The best comedy movies on Netflix

The best comedy movies on Netflix

Clockwise from top left: Can’t Hardly Wait (Screenshot); Lady Bird  (Screenshot); To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Photo: Netflix); The Artist (Screenshot); The Lovebirds (Photo: Netflix); The  Little Hours (Photo:  Gunpowder & Sky); The Incredible Jessica James (Photo: Netflix)
Clockwise from top left: Can’t Hardly Wait (Screenshot); Lady Bird (Screenshot); To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Photo: Netflix); The Artist (Screenshot); The Lovebirds (Photo: Netflix); The Little Hours (Photo: Gunpowder & Sky); The Incredible Jessica James (Photo: Netflix)

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 April 2, 2021.

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17 Again

17 Again

Zac Efron
Zac Efron
Screenshot: 17 Again

Following the tradition of bad late-’80s comedies like Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son, and, ahem, 18 Again!—and their slightly improved ’00 counterparts Freaky Friday and 13 Going On 3017 Again uses Hollywood magic to put an old soul in a younger body. As the film opens, Efron is a star high-school basketball player who leaves the game behind when he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant and commits to her on the spot. Twenty years later, this dynamic young man has morphed into a defeated sad-sack (Matthew Perry) who has squandered his marriage to wife Leslie Mann and alienated himself from his two teenage children. When a janitorial “spirit guide” gives him a chance to revisit his youth and realize the dreams he left behind in high school, Efron instead uses the opportunity to get his family back on track. With plenty of help from a fine supporting cast, including Thomas Lennon as his obscenely wealthy super-nerd chum and Melora Hardin as the school principal, Efron deftly handles the fish-out-of-water hijinks and slips through more icky May-September romantic entanglements than an average season of Friday Night Lights. [Scott Tobias]

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Always Be My Maybe

Always Be My Maybe

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
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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4 / 41

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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5 / 41

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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6 / 41

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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7 / 41

Can’t Hardly Wait

Can’t Hardly Wait

Lauren Ambrose and Ethan Embry
Lauren Ambrose and Ethan Embry
Screenshot: Can’t Hardly Wait

While every one of Can’t Hardly Wait’s characters can be defined by two or three words—the tortured geek (Charlie Korsmo), the misunderstood prom queen (Hewitt), the evil jock (Peter Facinelli), the doleful protagonist (Ethan Embry), the Janeane Garofalo type (Lauren Ambrose), the white homeboy (Seth Green), and more—it’s refreshingly fast-paced. For starters, it’s a true ensemble piece: Set mostly during a single house party the night of high-school graduation, it cuts effortlessly from wacky situation to wacky situation, with various characters getting drunk, finding love while locked in a bathroom together, unleashing inner rock ‘n’ rollers, seeking revenge, ending and beginning relationships, and trashing the home of a peripheral character’s parents. The film deserves credit, both for its breezy pacing and its uncommon tendency to make its characters smarter and geekier than they might have been. [Stephen Thompson]

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8 / 41

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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9 / 41

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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10 / 41

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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Eddie Murphy: Raw

Eddie Murphy: Raw

Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy
Screenshot: Eddie Murphy: Raw

Before Coming To America, before The Nutty Professor, and long before Norbit, Eddie Murphy proved he could occupy the skin of multiple characters without the aid of elaborate prosthetic work. Raw, his 1987 blockbuster stand-up movie, remains the fullest showcase of the comedian’s gift for impression. Over a long, consistently hilarious set at Felt Forum in New York, Murphy imitates Michael Jackson, Mr. T, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, an Italian hothead, a Jamaican lothario, an African trophy wife, philandering guys, gold-digging women, and—in the film’s showstopper of a final bit—his own inebriated, self-aggrandizing father. He’s a one-man Saturday Night Live, and there’s a control of inflection and facial expression on display that marks Murphy as one of the great comics of his generation. It’s no wonder the full show was never released in an audio-only format. Simply hearing Eddie perform would do no justice to his animated, physical approach to the craft. [A.A. Dowd]

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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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Good Hair

Good Hair

Chris Rock
Chris Rock
Screenshot: Good Hair

Is it possible to talk about the fascinating and complex universe of black hair without dealing with race and identity? That’s the question posed by Good Hair, director Jeff Stilson and co-writer/producer/narrator/star Chris Rock’s charming new comic exploration of African-American hair. The film is filled with sadly telling moments, like a black beauty student telling Rock that she’d have a hard time taking a job applicant seriously if he had an afro, yet its tone is one of amusement rather than indignation. Rock is an entertainer, not a polemicist, and Good Hair will never be mistaken for a college course in African American Hair And Racial Identity, though it does stress the pain women will endure and the exorbitant prices they’ll pay to keep up with follicular trends. To the film’s subjects, paying thousands for a complicated, high-maintenance weave is less a luxury than a necessity, even for those low on the socio-economic scale. Borrowing moves from Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, Good Hair alternates funny, candid talking-head interviews with famous folks like Nia Long, Ice-T, Al Sharpton, and Raven Symone with prankish stunts like Rock trying to sell African-American hair on the street and an extended trip to the Bronner Brothers Hair Show. During the climactic Hair Show competition, stylists battle in flamboyant production numbers that take showmanship to comic extremes, from a fuzzily conceived bar scene involving an aquarium and underwater hair-styling to a dizzy spectacle involving more or less an entire marching band. [Nathan Rabin]

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Hancock

Hancock

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
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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Lady Bird

Lady Bird

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
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 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

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Netflix
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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My Best Friend’s Wedding

My Best Friend’s Wedding

Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts
Screenshot: My Best Friend’s Wedding

Rom-coms have happy endings. That fact is such a given that it’s often preemptively held against the genre. Why see a movie when you already know exactly how it’s going to end? It’s ironic, then, that one of the most beloved rom-coms of all time challenges the very nature of what we want from a happy ending. The all-around delightful My Best Friend’s Wedding—more so than maybe any other romantic comedy—benefits from not knowing exactly where things are going. The 1997 film stars Julia Roberts as Julianne Potter, a commitment-phobic restaurant critic who’s sent into a tailspin when she learns her longtime best friend—and one-time college hookup, whom she made a pact to wed if neither were married by 28—Michael O’Neal (Dermot Mulroney) is about to marry the bubbly, 20-year-old White Sox heiress Kimmy Wallace (Cameron Diaz). When Julianne confesses her love and impulsively kisses Michael, it doesn’t make him realize he’s in love with her. It only helps him confirm he’s actually in love with Kimmy. And even though she’s heartbroken, Julianne sets about righting her wrongs, ensuring the wedding goes off without a hitch. There are plenty of meta rom-coms and rom-com parodies, but My Best Friend’s Wedding is something unique. It’s a deconstruction of the romantic comedy genre that’s also a fully functioning, agreeably mainstream version of one. [Caroline Siede]

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Chevy Chase
Chevy Chase
Screenshot: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Christmas Vacation may be one of the most realistic, albeit exaggerated, cinematic depictions of what celebrating Christmas is like for many families. Where most holiday features are high-concept or supernatural, set pieces here involve shopping or sledding; even if you don’t blanket your house with lights like Clark, the trouble he has getting his decorations up and working is relatable, and funnier as a result. The film has become a perennial favorite, as important as It’s A Wonderful Life in many families’ December repertoires, because it shows the holidays as wonderful and taxing in equal measure. It understands the desire to be with extended family, but also the inherent frustration of sharing space with visitors and in accommodating everyone’s different schedules and tastes. (“I’ll be outside for… the season,” Clark decides as the in-laws descend.) Though it lacks scenes where the Griswolds attend holiday parties or bake cookies, this is about as close as Hollywood has gotten to putting everyday Christmas traditions on screen. In its sweetness and humor, this is the Vacation where John Hughes’ imprint is most visible. (He wrote the screenplay; the director is Jeremiah Chechik, who mostly does TV now.) [Ryan Vlastelica]

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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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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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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

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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

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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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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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Someone Great

Someone Great

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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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The Squid And The Whale

The Squid And The Whale

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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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Superbad

Superbad

Michael Cena and Jonah Hill
Michael Cena and Jonah Hill
Screenshot: Superbad

The winning new teen romp Superbad was written by Evan Goldberg and Judd Apatow’s protégé Seth Rogen, and directed by The Daytrippers’ Greg Mottola, but it still feels like the concluding film in Apatow’s trilogy of raunchy, big-hearted, improvisation-heavy comedies about man-children torn between the pleasures of eternal adolescence and the relentless pull of adult responsibility. The stars and sensibility get younger with each successive film: The 40-Year-Old Virgin’s middle-aged Steve Carell gave way to twentysomething Knocked Up star Rogen, and now teenagers Jonah Hill and Michael Cera step in as co-dependent buddies facing the end of high school and scary/exciting college careers pulling them in separate directions. [Nathan Rabin]

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To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

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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

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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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