Girl Most Likely is Kristen Wiig’s follow-up to Bridesmaids, which crushed it with critics and audiences alike. It’s a hard act to follow for the comic actress, and it puts her in familiar territory among fellow former Saturday Night Live cast members: the show has a famously spotty record when it comes to the feature-film efforts of its alumni.
Still, how many fewer laughs would we have had at the movies over the past three decades or so without the farcical output of Lorne Michaels’ stepchildren? Depending on your era, you’re bound to take exception with some of this list. No Eddie Murphy?!? His best movies, by a long shot, were his concert films Delirious and Raw, and those don’t count. No Ghostbusters? Who you gonna call? What follows is a selection of titles that made us laugh, repeatedly.
Rushmore (Bill Murray)
Murray, who joined the SNL cast for its second season, replacing Chevy Chase in 1976, has had the most distinguished career of all the alumni, relatively speaking. Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day all had their moments, but it was his turn in Rushmore that really established him as an actor with a lot more going on beneath the sight gags. Not that watching him block a child’s shot into the next playground isn’t deeply comical.
Monsters, Inc. (Billy Crystal)
“First of all, it’s cree-tin. If you’re gonna threaten me, do it properly.” Billy Crystal has said his voiceover part as the quintessentially New Yorkish walking eyeball Mike Wazowski was his favorite to date, and we’d have to agree.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (Mike Myers)
Oh, go ahead: “Yeah, baby!” The utter glee with which Mike Myers threw himself into the ridiculous premise of the Swingin’ Sixties secret agent with the lousy dental DNA was so contagious, it even carried over, improbably, to the sequels.
Tommy Boy (Chris Farley, David Spade, Dan Aykroyd)
SNL has never imagined itself above a good pratfall, and the late, lamented Chris Farley certainly embodied that instinct. And then some. Spade is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s pretty funny here as the hapless Tommy Boy’s put-upon minder.
This Is Spinal Tap! (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer)
Technically speaking, Guest and McKean didn’t become SNL cast members until a full decade after the all-world classic Spinal Tap, and then their time on the show was short-lived. But Shearer had already been a cast member, and Guest’s little universe of absurd mockumentaries (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, etc.) towers over the dregs of the SNL feature-film category (hello, A Night at the Roxbury) as if they were paper-napkin Stonehenges.
Elf (Will Ferrell)
Roxbury notwithstanding, Ferrell has built a film career to rival Murray’s as one of the best post-SNL. Anchorman and Step Brothers, among others, have their partisans, and anyone who’s ever been involved with youth sports can appreciate Ferrell berating Mike Ditka (“Get me a juice box!”) in Kicking and Screaming. But the spectacularly dopey Buddy the Elf is welcome to smile into our houses every Christmastime: “Smiling’s my favorite!”
Animal House (John Belushi)
Fletch, Wayne’s World, Caddyshack, Beverly Hills Cop – all post-SNL standards, none on this list. But there is no denying the enduring appeal of John Belushi’s trainwreck “Bluto” Blutarsky, who, as noted in the movie’s end credits, went on to become a U.S. senator.
Three Amigos (Chevy Chase, Martin Short, regular guest Steve Martin, Jon Lovitz, Phil Hartman)
“Do you have anything besides Mexican food?” Extra points for the range of SNL connections. Three Amigos was far from perfect, but so is this list.
Punch-Drunk Love (Adam Sandler)
It says something – quite a lot, actually – that Sandler’s most enjoyable movie role was his least likely, playing the rage-filled toilet-plunger salesman Barry Egan in Paul Thomas Anderson’s most unusual film.
Bridesmaids (Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph)
“Oh, this is some classy. . .” Actually, no. No, it is not. Which is what made Wiig’s film breakthrough, with her great supporting cast, such a hoot. Wiig co-wrote the script, and we’re not even confident which end it came out of.