12 Best Jerry Lewis Films

Sharing is caring!

Praised by many as the greatest American comedian of the Vaudeville era, Jerry Lewis is a true Renaissance man. A multi-hyphenate talent—writing, acting, directing, and producing films over an eight-decade career in show business is nothing to snuff at—Lewis is one of the few comedians to be awarded both the French Legion of Honor, as well as being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Lewis also has the honor of being the first director to watch footage as it was being shot on-set, inventing the video assist technology for his 1961 comedy epic, The Ladies Man. 

To discuss all of Lewis’ contributions to American culture in this one article would be nigh-impossible—this isn’t even mentioning his famous telethons for muscular dystrophy or his work with Dean Martin as the comedy team Martin and Lewis—so for the sake of brevity, we’ll be looking at Lewis’ work as a director. 

For much of his directorial career, which lasted from 1960’s The Bellboy to 1983’s Cracking Up, Lewis would often produce, write, and star in his own films, giving them a flavor that is unique to Lewis. Today, we’ll rank every film Jerry Lewis directed, highlighting the peaks and valleys of this incredible career in show business. (Unfortunately, as The Day the Clown Cried was never released publicly, it will not be included on this list.) Let’s dive in! 

1. The Ladies Man (1961)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

A film whose premise is hinged on the fact that it contains the single biggest film set ever built at the time of its production, this is Jerry Lewis working at the height of his powers. Starring Lewis as Herbert H. Heebert, a self-declared lifelong bachelor who decides to work as the handyman in a home for talented women. Hijinks ensue as Herbert ingratiates himself among the home population, including a tiger named Baby. An absolute side-splitter from beginning to end, the film more than earns its reputation as not only Jerry Lewis’ best film but also as one of the greatest comedies ever made.

2. Cracking Up! (1983)

Photo Credit: Orgolini/Nelson Productions.

Jerry Lewis’ final film as a director is also one of his best. The film follows Jerry Lewis as Warren Nefron, a suicidal klutz who, through a series of comedic flashbacks, recounts his entire family history to his psychiatrist. Containing more jokes per minute than the human mind can possibly comprehend, this is one slapstick smorgasbord that you won’t want to miss!

3. The Bellboy (1960)

Photo Credit: Jerry Lewis Pictures.

The one that launched Jerry Lewis into this stratosphere. This 1960 effort immediately sets the viewer’s expectation with a title card that reads, “This film has no story and no plot!” The film exists as a series of gags at the expense of Stanley (Jerry Lewis), the titular bellboy, who’s trying to get through a shift at the Fontainebleau Hotel. Watch out for a cameo from Jerry Lewis, playing himself in a dual role!

4. Hardly Working (1980)

Photo Credit: Hardly Working.

Lewis’ big comeback after a decade-long hiatus after Which Way to the Front, the film follows Jerry Lewis as a circus clown looking for work after the circus he works for shuts down. Launching Lewis back into the limelight, the film features a hilarious parody of Saturday Night Fever, with Jerry taking the John Travolta role.

5. The Nutty Professor (1963)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Not the best of Lewis’ Golden Age, but it’s the one people certainly remember him for. The film centers on Lewis as Professor Kelp, a college chemistry professor who invents a Jekyll-to-Hyde serum that turns him into Buddy Love, his suave alter ego. Hijinks ensue as the two sides of Kelp’s personality fight for control. A dazzling comedy shot in shimmering Technicolor, the film would go on to achieve notoriety, thanks, in no small part, to the 1996 remake starring Eddie Murphy in the Jerry Lewis role.

6. The Errand Boy (1961)

Photo Credit: Jerry Lewis Productions.

Morty is a paperhanger who, despite his blatant stupidity, is asked by producers at Paramutual Pictures to spy on the goings-on of the studio. Seeing Jerry at his most mad-cap, this film marks the beginning of the end of Jerry’s Golden Era, though that isn’t to say this film is a slouch!

7. The Patsy (1964)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Jerry Lewis stars as Stanley Belt, a bellboy whose luck changes overnight when the management team of a dead comedian convinces him to impersonate the recently deceased funnyman. Calamity befalls them when Stanley, who has no discernible skills, is asked to be a guest on The Ed Sullivan Show. This is a fun time for fans of Old Hollywood, as the cameos here will keep you locked in to the film’s brisk 101-minute runtime.

8. Which Way to the Front? (1970)

Photo Credit: Jerry Lewis Productions.

Jerry’s first film for Warner Bros, the film follows a squadron of soldiers rejected by the army who decide to impersonate Nazis to take down the Axis Powers from the inside. Loaded to the brim with that zany Lewis energy, one can’t help but wonder if this feels like a trial run for the never-released Day the Clown Cried. It’s still, a fun time, nonetheless.

9. Three on a Couch (1966)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Jerry Lewis’ first attempt at making an adult drama and his first film at Columbia Pictures after his deal at Paramount ended. The film follows Jerry Lewis as Christopher Pride, a man whose therapist girlfriend (Janet Leigh) refuses to marry him because she’s afraid to leave her patients behind. Chris then decides to create alternate personas as a means to try and cure his girlfriend’s patients. It is a mature effort from Lewis, though this isn’t to say it isn’t without laughs. Good stuff!

10. The Family Jewels (1965)

Photo Credit: Jerry Lewis Productions.

If you want to watch Jerry Lewis play seven characters, this is the movie for you! The film centers on ten-year-old Donna Peyton, the daughter of a recently deceased millionaire who leaves his daughter $30 million on the condition that she chooses one of her six uncles to be her new father. The problem is they’re all played by Jerry Lewis! From clowns to gangsters to war heroes, these kooks shine with Lewis’ comedic chops and impeccable direction. Seek this one out!

11. The Big Mouth (1967)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

One of Lewis’ most bizarre films comes later in his career. The movie centers on Gerald Clamson (Jerry Lewis), a bank executive on a two-week fishing vacation when he reels in the body of Syd Valentine (Lewis), who reveals to Clamson the location of stolen diamonds. The race is on to retrieve the diamonds, with this whacky lark featuring scenes at Sea World San Diego and an extended cameo from the original Colonel Harland Sanders. This one’s for the converted Jerry Lewis fan only. Others need not apply.

12. One More Time (1970)

Photo Credit: Chrislaw Productions.

The only film directed by Jerry Lewis not to be written by or star him is a sequel to the long-forgotten buddy comedy Salt and Pepper. Starring Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford, the film follows the titular Salt and Pepper as they try to save their dying nightclub from foreclosure. Featuring bizarre cameos from Hammer Horror stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as Dr. Frankenstein and Count Dracula, respectively, this stiff buddy comedy fails to deliver any kind of laughs. Given the pedigree of comedic talent in front of and behind the camera, this is a major disappointment.

20 Timeless Black and White Films That We Absolutely Love

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

So we’re sharing our top black-and-white films with you today! From the contained drama of 12 Angry Men to the eerie Nosferatu and the heart-achy Casablanca, we’re rounding up 20 of the myriad old films that have made it to the status of legends; whether they’re can’t-miss classics or films with a niche cult following, they’re all excellent in some way.

20 Timeless Black and White Films That We Absolutely Love

21 Movies Everyone Should See At Least Once in Their Life

Photo Credit: Pandora Cinema.

More films are available to watch than anyone could see in a lifetime. With so many options to choose from, finding a suitable movie can be a daunting task. However, some of these films have transcended time and culture to leave a critical mark on the world of cinema.

To help viewers on their journey of film brilliance, we have cultivated a list of films we believe everyone should see once. From heart-wrenching dramas to irreverent comedies, this list provides some of the best entries the world of film has to offer.

21 Movies Everyone Should See At Least Once in Their Life

Similar Posts