The Naked Gun (David Zucker, 1988)

One noir detective in a world of fools

Hundreds of years ago, which is to say way before George Méliès was born, comedy meant ‘a story that ends with a wedding’ (that epitome of a happy ending), and not necessarily ‘anything that is funny’. This is why Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice – a harrowing tale of racism and cutting pounds of meat out of people – is a comedy and not the English Renaissance equivalent of Saw.

Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)

 Tech and rebirth (spoiler notice)

Underneath the veneer of a – frankly – shockingly entertaining astronaut thrill ride, some interesting themes simmer. Amidst exploding ISS modules, depleting oxygen tanks and lethal debris swarming in orbit, Gravity uses its tech-heavy setting as a means of exploring the beauty of Earth and the hidden strengths within our minds. At the peak of our current technological achievements, Alfonso Cuarón finds the rebirth of a human.

Uncle Buck (John Hughes, 1989)

 Wanted: sleazy relative to watch the children, no experience required

Who wouldn’t want John Candy as their uncle? Well, back when he still lived, of course. Uncle Buck is a fine comedy in that specific 80s John Hughes tradition, coupling broad laughs with teenage angst and concerns about growing up.

Quiz Show (Robert Redford, 1994)

Would you commit to cheating if the price is right?

Clocking in at two hours and twelve minutes, most movies would outstay their welcome, but not Quiz Show. The reason for its endurance is that from the first moment to the very last, it places its characters before tough, interesting choices.