As a writer and/or director (and sometime actor), Harold Ramis is responsible for some of the most popular, enduring comedy hits of the past four decades, including four movies that rank among the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Laughs" best-comedies list of 2000 and the top two films on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies" list of 2006. Here's a selective filmography:
"National Lampoon's Animal House" (1978; director John Landis). Ramis' first screenplay, with National Lampoon co-founder Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller, became a breakout frat-house comedy that launched Ramis' former Second City co-star John Belushi to movie stardom and established Ramis' underdog-vs.-institution theme. Selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 2001, ranked No. 1 among Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies" and No. 36 on the American Film Institute's "100 Years…100 Laughs" list. Box office (domestic): $142 million.
"Meatballs" (1979; dir. Ivan Reitman). Ramis was one of four writers on this summer-camp comedy that marked the lead-actor debut of another former Second City star and soon-to-be-frequent Ramis collaborator, Bill Murray. B.O.: $43 million.
"Caddyshack" (1980; dir. Ramis). Ramis' directorial debut co-written with Kenney and former Second City castmate Brian Doyle-Murray, this madcap golf comedy didn't get the greatest reviews or make the biggest splash upon its release, but its reputation ballooned over the years. Ranked No. 2 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies" and No. 71 on "100 Years…100 Laughs." B.O.: $40 million.
"National Lampoon’s Vacation" (1983; dir. Ramis). In this one-time pairing of Chicago's most influential comedy filmmakers of the 1980s and 1990s, Ramis directed a John Hughes script to chronicle the cross-country misadventures of the Griswold family, with "Caddyshack" star Chevy Chase in the driver's seat. Another one that gained in reputation over the years. B.O.: $61 million.
"Ghostbusters" (1984; dir. Reitman). Ramis and Dan Aykroyd co-wrote and, with Bill Murray, co-star in the highest-grossing comedy of the '80s and the decade's sixth highest-grossing film overall. Thirty years later people still get the "Who you gonna call?" references. Ranked No. 28 on "100 Years…100 Laughs." B.O.: $239 million.
"Groundhog Day" (1993; dir. Ramis). Ramis' pinnacle as a director/writer (he co-wrote it with Danny Rubin) finds him from now on exploring characters doing battle with themselves rather than institutions. This philosophical comedy, added to the National Film Registry in 2006, casts Murray as a weathercaster fated to relive the same day over and over until he gets it right. No. 34 on "100 Years…100 Laughs." B.O.: $71 million.
"Analyze This" (1999; dir. Ramis). Just as "The Sopranos" was getting its start on HBO, Ramis (co-writing with Peter Tolan and Kenneth Lonergan) scored with this comedy that had Billy Crystal playing therapist to Robert De Niro's mob boss. Golden Globe nomination for best motion picture comedy/musical. B.O.: $107 million.
Box-office figures from Box Office Mojo.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun