Top 10 Pink Panther / Inspector Clouseau Comedies

Ranking the Pink Panther films from Best to Worst.

Via YouTube.

The nutty screen character of French Police Inspector Jacques Clouseau bumbled from modest beginnings in 1963's The Pink Panther to become a beloved motion picture franchise, at times on the same commercial level of popularity as 007 himself, James Bond. Writer-producer-director Blake Edwards created the character with co-writer Maurice Richlin, but it wasn't until actor Peter Sellers found himself in the role that the intended secondary Clouseau became the star, the hero, the comedic icon.

These are the best of the Pink Panther movies, from greatest to... well, not so great.

01
of 10

A Shot in the Dark (1964)

Via Amazon.

This second outing is the first all-Clouseau picture, but as far as comedic offerings, this movie is second to none.

Eager to explore more in the silly detective, Edwards grabbed an unrelated Broadway whodunit and -- with William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist) -- rewrote the play as sophisticated slapstick for Sellers. The sequel was in the can, but United Artists shelved it before The Pink Panther opened. After the film opened in U.S. theaters to enormous success, Shot swiftly got its shot, and houseboy Kato and boss Dreyfus came to become beloved characters in comedy.

Check out A Shot in the Dark on Amazon.

Via freedvdcover.

The story goes that when Ava Gardner left the cast abruptly, Peter Ustinov followed. He was the man who would be Clouseau. Needing a warm body, a desperate Edwards hired Sellers. Sellers rushed to location on a Friday and the shoot began Monday. The actor and the director improvised new Clouseau material. It wasn't long before the lead, David Niven, realized his film had been stolen from under him. The lush, wacky tale of the voluptuous Pink Panther diamond had, it seems, created another gem.

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Via Subscene.

Nearly a dozen years passed before Edwards and Sellers resumed their partnership on the Clouseau front, after this project for British television evolved into a theatrical feature. While the escapade is immensely entertaining, it marked the end of the Inspector's charming subtilty. Where Clouseau was once an innocent, simply employed in the wrong line of work, here he's on a path to increasing insanity, outlandish disguises, explosive gags, and a strange, thick accent he never had before.

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Via MGM Studios.

The fifth and final Sellers appearance as Clouseau (or so Peter thought) has the world's ruthless assassins plotting his demise. There's no Pink Panther jewel involved. (Only half of these films are actually propelled by the diamond.) The first 50% or so is solid funny, but the ludicrous undercover costumes the detective dons become disjointed, hit-or-miss side sketches in the festivities. We're witnessing creative burnout, especially with Sellers in a Brando fat suit and 1950s Mafioso threads.

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05
of 10

The Pink Panther (2006)

Via Subscene.

I feared this one, the first Pink Panther in three decades not to involve the participation of Blake Edwards. Much has been said of Steve Martin in the Clouseau role, treading on Sellers' domain. Going into the deal, I felt Martin to be the only current comic star who has the chops to pull off the challenge. He does, too, in an hilarious package that has little to do with the caper it pretends to remake. Sadly, we're starting over with Clouseau's previous cases and personal history ignored.

Find The Pink Panther (2006) on Amazon.

06
of 10

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)

Via Subscene.

While I admire the fine timing and physical humor of Blake Edwards' comedies, especially the ones with cartoony structures, this episode disappointed me in initial release. It still does, although there are some delightful moments. In an apparent attempt to top all of the Panthers, Clouseau becomes James Bond-like, tracking Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), who has gone beyond madness to build a Doomsday machine to blow up major cities if someone, anyone doesn't kill Clouseau.

See The Pink Panther Strikes Again on Amazon.

Via Amazon.

Edwards did the unthinkable. He made a Peter Sellers Inspector Clouseau movie long after the actor's death, a cheater, like a bad TV clip show. Using outtakes, largely from The Pink Panther Strikes Again, and previously seen footage, series characters share memories of their encounters with the missing detective. Several of the Clouseau sequences are amusing, but the bulk are desperation strokes to exploit Sellers. His widow agreed, says Internet Movie Database. She sued, winning $1,475,000.

Check out Trail of the Pink Panther (Movie Cash) on Amazon.

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Via Amazon.

Produced at the same time as Trail of the Pink Panther, the search continues for the elsewhere sleuth. Chief Inspector Dreyfus does not want the "idiot" found, of course, so he rigs the investigation to be led by the second worst detective of all, the NYPD's Sergeant Clifton Sleigh (Ted Wass). Undistinguished, go-through-the-motions bedlam follows until Jacques Clouseau is found, portrayed by Roger Moore(!), billed as Turk Thrust II. This attempt to reinvigorate the franchise failed with a thud.

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Via DVDActive.

Ten years passed without a spawn of Blake Edwards' misguided post-Peter Panthers -- until he materialized with another bastardization: the love child of Jacques Clouseau, also a police officer and a bungler, played by the black hole of comedy, Roberto Benigni. (Apologies for the insult to black holes.) The animated title sequence is the undisputed high point of this movie, a developing trend over the several preceding vehicles. Edwards' last hurrah is a PP that trickled far too long.

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Via Amazon.

Hoo, boy. Perhaps, the deadliest major motion picture comedy I have ever seen. After A Shot in the Dark, Edwards and Sellers declined a third turn. You know, artistic integrity and all that (until they needed a hit and/or money). So, UA brought in TV's Bud Yorkin as director and Alan Arkin as our man. This movie earned its spot on this list... dead last. 

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