So, by now, we’ve seen the unsettling but strangely intriguing Farrelly Brothers attempt to revive The Three Stooges as franchised characters instead of being what they’ve been all these years – three (or four… well, six, technically, but we try not to think about Joe and Curly Joe) comedians with an ingenious talent for dimwittery, tomfoolery, knucklehead slapstick and zany antics. We can argue back and forth as to whether or not this was a good idea on the Farrellys’ part, but if anything, it sparked a revival in the classic films from the original comic artists, Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard and Shemp Howard. Which films, you ask? Well, how’z about we take a trip down Hilarious Lane with the 10 Best Three Stooges Shorts of All Time. Sure, let’s bust out the superlatives. They made 220 of them, so it’s all opinion anyhow, see?
10. “Hoi Polloi” (1935)
The classic trope of rich people wagering over whether or not they can transform ruffians into high society dandies works well for the Stooges, who are picked up off the street while they’re shoveling rubbish. They proceed to learn next to nothing while their benefactor pulls his hair out in frustration. Their fancy coming out party involves shaving in mixed company, spring-loaded posteriors and a new slapstick trend among the highfalutin set.
9. “Grips, Grunts and Groans” (1937)
What’s not to love about mixing the Three Stooges with professional wrestling? This one takes the same schtick as their earlier film Punch Drunks (1934) – that Curly becomes a super-buttkicker under peculiar and specific circumstances – and trades pugilism for grappling. After getting big-time wrassler Bustoff too hammered to compete, they slap a fake beard on Curly to throw him in the ring, in the effort to keep themselves from getting moidelized by the ruthless gamblers betting on the match. Curly uses the term ‘duck soup’ at one point, and one has to wonder if that isn’t a reference to their contemporaries, the Marx Brothers and their 1933 film.
8. “Three Little Pigskins” (1934)
Back when pro football was in its shady infancy and amateur athletics were the way to go, crime bosses tried to set up pro games to bet on them – and when the vagabond Stooges get mistaken for star athletes by one of the goons’ gals (another one of whom is played by a blonde Lucille Ball, no less), we get a load of running around in frilly nightgowns, and then even more running around on the gridiron with absolutely no clue how the game is played. You’ll get some similar clueless shenanigans in golf with The Three Little Beers (1935).
7. “How High is Up?” (1940)
We open with the Three Stooges sleeping underneath their car, because apparently they live there. After getting washed down the street and nearly run over by a truck, they proceed to have a protracted fight with Curly’s sweater. When they go on the run from pulling shenanigans to drum up business for their mending operation, they wind up being drafted as riveters on the 97th floor of a new skyscraper. So what do they do to solve Curly’s fear of heights? Blindfold him and set him loose on the girders. Instant comic tension!
6. “Brideless Groom” (1947)
Here’s a good one with ol’ Shemp, and it finds him with a deadline to get married or else he’ll lose half a million bucks in inheritance from his old skinflint uncle. Trouble is, he ain’t got a dame to his name, save for his most annoying singing student, who’s all too happy to tie the knot. Of course, trouble arises when the news catches wind of the story, and every woman Shemp proposed to comes barging in to beat him up until he agrees to marry them – going so far as to put Shemp’s coconut in the letter press. Chaos ensues with a lot of women beating up the Stooges and Moe’s tuchus in a bear trap.