The 1970s were some of the golden years in Hollywood, a time of revolution and inspiration. In fact, this time period in Tinseltown was so influential—and the films so new and original—that the era garnered a new nickname: New Hollywood.
The comedy movies that came out during the 1970s exemplified this fresh identity with stories and characters that were as funny as they were bizarre. They would go on to shape future films—not just comedy but all films—in the 1980s, 1990s, and beyond.
Here are my picks for the best comedy movies of the 1970s. Some of these films are farcical, others sit in line with traditional Hollywood narratives, but they're all downright hilarious!
10. Slap Shot (1977)
Directed by George Roy Hill
Starring Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean, Strother Martin
Comedy, Drama, Sport (2h 3m)
One of the best sports comedy movies of all time, Slap Shot is a pioneering work that influenced a whole genre of comedies. For that reason, it has to be on our list of best 1970s comedies.
Starring Paul Newman at his cool, smooth-talking best, Slap Shot centers on a man who attempts to bring his hockey team up to scratch by employing two thugs as part of his team. His hope? That they'll win over fans with the fights they start.
Slap Shot was so funny that it went on to inspire all kinds of iconic films in this subgenre, including Happy Gilmore (1996), Semi-Pro (2007), and Goon (2011), making it worth a watch for this reason alone.
9. Love and Death (1975)
Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Georges Adet
Comedy, War (1h 25m)
Back in 1975, Woody Allen delivered one of his first—but certainly not his last—intellectual comedies in Love and Death.
Set during the Napoleonic era, Love and Death is about a man and his wife who become embroiled in a serious (but deeply satirical) talk about philosophical subjects, often with hilarious conclusions.
Starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in one of their many on-screen partnerships, Love and Death is riotously funny—if you like Allen's very particular sense of humor, that is.
8. Paper Moon (1973)
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Starring Ryan O'Neal, Tatum O'Neal, Madeline Kahn
Comedy, Crime, Drama (1h 42m)
Perhaps the most heartfelt film on this list, Paper Moon finds director Peter Bogdanovich in prime form.
Set during the Depression era, Paper Moon follows a man who's trying to return a young girl to her aunt's home in Missouri after her mother dies. What follows is a road trip that'll make you tear up!
Starring real-life father-and-daughter duo Ryan O'Neal and Tatum O'Neal, Paper Moon features some unexpectedly breathtaking performances, particularly from the young Tatum.
In fact, Tatum's performance so impressed audiences that she went on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at only 10 years old, making her the youngest person ever to win the award.
7. Blazing Saddles (1974)
Directed by Mel Brooks
Starring Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens
Comedy, Western (1h 33m)
Written and directed by Mel Brooks, Blazing Saddles is a demonstration of his undeniable talent and impeccable eye in a genre that would never be the same again after his touch: the Western.
A film like no other, Blazing Saddles is an unashamed mockery, ridicule, and satire of the Western genre and all that it stood for. The result is one of the funniest movies ever made in Hollywood history.
For this reason alone, Blazing Saddles will always deserve a spot on any list of the best 70s comedy movies. Considering how it went on to influence other spoofs, this film is also historically important.
6. American Graffiti (1973)
Directed by George Lucas
Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat
Comedy, Drama (1h 50m)
Several years before George Lucas wrote and directed Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), he directed the far-lesser-known film American Graffiti, a small-town story about kids finishing school.
They all have big plans, of course, and while driving around on one fateful night out on the town, they come to a better understanding of themselves and what their futures have in store for them.
Starring an immense cast of Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and Harrison Ford in his first role, American Graffiti is a sensational film and easily the best coming-of-age comedy of the 1970s.
5. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
Starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle
Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy (1h 31m)
Monty Python, the most influential British comedy troupe in modern history, busted everyone's guts when they came out with their directorial debut in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
In one of the most irreverent recounts of history, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a satirized take on King Arthur's quest to find the Holy Grail. Along this side-splitting journey, he and his band of knights encounter all manner of horrors.
These horrors include a maimed but undeterred knight in black armor, a castle filled with alluring but untrustworthy young maidens, and strange knights who say "Ni!"
Shocking for its time, Monty Python and the Holy Grail was so original and so funny that it launched the Monty Python crew to global acclaim. In doing so, this film introduced American audiences to a whole new kind of surreal, postmodernist humor from Britain.
4. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Directed by Jim Sharman
Starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick
Comedy, Horror, Musical (1h 40m)
Is The Rocky Horror Picture Show the best musical ever put to film? Some might disagree, but it's certainly in the running. Is it among the funniest comedies of the 1970s? Without a doubt!
From its movie poster to its movie trailer to its very first scene, The Rocky Horror Picture Show feels like you're walking through someone else's fever dream—in all the best ways.
This romp centers on a young couple who are stranded in the middle of nowhere after their car breaks down. They walk to a nearby castle and discover all manner of strange characters inside.
Starring Tim Curry in arguably his best role, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a real psychedelic trip filled with sex, haughty personalities, and a whole bunch of great musical numbers.
3. Young Frankenstein (1974)
Directed by Mel Brooks
Starring Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman
Comedy (1h 46m)
Director Mel Brooks appears once again on this list with another classic comedy film from the 1970s: Young Frankenstein (which was released in the same year as Blazing Saddles, no less).
Much like Blazing Saddles, the plot of Young Frankenstein is relatively simple. The genius of this film rests in Brooks's creative direction and approach to filming, which elevates it into a masterpiece.
After years of living in shame due to his grandfather's reputation as a mad scientist, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) inherits his father's castle after he dies.
Upon paying a visit to the mansion, however, he discovers a book that's filled with the unfinished experiments of a madman...
Starring Gene Wilder in prime form along with Madeline Kahn in a standout performance, Young Frankenstein is proof that Mel Brooks's hilarious comedy movies from the 70s weren't flukes.
2. Annie Hall (1977)
Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts
Comedy, Romance (1h 33m)
Woody Allen has so many fantastic films in his résumé, and we've already seen Love and Death mentioned above. But he gave us an even better film in the 70s: Annie Hall.
A philosophical comedy if there ever was one, Annie Hall reinvented the rom-com long before When Harry Met Sally... came along in 1989. And unlike Rob Reiner's classic, Annie Hall broke filmmaking tropes in a way that audiences never could've anticipated at the time.
In Annie Hall, Woody Allen surprised everyone with techniques like breaking the fourth wall, speaking directly to viewers, employing a nonlinear plot, and making the protagonist a spineless and neurotic character like Alvy Singer.
On top of all that, Annie Hall tackled philosophical topics of life and offered intellectual ramblings on those very topics, all while infusing them with humor and levity.
Annie Hall is, without question, the best film in Woody Allen's filmography. More than that, it's among the best romantic comedies ever made and the funniest comedy films of the 1970s.
1. Life of Brian (1979)
Directed by Terry Jones
Starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin
Comedy (1h 34m)
"He's not the messiah! He's a very naughty boy!"
Life of Brian (also known as Monty Python's Life of Brian) is packed with so many quotable lines, making it one of the most quotable films in history and a memorable comedy for the ages.
Intelligent, witty, and silly, Life of Brian is a masterpiece of comedy cinema from Britain's funniest sketch comedy troupe.
The film is set around the birth and life of Jesus Christ, but he's not the one we're interested in. Instead, we focus on Brian, a boy who was born on the exact same day and just so happens to live an exciting life...
...as a member of a revolutionary group, hailed as a prophet against his will, eventually abducted by aliens? We could go on.
The amount of absurdity in Life of Brian's 94-minute runtime is incredible, and it all serves to lampoon modern-day politics, religion, and interpretations of history.
With Life of Brian, Monty Python created a film that's greater than the sum of its parts. It's undoubtedly the best comedy movie of the 1970s and it holds up today as one of cinema's funniest films.