Laurel & Hardy Top 25 Movies

Laurel, a British-born music hall performer in the same troupe as Charlie Chaplin, was the thin and perpetually befuddled one (offscreen, he took the upper hand in creating the team’s routines).

Hardy, a native of Harlem, Georgia, was the moustachioed long-suffering big one, the deluded “strong” who grandiosely took it upon himself to help the “weak” Laurel …

They appeared for the first time together, but not as a team, in the 1917 Laurel comedy, Lucky Dog. As contract players for producer Hal Roach, they were first teamed in 1927.

They survived the transition from silent to sound films and made more than 100 shorts and features together. Hardy died in 1957, Laurel in 1965.

“The Boys,” as they were affectionately called, never had a Zeitgeist revival moment during the Vietnam War era as did the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, and Mae West, whose subversive, anti-authority personas resonated with rebellious college students.

But they have never gone out of style. Even “sick” comic Lenny Bruce was charmed by them. “The relationship that Laurel and Hardy had was so delightful and such a hard thing to do,” he said in a 1959 radio broadcast “You really feel a sincere love there.

They were caricatured in 1930s Warner Bros. and Disney cartoons. They are in Vladimir and Estragon’s DNA in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

Hanna-Barbera created a short-lived animated series, The Laurel and Hardy Show, in 1966. Baby boomers discovered them on television. In 2018, John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan brilliantly portrayed them in the affectionate Stan & Ollie.

And the global appreciation society, the Sons of the Desert, formed in 1965 “to perpetuate the spirit and genius of Laurel and Hardy,” is still going strong.

In an email, film historian Leonard Maltin, who wrote the book on Movie Comedy Teams, said, “They’ve never looked or sounded as good as they do, that’s for sure.”

Laurel and Hardy have aged remarkably well with their emphasis on physical humour and slapstick, the universal language of laughter.

So here, we’ve chosen 25 essential shorts for you to enjoy, presented alphabetically …

Angora Love (1929) :

Laurel and Hardy’s silent-era swan song pairs them with a scene-stealing (and hotel-room-eating) goat that escapes its grocery-store chains and follows the boys home.

Edgar Kennedy is their “killer landlord,” from whom they try to hide their new companion. “I want you guys to know this is a respectable hotel,” Kennedy proclaims, as we see behind him a woman pass by in the hallway followed by a randy sailor …

Bacon Grabbers (1929) :

Repo men Stan and Ollie are dispatched to retrieve an unpaid-for radio from “tough guy” Edgar Kennedy.

Serving him a summons is only half the battle; next comes thwarting his efforts to keep them from getting the radio. The short ends with a fleeting moment of triumph in which the boys almost get the last laugh …

Battle of the Century (1927) :

The jewel in the crown of this long-lost short, which, along with the Marx Brothers’ 1921 short Humor Risk, was long considered the Holy Grail of silent comedy.

Watching cinema’s greatest-ever pie fight, one is reminded of the immortal words of Ron Burgundy: “Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.” A reported 3,000 actual pies were harmed in the making of this picture …

Big Business (1929) :

Stan and Ollie are door-to-door Christmas-tree salesmen in Southern California. They try to sell Jimmy Finlayson a tree. They inadvertently infuriate him to the point where he takes a clipper to their tree.

And then things jump up a notch. This is one of two Laurel and Hardy shorts enshrined in the National Film Registry and a master class in slapstick gag construction (or is that destruction?). But the delayed reactions of the warring parties as they stand by to observe what their adversary will do next are equally hilarious.

Brats (1930) :

Stan and Ollie babysit while their kids wreak havoc on the apartment and each other. Child is father to the man in this ingeniously conceived stunt short in which Laurel and Hardy portray their own children courtesy of trick photography and an oversized duplicate set.

A final gag speaks volumes about the team’s dynamic: Hardy imperiously stops Laurel from fulfilling their kids’ bedtime request for a drink of water. “You might spill it,” he states and then opens the door to the bathroom, where the younger Laurel has left the bathwater running and is washed away by the ensuing flood. See also Twice Two (1933), in which Laurel and Hardy portray each other’s wives.

Busy Bodies (1933) :

When Charlie Chaplin transformed himself into a literal cog in a factory machine in Modern Times, he was making a satirical point about dehumanizing automation.

When Oliver Hardy falls into the works at a woodworking plant, it’s all in the name of paying homage to the slapstick gods. In this short, Hardy takes all manner of abuse, from wooden planks in the face to being clobbered with a sink. The sound effects are the real star here …

Chickens Come Home (1931) :

As soon as “people’s choice” mayoral candidate Oliver Hardy dictates his acceptance speech, a blackmailing old flame arrives with an incriminating photo and demands a settlement.

The Hal Roach stock company shines in this frantic farce. Mae Busch is the blackmailer; Thelma Todd is Hardy’s wife, who is throwing a dinner party for her husband’s campaign backers; and Jimmy Finlayson, master of the double take, is Hardy’s butler. 

Come Clean (1931) :

A rare moment of marital bliss in the Hardy home is shattered by the arrival of Laurel and his wife. The boys depart to buy some ice cream but end up saving the life of a suicidal woman (Mae Busch at her most formidable).

She blackmails them into taking her home with them, where they frantically try to keep her hidden from their wives. A surreal capper anticipates by decades John Lennon’s bathtub gag in “A Hard Day’s Night”.

County Hospital (1932) :

Oliver is resting comfortably in the hospital with a horrifically bandaged broken leg. And then Stan shows up. For those who like their Laurel and Hardy slapstick on the sadistic side, this one’s just what the doctor ordered.

But this is included here mainly for the sublime moment when Stan luxuriantly eats a hard-boiled egg …

The Fixer Uppers (1935) :

The boys are hapless greeting-card salesmen who gallantly come to the aid of a sales prospect (a more endearing Mae Busch) whose artist husband neglects her.

The Plan : Oliver will pretend to be her lover, thus making the husband jealous. But first she must teach him how to kiss her convincingly, which she demonstrates with Stan.

Hardy’s signature fourth-wall-breaking takes as the prolonged kiss unfolds are the highlight of this scene that ranks among the team’s funniest, as is the topper when an uncharacteristically aroused Laurel returns the passionate kiss …

Help Mates (1932) :

Oliver is in what can only be described as a “slight predicament” as his wife is returning unexpectedly from a trip to Chicago the day after a wild party has left their house in shambles. So he calls in his old and trusted pal Laurel, to help him restore order.

In Laurel and Hardy’s world, out of chaos comes only more chaos, leaving Hardy sitting alone and rained upon in the burnt-out shell of what was once his home, maintaining what is left of his dignity with a look that says, “This might as well happen” …

Hog Wild (1930) :

Oliver’s plans for a day out with Stan are put on hold after his wife demands he erect a radio antenna on the roof – “Do you mind if I help you?” Stan asks. “I don’t mind,”

Oliver responds, “that is, as long as you help me.” And so the die is cast. This ceaselessly inventive gagfest is elevated by atypical grace notes – Laurel distracted at the wheel by the sight of a woman adjusting her skirt, and Hardy’s wife allowing herself a smile as she observes his futile rooftop efforts …

Liberty (1929) :

Stan and Ollie make one of their most memorable onscreen entrances as newly escaped convicts frantically fleeing a policeman.

This rare foray into Harold Lloyd–style thrill comedy turns on a lobster hidden inside Hardy’s trousers (don’t ask), and he eludes the law while navigating the girders atop a skyscraper construction site …

Me and My Pal (1933) :

This is the happiest day of my life …” Oliver gushes on the day of his marriage to the daughter of an oil magnate and his installation as the vast organisation’s general manager.

And then he sits down to do a jigsaw puzzle with Stan, and it’s all downhill from there in this exercise in exquisitely prolonged frustration …

Men o’ War (1929) :

Sailors Laurel and Hardy pick up a couple of willing young women in the park and embark on an ill-fated afternoon that ends with a massive rowboat mêlée. Prior to that, we’re treated to two of the team’s best dialogue-driven scenes. The first involves a misunderstanding over a found pair of bloomers and one of the ladies’ lost gloves.

Good thing it’s warm weather, isn’t it?” Oliver coyly asks like a naughty schoolboy. The other is set at a soda fountain, where an increasingly exasperated Ollie tries to make Stan understand that there isn’t enough money for him to order a soda. “Can’t you grasp the situation?” he pleads …

The Music Box (1932) :

Laurel and Hardy’s one and only Oscar-winning short and one of two enshrined in the National Film Registry. It’s piano deliverymen Stan and Ollie vs 133 steps, a Sisyphean struggle that gives new meaning to “What goes up must come down”.

“The Music Box” wears its “certified classic” status well both as an introduction to the team and as the pinnacle of their art: This is what we talk about when we talk about Laurel and Hardy …

Stan and Ollie, self-professed “victims of the Depression” are so moved by an elderly woman’s act of kindness toward them that they set out to raise the money for her when they mistakenly believe she is on the verge of being evicted by a heartless landlord.

Usually, when Laurel rains disaster on Hardy, it is accidental or inadvertent, but when Hardy falsely accuses him of stealing the widow’s wallet, the worm ferociously turns …

Perfect Day (1929) :

Oh, shit!” Yes, Edgar Kennedy does indeed utter this epithet in one of this near-perfect short’s more frantic moments. It’s the Sabbath, and a grand day out is planned with the Laurels, the Hardys, and Kennedy’s Uncle Edgar, who is suffering mightily with gout.

An escalating series of disasters shut this outing down. Atypical for a Laurel and Hardy short, the wives here act as peacemakers. “Accidents will happen” Oliver’s wife sagely observes – they certainly do! …

Scram! (1932) :

An ill-tempered judge orders vagrants Laurel and Hardy to leave town within the hour. Their kindness in helping a well-to-do drunk retrieve his car keys in a sewer grating is rewarded with his offer to bring them home with him (“What’s mine is yours”). Unfortunately, it’s the wrong house.

Guess whose it is? The highlight is an extended sequence in which Stan and Ollie inadvertently get the lady of the house snoggered, and the illicit trio collapse on the bed in paroxysms of laughter while her husband (yes, the judge) plots duo-cide …

The Second 100 Years (1927) :

Stan and Ollie had made 11 shorts together. This, their 12th, is considered the first “official” Laurel and Hardy comedy, but it is atypical in that Hardy is more straight man to Laurel, who is the recipient of much of the slapstick gags.

But one moment anticipates their more familiar dynamic: Newly incarcerated, Hardy magnanimously breaks his last cigarette in half to share with the pitiable Laurel …

Their First Mistake (1932) :

Laurel: “What’s the matter with (your wife), anyway?
Hardy: “Oh, I don’t know. She says that I think more of you than I do of her.”
Laurel: “Well, you do, don’t you?”
Hardy: “Well, we won’t go into that …”

×