Chris Farley employed an unusual set of gifts as an actor. During the Farley era, critics struggled to understand the quality of his craft. I'm not going to name names, but critics at the time called Farley a "slob," "blimp," and "fat dumb guy." Their words say more about them than they do about Farley. They were so busy sneering at an appearance they deemed unacceptable that they couldn't see the radiant being who brightened every scene he appeared in.
Farley mastered the art of the pratfall, but it wasn't just the execution of his body smashing through a coffee table or taking a wooden plank to the head that made him incredibly funny. He set you up for the moment by exposing his vulnerability and showing an earnestness that made you care for him -- and we loved him for it. Farley's physical tools are rare for any actor. He could pirouette across the screen, deliver lines with finely tuned precision, or, in just a few frames, he could crank his energy level from flaccid to frenetic. Farley emptied the tank in every role, leaving behind a binge-worthy catalog of classic comedy scenes. Here are some of the funniest Farley movie moments that still make me laugh until I cry decades after I lost my beloved onscreen buddy.
Tommy Boy — Tommy Goes Off The Rails
Chris Farley is a funny guy. He's so funny, in fact, that he can grab a couple of toy cars and deliver the most hilarious scene in a movie. Few comedians can go off the rails quite like Farley. During one sequence, Farley shows his comedic flexibility as Tommy goes full trainwreck. While selling the Callahan brand, Tommy grabs two car models on a desk, which are clearly important to his potential client. Tommy smashes them, sets them on fire, tells the man his family is inside the burning wreckage and emulates the man's children yelling, "I can't feel my legs!"
My personal favorite moment is when he's roleplaying the medic. Farley improvises a cigar, does his lovable scrunchy hunch, then says, "Oh my gahd." Farley's delivery is magical. I can't explain why it's so funny, but that's the moment from this movie filled with funny lines, gags, and pratfalls that stuck with me decades later. While Tommy is going off the rails, Richard is essentially a hostage, unable to abandon this disaster, and watching his career go up in flames. In the end, the man yells, "Get out now!" Spade tries to blow out the non-metaphorical flames on his desk. Tommy caps it off with, "Do you validate?" like this is just a regular Tuesday for him. Director Pete Segal says Farley has another gear and he shows it in this masterful one-minute prop-based monologue.
Black Sheep — The Voting Booth
The "Black Sheep" voting booth scene, to me, is one of Chris Farley's funniest moments, along with the original Matt Foley sketch and doing pushups to impress Conan's audience members. The scene is a challenging performance because it requires Farley to remain earnest while becoming a bull in a china shop, and he pulls it off masterfully. Farley sets up the moment by confidently, almost arrogantly, strutting into the voting booth. His character, Mike Donnelly, knows this is something he can do to support his brother's election and not screw up. Of course, Donnelly gets stuck on his way out, and instead of turning sideways, tries to force himself out. His powerful frame lifts the entire voting booth, tossing around the two old women next to him. It's like a mockery of Buster Keaton's house collapsing scene and it's just as impressive because Farley continues to escalate the situation almost into dark comedy territory, but he retains his earnestness and never crosses that line.
I love that the people around Donnelly believe they're witnessing a public menace purposefully causing mayhem. A poll worker yells, "Stop this!" Can he stop? No, he just makes things worse. The whole time, Steve Dodds (David Spade) is watching the trainwreck with a knowing look. After Donnelly hands in his vote, which is not kindly received, Dodds asks, "Who'd you vote for?" That's the kicker –- Dodds knows that Donnelly likely screwed up his ballot as well.
Billy Madison — The Bus Driver
Chris Farley isn't in "Billy Madison" for more than a few minutes, but you remember his presence, whether he's fuming, stewing, or shouting. Director Tamra Davis says Farley fueled his rage by downing six shots of espresso before the camera turned on. Davis said she feared he would have a heart attack. You can see why, as his face is beet red while he mutters, "I'll turn this bus around, that'll end your precious little field trip pretty damn quick."
Farley is more than a near-bursting bundle of energy, though, he can also deliver lines like few of his contemporaries. Think about his reading of, "Move it or lose it," "That Veronica Vaughn," and "Him and her got it on!" Farley stretches out notes like a blues singer and paces the words with the precision of a jazz drummer. Yet, those aren't the lines he's remembered for in "Billy Madison." His most beloved line is at the end when he's a blaring trumpet, muted only slightly by the closed bus door ironically shouting, "No yelling on the bus!" Forget espresso, give me Farley in the morning and I'm set for the day.
Tommy Boy — Fat Guy In A Little Coat
This is the quintessential Chris Farley scene because it encompasses who he is: a larger-than-life person who struggles to fit into the physical constraints that are the norms for other people. Eventually, that idealism rips down the middle. This scene is more than symbolism, though. It is damn funny.
David Spade says Farley used to enter Spade's room and do the bit when he was trying to write at "Saturday Night Live." Like the scene, he would tell Farley not to do it, because he knows hearing the joke again is not worth his time. Spade's character, Richard, also knows what's coming and warns Tommy not to put on the coat. Farley keeps up the bit and a special thing happens. When Spade says, "Take it off, dickhead, I'm serious," he almost breaks and you get transported for about five frames of film back to "SNL," back to the living room set, back to the plaid couch, as Matt Foley gets Spade to break live on camera in a real way –- there are no Fallon fake-breaks that scene. At that moment, you're brought into an intimate moment shared between two friends clowning around, and the ensuing grin stays on your face long after the scene is over.
Beverly Hills Ninja — The Panda Roll
Chris Farley gets trapped in a curtain. That's pretty much the scene. It lasts just six seconds, but it shows the range of a comedic master. Farley's character Haru is a wide-eyed ninja, often overwhelmed by the world. In this quick scene, he's looking out the window, but when he turns around, he's caught in a lacey curtain. Haru tussles about while throwing his arms around and barking out something that sounds like Popeye stuck in a bear trap. It's classic Farley, but that's not why this moment made the list.
After Haru frees himself from the curtain, Farley falls back. You think he's doing a classic pratfall, but there's no coffee table to crash through. Instead, he deftly rolls back over his shoulders and onto his feet. Blink and you miss what, to me, is like "Kung Fu Panda" meets "Drunken Master." This is a moment where you pause, grab another beer, and for the first time acknowledge that Haru could be a ninja master if he utilizes Farley's impressive, but unorthodox, physical tools. Then you watch it again, and again, and again.
Black Sheep — The Mountain Fall
We love Chris Farley; why do we like to see him in pain? Is it because we're cruel jerks who laugh at overweight people? Is it because pratfalls humanize superior people like him? I think for many of us, the real answer is that Farley commits to physical comedy in a way that we get to experience pain through him without actually feeling it. It's like a rollercoaster ride, where you experience fear but you know you'll be safe at the end.
You can see that commitment in "Black Sheep," when Farley falls down a mountain. He's doing most of his own stuntwork on the hill, which is why the cinematographer is able to get some great close-ups of Mike Donnelly tumbling and sliding. It's like we're strapped onto him, experiencing the fall with him. During the shots that appear to be a stunt double, Farley keeps us entertained by blasting out his signature grunts. At one point, Donnelly pleads sweetly with a plant to stay strong, but that doesn't last. When he finally reaches the bottom, Donnelly looks up and says, "What in the hell was that all about?" We release a cathartic laugh because the guy we love (Farley) is once again okay and we can't wait to get back on for another ride.
Tommy Boy — The Duet
We've all had this experience before. A cheesy song comes on the radio, Sirius, or Pandora. You don't want to change it, but you also don't want to expose your weakness for it. In this beloved "Tommy Boy" scene, we see Tommy and Richard trash-talk The Carpenters' hit, but both guys are eagerly awaiting that chorus. A clever edit cuts away and when we return to the car, Farley and Spade, are tearfully belting out "Don't you remember when you told me you loved me, baby?" It's a relatable character-building moment that's made better when the hood flies up.
When Farley is in a good mood, it makes me smile -- but he is at his comedic best responding to crises. When the hood flies up, the car spins out and heads into oncoming traffic. Tommy responds with his famous hunch-shouldered, holy schnikes stare when taking a peek around the hood. The car spins out as Tommy and Richard now serenade each other face-to-face with screams of terror. They get a moment of relief when the hood falls down but realize there's an oncoming semi, and then the hood goes back up again. We don't get a Farley pratfall; we don't see him hit in the head; we don't need to. Farley is just as funny when he's terrorized by a series of escalating events that seem to plague all of his characters.
Beverly Hills Ninja — Haru Vs Technology
In "Beverly Hills Ninja," Haru can never rest, for technology may strike at any time. Most ninjas are trained to avoid and misdirect when confronted with danger, but this ninja is Chris Farley, and his comedic training taught him to confront danger with his fists and his face. When Haru sets off the airport metal detector, he becomes a whirlwind of flying fists before landing with a ready stance. Farley is hilarious here because as fast as he turns on his fists of fury, he turns them off. Later, Haru's grappling hook latches onto a satellite dish that plummets, hitting him in the head -- yet he's unphased by the tech attack. Both moments showcase Haru's farcical Farley-forward ninja techniques: responding to danger with direct violence and directly absorbing physical damage.
The third time technology strikes, Haru shows off both techniques. When getting in his car, Haru's automated seatbelt puts him in a chokehold. We hear Farley's signature grunts of pain as Haru flails about. He pulls out a large knife and cuts through the seatbelt. Once he catches his breath, Haru unleashes a wild assault on the convertible ragtop, shredding it to pieces. The scenes remind me of another classic comedy, "Revenge of the Pink Panther." Tech is to Haru what Cato is to Inspector Clouseau. You don't know when it will strike, but you know Haru will be ready.
Wayne's World 2 — Milton
In a movie with a thousand gags, Chris Farley stands out as a down-and-out kid who becomes a man thanks to Wayne Campbell's (Mike Myers) confidence in him. Upon reflection, you can see Farley on a parallel trajectory. He doesn't have a lot of scenes in "Wayne's World 2," but Farley's confidence is clearly on the rise following a shy but sweet performance in "Wayne's World." We meet Milton when he storms over to greet Wayne and Garth (Dana Carvey) at a party with the breathless self-affirmation: "I hate my father. I hate my life. But I feel great, man." Then he adds, "I'm gonna go pick a fight."
You would think he's a total mess, but Wayne is optimistic, saying, "He's gotten a lot better, dontcha think?" Wayne and Garth's appreciation of Milton, despite clear anger issues, shows us that he is on the up and up. Milton is challenged while training at Waynestock. He collapses in a heap trying to upright a mic stand as tennis balls pelt him. Wayne does an "An Officer and a Gentleman" impersonation, questioning why he's even there. Milton bellows back, "'Cause I've got no place else to go!" Later, he shows he belongs as he marches back and forth in (hilarious) solidarity with an indecisive Wayne. Farley also shows he's becoming a screen presence that almost matches that of the Myers and Carvey. You can tell, like Milton, his trajectory is trending upward.
Dirty Work — Jimmy
"Nose bitten off by a Saigon whore" feels like every Norm Macdonald quip combined and distilled into a single, pure joke. Early on in Macdonald's pet project "Dirty Work," he says the joke, then hands it off to Chris Farley, who runs with it. Farley nails every iteration that combines the words "nose," "bitten off," "Saigon," and "whore." And there are many iterations. The thing is, that's not Farley at his best in the movie.
The funniest part of the movie is when Jimmy (Farley) tells Mitch (Macdonald), "You ever need anything, and I mean anything at all, you come to me." Farley delivers the line with such heart and holds that earnest look as Mitch asks for a place to stay the night -- and a stone-faced Jimmy responds, "You see the thing is ..." Jimmy goes through a hilarious litany of excuses until Mitch snaps, "I don't want to stay at your place!" Farley gives us his classic hunched shoulder, neck disappearing, taken-aback look of surprise, then sheds it all, nods, and says, "Point taken, Mitch."
I love that this movie doesn't just push Farley down hills or crack him in the face with 2x4s. He's given fun material to play with and excels. "Dirty Work" is an appropriate final onscreen appearance and one of the few that doesn't feel like Farley is being forced to dance for the camera. He still dances, but on his terms, and it's no less awesome.
Tommy Boy — The Deer
Chris Farley had the ability to elevate his scenes even when he wasn't the focus. In "Tommy Boy," a deer becomes a physical manifestation of everything that's gone wrong with Tommy and Richard's sales trip. When Tommy realizes the deer woke up, he screams, Richard screams, and the deer screams. Tommy and Richard burst out of the car as the deer rips it apart. Tommy hilariously shouts, "I think it tried to bite me" -- one of his classic physical comedy voiceovers that you hear in most of his movies.
The guys watch in horror and amazement as the deer destroys Richard's cherry 1967 Plymouth GTX. For me, the real cherry on top comes at the end when Farley says, "I swear I've seen a lot of stuff in my life, but ... that ... was ... awesome! Hahaha -- but sorry about your car, man." He acts as we would at that moment, gleefully witnessing the power of nature first-hand, before realizing the good friend standing next to him is devastated. Tommy quickly transitions with a side glance and feigns shared disappointment. But really, you know he's repeating inside his head "That ... was ... awesome!" The destructive deer would have been enough to make us laugh, but Tommy's enthusiasm makes the scene memorable.
Wayne's World — The Security Guard
"Wayne's World" is Chris Farley's first film, and he fits in perfectly with his "SNL" buddies Myers and Carvey. Seeing him as a security guard, you wouldn't realize that Farley was a little camera-shy making the movie. Producer Lorne Michaels called director Penelope Spheeris and told her to go easy on him. Despite the warning, Spheeris found Farley to be sweet and "very, very funny." Those attributes come across in this role.
Myers loves to spoof movie tropes. In this scene, the script Myers co-wrote mocks the info dumps known as exposition. It's a bite-size role, but one familiar to Farley. As the security guard, he puffs out his chest and shoulders, then does the classic Farley authoritative walk alongside Wayne and Garth, laying down key information that's necessary for the plot. Farley does all this while making over-the-top hand gestures that at the time we had come to recognize in his two years at "SNL" He's not falling, getting hit in the head, or attacked by an animal, but he still makes you smile with his mild (for Farley) handwork. You'll see a similarly subdued, but charming, Farley in "Coneheads" and "Airheads." These kinds of roles make you wonder what his career would have looked like had Matt Foley never fallen through that coffee table.
Black Sheep — The Bat
David Spade thinks "Black Sheep" should've stopped filming early in production. He didn't like his role, but you wouldn't know it watching this scene. There's a bat that's clearly fake, but you don't care because you know it's going to be fun. The guys (Farley and Spade) warm up for the action with some light dodging. Then Farley kicks the action into high gear by banging his head on a bunk bed before crawling underneath it. He gets stuck under the bed, then squeezes out, pushing aside the ladder like it's a Tinker Toy. While the action is going down, a classic Farley animal attack voiceover rings out with, "It bit me! I'm gonna get rabies!"
Spade (character name not important here) catches the bat between two pots but when he opens them a little aggressively into Farley's face, the bat isn't there. It's gone but you know exactly where it's going to show up -- on Farley. He yells, "It's gnawing at my skull!" Spade throws a blanket on Farley and starts whaling on him with a broom before kicking him on the ground. Director Penelope Spheeris says the two had a competitiveness that she believes made them dislike each other at times, but that twist of hostility is what makes them a classic comedy duo. I'm glad filming did not stop early because these two are entertaining together, whether they're competing for laughs or just goofing around.
Almost Heroes — The Eagle Nest
"Almost Heroes" is unfortunately almost forgettable, except that it's Chris Farley's final starring role. Instead of his usual partner in crime David Spade, he's teamed up with Matthew Perry, who does little more than double-take at Farley's antics. His character, Bartholomew Hunt, is hunting eagle eggs to save his fellow pioneer Leslie Edwards (Perry). Hunt climbs a 100-foot tree to retrieve the eggs, but you know why Hunt is really up there –- so Farley can come tumbling down.
Farley is clearly not doing his own stuntwork during the fall, but he is doing the voice-over work, which is fantastic. Farley nails each grunt, gasp, and oof as Hunt hits branches along the way. Each time you hear one of those signature Farley sounds, you laugh. Why? Is this specific scene that funny? Somewhat -- but I think a better answer is that you're reliving every previous grunt he made in movies or "Saturday Night Live." You've laughed so many times at Farley getting hurt that those sounds echo in your subconsciousness during this scene. Basically, this mediocre movie is relying on previous Farley laughs to induce a reaction from you, and it works like a dog drooling at a dinner bell. That's why I think this scene demonstrates the strong comedic pedigree that Farley established during his career.
Read this next: All 10 Chris Farley Movies, Ranked Worst To Best