Everybody’s definition of funny is a little different, which is why it’s cool that Netflix has an impressive variety of movies representing a very broad genre. If you’re looking for something to make you laugh, you can choose a smart, critically-acclaimed classic or a brainless comedy that critics hated, but who gives a shit, because it’s funny?
High-minded satire or expertly timed farts: many of the best comedies blend highbrow and lowbrow (think Monty Python), but, at the end of the day, the best comedy is the one that makes you laugh the most.
Bad Trip (2021)
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I’m not a fan of hidden camera-style comedy, which often feels mean-spirited and superior in mocking people for the crime of not being in on the joke. Bad Trip, with Eric André, Lil Rel Howery, and Tiffany Haddish, makes a couple of innovations to the form: it adds an overarching narrative and, more importantly, it approaches everything with heart. In one of the best sequences, André’s Chris gets some love advice from an older guy on a bench that inspires him to burst into song, a musical moment that takes him across the street and into a nearby mall—the kind of thing that happens a million times in the movies, but here the startled, annoyed, and confused reactions make perfect sense. The movie even ends with footage of the pranked people learning that their in a movie, and their delight is funny in and of itself.
We Have a Ghost (2023)
Christopher Landon, writer/director behind innovative comedy-horror movies like Happy Death Day and Freaky (and the next Scream movie), helms this similarly fun but more family-friendly entry. Anthony Mackie is in the lead as Frank Presley, who, with his family, buys a cheap fixer-upper, only for his son Kevin (Jahi Winston) to discover a ghost (played by David Harbour) unliving in the attic. So far, familiar territory, but Kevin wants to help their new ghost while dad only wants to make money—and so, their ghost goes viral.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
John Hughes’ classic has often been referred to as an ode to slackers, but Ferris (Mathew Broderick), Cameron, and Sloane work hard for their day off. From constructing an elaborate computer-driven simulacrum, to faking out the school officials, to joining a parade, there’s no question that just going to school would’ve been much easier. In the end, the movie feels much less like a tribute to slacking off than it does a celebration of stepping out of your comfort zone for a bit of adventure.
Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday (2016)
This genuinely sweet Pee-Wee movie wound up being Paul Reubens’s swan song for the indelible character. If we have to say goodbye, there couldn’t be a send-off than a movie that begins with a joyous, Rube Goldberg-inspired intro that wouldn’t feel out of place in the Playhouse, and sends Pee-Wee off on a journey across an America that could only exist in Reubens’ imagination. With Joe Manganiello as his companion and quasi-romantic interest, it also feels like a real exploration of the character that never loses its sense of whimsy and fun.
Coming to America (1988)
One of Eddie Murphy’s best from his era as an untouchable comedic superstar, Coming to America is pure fun—there’s a bit of satire of American culture here, but mostly it’s a fish-out-of-water comedy about the prince of a made-up African nation sneaking off to America and mixing with the common people. Murphy and Arsenio Hall are at their high-energy best, while James Earl Jones, John Amos, and Madge Sinclair give memorable supporting performances.
Groundhog Day (1993)
The time-loop narrative has been repurposed endlessly, but rarely as well as in this Harold Ramis’ fable about a world-weary weatherman (Bill Murray) who keeps reliving the same day over and over until he learns to appreciate the gift of even a mundane life, and to be a little nicer to everyone around him, including his put-upon producer (Andie MacDowell). If it’s not always raucously funny, it’s an effectively dry and darkly comic gem that mines laughs from its lead character’s refusal to learn his lesson.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
This bit of inspired silliness from the Python gang is also one of the most thoroughly quotable comedies in cinematic history, even if the quotes in question make zero sense out of context (“Ni!,” “I got better!” “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!”). Not that they make much sense in the loosely medieval world of the film, either. But that’s part of the fun of this bit of anarchy from the U.K.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
One of Bollywood’s most beloved rom-coms. Shah Rukh Khan’s Rahul Khanna has had little on his mind but taking care of his daughter, Anjali, for the eight years since her mother died. Anjali’s mom left behind letters for her daughter, one to be read each year on her birthday, and when she comes to the final one, learns that her dad was very nearly in a relationship with a different woman when he was in college. Naturally (under romantic comedy rules), Anjali decides that her dad needs a girlfriend and that she’s going to hook him up with his old potential flame. The second half of the film gets a bit more serious, but the goofy complications of the earlier part of the film are frequently very funny in the way that only ‘90s rom-coms can be.
The Money Pit (1986)
Never a critical favorite, this Tom Hanks and Shelley Long remake (roughly) of Cary Grant’s Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House remains an impressively constructed bit of slapstick. The plot is simple enough (couple buys a house that turns out to be, well, a money pit), but the increasingly ridiculous complications that ensue are buoyed by a couple of very charming, and believable, performances from the leads. Maureen Stapleton, Joe Mantegna, and Frankie Faison also put in memorable appearances.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
I couldn’t choose between the pure goofiness of Monty Python and the Holy Grail or this bolder, more political followup, so I’ve included them both. Where Grail took a couple of shots at the feudal system, Life of Brian takes shots at organized Christianity from the days of the birth of Christ (the titular Brian was born in the stable next door, and frequently finds himself mixed up with Jesus). The movie, smartly, doesn’t make fun of Jesus himself, instead skewering centuries of tortured interpretations of a fairly simple message, and our desire to be told what to do. All that, plus an extended riff on a character named Biggus Dickus.
Do Revenge (2022)
Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke star in this dark teen comedy, loosely based on Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, that also takes aim at the teen comedies of yore. Think Scream, but for fans of She’s All That and Mean Girls. That’s a lot of references, I know, but the movie is filled with them—mostly for the better. And even still, the comedy is biting enough that it stands on its own among classics of the “high school is hell” genre.
The Big Short (2015)
Adam McKay’s award-nominated film, based on Michael Lewis’s non-fiction bestseller of the same name, dramatizes (but mostly satirizes) the lead-up to the 2008 financial crash, telling the story of the hedge fund managers and traders who mastered the labyrinthine U.S. banking systems, at least insofar as much as they could in order to foresee the coming collapse—and the potential to make a ton of money off of it. Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, and Ryan Gosling play the main characters, finance guys who aren’t really brilliant or even necessarily smart, but who have figured out how to make money while lighting the match on a world primed to burn.
Dolemite is My Name (2019)
Eddie Murphy gives one of the best performances of his career in this take on real-life comedian Rudy Ray Moore from Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer. Moore was a stand-up (also a singer, actor, producer, and rap pioneer) who decided to take his popular pimp character Dolemite to the big screen, leading to a trilogy of Blaxploitation classics. The film has a ton of fun with the stereotypical elements of Moore’s biography and the era trappings, positioning Moore as a more savvy Ed Wood of the 1970s.
The Jerk (1979)
The late, great Carl Reiner directed this goofy slapstick comedy that captures Steve Martin at the height of his success as a groundbreaking standup comedian. His brilliance was in being unafraid to play incredibly stupid, and The Jerk is as good a showcase for his place in pop culture at the time as you could imagine. Beginning with the line “I was born a poor black child” (Martin’s adopted character isn’t even smart enough to realize that he’s white), the movie stops at nothing to wring every possible chuckle out of each scene.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)
While nothing can top actual Eurovision for laughs, thrills, and pure joy, given that we have to wait a full year between competitions, The Story of Fire Saga is a goofy and fun way to fill the time. Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell star as plucky Icelandic best friends, and leads of the band Fire Saga, who have dreams of taking home the prize for their country—even though people back home only want to hear them the traditional Ja Ja Ding Dong. The original music is wacky and fun, in the best spirit of Eurovision.
Glass Onion (2022)
After crafting a superb mystery-comedy in Knives Out, writer-director Ryan Johnson returned with this sequel that almost tops the original, and certainly outdoes it in size and scope. Daniel Craig is back as slow-talking, quick-thinking detective Benoit Blanc, this time taken to the island of a billionaire and faced with, as expected, multiple murders to solve. Like the original, the movie balances zippy pacing and entertainingly over-the-top characters with some wildly on-point social satire. The supporting cast collects the entire A-list, and two cameos mark the final screen performances of Steven Sondheim and Angela Lansbury.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)
The heart of this Netflix animated movie is the relationship between aspiring college-bound filmmaker Kate Mitchell and her technophobic father Rick, which explodes into intra-family conflict at the outset and quickly spirals into global warfare against a rogue AI—which honestly seems less silly now than it did just a couple of years ago. With the rest of the family caught in the middle, Kate and Rick are forced to find middle ground while the world falls apart around them. Stellar voice performances from Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, and Maya Rudolph ground the movie in such a way that the mile-a-minute plot and outrageously funny situations still feel somehow real.
Wendell & Wild (2022)
Wendell and Wild are a couple of demons (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) who meet their match in Kat (Lyric Ross), a punk-loving teen with few friends other than Raúl (Sam Zelaya), a sweet trans boy who’s also a talented artist trying to expose the injustices of their town’s messed-up prison system. From The Nightmare Before Christmas/Coraline director Henry Selick, the movie expands upon the spooky possibilities of those earlier films, crafting something both scarier and funnier, with playful jokes ranging from a possessed stuffed-animal named Bearzebub, a hair cream for balding men that can raise the dead, and a worm in a candy apple that’s responsible for numerous deaths.
You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah (2023)
Adam and a whole lot of his fellow Sandlers appear in this movie from the YA bestseller by Fiona Rosenbloom. Whether that knowledge appeals to you or not, the elder Sandler takes a backseat here playing a dorky dad in favor of Sunny Sandler’s Stacy, and her best friend Lydia (Samantha Lorraine). It’s a solid teen comedy that gets plenty of laughs out of the awkward messiness of growing up.
They Cloned Tyrone (2023)
Stylish, funny, and very fast-moving, this genre mashup spins plenty of plates, and mostly manages to keep them from crashing down. John Bodega stars as Fontaine, a drug dealer in a world just this side of our own (there’s definitely some Blaxsploitation influence in the dress styles). Following a showdown with one-time Pimp of the Year Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), Fontaine is shot dead before waking up in his own bed with nothing, seemingly, having changed. Teaming up with Slick Charles and sex worker Yo Yo (Teyonah Parris), he leads the three of them into an unlikely web of scientific conspiracy. It shouldn’t work, but the stellar cast and assured direction from Juel Taylor sell it.