It seems that 2016 has claimed yet another life. On August 29, 2016, Gene Wilder sadly passed away. Whether he was making you laugh in See No Evil, Hear No Evil or making you cry in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, the man’s unbelievable talents always shined through. When it came to his comedy, Wilder’s method was as simple as could be;
“Don’t try to make it funny; try to make it real. I’m an actor, not a clown.”
So today, in honor of this fallen talent, we’re gonna take a look at some of his best works.
Here are The Top 5 Gene Wilder Movies.
#5: STIR CRAZY
If there was one actor on this earth Gene Wilder has impeccable chemistry with, it was Richard Pryor. Whether it be See No Evil, Hear No Evil or the comedy gold that was Stir Crazy, these two were a comedic duo made in heaven. Stir Crazy found these two framed for a bank robbery and sent to a southern prison. The humor between Wilder and Pryor is enough to have you rolling on the floor. I can’t watch the “We Bad” scene without breaking out into gut busting laughter.
Skip (Wilder) is innocent and optimistic while Harry (Pryor) is cynical and quick on the draw. It’s hilarious just watching Harry fall victim every time Skip does something fool-hearted. Everything they say and do is comedic brilliance. Some of the scenes may even stick with you long after the film is over. If you ever wanted to see sort of a comedic version of The Shawshank Redemption, give this a shot. You won’t regret it.
#4: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN
It’s always humorous to me when a parody of source material can be just as memorable as the source material itself. With Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein, this has certainly been the case. Young Frankenstein is a huge love letter to the classic Universal Monster Movies. As a result, it remains one of Mel Brook’s finest works. It expertly captures the set design and overall look of those timeless monster films. I first saw this movie when I was 16 years old. Thirteen years later, it still makes my sides hurt from all the laughter.
In this classic spoof, Wilder plays the grandson of Baron von Frankenstein. Eager to follow in the family footsteps, he goes home to Transylvania where he creates his monster. But not just any monster; a monster played by Peter Boyle who dances to “Puttin’ On The Ritz” with Wilder in a tie-and-tail duet. Throw in a servant named Igor, so disillusioned that he doesn’t believe he has a hump and what’s there not to love? Wilder and Garr’s revolving secret door bit and Gene Hackman’s “Blind Hermit” scene are some of the many highlights this film has to offer. If you’re a fan of classic comedy or just a fan of Frankenstein in general, you will adore this film as so many other have.
#3: THE PRODUCERS
For any screenwriter looking to make a film with questionable taste and tremendous controversy, The Producers should be required viewing. This quotable Mel Brooks classic saw Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel set out to make an intentional flop in order to exercise loopholes through an intricate book-cooking scheme. Move over Uwe Boll, these guys beat you to the punch. The film is incredibly smart, clever and one of the funniest comedies I’ve ever seen.
Gene Wilder’s neurotic accountant mixed with Zero Mostel’s despicable con man is a perfect match. Not only was The Producers Mel Brooks’ directorial debut, it also won him an Oscar for Best Screenplay. After re-watching this movie, it hits me more and more why I don’t care for the remake of this film. No one, not even talented actors like Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, can touch the comedic chemistry of Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. The two were perfectly cast as these characters and the jokes work better when they do them.
#2: BLAZING SADDLES
This is the last Mel Brooks film on the list, I swear. But, my god, can you really blame me for having so many of them on this list. Wilder and Brooks worked so well together and Blazing Saddles is their crowning achievement, at least in my opinion. I mean, do you remember the days when humanity could take a step back and take a good hard laugh at itself? Blazing Saddles is a film that is more than obliged to bring us back to that more innocent place in time. Back before all the ridiculous controversy. Back when being PC didn’t matter. If you are one of these millennials whining and complaining about how this film is racist, I’m telling you for your own good; You Are An Idiot!
Let me ask you all something; is there a single person of color seen in a bad light throughout this film? No! The racism exists in this film to make the racist white people look like morons. The rednecks using the racist slurs are what this film is really making fun of. I’m pretty sure that most people realize this but sadly some just don’t and it boggles the mind how they don’t. Especially since the film makes this so blatantly obvious. In this parody of old westerns, Gene Wilder plays the greatest gunman in the west, The Waco Kid, and his chemistry with the late Cleavon Little (the black sheriff) is just perfect. Blazing Saddles doesn’t promote racism; it makes fun of racism, making it one of the greatest comedies of all time.
#1: WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Is it really a surprise to anyone that this film is topping the list? Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is Gene Wilder’s best film and a timeless classic to boot. The film took many artistic liberties with the book, so much to the point that Roald Dahl hated it until the day he died. In fact, the Tim Burton remake was far closer to what the author intended. Yet, this adaptation was not only a better movie but one of the most endearing films ever put into the cinemas. Gene Wilder was so brilliant as the character of Willy Wonka that he’s still remembered fondly as the character after all these years.
The visuals of the chocolate factory, the memorable music, the unforgettable characters and even the films morals are all something to be admired. I have never met a single person who didn’t like this film. It tugs at your heartstrings and allows your imagination to run wild at every turn. It’s easy to forget that while Wilder was undeniably funny in his career, he could also touch our hearts just as well. If there was any movie that could demonstrate just how versatile Gene Wilder was as an actor, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory wins the golden ticket.
Gene Wilder gave us everything we always wanted and for that, I hope he lived happily ever after.
Rest In Peace, Gene Wilder.
We will miss you.
A graduate of Full Sail University with a Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing, Adam is a Writer and Film Critic, looking to make his mark on the world. When he isn’t at the movies, writing for The Nerd Stash, playing Duck Hunt (respect the classics) or delivering pizzas to his neighbors, he is back at school earning his Masters Degree in Film Production.