Trying to find something funny on Netflix, I was flustered to discover their catalog is overstuffed with low-budget comedies, stand-up specials, and Adam Sandler nonsense. So what are you to do when you just want to watch a hilarious movie? Refer here, friends, where we’ve pulled out the best of the batch.
What better movie to kick off the year than this modern classic? Renee Zellweger stars as the titular heroine hell-bent on having it all, incredible friends (check), killer fashion sense (check, save for the cozy granny panties), a dreamy boyfriend (working on it), and a job she can be proud of (in every life a little upskirt shot must fall, right?) Few movies remain as rousing and heartwarming as this one, helped by Colin Firth and Hugh Grant’s absurd showdown, blue soup and Bridget’s indomitable spirit. Watch it here.
For A Good Time Call… (2012)
This bawdy, ball-busting laffer dives deep into female bonding and sexual innuendo, becoming a rare and subversive marvel that focuses on friendship and sex-positive feminism in a fun and funky way. Lauren Miller stars as a prim and frustrated aspiring publisher whose life changes for the better thanks to the salacious influence of her roommate, a spunky phone sex operator played by the endlessly entertaining Ari Graynor. Watch it here.
Based as it is on a non-fiction book by Moneyball author Michael Lewis, The Big Short is fairly inside baseballer-y (ba-doom-ch), with industry terms like “CDO,” “synthetic CDO” and “tranches” thrown around willy-nilly. Thankfully, McKay (who co-wrote the script) leans into the fact that very few people watching this movie will know what the fuck is going on, obliterating the fourth wall at times so characters and celebrities on cameo duty can explain what the fuck a sub-prime mortgage is. It livens up a potentially dull subject, and it’s also a gentle dig at how little your average person knows or even cares about the financial systems that ultimately rule their lives. “I know the phrase ‘mortgage-backed security’ makes your eyes glaze over, so here’s Margot Robbie in a bathtub.”
In The Loop (2009)
Before he brought us the glory of HBO’s Veep, Armando Iannucci presented this blisteringly funny satire that introduced American audiences to the greatness of Peter Capaldi and gave us a wealth of colorful new curse words. My personal favorite is forever “Fuckity Bye!” Watch it here.
Based on a true and strangely inspirational story, this R-rated comedy stars Seann William Scott as Doug Glatt, a bouncer who’s always been a disappointment to his intellectual parents for his lack of brains. But who needs brains when you can brawl like a goon? After defending his loud-mouth buddy (Jay Baruchel) against an enraged player, Doug finds his way onto a team where he’s tasked with defending his teammates with brute strength. Folded into this daffy laffer is a surprisingly charming love story (with Alison Pill!) and a climactic showdown with the gruffest goon in the league (Liev Schreiber). Watch it here.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
It began as a spoof of movies like Meatballs and Sleepaway Camp. It became a cult classic, and then spun into a silly series. Behold the weird wonder that started it all. Michael Showalter stars as a teenager with a desperate crush. Paul Rudd plays the crush’s tray-tossing boyfriend. And Bradley Cooper and Michael Ian Black wedge in a sex scene that remains as steamy as it is sincere. Watch it here.
This coming-of-age comedy takes gross-out gags to all new level (or low?) The German indie stars Carla Juri as a teen dedicated to testing her body by treating it like a biological experiment. Her journey will churn your stomach as she nibbles “sex bubblegum,” shares used tampons, and tells of an urban legend that might put you off pizza. But for all its deranged details, this sickening story is surprisingly sweet. Watch it here.
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day (2008)
In this underseen gem, Frances McDormand stars as a homeless woman in desperate need of an opportunity. Luckily, her chance comes in the form of an American actress who juggles boyfriends, social engagements, and ambitions with an enchanting zeal. But over the course of one pivotal day, these two unlikely friends help each other find their true paths to love and happiness. Bonus: scads of 1930s fashion fun! Watch it here.
Tommy Boy (1995)
The Martin and Lewis of the 1990s, Chris Farley and David Spade play an odd couple, who is the last flailing hope for a failing autoparts business. Their road trip ambitions are great, but the comedy—which includes a not-dead-yet deer, furiously flawed sales pitches, and a fat guy in a little coat—is even greater. Watch it here.
Shaun of the Dead (2007)
Shaun of the Dead is arguably the best zombie movie you will ever see, because it attacks its subject with such love and verve that it’s almost impossible not to smile. The jokes come as fast as the gore (and there is plenty of both), but the film never feels like a parody or a spoof; rather, it’s both a horror film and a comedy, in equal and loving measure. Director Edgar Wright, who co-wrote the 2004 film with star Simon Pegg, never let the movie slip too far into either genre, and he also never insulted the intelligence of the audience, insisting instead that the viewer keep up with the dialogue as well as the action and willingly enter a fresh new cinematic world. Wright, Pegg, and co-star Nick Frost continue that grand tradition with Hot Fuzz, a gleeful, frenetic, blood-soaked, hilarious love letter to the swaggering action films of the past 20 years, and the result is, well, awesome. If it’s not as streamlined as its predecessor, that’s more a fault of the genre and its inherent complexities than any downfall of the creative team. The principals involved infuse Hot Fuzz with the same brand of joy they brought to Shaun of the Dead, crafting a film that is thoroughly an action film as well as completely comedic. And, like I said, it’s awesome. Watch it here.
Superbad is one damn funny movie, filled with gross-out gags and verbal riffs and absurd plot twists and enough pure hilarity that I missed several lines of dialogue because everyone in the theater was simply laughing too hard for anyone to hear what was being said onscreen. But it’s telling that the film from director Greg Mottola — who also helmed a few episodes of “Arrested Development” and Apatow’s own “Undeclared” — had more downtime than Apatow’s comedies, in addition to being burdened by a running time of almost 2 hours, which makes for a draggy and often directionless second act. Superbad is hilarious, but also — at the risk of sounding like an obvious moron — more than a bit shallow. But I guess in that way it’s a lot like its teenage characters, and it’s hard to find too much fault in it when it tries so hard. Watch it here.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Let’s be clear: Big Trouble in Little China was not an Oscar contender. Despite the critically important events that it’s based on, it’s perhaps the mother of all modern B-movies. It’s loud, glitzy, glorious fun, full of hammy performances and cheese-tastic special effects. It’s a serious subject, to be sure, but it’s played off with a sense of wonderment and goofy affection that you can’t help but be drawn into its world. Big Trouble in Little China has no aspirations other than to entertain the living shit out of you, and it succeeds. Russell’s portrayal of Burton is one of my favorite action movie performances ever, if for no other reason that it skewers action stars so completely. Instead of being a superhuman mega-hero, he’s a guy with a big mouth, a tough persona, and more balls than brains… or brawn. His personality is demonstrated perfectly when, at the beginning of the final battle, he fires his gun in the air with a triumphant war cry… only to have the bullets hit the ceiling and a piece of the ceiling knocks him unconscious for much of the fight.
Dope isn’t just a hilarious, madcap, oddly John-Hughesian take on inner city life. It’s also smart and wickedly sharp, a biting critique of the way we look at black youth, at education, at music and life in general. It’s often an excoriating examination of what larger society thinks “black culture” is, and it breaks open that shell of mislabeling and misunderstanding and dumps its truths onto the floor for all to see. The characters are so much more than the basic archetypes they would be in any other film, and it’s helped by the fact that the casting is absolutely fantastic. The three young leads are engaging, witty, smart and fun — of particular note is Malcolm’s friend Diggy, who in addition to dealing with the problems of upbringing and background, is also a lesbian in a Southern Baptist family. She’s often the highlight — her ongoing rage-war with their white stoner friend over his casual use of “ni**er” does a brilliant, succinct job of putting that particular debate to bed. More importantly, they’re written as fully-fleshed people, each with a personal story tied into their circumstances that affects their decisions throughout the film, making them each unique in their own right. Watch it here.
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