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16 Different Types of Comedy Movies

16 Different Types of Comedy Movies

Except for those of us who commit suicide, I think it is everyone’s greatest wish to live for a very long time-well, it is mine. This being one of my life’s goals, I therefore thought it best to ask my great-granddad, Metty (aka Methuselah)  who will be 117 years old in November, the secret to living past a hundred. His answer?

“Watching, sonny, watching!” he sagaciously responded, a sly glint in his rock-hard eyes.

“Watching? Watching what exactly great-granddaddy?!” I hesitantly responded, curious to find out watching what exactly-but a little embarrassed as to what the answer would be.

“Why, sonny, movies of course…especially all types of comedy movies,” revealed the old-timer.

With that, great-granddaddy then launched into a coherent narration of what comedy is, what comedy movies are, the types of comedy movies he could still remember, and past examples of some, the benefits of watching comedy movies, and his all-time favorite comedy actors and actresses.

Related: 7 Types of Drama Movies

What comedy is?

Usually, comedy can come in the form of anything-a word, sentence, situation, story, picture, individual’s character, or action -that is intended to cause humor and make people laugh. Most comedy combines words, situations, stories, characters, and actions to cause humor.  

When said or acted, comedy emphasizes humourous words and individual performance. Consequently, you will find several popular stand-up comedians like Chris Rock, Steve Harvey, and Kevin Hart turning to act in comedy movies. 

That’s because when it comes to comedy, saying and doing witty or amusing things and actions, respectively, are more important than the story itself.

As with comedy generally, humor is also important to comedy movies.

What are comedy movies?

People laughing while watching a comedy movie in a theatre.

Moving pictures or movies have been around for a very long time. Comedy movies are among the oldest types. In fact, among the earliest silent movies was a comedy. 

Typically, comedy movies have a humorous or lighthearted script whose aim is to entertain viewers by making them laugh and feel happy. As such, you will find that most comedy movies have a happy ending-except for a few comedy films that, in some cases, also carry a social or political awareness message. 

Examples of movies with a social or political message are Wag the Dog and Man of the Year. This difference between comedy movies has given rise to different types of comedy movies.

In addition to a humorous script that usually has a happy ending, comedy movies are also characterized by their characters. More often than not,  these will comprise so-called nerds, jocks, “token minorities”, and friends.

Generally, in a comedy movie, the main character or characters more often than not find themselves confronting a strange situation which leads to humorous dialogue and events. Such extraordinary situations may arise from, for example, the exchange of gender roles, such as in Tootsie (1982).

The recreational use of drugs, such as in The Hangover (2009) or changing age role, such as in Big (1988). Or the fish-out of water situation of an individual placed in an unfamiliar structured environment  such as in Police Academy (1984).

Types of Comedy Movies and Their Examples

Comedy movies can be sorted into 16 different types of comedy movies. In order of arguable popularity, these are, romantic, screwball, gross-out,  parody or spoof, anarchic and black comedy.

1. Romantic Comedy

Romantic comedy titled "How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days".

Around even before Shakespeare, romantic comedies then and even in today’s movies center, and revolve around the relationship between man and woman.

These humorous comedies usually display and, to some extent, analyze the social interactions and sexual tensions between the couple involved.

They do so, by humorously looking at the difficulties arising from the characters’ search for a new relationship. Humor in such movies is habitually verbal or situation-based.

Brief History

Known as romantic comedy plays as far back as Shakespeare’s days, these types of movies are sometimes thought to have evolved from what was earlier known as screwball comedies during the 1930s and 1940s.

As such, some consider romantic comedy movies or “romcoms” (as they are sometimes called) a kind of later version of screwball comedy. However, as a literary genre, they pre-date screwball comedy movies.

Examples of memorable romantic movies over the years have included Pretty Woman (1990), When Harry Met Sally… (1989),  Sabrina (1954), and The Shop Around the Corner (1940), It’s a Wonderful World (1939). The Philadelphia Story (1940) starring Katharine Hepburn and, this century,  How to Lose a Guy in 10 days (2003) starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson.

2. Screwball Comedy

Movie poster of a Screwball comedy movie titled "The Awful Truth" released in 1937

When it was popular, this style of comedy combined farce, slapstick, and witty dialogue to achieve humor. It typically involves romantic situations often leading to a romantic breakup that later calls for remarriage or re-engagement.

At the core of the film is a sexually charged relationship in which the female antagonist challenges the masculinity of the central male character for dominance. This bid at role reversal is what is central to screwball comedy movies. As such, it is considered to satirize traditional love and gender roles.

Brief History

Popular in the 1930s and 40s, screwball comedy movies are among the pioneers of moving pictures. Bombshell (1933) starring Jean Harlow and  It Happened One Night (1934)  are considered the earliest screwball comedy movies.

Although scholars of film agree that screwball comedies classic period had effectively ended by 1942, there are still those who believe it lives on.

 Some examples of screwball comedy movies include My Man Godfrey (1936) and The Awful Truth (1937).

Right up there with screwball comedy movies are slapstick comedy movies.

3. Slapstick Comedy

Movie poster of the famous slapstick comedy movie "The Mask" starred by Jim Carrey.

When it comes to this comedy type, there is no avoiding  Charlie Chaplin- one of the pioneers of this genre of comedy during the silent era. Prioritizing actions of tripping, falling, practical jokes, bleeps, and blunders over dialogue, these movies used little or no conversation and have little to no plot and character development.

Brief History

Slapstick goes way back to stage plays and vaudeville. Before the coming of sound to film, they were on the rise. However, with sound, slapstick movies were produced.  This changed after World War Two when slapstick movies resurfaced in France produced by a Frenchman Jacques Tati.

They and spread to other parts of the world-It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) was produced in the US. Over the years, there has been a steady flow of slapstick for a particular audience. Today, they are obviously still very popular in some circles, with the latest slapstick comedy being Jackass Forever (2022).  

Examples of this category of comedy movies include Jim Carrey’s The Mask (1994) and Liar Liar (1997), Abbot and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955), The Three Stooges (2012) and The Great Race (1965).

4. Sitcoms

Famous sitcom series "Friends" poster.

Largely identified with television than the silver screen, this comedy type is actually short for situational comedy. It is characterized by a group of people that go through various humorous situations and misunderstandings that carry on from one episode to the next. Sitcoms are mainly recorded in front of a live studio audience.

Brief History

Originally performed as radio drama, sitcoms only migrated to television in the late 1940s. The first television sitcom is said to have been Pinwright’s Progress. Ten of its episodes were broadcast on the United Kingdom’s BBC between 1946 and 1947. Today, sitcoms are found mostly on television as one of its dominant narrative forms.

Examples of sitcoms include the ever-popular Friends, Different Strokes, Growing Pains, Everybody Hates Chris,  Seinfeld, Modern Family and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Talk of sitcoms reminds me of road comedy videos.

5. Road Trip Comedy

Roat trip comedy movie entitled "Road Trip".

As their name implies, this type of comedic movie mainly happens on the road. The movies are characterized by humorous situations as the characters go on a journey and meet various other characters along the way-the result is comedy.

Brief History

Possibly popularized by the 2000 movie Road Trip, such comedies have been on the rise over the last two decades.

Examples of this sub-genre are Road Trip (2000), College Road Trip (2008),  Dumb and Dumber (1997), and Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987).

6. Action Comedy

Famous action comedy starred by Jackie Chan titled "The Spy Next Door".

As their name suggests, this sub-genre of comedy movies is all about humorous action. In a nutshell, it blends action sequences with comic consequences. Featuring fast and furious action, such movies are, however mostly lighthearted, with loads of smashing cars and frantic chases which rarely involve death or serious injury.

Brief History

Apparently, the blend of comedy and action goes back as far as the swashbucklers of the ‘30s, whose stars combined wit and one-liners with a thrilling plot and daring stunts.

Popular in both Europe and the US during the 1970s, action-comedy was then arguably popularized by the likes of Bud Spencer, Burt Reynolds, and Clint Eastwood. In the 1980s, the genre was driven by Eddie Murphy when he stepped off the stand-up comedy stage for action-comedy roles.

Although initially quite tame, as action comedies moved into the 1990s  they took on a more violent streak. Viewers became more and more used to seeing horrible deaths on screen. Fiery deaths and emphatic shootings were increasingly used as punchlines.

Examples of action comedy movies such as, to some extent,  Charlie’s Angels (2000), starring Drew Barrymore, and many of Jackie Chan’s movies which include, Heart of Dragon (1985), Rumble in the Bronx (1995), First Strike, The Accidental Spy (2001), The Myth (2005) and  The Spy Next Door (2010).

Reference to Jackie Chan movies immediately reminds me of Buddy comedy movies.

7. Buddy Comedy

Rush Hour 3 movie poster starred by Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan.

This sub-genre of adventure and comedy films is so-called because it is typically about two individuals who, although they don’t always start as friends or buddies, eventually become friends.

The two people often come from different backgrounds or have different personalities, and they tend to misunderstand one another. As such, a buddy comedy film is considered common strata of action comedy, pairing odd couples in dangerous situations.

However, before they can go become friends, they have to go through some buddy molding series of humorous events.

Brief History

In the US, from the 1930s to the 1960s, popular male comedy duos like Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello often appeared in buddy films. In the early 1990s, the masculine figure in films became more sensitive, and some buddy films “contemplated a masculinity that required sensitive relations between men”.

The result was such films as The Fisher King (1991)  and The Shawshank Redemption (1994)  Over the years, there have been new approaches to the genre. For instance, The 1991 film Thelma & Louise featured a female pairing of Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon.

While in the 1990s and early 2000s saw the rise of biracial buddy films like White Men Can’t Jump (1992) and National Security (2003).

Examples of this type of comedy movie also include Shanghai Noon (2000), the Rush Hour 1-3 franchise,  Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004), and Lethal Weapon (1987).

8. Gross-out Comedy

Famous gross-out comedy American Pie movie poster.

Characteristic of what the world has become in recent years, these movies deal with sex and toilet humor. Gross-out comedy movies have been described as wilfully tasteless and experimentation with the downright disgusting.

Brief History

Gross-out films are, surprisingly, not of recent origin. Apparently, after the abolition of the film industry’s censorious Production Code and its replacement with the MPAA film rating system in the late 1960s, some filmmakers began to experiment with subversive film comedies.

They turned to explicitly deal with taboo subjects such as sex and other bodily functions. For instance, in Pink Flamingos (1972), the central character eats dog excrement.

As such films gained some box-office audience success, they inspired more mainstream films to follow their example. Alarmingly, gross-out comedy movies are aimed at the 18 to 24 age group.

Examples of notable gross-out comedy movies in this genre are There’s Something About Mary (1998), and American Pie (1999).

9. Parody Comedy Movies

Comedy parody movie Airplane movie poster.

A parody is a comedy film that uses mockery or sarcasm, stereotype, and the jeering of scenes from other films to create humor. Particularly, it mocks an entire genre of work or a specific piece of entertainment.

Filmmakers of such comedy movies assume that audiences understand overused words or clichés. As such, they seek to manipulate that knowledge to turn what would often be considered the norm or conventional on its head. Interestingly,  whether out of contempt or not, parodies are often created by imitating the style of many different films reassembled together.

Brief History

These types of movies were trendy in the 1970s and 1980s. Because of the fine line between them and spoofs, parody comedy movies are sometimes regarded as spoofs. The earliest parody was Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900). The latest parody movie is Turning Red (2022).

Unknown to most, although the subgenre is often overlooked by critics and filmmakers, parody films are commonly profitable at the box office.

Examples of parody comedy movies are Who framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), Airplane (1980), Blazing Saddles (1974), and Young Frankstein (1974).

10. Spoof Comedy Movies

Spoof comedy movie poster entitled "The Naked Gun"

Not to be confused with parody, this sub-genre is broader than the former.  Instead of mocking just one genre as a parody does, a spoof mocks more than just one genre. It typically targets specific pieces of art, entertainment, or collections of movies.

Brief History

In some circles, spoofs and parodies continue to be regarded as the same. As such, they are considered to have a parallel history.

Examples of spoof comedy movies include The Naked Gun and Not Another Teen Movie.

Talk of parody and spoofs naturally leads me to satirical comedy.

11. Satire

A satirical movie titled Idiocracy movie poster.

Satirical movies are often broader than spoofs. They mock human nature, vices, institutions, and other concepts that are not linked to any specific piece of art.

They are popular for speaking truth to power and will often be deployed to poke fun at and show up societal and leadership weaknesses-typically under the disguise of other genres including, but not limited to, comedies, dramas, and parodies. Consequently, a satirical film is usually considered controversial or taboo.

Brief History

Satirical comedy has been around since the 1930s. The latest recognizable satire was Don’t Look Up (2021).

Examples of satirical comedic movies are Idiocracy (2006),  In The Loop (1988),  Joe (1970), and Repo Man (1985).

12. Sketch Comedy

Sketch comedy movie The Whitest Kids U' Know movie poster.

It comprises a collection of different short, amusing situations-commonly between one to ten minutes. These are typically done by a group of comic actors or comedians.

It can include the use of spoofs, satire, parody, and many other types of sub-genres. Sketch comedy is used in variety shows, comedy talk shows, and some sitcoms. 

Brief History

Performed both on stage and in film, the earliest known sketch comedy movie is The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film (1959).

Other examples of sketches include INAPPropriate Comedy (2013), Chappelle’s Show (2004) and  The Whitest Kids U’ Know (2007), the Underground Comedy Movie (1999),

13. Mockumentary Comedy Videos

Famous mockumentary comedy video titled "The Office".

Docucomedies or mockumentaries, (mock being the operative word) employ the documentary format for satires, spoofs, and parodies. Instead of mocking this type of format, the format is used to mock by depicting fictional events as if they were part of a documentary.

Brief History

Interestingly, the earliest mockumentary was Land Without Bread back in 1933, a French-Spanish comedy produced by Luis Bunuel. More recently was Ivo Raza’s Reboot Camp (2020).

Examples of this type of comedy video include the hilarious   This Spinal Tap and The Office (2005)

Mention of The Office starring Steve Carrell immediately reminds me of Prank comedy movies.

14. Prank Comedy Videos

Nathan For You prank comedy videos example.

Scripted, yet unscripted at the same time, these types of comedy videos involve comedy actors and a mix of real-life participants who go through a planned event without them knowing.

Typically the comedic situations and events are coordinated beforehand. Their goal is to force foolishness or error from the participant so as to get a humorous reaction from the audience.

Brief History

Prank videos have since 2016 gained in popularity, reaching their height in 2022 with the television series Pranked.

Examples include Nathan For You (2013-2017), Borat (2006), Dirty Work (1998), and Prank (2013).

15. Anarchic

Monthy Python and the Holy Grail an anarchic movie, movie poster.

An anarchic comedy-type movie uses meaningless and ridiculous, stream-of-consciousness humor that satirizes or ridicules some kind of authority or authority figure.

Brief History

Anarchic movies are so-called because they are the result of a theatrical history of the staging of anarchic comedy.

Examples of anarchic movies include Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), National Lampoon’s Animal  House (1978), and Duck Soup (1933).

16. Dark Comedy Movies

The LadyKiller, a dark comedy movie starred with Tom Hanks.

Although sometimes called black comedy, you would be particularly mistaken if you think this is a comedy featuring Black people.

Here, this type of comedy refers to comedy films that ridicule or make fun of topics that are often considered too serious to joke about or treat humorously. For instance, such topics as death, murder, suicide, and war.

Brief History

Dark comedy movies became popular after World War 2 in the 1940s and 1950s. Like Satre’s philosophy of existentialism, dark comedy movies were considered and believed to have helped people poke fun at and so cope with the serious issues of war and death the war had familiarized them with.

Examples of dark or black comedy over the years have included, The Ladykillers (1955), Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), and Monsieur Verdoux (1947).  Dr. Strangelove or How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) by Stanley Kubrick is arguably one of the best movies ever produced in this sub-genre.

FAQs Relating to Types of Comedy Movies

Given great-granddaddy’s age and when next I would see him again, I took the opportunity to ask him some questions related to types of comedy movies. 

Q. What are the benefits of watching comedy movies?          

A. Watching comedy movies has countless benefits, such as relieving stress and lowering your blood pressure. If you watch comedy movies, they’ll help you to feel at ease by providing you with witty laughter that enhances your mental health. Comedies offer great entertainment, just like the entertainment you get from playing online casino games. Above all, you live longer.

Q. Great-granddaddy, who is your all-time favorite comedy actor or actress?

A. Bud Spencer

Q. Who are some of the highest-paid comedy movie actors?

A. Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and the famous, infamous Will Smith.