English filmmaker Edgar Wright has garnered a devout following worldwide due to the immense success of his comedic masterpieces like Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, among others. He is the recipient of several prestigious accolades, with multiple wins for the brilliantly subversive Shaun of the Dead screenplay that he co-wrote with the film’s star Simon Pegg.
Wright has received critical acclaim for his distinctive approach to comedy, utilising the full visual potential of the cinematic medium instead of just relying on a funny script. The kinetic camera movement and self-conscious editing employed by Wright form vital parts of a visual comedic language, resulting in a truly complete cinematic experience.
In an interview with Vulture, Wright explained: “There’s a science to visual comedy and the timing of things. It’s no coincidence that in comedy films or in horror films people use the term’ gag.’ Growing up watching all kinds of genre films, you become very aware that a perfectly timed visual gag isn’t a million miles away from a shock. A visual joke is about timing and composition.”
Adding, “It’s interesting to me when comedy and horror filmmakers will talk in the same regard about how to craft a visual joke or visual shock, because it’s always about subverting an expectation. The element of surprise, composition, timing, and sound — all of the elements are the same for the best kind of ‘boo!’ shock in a movie and the best visual joke in a movie.”
When asked about the impact of his influences on his own work, Wright said: “If you think about Baby Driver as a movie that isn’t a proper comedy but makes you laugh, even if uneasily, you could think of the Coen Brothers stuff. They’re great at doing broader comedies like Raising Arizona or Big Lebowski, but there are bits in No Country for Old Men where things are so incredibly tense, yet a line of dialogue will get a laugh because it’s like a release.
“Same thing with Pulp Fiction when they accidentally shoot Marvin’s head off. When I saw that in the cinema people were laughing for two minutes straight. It plays as the funniest thing ever because there’s a slapstick element to it. Baby Driver attempts to straddle those tense moments and moments of comedic relief.”
Check out the full list of Edgar Wright’s essential recommendations from the comedy genre, ranging from Jacques Tati to John Carpenter.
11 comedy films recommended by Edgar Wright:
- The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick – 1955)
- The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel – 1962)
- Playtime (Jacques Tati – 1967)
- Dark Star (John Carpenter – 1974)
- An American Werewolf in London (John Landis – 1981)
- Top Secret! (Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker – 1984)
- Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro – 1991)
- Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (Lam Ngai-Kai – 1991)
- Waiting for Guffman (Christopher Guest – 1996)
- Four Lions (Chris Morris – 2010)
- One Cut of the Dead (Shinichiro Ueda – 2017)
While discussing the brilliance of John Landis, Wright said: “Then you have some directors — and this is where the Venn Diagram really becomes specific to me — like John Landis. One of the most influential movies for me growing up was An American Werewolf in London.
“Here you have a comedy director tackling horror and acing both of them. To me that is the movie that really blew my head off because Landis created some of the best shocks ever using what could be the same structure as a comedy.”