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10 Best Movies of the Marx Brothers: The Legacy Collection

Funniest films of the Marx Brothers

Welcome to the Memorial Film Collection of the Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers may have passed away in the distant past, but thanks to an enthralling, good old invention called Film, they will never be really gone.

Whenever you feel like traveling back in time to meet the mustachioed ring-leader Groucho, the Italian-accented con man Chico, and the silent skirt-chaser Harpo, all you have to do, is to watch one (or more) of their movies.

But which Marx Brothers movies should you watch?
Well, if that’s your question for the day, you came to the right place. We’re just about to present the Top 10 Films of the Marx Brothers.

The Best Movies of the Marx Brothers is an episode of FrameTrek’s Hall of Legends: A mega-journey dedicated to identify the greatest artists of World Cinema, and their most significant works.


Meet the Marx Brothers, the Mastermind Group of Comedy

Best movies of the Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers are widely considered by critics, scholars and fans to be among the greatest and most influential comedians to ever take the stage or the screen. Their films spanned several decades and weaved complex plot lines with an ever-tangible sense of dark humor, nonsense and absurdity.

They were insanely popular on stage, screen, and radio, celebrated for their inventive attacks on the socially respectable and upon ordered society in general.

The core of the act was the three elder brothers: Chico, Harpo, and Groucho, each of whom developed a highly distinctive stage persona.

Groucho was the master of wit and verbal timing, and he delivered wisecracks and non sequiturs at a dizzying, relentless pace. His visual trademarks included greasepainted eyebrows and mustache, glasses, tailcoat, and ever-present cigar.

I drink to make other people interesting.

Groucho

Harpo played a mute, clad in rags and battered top hat, who communicated through gestures, whistles, horn-honking, and wild facial expressions. His character is that of pure, unbridled emotion and impulse, devilish and angelic in equal measure.

I am the most fortunate self-taught harpist and non-speaking actor who has ever lived.

Harpo

Chico adopted a bogus Italian accent for his character of a somewhat thick-headed shyster with a heart of gold.

How much money have I lost from gambling in the past ten years? Find out how much money Harpo’s got… that’s how much I’ve lost.

Chico

The Marx Brothers’ stage shows became popular just as motion pictures were evolving to “talkies”. They signed a contract with Paramount Pictures and embarked on their highly successful film career.

So yeah, there’s plenty to talk about, when it comes to the Marx Brothers, but we are here to concentrate on their Top 10 Films, so let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

After all, comedians are as good as their greatest achievements. Thus, the finest way to familiarize yourself with the Marx Brothers, is through watching their best films.

Ready? Buckle up then, and let the best movies of the Marx Brothers carry you to the hilarious lands of classic cinema!



Presenting the 10 Best Films of the Marx Brothers

Chronologically


The Cocoanuts (1929)

The Cocoanuts (1929), Best films of the Marx Brothers
Where to Watch?   More info

Story: During the Florida land boom, The Marx Brothers run a hotel, auction off some land, thwart a jewel robbery, and generally act like themselves. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ During the day, The Marx Brothers worked on this movie. At night, they were starring in “Animal Crackers” on the stage.
✪ When the Marx Brothers were shown the final cut of the film, they were so horrified they tried to buy the negative back so that they could burn it and prevent its release. Paramount wisely resisted.
✪ All paper used as props is soaking wet. This was done to prevent overloading the early sound equipment with paper-crinkling noise.

Why is The Cocoanuts among the best Marx Brothers films?
✓ This is the very first film to feature the Marx Brothers.
✓ It was a huge box office hit, becoming one of the most successful early talking films.


Animal Crackers (1930)

Animal Crackers (1930), Best Marx Brothers movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Story: Mayhem and zaniness ensue when a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of famed African explorer Captain Spaulding. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ The success of this film earned The Marx Brothers a lucrative contract on the London stage and an extension of their Hollywood contract.

Why is Animal Crackers among the best movies of the Marx Brothers?
✓ A critical and commercial success upon its initial release, with a significant, long lasting influence on pop culture.


Monkey Business (1931)

Monkey Business (1931), Best films of the Marx Brothers
Where to Watch?   More info

Story: On a transatlantic crossing, The Marx Brothers get up to their usual antics and manage to annoy just about everyone on board the ship. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ The first Marx Brothers movie with an original screenplay rather than an adaptation of one of their Broadway shows.
✪ During the first day of shooting, it’s reported that The Marx Brothers showed up in each other’s clothing and impersonated each other.

Why is Monkey Business among the best Marx Brothers films?
✓ It was a critical and box office success, and is considered one of the Marx Brothers’ best and funniest films.
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Laughs list.



Horse Feathers (1932)

Horse Feathers (1932), Best Marx Brothers movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Story: Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley University, accidentally hires bumblers Baravelli and Pinky to help his school win the big football game against the rival Darwin University. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ During filming, Chico Marx was in a car accident and shattered his kneecap. In some scenes, he can be seen limping.

Horse Feathers finds the Marx Brothers in fine madcap form, taking aim at an array of timely targets while serving up classic set pieces.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Horse Feathers among the top movies of the Marx Brothers?
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.


Duck Soup (1933)

Duck Soup (1933), Top films of the Marx Brothers
Where to Watch?   More info

Story: Rufus T. Firefly is named the dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of his wealthy backer Mrs. Teasdale, contending with two inept spies who can’t seem to keep straight which side they’re on. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Italian dictator Benito Mussolini banned the film from Italy because he thought it was a direct attack on him. When news of this reached The Marx Brothers, they were reportedly ecstatic.
✪ When asked what the political significance of this film was, Groucho Marx reportedly said, “What significance? We were just four Jews trying to get a laugh.”

Fueled by inspired silliness and blessed with some of the Marx brothers’ most brilliant work, Duck Soup is one of its — or any — era’s finest comedies.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Duck Soup among the top Marx Brothers movies?
✓ Widely considered among many critics and fans to be a masterpiece of comedy as well as the Marx Brothers’ finest film.
✓ Featured in Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list and included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


A Night at the Opera (1935)

A Night at the Opera (1935), Top Marx Brothers films
Where to Watch?   More info

Story: A sly business manager and the wacky friends of two opera singers in Italy help them achieve success in America while humiliating their stuffy and snobbish enemies. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Harpo Marx did many of his own stunts. He later said it was a silly thing for a 47-year-old non-stuntman to have done.

Why is A Night at the Opera among the greatest movies of the Marx Brothers?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Groucho Marx said that this was his favorite among his movies.



A Day at the Races (1937)

A Day at the Races (1937), Greatest films of the Marx Brothers
Where to Watch?   More info

Story: A veterinarian posing as a doctor teams with a singer and his friends as they struggle to save an upstate New York sanitarium with the help of a misfit racehorse. (IMDB)

Why is A Day at the Races among the greatest Marx Brothers movies?
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
✓ It was a major box office hit, well received by critics and audiences, becoming one of the most popular movies of the 1930s.


At the Circus (1939)

At the Circus (1939), Greatest Marx Brothers films
Where to Watch?   More info

Story: The Marx Brothers try to help the owner of a circus recover some stolen funds before he finds himself out of a job. (IMDB)

Why is At the Circus among the most popular movies of the Marx Brothers?
✓ Film Daily wrote, “The mad Marxmen have never been funnier, nor have they had a better story in which to cavort.”
✓ Ottawa Citizen described the film as “a veritable riot of hilarity” and “possibly the nuttiest of the films that Groucho, Chico and Harpo have perpetuated.”



Go West (1940)

Go West (1940), Most popular films of the Marx Brothers
Where to Watch?   More info

Story: The Marx Brothers come to the rescue in the Wild West when a young man, trying to settle an old family feud so he can marry the girl he loves, runs afoul of crooks. (IMDB)

Why is Go West among the most popular Marx Brothers movies?
✓ Variety wrote, “The three Marx Bros. ride a merry trail of laughs and broad burlesque in a speedy adventure through the sagebrush country,” adding that the film had “many fresh situations for the Marxian antics.”


A Night in Casablanca (1946)

A Night in Casablanca (1940), Most popular Marx Brothers films
Where to Watch?   More info

Story: The Marx Brothers are employed at a hotel in postwar Casablanca, where a ring of Nazis is trying to recover a cache of stolen treasure. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Hoping to take charge of their film careers, The Marx Brothers financed this movie themselves, under the heading of Loma Vista Films.



The end of the Marx Brothers’s story

Old Marx Brothers, Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Best comedies of the Marx Brothers

After the group essentially disbanded in 1950, Groucho went on to a successful second career in television. He also wrote several books, including the autobiographies Groucho and Me, and continued performing into his eighties.

Harpo and Chico were semiretired, but they made occasional appearances, together and separately, on television and in nightclubs.

In the 1974 Academy Awards telecast, Jack Lemmon presented the 84 year old Groucho with an honorary Academy Award to a standing ovation. The award honored Harpo and Chico as well (both deceased by then): “in recognition of his brilliant creativity and for the unequalled achievements of the Marx Brothers in the art of motion picture comedy”.

If you’d like to dig deeper into the story of the Marx Brothers, you may want to read their biography by Simon Louvish entitled Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers.


…end of the reel…

So there you have it: The 10 Greatest Films of the Marx Brothers

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

10 Best Movies of the Marx Brothers
Legacy of the Mastermind Group of Comedy
The Cocoanuts 1929
The Cocoanuts (1929)
Animal Crackers 1930
Animal Crackers (1930)
Monkey Business 1931
Monkey Business (1931)
Horse Feathers 1932
Horse Feathers (1932)
Duck Soup 1933
Duck Soup (1933)
A Night at the Opera 1935
A Night at the Opera (1935)
A Day at the Races 1937
A Day at the Races (1937)
At the Circus 1939
At the Circus (1939)
Go West 1940
Go West (1940)
A Night in Casablanca 1946
A Night in Casablanca (1946)
*Click any title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options

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