18 Underrated Movies Of Classic Comedians

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Vote up the most underappreciated movies from comedic icons.

Every cinematic decade has its own roster of great comedians. The comedy genre continually replenishes itself with fresh talent and voices that speak to successive generations. From Charlie Chaplin to Chevy Chase to Melissa McCarthy, the movies have always delivered actors capable of keeping audiences in stitches. 

Those actors all made their share of massive hits. If you want to see a bunch of them in their lesser-known or not-fully-appreciated projects, check out the following underrated films. Each of them shows their respective comedian doing high-quality work. These aren't their biggest box office triumphs, but they most definitely are worth watching if you've seen their classics but still need a good laugh.

Latest additions: Meatballs, Funny Farm, Only the Lonely

  • Before Caddyshack, Stripes, and Ghostbusters, there was Meatballs. This 1979 comedy marked Bill Murray's debut as a lead actor. He's Tripper Harrison, a wisecracking counselor at Camp North Star. During one wild summer, he romances another counselor, pulls pranks on the camp director, and helps a shy kid named Rudy Gerner (Chris Makepeace) come out of his shell.

    Director Ivan Reitman was smart enough to let Murray do his thing. Unsurprisingly, the comedian ad-libs and riffs like his life depends on it. The result is magic, especially during a climactic scene in which Tripper gives a motivational speech - which Murray improvised - to the assembled campers. The phrase “It just doesn't matter!” will become lodged in your head afterward. Meatballs is one of the best summer camp comedies ever made because it has a little heart to temper its outrageousness. 

    34 votes
  • Steve Martin tossed aside the “wild and crazy guy” image he was known for in the ‘70s and ’80s for Roxanne. The movie is a comic take on Cyrano de Bergerac, with the comedian playing C.D. Bales, a small-town fire chief with an unusually long nose. He falls in love with Roxanne Kowalski (Daryl Hannah), but she puts him in the friend zone. Instead, Roxanne finds herself attracted to fireman Chris McConnell (Rick Rossovich), a guy with a normal-sized nose but little intelligence. C.D. reluctantly agrees to help Chris, giving him the words to court the woman they both love.

    Despite a reputation for wacky comedy, Martin has always had an intellectual side. That comes out in Roxanne. It's got all the laughs you would expect from one of the actor's movies, yet they're in service of a sweet, thoughtful, emotionally astute story. The film also has an all-timer of a scene in which C.D. humiliates a bully by insulting his own nose far more brutally than the bully can. 

    29 votes
  • Back to School stars Rodney Dangerfield as wealthy businessman Thornton Melon. He's rich, obnoxious, and always ready for a good time. When his son Jason (Keith Gordon) threatens to drop out of college, Thornton enrolls in the same school to set a positive example. The hard-partying dad quickly becomes a college sensation, winning over the student body, infuriating the professors, and repeatedly upstaging his kid. He even becomes a star of the school diving team.

    The movie is quintessentially ‘80s, but it holds up exceptionally well because of how effectively it nails its particular aesthetic. Back to School has Sam Kinison as a venomous prof, a cameo from Kurt Vonnegut, and a frat party with Oingo Boingo as the house band. At the center of it all is Dangerfield, tossing out hilarious wisecracks left and right. The fun he’s obviously having is infectious. 

    15 votes
  • National Lampoon's Vacation and Christmas Vacation, Caddyshack, and Fletch are all ‘80s comedy classics starring Chevy Chase. Funny Farm deserves to be recognized similarly. It’s arguably his best film in a traditional sense. Chase stars as Andy Farmer, a sports writer who buys a country home hoping to write the “great American novel” there. While the town looks quaint, Andy and his wife Elizabeth (Madolyn Smith) discover that the locals aren't terribly welcoming toward city folk.

    Funny Farm was directed by George Roy Hill, the man who made Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. He emphasizes story and comedic tone, helping Chase give a three-dimensional performance that ranks among his best work. Culture clash comedies are a dime a dozen, but this one is so well made and so relentlessly funny that it stands apart from the pack. It's too bad Funny Farm had the misfortune of opening on the same day as the Tom Hanks movie Big in 1988. 

    28 votes
  • Captain Ron stars Martin Short as Martin Harvey, an office worker who inherits a sailboat from his deceased uncle. He wants to take his family on a vacation but doesn't know how to use the thing, so he hires Ron Rico (Kurt Russell) to be his captain. Despite his proclamations of being seaworthy, Ron is hiding a bunch of secrets that come out during the hilariously disastrous trip they take together.

    Short and Russell are an unlikely pairing, but it works. The actors are different enough in appearance and personality that they make a delightful odd couple. Lots of laughs emerge from their sometimes tense interactions. Captain Ron is perfect for those occasions when you want an unrepentantly silly comedy that will have you giggling nonstop. 

    30 votes
  • Only one person could credibly play Joe Friday in a movie remake of the TV series Dragnet, and that person is Dan Aykroyd. He has the ability to do the same kind of rapid-fire dialogue that Jack Webb made famous on the show, albeit in a comedic way. The film finds Friday and partner Pep Streebek (Tom Hanks) investigating a series of thefts. The trail leads to a mysterious pagan cult looking to sacrifice a virgin. 

    Much of the humor in Dragnet comes from the way Aykroyd spoofs Friday's dead-serious personality and strict adherence to the police code. Hanks provides a goofier edge to balance that out. Paring these two legends together leads to serious fun. As an added bonus, the actors collaborate on a rap song called “City of Crime” that plays over the end credits. 

    24 votes