The Three Stooges' 7 Best And 7 Worst Movies

There are several influential people and groups that brought something fresh and exciting to comedy's early days. The Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and Charlie Chaplin brought their own distinct style to silent era and vaudeville comedy; styles that helped shape comedy into what it is today. Another outstanding (and highly influential) early comedy act that remains a fan-favorite to this day: those moronic knuckleheads, The Three Stooges.

Known for their slapstick routines, witty jokes, and keen comedic timing, The Three Stooges established themselves in 1922 but really rose to stardom when Columbia Pictures started releasing their shorts in 1934, according to Britannica. The legendary comedy group featured six men throughout its run: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Shemp Howard, Joe Besser, and Joe DeRita. For decades, these men gave countless eye pokes, pie gags, and "nyuk, nyuk, nyuk"s to audiences just waiting for a chuckle. And man, did they deliver.

As with any entertainment group, there's the best of The Three Stooges ... and then there's the worst of the Three Stooges. Read on to learn what their seven best and seven worst films and shorts were, according to critics and loyal Stooge fans.

Hit: Men in Black (1934)

They say "third time's the charm," which was certainly the case with The Three Stooges' "Men in Black," their third short released by Columbia Pictures. A spoof of Clark Gable's 1934 flick "Men in White," the short depicts Moe, Larry, and Curly as moronic medical students who pledge "for duty and humanity" after being hired at a hospital. The Stooges run amok around the medical facility, leaving it in chaos — and the audience in stitches.

"Men in Black" is considered one of the best Three Stooges shorts for several reasons. According to, it was the debut short for several beloved Stooges gags and routines. One of those routines — appropriately called "I'll do it when I'm ready!" — features Moe telling one of the other Stooges to do something, to which they respond, "I'll do it when I'm ready!"

"Men in Black" was also the Three Stooges' first (and only) short to be nominated for an Oscar. It was nominated for the Best Short Subject (Comedy) honor at the seventh Academy Awards in 1935, but according to, it lost out to "La Cucaracha."

In addition to being a critical success and an influential stepping stone for the Stooges, the short is also a Stooge fan favorite. According to IMDb, the short scores a weighted average of 7.7/10 stars and has been rated by more than 1,300 people. Not bad for an early Stooge piece about the hilarity of medical mayhem.

Miss: Self-Made Maids (1950)

The Stooges dressed as women in numerous shorts, giving them the ability to play two characters at once. Normally, you'd assume double the Stooges is a good thing, right? Well, "Self-Made Maids" proves that double the Stooge doesn't necessarily mean double the laughs.

This 1950 short depicts the Stooges in duo roles as artists and the girlfriends they wish to marry. The only problem? The girls' father won't give his blessing for the slapstick unions. The only logical next step is to tickle a blessing out of him, of course. And that "tickle" line isn't metaphorical — it really happens in the production.

While the short's premise is certainly creative, it's not the most cohesive Stooge production. Simply put, it falls flat and doesn't follow that flow Stooge fans know and love. A 6.7/10 star rating on IMDb backs the "miss" status. Perhaps too many Stooges on screen is what steals the story.

Hit: Disorder in the Court (1936)

1936's "Disorder in the Court" showed the world that Moe, Curly, and Larry could bring the laughs pretty much anywhere they went — including the courtroom. This Stooges courtroom parody shows the three knuckleheads as witnesses in a murder trial their dancer friend faces. Of course, they're arguably the most disruptive witnesses ever. (It's totally normal to perform a musical number while under oath, right?)

"Disorder in the Court" is widely considered a staple Stooge short and a favorite among fans. It has an impressive 8/10 stars on IMDb, based on nearly 2,100 ratings. Curly's performance, in particular, is spot-on in this short. says this about Curly's swearing-in scene: "The latter captures Curly at his most brilliant, demonstrating how effectively he portrays mental confusion, natural shyness, a whining temper, and hand waving defiance."

While Curly's performance is notable, the rest of the Stooges' timing and antics are terrific, too. It proves that Stooge slapstick can get laughs anywhere (even in front of a judge).

Miss: Cuckoo on a Choo Choo (1952)

Transient Stooges, in theory, sounds hilarious — but "Cuckoo on a Choo Choo" is a runaway train in all the wrong ways. Let's set the stage for this short: It's 1952, the Stooges are Moe, Larry, and Shemp, and they're involved in an odd situation involving love and a stolen railroad car. According to, the plot was borrowed from two popular films at the time: "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Harvey." While certainly unique, it's a big miss for the iconic comedy act.

Often considered by fans and critics as one of the worst shorts of the Stooges' career, it boasts a lot of "cuckoo" and not enough comedy. Online fans seem to agree, as proved by its so-so rating of 6.4/10 stars on IMDb, an average weighted from 328 reviews. Despite its less-than-favorable repertoire among Stooge enthusiasts, it was reportedly one of Larry Fine's favorite shorts to watch in his retirement, according to "The Complete Three Stooges," by Jon Solomon. 

Hit: Punch Drunks (1934)

This is a Stooges short that really packs a punch! 1934's "Punch Drunks" delivers classic Stooge comedy and proved early in production that the trio was something special — it was only the second short released by Columbia Pictures, after all.

The beloved short centers around the knuckleheads taking advantage of Curly's unique gift: becoming a boxing pro when he hears "Pop Goes the Weasel." Slapstick hilarity ensues with Larry on the violin and Moe in the corner coaching Curly.

One reason why this short is so special may have something to do with the men who wrote it. The script for "Punch Drunks" was actually written by The Stooges themselves, according to They're credited as Jerry Howard, Larry Fine, and Moe Howard (their real names). It's also the only Stooges short selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress; it was chosen back in 2002 for its historical, cultural, and aesthetic contributions, as per the LOC. For many Stooge fans and critics, it's the poifect short.

Miss: The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962)

Fans of The Stooges expect to see wacky antics in their content, but their 1962 Sci-Fi movie is just plain bizarre — and not in a good way. Their fifth feature film finds Moe, Larry, and Curly-Joe as TV actors who, while trying to get their animated show, "The Three Stooges Scrapbook," off the ground, get caught up in a pending Martian takeover. It's pretty odd, even in the Stooges' world.

"The Three Stooges in Orbit" premiered in July 1962 with some favorable reviews. According to the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, the Los Angeles Times called it one of the Stooges' "wildest and best" efforts. Wild, yes, but best? Online fans seem to disagree. With an audience score of 66% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.6/10 star rating on IMDb, "The Three Stooges in Orbit" tends to be a miss in the eyes of many Stooge fans. Perhaps it's because the comedic tempo is slower to fill feature film time; the flick does run for 87 minutes, which is much longer than a Stooge short.

Hit: A Plumbing We Will Go (1940)

"A Plumbing We Will Go" is widely considered a Stooges staple that both loyal fans and knucklehead novices enjoy. The beloved short depicts Moe, Larry, and Curly as hapless imposter plumbers who wreak hilarious havoc at a posh mansion while trying to ditch the cops. The short features excellent physical comedy and is chock-full of classic Stooge antics fans know and absolutely adore. One critic writes, "What makes this solid entertainment is that The Three Stooges execute to perfection a well-conceived sight gag." The kitchen scene with Dudley Dickerson, in particular, really tickles the funny bone.

Stooge fans continuously boast about "A Plumbing We Will Go" online to show their support for the short. It has an impressive 8.3/10 star rating on IMDb, proving that it still gets the audience in stitches more than 80 years after its release. Jon Solomon in his book, "The Complete Three Stooges," calls it, "without question, one of the most memorable comedy films ever made." Not a bad outing for three of the best plumbers that ever plumed a plum.

Miss: Have Rocket, Will Travel (1959)

The Three Stooges were experiencing a renaissance in the 1950s, with their beloved shorts surging in popularity thanks to their television release. So, it was only natural for the slapstick legends to take their antics to the big screen and appeal to their new audience. With that, 1959's "Have Rocket, Will Travel" was born. Fun fact: According to, the film's name was a parody of the popular television show "Have Gun, Will Travel."

The Stooges' first space-themed feature film follows Moe, Larry, and Curly-Joe (a debuting Joe De Rita, who replaced Joe Besser as the third Stooge) as maintenance workers who accidentally fly to Venus and encounter some truly odd things ... like a talking unicorn and a diabolical alien computer. Yeah, it's a little out there — even for a Stooges space flick.

While it was a box office success, as per "The Three Stooges Scrapbook," the Stooge sci-fi film isn't ranked well online by fans; it has an audience score of only 44% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.6/10 star rating on IMDb. It may have drawn crowds back in the day, but the odd premise and lack of slapstick charm and jokes makes it less favorable among modern Stooge fans.

Hit: Uncivil Warriors (1935)

1935's "Uncivil Warriors" is a crystal clear example of how great Moe, Larry, and Curly's comedic timing and dialogue is. The short shows the boys as Civil War soldiers who must spy on the enemy. As part of their assignment, they make themselves guests in the home of a southern officer (with the chuckle-ensuing name Colonel Buttz). As you can imagine, things get screwy — and funny — quickly.

"Uncivil Warriors" delights audiences by delivering slapstick comedy and loveable gags that actually makes people laugh out loud (take the cake eating scene for example). The book, "The Complete Three Stooges: The Official Filmography and Three Stooges Companion," by Jon Solomon, also states that it was the short that introduced several interior and exterior gags the Stooges would use for decades to come. The short earned a favorable review in Variety back in 1935, with the reviewer writing, "Usual comedy liberties prevail, but funny all the way, including some of the slaps and the like with which this short is generously sprinkled."

The short is a favorite among many Stooge fans, too. Fan ratings on IMDb give it an overall 7.7/10 star rating, proving that slapstick Civil War antics are a win for the comedy team.

Miss: Snow White and the Three Stooges (1961)

The Three Stooges meet a Disney princess? Oh boy. "Snow White and the Three Stooges" was an attempt to crossover The Stooges and the tale of Snow White; instead of the Seven Dwarves, she encounters the three knuckleheads in the forest.

Despite a big budget, the film flopped with many critics and fans. The officially recognized fan site points out that the film sticks way too close to the Snow White tale and doesn't give the Stooges enough time to ... well, be the Stooges. It feels more like Larry, Moe, and Curly-Joe are simply side characters that conform to Snow White's world. That's backed up in Jon Solomon's book, "The Complete Three Stooges," which states that the Stooges were only billed as "also starring" in the flick, taking a backseat to Snow White. The lack of slapstick gags and jokes is glaringly obvious, and they simply feel out of place in the fairy tale world.

The feature flop has an audience score of a measly 48% on Rotten Tomatoes and a low 5.2/10 star rating on IMDb, making it pretty obvious that fans don't consider this one a good Stooge production. It did get one favorable review from The New York Times back in 1961, which called it "pictorially lavish, beautiful and tasteful from start to finish." It sounds like many loyal Stooge fans would beg to differ.

Hit: Three Little Beers (1935)

There are two key things "Three Little Beers" shows us: The Stooges make lousy beer delivery men, and it's hysterical watching them tear up a golf course. The popular Stooges short shows Moe, Larry, and Curly wreaking havoc on a company golf tournament while poorly doing their jobs as beer deliverers. One of the funniest sequences is the "barrel chase" sequence, where barrels of beer roll down a hill and take out everything in their path. It's prime Stooge content that combines physical comedy with great timing.

Stooge fans favorably rate this short online; it has an impressive 8.1/10 star rating on IMDb. One factor in this high rating could be that we see two classic Stooge routines in the short. According to officially recognized fan site, we see the "Press, Press, Pull" routine and the gag where Curly has several objects concealed in his shirt (that, of course, fall out).

Miss: The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962)

While better than their Snow White collaboration, 1962's "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" falls short for the iconic comedy fellas when compared to their other work. The feature film finds the Stooges going back in time to Ancient Greece and, of course, things go hilariously haywire. So, what makes this a miss for Moe, Larry, and Curly-Joe? Long story short: There's too much Hercules and not enough comedy.

Admittedly, the feature film ranks alright among fans, according to online ratings. It has an audience score of 71% on Rotten Tomatoes and has 6.1/10 stars on IMDb (not a slam dunk, but not completely horrible, either — kind of like the movie itself). While the audience is a bit more forgiving of The Stooges' time travel movie, critics aren't. Several critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave it low ratings, writing things like "Exactly what you'd expect" and "Makes 'Have Rocket, Will Travel' seem smart." Yikes.

Hit: Micro-Phonies (1945)

"Micro-Phonies" is a Stooge classic that really shines light on the trio's performance abilities, especially Curly's; reports that it was actually filmed a couple months after Curly Howard suffered a stroke. In this short, the Stooges are handymen at a recording studio and, while trying to avoid their boss' wrath over their latest blunder, end up in a recording studio where Curly (dressed as a woman) gets mistaken for an opera singer. Slapstick wackiness ensues, of course, and as a viewer, the laughs just naturally start coming.

Many Stooge fans hold "Micro-Phonies" near and dear to their hearts, as evidenced by the short's online ratings. It has a whopping 8.2/10 star rating on IMDb, where users rave about its pacing, slapstick antics, and hilarious gags. You can't help but admire the chemistry Moe, Larry, and Curly have, and how well their dynamic plays out scene after scene.

Miss: The Three Stooges (2012)

Given the Three Stooges' incredible legacy and influence on comedy, it's pretty clear why people would want to see them back in the mainstream. Resurfacing classic Stooge lines and antics for a slapstick renaissance, in theory, sounds poifect!

But, let's be honest: There's some iconic content that's just better left untouched in the age of reboots. A glaring example: 2012's "The Three Stooges." While technically not a classic short from the original three, this feature film recasts the knuckleheads (Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, Sean Hayes as Larry, and Will Sasso as Curly) and follows them through three slapstick skits as they try to save the orphanage they grew up in. Along the way, the modern Stooges get tangled up in a murder plot — and make their reality TV debut.

There's no doubt the film has heart, and the actors deliver overall good-natured performances, but the attempt to bring The Three Stooges to the 21st century is "eh" at best. Rolling Stone's review calls the film "a mixed bag" and states, "For the Farrellys, 'The Three Stooges' is a labor of love. For non-believers, it's merely a labor." The 2012 Stooge revamp isn't a slam dunk on Rotten Tomatoes, either. It scores a lackluster 51% on the Tomatometer and has an even lower audience score of 47%.