The Funniest Israeli Comedies


   

The laughDB database is dedicated to the funniest comedy movies, stand-up comedy and TV series.

This section is for comedies from Israel. By default they are presented starting with the ones ranking highest on the laugh-o-meter, but you can also sort them by year, title or IMDB rating.


Funniest Israeli Comedies sorted by Laugh-o-meter (descending)


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Sallah Shabati posterSallah (סאלח שבתי / Sallah Shabati)
      1964 | Israel | Laughs: 7.5 (Laugh and Smile) | imdb: 7.4
      wikipedia | who was involved?

I was a bit weary about watching this movie when I saw it was made in 1964 because most works that age (especially those shot in black-and-white) seem to have lost much of their comical power. It turned out to be the Israeli movie that had the most success (so far) in making me laugh.

A family of newcomers to the country is sent to a temporary camp. The accommodation is poor, so the head of the family schemes to obtain an apartment in the housing project under construction nearby. Meanwhile, one one of his sons and one of his daughters fall in love with members of the neighboring kibbutz.

Some of the themes are local—for instance, the culture gap between the Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews—but the humor is universal. A delight. (Last viewed: April 2014)

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The Policeman posterThe Policeman (השוטר אזולאי / Ha-Shoter Azulai)
      1971 | Israel | Laughs: 7.0 (Laugh and Smile) | imdb: 7.6
      wikipedia | who was involved?

This is a charming movie with a gentle and innocent humor much like French comedies of the same era. It comes from a time when Israel was still a true Middle Eastern melting pot. An incompetent but big-hearted policeman worries that his contract will not be renewed, which would leave him to survive on a small pension. While his superiors conspire to give him the boot, he keeps getting into situations that help delay the big conversation. The movie is very funny but also very humane, taking an interest in characters from all walks of life. It's well worth a watch, either just for the laughs, for cultural reasons or for both. (Last viewed: March 2014)

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Ervinka poster topol kishonErvinka (a.k.a Arvinka)
      1967 | Israel | Laughs: 7.0 (Laugh and Smile) | imdb: 7.5
      wikipedia | who was involved?

Sometimes, watching an old movie can feel like a job, and I end up watching the clock while eagerly waiting for the film to end. Not with this one. The movie follows a happy-go-lucky fellow as he seduces everyone around him and flutters effortlessly from one small scam to the next. Apart from the delightfully light plot (or lack of plot), one treat was to encounter once again the police officer from The Big Dig (Shaike Ophir), who would become the lead character in The Policeman four years later. (Last viewed: July 2014)

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The Big Dig PosterThe Big Dig (a.k.a Blaumilch Canal) (תעלת בלאומילך / Te'alat Blaumilch)
      1969 | Israel | Laughs: 6.6 (Watch Once) | imdb: 7.8
      wikipedia | who was involved?

One bright morning, an escapee from a lunatic asylum steals a compressor and starts digging up the road in the busiest part of Tel Aviv. Everyone naturally assumes that the digging is part of the city's public works, and through a series of misunderstandings the madman is soon joined by a team of workers and bulldozers.

The movie does a great job of showing the rivalries and inefficiencies of government offices. In many ways, it reminded me of contemporary movies by Blake Edwards, such as The Party (1968). In fact one of the film's main characters looks a lot like Peter Sellers.

As with most movies whose formula is to steadily build up mayhem, The Big Dig was a bit long—but it was quite funny and I found it to be good value. I enjoyed seeing Shaike Ophir as the policeman, a role he would bring to full fruition two years later in another movie by Ephraim Kishon, The Policeman (after tuning it further in Ervinka). It was also interesting to have a glimpse at Israeli society (and streetscape) of nearly fifty years ago.

Well worth a watch. (Last viewed: April 2014)

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Giv'at Halfon Eina Ona posterHill Halfon Doesn't Answer (גבעת חלפון אינה עונה / Giv'at Halfon Eina Ona)
      1976 | Israel | Laughs: 5.5 (Watch Once) | imdb: 8.0
      wikipedia | who was involved?

This is an army comedy in the same lineage as the more recent Mash. It is fun and innocent in a similar way to French and Italian comedies of the same period. If you do well with subtitles then you're in luck because this little film is a fun little gem. Having more than a passing interest in the cultures of the Middle East, I enjoyed it even more. The major part of the film takes place on an outpost close to the Egyptian border, where a young sergeant must deal with the unexpected arrival of his girlfriend, her father and a con man. Like in Mash, there are colorful characters with distinct personalities. I wanted to cringe when for a short while the movie made fun at the expense of the Egyptians on the other side of the border, but could not actually cringe as the Israelis poked fun at themselves for the entire length of the film. Furthermore, as one of the Israeli characters, born in Egypt, bonded with the Egyptians over coffee, there did not seem to be a trace of cultural insensitivity. This may not be a movie that makes you laugh out loud, but it's a consistent burn devoid of the usual flat moments—it made me smile throughout. Enjoy! (Last viewed: January 2014)

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Peeping Toms posterPeeping Toms (מציצים / Metzitzim)
      1973 | Israel | Laughs: 5.0 (Light-Hearted) | imdb: 7.3
      wikipedia | who was involved?

The owner of a soda stall on a beach in Tel Aviv is obsessed with women. So are his best friend and the boys and men of all ages who frequent the beach. This is a light-hearted movie rather than a laugh-out-loud comedy. Apparently, it's a cult movie in Israel, in part owing to dialog that perfectly captured the way people really spoke in the early 1970s. It may not be a roarer, but it's funny, and it's definitely worth watching for the raw texture and the memorable characters. (Last viewed: April 2014)

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Hagiga B'Snuker Party at the Snooker posterParty at the Snooker (a.k.a Snooker) (חגיגה בסנוקר / Hagiga B'Snuker)
      1975 | Israel | Laughs: 3.0 (Watch Once) | imdb: 7.4
      wikipedia | who was involved?

Here is how I felt about the movie after thirty minutes:

A couple of snooker hustlers scam another scammer, who turns out to be a mafia figure. The cultural value is high, the comedic value is low. It's interesting to see Israel in the 1970s—it seems about twenty years late on the States, and indeed the humor is straight out of a 1950s Hollywood B-movie. Sadly, what comedic power it had at the time hasn't survived. This may be a cult movie in Israel, but for most movie fans in the rest of the world it's probably fit for the bin.

Five months later, I came back to the movie and finished it. The final hour was much more enjoyable than the beginning. A thug schemes to have a rabbi let his twin brother, a near-saint, marry the daughter, whom he loves. (Last viewed: January 2014)

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The Fox in the Chicken Coop posterThe Fox in the Chicken Coop ('השועל בלול התרנגולות / Ha-Shu'al B'Lool Hatarnagalot)
      1978 | Israel | Laughs: 3.0 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 7.5
      wikipedia | who was involved?

An ailing politician takes a vacation in a remote village whose inhabitants live a kind of primordial communistic life, unaware of the outside world and its social structures. Blind to the benefits of their simple lives, the politician decides to raise the villagers' political awareness—introducing positions of power, taxes, privileges, elections and corruption. I usually find political satires to be about twice as long as necessary—it doesn't take long to get the point—and this one is no exception. The movie is in many ways charming, and I certainly enjoyed seeing Shaike Ophir again (he also had the lead role in The Policeman, also by Ephraim Kishon). But as light as the movie starts, its message is heavy, and the unfolding of the expected mayhem is tiresome to watch. In comparison, The Policeman (which was filmed seven years earlier) has aged much better. (Last viewed: April 2014)

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Mivtza Savta posterOperation Grandma (מבצע סבתא / Mivtza Savta)
      1999 | Israel | Laughs: 2.0 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 8.2
      wikipedia | who was involved?

Under great time pressure, three brothers must arrange to transport their dead grandmother from the hospital and to bury her at their kibbutz—this is "Operation Grandma", under the supervision of the one brother who is a military man. This kind of plot always has potential, but the acting was poor and the situations not particularly funny. Not worth watching for the few chuckles. (Last viewed: March 2014)

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Not Cost More posterNot Cost More (לא לעלות יותר / Lo La'alot Yoter)
      1979 | Israel | Laughs: 2.0 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 8.0
      who was involved?

Unable to conceive, a couple are prescribed an intensive method. It takes a toll on the husband, who soon becomes suspicious of his wife. Even when comedies are not funny, I sometimes enjoy them for their cultural value. But even for cultural value, you can do much better. Skip this one. (Last viewed: July 2014)

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Atomic Falafel posterAtomic Falafel
      2016 | Israel | Laughs: 1.0 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 5.9
      who was involved?

A new, highly-rated Israeli comedy had come out? I was intrigued. It involved falafel? That sounded promising. Sadly, instead of the restaurant romp I'd hoped for, this was yet another movie set around an army base.

This time, Israel and Iran are on the countdown for mutual nuclear attacks. Luckily, kids from both countries get involved, supported by a German weapons inspector and his Israeli girlfriend. While the movie completely failed to make us laugh, it at least seemed to have its heart in the right place, and scored points as a cultural artifact where Israelis poke fun at themselves and some of their own taboos.

If you're looking for an Israeli comedy in the Mash genre, the gold standard is still Hill Halfon Doesn't Answer. (Last viewed: August 2016)

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Zero Motivation posterZero Motivation (אפס ביחסי אנוש)
      2014 | Israel | Laughs: 1.0 (Light-Hearted) | imdb: 7.4
      wikipedia | who was involved?

This movie follows two unmotivated female soldiers over the course of their compulsory two-year military service. The main character's chief interests are desktop games, disobedience and losing her virginity. There is enough to smile at for foreign viewers, but the humor stays on the level of satire, not explosive laughter. Overall, despite its high ratings, I did not find this film terribly impressive. For a far superior Israeli army comedy, watch Hill Halfon Doesn't Answer. (Last viewed: March 2015)

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Wisdom of the Pretzel posterWisdom of the Pretzel (Hochmat HaBeygale)
      2002 | Israel | Laughs: 0.9 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 6.1
      wikipedia | who was involved?

This movie is tagged as a comedy, but it's miles away from the laugh-out-loud genre. It's a light-hearted exploration of the friendship and romantic lives of a group of twenty-something young men from Tel Aviv. But apart from that, by the end of the movie I couldn't quite tell you what the movie was about as the script is a bit unfocused and uninspired (the cinematography shares this latter trait). An acceptable way to spend 97 minutes if you're in the mood to hear some Hebrew—otherwise don't bother. (Last viewed: September 2015)

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Planet Blue posterPlanet Blue (הכוכב הכחול / Ha-Kochav Hakachol)
      1995 | Israel | Laughs: 0.8 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 5.9
      who was involved?

This movie was classified as a comedy, but I'm not sure what made it so. Indeed I'm entirely sure what the whole film was supposed to be about. I stuck with it, partly for the cultural value, partly because I was overdue for an experimental film, but certainly not for the laughs.

The movie follows a young man on some kind of mixture of treasure hunt and spiritual journey. The color orange is present in almost every frame, which is somewhat unpleasant on the eyes. Apart from that, there is nothing to dislike. The shanti atmosphere and slow unfolding lend themselves to watching the film over several days, which we did. I don't think I could have taken it in one sitting.

Overall, the movie is not much more mature than a film school project, so unless you love dreadlocks and experimental cinema, you can safely skip this one. (Last viewed: March 2014)

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Shuroo posterShuroo
      1990 | Israel | Laughs: 0.0 (Light-Hearted) | imdb: 7.2
      who was involved?

This is a decent little movie about a depressed scammer starting a small cult. It's misclassified as a comedy, so don't watch it if you're expecting to laugh. (Last viewed: July 2014)

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