Staff Picks: The Comic Genius of Peter Sellers

Peter Sellers

With our Virtual SIFF Cinema opening of the fantastic new Peter Medak (The Ruling Class, The Changeling) documentary The Ghost of Peter Sellers, we asked our staff to offer up their favorite films featuring the comic genius of the much-beloved and dearly missed Peter Sellers. Here's what our cinema-obsessed colleagues hit back with in response to the question.

The Ladykillers

The Ladykillers (1955)

"I remember seeing The Ladykillers at the Seattle Art Museum and reading in Greg Olson's excellent notes that in addition to playing Harry Robinson, Sellers also voiced Mrs. Wilberforce's parrots, which delighted me."
—Justine Barda, SIFF programmer

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The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film

The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film (1959)

"This 1959 short experimental slapstick film was devised by Sellers in collaboration with director Richard Lester and underappreciated British comedian Spike Milligan. It is an under-seen treasure that features Sellers' visually comedic ideas, but is also a pivotal stop on the journey toward Lester's directorial creativity in The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night and the inane world of 'Monty Python's Flying Circus.'"
—Dustin Kaspar, Education Programs Manager

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The Pink Panther

The Pink Panther (1963)

"Sellers' intrepid Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther series never gets old, and the Clouseau vs Cato fight scene in The Pink Panther Strikes Again makes me laugh every time."
—Beth Barrett, Artistic Director

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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

"His performance(s) in Dr. Strangelove is brilliant and shows his wide range as an actor... But his French accent in The Pink Panther is just so damn sexy. I'm torn."
—Mark Allender, Technical Manager

"You can't make me choose between a Hal Ashby film and a Stanley Kubrick film, so it's a tie between Being There and Dr. Strangelove (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb). You can, however, make me choose between Kubrick and Kubrick, which is why Lolita is a close third on my list."
—Nick Bruno, Public Cinema Programs Manager

"Definitely Dr. Strangelove. Over his 30-year career, Sellers' versatility as an actor was legendary, but his three brilliant performances here remain some of my all-time favorites."
—Stan Shields, SIFF Programmer

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I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!

I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968)

"A square gets a crash course in swinging '60s drug culture. It's a time capsule in the best way, and you'll have the theme sung stuck in your head for years."
—Marcus Gorman, SIFF programmer

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The Party

The Party (1968)

"My favorite Peter Sellers film is The Party. It's a film built on a ridiculous series of events, and continues to get more and more nutty as it goes on, BUT it's so grounded and rooted in Peter Sellers' nuanced performance that you can believe the madness and go along for the ride!"
—Andy Yardley, Box Office Manager & Customer Support

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Being There

Being There (1979)

"Something or someone who doesn't fit in their location or situation is surprising, confusing, disturbing, and at times extremely funny. Incongruity is an art and continuity and humor in Being There is achieved when this phrase pops up later in the film. Chance the gardener, in his innocence, keeps the peace."
—Maryna Ajaja, SIFF programmer

"Somehow I'd missed Peter Sellers' iconic role in Being There until SIFF brought it back for the 2018 festival. Now I can see what all the hubbub was about, as Sellers allows the simple-minded, TV-loving Chance the gardener be mistaken for Chauncey Gardiner, a wise presidential advisor, in a role that is elevated by his masterful reactions."
—Andy Spletzer, SIFF programmer

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