Remember how 2011’s “Bridesmaids” was supposed to usher in a new era of female buddy comedies? Didn’t really happen, did it? Aside from the new cop caper “The Heat” (starring Sandra Bullock and “Bridesmaids” alumna Melissa McCarthy), there haven’t been too many female buddy comedies lately.
But then, that’s always been the case. The female duo or ensemble drama is rare enough, but comedies centering on two or more prominent women are rarer still. Even in the early years of film, male comedy teams like Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello flourished, while female teams like Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly (who made many shorts together) languished and were forgotten. There’s never been a shortage of funny female teams on TV (from Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance to Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, to the “Golden Girls” and “Sex and the City” casts), but seldom do movies find room for more than one funny woman at a time.
Still, over the past 30 years, a handful of funny female comedy teams have distinguished themselves on screen. They’re the ones that dominate this gallery, a countdown of 20 of the funniest female film comedy teams of the last 80 years. Let us know if you agree with our ranking, or if we left your favorite team off the list.
Gallery | The Top 20 Female Comedy Teams in Movies
- 20. Parminder Nagra and Keira Knighley, “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002)
Fresh-faced performers Nagra and Knightley both became international stars as soccer teammates in this culture-clash sports comedy. Give director Gurinder Chadha credit as the third funny female on the squad. Not to mention Shaheen Khan and Juliet Stevenson as the players’ disapproving moms, both tradition-bound in their own way.
- 19. Halle Berry and Natalie Deselle, “B*A*P*S” (1997)
We’re so used to seeing Berry play wounded pride and righteous anger that it’s a shock to see her play loose and funny, as she does in this very silly Cinderella story about two homegirls who suddenly score a ticket to the glamorous life. Sure, it’s a long way from her usual prestige roles, but really, would you rather sit through the harrowing “Monster’s Ball” again than watch this?
- 18. Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler, “Big Business” (1988)
In this update of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors,” Midler and Tomlin both play dual roles as two sets of mismatched twins who finally get to set things right during a random series of run-ins at New York’s Plaza Hotel. The actresses’ crack timing makes all the scenery-chewing go down easy.
- 17. Anna Faris, Emma Stone, Kat Dennings, Katharine McPhee, Rumer Willis, Kiely Williams, Kimberly Makkouk, and Dana Goodman, “The House Bunny” (2008)
Faris, who’s been the movies’ female comic MVP of the last decade or so, is an over-the-hill Playboy playmate (at age 27) who finds herself overseeing a college sorority of nerdy misfits and making them over, Hefner-style, into self-confident hotties. Even as a comic conceit, it’s pretty hard to buy the notion that Hefnerism actually offers practical and ethical guidelines for living, but Faris and her protégées manage to sell it.
- 16. Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and Betty Grable, “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1953)
Monroe, Bacall, and Grable go downmarket as three hard-luck beauties determined to rise above their station by marrying for money instead of for love. But Cupid has other plans. The film is a reminder that these three performers were more than just pin-ups; they were smart and witty, too, and capable of rapid-fire repartee.
- 15. Shelley Long and Bette Midler, “Outrageous Fortune” (1987)
Long and Midler strike some sparks as a mismatched pair of amateur actresses (one uptight, one earthy) who learn that they were being two-timed by a spy who faked his own death. They reluctantly unite to hunt the bastard down, and there’s something liberating in watching these two characters, both pampered New Yorkers out of their depth, turn into badass, streetwise sleuths.
- 14. Rebel Wilson, Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, and Hana Mae Lee, “Pitch Perfect” (2012)
The indomitable Wilson, as Fat Amy, gets most of the credit for making this choral comedy sing, but the movie’s harmonious, hilarious flow really is a group effort by the Bellas, the collegiate “Glee”-style singing group that goes for the gold here.
- 13. Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu, “Charlie’s Angels” and “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” (2003)
Recognizing the camp value of the old ’70s babelicious-detective show, the version 2.0 Angels play the action and sleuthing mostly for laughs. It’s not enough that they have rockin’ bods and “Matrix”-style martial arts skills; they also are all endearingly goofy.
- 12. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953)
Monroe has one of her more iconic roles as golddigger Lorelei Lee, but jaded Russell holds her own opposite the doe-eyed Marilyn. Traveling together on a transatlantic cruise, each woman is a formidable femme fatale, breaking the hearts of feckless men with a wiggle in her walk and a song on her lips.
- 11. Whoopi Goldberg, Maggie Smith, Kathy Najimy, Wendy Makkena, and Mary Wickes, “Sister Act” (1992
Goldberg was at the height of her popularity when she starred in this smash about a lounge singer on the lam who hides out in a convent and turns its drab choir into a Motown-fueled powerhouse. It’s mostly Goldberg’s show, but she gets reliable support from the ever-vinegary Smith and the irrepressibly perky Najimy (in her starmaking role). Besides, singing, dancing nuns are never not funny.
- 10. Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton, “The First Wives Club” (1996)
Old pros Midler, Hawn, and Keaton team up to wreak comic vengeance on the feckless husbands who deserted them and the young hussies for whom the husbands traded them in. Hawn, in particular, is a hoot, sending up her own curiously ageless appearance.
- 9. Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths, “Muriel’s Wedding” (1994)
Aussie actresses Collette and Griffiths became international stars with their performances as two ABBA-loving misfits who show up their snooty high school tormentors, run away from home, and begin to blossom, only to get stomped on by reality. There’s a lot of surprisingly dark elements under the movie’s frothy-meringue surface, but Colette in particular is a force of nature whose willingness to look ridiculous keeps the comedy from fizzing out.
- 8. Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert, “Mean Girls” (2004)
Why do we still care about Lindsay Lohan? Because once upon a time, she was capable of turning out smart, stylish comedy work like her performance in this Tina Fey-scripted high school comedy. Plus, you have to give it up for the Plastics, including McAdams as evil queen Regina (a starmaking performance whose comic brio she’s never approached again) and Seyfried as wide-eyed ditz Karen (ditto). Oh, and note to Chabert’s Gretchen: Stop trying to make “fetch” happen. It’s not going to happen.
- 7. Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton, “Nine to Five” (1980)
Tomlin is the comic glue holding together straight-woman Fonda and scene-stealer Parton in this template for the modern female buddy comedy. Bonus points to Parton for writing and singing a catchy theme song that captures the antic mood of this workplace-revenge farce.
- 6. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon, “Sex and the City” (2008) and “Sex and the City 2” (2010)
The cosmo-swilling HBO gals’ first reunion was a surprisingly somber affair, but the second one, which sent them all the way to Abu Dhabi, was the kind of fizzy adventure they used to have, writ large. As usual, Samantha’s (Cattrall) brazenness makes for the wackiest shenanigans. Moms Miranda (Nixon) and Charlotte (Davis) enjoy a rare moment of drunken bonding over parenting gripes. Mostly, this is just a vicarious vacation among very familiar friends.
- 5. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, “Baby Mama” (2008)
Fey and Poehler are always a winning combo, whether at the “Saturday Night Live” news desk, the Golden Globes podium, or in this satire about an unmarried, uptight businesswoman (Fey) and her wacky, mischievous, pregnant surrogate. By the way, you know Melissa McCarthy’s infamous bathroom sink scene in “Bridesmaids”? Let’s give Poehler proper credit for going there first.
- 4. Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Ann Miller, Gail Patrick, and Andrea Leeds, “Stage Door” (1937)
The original female buddy comedy was this look at an all-female rooming house full of aspiring Broadway actresses. Starchy Hepburn spars memorably with wry Rogers. They’re ably supported by future TV comedy icons Arden and Ball. Some dark dramatic moments late in the film remind you what talented actresses these stars actually were, but mostly, it’s about the sisterly moral support, usually in the form of a worldly wisecrack.
- 3. Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow, “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” (1997)
Sorvino and Kudrow are both priceless as the sole members of their clique of two, who’ve traveled from high school dorks to Los Angeles fashionistas without ever letting a negative or hostile thought penetrate their helmets of blond hair. For much of the movie, it’s just the two of them on the road, which is fine because they’re such delightful company that they’re all you need, and it doesn’t matter which one is the Mary and which one the Rhoda.
- 2. Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, and Brittany Murphy, “Clueless” (1995)
Cher (Silverstone) and Dionne (Dash) rule their posh high school like benevolent despots; making over Tai (Murphy) into one of them is their idea of volunteer work. Sure, this beloved update of Jane Austen’s “Emma” covers a lot of ground (shopping, boys, shopping), but at heart is the friendship among these three, even as they jockey for queen-bee status.
- 1, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, and Wendi McLendon-Covey, “Bridesmaids” (2011)
It’s mostly Wiig’s show, but everyone gets a chance to shine. (Of course, the Oscar-nominated McCarthy took her chance, ran it all the way for a touchdown, and spiked it in the end zone.) As a sextet, they make for an uneasy group of friends, but remember this: men and careers may come and go, but these six will always have the experience of horrifying food poisoning and its queasy consequences to bond them for the rest of their lives.
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