Best of the Decade #15: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)


Of all the movies that will appear on this list, I have to believe this choice will be the most controversial, as comedy is perhaps the most subjective of all genres. There are dozens of other similarly styled comedies from the ’00s which also succeeded at the box office, and our individual lists may actually rank some of them higher. However, for a consensus list, it is Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy that stands tall.

Will Ferrell has to be one of the main reason Anchorman sticks out when choosing a comedy to represent the ’00s. While he (and many others) eventually went through a backlash, there is no question in my mind that Will’s legacy will be as the actor most associated with comedy in the 00s, and Anchorman is his calling card.

Of note is the endless roster of ’00s comedy bigwigs in front of and behind the camera. Judd Apatow as producer. Adam McKay as director. A cast including Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Vince Vaughn, with cameos from SNL and Mr. Show alumni as well as veterans such as Fred Willard and Christina Applegate.

There was so much material left over that they compiled it into a direct-to-DVD “sequel”, which for all its own inherent flaws still manages to be more entertaining than some of Will Ferrell’s own features. If you measure a comedy’s success by the number of genuine laughs and its rewatch value, it’s easy to see why Film Junk considers Anchorman one of its favorite pics of the decade.

Check out previous entries from our Top 20 Films of the ’00s.

  • Matt


  • Napalm

    Definitely one of the best comedies of the 00s

  • Brendan

    The commentary track on this is pretty random. Will Ferrell & Adam McKay start it off by themselves (not talking about the movie at all but discussing what vulgarities they can say since the DVD is “unrated”) and are joined by various guests throughout the course of the commentary. The most random was jazz singer Lou Rawls showing up and getting into a scat singing contest with Ferrell.

  • Mason

    It wouldn’t be on my list, but I know lots of people love it and I understand that comedy is subjective. I approve. It had its moments, like “milk was a bad decision.” Will Ferrell was a comedy king in this decade so he should have at least one movie on the list. If you have an Apatow movie in the next 14, I hope it is “The 40 Year-Old Virgin”.

  • twilightfox

    kind of lost all respect for film junk after I saw this. Spiderman 2 was one thing but this is just upsetting

  • Kasper

    Awesome. Anchorman really is one of the best comedy flicks of the 00’s: I approve.

  • Jim The Movie Freak

    No complaints here. This is already a classic, in my eyes. It also really gave a lot of folks from this film – credibility in the world of comedy. Not to mention that it encapsulates ‘my’ sense of humor, in terms of absurdity and surrealness.

  • G

    The part where all the news programs gathered and had that epic battle is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

  • Primal

    Oh man, absolutely. I neglected to put any comedies on my list for some reason, but if I expanded my list I’d definitely put Anchorman on there.

  • Henrik

    This is the first movie listed that I really feel defines the decade. This is the movie that has been quoted the most by people I know in the years after its release, and it lives on for sure. Great choice in my opinion.

  • Drewsifer

    Yeah anchorman is the shit, I got in touch with Adam mckay
    through funny or die to thank him for making such an awesome flick
    and he said he loved making it. He also said he was having a meeting
    with the former cast to hash out ideas for a real sequel. This one
    is on my top 20 comedies of all time.

  • define the decade, no. define the regression of comedy to lowest common denominator, yes. if you don’t have Borat on this list this choice is BS. it is a guilty pleasure, as all Ferrell comedies are, but come on.

  • I definitely don’t think it is lowest common denominator humour. It may not have a “message”, but this movie took a lot of risks in terms of the level of absurdity, and as Goon said in his write-up, most of the people involved went on to bigger things throughout the decade. In that sense, it does define the decade.

    I’ve been surprised to see this movie on a number of other Best of Decade lists as well… go figure.

  • Jackson

    I think this is an easy choice, this was the comedy that really launched Ferrel’s career as a leading man. It was also the start of the Apatow movement that has dominated and changed the format of comedy in the 2000’s.

  • After seeing Anchorman years ago I actually did some writing about the current comedies and here is some of those ideas, supported by the likes of Borat.

    I saw “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” last night and was once again disappointed by a hollywood lackluster comedy. This happens time after time; I become excited about seeing a comedy based on the actor involved and the anticipation of some great laughs only to be let down. I’ve relived this experience for “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle”, “Orange County”, etc., etc.

    The few good comedies I’ve seen in the last decade are “Something About Mary”, “Swingers” “Garden State” and “Napoleon Dynamite”. I believe these four films share a common comedic theme which I like; the comedy comes from the characters personal struggles and are intrinsically tied to the story’s time and place.” It’s like a recipe were the comedy is baked out of the ingredients of character, time and place.

    For example, in “Swingers” the humor comes from one lonely, and seemly good-natured, character’s experiences in the well-defined plastic and macho environment he and his transplanted friends have created within confines of 1990s Los Angeles. The comedy comes from this character’s actions, in this place, at this time. We as the audience are able to identify with the lead character, fresh from a breakup, as he enters this unique dating scene in a city with a prevailing unique attitude. The comedy is born of this experience it is not applied or forced on to this experience. This is why you do not see any redundant fart jokes or crazy old guys in “Swingers” as you do in other Hollywood comedies. These contrived comedic devices are not needed and would look even more out of place in this film than they do in lesser comedies because everything in “Swingers” is born of it’s character, time and place. When the filmmakers know their characters, time and place comedy flows from that knowledge. It is when filmmakers don’t know their characters, time and place that they try to save the piece by forcing comedic devices in to the film.

    As way to clarify this point even more let’s analyze how comedy is forced in say …“Anchorman”. In this film you find multiple moments of standard comedic devices forced on the characters, time and place. The one that stands out the most is the absurd gangland fight between competing news teams. First, the filmmakers start out with the tired comedic device of placing opposing groups in an unreal overused gang fight scenario. Then they thumb their noses at the audience and try to save the scene by exploding the absurdity with star cameos and extreme violence; another comedic device of super excess. And finally they try one last time to save the scene by referencing other famous movie fight scenes, such as, the horse drawn nets in “Planet of the Apes.” They were doomed from the start; the idea of competing news teams fighting a gangland war is too unbelievable for the audience and deemed a forced comedic device. Everything after this initial comedic mistake is just a desperate attempt at saving an unsavable scene.

    Why are these mistakes continually repeated by Hollywood? I believe it goes back to the fact that writing a good script is hard and original stories are few and far between. If I go back to the my list of good comedies I find that they are all mostly written from people that lived in the time and place they wrote about with characters they know. Even in a film like “Something About Mary” the comedy comes first from the gullible nature of Ben Stiller’s lonely thirty-something character but also from a more broad “time and place” in which the American man is feeling “castrated” by the modern dynamic woman, which I believe the filmmakers personally.

    In a film like “Anchorman”, an initial character was developed by an amazing talent like Will Ferrell, but then weakly applied to the “time and place” of 1970s local TV news. So much natural comedy was available to the filmmakers if they would have worked hard and invested in the “time and place” they introduced. Instead they simply created set pieces and coxed the highly talented actors to improvise in to a heighten absurdity, divorced of any relationship to actual time and place they are in.

    If this sounds like I’m against the absurd comedy that is not the case. I would argue that “Caddyshack” is an absurd comedy that is magnificent. It generates all of its comedy from its early 1980s excess (time) and its private country club mixture of “lords and surfs” (place/character). The mad pursuit of a gopher is not a forced comedic device in this instance because it’s totally in Bill Murray’s character to be clinically insane over this destroyer of his precious greens. The audience is satisfied with the portrayal of Carl Spackler, and all of his traits, to the point were blowing up the golf course is accepted as something he would do.

  • Napalm

    garden state a comedy? O_o

  • Justice

    oof, this is a rough one. I can’t watch this movie, I almost walked out of it in the theatres. But I do know lots of people who do love it and I guess comedy is the hardest thing to find common ground on so I’ll let it slide. I agree with RusinChicago though, Borat better be in here somewhere.

  • Goon

    “if you don’t have Borat on this list this choice is BS”

    I really liked Borat, but Borat (and Bruno as well) has absolutely nowhere near the rewatch value that Anchorman does.

  • doug nagy

    I agree with Goon. Anchorman has one of the best comedic ensembles ever. This film is also Christina Applegate’s finest performance to date.

    Not every joke in the film is a zinger – but the film contains an insane amount of hilarious moments.

    To Russ – This film is all about heightened absurdity. The place, the time, the man, the team, the romance – it is all absurd. This is absurdism in all its glory. (We are introduced to Brick Tamlin as he puts mayonnaise in a toaster) I can appreciate if you do not like absurdity, but I love the stuff and this film certainly suits my fancy.

    Top 20 for certain.

  • Jacob

    Wow, Rus in chicago is a real douchebag. That being said, thank you Rus for your informative critique on comedies.

    ……As way to clarify this point even more let’s analyze how comedy is forced in say …“Anchorman”……

    For real? I can’t believe someone posted that on a message board. Too funny.

  • G

    RusInChicago seems like pretentious filmschool douche. Since when is Garden State a comedy? That film is more like Revolutionary Road than a comedy.

  • I’ll ignore the name calling as I was just stating my opinion and put in the post it was from some other studies I did on current comedies.

    No, I’m not a film school student, but a filmmaker that watches, studies, analyzes film on my own. I enjoy these boards as I gain insight from other film lovers. If you have a problem with that it is yours alone.

    That being said, it appears this film is one that got the absurdity right, not as strong as a classic like Caddyshack, but right for a lot of people here. I think we can all admit it is very easy to screw this up (see Semi Pro). I also think absurdity is the easy way out as it isn’t comedy that comes from real characters, pain, etc. It is more about just doing the wackest thing at the most inappropriate time.

    Borat is way more watchable than this film due to real interactions with duped people, the commentary on race, one of the most fully realized characters ever put on film, its production style, etc.

    O.k. Garden State is a romantic comedy. You guys need to watch it again because that shit is funny. the dog, the pot smoking, the shooting of arrows, writing on a pass-out buddies face and BODY, funny shit.

  • Ben

    Not a big fan of this movie. There’s a couple of hilarious scenes but, overall, I just really think people have been setting the bar too low when it comes to comedy. Of course, I think Will Farrell is a hack, in general, anyway and only works as a bit player for me.

  • Napalm

    I think Doug Nagy hit the nail on the head with this one!

  • Drewsifer

    Caddyshack, the party , Shaun of the dead,
    you got to put absurdist humour where it belongs.
    Just let it wash over you and don’t over analyZe it.
    Although I don’t agree with Rus I know many people
    who don’t get anchormans humour. But for this choice I believe majority rules
    in it’s favour.
    P.s I wonder what rus thinks of spielberg

  • swarez

    Indeed Anchorman is one of the best. It’s a perfect case of friends getting together to make a movie and having a blast doing it.

  • Henrik

    I’m in a class cage of emotion.