1. Blazing Saddles (1974)
Key players: Mel Brooks, Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens, Madeline Kahn
Why it's great: Little wonder Richard Pryor's voice was somewhere in the mix for the film that started life as "Black Bart," the story of a black man who becomes a sheriff in a town straight out of every studio Western of the '50s. Pryor, after all, wrestled with the use of racially charged language for laughs for much of his career, and this movie is all about defusing the worst side of human nature. It is a film that has a premise cleverly designed to provoke, and one thing you'll see on a number of these lists is that the movies aren't just funny… they have something very serious to say, and that is why the film is ultimately for adults. "R" doesn't just mean raunchy. "Blazing Saddles" is great because it completely and perfectly recreates the aesthetic and the production design of the great studio Westerns, and then it allows Cleavon Little a progressive role, the lead in a genre that rarely if ever allowed room for black Americans. As good as Little is, Gene Wilder is even better, and the supporting cast includes such glorious lunatics as Burton Gilliam, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, and Slim Pickens, and they all attack the material with abandon. You can watch this movie now, in the age of Obama, and look around at the particular ways our country has responded to a black President, and "Blazing Saddles" looks just as significant as ever, while never sacrificing one ounce of funny.
- Drew McWeeny