The best comedy movies on Netflix

The best comedy movies on Netflix

Clockwise from top left: Being John Malkovich (Screenshot); Lady Bird (Screenshot); To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Photo: Netflix); Airplaine!; The Lovebirds (Photo: Netflix); The  Little Hours (Photo: Gunpowder & Sky); The Incredible Jessica James (Photo: Netflix)
Clockwise from top left: Being John Malkovich (Screenshot); Lady Bird (Screenshot); To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Photo: Netflix); Airplaine!; The Lovebirds (Photo: Netflix); The Little Hours (Photo: Gunpowder & Sky); The Incredible Jessica James (Photo: Netflix)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options, broken down by streamer, medium, and genre. Want to know why we’re so keen on a particular movie? Click the title at the top of each slide for some in-depth coverage from The A.V. Club’s past. And be sure to check back often, because we’ll be adding more recommendations as films come and go.

Some titles on this list also appear on our best movies on Netflix list, but we decided comedies deserved their own spotlight since dramas are often included on our year-end lists far more than comedies. The criteria for inclusion here is that (1) the film is classified by Netflix as a comedy—a broad term for them, apparently; (2) The A.V. Club has written critically about the movie; and (3) if it was a graded review, it received at least a “B.” Some newer (and much older) movies will be added over time as Netflix announces new additions to their library.

Looking for other movies to stream? Also check out our list of the best movies on Amazon Prime, best movies on Disney+, and best movies on Hulu. And if you’re looking to laugh, check out our list of the best Netflix comedy specials.

This list was most recently updated Oct. 26, 2020.

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Airplane!

Airplane!

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Image: Airplane!

Before Airplane! came along in 1980, the anything-goes vaudeville aesthetic had more or less died off with the Marx Brothers, which might explain why much of a generation grew up thinking the disaster-movie spoof was the funniest ever made. Not the best comedy ever made, of course, but considered in bulk, nothing could really top the sheer quantity of laughs being offered, even when dozens of gags fell flat. It’s impossible to overstate Airplane!’s influence on the genre, not just in the slew of gag-a-second knockoffs and Leslie Nielsen vehicles that followed, but also on the constant riffing now common to modern Disney animated features, or many of the films built around sketch comics from Saturday Night Live. [Scott Tobias]

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All About Nina

All About Nina

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Screenshot: All About Nina

Writer-director Eva Vives’ timely debut has no interest in making its audience comfortable—a trait it shares with its title character (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who tells jokes for a living, working through stand-up sets with an insouciance that can’t quite disguise the tension that never leaves her body. Nina hides it on stage, but throws it all up—quite literally—the second she’s out of the lights. The frequent, anxiety-induced vomiting reflects the chaos in Nina’s life, a state of affairs heightened when a big opportunity brings her to Los Angeles, where she meets Rafe (Common), a relatively vomit-free guy whose openness and honesty force her to reconsider what she wants and to confront the trauma from which everything springs. All About Nina isn’t much fun but it is often funny, with Winstead’s remarkable, sharp-toothed performance lending urgency and ferocity to the jokes, the silences, and the puking. [Allison Shoemaker]

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Always Be My Maybe

Always Be My Maybe

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Photo: Ed Araquel (Netflix

Rom-coms have the tricky task of straddling the “rom” and the “com” part, with a lot of star-steered vehicles leaning toward the former. Always Be My Maybe thankfully focuses on the latter; there are a lot of laughs packed into its friendship-becomes-something-more story. In keeping with the Netflix rom-com tradition of encouraging new talent, ABMM offered Fresh Off The Boat director Nahnatchka Khan her film directorial debut; Grimm scribe Michael Golamco wrote the screenplay with the movie’s stars, Ali Wong and Randall Park. The film smartly kicks off by showing the pair as adorable childhood best friends, so that we’re rooting for them right out of the gate. [Gwen Inhat]

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The Artist

The Artist

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Photo: The Artist

Jean Dujardin brings his usual million-dollar smile to the role of a silent-cinema star who’s on top of the world until the advent of talkies, which he dismisses as a fad, leaving the world to pass him by. Meanwhile, a starstruck fan he meets in a crowd (Bérénice Bejo) rockets to stardom, but never forgets her crush on him, and continues to admire him from afar (and sometimes a-near) as he slides toward irrelevance. By nature, The Artist is a charming romance, in which two naturally winning people are denied what they want just long enough to make audiences feel satisfied when everyone’s needs are finally met. It’s a beautifully shot, beautifully acted piece of fluff. [Tasha Robinson]

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Back To The Future

Back To The Future

Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd
Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd
Screenshot: Back To The Future

It’s hard to imagine anyone being more perfect for the Marty McFly role than Michael J. Fox. In Back To The Future, Fox is small and squinty and breezily charismatic. Fox was 24 when he shot the film, but he was so good at stammering disbelief that he easily passes as a high schooler. On top of that, Fox was already famous for playing Alex P. Keaton, a sort of avatar of Reagan youth. The central conceit of Family Ties was that the aging-hippie parents can’t understand how their son has become a square and uptight young Republican. In the ’80s, a big part of the Republican sales pitch was a return to ’50s values. Marty McFly and Alex P. Keaton are two very different characters, but there’s still something primally satisfying about seeing this kid go back to the ’50s and learn that ’50s values are not what he thought. [Tom Breihan]

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Back To The Future Part II

Back To The Future Part II

Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox
Screenshot: Back To The Future II

Arriving four years after the original, Back To The Future Part II faced the difficult task of following one of the most beloved movies of the ’80s. And it’s successful, partly because it shifts focus. Whereas the original Back To The Future was, at its heart, a personal story about a kid learning to understand his parents, Part II is a straightforward time-travel adventure. Its shifting time-space continuum sends Doc Brown and Marty McFly to the future, then back to an alternate 1985, then back to the 1955 of the first film, with a trip to the Old West waiting in the wings. [Kyle Ryan]

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Bad News Bears

Bad News Bears

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Photo: Bad News Bears

The strongest remakes update the material with a renewed sense of purpose while the worst are just pale retreads, uninspired and unnecessary. Richard Linklater’s Bad News Bears, a faithful “remix” of the raunchy 1976 underdog comedy, does nothing to justify its own existence other than be consistently funny from start to finish. It’s the exception to the rule, a relaxed and confident piece of formula filmmaking that could fairly be viewed as redundant, yet works like an electrifying cover band. With a wickedly sardonic Billy Bob Thornton ideally cast in the Walter Matthau role, the film plays like the progeny of Thornton’s Bad Santa and Linklater’s School Of Rock. A salty inappropriateness tempers the underlying sweetness of all three. [Scott Tobias]

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Bad Teacher

Bad Teacher

Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, and Justin Timberlake
Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, and Justin Timberlake
Screenshot: Bad Teacher

The similarities between Bad Teacher and the beloved 2003 Yuletide black comedy Bad Santa begin with the titles, and they don’t end until Bad Teacher does. Both films take the form of curdled dark comedies about raging misanthropes who abuse their positions of authority—or at least their power over small children, since drunken mall Santas and Chicago’s public-school teachers both lack real power—to engage in criminal schemes. And both films are fundamentally redemption comedies about anti-heroes who might ultimately be beyond redemption. Bad Teacher isn’t subtle in its “borrowing” from its clear inspiration, but it is savvy. [Nathan Rabin]

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The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs

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Photo: Netflix

Everyone knows the old saw about anthology movies being less than the sum of their parts; it’s a tale as old as the singing cowboy or the stagecoach ghost story. Joel and Ethan Coen should be especially familiar, having contributed to Paris, Je T’Aime and faced assumptions that The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs was really supposed to be a TV series. But it’s hard to imagine breaking their six Western mini-movies into a Netflix “season,” because they complement each other so gracefully. Set in a beguiling netherworld between unforgiving real-life grimness and heightened tall-tale pulpiness, the stories range from delightfully mordant musical slapstick starring Tim Blake Nelson to a heartbreaking gut-punch starring Zoe Kazan, to name just two standouts. Death haunts the whole thing, which builds toward the simultaneously hilarious and hushed “The Mortal Remains,” as satisfying and language-besotted a closer as the Coens have ever concocted. Their sometimes-fatalist outlook has seen them tagged as nihilists, a group they savaged as well as anyone in The Big Lebowski. But nihilists don’t put this much thought into endings. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Barbershop

Barbershop

Cedric the Entertainer and Ice Cube in Barbershop
Cedric the Entertainer and Ice Cube in Barbershop
Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Getty Images)

As strange as it may seem, an entire subgenre of black film can be traced to Joel Schumacher, the flashy hack behind such high-gloss, low-substance, whitebread fare as St. Elmo’s Fire and Batman & Robin. Schumacher wrote the screenplay for 1976's delightful Car Wash, which became the template for 1995's Friday and last year’s abysmal semi-remake The Wash. Like those films, Barbershop borrows Car Wash’s 24-hour timeframe, brassy ensemble cast, and prominent soundtrack. But where lesser Car Wash progeny only incorporate their predecessor’s most obvious elements, Barbershop replicates the intangible qualities that made it special: its sunny spirit, stellar supporting cast, and surprising sociological savvy. Barbershop tackles serious issues (assimilation, reparations, class conflict) without reducing its characters to mouthpieces for differing viewpoints. Much of the credit belongs to the director, music-video veteran Tim Story, who does a terrific job juggling multiple subplots and a sprawling, uniformly fine cast while maintaining a breezy pace. [Nathan Rabin]

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Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich

John Cusack
John Cusack
Screenshot: Being John Malkovich

When Being John Malkovich hit theaters in 1999, many critics considered it, rightly, as the most original American comedy in years. Spike Jonze’s insistently surreal headtrip featured, among other odd flourishes, an office designed to accommodate miniature ladies (“The overhead is low!”), a production of The Belle Of Amherst featuring a 60-foot-tall Emily Dickinson puppet, and, of course, a portal into the consciousness of respected character actor John Malkovich. And while it’s as uproarious now as it ever was, the film’s themes about identity and desire have only deepened with time, as the Internet has grown into a place where personae are fluid and sometimes false, and the fantasy of accessing the minds of celebrities—or anyone’s mind, for that matter—is just a Twitter feed away. What technology hasn’t changed, however, is the impulse to transcend who we are and experience the world through a different set of eyes, and Being John Malkovich addresses this wish literally and touchingly, even as it goofs on Alice In Wonderland, Brazil, the austere art of puppetry, and John Malkovich ordering bathroom towels over the phone. [Scott Tobias]

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Cheech and Chong Up In Smoke

Cheech and Chong Up In Smoke

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Screenshot: Cheech and Chong Up In Smoke

Cheech and Chong’s auspicious cinematic introduction in their debut film, Up In Smoke, plays like a sad time capsule of a dying counterculture. That first scene of the two men shooting the bull in Cheech’s pimped-out ride illustrates the basis of their comic appeal. They’re never better than when bouncing off one another, mishearing and free-associating in conversations that spiral in on themselves like samaras falling to the ground. They thrive on the chemistry that they had cultivated over the previous decade, with Cheech usually the more wound-up and paranoid of the two and Chong taking a sedated tone for contrast. Through a discursive back-and-forth that involves Chong revealing that they are in fact smoking a joint laced with dog feces, even a clearer-minded viewer can get a glimpse of the easy charm that endeared the pair to their faithful fan base. [Charles Bramesco]

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Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

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Image: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Freely adapted from the 1978 children’s book by Judi and Ron Barrett, the new animated movie Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs feels like a warning from another era, a parable about the perils of living amid abundance. But Cloudy—co-directed and co-scripted by first-time feature-makers Phil Lord and Chris Miller—doesn’t get too bogged down with moralizing. It flits swiftly between easy-but-funny sight gags involving gin food, send-ups of disaster-film clichés, and endearing characters brought vividly to life by a pleasing visual style, plus funny vocal performances from Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Bruce Campbell, and Mr. T. Hader plays a hapless geek with a lifelong gift for building inventions that almost work. His luck changes—and with it, the luck of his island town, whose sardine-based economy has been hit hard by the revelation that, as one headline puts it, “Sardines Are Super Gross”—when he unveils a machine that makes the sky rain whatever food he chooses. But the tremendous gift works largely to make his fellow citizens lazy, and it leaves Hader no happier than before, even with the arrival of a pretty weather reporter (Faris) who shares some of his nerdy obsessions. [Keith Phipps]

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The Confirmation

The Confirmation

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Photo:

Bob Nelson’s The Confirmation opens with 8-year-old Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) reluctantly taking confession with his local priest; the joke is that, when pressed, an innocent pre-teen boy can’t really think of anything he’s done wrong. By the end of the film, Anthony will have amassed a (modest) list of sins, but more importantly, he’ll have a much better understanding of the idea of forgiveness, the dual byproducts of spending a boys’ weekend with his floundering, alcoholic father Walt (Clive Owen) while his mother and her new husband attend a church retreat. The Confirmation isn’t much to look at, and its rhythms are wobbly, but Nelson is a dogged enough dramatist that even the story’s resolutions—even the really pat and obvious ones—are satisfyingly earned. [Adam Nayman]

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The Death Of Stalin

The Death Of Stalin

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Photo: The Death Of Stalin

Though still grimly hilarious, Armando Iannucci’s historical farce The Death Of Stalin adopts a more serious tone than his TV series Veep and The Thick Of It. For this satirical recreation of bloody power grabs in the early 1950s Soviet Union, Iannucci sacrifices some punchlines in order to underscore the ferocity of Nikita Khrushchev (sharply played by Steve Buscemi), Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), and others. As with his television work, Iannucci is depicting high-stakes politics as the clumsy work of petty boobs, more interested in frat-boy pranks and cruel machinations than in good governance. [Noel Murray]

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Definitely, Maybe

Definitely, Maybe

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Screenshot: Definitely, Maybe

Ryan Reynolds has starred in several romantic comedies, modulating his smarminess as needed. In Definitely, Maybe, he leaves only a necessary trace of it as Will Hayes, a former political operative and current ad man telling his 10-year-old daughter, Maya (Abigail Breslin), how he met her mother, whom he’s about to divorce. This “love story mystery,” as Maya calls it, quickly narrows the suspects down to three: college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks), adventurous intern April (Isla Fisher), and journalist Summer (Rachel Weisz)—names Will changes to hide their identities. Here the movie reaps the rewards of the late-2000s gender imbalance of actors willing to do romantic comedies: No fewer than three talented and charming actresses vie for the affections of Ryan Reynolds. But to Definitely, Maybe’s credit, the film isn’t about pitting the women against each other—and to Reynolds’ credit, he gives one of his best performances by committing to the story’s more serious undertones. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein

Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein

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Photo: Netflix

There’s plenty to admire about Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein, not the least of which is its brevity. Netflix, after all, is a great offender in the “too much content” era in which we live, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been pitching the creative team of Frankenstein (director Daniel Gray Longino, writer John Levenstein, and star David Harbour) on more episodes. Somehow, though, Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein remains, for now, at least, a standalone comedy special clocking in at 28 minutes. May the gods bless it for that. It begins with Harbour, the veteran actor best known as Stranger Thingsrage-prone chief of police, introducing the mockumentary as an exploration of the career of his late father, David Harbour Jr. (also played by Harbour), a master of “televised theatricals.” Specifically, Harbour wants to mine a screening of his father’s final play, the ornate, overwrought Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein, for clues into his temperament and parental absence. As one might expect of Levenstein, an Arrested Development alum, that’s about a season’s worth of story—a lot to be explored in 28 minutes. A brisk pace and general disinterest in lingering on Harbour’s myriad revelations helps in that regard, as does the aesthetic itself, which is spot-on in its re-creation of the chintzy, self-serious televised mysteries of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. [Randall Colburn]

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Hancock

Hancock

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Screenshot: Hancock

From the moment Hancock first introduces Will Smith as a drunken, glowering, foul-mouthed superhero, it seems clear that he’s eventually going to rehabilitate himself into the charming version of Will Smith, the one who became famous on the strength of wisecracks and a famously infectious grin. The movie telegraphs that change in the trailer and even in the first half-hour of action, as Smith’s hostile hero—who frequently causes millions of dollars in damages while sloppily foiling crimes in Los Angeles—meets PR man Jason Bateman, who offers him a major public-image makeover. But the obvious never happens. Instead, Hancock takes off at right angles, essentially turning into M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, as seen through the big action lens of modern superhero movies like Iron Man and the Spider-Man series. [Tasha Robinson]

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Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Hunt For The Wilderpeople
Hunt For The Wilderpeople
Screenshot:

Hunt For The Wilderpeople, an enjoyably goofy adventure that manages to bring some freshness to the moldy “cantankerous adult reluctantly bonds with adorable kid” subgenre. Starring Sam Neill as the cantankerous adult, the film plays a bit like Jurassic Park minus Lex and dinosaurs, mining humor from the incongruity of its odd-couple pairing and basic fish-out-of-water elements, plus some Flight Of The Conchord-ish wit. [Mike D’Angelo]

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The Incredible Jessica James

The Incredible Jessica James

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Photo: Netflix

Writer-director Jim Strouse (People Places Things) nails the trendsetting speech patterns and whip-smart witticisms familiar to listeners of Jessica Williams’ podcast with fellow comedian Phoebe Robinson, 2 Dope Queens, and writes Williams as a confident, charismatic young woman who rocks the hell out of a jumpsuit and who’s incapable of living on anyone’s terms but her own. Chris O’Dowd and Williams play well off of each other, conveying the stages of a new relationship from awkward first date to first big fight with an easy and believable chemistry. She plays well off of Lakeith Stanfield as well, in recurring interludes where Jessica imagines getting the last word with her feckless ex, which add a welcome dash of surrealism to the proceedings. The film does contain a few truly funny bits, like Jessica’s gift of a homemade child’s guide to dismantling the patriarchy to her conservative pregnant sister, making it feel like an enjoyable hangout with a funny friend throughout its 85-minute running time. [Katie Rife]

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Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Killer Klowns From Outer Space

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Photo: Trans World Entertainment

Cinematic freak shows that actively attempt to court their own cult following have historically had a rough go; audiences tend to find charm in oddball projects blissfully unaware of their own camp appeal, rather than those that try to force it. Killer Klowns From Outer Space (note the second “K”) wants very badly to be liked. Director Charles Chiodo and his brothers—Edward and Stephen, with whom he cowrote the screenplay—make no effort to obscure just how hard they’re trying, and therein lies the enduring appeal of this bizarro horror-comedy. The Chiodos exhibit no self-awareness in pursuing the heights of weirdness—they’re not poseurs, they’re big, sloppy dogs happily chasing the cult-object ball. The film is patently absurd, but the filmmakers are fully committed to that absurdity. It’s hard not to respect. [Charles Bramseco]

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Kung Fu Hustle

Kung Fu Hustle

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Screenshot: Kung Fu Hustle

Kung Fu Hustle could be compared to The Matrix in its seamless integration of new-school CGI and old-school wire-fu, and it’s no coincidence that legendary fight choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping had a hand in both movies. Yuen’s high-flying balletics are unmistakable and still beautiful in any context, but Chow uses computer effects to extend them into something new and distinctive, a live-action cartoon that’s firmly rooted in cinematic traditions ranging from Buster Keaton to Tex Avery to the Shaw brothers. It’s a manic, exhilarating—and okay, somewhat enervating—assault on the senses. [Scott Tobias]

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Lady Bird

Lady Bird

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Photo: Lady Bird

Writer-director Greta Gerwig accomplishes something extraordinary with Lady Bird: a story that’s both hyper-specific and universally relatable. The film takes place in Sacramento, California over the course of the 2002-2003 school year, where 17-year-old Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) dreams of ditching what she calls “the Midwest of California” and escaping to New York City. Gerwig cradles Lady Bird’s story like a delicate baby robin, allowing the tension between her characters to arise organically and daring to make them refreshingly, well, ordinary. And although it’s also frequently hilarious, Gerwig derives real emotional impact from Lady Bird’s strained relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf), whose desire to protect her daughter from disappointment manifests as a tendency towards cutting, critical remarks. It’s a film deftly attuned to the tedious cycles of teenage life, an age where the present feels like a heavy weight pressing down on your chest and the future like a cloudless blue sky that goes on forever. [Katie Rife]

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The Little Hours

The Little Hours

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Photo: Gunpowder & Sky

One of the first things Aubrey Plaza says in The Little Hours is “Don’t fucking talk to us.” Anachronism, as it turns out, is the guiding force of this frequently funny, agreeably bawdy farce, which imagines what a convent of the grubby, violent, disease-infested Middle Ages might look and sound like if it were populated by characters straight out of a modern NBC sitcom. Plaza’s Fernanda, a caustic eye-rolling hipster nun born eons too early, sneaks out to get into mischief, using a perpetually escaping donkey as her excuse. Uptight wallflower Genevra (a priceless Kate Micucci) tattles relentlessly on the other women, reporting every transgression to Sister Marea (Molly Shannon, playing her dutiful piousness almost totally straight—she’s the only character here that could actually exist in the 1300s). And Alessandra (Alison Brie), the closest the convent has to a spoiled rich kid, daydreams about being whisked away and married, but that would depend on her father shelling out for a decent dowry. If the plague doesn’t kill them, the boredom will. When Plaza, Micucci, and Brie get smashed on stolen communion wine and perform a drunken sing-along of a wordless choral staple, like college girls sneaking booze past the RA and belting some radio anthem in their dorm, the true resonance of all this anachronism slips into focus: An itchy desire for a better life is something women of every century experience, regardless if their catalog of curses yet includes “fuck.” [A.A. Dowd]

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The Lobster

The Lobster

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Photo: The Lobster

In a bizarre near-future dystopia, recently divorced David (Colin Farrell, cast very effectively against type) is sent to a seaside compound full of single adults to find a new partner in 45 days or else be transformed into the animal of his choice. Perfecting his style of absurdist deadpan comedy, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) introduces new rules, activities, and gruesome punishments at every turn: Matches are made based on arbitrary similarities; trial couples are assigned children; and time extensions can be earned by hunting down renegade singles who live in the woods and only listen to electronic music. More than just a witty parody of meaningless couplehood, The Lobster becomes more probing as it gets further and further into its strange and cruel world, building to a finale that asks whether two people can love one other on any terms except those forced on them by society. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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The Lovebirds

The Lovebirds

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Photo: Netflix

In terms of plot, The Lovebirds is nothing new. In fact, it’s simply the latest in a recent series of films, like Date Night and Game Night and Keeping Up With The Joneses, about a couple coincidentally caught up in wacky but legitimately dangerous criminal activity. In this case, it’s hipster creatives Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) who get pulled into a blackmail ring after they accidentally run over a cyclist with their car in the midst of a relationship-ending fight. Add a New Orleans location that isn’t especially necessary to the story and a dinner party full of judgmental friends (and one hunky coworker), and the Mad Libs card is pretty much filled out. The dialogue is the real star here—that, and the chemistry between the leads, of course. [Katie Rife]

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Melvin Goes To Dinner

Melvin Goes To Dinner

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Screenshot: Melvin Goes To Dinner

A low-budget independent comedy-drama, Dinner stars Michael Blieden (who also adapted his own play and edited the film) as an aimless young man who joins friend Matt Price for dinner and ends up having a long, lively conversation with two additional companions (Annabelle Gurwitch and Stephanie Courtney) about matters ranging from the mundane to the profound. As the evening progresses, the increasingly inebriated conversation takes dark and ribald turns, with the four confiding the sort of intimate details most people won’t admit even to themselves, leading to a climactic revelation that the film telegraphs well in advance. In a fine debut, Odenkirk coaxes excellent performances from his semi-unknown leads, as well as from a supporting cast familiar to Mr. Show fans–including an unbilled Jack Black, who cameos as a polite lunatic who subjects Blieden to a funny monologue about being the “Creatress” of the world. Through jittery editing, flashbacks, documentary-style camerawork, and inspired use of stills, Bob Odenkirk (in his directorial debut) ultimately renders a surprisingly cinematic product out of four people talking in one location for 80 minutes. [Nathan Rabin]

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Monty Python And The Holy Grail

Monty Python And The Holy Grail

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Screenshot:

Monty Python And The Holy Grail never wastes a joke-telling opportunity. The opening credits are a rolling snowball of jokes. The songs by Python associate (and future Rutle) Neil Innes are whirligigs of funny rhymes and piercing insults. “Camelot Song” is matched to slapstick choreography—and one key cutaway—mounted in the difficultly lit interior of a castle that had to serve as multiple castles due to uncooperative Scottish officials. As part of the independent spirit of the enterprise, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam stepped up to direct, essentially learning on the job while sharing a vision that sets the postmodern absurdity of Arthur and his knights against a backdrop of moody fantasy and barbaric history. Like the best Python products, Holy Grail speaks in a single voice, but the Terrys’ individual directorial signatures remain evident: Jones’ focus on performance (the Pythons are all in peak form here) and coverage with an eye toward putting the funniest version together in the edit; Gilliam’s animation-bred control-freak tendencies colliding with his flair for visual clutter and chaos. [Erik Adams]

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Obvious Child

Obvious Child

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Photo: Obvious Child

Very late into Obvious Child, a Sundance crowd-pleaser that actually pleases, struggling stand-up comedian Donna (Jenny Slate) issues an offhand dismissal of romantic comedies. The moment is a transparent wink, a way for writer-director Gillian Robespierre to acknowledge the genre her debut feature is loosely, eccentrically occupying. Such self-reflexivity seems unnecessary; if nothing else, Obvious Child proves that rom-com conventions require no apologies, at least when they’re invested with honesty and sharp humor. Also, a few fart jokes never hurt. [A.A. Dowd]

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The Other Guys

The Other Guys

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Photo: The Other Guys

It’s a testament to Will Ferrell’s comic genius that his movies are any good at all. Ferrell isn’t a satirist or an observational humorist, and he isn’t comfortably confined within the guardrails of a script, even a well-written one. His natural outlet is the sketch comedy of Saturday Night Live, where his gift for digressive silliness could be packaged into five- or 10-minute bits. So a good Will Ferrell movie, like the inspired buddy-cop comedy The Other Guys, gloms together enough clever riffs and random funny business to overcome the inevitable lumpiness and dead ends. It helps that Ferrell’s regular collaborator, director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers), has a visual panache that’s rare in Hollywood comedies, and especially useful when shoot-outs and car chases come into play. Cop Out this ain’t. [Scott Tobias]

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Paddleton

Paddleton

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Photo: Netflix

Opening with a diagnosis of cancer that’s soon revealed to be terminal, Paddleton more or less amounts to an hour and a half of slow-motion assisted suicide. Sound like fun? Remarkably, this low-budget two-hander—arriving on Netflix just a few weeks after its Sundance premiere—manages to generate a fair number of laughs, even as it does full justice to the scenario’s underlying gravity. Written by Alex Lehmann (who also directed) and Mark Duplass (who also plays one of the two lead roles), Paddleton takes its emotional cue from Terms Of Endearment, expanding that film’s final stretch into an entire feature and replacing mother-daughter bonds with the deep but usually unspoken love shared by two male buddies. A bit of cheating is necessary to achieve the stripped-down dynamic that Lehmann and Duplass apparently wanted, but the payoff is an atypically intimate portrait of testosterone-fueled friendship. [Mike D’Angelo]

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Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

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Photo: Netflix

Typing “Pee-wee” into the Netflix search bar brings up a Big Adventure and a Playhouse right alongside Big Holiday. This film—directed by Wonder Showzen’s John Lee, produced by Judd Apatow, and co-written by Paul Reubens with Love’s Paul Rust—doesn’t shy from comparisons to Pee-wee’s first, Tim Burton-helmed big-screen outing. The parallels are right there in the title, but the films also follow roughly the same structure, a hero’s journey that breaks Pee-wee out of his idiosyncratic small-town routine and sends him on an epic road trip. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is a comeback vehicle, but it’s also an attempt to reprise one of the funniest movies ever made. To a large degree, it succeeds. [Erik Adams]

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Pineapple Expresss

Pineapple Expresss

Seth Rogen and James Franco
Seth Rogen and James Franco
Screenshot: Pineapple Express

Written by Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg—the duo also scripted SuperbadPineapple Express refers to an exclusive strain of weed that James Franco offers to Rogen, his favorite customer and secret best friend. Rogen’s job as a process server allows him to toke up in his car between jobs, but one night, while waiting to hand out a subpoena, he witnesses a murder, and murderer Gary Cole witnesses him right back. As it happens, Cole is also Franco’s chief supplier, and he traces the marijuana strain back to the source, sending Franco and Rogen on the run with a crooked cop (Rosie Perez) and a couple of bumbling henchmen (Kevin Corrigan and The Office’s Craig Robinson) hot on their trail. A subplot involving Rogen’s relationship with a high-school student (Amber Heard) could have been excised, though at the expense of the one of the film’s funniest scenes. But good stoner comedies like Pineapple Express have a rambling, shaggy-dog nature that can make quirky little detours and non sequiturs more essential than story itself. [Scott Tobias]

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The Pirates! Band Of Misfits

The Pirates! Band Of Misfits

The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
Photo: Aardman Animations

Aardman Animations’ stop-motion releases like the Wallace & Gromit shorts, Chicken Run, and Shaun The Sheep are instantly recognizable for the almost exaggerated sense that every aspect of the production has been formed by hand, with the caricatured distortions of children’s drawings mixed with the fussy craft of a crocheted doily. That fussiness also extends to the studio’s house brand of humor, a precisely tuned blend of maiden-aunt primness and broad, goofy absurdism. All these familiar flavors are again front and center in The Pirates! Band Of Misfits, the feature that returns Aardman to theatrical stop-motion after the CGI of Arthur Christmas and Flushed Away. It also returns Aardman co-founder Peter Lord to the director’s chair for the first time since 2000’s Chicken Run. But it doesn’t feel like a return to form—or a new direction, though it’s Aardman’s first book-to-film adaptation, Hugh Grant’s first animated film, and the studio’s maiden foray into 3-D stop-motion. It still feels like a comfortable visit with an old friend. [Tasha Robinson]

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Private Life

Private Life

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Photo: Other People

The main characters of Tamara Jenkins’ Private Life, Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti), are a fortysomething Manhattan couple who have spent a small fortune trying to have a baby—an obsession that their friends and relations liken to an addiction. She is a novelist who put off having kids for too long so she could focus on her writing; he used to be a theater director, but now sells pickles. They’ve had bad luck with adoption agencies and fertility clinics, but they keep trying. Like compulsive gamblers, they borrow money from Richard’s brother, Charlie (John Carroll Lynch), a successful periodontist who lives outside the city, for treatments with a low-single-digit rate of success. Of all the passed opportunities in their lives, parenthood is the last one they can’t let go. Whether they really want to be parents remains an open question. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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Results

Results

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Photo: Results

After making a movie about contract law (Beeswax) and another about a computer programming convention (Computer Chess), writer-director Andrew Bujalski continues his adventures in seemingly uncinematic subject matter with Results, a relationship comedy set around a strip-mall fitness club in suburban Texas. Aussie expat Trevor (Guy Pearce) is the founder and proprietor of Power 4 Life, a fitness club he runs on the outskirts of Austin with a small staff of personal trainers, including customer favorites Kat (Cobie Smulders) and Lorenzo (Tishuan Scott, the creepy cult leader from Computer Chess). Enter Danny (Kevin Corrigan, Walken-esque), a schlub with seemingly bottomless reserves of cash, who lives in an empty rented McMansion on a diet of pot and pizza. Lurching through the aftermath of a divorce, Danny shows up at Trevor’s wanting to get into shape, writes a check for two years’ worth of personal training with Kat, and buys himself a franchise gym’s worth of exercise equipment. On a fundamental level, Results is about people trying to navigate each other’s personal space, with the sweaty physical intimacy of personal training as a contrast to emotional anxiety. It’s an easygoing comedy about different kinds of unease, with subtleties giving shading to broadly drawn characters. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling

Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Screenshot: Nickelodeon

Rocko’s Modern Life, the surrealist, wildly enjoyable 1993 cartoon created by Joe Murray, has what you might call a “bad boy” reputation. Static Cling maintains the original show’s look, sound, and aesthetic perfectly (although Philbert appears a bit off-model at times). It takes a moment to get reacquainted with the show’s energy and pacing, which is a bit slower and more easygoing than one might remember, but by the time Rocko, Heffer, and Philbert land back in O-Town, you’ll feel right at home. And the more genuine storyline that’s explored is a much more significant piece worthy of consideration, so much so that it’s worth re-evaluating Rocko’s Modern Life as a whole. [Kevin Johnson]

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Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

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Photo:

Based on a series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a manga-doodle that draws from the wellspring of popular culture, viewing youthful infatuation through a filter of indie rock, action comics, and a selection of classic arcade and Nintendo games. It’s a series steeped in irony, bestowing magnificent powers on an ineffectual Canadian who can barely muster the courage to talk to a girl, yet reluctantly does battle with her ex-boyfriends. There’s perhaps no better director to bring it to the screen than Edgar Wright, whose Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz are similarly informed by a culture-addled mind, and he brings a great elasticity to Scott Pilgrim, which stretches the medium to accommodate O’Malley’s comic-book universe. [Scott Tobias]

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A Serious Man

A Serious Man

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Photo: A Serious Man

Reportedly based on Joel and Ethan Coen’s own Jewish suburban upbringing, A Serious Man follows a few weeks in the life of upstanding family man Michael Stuhlbarg, whose troubles are mounting so quickly that they’re hard to track. His wife wants a divorce, his tenure application is tenuous, his son’s a pothead, his brother’s a deadbeat, and on and on and on. But there’s some good in Stuhlbarg’s life too. His son’s preparing for his bar mitzvah, and his foxy next-door neighbor has gotten into the habit of sunbathing naked. The problem is that everything happening to Stuhlbarg, good and bad, either ends up costing him money or putting his mortal soul at risk. And when he turns to God for answers, the signals are as fuzzy as the reception on his TV. A Serious Man is wholly a Coen brothers movie, in that it’s full of exaggerated characters and comic cruelty, anchored to a way of looking at the world that seems to posit a fundamental absence of meaning. [Noel Murray]

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Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Photo: Silver Linings Playbook

Based on Matthew Quick’s novel, Russell’s new film, Silver Linings Playbook, is about a couple of head cases whose romantic chemistry stabilizes their brain chemistry. It’s the perfect material for Russell, who not only deals perceptively with the dizzying swings of manic depression, but makes it the fabric of a big, generous, happy-making ensemble comedy. Pushing his usual smug cheeriness to the brink of derangement, Bradley Cooper stars as a former substitute teacher who’s just spent the last seven months in a mental institution for assaulting his wife’s lover. He’s released almost certainly too soon to his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) in suburban Philadelphia, and he begins obsessing unhealthily about straightening up and winning his wife back. When he meets Jennifer Lawrence, a young widow with a similarly absent social filter and compatible antipsychotics, the two enter into uneasy friendship premised on an arrangement. Russell brings these high-strung characters together in a harmony of comic dysfunction that few other filmmakers could achieve without the film falling into chaos. He may be guilty of angling toward a crowd-pleasing finish, but resistance is futile. [Scott Tobias]

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Sleepless In Seattle

Sleepless In Seattle

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Screenshot: Sleepless In Seattle

While some rom-coms end in a kiss, some end in a wedding, and some don’t offer a romantic happy ending at all, Sleepless In Seattle is something even more unique: a romantic comedy that ends with its central couple meeting for the very first time. That means Ryan and Hanks have to sell a romance despite barely sharing any screen time. Remarkably, they pull it off. [Caroline Siede]

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Someone Great

Someone Great

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Photo: Netflix

This NYC-set heartbreak story is written and directed by Sweet/Vicious creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson and stars Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, and DeWanda Wise as three longtime best friends. When Rodriguez’s Jenny gets dumped by her boyfriend of nine years, Nate (LaKeith Stanfield), she suddenly has to take inventory of her life, evaluate what she wants, and reflect on nearly a decade of memories she built with a person who suddenly can’t be a permanent part of her life anymore. It’s one of the genre’s most gutting and complete portraits of a breakup and its sticky, chaotic aftermath. [Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya]

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Spaceballs

Spaceballs

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Photo: Spaceballs

Spaceballs wasn’t one of Brooks’ great successes, but it’s endured in the shadow of Star Wars as a lone “official” parody version. In retrospect, its comic deconstruction of the most successful movies of all time looks more respectful than Lucas’ own prequels, which ultimately seemed to understand less about the appeal (and pitfalls) of their source material. Certainly, George Lucas had good intentions when he tried to redo his own greatest hits, but as Spaceballs teaches us, good is often very, very dumb. [Adam Nayman]

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Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

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Image: Sony

If you had told me at the beginning of 2018 that a new superhero movie, let alone one featuring multiple Spider-Men, would be one of the best films of the year, I wouldn’t have believed it. All it took was a confident, funny script and comic-book-style animation to prove me wrong. If we’re going to keep churning these things out until the end of time, please keep them animated and make them as powerful as this one. [Vikram Murthi]

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The Squid And The Whale

The Squid And The Whale

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Screenshot: The Squid And The Whale

In Noah Baumbach’s remarkable The Squid And The Whale, Daniels plays a profoundly bitter failure who rages joylessly against a world that long ago rejected him, and he futilely tries to assert his fading sense of superiority by dividing the world into intellectuals (who like books and interesting movies) and philistines (who don’t). There’s not a whole lot to like or admire about Daniels or most of the film’s compellingly flawed leads, yet Daniels maintains a certain dour magnetism throughout, and the film’s academically brilliant but emotionally challenged upper-middle-class New Yorkers are all the more fascinating for their many spiky edges and glaring faults. Baumbach can obviously see through his characters, with their crippling pretensions and noxious self-delusions, but his empathetic writing and directing engender a healthy affection for them anyway. [Nathan Rabin]

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Starsky & Hutch

Starsky & Hutch

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Photo: Starsky & Hutch

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson take their well-worn personas back to the groovy days of afros, butterfly collars, disco, and long sideburns in Starsky & Hutch, a delightfully silly resurrection of the ‘70s cop show/camp touchstone, helmed by Old School director Todd Phillips. Typecast to perfection, Stiller plays a more macho version of his usual diminutive bundle of seething neuroses. Desperate to live up to his mother’s legendary reputation in law enforcement, Stiller’s by-the-books control freak is saddled with a new partner in Wilson, a sweet-natured space cowboy complete with a likable kid sidekick (who’s straight out of Wilson’s films with Wes Anderson) and a laissez-faire attitude toward crime prevention. Together, Wilson and Stiller inch their way toward the crime ring of Vince Vaughn, a drug lord who, in the time-honored tradition of villains everywhere, hides his nefarious evil under an immaculate façade of upper-class philanthropy. Beyond merely upgrading his Wilsons, from mopey Luke to loopy-genius Owen, Phillips improved considerably as a co-writer and director since Old School. Starsky & Hutch looks better, is brisker and breezier, and doesn’t telegraph and belabor gags as clumsily. It would be hard to find a better cast, too. [Nathan Rabin]

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To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Photo: Netflix

Directed by Susan Johnson, To All The Boys combines the stylized cinematography of a Wes Anderson movie with the heart of a John Hughes film and the spirit of the best of the 1990s high school rom-coms. Based on the first in Jenny Han’s best-selling trilogy of young adult novels, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before centers on introverted high school junior Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), whose world comes crashing down when her secret stash of love letters accidentally make their way out into the world. To avoid dealing with the fallout from the note sent to her older sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh Sanderson (Israel Broussard), Lara Jean pulls a classic screwball comedy move and impulsively kisses another letter recipient, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). Once Peter gets a handle on Lara Jean’s situation, he suggests they start fake dating each other so that Lara Jean can avoid Josh and he can win back his ex-girlfriend by making her jealous. They draw up a contract of ground rules (no to any more kissing, yes to Sixteen Candles-inspired back pocket spins), and set about duping their school—both in person and via social media. Soon enough, however, Lara Jean and Peter’s fake relationship leads to some real feelings. [Caroline Siede]

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy Vs. The Reverend

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy Vs. The Reverend

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Photo: Netflix

Kimmy Vs. The Reverend brings with it all of the series’ sorely missed cast members, including Kimmy (Ellie Kemper); Titus, the greatest roommate in the history of roommates (Tituss Burgess); Kimmy’s snooty former boss, Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski); and Kimmy’s enterprising former landlady, Lillian (Carol Kane). Jon Hamm—in his hilarious depiction as Kimmy’s captor, Richard Wayne Gary Wayne—showed up all too sporadically in the series’ later seasons (granted, his character was in prison). But as the title suggests, he plays a large part here, as Kimmy finds out that Dick has another bunker of mole women, who she has to save mere days before her wedding, to Prince Frederick (Daniel Radcliffe). Using the same technology seen in Black Mirror’s “Bandersnatch,” but with much funnier results, Kimmy Vs. The Reverend tracks the titular eternally optimistic redhead as she heads out on her biggest adventure yet. Intriguing tech options aside, all the one-liner, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them jokes that made Kimmy Schmidt so much fun in the first place are thankfully still intact. [Gwen Inhat]

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The Week Of

The Week Of

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Photo: The Week Of

Even (maybe especially) for a practiced Sanderologist, a new Happy Madison picture getting uploaded to Netflix does not inspire much genuine hope for a good time. Imagine my surprise, then, that Adam Sandler enlisted his old pal Robert Smigel to make his best broad comedy in at least a decade—a funny and sweetly grounded story about a couple of dads hitting assorted bumps in the lead-up to their kids’ wedding. Smigel ditches most of the usual Sandler hangers-on, keeps the best ones (Rock, Dratch, Buscemi), and makes a movie rooted in the specifics of suburban Long Island, rather than the latest Happy Madison-favored resort. [Jesse Hassenger]

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The Witches

The Witches

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
Screenshot: The Witches

The Witches beautifully captures the surreal grotesqueness of Roald Dahl’s 1983 children’s book. The violence, menace, and food-related nastiness of Dahl’s tome are brought to the screen in all their horrific glory by director Nicholas Roeg, whose preponderance of cockeyed camera angles and extreme close-ups lend a fittingly bizarre quality to the fantastical tale. It concerns a young boy (Jasen Fisher) taught by his cigar-smoking grandmother (Mai Zetterling) how to identify witches: Look for their purple-tinted eyes, wigs covering itchy scalps, toeless feet, and attempts to lure children into their clutches with candy. After his parents’ death, he finds himself vacationing at a seaside hotel hosting a gathering of Great Britain’s witches. Operating under the guise of a royal organization for protecting kids, the villainous creatures are led by Anjelica Huston’s Grand High Witch, a strutting and sneering black-clad beauty who plans to turn the country’s children into mice via her magical “Formula 86.” [Nick Schager]

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Yes, God, Yes

Yes, God, Yes

Natalia Dyer
Natalia Dyer
Screenshot: Yes, God, Yes

A lot has changed since the heyday of teen sex comedies in the early ’80s—not least the revelation that adolescent girls are just as horny as their male counterparts. Projects on the big screen (The To Do List) and the small (Big Mouth) plumb the depths (pun intended) of puberty’s lustful purgatory from a female perspective. But you’d be hard pressed (pun also intended) to find a masturbation comedy as sweet and sensitive as Yes, God, Yes. Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer stars as Alice, a good girl who attends church with her dad every Sunday and is sincerely worried that she’s going to hell because she stumbled into a dirty AOL chat one afternoon after school. The film shares its early-’00s setting and softly lit Catholic-school milieu with Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. And like that film, this is a semi-autobiographical project for writer-director Karen Maine, who first made the film-festival scene as a co-writer of Obvious Child. But Yes, God, Yes is positively sex-crazed compared to those movies, though it focuses less on actually doing the deed than the single-minded desires that drive teenagers to distraction. [Katie Rife]

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