We’re all in need of a good laugh, or at the very least a brief distraction. Amelia Berry goes through the top twenty comedy films streaming now on Netflix.
LAST UPDATED: DECEMBER 12
Massive ridiculous hair, massive ridiculous accents; Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, and Bradley Cooper all take the opportunity to chew the hell out of some scenery in David O. Russell’s critically acclaimed 1970’s dark heist comedy American Hustle. It’s got glamour, disco, mobsters, and microwaves… just watch out for flashing lights and Louis C.K.
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Who let Bad Boy Bubby show up on Netflix? It feels illegal to have this foul, deviant, and profoundly depraved 1993 Australian black comedy floating so innocuously between He’s All That and Cemetery Junction. It’s the kind of movie you watch only once, late at night, with a strong stomach, and a temporarily suspended moral compass. With all that said, if you can face it, it’s a bloody brilliant and one-of-a-kind film.
Sometimes when a very terrible thing happens people say “at least we’ll get some great comedy”. Most of the time this is not true. Terrible things are, in fact, largely terrible. The Big Short, however, manages to be a film explicitly about the global financial crisis of 2007/2008 that is not only extremely informative, but it’s also really funny actually. With some incredibly creative filmmaking on the part of director Adam McKay, what is technically a biographical comedy-drama about Wall Street suits, becomes a kaleidoscope of montage, fourth-wall breaks, as-themselves celebrity cameos, and general shenanigans.
Eagle vs. Shark is fine (it’s fine!) but Taika Waititi’s sophomore feature is where the writer/director really comes into his own. Shot in Waititi’s childhood home of windy, rural Waihau Bay, Boy is a sweet, intimate, and funny film that captures a deep and essential aspect of New Zealand life.
Although Jim Carrey shot to fame in 1994 with roles in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb & Dumber, his performance as Ernie ‘Chip’ Douglas in 1996’s The Cable Guy proved Carrey’s talent for unhinged pathos was at least as compelling as his talent for saying catchphrases and making his bum talk. Certainly the darkest film either directed by or starring Ben Stiller, and featuring a veritable who’s who of 90’s US comedy (David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Janeane Garofalo, Jack Black, Andy Dick), you might enjoy this if you’re a fan of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, but you’ll probably enjoy it more if you’re not.
Jim Jarmusch doing zombie comedy as political satire comes out pretty much exactly how you’d expect. While not quite amongst his best films, the incredible cast—including Bill Murray, Danny Glover, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, and Tilda Swinton—take what could be some pretty on-the-nose material (Steve Buscemi’s character wears a “Keep America White Again” hat) and transform it into the most gloriously dry and deadpan take on the apocalypse.
A loving tribute to the iconically raunchy “Godfather of Rap” Rudy Ray Moore, Dolemite Is My Name follows his story from backroom stand-up to blaxploitation star. Eddie Murphy as Moore is his best performance in years, and takes what could have been a run-of-the-mill biopic, elevating it to a thrilling, funny, and fascinating film that stands on its own merit.
After Mean Girls (welcomely back on Netflix), it really felt like the 2000s was a time of renaissance for the high school comedy. In retrospect, the only film that really came close to Mean Girls’ wit and charm was Easy A. With a star-making turn from Emma Stone, Easy A takes Nathaniel Hawthorn’s Scarlet Letter, mixes in a healthy dose of John Hughes, and gives us a comedy that a decade on should be considered a classic.
In terms of Jane Austen adaptations, this one’s right up there with wet Colin Firth. The directorial debut of acclaimed rock photographer Autumn de Wilde, Emma. marries a wry, cheeky take on the Austen classic with some of the most exquisite costuming and sets in recent memory. The soundtrack is stacked with acapella Brit-folk bangers, and Bill Nighy is at his Nighy-est. If you ask for more, you’re greedy.
Wes Anderson’s stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic Fantastic Mr. Fox is just undeniably charming. I mean, who doesn’t like corduroy and Meryl Streep? Not just a film for children, Fantastic Mr. Fox is fun for the whole family and stands with Anderson’s best.
Although it takes a little while to get going, once it does Gremlins 2 is just terrifically stupid. A kind of Looney Tunes parody of… itself? Sequels in general? 1980s corporate excess? Whatever it is, it’s got Hulk Hogan, plenty of shoulder pads, Christopher Lee gets electrocuted by a grotesque screeching toad-beast, and of course, the pièce de résistance, the sexy lady gremlin. Ten Warner Brothers chest tattoos out of ten.
Winona Ryder and Christian Slater star in this cult classic dark satire that’s part Clueless, part American Psycho. Honestly, if you haven’t seen it, it’s best to go more or less blind, but beware—you will be quoting this for the rest of your life. If you have seen it, then—what’s your damage, Heather? It’s always time for a rewatch.
Following the life of infamous American figure skater Tonya Harding, her tumultuous marriage, and the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan, I, Tonya is the blackest of black comedy. With a captivating performance by Margot Robbie, the film centres around the contradictory “true” stories of Harding’s life, digging in at the disagreements, misremembering, and lies to ultimately find comedy amidst the scumbags, poverty, and violence.
Sure, Innerspace is just a fairly standard 80s action-comedy slapped onto the premise of iconic 1966 sci-fi slow-burn Fantastic Voyage. But also, Innerspace is like Fantastic Voyage but with jokes and car chases and an evil cowboy and an assassin with a cool robot gun hand! Basically, Dennis Quaid (at his most hunky) gets shrunk down and accidentally injected into Martin Short (at his most doofy), and then the two of them have to team up with Meg Ryan and face down a team of nefarious villains to get Quaid back up to size. Even more basically, Innerspace slaps.
If Heathers didn’t satisfy your need for blood, then Jawbreaker has you covered. Hitting that special combination of cynical and gaudy that seemed to peak at the turn of the millennium, Jawbreaker’s iconic costumes and dialogue, along with some great performances from Rose McGowan and Judy Greer, have secured it a place as an all-time trash classic.
Will Smith was really at the top of his game in 1997. With The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air having just wrapped up, and with a couple of big-time starring roles under his belt in Bad Boys and Independence Day, Smith is just burning with confidence and charisma in Men in Black. Hell, he used the movie’s theme song from the movie to launch his solo career! Sci-fi action/comedies may be just about the only kind of film that gets made these days, but with a punchy script, and killer supporting performances from Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Rip Torn, not many of them are as memorable or as funny as Men in Black.
People say that comedy ages badly, but every so often something that comes along that’s so transcendently silly, forty-five years later it’s still being breathlessly quoted by spotty faced fourteen-year-olds. While Monty Python’s first attempt at a narrative comedy film is still at its core a string of loosely connected sketches, it contains some of the brightest and most memorable scenes of their career. Maybe you’ve seen The Holy Grail too many times already, maybe you’re just not a Monty Python person, but it’s good to know it’s there just in case.
Who says remakes have to be bloodless cash grabs? Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 re-do of the 1960 heist classic is an almost faultless piece of movie-craft: charming, perfectly-paced, funny, and bubbling over with chemistry from the ensemble of Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Bernie Mac, Elliott Gould etc. Sure, Don Cheadle’s cockney accent sounds like Michael Caine after some particularly dramatic dental surgery, but that’s fun in its own way.
The Sapphires has a lot in common with the kind of charming, feel-good indie comedy you might safely take your mum to see (she does like that Chris O’Dowd). What sets it apart, though, is that The Sapphires also manages to be a story about race in Australia that pulls few punches. Set in the late ’60s, the film follows four Yorta Yorta Indigenous Australian women as they meet a talent scout (O’Dowd), form a soul group, and tour Vietnam entertaining the troops. With sparkling performances from its core cast, and some genuinely affecting emotional beats, The Sapphires is a winner with broad appeal.
Spike Lee’s first full-length picture is a groundbreaking and beautiful love letter to the messiness of love, sex, and relationships in Black America. Tender and engaging, She’s Gotta Have It is also just straight-up hilarious with Lee’s sparkling script brought to life by some excellent performances. The one mark against the film is its unpleasant and poorly handled rape scene, which Lee has apologised for and has removed from the 2017 Netflix series adaptation.