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Best Comedies of the 1950s: From Harvey to Sabrina and beyond!

Best Comedies of the 1950s

Welcome to the Hilarious World of the 1950s

So you are one of those keen comedy lovers, who like to travel back in time to experience the humor of earlier cinematic eras. So are we!

The 1950s may be a thing of the distant past, but thanks to an enthralling, good old invention called Film, it will never be really gone.

Whenever you miss the fabulous fifties and feel like laughing your heart out, all you have to do, is watching one (or more) of its best comedies.

But which ones should you watch?
Well, if that’s the very question lurking in your mind right now, then you came to the right place. We’re just about to present 21 of the greatest comedy films of the 1950s. But before that, here’s a little teaser.


Teaser Ten List of the 1950s Comedies

The Teaser Ten is a truncated version of the full list, pitching the very best entries of the collection. Its a teaser, so you have to click the picture (or hover over it) to find out the title of each movie.

Some Like It Hot (1959), Best 1950s comedy films Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Best 1950s comedy movies Roman Holiday (1953), Best 1950s comedies Sabrina (1954), Best comedy movies of the 1950s Stalag 17 (1953), Best comedy films of the 1950s The Seven Year Itch (1955), Best comedies of the 1950s The Trouble with Harry (1955), Best 1950s comedy films Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Best 1950s comedy movies Funny Face (1957), Best 1950s comedies Harvey (1950), Best comedy movies of the 1950s

If you’re not a first timer, then you can probably guess most of these movies by their picture and you may want to dive a bit deeper to explore others comedy gems too. That’s exactly what we’re about to do, so keep on reading!

This collection is an episode of FrameTrek’s Best Comedies of All Time. A mega-journey dedicated to identify the funniest films of each cinematic era, chronologically. It starts with the Comedies of the Silent Era and wanders ahead decade-by-decade, all the way to our ever moving present.


So what was on-screen humor like in the 1950s?

Comedy in the 1950s ranges from slapstick to screwball, all the way to the introduction of modern age romantic films, musicals and even black comedies and more!

Thanks to the Motion Picture Production Code, comedies from the early 50s were usually squeaky-clean, restrained, courtship comedies, covering limited topics and themes with strict sexual views.

The introduction of sitcoms by the television companies did not help the comedy genre, on the contrary, they made it plummet.

As social and sexual tolerance grew throughout the decade, the film industry and comedies in particular tried to overcome the limitations of the code.

This resulted in the appearance of new social stratums and the introduction of stereotypes, such as the eligible bachelor who falls for and marries the witty girl after breaking many hearts.

Sexual comedies in the 1950s were successively enhanced by the emergence of the blonde bombshell and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe.

So yeah, there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to the comedies of the 1950s, but this article concentrates on the best 21 of them, so let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

After all, the finest way to explore the on-screen humor of an era is, is through watching its funniest films.

Ready? Buckle up then, and let the best comedies of the 1950s make you laugh out loud!



Revealing the Top 21 Comedies of the 1950s

Chronologically


Harvey (1950)

Harvey (1950), James Stewart, Best comedy films of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Comedy-drama film starring James Stewart.

Story: Due to his insistence that he has an invisible six foot-tall rabbit for a best friend, a whimsical middle-aged man is thought by his family to be insane – but he may be wiser than anyone knows. (IMDB)

Why is Harvey among the top comedy movies of the 1950s?
Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
✓ The movie received positive reviews from audiences and critics, who praised the film’s overall tone, Henry Koster’s direction and the acting performances of James Stewart and Josephine Hull.


The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Best comedies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Comedy crime film starring Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway.

Story: A meek bank clerk who oversees the shipment of bullion joins with an eccentric neighbor to steal gold bars and smuggle them out of the country as miniature Eiffel Towers. (IMDB)

Fiendishly funny and clever, The Lavender Hill Mob is a top hat Ealing Studios effort.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Lavender Hill Mob among the top comedy films of the 1950s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ The British Film Institute ranked it as the 17th greatest British film of all time.
✓ Selected by the Vatican in the “art” category of its list of forty-five “great films”.


Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Gene Kelly, Top comedy movies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Musical romantic comedy film directed and choreographed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, starring KellyDonald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds.

Story: A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound. (IMDB)

Clever, incisive, and funny, Singin’ in the Rain is a masterpiece of the classical Hollywood musical.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Singin’ in the Rain among the best comedy films of the 1950s?
✓ The American Film Institute ranked this as the #5 Greatest Movie of All Time and voted it the #1 movie musical in American film history.
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Selected into the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”


Monkey Business (1952)

Monkey Business (1952), Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe, Top comedy films of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe.

Story: A chemist finds his personal and professional life turned upside down when one of his chimpanzees finds the fountain of youth. (IMDB)

Why is Monkey Business among the greatest comedy movies of the 1950s?
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1950s, now considered a screwball comedy classic.



Roman Holiday (1953)

Roman Holiday (1953), William Wyler, Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Top comedies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film directed and produced by William Wyler, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.

Story: A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome. (IMDB)

With Audrey Hepburn luminous in her American debut, Roman Holiday is as funny as it is beautiful, and sets the standard for the modern romantic comedy.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Roman Holiday among the top comedies of the 1950s?
✓  Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Ranked #4 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Romantic Comedy”.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Stalag 17 (1953)

Stalag 17 (1953), Billy Wilder, Greatest comedy movies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Comedy-drama war film directed by Billy Wilder.

Story: When two escaping American World War II prisoners are killed, the German P.O.W. camp barracks black marketeer, J.J. Sefton, is suspected of being an informer. (IMDB)

Stalag 17 survives the jump from stage to screen with flying colors, thanks to Billy Wilder’s typically sterling direction and a darkly funny script.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Stalag 17 among the best comedies of the 1950s?
✓ A huge critical and commercial success, and one of the most popular movies of the 1950s.
✓ Widely considered to be among the best World War II Prisoner of War films of all time.


How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Marilyn Monroe, Greatest comedy films of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film starring Marilyn Monroe.

Story: Three women set out to find eligible millionaires to marry, but find true love in the process. (IMDB)

Why is How to Marry a Millionaire among the greatest comedy films of the 1950s?
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1950s, a huge box office success, now considered a true classic.
✓ A technological pioneer: It was one of the first films to have its score recorded in stereo.


Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Howard Hawks, Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Greatest comedies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Musical comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe.

Story: Showgirls Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw travel to Paris, pursued by a private detective hired by the suspicious father of Lorelei’s fiancé, as well as a rich, enamored old man and many other doting admirers. (IMDB)

Anchored by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell’s sparkling magnetism, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a delightfully entertaining 1950s musical.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes among the greatest comedies of the 1950s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ It was a critical and commercial success, with critics and audiences praising the performances of both Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, whose characters have entered pop culture.



I Vitelloni (1953)

I Vitelloni (1953), Federico Fellini, Most popular comedy movies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Italian comedy-drama directed by Federico Fellini.

Story: A sensitive character study of five young men trapped in a small town on the Adriatic. Their discontentment and restlessness lead them into a variety of activities, not all of them admirable. (IMDB)

Why is I Vitelloni among the most popular comedy movies of the 1950s?
✓ Recipient of the Venice Film Festival Silver Lion.
✓ Recognized as a pivotal work in the director’s artistic evolution, the film has distinct autobiographical elements that mirror important societal changes in 1950s Italy.


Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina (1954), Billy Wilder, Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, Most popular comedy films of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy-drama film directed by Billy Wilder, starring Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn.

Story: A playboy becomes interested in the daughter of his family’s chauffeur, but it’s his more serious brother who would be the better man for her. (IMDB)

With its humorous script and its stars’ immense charm, Sabrina remains a resonant romantic gem.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Sabrina among the best 1950s comedy films?
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ A critical and commercial success, one of the most popular movies of the 1950s, now considered a true classic.


The Seven Year Itch (1955)

The Seven Year Itch (1955), Billy Wilder, Marilyn Monroe, Most popular comedies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film directed by Billy Wilder and starring Marilyn Monroe.

Story: When his family goes away for the summer, a hitherto faithful husband with an overactive imagination is tempted by a beautiful neighbor. (IMDB)

Why is The Seven Year Itch among the most popular comedies of the 1950s?
✓ Included in the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Years…100 Laughs.
✓ It contains one of the most notable images of the 20th century: Monroe standing on a subway grate as her white dress is blown upwards by a passing train.


The Trouble with Harry (1955)

The Trouble with Harry (1955), Alfred Hitchcock, Best 1950s comedy films
Where to Watch?   More info

Technicolor black comedy film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Story: The trouble with Harry is that he is dead and, while no one really minds, everyone feels responsible. After Harry’s body is found in the woods, several locals must determine not only how and why he was killed but what to do with the body. (IMDB)

Why is The Trouble with Harry among the most popular comedy films of the 1950s?
This was one of Hitchcock’s few true comedies and also one of his favorites of all his movies.
✓ An excellent example of black comedy, now considered a true classic.



The Ladykillers (1955)

The Ladykillers (1955), Alec Guinness,  Best 1950s comedy movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Black comedy crime film starring Alec Guinness.

Story: A gang planning a ‘job’ find themselves living with a little old lady, who thinks they are musicians. When the gang set out to kill Mrs Wilberforce, they run into one problem after another, and they get what they deserve. (IMDB)

The Ladykillers is a macabre slow-burn with quirky performances of even quirkier characters.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Ladykillers among the best 1950s comedy movies?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Total Film magazine voted it the 36th greatest comedy film of all time, and The Guardian labelled it the 5th greatest comedy of all time.


Mister Roberts (1955)

Mister Roberts (1955), John Ford, Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon, Best 1950s comedies
Where to Watch?   More info

Comedy-drama film directed by John Ford, starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell and Jack Lemmon.

Story: In the waning days of World War II, the United States Navy cargo ship Reluctant and her crew are stationed in the “backwater” areas of the Pacific Ocean. Trouble ensues when the crew members are granted liberty. (IMDB)

Why is Mister Roberts among the best 1950s comedies?
✓ One of the most popular and most successful movies of the 1950s.
✓ The film was nominated for the three Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Sound, Recording, with Jack Lemmon winning the award for Best Supporting Actor.


High Society (1956)

High Society (1956), Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Best comedy movies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic musical comedy film starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

Story: With socialite Tracy Lord about to remarry, her ex-husband – with the help of a sympathetic reporter – has 48 hours to convince her that she really still loves him. (IMDB)

Why is High Society among the best comedy movies of the 1950s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ One of the most popular and most successful movies of the 1950s.


Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Best comedy films of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Epic adventure-comedy film.

Story: A Victorian Englishman bets that with the new steamships and railways he can circumnavigate the globe in eighty days. (IMDB)

It’s undeniably shallow, but its cheerful lack of pretense — as well as its grand scale and star-stuffed cast — help make Around the World in 80 Days charmingly light-hearted entertainment.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Around the World in 80 Days among the best comedy films of the 1950s?
✓ The film was nominated for eight Oscars, winning five including the Best Picture of the Year Academy Award.
✓ Generally considered to be the single largest movie project ever undertaken in Hollywood at the time. Filming was completed in seventy-five shooting days.



Funny Face (1957)

Funny Face (1957), Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Best comedies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Musical romantic comedy film starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire.

Story: An impromptu fashion shoot at a book store brings about a new fashion model discovery in the shop clerk. (IMDB)

Why is Funny Face among the best comedies of the 1950s?
✓ The National Board of Review gave the film Special Citation award for the photographic innovations.
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1950s, now considered a true classic.


Love in the Afternoon (1957)

Love in the Afternoon (1957), Billy Wilder, Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, Best 1950s comedy films
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film directed by Billy Wilder, starring Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn.

Story: A middle-aged playboy becomes fascinated by the daughter of a private detective who has been hired to entrap him with the wife of a client. (IMDB)

Why is Love in the Afternoon among the best 1950s comedy films?
✓ The screenwriters of the film won the award for “Best American Comedy” at the 1957 Writers Guild of America Awards.
✓ Despite being poorly received in its time, over the years the movie gained significant praise and its now considered a timeless classic.


Mon Oncle (1958)

Mon Oncle (1958), Jacques Tati, Best 1950s comedy movies
Where to Watch?   More info

French comedy film written, produced, directed by and starring Jacques Tati.

Story: Monsieur Hulot visits the technology-driven world of his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, but he can’t quite fit into the surroundings. (IMDB)

Jacques Tati’s most accessible film is a paean to gentle values and observing the small details of life.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Mon oncle among the best 1950s comedy movies?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
Won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a Special Prize at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Language Film.


Some Like It Hot (1959)

Some Like It Hot (1959), Billy Wilder, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Best 1950s comedies
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film directed and produced by Billy Wilder, starring Marilyn MonroeTony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon.

Story: When two male musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all-female band disguised as women, but further complications set in. (IMDB)

Some Like It Hot: A spry, quick-witted farce that never drags.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Some Like It Hot among the best 1950s comedies?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Voted as the top comedy film by the American Film Institute on their list on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs.
Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Pillow Talk (1959)

Pillow Talk (1959), Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Best comedy movies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film in starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day.

Story: An interior decorator and a playboy songwriter share a telephone party line and size each other up. (IMDB)

Why is Pillow Talk among the best comedy movies of the 1950s?
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1950s, now considered a comedy classic.



…end of the reel…

So there you have it: The 21 Greatest Comedies of the 1950s

If you want to take a look at the movies listed above, without all that info between the titles, here’s a quick recap:

Top 21 Comedies of the 1950s
Harvey 1950
Harvey (1950)
The Lavender Hill Mob 1951
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
Singin’ in the Rain 1952
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Monkey Business 1952
Monkey Business (1952)
Roman Holiday 1953
Roman Holiday (1953)
Stalag 17 1953
Stalag 17 (1953)
How to Marry a Millionaire 1953
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 1953
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
I Vitelloni 1953
I Vitelloni (1953)
Sabrina 1954
Sabrina (1954)
The Seven Year Itch 1955
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
The Trouble with Harry 1955
The Trouble with Harry (1955)
The Ladykillers 1955
The Ladykillers (1955)
Mister Roberts 1955
Mister Roberts (1955)
High Society 1956
High Society (1956)
Around the World in 80 Days 1956
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Funny Face 1957
Funny Face (1957)
Love in the Afternoon 1957
Love in the Afternoon (1957)
Mon oncle 1958
Mon oncle (1958)
*Part of the Collection: Monsieur Hulot

Some Like It Hot 1959
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Pillow Talk 1959
Pillow Talk (1959)
*Click any title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options

Ready for another journey?

Explore the best comedies of other decades too!

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