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The Highest Grossing Comedy Film For Each Year Of The ’90s


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It’s not easy to do comedy and get it perfectly right — there is always going to be someone who doesn’t appreciate a particular brand of humor. And then there are those films which have had such a massive public appeal that their box office earnings practically overflowed with all the excess profits.

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Consider the ’90s, a decade in which movies tended towards the blockbuster variety (Jurassic Park, Titanic, Independence Day), most of which did unsurprisingly great at recouping their production costs. However, it’s not like comedy cinema has trailed behind in any shape or form, as the examples stated here will prove.

10 Pretty Woman (1990)

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Pretty Woman was quite a hit, and in more ways than one: while its initial narrative about the hierarchies of social class in LA didn’t pan out, the comedy/romance rehash was considerably successful.

Julia Roberts shines in this movie, as she does in most of her work, and Richard Gere has to struggle to keep up (but he does so with elegance.) Surprisingly, Pretty Woman only required a starting cost of $14 million, but its global earnings were explosive, at slightly more than $463 million.

9 Home Alone (1991)

A classic from the nineties: Macaulay Culkin as the adorable imp, Kevin McCallister, won as much praise as he did hearts for his performance in Home Alone. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern play a pair of bumbling would-be thieves, only to find out that they have been outsmarted by a child.

Home Alone was produced on a budget of $18 million, but its costs were recouped several times over, with just under $477 million generated in terms of worldwide gross income. In fact, when it was released, the film was number three on the highest-grossing movie list of all time.

8 Sister Act (1992)

The raucous storyline of Sister Act would have certainly not worked as well as it did, had it not been for the comic stylings of Whoopi Goldberg. The musical quickly became universally adored, especially because of its subversion of Catholic rigor that is commonly practiced by nuns.

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Sister Act spent a total of $31 million in production while creating a literal windfall exceeding $231 million in both domestic and international forums put together. In fact, the movie is to receive a third sequel soon (with Whoopi Goldberg having supposedly agreed to reprise her role as Sister Mary Clarence.)

7 Sleepless In Seattle (1993)

Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle has Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks as the leads, both of whom are delightfully zany as Annie Reed and Sam Baldwin. These two characters “accidentally” fall for each other (with Annie being the first to profess her feelings), and the conclusion is as heartfelt as it can get.

Anything more than this would constitute a spoiler. Sleepless in Seattle was lauded by critics and audiences alike, as evidenced by its gross earnings of $228 million against a budget over ten times smaller.

6 True Lies (1994)

James Cameron is clearly multi-talented, having delved into various genres, from sci-fi to period pieces to nature documentaries, and he is phenomenal at all of them.

This list also includes the action-comedy, True Lies, with the improbable combination of Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom play against type to exquisite perfection. True Lies set the record for being the first movie whose budget exceeded $100 million, but the results ($379 million worldwide) show that the investment was worth it.

5 Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995)

Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

Jim Carrey’s character, the wacky “animal detective” Ace Ventura, was a household name in the nineties, having started off in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), which was a commercial triumph.

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It’s sequel, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, went on to become the highest-earning comedy film of 1995: a 30 million dollar expense versus a $212 million gross revenue. In this movie, Ace travels to Africa in order to find a bat (but the problem is that he is terrified of them.) Slapstick at its finest.

4 The Nutty Professor (1996)

Eddie Murphy as The Nutty Professor has to be one of the most iconic moments of 90s nostalgia (although it must be mentioned that the story was based on the 1963 version.) With Jada Pinkett-Smith and Dave Chapelle bringing up the rear, it’s no surprise that the film performed so brilliantly at the box office.

The Nutty Professor made just about $274 million after spending only $54 million in production. The best part, though, is that Eddie Murphy takes on six other characters and does them almost as well.

3 Liar Liar (1997)

Jim Carrey in Liar Liar

Another one of Jim Carrey’s sparkling achievements in the world of cinema is Liar Liar, the movie about a lawyer who learns that he absolutely cannot utter a single falsehood for a period of 24 hours (according to a birthday wish made by his disappointed son.)

Reviewers enjoyed the film immensely, as did most moviegoers: Liar Liar may have incurred an expense of $45 million, but its financial results, $302.7 million, more than made up for any reservations the producers may have had.

2 There’s Something About Mary (1998)

The Farrelly brothers created There’s Something About Mary, with the protagonist played by Cameron Diaz. Several men are trying to woo Mary simultaneously, in a funny romantic comedy.

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This movie obtained universal acclaim, with various lists including it in their best comedy category, such as the American Film Institute. Hobbling by on a meager $23 million budget, There’s Something About Mary accomplished a stunning $369 million gross revenue with domestic and global platforms combined.

1 Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

Mike Myers’ delicious take on the tired spy movie trope as Austin Powers, a man whose most dangerous weapon is his “mojo”. He simultaneously played the hilariously inept antagonist, Dr. Evil, as well as Fat Bastard, one of the villain’s politically incorrect minions. As expected, the title is a reference to The Spy Who Loved Me, a 1977 James Bond film starring Roger Moore.

The crowning glory of this film, however, is Verne Troyer’s Mini-Me, Dr. Evil’s minuscule clone. The Spy Who Shagged Me was created with an investment of $33 million and generated $312 million in returns.

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Updated: November 11, 2020 — 1:00 am

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