not to mention a knack for assembling a fine cast (led here by Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, and Adam Levine) and a soundtrack worthy of repeat listens. “Carney deserves great credit for the movie’s clever, layered structure, and for resisting a few obvious plot turns along the way,” wrote Moira MacDonald for the Seattle Times. “Lightning doesn’t strike, but sunshine works, too.”
As the title of his latest feature suggests, Judd Apatow knows funny people — and he has a knack for working with his comedic leads at exactly the right time. After helping Steve Carell and Seth Rogen cross over to superstardom, Apatow added his magic producer’s touch to Jason Segel’s breakout feature, 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which deftly combined the elements we’ve come to expect from Apatow-branded comedies (painfully real humor, uncomfortable nudity) with utterly unique ingredients (singing vampire puppets). The results proved, once again, that if they’re assembled properly, movies that skirt the rim of lowbrow humor can squeeze a couple of hours’ worth of laughs out of even the most highfalutin critics. In his review, the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern echoed Sarah Marshall‘s many accolades when he wrote, “Halfway through I realized that I’d lost most of my standards, maybe under my seat, and was enjoying the erratic evolution of the nonsense.”
Judd Apatow seemed to come out of nowhere with 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, his directorial debut — but the reality, of course, is that his ascension was far more gradual; he landed his first associate producers’ credit with 1992’s Crossing the Bridge, and his name surfaced throughout the 1990s and early aughts in connection with projects both well-received (The Larry Sanders Show, Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared) and, well, not (Celtic Pride, The Cable Guy). But Apatow’s signature brand of comedy didn’t really reach full bloom until Virgin — and its awkward pauses, creative profanity (“Kelly Clarkson!”), and off-the-wall pop culture gags (Asia! Michael McDonald!) arrived at the perfect moment for a moviegoing public starved for smart adult humor. The result left Steve Carell with a new level of fame, made Judd Apatow a household name, and helped resurrect the R-rated comedy. It didn’t do too badly with critics, either; Bill Muller of the Arizona Republic was solidly in line with the sentiments of his peers when he wrote that Virgin was “a nostalgic, sentimental and wholly bawdy comedy that will make you laugh until your sides hurt.”
Apatow has proven himself a reliable incubator for young comics over the years, and although he can’t take credit for the rise of Amy Schumer, there’s no denying the sharp eye for talent he again displayed when he hitched his wagon to her star for the 2015 hit Trainwreck. Directing from a script written by Schumer, Apatow once again helped assemble a picture offering a distaff twist on the boundary-pushing comedy he’d turned into big business a decade before — and although the story was basically just a gender reversal on the same old story about a lovable lout who finds happiness by growing up and embracing commitment, the end result was charming and well-written enough for the vast majority of critics to forgive the familiarity. In fact, argued the New York Post’s Sara Stewart, “Trainwreck is a corrective to a lot of outdated clichés. It’s very funny and sweet and even a little weepy, and it has maybe the best scene ever filmed of dirty talk gone wrong.”
Having been a staunch supporter of Seth Rogen’s from their days together on the set of Freaks and Geeks, Apatow was already well acquainted with Rogen’s comedic talents even before they teamed up to make a ton of box office cash with Knocked Up — which doubtless had a lot to do with why Apatow was interested in producing Superbad, a high school loss-of-virginity flick in the grand tradition of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and American Pie. Superbad‘s premise, which teamed Jonah Hill and Michael Cera with newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse on a quest to secure booze for a house party, may have been embarrassingly familiar, but Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, nonetheless managed to squeeze fresh laughs (and plenty of ticket receipts) from it — not to mention kudos from critics like the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle, who wrote, “for pure laughs, for the experience of just sitting in a chair and breaking up every minute or so, Superbad is 2007’s most successful comedy.”
Schlubby dudes that inexplicably manage to score with babes have been a comedy staple for decades, on screens both small (Newhart, According to Jim) and silver (everything Woody Allen has ever done). Into that rich tradition stepped 2007’s Knocked Up, Apatow’s wildly successful directorial follow-up to The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which paired rumpled slacker Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) with gorgeous E! Network employee Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) for a look at what can happen when you head to a club, have a few too many drinks, and don’t give a lot of thought to who comes home with you. (This is Hollywood, of course, so what ends up happening is everlasting love, but not before a lot of funnier, more unpleasant consequences.) An enormous box office success, Knocked Up kickstarted Rogen’s career, cemented Apatow’s standing as a purveyor of fine adult comedies, and earned the adoration of critics such as Stephanie Zacharek of Salon, who called it “Hilarious from moment to moment, but leaving behind both a warm glow and a sting. This is a picture that refuses to fetishize either the ability to conceive or the significance of our place in the universe once we’ve done so.”
Apatow made a name for himself with crass humor largely brought to life by man-child protagonists, but the bros took a back seat for 2011’s Bridesmaids, in which director Paul Feig corralled a crew of hilarious ladies — including Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, and Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the script with Annie Mumolo) — to depict their bawdy misadventures during the days leading up to a wedding. After helping make the box office safe for R-rated comedy, Apatow helped prove audiences were just as willing to turn out for grown-up laughs of the female-driven variety — and nearly $300 million in receipts later, the end result looked like the beginning of a paradigm shift in Hollywood. “It’s not a movie for people looking for a decorous night at the movies,” admitted the Newark Star-Ledger’s Stephen Whitty. “It is a film, though, for folks eager for some good dirty jokes, some refreshingly real female characters – and, just maybe, a new comic voice.”
In defense of the blockbuster, Rotten Tomatoes offers you Best Summer Movies, a countdown of the highest-rated wide releases to hit theaters during the hot season since the release of Jaws in 1975. We’re using a weighted formula that takes the Tomatometer, the number of reviews, and the year of release into account. In order to qualify, each movie needs at least 20 reviews, and to have been released wide in the months between May and August. Enough talk: grab an extra large soda and a bucket of popcorn and dive into RT’s Best Summer Movies!
Saturday Night Live celebrates the premiere of its 40th season this weekend, and to celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of critically-acclaimed films featuring SNL alums. The movies listed here aren’t necessarily the best or the best-reviewed movies from these stars; rather, we wanted to give a sense of the range and versatility of the not-ready-for-primetime players. Featuring those who rose to prominence during their time on the show (Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Kristin Wiig) and a few you may have forgotten about (Robert Downey Jr., Julia Louis-Dreyfus), our list is a testament to SNL‘s continuing relevance as an incubator for some of the entertainment world’s brightest talents.
Full of humor and nostalgia, and featuring wry supporting turns by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, Adventureland is a sweet, insightful coming-of-age comedy that will resonate with teens and adults alike.
Wryly charming, impeccably acted, and ultimately quite bittersweet, Enough Said is a grown-up movie in the best possible way, and it offers a chance to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus play an intriguingly complex character.
Blessed by a brilliantly befuddled star turn from Chevy Chase (as well as strong supporting work from Randy Quaid and a young Anthony Michael Hall), National Lampoon’s Vacation is one of the more consistent — and thoroughly quotable — screwball comedies of the 1980s.
Smartly directed, brilliantly acted, and packed with endlessly quotable moments, This Is Spinal Tap is an all-time comedy classic, and represents a high water mark for stars Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer.
An oddball comedy that revels in its silliness and memorable catch phrases, Wayne’s World is also fondly regarded because of its endearing leads — played with infectious goofiness by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey.