5 classic Leslie Nielsen moments

As the sad news broke today that Naked Gun star Leslie Nielsen has died aged 84, what better way to pay tribute to a giant of comedy cinema than by celebrating some of the moments that made his career one of the greatest in the genre? Nielsen, although initially a “straight” actor, had a real flair for deadpan humour which led to major roles in notable films such as Airplane! and the Naked Gun series. His characters always seemingly oblivious to the carnage around him on-screen, Nielsen nevertheless possessed exceptional comic timing and a serious, square-jawed expression which lent itself perfectly to his art. Working right up to the end, he was still involved in numerous projects. Read on for 5 guaranteed big laughs, and let’s all take a moment to remember a cinematic hero.

5. The Naked Gun was perhaps Nielsen’s finest hour, with his pitch-perfect performance as Lt. Frank Drebin giving us some classic one-liners, the silliness of his dialogue contrasting brilliantly with the film noir stylings of the sets and music. The scene in which he is introduced to femme fatale Priscilla Presley is fondly remembered for this unforgettable moment.

4. Another scene from The Naked Gun, this is a perfect example of how a spoof should be done – concentrating first on nailing the pitch of the genre which it is riffing on, then adding daft visual gags and a fantastically droll punchline without breaking the illusion. Modern spoofs should take note, adding surreal comedy to the genre tropes is what makes this work, not just a lazy collection of pop culture references with the source material as an afterthought. A typically Nielson expression at the end of the clip really hits the mark – perfect.

3. Airplane! now, with Nielsen’s first scene of the movie, as the sublimely droll doctor – much like number 4 in our list, everything about this scene is built on the foundations of the genre it sends up, the corny disaster music and exaggerated facial expressions of the actors are so well-judged, and would not look out of place in a real 50’s disaster movie, despite the surreal events unfolding. That score just adds a hilarious overblown sense of dread to what is a purely comical scene.

2. Perhaps his best pure one-liner ever, Nielsen’s role in Airplane! provided some of the best puns ever committed to script, and this back-and-forth with Robert Hays is the best of them, narrowly beating out “We have to get this man to a hospital.” “A hospital? What is it?” “It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.” This line is endlessly quotable, and really does deserve its place on any list of great comedy moments.

1. Once again expertly playing the straight comedian, as Nielsen searches the desk of his suspect, surreptitiously rifling through drawers in a darkened room, looking for the solid lead he needs, when……

So there you have it, although we would by no means claim to have the definitive list of great moments- outside of his greatest works Nielsen could often be found hauling lesser spoofs out of the mire with sparkling cameo roles. We hope you will join us in remembering the comic great with these, and please do share your favourites below.

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