It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine, and there’s no better way to dose up on the good stuff than with a marathon session watching some of the most hilarious films ever made. Luckily, then, Netflix has plenty of options to satisfy any cravings for a good comedy – whether you’re in the mood for a rom-com or prefer a bit of slapstick. And to save you time scrolling, we’ve rounded up the funniest flicks that the streaming service has to offer. Here’s our definitive guide to the best comedy movies on Netflix as of November 1, 2019.
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If you also have a penchant for seat-of-your-pants fare, however, then check out our list of “The 25 Best Action Movies On Netflix Right Now.” If you need something to watch with the little ones, on the other hand, then take a look at our list of “The 25 Best Family Movies On Netflix Right Now.” Fan of scary flicks? Then head over to our list of “The 25 Best Horror Movies On Netflix Right Now.” If you’re more up for nailbiting tension, though, then check out “The 25 Best Thriller Movies On Netflix Right Now.” And if you prefer being at the heart of combat, make your way stat to “The 25 Best War Movies On Netflix Right Now.”
If you’re a fantasy aficionado, though, have a glance at our list of “The 25 Best Sci-Fi Movies On Netflix Right Now.” Or are you an unashamed romcom lover? Then sneak a peek at our list of “The 25 Best Romantic Movies On Netflix Right Now.” Just want to sit back with a recent release? Take a look at our list of “The 25 Best New Movies On Netflix Right Now.” And then there’s also our definitive guide to “The 50 Best Movies On Netflix Right Now,” if you fancy settling down to a true classic or two.
To establish which movies should be included on this list, we first turned to New on Netflix USA’s ratings of films currently available on Netflix. We then selected the 25 comedy films with the highest scores on that site. In addition, we conducted our own independent research to ensure that we featured only the very best movies out there.
To establish our ranking, we then gathered ratings for those 25 movies from each of the following touchstone sites: IMDb, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. Any film for which only an IMDb rating was available was subsequently disqualified; and this was also the case for any movie with a Rotten Tomatoes rating based on fewer than 15 reviews.
The ratings were then combined to give each movie an average score out of 100, and the 25 films with the highest average scores were concluded to be the best currently streaming on Netflix in the U.S. These scores also, of course, determined the final ordering of the movies.
25. Stripes (1981)
Legend has it that Ivan Reitman came up with the premise for Stripes while en route to another movie’s premiere. Not only that, but Paramount Pictures apparently greenlit the idea that very same day. Happily, though, the studio’s snap decision ultimately paid off, as the 1981 film went on to achieve both commercial and critical success. Starring Bill Murray, the buddy comedy tracks the exploits of a pair of friends who try to turn their lives around by signing up for army life. The U.S. Department of Defense actually had a hand in the making of the movie, too; the film crew were able to shoot inside Fort Knox, for instance, while real soldiers appear in the flick as extras. And according to Roger Ebert’s contemporary Chicago Sun-Times review of Stripes, the end product is “a celebration of all that is irreverent, reckless, foolhardy, undisciplined and occasionally scatological.”
24. Mindhorn (2016)
Richard Thorncroft was once a star of the small screen as Detective Bruce Mindhorn; a quarter of a century on, however, and the actor films commercials just to stay afloat. Then a deranged killer asks to speak to Detective Mindhorn, and Thorncroft is forced to revive a role that he’d thought was long behind him. Yes, that’s the somewhat off-the-wall premise of Mindhorn, which stars British comedian Julian Barratt as the title character. And there are plenty of laughs to enjoy in Sean Foley’s movie; according to Time Out, the flick in fact boasts a “gags-per-minute ratio [that] is through the roof.” Credit must be given, then, to Barratt and Simon Farnaby’s script, which ultimately earned the pair a nomination at the 2016 British Independent Film Awards. Critics were almost universally happy with Mindhorn, too, judging by the movie’s 91 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
23. While We’re Young (2014)
While We’re Young “would be unbearably sad if it weren’t so funny,” writes The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. And this tragicomic quality owes much to the movie’s plot, which tells the story of a middle-aged husband and wife – portrayed by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts – who become infatuated with a pair of bright young twentysomethings. There’s certainly a poignant side to the comedy, according to director Noah Baumbach, too. In 2015 he told The Guardian that the movie sees its protagonists “coming to terms with the fact [that] there aren’t boundless possibilities at a certain point… [that] there are things that you can’t do any more.” Yet there’s an upside to this realization, Baumbach explained, adding, “There’s beauty in that compromise, too.” Incidentally, While We’re Young remains the director’s most commercially successful venture to date – as well as one of the best funny movies on Netflix, of course.
22. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)
When best pals Tucker and Dale arrive at their vacation cabin in the woods, a clan of college kids convince themselves that the redneck duo are evil killers. Matters then go from bad to worse when the two men try to help out one of the visitors. What ensues in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a hilarious mix of parody, wit and gore that Empire magazine hailed as “irresistibly likable.” And while the 2010 horror comedy faltered at the box office – it only managed to pull in $223,838 in the U.S. – it’s since become a beloved cult classic. What’s more, Eli Craig’s slasher movie – which features Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine in the title roles – has garnered considerable critical acclaim if its 84 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes is anything to go by.
21. The Sapphires (2012)
As The Sapphires begins, viewers are given two harrowing pieces of information. Until the late ’60s, we’re told, indigenous Australians were classed as “flora and fauna” rather than humans. Not only that, but the country’s authorities could also legally separate paler-skinned Aboriginal children from their loved ones – ostensibly to push them towards white communities. Yet while such context appears to pave the way for hard-hitting drama, what ensues is actually more uplifting. Based on a true story, the feel-good film follows four Aboriginal women as they form ’60s girl band The Sapphires and – as the group did in real life – travel to Vietnam to perform for U.S. soldiers. And although Wayne Blair’s dramedy wasn’t as successful worldwide as it proved Down Under, it’s nevertheless received substantial critical acclaim. Rolling Stone, for instance, lauded the picture as “a blast of joy and music that struts right into your heart.”
20. Swingers (1996)
When Jon Favreau penned the script for Swingers, he never imagined that the film would find a wide audience. And the actor’s hopes for a hit may have been further dashed during the shooting process when a sound technician reportedly told director Doug Liman, “This movie’s pretty cute, but let’s face it: no one’s ever going to see this but your friends.” Thankfully, though, Swingers defied expectations; the charming comedy ended up finding its way to Miramax, after which it grossed $4.5 million on a budget of just $200,000. The film apparently kickstarted the respective careers of Liman, Favreau and co-star Vince Vaughn, too. At the very least, the trio have come a long way following the release of the indie picture, which depicts the romantic exploits of a group of aspiring actors. Favreau, for instance, has since gone on to direct the Iron Man movies.
19. Obvious Child (2014)
For 2014’s Obvious Child, Gillian Robespierre sat in the director’s chair for the very first time. And in the end, she produced a fresh and funny take on a topic that many have long considered taboo: abortion. The film centers on young stand-up comic Donna Stern – played by Jenny Slate – who becomes pregnant as a result of a one-night stand. While Stern waits for her appointment at Planned Parenthood, however, she finds herself i some often hilariously uncomfortable situations. But while this may all seem as though Obvious Child is just – as Rolling Stone put it in its review of the rom-com – “an abortion movie with jokes,” it’s also, the magazine added, “uniquely special.” Variety, meanwhile, was equally complimentary about Robespierre’s work, dubbing it “refreshingly honest” and “wildly funny.” Oh, and Slate took home the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Actress in a Comedy for her performance as Stern.
18. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
Apparently, Eddie Murphy required a whopping 75 different outfits for the lead role of blaxploitation icon Rudy Ray Moore in Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name. And according to costume designer Ruth Carter – who pocketed an Oscar for her work on 2018’s Black Panther – it was this dedication to getting into character that makes the comic actor’s portrayal of Moore such a success. Indeed, in 2019 Carter told the Los Angeles Times, “[Murphy], as a performer, is a transformationist.” What’s more, this was far from the only praise that the comedian has received for his turn in the Craig Brewer-directed biopic. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, for example, hailed Murphy for his “likable, big-hearted performance,” with the critic adding that the movie itself is “heartfelt, funny [and] satisfying.” Given such acclaim, then, it’s small wonder that Dolemite Is My Name holds a remarkable 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
17. A Serious Man (2009)
We wouldn’t blame you for thinking that a movie about a Midwestern professor questioning his faith sounds far from a barrel of laughs. The title of the Coen brothers’ 2009 dramedy doesn’t exactly help matters, either. But don’t be fooled, for A Serious Man is definitely worth watching – particularly if you appreciate dark humor. It’s worth noting, too, that the film has no small awards pedigree, with not only BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations but also a Best Picture nod at the 2009 Oscars to its name. And given the parallels between the feature’s setting and the Coens’ own backgrounds, such acclaim may just mean that little bit extra to the duo. “Is this a personal film? It’s personal in that we personally lived in a community like [the one in A Serious Man]. And in 1967 we were the age of the kids in the movie,” Joel Coen explained to The Jewish Chronicle in 2009.
16. About a Boy (2002)
Before Hugh Grant took on the role of immature bachelor Will Freeman in About a Boy, Brad Pitt reportedly turned down the part – and for an intriguing reason. Apparently, you see, the A-lister thought it inconceivable that a man with his good looks would ever need to resort to faking fatherhood to win a date. Grant was up for the challenge, though, with the actor delivering what GQ has described as “probably the finest [performance] of his career.” Industry voters, too, seemed similarly enamored, as the star earned himself a Golden Globe nomination for his efforts. And this isn’t the only such honor that’s been afforded the Weitz brothers-directed rom-com; the movie also picked up two BAFTA noms and an Oscar nod in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.
15. Heathers (1988)
When Heathers came out in 1988, it wasn’t a big hitter at the box office – possibly because it had more bite than other teen flicks of its era. But this razor-sharp edge is something that fans have come to adore about the movie, which stars a young Winona Ryder as a girl who becomes disenchanted with her tyrannical clique of friends. Heathers’ pitch-black take on high-school drama was certainly a game-changer for the coming-of-age genre, paving the way for the likes of Mean Girls. So it’s fitting that The Washington Post saw fit to dub the film “the nastiest, cruelest fun you can have without actually having to study law or gird leather products.” And today the twisted comedy is a bona fide cult phenomenon; there’s even a musical version performed on stages around the world.
14. Superbad (2007)
Impressively, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg began crafting the script for Superbad when they were barely in their teens. Then as the years passed, the two aspiring screenwriters continued to shape their raunchy comedy – although possibly to the detriment of Rogen’s education. “We would literally just be on the phone with each other all the time,” the actor told The Ringer in 2017. “I was supposed to be doing high school, but instead of that I was writing Superbad.” Still, the work was worth it, as Rogen and Goldberg’s semi-autobiographical take on their teenage years turned out to be a smash, ultimately grossing close to $170 million worldwide. The Greg Mottola-directed comedy – which sees aptly named protagonists Seth and Evan set out on a hapless quest to buy some beer – was a critical hit, too, with Newsweek’s Devin Gordon opining, “Superbad isn’t perfect – but it’s super close.”
13. Zombieland (2009)
When college kid Columbus finds himself in the middle of a zombie uprising, he wants to know if his nearest and dearest have themselves turned into the undead. Naturally, then, the unassuming young man heads out on the road to his parents’ home. But before getting to check up on his folks, Columbus – played by Jesse Eisenberg – encounters a colorful bunch of fellow survivors with whom he bands together in order to make the journey unscathed. And while this premise may, granted, rightly suggest the potential for blood and guts aplenty, there are a whole lot of laughs on offer, too. That’s certainly what can be surmised from Us Weekly’s review of the zom-com, which labeled it “a non-stop snarky ride.” The New Yorker’s Bruce Diones also gave credit to Woody Harrelson – who, the critic opined, gives “a gleeful rampage of a performance” as Twinkie-obsessed killer Tallahassee.
12. Junebug (2005)
In his 2005 review, Roger Ebert described Junebug as “a movie that understands profoundly – and with love and sadness – the world of small towns.” The storyline that helps achieve this sees big-city art dealer Madeleine, played by Embeth Davidtz, experience something of a culture shock as she visits her husband’s family for the first time in their sleepy southern suburb. Yet while some of the movie’s tropes – friction between in-laws, for example – may be rather well worn, Junebug nevertheless made a big impression on critics; The New York Times, for example, applauded the “wise, bittersweet [and] beautifully acted comedy.” And perhaps the stand-out performance comes from Amy Adams, who earned an Academy Award nod for her turn as Madeline’s sister-in-law, Ashley – and in so doing scooped the first of her six Oscar nominations to date.
11. 50/50 (2011)
Although cancer isn’t generally something to laugh about, Will Reiser chose to incorporate elements of his own experience with the disease in his screenplay for 2011 dramedy 50/50. The movie’s title, for instance, references the less than reassuring survival odds that Reiser received after his diagnosis. However, despite 50/50’s potentially distressing premise – two friends see their lives turned upside down by the big C – the Jonathan Levine-directed picture is actually far from grim. And that’s down at least in part to stars Seth Rogan and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whom veteran critic Leonard Maltin praised in his 2011 review for “[making] the comedy seem both spontaneous and organic.” In 2012 the film was also up for two Golden Globes, including a nod for Gordon-Levitt in the Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy category.
10. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
Apparently, the Coen brothers spent a quarter of a century crafting the script for 2018’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The picture is, mind you, a collection of six vignettes, each of which tells a different tale about life in the Wild West. And while the stories – which the Coens initially conceived for television – are all distinct from one another, they somehow work together, too. Perhaps this is because, as The New York Times put it, each tale “swerves from goofy to ghastly so deftly and so often that you can’t always tell which is which.” The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is no ordinary movie, then, and yet it’s certainly garnered its share of acclaim. The anthology film scooped the Golden Osella Award for Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival, for example, while it also received a trio of Oscar nods.
9. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
In The Edge of Seventeen Hailee Steinfeld takes the lead as anxious student Nadine, whose existence only goes from bad to worse when her brother and her BFF begin hooking up. And while this precis might appear to set the scene for yet another run-of-the-mill teen comedy, Kelly Fremon Craig’s movie is actually far sharper than that. In fact, The Edge of Seventeen’s frank and funny take on high school life has seen it compared favorably to John Hughes’ clutch of classic coming-of-age flicks – high praise indeed. Oh, and the performance of Steinfeld earned her considerable acclaim, too. Critic Christy Lemire, for instance, hailed “the radiant star at [the] center” of the film for her ability to make Nadine “feel real and alive.”
8. 20th Century Women (2016)
As the title of Mike Mills’ third full-length feature suggests, 20th Century Women mostly centers on the exploits of its female characters. In fact, the director has even gone so far as to call the film a “love letter” to the individuals who shaped his childhood. “In my life, the people who really had an impact on me – who showed me how to be me – were all women,” Mills told Elle in 2017. That’s not all the filmmaker has apparently taken from real life, either, for the dramedy is also set in the very place that he once called home. 20th Century Women sees Annette Bening portray southern Californian single mother Dorothea, who is raising her teen son with the help of two free-spirited younger women. Oh, and such ingredients largely enamored critics, with The Guardian, for example, praising it as “a rushing river of gorgeous moments.”
7. The Squid and the Whale (2005)
While divorce may not typically be a laughing matter, Noah Baumbach mined his own parents’ separation for The Squid and the Whale – and to considerable comic effect. A vein of jet-black humor runs through Baumbach’s partly autobiographical flick, which sees two young Brooklynites caught in the fall-out when their mom and dad’s marriage dissolves. And it’s doubtless at least partly this artful mix of drama and comedy that brought success at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, where The Squid and the Whale picked up a pair of coveted awards for its directing and script. An Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay followed to boot. But credit should certainly also be given to the movie’s cast, with the likes of Jesse Eisenberg, Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney having all provided what Variety lauded as “a feast of inspired performances.”
6. Don’t Think Twice (2016)
Written, directed by and starring This American Life’s Mike Birbiglia, Don’t Think Twice is a comedy about, well, comedy itself. More specifically, the movie centers on the lives of a clutch of improv actors, all of whom also happen to be best buds. And while Don’t Think Twice hardly rivals blockbusters for box-office takings – it made just $4.4 million overall – Birbiglia can at least boast that his film had the second highest per-screen gross in the U.S. during 2016. That’s surely down in part to the script, which is as heartwarming as it is hilarious – not to mention the fact that comedians of the caliber of Kate Micucci and Keegan-Michael Key feature among the cast. In any case, the movie holds an enviable 98 percent “certified fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
5. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
As hard as it is to believe now, Hugh Grant was close to quitting being an actor when he read for the part of Charles in Four Weddings and a Funeral. But, of course, the Brit ended up winning the breakthrough role – despite writer Richard Curtis’ conviction that he was just too good-looking to ever play a man who’s unlucky in love. Grant heads a cast that also includes Andie MacDowell – whose character’s will-they-won’t-they liaison with Charles lies at the heart of the movie – and venerable British thespians Simon Callow and Kristin Scott Thomas. And the Mike Newell-directed romcom turned out to be both a commercial and a critical hit, picking up not only four BAFTAs but also two Oscar nods. Oh, and Curtis seems to have ultimately softened in his opinion on Grant, as the actor would go on to feature in follow-up films Notting Hill and Love Actually.
4. Life of Brian (1979)
The initial kernel of inspiration for Monty Python’s Life of Brian came after Python member Eric Idle dreamt up the title Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory. It’s perhaps little wonder, then, that when Life of Brian actually hit theaters, the comedy caused something of a stir. So much so, in fact, that the Roman Catholic Church apparently even awarded Brian a unique certification: “C” – short for “Condemned.” And yet the movie’s director, Python’s Terry Jones, had a slightly different perspective on the furor. “I took the view [that] Brian wasn’t blasphemous; it was heretical,” he explained to the Radio Times in 2011. But either way, the film – which depicts the trials of a man born right next to Jesus and subsequently believed to be the Son of God – has proven popular with audiences ever since its release. It’s also certainly among the best comedy movies on Netflix.
3. Bad Genius (2017)
Bad Genius became the biggest hit of 2017 in its native Thailand – although it also achieved success in other territories. The drama’s box-office takings in China, for instance, helped it break a 13-year record for foreign-film sales. And after Bad Genius opened the New York Asian Film Festival in 2017, director Nattawut Poonpiriya conceded that his work appears to have charmed many overseas. “I am quite surprised to see that our non-Thai audiences can relate to the film this much,” he said to The News Lens that year. “I think that also means that the education system in other countries may have similar problems.” As for its synopsis, Bad Genius is about a high-schooler hoping to become a millionaire by pulling off an elaborate cheating scam on an important exam.
2. Annie Hall (1977)
In 1977’s Annie Hall, Woody Allen takes the lead as a New York comedian searching for answers about his failed romance with the movie’s eponymous heroine. Meanwhile, Diane Keaton famously portrays Hall – a role that Allen had originally penned with her in mind. It may have helped, too, that the actress and the filmmaker had once had their own real-life liaison from which to draw potential inspiration – although Allen has actually denied that the work is in any way autobiographical. Regardless, the offbeat comedy seemingly wowed the Academy, as in 1978 it scooped four Oscars, including one for Best Picture. Critics at the time were suitably impressed as well; Variety, for instance, described the movie as “a touching and hilarious love story.” And in 2010 The Guardian named Annie Hall as the best comedic film that has ever been committed to celluloid.
1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Although Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s knights were initially intended to ride horses, there just wasn’t enough money in the budget to lend them all steeds. So, the Python team came to a decision: they would instead just pretend to be on horseback, while other actors would mimic the sound of cantering using coconuts. This works hilariously well, too, as it’s in much the same vein as the silly visual humor that the Pythons have made their trademark. And Holy Grail itself has since become a much-loved – and much-quoted – cult classic that landed at number three in a 2014 Rolling Stone readers’ poll of the funniest films ever made. The Terry Gilliam- and Terry Jones-directed movie has also spawned award-winning theatrical spin-off Spamalot, in which the Knights of the Round Table once again embark on a quest to locate the legendary artifact.
Not to be forgotten…
The following were previously on our list of the 25 best comedy movies on Netflix, but they’ve either now left the streaming service or have since been pushed out of the top 25. Even so, these films are still very much worth watching.
The Babysitter (2017)
In The Babysitter, a seemingly average night takes a terrifying turn for 12-year-old Cole after he discovers that his attractive caregiver, played by Samara Weaving, in fact belongs to a Satan-worshipping cult. And while that may sound like the set-up for a horror movie, rest assured that The Babysitter is actually “an enjoyable, breezy film that doesn’t take itself too seriously” – at least according to Decider. That said, McG’s work also manages to tread the tricky tightrope between chiller and comedy, providing enough suspense, laughter and gore to satisfy viewers regardless of their preferred genre. The 2017 movie – which also stars Bella Thorne – certainly checks a lot of boxes for comedies on Netflix, then, even if it has garnered somewhat mixed reviews from critics.
In 2018 Jennifer Aniston told USA Today, “I’m living out so many people’s fantasy.” The actress was referring not only to her experience of making Netflix dramedy Dumplin’, but also the added bonus of having befriended Dolly Parton in the process. You see, the film – in which Aniston portrays Texan onetime beauty queen Rosie Dickson – pays substantial homage to Parton, with its feel-good story set to a soundtrack of her music. Aniston even got to sing alongside the country icon – as did her co-star Danielle Macdonald, who plays the titular lead. And according to the Australian actress, the experience was nothing but surreal. “I mean, how many people get to say they recorded a song with Dolly Parton and Jennifer Aniston?” Macdonald said to Vogue in 2018. Plus, Dumplin’ has charmed some critics; Variety, for one, called the movie “a sweetly progressive surprise.”
The Informant! (2009)
In 1989 Steven Soderbergh became the youngest director ever to win the Palme d’Or – scooping the prize for Sex, Lies and Videotape. And his oeuvre has since run the gamut, taking in everything from stripper dramedy Magic Mike to chilling horror Unsane. In the late ’00s, though, Soderbergh returned to comedy with 2009’s The Informant! Based on real events, the film stars Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre – a business-exec whistleblower in a 1990s price-fixing scandal. The actor shines in his role, too; as People wrote in 2009, “[Damon]’s a hoot, and so is the movie.” The Miami Herald, meanwhile, was similarly complimentary about The Informant!, dubbing it “a whimsical and lighthearted spin on a serious story.” Plus, the film earned two Golden Globe nominations – one of them for Damon.
Burn After Reading (2008)
When a movie has a cast of the caliber of Burn After Reading’s, it’s almost a sure-fire moneymaker. It probably comes as no shock, then, that the Coen brothers’ screwball crime comedy – which stars Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton – pulled in over $19 million during its first weekend in the U.S. and Canada. Interestingly, too, the directing duo actually wrote the film’s parts with the aforementioned actors in mind. “We just wanted to do something with these specific people,” Ethan Coen told Uncut magazine in 2008. “It was an exercise in thinking about what kind of characters they might play and what kind of story they might inhabit.” Said story recounts how files belonging to a CIA agent come into the possession of two gym workers, who in turn decide to use them to their advantage.
Magic Mike (2012)
Raunchy dramedy Magic Mike sees Channing Tatum go back to his roots as a stripper. That’s right: the actor’s real-life experience as an exotic dancer in Tampa informs the R-rated movie, which also has Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer flashing some flesh. And clearly the prospect of watching Tatum do his thing on stage appealed to the viewing public, with Magic Mike ultimately raking in over $167 million in box-office receipts worldwide and spawning 2015 sequel Magic Mike XXL. Oh, and women accounted for almost three-quarters of the audience during the film’s opening weekend in the U.S. As for the critical response to Magic Mike? Well, judging by the 80 percent rating it currently boasts on Rotten Tomatoes, it appears that Stephen Soderbergh’s movie was very well-received indeed.
Role Models (2008)
When two guys are arrested following an energy drink-induced rampage, they’re offered the options of either jail or – surely an easier alternative – 150 hours of community service through a Big Brother mentor scheme. And while the decision seems like a no-brainer at first, Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott’s characters quickly realize that dealing with adolescent boys is far from a walk in the park. Such is the premise of David Wain’s 2008 comedy Role Models, which Time Out hailed as “a memorable slice of modern slapstick with charm to spare and just a touch of soul.” The heavily improvised film did well with audiences, too, ultimately grossing more than $92 million at the international box office. And even over a decade later, Role Models doesn’t disappoint. Perhaps that’s because, in the words of Rudd, talking to CNN in 2008, it’s “a movie that’s unique, funny and absurd.”
Man Up (2015)
IndieWire has spoken glowingly of Man Up, calling the Ben Palmer-directed work “one of the best films of its kind in years [and] funny, sweet and refreshing.” The site even went as far as to credit the British movie with practically resurrecting romantic comedy. Writer Tess Morris certainly put in some legwork to create the script, with the wordsmith having carefully combed through classics of the genre – including When Harry Met Sally and Moonstruck – for inspiration. In the end, though, Man Up’s premise – which sees Lake Bell’s 34-year-old singleton pretending to be the blind date of Simon Pegg’s older divorcé – took inspiration from one of Morris’ real-life experiences. “The thing… with me [is that] I unashamedly love rom-coms,” she told The Guardian in 2015. “And so that’s what I wrote: an unashamed romantic comedy.” It appears, then, that she was the right woman for the job.
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Found yourself charmed by Mary Poppins Returns? If so, then 2013’s Saving Mr. Banks could well hold similar appeal. The witty biopic focuses, you see, on how the first Mary Poppins movie made it to the big screen. In particular, John Lee Hancock’s film follows Walt Disney’s two-decades-long pursuit of the rights to the original novel by P.L. Travers – played here by Emma Thompson. And the actress’ complex portrayal of the steely children’s author ultimately earned her Golden Globe and BAFTA nods. That said, it may also have helped that Thompson looked the part – right down to Travers’ signature hairstyle, for which the star refused to don a wig. Tom Hanks, who plays Disney, had his own physical transformation, too, with the mustache he donned having been painstakingly measured to ensure that it perfectly matched the facial hair of the iconic entrepreneur.
Bad Santa (2003)
Bad Santa may ostensibly be a festive-themed flick, but its profanity, violence and outrageous humor definitely earn it a spot on the naughty list. The 2003 movie depicts the antics of Billy Bob Thornton’s alcoholic conman, who dons a Santa Claus suit as a means of infiltrating and robbing stores during the holidays. And if that sounds like a recipe for hilarity, then you may well find yourself agreeing with Time Out, which lauded Terry Zwigoff’s film as “wonderfully tasteless,” “gloriously non-PC” and “admirably bilious.” The Washington Times, on the other hand, was scathing in its review of Bad Santa, calling it “a disgusting movie that “sold Santa down a moral sewer for some cheap laughs and a few bucks.” But audiences seemingly didn’t mind, as the feature made over $76 million worldwide; it also bagged Thornton a Golden Globe nomination.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
Easy Rider’s unexpected success spawned a whole host of road movies – and none other than Clint Eastwood was keen to follow the trend after he read a script about a pair of outlaws on the run. The star liked the screenplay so much, in fact, that he wanted to helm the film himself. Ultimately, though, Eastwood determined that newcomer Michael Cimino should sit in the director’s chair instead. Thus, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was born, with Jeff Bridges also ultimately coming on board. Critics were convinced, too, and The New York Times labeled the crime flick “an enjoyable winner.” And although the oddball comedy didn’t totally find its place with audiences, Bridges and Eastwood nevertheless received notable plaudits for their respective performances as the eponymous fugitives. Bridges even picked up an Oscar nomination for his turn as charismatic drifter Lightfoot.
Black Dynamite (2009)
In 2009’s Black Dynamite – which sees Michael Jai White’s eponymous ex-CIA agent seeking retribution for the death of his brother – director Scott Sanders pays loving but skewed tribute to blaxploitation movies. And while the film is certainly not the first cinematic spoof of the genre, it may just be the quickest ever to have made it from conception to celluloid. Black Dynamite’s screenplay got finished in around three weeks, in fact, while the shooting process was even shorter, with the cameras rolling for a mere 20 days. What’s more, the parody looks exactly like the low-budget ’70s flicks that it pokes fun at – right down to the intentional continuity errors and the boom mic occasionally appearing in shot. Fortunately, critics largely got the joke. Entertainment Weekly’s review, for instance, said that Black Dynamite “blends satire, nostalgia and cinema deconstruction into a one-of-a-kind comedy high.”
I Love You, Man (2009)
Peter Klaven is doing great at work; he’s also about to marry his dream woman. The LA native has it all, in fact – well, except any friends. So, after lining up a host of “dude dates” in order to pin down a best man, he finally finds himself a new BFF in Sydney Fife. But it turns out that buddydom is a lot harder than Peter had first thought. Such is the premise of John Hamburg’s 2009 movie I Love You, Man, which sees Paul Rudd and Jason Segel reunite for their third comedy, following 2007’s Knocked Up and 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And according to Empire, the pair have struck on a winning formula; together, the magazine said, Rudd and Segel make “a very appealing team.” Movie theater audiences seemingly agreed with that assessment, too, as I Love You, Man ultimately made more than $91 million worldwide.
Meet the Parents (2000)
While having Robert De Niro as a father-in-law may sound awesome, it’s worth remembering that he once played the terrifyingly hard-to-please Jack Byrnes in Meet the Parents. And Jay Roach wrings a whole lot of laughs from the cringeworthy scenes that take place between former CIA agent Byrnes and Ben Stiller’s gaffe-prone nurse, Gaylord “Greg” Focker. Focker has traveled up with his girlfriend, Pam, for a family wedding, but his time with Pam’s mom and dad proves to be almost entirely catastrophic – and utterly watchable. People certainly flocked to see Meet the Parents at movie theaters, as it went on to earn a cool $330 million at the international box office. Stiller, meanwhile, landed an MTV Award for Best Comedic Performance, while De Niro received a Golden Globe nod in the Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy category.
In a way, Gremlins’ origins date back to well before Chris Columbus found himself creeped out by mysterious creatures in his own home. During WWII, you see, British pilots chalked up mechanical mishaps to monstrous beings dubbed – you guessed it – gremlins. And Columbus loosely incorporated such legend into his script for the horror comedy, which went on to become a sensation after its release in 1984. Toys, video games, trading cards and even a breakfast cereal emerged in this classic movie’s wake – as did an arguably inferior sequel in 1990. So, if you haven’t yet seen what happens when you feed a mogwai after the witching hour, then buckle yourself in for what Time’s Richard Corliss dubbed “a wildly original roller-coaster ride of hilarious mischief” in his contemporary review of the film.
The Hangover (2009)
It’s hard to believe that The Hangover actually hit movie theaters all the way back in 2009. And while some of the buddy comedy’s jokes may raise eyebrows today – there are a few problematic moments here, to say the least – there’s no denying the fact that the film’s $467 million box-office haul made it a smash hit. What you may not know about Todd Phillips’ flick, though, is that it was actually inspired by a real-life incident. You see, Tripp Vinson, a pal of executive producer Chris Bender, blacked out during his Vegas bachelor party and woke up “in a strip club being threatened with a very, very large bill [that he] was supposed to pay.” So, there are clear parallels between Vinson’s ordeal and the plot of The Hangover, which follows four friends as they embark on an outrageous, drug-induced quest in Sin City.
As Good As It Gets (1997)
No movie since As Good As It Gets has earned its leads both the Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars. So it’s safe to say that Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt made a great pairing in James L. Brooks’ rom-com – even if the characters that they portray seem at first to be almost preposterously mismatched. Nicholson’s Melvin is a grouchy, reclusive writer who begins the movie by tossing a neighbor’s pooch down a garbage chute. Hunt’s Carol, on the other hand, is a single-mom waitress who doesn’t let her struggles throw her off her stride. But, in the end, the unlikely couple begin to make perfect sense. The film itself was a hit, too, pulling in over $314 million worldwide. And as a result, As Good As It Gets is almost the highest-grossing movie of Nicholson’s entire career – second only to 1989’s Batman.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
In 2005 The New York Times claimed that Steve Carell’s “sheer likability… [is] crucial to making [The 40-Year-Old Virgin] work as well as it does.” Yet according to Carell himself, the comedy was almost axed because Universal Pictures thought he “[looked] like a serial killer” as Andy Stitzer. Perhaps, though, this singularly unusual combination helped bring in the crowds. At the very least, it didn’t stop the heavily improvised movie – about a quest to get an awkward, middle-aged nerd some action – from taking $177 million worldwide. And even Carell’s octogenarian parents got in line for Judd Apatow’s flick, as the star told The Guardian in 2005. What’s more, while the actor’s folks were in the movie theater, they would have seen their son endure a very real chest wax, which was shot by no fewer than five cameras to ensure that every painful detail ended up on film.
Chasing Amy (1997)
Kevin Smith hasn’t shied away from mentioning the parallels between the events depicted in Chasing Amy and his own life. Indeed, in an essay that the director wrote in 2000, he explained, “[When] watching [the] film, the viewer can find me in every nook and cranny.” For starters, Chasing Amy’s protagonist, Holden – played by Ben Affleck – is apparently “the closest [character] to [Smith] that [he’s] ever written.” Then there’s the fact that Holden’s love interest, Alyssa, was based in part on Joey Lauren Adams – the actress who portrays her on screen. It may have helped, too, that the filmmaker and his leading lady had had their own real romance from which to gather inspiration. But there’s one marked contrast between Adams and her character: Alyssa defines herself at first as a lesbian. Thanks to this twist, then, The New York Times lauded Chasing Amy for “redefining the boy-meets-girl formula.”
The Overnight (2015)
Adam Scott and Orange is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling star in The Overnight – a steamy 2015 comedy about a couple trying to get to know the people in their new hometown of Los Angeles. But after the pair in question, Alex and Emily, spend an evening at the house of locals Kurt and Charlotte, things start to take a turn for the peculiar. Indeed, what ensues is actually both “uncomfortable” and “hilarious,” in the words of Variety. The Toronto Sun’s reviewer, meanwhile, appreciated the work of the movie’s cast, lauding their performances as being “truly fearless and engaging.” And such praise may well have been lapped up by both Scott and his wife, Naomi, as the duo helped make the film through their company, Gettin’ Rad Productions.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
It may seem odd to contemplate now, but The Big Lebowski practically bombed at the box office upon its release in 1998. And at the time, critics weren’t terribly bowled over by the Coen brothers’ comedy either. However, in the years since, the movie has of course become adored by legions – largely thanks to its oddball characters and far from conventional story. Said narrative centers on the Dude – Jeff Bridges’ iconic slacker – who becomes unexpectedly drawn into a kidnapping plot after a case of mistaken identity. Many of The Big Lebowski’s more recent revaluations have been glowing, too, with The Independent, for example, hailing the cult classic as “the Coens’ funniest film.” Oh, and did we mention that a religion, the aptly named Dudeism, has even been established around the movie’s protagonist? Incredibly, there are now no fewer than 450,000 ordained Dudeist priests across the globe.
At heart, Clerks’ premise is simple: it’s just about 24 hours in the lives of two slacker store employees. But thanks to writer/director Kevin Smith’s knack for wringing humor out of the mundane, the indie comedy became an almost instant cult hit upon its release. Clerks received considerable critical acclaim at the time, too, with a contemporary Rolling Stone review both applauding star Jeff Anderson’s “deadpan comic brilliance” and remarking that “Smith nails the obsessive verbal wrangling of smart, stalled twentysomethings who can’t figure out how to get their ideas into motion.” It’s worth mentioning as well that the director’s debut movie won a slew of awards, including the Filmmakers Trophy at Sundance. Not bad for a film that cost only $27,575 to wrap.
Bull Durham (1988)
While Bull Durham may now be a much-loved classic, it’s actually lucky that the romcom was ever made at all. Why? Because almost every studio tapped to put Ron Shelton’s movie into production passed on the opportunity. And while Orion Pictures ultimately took the project on, execs handed Shelton a budget of just $9 million – a paltry sum for a Hollywood picture even back in 1988. The proof was in the pudding, though, as Bull Durham pulled in over $50 million at the U.S. box office. Plus, the baseball comedy has aged well; in 2003 Sports Illustrated even named it the best sports movie ever made. But you don’t need much knowledge of America’s favorite pastime to enjoy Shelton’s work, which sees Kevin Costner’s “Crash” Davis try his hardest to coach an erratic player as he simultaneously falls in love with Susan Sarandon’s Annie.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
According to director Mel Brooks, Blazing Saddles would never have been given the green light in Hollywood today. That’s probably because the film, starring Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little, is packed with jokes that may sound rather near the knuckle to 21st-century ears. And, in actual fact, Warner Bros. was initially reluctant to release Blazing Saddles back in the ’70s; apparently, one exec had concerns that the paying public wouldn’t take to its distinctive brand of crude humor even then. Ultimately, though, the movie – which sees Little play the first ever black sheriff of a racist town – won over audiences. In his review of the Western spoof, the Chicago Reader’s Dave Kehr even dubbed it “one of the funniest awful movies ever made.”
Animal House (1978)
With Animal House, the team behind National Lampoon branched out onto the big screen. To do so, two of the satirical magazine’s mainstays – Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller – joined forces with screenwriter Harold Ramis and director John Landis to bring the raunchy comedy to life. But what did they spawn? Well, Animal House tracks the capers of a handful of rowdy frat boys who fall afoul of their college dean. The movie brought in over $140 million at the box office, too, making it the highest-earning comedy film ever until Ghostbusters came along in 1984. And not only that, but it also practically gave birth to the aptly named “gross-out” genre of cinema. Given how Animal House broke new ground, then, it’s fitting that the movie is now part of the National Film Registry.
Ghostbusters’ continued popularity has spawned an entire franchise – one that not only takes in a 1989 sequel and two subsequent TV shows, but also comic books, video games and the obligatory action figures. And that’s not even to mention the 2016 all-female reboot, in which Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Kristen Wiig portray the titular parapsychologists. Nonetheless, the original movie, which sees Bill Murray head up a group of ghoul hunters, is the most successful – and most beloved – of the lot. After its 1984 release, Ghostbusters in fact brought in a hugely impressive $229 million worldwide – the equivalent of around $615 million today. Plus, Ivan Reitman’s classic has aged gracefully enough to take top spot on Entertainment Weekly’s 2008 list of “The Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years.”
The Graduate (1967)
When Paul Simon played Mike Nichols a snippet of an unfinished song that he’d been working on, he did so with the caveat that the music wasn’t intended for the director’s upcoming movie. At that point, the tune didn’t reference the film’s leading lady, either. But Nichols had a gut feeling about the track, it’s said, and so he not only convinced Simon to hand over the tune but also to change its lyrics. In that moment, then, “Mrs. Robinson” – arguably one of the most iconic movie songs of all time – was born. And its title refers, of course, to the seductress played by Anne Bancroft in Nichols’ Academy Award-winning dramedy. The film famously depicts the married woman beguiling the fresh-out-of-college Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman in his first major big-screen role.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Through Shaun of the Dead, director Edgar Wright kicked off his Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy in style. And as in the two films that followed – 2007’s Hot Fuzz and 2013’s The World’s End – Simon Pegg plays the lead. Here, Pegg stars as the hapless title character, whose life goes from bad to worse when the zombie apocalypse lands on his doorstep. It’s up to Shaun and his best buddy Ed, then, to protect their friends and family members from the advancing hordes – or they could just go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint and wait for the horrorshow to blow over. As for the response of critics, Wright’s zom-rom-com earned indubitable praise from Newsweek’s David Ansen, who in 2004 wrote, “The zombie-movie genre already has some wink-wink funny entries, but [Shaun of the Dead] takes the prize. It’s a bloody hoot.”
Groundhog Day (1993)
When Phil Connors – memorably portrayed by Bill Murray – finds himself forced to live through the same 24 hours, he initially finds himself submitting to hedonism and then slipping into despair. Eventually, though, the grouchy weather guy seems to thaw, not least towards his producer Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell), and apparently comes to terms with what his life has become. That’s the crux of Groundhog Day – the much-loved cult classic with a title that has practically become shorthand for a repetitive situation. In 2018 Time Out named Harold Ramis’ film as the fifth greatest comedy flick ever committed to celluloid. And the magazine also suggested why Groundhog Day has lasted the test of time, writing, “Maybe it’s because under that uproarious humor are a few home truths: life is… full of boring repetition, but a little kindness and love go a long way.”
Gosford Park (2001)
Fans of Downton Abbey would be remiss not to find time to settle down and watch Gosford Park. For one, the writer of Robert Altman’s 2001 movie is the same man who came up with and subsequently scripted the British period drama: Julian Fellowes. Here, too, an impressive country estate serves as the backdrop to the sometimes-scurrilous goings-on in early-20th-century England. And yet again, Dame Maggie Smith plays a countess – albeit Gosford’s Constance is considerably less acid-tongued than her Downton counterpart. In many ways, though, Gosford Park is an entirely different beast. Case in point: in Altman’s work the aristocrats and their servants are all caught up in a murder investigation that ends up overshadowing a previously cordial get-together. The finished film ended up as a critical hit to boot, for the record, with seven Oscar nominations and nine BAFTA nods among its many accolades.