'The Hangover' and 17 other highest-grossing comedy movies of all … – Lifestyle Asia Singapore

The best comedy movies are known for the perfect comic timing, aced by some of the most prominent actors. The plot plays as big a role as a bit of intelligent marketing in making the films forever enjoyable. And such films are the ones that end up among the highest-grossing comedy movies of all time.
Comedy is not only one of the oldest genres in cinema, but it is also very wide. From the silent films of Charlie Chaplin in the early part of the 20th century to the Originals on the streaming platforms of the 21st century, the genre has continued to evolve and entertain millions of movie lovers.
But how do we define a comedy movie?
Comedy as a sole genre is rare in cinema today. Over the decades, comedy merged with other genres to create unique sub-genres such as action comedy, fantasy comedy and crime comedy. In fact, the highest-grossing comedy film is the fantasy subgenre.
Slapstick comedy is one of the earliest comedy sub-genres. Hong Kong legend Stephen Chow became one of the most bankable comedy actors of all time, thanks to the box office success of his slapstick comedy films such as God of Gamblers II (1991), Fight Back to School (1991), Shaolin Soccer (2001) and Kung Fu Hustle (2004).
The Hong Kong film industry also gave an impetus to what is known as martial arts comedy in the last quarter of the 21st century, with Jackie Chan building his illustrious career on the back of acclaimed movies of this genre.
Other comedies that are classified as sub-genres include bawdy comedies, such as The Hangover trilogy, and buddy comedies, such as the Men in Black franchise. Then there is horror comedy, which would include the likes of the Ghostbusters franchise.
Romantic comedy, on the other hand, is one of the most well-known hybrid genres. It includes some of the most successful comedies of all time, such as Pretty Woman (1990), Runaway Bride (1999), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and Crazy Rich Asians (2018), to name a few were released over the last three decades.
Many animation films, such as the Despicable Me franchise, are essentially comedies, but they are widely seen only as part of the animated genre and not sub-genres. Similarly, several superhero films have some form of comic humour in their stories. However, many believe that superhero films are an entirely different genre and are not part of hybrid sub-genres.
This is why films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or DC Extended Universe (DCEU) are simply described as superhero movies and are not counted among comedy films, even though humourous situations are aplenty in many of them, such as MCU’s Spider-Man movies and DCEU’s Suicide Squad films.
(Main image: © 2009 Warner Bros. Ent./IMDb; Featured image: IMDb)
All figures as per Box Office Mojo as on 3 January 2023
Directed by: Garry Marshall
Cast: Richard Gere, Julia Roberts
Release date: 23 March 1990
Worldwide gross: USD 463,406,268 (approx. RM 2,041,536,313)
Synopsis: Vivian (Roberts), an escort, is picked up by Edward (Gere), a wealthy businessman, for a weekend in Los Angeles. Over the course of their association, the two fall in love. However, in their way are societal hurdles.
Image credit: IMDb
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Mike Tyson
Release date: 5 June 2009
Worldwide gross: USD 469,328,079 (approx. RM 2,067,624,852)
Synopsis: When Doug (Bartha) goes missing after a night of wild bachelor party celebration in Los Angeles, his three friends, Phil Wenneck (Cooper), Stu Price (Helms), Alan Garner (Galifianakis), must find him at all cost. The problem is that they cannot recollect the events of the night and will have to retrace their steps to do so.
Image credit: © 2009 Warner Bros. Ent./IMDb
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara
Release date: 16 November 1990
Worldwide gross: USD 476,684,675 (approx. RM 2,100,034,335)
Synopsis: The first film of the Home Alone franchise follows Kevin McCallister (Culkin), an eight-year-old who is mistakenly left home alone during the Holiday season. Two burglars, Harry Lyme (Pesci) and Marv Murchins (Stern), try to take advantage of the situation, but the bratty McCallister decides to defend his home.
Image credit: © 1990 20th Century Fox/IMDb
Directed by: Tom Shadyac
Cast: Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Bell, Philip Baker Hall, Steve Carell
Release date: 23 May 2003
Worldwide gross: USD 484,592,874 (approx. RM 2,134,873,906)
Synopsis: Frustrated with the lack of progress in his career, Bruce Nolan (Carrey), a TV reporter, complains to God. He is then contacted by God (Freeman), who then gives Bruce the same powers the Almighty has and challenges him to do a better job with them. Bruce uses his newfound powers for selfish purposes, and chaos ensues.
Image credit: © 2003 Universal Pictures – All Rights Reserved/IMDb
Directed by: Jay Roach
Cast: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo
Release date: 22 December 2004
Worldwide gross: USD 522,657,936 (approx. RM 2,302,569,537)
Synopsis: Following the events of Meet the Parents (2000), Greg Focker (Stiller) is trying to adjust with Jack (De Niro) and Dina Byrnes (Danner), the parents of his fiancée, Pam (Polo). When Greg’s parents, Bernie Focker (Hoffman) and Roz Focker (Streisand) meet Jack and Dina, hilarity unfolds.
Image credit: © 2004 Universal Pictures. All rights reserved./IMDb
Directed by: Sicheng Chen
Cast: Wang Baoqiang, Liu Haoran, Natasha Liu Bordizzo
Release date: 16 February 2018
Worldwide gross: USD 544,185,156 (approx. RM 2,397,407,704)
Synopsis: Tang (Wang) and Qin (Liu) team up, once again, after the events of Detective Chinatown (2015). This time, they have to compete against a bunch of the world’s best detectives to solve a murder case  in New York’s Chinatown.
Image credit: IMDb
Directed by: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane (voice)
Release date: 29 June 2012
Worldwide gross: USD 549,368,315 (approx. RM 2,420,242,111)
Synopsis: As a boy, John Bennett (Wahlberg) makes a wish that his toy bear, Ted (MacFarlane), comes to life. The wish comes true and Bennett is stuck with a foul-mouthed Ted for the next 30 years. This further creates complications in his relationship with his girlfriend, Lori (Kunis).
Image credit: © 2012 – Universal Pictures/IMDb
Directed by: Stephen Chow
Cast: Deng Chao, Lin Yun, Zhang Yuqi, Show Lo
Release date: 8 February 2016
Worldwide gross: USD 553,810,228 (approx. RM 2,439,810,960)
Synopsis: Shan (Lin) is a mermaid who is sent to assassinate property tycoon Liu Xuan (Deng), as the latter’s development project threatens to destroy the marine world. However, Shan, who is posing as a human, falls in love with Xuan, who is unaware of her true identity.
Image credit: IMDb
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Cast: Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Dick Van Dyke, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, Rami Malek, Steve Coogan, Owen Wilson, Bill Cobbs
Release date: 22 December 2006
Worldwide gross: USD 574,481,229 (approx. RM 2,530,877,054)
Synopsis: Larry Daley (Stiller), a newly appointed night watchman at the Museum of Natural History, discovers that its exhibits come to life at night due to an ancient Egyptian curse. With the help of the exhibit of former President Teddy Roosevelt (Williams), Larry must prevent chaos.
Image credit: © TM2006 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX. All Rights Reserved./IMDb
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Jamie Chung
Release date: 26 May 2011
Worldwide gross: USD 586,764,305 (approx. RM 2,584,990,145)
Synopsis: In this sequel to The Hangover, the four friends — Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug — fly to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. A pre-wedding brunch ends up in a nightmarish situation, which leads them through Bangkok’s underbelly in search of Stu’s missing to-be brother-in-law.
Image credit: Melinda Sue Gordon – © 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures/IMDb
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D’Onofrio
Release date: 4 July 1997
Worldwide gross: USD 589,390,539 (approx. RM 2,596,560,020)
Synopsis: James Darrell Edwards III (Smith) is a cop who is recruited by a secret organisation whose agents, the Men in Black (MIB), are tasked with keeping extraterrestrial activities on earth hidden from the world. When an alien terrorist arrives on earth to create an intergalactic problem, James, who is now known as Agent J, and his partner Agent K (Jones) must do all they can to protect the universe.
Image credit: © 1997 – Columbia Pictures/IMDb
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement
Release date: 25 May 2012
Worldwide gross: USD 654,213,485 (approx. RM 2,882,137,508)
Synopsis: The third part of the MIB franchise revolves around a time-travelling alien Boris the Animal (Clement) who kills Agent K (Jones) in the past, thereby obliterating his existence in the present timeline. Agent J now travels back in time to 1969 to prevent Boris from killing the younger Agent K (Brolin) and save an impending invasion of earth.
Image credit: Wilson Webb – © 2011 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved./IMDb
Directed by: Chen Sicheng
Cast: Wang Baoqiang, Liu Haoran, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Masami Nagasawa, Tony Jaa, Tadanobu Asano, Tomokazu Miura
Release date: 12 February 2021
Worldwide gross: USD 686,257,563 (approx. RM 3,022,964,565)
Synopsis: The third film in the Detective Chinatown franchise follows Tang and Qin to Tokyo, as they are invited to solve a mysterious murder case. They are forced to team up with Hiroshi Noda (Tsumabuki), a detective who is also Qin’s biggest rival, to find the culprit who they think is someone hiding in plain sight.
Image credit: IMDb
Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd
Cast: Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Dominic Cooper
Release date: 18 July 2008
Worldwide gross: USD 694,476,782 (approx. RM 3,059,517,463)
Synopsis: Sophie (Seyfried) is a bride-to-be and the daughter of Donna (Streep), an independent hotelier in Greece. As Donna begins preparations for her daughter’s wedding, Sophie invites three men from her mother’s past to find out the identity of her real father.
Image credit: © 2008 – Universal Pictures/IMDb
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover
Release date: 13 December 2019
Worldwide gross: USD 801,693,929 (approx. RM 3,531,862,604)
Synopsis: Ruby Roundhouse (Gillan), Xander Bravestone (Johnson), Sheldon Oberon (Black) and Franklin Finbar (Hart) return in the sequel to the 2017 film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle to save the world of Jumanji from an evil warlord. However, confusion arises as their avatars switch to three new faces — Ming Fleetfoot (Awkwafina), Edward “Eddie” Gilpin (DeVito) and Milo Walker (Glover) — enter the game .
Image credit: Frank Masi – © Sony Pictures Entertainment/IMDb
Directed by: Jia Ling
Cast: Jia Ling, Zhang Xiaofei, Shen Teng, Chen He
Release date: 12 February 2021
Worldwide gross: USD 822,009,764 (approx. RM 3,621,364,015)
Synopsis: Hi, Mom, which tops the list of highest-grossing comedies in Chinese cinema, is about Jia Xiaoling (Jia Ling) who realises she has not been a good daughter after her mother passes away in an accident. Jia is suddenly transported back in time to 1981 from 2001 and meets the younger self of her mother, Li Huanying (Zhang). She decides to do anything to ensure that her mother gets a second chance at life and a better future.
Image credit: IMDb
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina
Release date: 20 December 2017
Worldwide gross: USD 995,339,117 (approx. RM 4,384,966,480)
Synopsis: The film, a sequel to Jumanji (1995), follows four friends who enter the world of Jumanji through a video game. Once in Jumanji, the four become avatar characters — Dr. Xander Bravestone (Johnson), Franklin Finbar (Hart), Sheldon Oberon (Black) and Ruby Roundhouse (Gillan). They must find a way to escape the game with the help of a pilot named Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough (Jonas), who had originally entered Jumanji 21 years ago.
Image credit: Frank Masi – © 2016 CTMG. All Rights Reserved./IMDb
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari
Release date: 24 May 2019
Worldwide gross: USD 1,050,693,953 (approx. RM 4,628,832,210)
Synopsis: Aladdin (Massoud) is a street urchin with a big heart. He finds a magic lamp in which lives a powerful and wisecracking genie (Smith) who can grant any wish he desires. Aladdin and the genie become friends and go on an adventure to prevent the evil Grand Vizier Jafar (Kenzari) from destroying the kingdom of the beautiful princess named Jasmine (Scott).
Image credit: © Disney Enterprises/IMDb
Manas enjoys reading detective fiction and writing about anything that interests him. When not doing either of the two, he checks Instagram for the latest posts by travellers. Winter is his favourite season and he can happily eat a bowl of noodles any time of the day.
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