101 Funniest Screenplays

Long before it became de rigueur for dramatic actors to spoof their own gravitas, the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams deployed Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges and Leslie Nielsen beautifully in the tour de force of silliness that was Airplane! The movie won a Writers Guild Award for best Adapted Screenplay – best adapted because the Zuckers and Abraham were copying the plot of Zero Hour! written by Arthur Hailey. In fact, the comedy writers optioned the rights to that 1957 film. “Our first draft of Airplane! had fake commercials throughout it, because we didn’t realize at first just how strong a story Arthur Hailey had written,” Abrahams told the A.V. Club. “We weren’t screenwriters at all – we were joke writers.” Coming after the tide of earnest disaster films that Hollywood turned out in the 1970s, Airplane! felt like a big, weird catharsis.