Packed with slapstick humor and some of the most impeccable one-liners ever uttered on film, the best Marx Brothers movies highlight the zany film personas of these vaudeville-turned-film stars. Comprised of brothers Groucho, Chico, Zeppo and Harpo Marx, the Marx Brothers dominated 1930s cinema with classic films like “The Coconauts,” “Monkey Business” and “Horse Feathers” to become one of the most memorable and iconic comedy teams in film history.
One of the best Marx Brothers movies is also one of their first: the 1930 classic “Animal Crackers,” which finds the brothers investigating, as well as actively participating in, the heist of a painting. The second film to feature the team, “Animal Crackers” came a year after the highly successful film “The Coconauts,” both of which were based on the brothers’ vaudeville act. “Animal Crackers” showcases the brothers’ madcap comedy stylings, snappy one-liners and iconic characters like mute brother Harpo in his wig and top hat as the Professor and sarcastic con-man Groucho as the infamous Captain Geoffrey T. Spalding. Like all of the Marx Brothers films, “Animal Crackers” also includes an array of musical numbers that highlight each brother’s exceptional musical talents, while also featuring frequent Marx Brothers collaborator and foil, Margaret Dumont as Mrs. Rittenhouse.
Quite possibly the Marx Brothers’ most memorable film, “Duck Soup” is without a doubt one of the best Marx Brothers movies to feature the original four comedians before Zeppo’s departure shortly after the film was released in 1933. “Duck Soup” features mustachioed, cigar-chomping Groucho as Rufus T. Firefly, the ruler of the bankrupt nation of Freedonia, with straight man Zeppo playing his assistant and the lovable team of Chico and Harpo as a pair of inept spies. The film ends in one of the most outrageous battle scenes ever filmed and features one of the team’s most famous routines—a scene surprisingly shot in real time in which Harpo, dressed as brother Groucho, mimics his brother through a broken mirror by flawlessly matching Groucho’s every action.
“A Night at the Opera”
Considered along with “Duck Soup” to be the Marx Brothers’ most recognized film, the 1935 gem “A Night at the Opera” was the fist of the Marx Brothers movies to be made after youngest brother Zeppo left the act. The film follows the brothers as they make their way through the world of opera to ultimately bring fame and love to a struggling opera singer. The film features the quick one-liners for which the team are known as well as a memorable scene in a ship’s stateroom as the three brothers, as well as most of the ship’s staff, cram into a room the size of a large closet. The film also features Margaret Dumont as Mrs. Claypool, as well as famed actress Kitty Carlisle as Rosa.