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Every Gene Wilder Movie Ranked From Worst To Best

Though perhaps best known to audiences today as the mysterious candy wizard Willy Wonka, actor Gene Wilder had a long career playing everyman characters driven to the brink of madness. His talent for playing frazzled types caught up in madcap craziness put him at the center of a number of memorable comedies throughout the 1970s and '80s, including "Stir Crazy" and "Blazing Saddles." Sadly, after the death of his third wife, the inimitable Gilda Radner, in 1989, Wilder stepped back from acting. He appeared in just a handful of further roles on television in the 1990s, with his final on-screen appearance being a guest spot on "Will & Grace" in 2003. He passed away in 2016. 

Despite a modest output of feature films during his heyday, Gene Wilder made his mark as one of the most popular funnymen on the big screen. He teamed up with comedian Richard Pryor several times in a number of classics and worked with Mel Brooks on some of the funniest slapstick comedies ever made. But he wasn't without his flops either, with a number of duds sprinkled throughout his 20+ year career. Whether you're familiar with his entire body of work or know him just as the candyman, there's no denying his ability to draw laughs. We're counting down every one of his Hollywood features, from worst to best (excluding "Bonnie and Clyde," in which he had only a small role). Think you know which one tops the list? You might be surprised.

21. Sunday Lovers

Gene Wilder starred in one part of the sex comedy anthology "Sunday Lovers" alongside Kathleen Quinlan (who audiences today might recognize from "Chicago Fire"). Comprising four separate short films, each from a different country, the movie also featured Roger Moore and Lynn Redgrave. For his part, Gene Wilder did more than act; he wrote, directed, and starred in the short film titled "Skippy." In the story, Wilder plays a man named Skippy who is struggling with problems in bed and admits himself to a psychiatric ward for treatment. 

While in the hospital, Skippy meets a helpful doctor named Maggie who works with him on his problems. Back home one weekend, Skippy encounters Laurie (Quinlan), a ravishing younger woman who is dealing with her own unusual issues. Unfortunately, Wilder's "Skippy" proves to be the low point of an already lackluster film, with the New York Times describing it as an "appalling contribution," and calling out Wilder's awkward casting of himself in the role of an irresistible "love object who is full of pathos." Despite acknowledging Wilder's talent in other, better films past, the paper decried "Skippy" as a "minor mess." On the plus side, at least it's just a short.

20. Funny About Love

Mr. Spock himself, actor Leonard Nimoy — who had turned to directing in the 1980s — helmed the 1990 Gene Wilder romantic comedy "Funny About Love." Unfortunately, after a handful of successes (like two "Star Trek" films and "Three Men and a Baby"), this one was a big disappointment for both Nimoy and Wilder. At this point in his career, Wilder's days as a bonafide star were more than a few years behind him, and the pairing with up-and-comer Mary Stuart Masterson — more than 30 years his junior — as his mistress just didn't work. 

In the film, Wilder plays a political cartoonist named Duffy Bergman, whose marriage to a successful chef falls apart just as he decides he wants children. In a mid-life crisis, Bergman appears as a speaker at a sorority convention, where he meets the much younger Daphne. After meeting again in New York, the two quickly become awkward mismatched lovers in a whirlwind affair. When Daphne becomes pregnant, Bergman is thrilled, but the couple finds themselves forced into a serious relationship that neither is sure they really want. 

A disaster with critics, Roger Ebert savaged the film, giving it just half a star, and describing it as boring, contrived, poorly directed, and full of cringe-inducing attempts at sexual comedy. It would be one of Wilder's last features.

19. Another You

The 1991 movie "Another You" saw Gene Wilder team up for the fourth and final time with comedian Richard Pryor in what felt like an attempt by both to recapture their past glory, when the pair were box office draws. "Another You" is another madcap adventure in which Pryor stars as Eddie Dash, a convicted con artist. He's tasked with looking after Gene Wilder's character, George, a mental patient recently released from the hospital who just so happens to bear a striking resemblance to the wealthy Abe Fielding, the son of brewery magnate. 

Looking to take advantage of his likeness to the upper-crust Fielding, Dash convinces George to take the man's place so they can enjoy his lavish lifestyle — including Fielding's beautiful wife, Elaine (Mercedes Ruehl). But the pair stumble into serious problems when an executive (Stephen Lang) wants George killed so that he can claim Fielding's million-dollar inheritance. Famously reshot after Wilder had a falling out with the original director Peter Bogdanovich, the results reflect the behind-the-scenes problems, and not just because it flopped at the box office. The movie is bereft of laughs and lacks the wit of Pryor and Wilder's earlier outings, with both stars at the nadirs of their respective careers. It was the final film for Wilder and Pryor's last major role.

18. Haunted Honeymoon

Gene Wilder and his real-life wife Gilda Radner — best known for her stint on "Saturday Night Live" in the late 1970s — teamed up for the off-the-wall dark comedy "Haunted Honeymoon" in 1986. In the movie, the married couple plays Larry and Pearl, two horror/mystery radio hosts who are engaged. Since he proposed, Larry has been plagued by on-air panic attacks that have been threatening their jobs. His psychiatrist believes it's just a case of pre-wedding nerves and thinks he knows how to cure them. If he can frighten Larry enough, it may "shock" the panic attacks right out of him. 

With the wedding coming up at his childhood home — a classic horror movie castle — it's now or never. While it's certainly not one of Wilder's better entries, with the New York Times giving it a poor review for its lack of laughs, Wilder's chemistry with Radner is rightfully delightful, and it generally works as a silly romp. Over the years, the movie has found itself a new audience, with fans appreciating its family-friendly spooks and scares and its successful send-up of old-school horror B-movies. Sadly, it was Radner's final film role, as the actress died of ovarian cancer in 1989.

17. Hanky Panky

Notable for being the film where Gene Wilder met his future wife Gilda Radner, "Hanky Panky" was the follow-up to Wilder's smash hit "Stir Crazy." It reunited him with that movie's director, Sidney Poitier, too. Unfortunately, the film couldn't quite match the overwhelming popularity and success of its predecessor. 

This time, Wilder plays a big-city architect wrongly accused of murder and suddenly on the run from not just the police, but also G-men and a group of mysterious foreign agents. After bumping into Kate, a woman with her own agenda, the two become stuck together and soon find themselves embroiled in a massive conspiracy. 

Described as a screwball comedy, "Hanky Panky" is one long chase, with the story taking Wilder and Radner from New York to the Grand Canyon and a number of places in between. Siskel & Ebert pegged the movie as a delightful summer surprise and praised its effective mix of suspense, intrigue, and just the right amount of comic wit. While it may be a fairly predictable, run-of-the-mill comic caper, it works thanks to the performances of its two stars, who are at the top of their game in an otherwise average film.

16. The World's Greatest Lover

If there was one kind of movie that Wilder seemed to love, it was throwback pictures. From "Young Frankenstein" to "Haunted Honeymoon," Wilder enjoyed playing parts that recaptured the spirit of Old Hollywood. He'd do it again with the 1977 film "The World's Greatest Lover," which he wrote, directed, and starred in. Also featuring comedy stars Carol Kane, Dom DeLuise, and Danny DeVito, the film was a loving homage to silent films of the 1920s. It put Wilder in the role of Rudy Hickman, an aspiring actor who enters a contest to become the next big Hollywood sensation.

The contest is run by notorious movie studio executive Adolph Zitz (DeLuise), who is beguiled by Hickman's neurotic, oddball nature and becomes obsessed with making him a star. A slapstick affair, the film is riddled with childish sight gags and juvenile humor, but that's part of its allure, too. The highlight is Wilder — and Kane, who plays Hickman's new wife — whose comic skills help elevate a middling picture to an entertaining tribute to Tinseltown of old. Its stylish production, with its loving recreation of the past, garnered especially high marks from reviewers.

15. Rhinoceros

Gene Wilder always seems to work best in buddy comedies, and Hollywood seemed to keep pushing him back together to recreate his past successful pairings. In the 1974 film "Rhinoceros," he was matched up for a second time with legendary comedian Zero Mostel (star of "Fiddler on the Roof"), with whom he'd starred years before in the all-time comedy classic "The Producers." While their second go-round didn't meet the same success as their first, Wilder and Mostel were every bit as good together. 

This time, instead of a razor-sharp comic masterpiece, "Rhinoceros" is an avant-garde, absurdist tale that sees the entire population of the world mysteriously turned into gigantic horned animals. As more and more people transform into rhinoceroses, meek office clerk Stanley soon finds himself the last human on the planet. Stuffed full of incisive social commentary, the story was a parable for collective thought vs. individualism, exploring themes of conformity and mob mentality with the flair and twist of a solid comic farce. 

14. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother

In his directorial debut, actor Gene Wilder also wrote and starred in "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" alongside Marty Feldman ("Young Frankenstein"), Dom DeLuise, and Madeline Kahn ("Clue"). The film is exactly what it sounds like, with Gene Wilder as Sigerson Holmes, brother of famed London detective Sherlock. The film begins with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson themselves, as played by Doug Wilmer and Thorley Walters, reprising their roles from the 1960s television series.

In the film, Sigerson Homes is handed a case by his older brother Sherlock, who is choosing to focus on other matters instead. Having toiled in relative obscurity and in his brother's shadow for too long, Sigerson is resentful but takes on the assignment, which involves tracking down the person who stole an important document from Foreign Secretary Lord Redcliff. A classic Holmesian mystery, Sigerson follows one clue to the next, opening up a web of intrigue and blackmail that sends him to the doorstep of his brother's archnemesis, Professor Moriarty. A clownish take on the great detective, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" is a fun, downright goofy adventure that fits well alongside the likes of Kahn's "Clue."

13. Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx

Gene Wilder's awkwardly titled "Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx" is a 1970 film about the titular eccentric Irishman, who makes a living in Dublin selling horse manure as fresh fertilizer. It's a career he's passionate about, but when horses are suddenly banned from city streets, he realizes his profession may be doomed. When he has a chance encounter with a wealthy American exchange student named Zazel Pierce (Margot Kidder), Quackser falls head-over-heels in love.

While Zazel is enchanted with Quackser's old-fashioned ways, their lifestyles prove to be an uncomfortable mismatch. Fortune is a poor fit for the well-to-do, socialite Pierce. After a modest inheritance following the death of a cousin in the Bronx, though, Quackser becomes determined to follow his love back to New York with the faint hope of becoming a worthy lover for her. An offbeat but earnest and heartwarming romantic comedy, "Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx" is as atypical as a Gene Wilder movie gets, with a touching star-crossed love story with two quirky romantic leads giving solid performances.

12. The Frisco Kid

If you're looking for an unlikely buddy comedy pairing, "The Frisco Kid" is it. Zany comic star Gene Wilder stars alongside action hero Harrison Ford in the 1979 Western comedy "The Frisco Kid." It's definitely an unexpected casting choice and one that shouldn't work on paper. Harrison Ford was still basking in the phenomenal glow of pop culture sensation "Star Wars," and Wilder was coming off a string of successful buddy comedies. But work it does. Wilder plays Polish rabbi Avram Belinski who embarks on a long journey to San Francisco and gets robbed by the Diggs brothers, a trio of ruthless bandits. Finding himself alone on the road, Belinski links up with outlaw and bank robber Tommy Lillard (Harrison Ford). 

Lillard, who's taken by the rabbi's humility and sincerity, comes straight out of the Han Solo mold as the thief with a heart of gold. The violent renegade and the peace-loving rabbi get into many scrapes. From failed bank robberies to an encounter with Native Americans and an order of silent monks, the odd couple eventually comes face to face with the Diggs brothers and Belinski finds his faith and pacifism tested. A road movie full of laughs, "The Frisco Kid" is the lesser of Wilder's two big Westerns, but is nevertheless a worthy spiritual successor to "Blazing Saddles."

11. The Little Prince

1974 was a very busy year at the box office for Gene Wilder, who took the starring role in three major movie releases: "Rhinoceros," "Young Frankenstein," and "Blazing Saddles." He also appeared in a supporting role as the Fox in the live-action fantasy musical adaptation of "The Little Prince," the famous French children's book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Though the original book had actual animals in the roles of Fox and Snake, here it's Gene Wilder and theater star Bob Fosse in the roles in human form. Putting aside the limitations of the day, it's an enchanting take on the story that holds up, with Wilder's casting reminiscent of his role as Willy Wonka, the enigmatic man with a twinkle in his eye.

"The Little Prince" is the story of a pilot (Richard Kiley) who is stranded in the desert and befriends a young child who is not of this earth. The Little Prince encounters a number of characters on his travels, including Wilder's Fox. Partly a musical like "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," the film is an esoteric tale with the titular Prince musing on life and society. Though it took many liberties with the source material, "The Little Prince" is a winsome and quirky family fantasy film with a unique charm all its own.

10. See No Evil, Hear No Evil

Screwball buddy comedy "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" got Gene Wilder back together with his "Stir Crazy" co-star Richard Pryor for a third time for another crazy caper. This time, Pryor plays Dave Lyons, a blind man who runs a concessions shop, and Wilder plays Wallace Karew, a deaf man who comes to work for him. The two become fast friends and make the perfect team, each helping the other navigate life. The pair gets dragged into a deadly criminal scheme when they unwittingly come into possession of a valuable coin left by a mysterious man visiting their shop.

When a beautiful woman named Eve (Joan Severance) shoots and kills the man, Dave and Wally become the prime suspects. Soon, Eve and her henchman Kirgo (Kevin Spacey) realize that Dave and Wally have the coin. The two best friends are chased by both the police and the two dangerous crooks. A series of wacky hijinx ensues as the deaf and blind duo attempts to turn the tables on the con men. Though not their best pairing, Wilder and Pryor show off their genuine chemistry. Reviews were decidedly mixed at the time, but it's become a cult comedy fondly remembered by audiences who grew up on Sunday afternoon movies.

9. The Woman in Red

Just a year before "Weird Science," brunette bombshell Kelly LeBrock starred opposite Gene Wilder in "The Woman in Red." Written and directed by Wilder, the actor once again casts himself in the role of the nebbish man who gets the girl way out of his league. Here, he plays ad executive Ted Pierce, who's happily married to Didi, but infatuated with a woman in a red dress (LeBrock) whom he bumps into on the street after she unknowingly exposes herself. 

After their encounter, Pierce awkwardly attempts to pursue an extramarital affair with the woman — whose name is Charlotte — after a second meeting through his office window. Misadventures result. In classic sitcom style, Pierce gets into one sticky situation after another as he tries to meet Charlotte and engage her in a passionate but illicit romance (without his wife knowing) in the hopes of living out his dream of being with a beautiful woman. Not quite a sex comedy, "The Woman in Red" is a satirical wish-fulfillment fantasy that shows the pathetic and extraordinary lengths an unfaithful man will go to. A solid comedy with more laughs than most, it's Wilder's best film as director and screenwriter.

8. Start the Revolution Without Me

In "Start the Revolution Without Me," actors Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland ("Animal House") appear as two pairs of twins living during the French Revolution. Wrongly separated at birth, the two sets of twin brothers — Phillipe and Pierre, and Claude and Charles — reunite just as the revolution is beginning. If you think that's an odd set-up for a '70s comedy, you'd be right. Thanks to the talents of its stars, the movie goes from a clumsily titled oddity to a comedy hit. 

Low on plot and high on zany antics, it's a breakneck adventure whose weaknesses can be largely overlooked thanks to its frenetic pace and farcical period fun. Another slapstick adventure that recaptures the spirit of days gone by, "Start the Revolution Without Me" does best when it satirizes classic swashbuckling movies of the past. If you like Gene Wilder, you'll surely get a kick out of him playing to type as a frantic, nervous everyman, especially since you'll get a double dose. Of course, if Wilder's not your cup of tea, you're likely to find the film as grating as his fans find it amusing.

7. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)

Yet another Gene Wilder film with an absurdly long title, this one gets a pass on the clunky name, as it's a celebrated film from renowned (and lately infamous) director Woody Allen. The film, the second anthology on this list, is a series of shorts each asking an unusual question about sex. The film's large and impressive cast includes not just Wilder but also John Carradine ("The Twilight Zone"), Tony Randall ("The Odd Couple"), Burt Reynolds ("Smokey and the Bandit"), and Lynn Redgrave ("Georgy Girl").

In Wilder's segment, titled "What Is Sodomy?" a well-respected and sophisticated medical professional named Doctor Ross is in the middle of a divorce when finds himself struggling with his sexual attraction to sheep. Eventually, the good doctor succumbs to his primal desires and becomes involved with a member of the wooly species. Uncomfortably embracing an understandably taboo subject, Wilder makes the proceedings watchable with what many agree is a fine performance, especially given the awkwardness of the material. His deadpan portrayal of the sexually deviant doctor helps make the short less crass and even somehow delightful.

6. Silver Streak

"Silver Streak" marked the very first pairing of Gene Wilder with red-hot comedian Richard Pryor was the 1976 hit "Silver Streak," an action thriller buried under layers of big laughs. Wilder plays a book editor aboard a passenger train who witnesses a murder and gets booted from the line by thugs who may have done the deed. After a case of mistaken identity leaves another man dead, George tries to go to the police but finds himself the likely suspect in the killing. On the run, George meets lowlife criminal Grover, who helps him get back aboard the train to find the real killers and prove his innocence.

Noted critics Siskel and Ebert reviewed the film on their television series "At the Movies" and praised the picture, with Ebert calling it "a cheerfully entertaining adventure comedy," while noting that "Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor make a nice team. Wilder is quiet and sly and Pryor is manic and carefree, and the movie finds a nice balance between action and comedy." Siskel didn't disagree, but didn't love the movie. Still, he called out the actor's budding on-screen chemistry as a highlight.

5. Stir Crazy

The best of Gene Wilder's four films with Richard Pryor, the 1974 film "Stir Crazy" — directed by Sidney Poitier — was a box office smash upon its release and remains one of the most successful films from a Black director to this day. Another movie that's instigated by a case of mistaken identity, this one sees Wilder and Pryor in the roles of Skip and Harry, both recently unemployed and down on their luck. The two men's lives are thrown into further chaos when they are wrongly convicted of a bank robbery and are both handed 125-year prison sentences. The film then follows the pair's wacky misadventures and hare-brained schemes behind bars as they do what they can to keep themselves out of trouble with the rougher inmates and prison guards while attempting to escape.

Though a blockbuster at the ticket counter, critics were less impressed. Roger Ebert noted the fine performances of its stars, saying that "Wilder is brilliant at being meek and laid-back, and Pryor is a genius when he's allowed to be hypergiving," but still gave the film just two stars. The New York Times called it "energetic but spiritless." It was a classic disconnect between reviewers and audiences. The film has gone on to become an '80s comedy classic, beloved for its wild tone and off-the-wall antics.

4. The Producers

Director Mel Brooks is a legend of comedy, having made such classics as "Spaceballs," "History of the World, Part I," and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights." In total, he directed 11 films. Gene Wilder starred in three of them, including Brooks' debut feature, the 1967 film "The Producers." It was also Wilder's second feature film and first starring role, playing accountant Leopold Bloom, who goes to work for Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel). In the film, it's Leopold who kickstarts the story when he realizes that a stage production could stand to make more money from a flop than from a hit by overselling investment shares.

Now set to design a massive bomb, they hire the worst actors and the most unsuccessful director they can find to develop a script called "Springtime for Hitler," written by psychotic former Nazi Franz Liebkind. Unfortunately, audiences love the film, seeing it as a comedic satire, and suddenly Leopold and Max realize they can't afford to pay their investors. Liebkind too is furious his play has become a laughingstock and is out for blood. An all-time classic, it won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and turned both Brooks and Wilder into overnight stars, catapulting both to long and successful careers in Hollywood.

3. Blazing Saddles

If you thought "The Producers" was an impressive debut for the team of Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder, their next collaboration would be even better. "Blazing Saddles," the incredible 1974 comedy Western, brought sitcom star Cleavon Little into the picture as Bart, a Black railroad worker who is appointed sheriff of Rock Ridge, a town about to be bulldozed to make room for a new railroad. Given the job by the corrupt governor who reasons that a Black sheriff will cause the townspeople to flee, Bart faces both the incoming railroad and his own people's prejudice. 

Enlisting the aid of Jim, a hard-drinking gunslinger (Wilder), Bart sets out to restore order and stave off Rock Ridge's destruction. "Blazing Saddles" wasn't just a big hit, it was a barn-burner, earning an eye-popping $119 million during its run. A wildly hilarious slapstick satire, the film employed Brooks' trademark anachronisms, throwing modern pop culture references into a period story, along with a number of fourth-wall-breaking gags. Popular with critics and audiences alike, "Blazing Saddles" got four stars from Roger Ebert, who called it a "crazed grab bag of a movie that does everything to keep us laughing." In 2014 it came in at #1 on the Rolling Stones' readers poll of funniest comedies ever made.

2. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

One of the most beloved films of all time that still ranks on lists of best family movies, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" was based on the similarly titled children's book by Roald Dahl. A break from his usual over-the-top characters, Wonka was a surprising departure for Wilder, who turned in an impeccable, relatively understated performance as the enigmatic candy magnate. In the film, the mysterious Willy Wonka runs a sweets factory in the middle of a downtrodden city. He holds a contest to give five lucky recipients a tour of his facility and the privilege of taking over his job. While four bratty children win the honor, the last — a naive, honest, and poor boy named Charlie Bucket — wins the final spot and takes his favorite grandfather with him.

Wilder's performance as the titular Willy Wonka is integral to the film's success. It's not an exaggeration to say that his combination of wit, charm, and gravitas make what might otherwise have been a forgettable kids' movie into a brilliant joy ride through a bizarre fantasy world, à la "The Wizard of Oz." Though not a hit at the box office, it was adored by critics, and it has since gone on to become one of the most enduring classics from its era. The film eventually spawned its own line of candy that is still sold today, while Wilder's Wonka has proven to be one of the most iconic characters in cinema history

1. Young Frankenstein

From "The Producers" to "Blazing Saddles," the dream team of Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder was like a magic formula. Their third film together proved the best in both of their careers. "Young Frankenstein" (1974) is a genuine horror movie as well as a hilarious spoof of the genre. Filmed in stark black and white, the film boasts elaborate sets that faithfully recreate the look and feel of early classic monster movies, effectively evoking the same thrills and chills, too. The film was written by Wilder and Brooks in their closest collaboration. 

The movie stars Gene Wilder as Frederick von Frankenstein, who is frustrated by the inescapable legacy of his grandfather Victor (voiced briefly by Brooks himself). After inheriting a Transylvanian estate from Baron Beaufort von Frankenstein, Frederick discovers his grandfather's old laboratory and decides to continue his work resurrecting the dead. Together with assistant Igor (Marty Feldman, also in top form), Frederick successfully creates his own monstrous creation (played by Peter Boyle).

A third box office hit for Wilder and Brooks, "Young Frankenstein" is not just Wilder's best film, it's hands down his funniest, with riotous laughs and quotable dialogue from start to finish. Empire called it "a marvelously crafted, beautifully shot comedic homage."