Hear the phrase “period piece” and you’d be forgiven for expecting a stately, Merchant Ivory-style drama populated by genteel ladies and hat-doffing gents.
There’s none of that in The Favourite, director Yorgos Lanthimos‘s bawdy take on court intrigue in the reign of Queen Anne, but its stars Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are tipped for Oscar glory nonetheless.
It’s the latest comedy to cast a cursory glance at the history books, what with the recent success of Soviet farce The Death of Stalin, and Hallelujah!, Chris Addison‘s comedy about the life of Handel, set to start filming in early 2019.
As the historical comedy takes center stage once again, below are 11 of the best in the genre.
11. ¡Three Amigos! (1986)
Set in 1916 during the reign of silent movies, this comedy features Martin Short, Chevy Chase and Steve Martin as three down-on-their-luck actors mistaken for real gunslinging heroes by the besieged inhabitants of a Mexican village.
10. Love and Death (1975)
Boris Grushenko sounds and looks a lot like Woody Allen, but he is in fact a pacifist scholar living in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. The satire covers all things Russian, taking in everything from Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky novels to Sergei Eisenstein films.
9. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
Combine the genteel world of Jane Austen with bloodthirsty zombie killing, and what do you get? A zany mashup of comedy and horror, that’s what, with a post-Doctor Who Matt Smith being singled out in particular for his take on creepy, cake-loving clergyman Mr. Collins.
8. Bill (2015)
William Shakespeare provides the laughs once again, 400 years after failing to raise a titter with his joke about a hawk and a handsaw (nope, we’ve no idea either). This feature-length comedy comes from the brains behind Horrible Histories, the award-winning sketch show about the yuckiest bits of human history.
7. The General (1926)
Buster Keaton‘s greatest film is set during the Civil War, when a posse of Union spies steal a locomotive called The General. Cue pure narrow-gauge mayhem, as the stolen train encounters sleepers on the line, a whopping great trench mortar and that climactic moment where an entire bridge collapses.
6. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Coen Brothers adapt Homer‘s Odyssey into a country-and-western musical, because why the heck not? Set in rural Mississippi during the Great Depression, it tells the story of three convicts who escape from a chain gang and set out to retrieve a supposed treasure Everett (George Clooney) buried before the area is flooded to make a lake.
5. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
Alec Guinness plays the entire D’Ascoyne family – male and female – in this Ealing comedy set in Edwardian England. Like The Ladykillers (1955), another comedy from London’s famous Ealing Studios, this film takes a blacker-than-black comedy look at murder, and it’s got a lot of fans, including An American Werewolf in London director John Landis.
4. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) suffers a bout of writer’s block in this historical comedy written by Tom Stoppard, which also features historical figures Queen Elizabeth I (Dame Judi Dench), Richard Burbage (Martin Clunes), Edmund Tilney (Simon Callow), Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) and Christopher Marlowe (Rupert Everett). The cross-dressing Viola de Lessops (Gwyneth Paltrow) was sadly an invention, though.
3. The Gold Rush (1925)
It’s odd to think the gold rush in question only took place 30 years before this film was released. Charlie Chaplin transforms his most famous character, the Little Tramp, into a Lone Prospector wandering the Klondike in search of gold. In a nearly 100-year-old spoiler, he struggles to find any – but manages to mine comedy out of tragedy, starvation, and loneliness instead.
2. Blazing Saddles (1974)
Set on the American frontier of 1874, this film by Mel Brooks sends up Western films something rotten. Full of deliberate anachronisms, crude jokes and fourth wall breaks, its main target is the racism obscured by traditional Hollywood accounts of the American West, with the hero (Cleavon Little) being a black sheriff in an all-white town.
1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
The first real feature-length film from the Pythons, this medieval satire spawned countless jokes, from claims a missing limb is “just a flesh wound” and Gallic insults that liken somebody’s father to elderberries, to the knights who say “ni” and demand shrubberies.
Have we missed your favorite?Read More