Five Favorite Films

Jimmy Fallon's Five Favorite Comedy Films

The Late Night host throws praise at some classics (Airplane!), a modern favorite, and absolutely loses his s--t over a hilarious documentary.

by | May 14, 2019 | Comments

This year, Jimmy Fallon marks five years as host of The Tonight Show, arguably the most coveted regular hosting gig on the planet. He and his team have been celebrating the milestone with some of the series’ most ambitious episodes ever, episodes that mean a ton to the comedian personally. In February, on the show’s fifth anniversary, Fallon paid tribute to one of his own comedy inspirations, Garry Shandling, by surprising viewers with a faux behind-the-scenes documentary episode, a la The Larry Sanders Show. (A BTS moment in which he’s yelling at teenage animal expert Bob Irwin, son of Steve, is gold.) In January, he kicked off the year by taking a crew to Puerto Rico and shooting an episode on the island, which is still working through the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Fallon says he was inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s staging of Hamilton in San Juan, and at a recent Q&A at the Writers’ Guild of America, described his Puerto Rico episode “one of my proudest moments of anything we’ve ever done on any show I’ve ever been a part of.”

Those who first saw Fallon when he was part of the Saturday Night Live cast during some of the show’s best years – he crossed over with Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Tracy Morgan – would likely be unsurprised to now see the comedian thriving in late night. He stood out back then because he was quick, armed with a flotilla of impressions, and, as a bonus, could sing. Today, he puts those skills to work nightly on The Tonight Show. Fallon says he developed those skills watching and learning from comedy’s greats. As he gears up to close out his fifth year, and come back for a sixth, seventh, and eighth – he is contracted until at least 2021 – Fallon sat down with Rotten Tomatoes to pay tribute to some of those legendswith this list of his five favorite comedy movies ever. (Note, he was quick to caveat that he has so many more than five.)

Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) 87%

My personal favorite comedy growing up, and something that really influenced me, was Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, directed by Tim Burton. I love this movie because Paul Reubens is just brilliant; [he] plays this character Pee-wee Herman, and the creativity that’s put into this movie, it was like, what else can you add to make this movie [funnier]? Just the opening shot of him waking up, and there’s like a Rube Goldberg contraption of how he makes toast and breakfast in the morning; he drops a ping-pong ball, it hits a candle that turns on and burns a rope that breaks and swings a hammer… It was so creative. I remember being a kid, I watched that movie probably 300 times. I memorized it. I used to do the voice; I had to stop doing it.

It’s a movie, to me, about how far can you dream. Someone steals his bike, and he tries to get his bike back, and through this adventure he ends up pitching his story to a movie studio, which makes his adventure into a feature film at the end. It’s just great that he thought this movie up and wrote it, with Phil Hartman, who was one of my favorites from Saturday Night Live. It’s for kids, but it’s for adults. He’s just such a good actor in this movie – Paul Reubens should have gotten an Oscar for this.

Bridesmaids (2011) 90%

Bridesmaids: If you have not seen it yet then you probably don’t live on Earth. But if you do live on Earth and haven’t seen it you should check it out. It is one of the more modern of the comedy choices I picked, because if you want to see genius comedy – I mean genius, brilliant comedy – Kristen Wiig will just teach you a lesson, and show you how to be funny. She’s unbelievable in this movie. The story is relatable. If you didn’t think Kristen could be funnier, then get ready for Melissa McCarthy, because she hits you over the head with a cinder block of comedy. It is unbelievably well-written, well-acted, well-directed…one of my faves.

Airplane! (1980) 97%

This was spoofing these airport movies that were big in the ’70s. When you watch, there are so many quotable scenes, but one is [where] there’s a little boy who comes up to the cockpit of the airplane, and Peter Graves is the pilot, and he goes, “You ever been in a cockpit before, Joey?” And he goes, “No, sir, I’ve never been on a plane before.” He goes, “You ever seen a grown man naked?” And the kid acts perfectly, acts like he didn’t hear what he said, really, and then the questions get crazier. He’s like, “Joey, you ever been in a Turkish prison?” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the copilot. It is just so well-acted. There are so many jokes – it is jam-packed with jokes. You won’t ever forget Airplane!; [it’s] one of the best comedies I’ve ever seen in my life.

American Movie (1999) 94%

This is a comedy for you movie nerds (but that’s probably why you’re on Rotten Tomatoes anyway, because you are a film nerd). This movie is called American Movie, and it’s a documentary comedy. Man, oh man, I remember seeing this film with Horatio Sanz: we were in the theater, and we were crying so hard from laughing, we were hugging each other and punching each other because we were laughing too hard. It’s about a man trying to make a horror movie. He calls it Coveen, and it’s about a coven, but he doesn’t like the way “coven” rhymes with “oven,” that doesn’t make sense, so he calls it, mispronounces the title for his film, and calls it Cove-en.

He tries to get his dad to act in the movie, and his dad is going like, “You have something to live for. Jesus told me so.” And he’s like, “All right, Dad, do it again, but your teeth are falling out.” And he goes, “Cole, you have something to live for. Jesus told me so.” And he goes, “Geez, I hear his teeth clickety clacking in the audio, it’s unusable.” I mean it is crying funny.

He takes a dentist, a local dentist [who] wants to be an actor, and he’s ramming his head into a closet that he was supposed to have scored so that it easily breaks away, but he forgets to score the wood so he’s actually ramming a human’s head into a wooden cabinet. [The man] is screaming, and he’s ramming this poor man’s head into the thing. So cut, and the guy’s holding his head. He’s like, “Oh, my gosh.” He’s like “Uh, man, I’m sorry, I forgot to cut that board.”

It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It will make you cry laughing. If you love filmmaking, you will appreciate this. The two guys, the two stars of the movie, are true stars.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

READ: 140 Essential Comedy Movies To Watch Right Now

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon airs weeknights on NBC

Tag Cloud

Awards Tour Watching Series CBS All Access Mary Poppins Returns crime thriller miniseries The Arrangement 24 frames festivals Disney Channel A&E Ovation supernatural dragons Britbox SDCC Music FX theme song El Rey romance Premiere Dates NBC CNN PaleyFest MSNBC DC Universe cats TCA TBS Awards cults Mystery adventure Acorn TV Brie Larson See It Skip It mutant Apple Sci-Fi sitcom comiccon OWN war SundanceTV serial killer E! TruTV Star Trek Pirates Sundance Now social media Photos Paramount Network Schedule Year in Review golden globes Animation Food Network TV Land Writers Guild of America Sundance Rom-Com RT History Trailer disaster Women's History Month Universal based on movie Mary Tyler Moore spider-man Sneak Peek richard e. Grant Western HBO Starz Martial Arts Rocketman Showtime Crackle Video Games Infographic dc Drama First Look robots Quiz Nickelodeon TCA 2017 TIFF Shudder YouTube Red Calendar anime GoT Teen thriller Tumblr Black Mirror doctor who DC streaming service Kids & Family Ghostbusters what to watch PBS Biopics finale Fall TV Winter TV Spectrum Originals justice league discovery Election FXX Super Bowl President biography 2015 Summer 21st Century Fox psycho National Geographic psychological thriller Lionsgate Lucasfilm travel Cosplay Ellie Kemper GIFs CMT 20th Century Fox Disney unscripted The CW Reality YA crossover streaming Sony Pictures aliens New York Comic Con 2017 BET VH1 blaxploitation Heroines Mindy Kaling ratings AMC San Diego Comic-Con ABC Family Amazon ITV Podcast medical drama Tarantino Lifetime Spike award winner Set visit Cartoon Network Pet Sematary Shondaland Nominations BBC Netflix spy thriller Valentine's Day TLC Syfy dramedy The Witch transformers Tomatazos harry potter nature natural history Trophy Talk zombies LGBTQ period drama Thanksgiving 45 Marvel Fantasy science fiction Song of Ice and Fire Film Festival boxoffice Freeform Masterpiece Emmys Comic Book anthology historical drama Chilling Adventures of Sabrina DirecTV zero dark thirty Stephen King IFC Films jamie lee curtis cops teaser Marathons USA Elton John American Society of Cinematographers ESPN 2016 Hulu WGN Musicals space casting Creative Arts Emmys Box Office zombie Oscars MTV Opinion Logo elevated horror political drama Mudbound Comedy TNT Mary poppins Rock DC Comics talk show comic 007 Superheroes binge TCM Action Horror Winners 2018 DGA GLAAD Trivia green book Comics on TV cinemax facebook crime docudrama RT21 2019 VICE Pixar Anna Paquin sports diversity X-Men Interview Holidays politics SXSW composers Fox News TV Dark Horse Comics technology NYCC Bravo Adult Swim Reality Competition CW Seed Captain marvel singing competition Grammys YouTube Premium Toys adaptation vampires Warner Bros. Cannes Musical USA Network witnail sequel Christmas crime drama strong female leads E3 Pop Extras Columbia Pictures Character Guide BBC America Comedy Central Epix IFC Polls and Games Walt Disney Pictures television Spring TV Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt MCU Nat Geo Star Wars CBS Paramount mockumentary Rocky History ABC Red Carpet dceu Vudu Countdown true crime Country cooking Esquire APB hist Amazon Prime police drama Certified Fresh Superheroe FOX Best and Worst