For many of us, there’s nothing more relaxing and enjoyable than settling into the couch and watching a comedy that’s actually funny. Dramas can drag, action movies can be ridiculous, and horror filmsare designed to be stressful. Comedies are fun and, more often than not, predictable. Not every cinematic experience needs to be an adventure, and sometimes you just want a good laugh.
Luckily, Netflix’s repository of movies has grown quite large, though we can’t blame you if you don’t want to spend hours searching for the right film. The service offers dozens ofAmerican Pie-style teen comedies, not to mention a slew of B-movies you’ll never want to sit through, both of which can make things overwhelming if you don’t know where to look.
To make your choice a bit easier, we’ve done all the legwork on your behalf. Put on some kneepads, because the slapping is nigh.
The Coen Brothers have, over the years, perfected a very simple recipe for comedy: Take characters who think they’re smarter than they are, and throw them into a situation that goes way over their heads. In Burn After Reading, the comedy of errors begins when CIA analyst Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) quits his job rather than take a demotion, opting to work on a memoir. His unfaithful wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton) decides to divorce him, making a copy of his important files, which fall into the hands of two gym employees, Linda (Frances McDormand) and Chad (Brad Pitt), who figure they can get a ransom from Cox. Their ham-handed attempt to sell state secrets very quickly goes awry. The Coens’ writing is as sharp as ever, and the all-star cast gives outstanding performances.
The premise behind Tucker and Dale vs. Evil revolves around a simple mistake. A gang of college undergrads on a weekend getaway mistake two backwoods rednecks (Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) for psychotic killers after the duo saves a young girl who falls in the water and gets knocked unconscious. The ensuing comedic ride is a one-trick pony, yet it’s also one lined with a stream of upended clichs that are equally funny and horrific. The slapstick violence and solid performances, particularly from Tudyk and Labine, also imbue the Canadian flick with an air of uniqueness in an otherwise tepid field … even before one of the kids accidentally jumps in the wood chipper and the bodies start to pile up.
These days, the late Doug Kenney is not a household name, yet his comedies have become some of the most iconic of all time. TheHarvard grad co-founded National Lampoon magazine in the early ’70s and later penned seminal films such asAnimal HouseandCaddyshack, only to fall into obscurity in the decades since. Director David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer)puts Kenney’s madcap career under the knife inA Futile and Stupid Gesture, while assembling a host of modern-day actors to play legendary comedians like Chevy Chase (Joel McHale) and Bill Murray (Jon Daly). It’s a somewhat surface-level biopic — it churns through the highlights more than anything else — but Will Forte is commendable as Kenney, who was absurd as he was brilliant.
Few directors, writers, or producers showcase a visual or narrative style as distinct as Wes Anderson’s. The whimsical Moonrise Kingdom is one of his best to date. It tells the story of a young scout (Jared Gilman) and a bookish girl (Kara Hayward) who decide to run away together in an effort to temporarily escape their lives — and more so, the parental figures surrounding them. A beautiful, subdued palette makes this oddity of a film a joy to watch, while a tremendous supporting cast — which includes Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, and others — helps capture an eccentric summer filled with affairs and beachside portraits.
Ben Stiller was on a winning streak in the early 2000s, and Meet the Parents only proved he could tackle subtle humor with the same deftness as the more blatant kind. As you might have guessed, it’s the story of an earnest man (Stiller) who visits his girlfriend’s parents for a long weekend, only to quickly dig himself into a hole with a string of white lies and unfortunate events. Blythe Danner and a stern Robert De Niro play the parents, the latter of which hides his own secrets and essentially makes Stiller’s visit a living hell. The beauty of the comedy is how little the scripting or scenes sound forced — and that includes a segment in which Stiller outwardly reflects onhis days of milking a cat at the dinner table.
Breaking up is awful, especially when your ex and her new flame happen to be staying at the same resort as you in Hawaii. That’s essentially the premise behindForgetting Sarah Marshall,a Judd Apatow production that sees funny guyJason Segel andKristen Bell (ofVeronica Mars fame) attempting to coexist in what many would deem paradise. The sharp film deftly balances tender moments with raunchier episodes — cue Russell Brand’s portrayal of Aldous Snow, Bell’s rock star boyfriend — while dishing out a variety of cameos from the likes of Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, and others. Mila Kunis rounds out the film’s all-star cast as the receptionist who capture’s Segel’s heart and, in the process, pretty much everyone who’s seen the film.
Hot Fuzz is basically actor-writer Simon Pegg’s shot at the buddy-cop genre, though, one spliced with the same comedic elements that made his previous effortShaun of the Dead so amusing. Pegg stars as a former London constable who’s assigned to investigate the sleepy town of Sanford alongside the dimwitted Butterman (Nick Frost). However, things start to become interesting following a string of so-called “accidents” plaguing various members of the town. The biting, British film is the second in director Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy, which ultimately culminates with The World’s End and capitalizes on the fantastic interplay between Pegg and Frost.
BeforeCluelessandMean Girls, there wasHeathers, a cult classic that takes aim at high-school cliques, culture, and teenage suicide through a downrightcynicallens. The morbid black comedy follows oneVeronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder), a popular high-school studentwho begins dating a sociopath named “J.D.” (Christian Slater), only to get wrapped up in a series of grisly murders that have been carefully masked as suicides. Although the bleak plot mostly focuses on the demise of three of Sawyer’s so-called friends (each named Heather), screenwriter Daniel Waters still manages to address the film’s more sadistic themes with a kind of self-aware humor that — sadly — just isn’t present in today’s teenage comedies.
One of the first supernatural comedies, or certainly one of the most beloved, Ghostbusters became an instant classic upon its debut. Dan Aykroyd wrote and starred in the film alongside the likes of Bill Murray and the late Harold Ramis. It’s centered on a team of eccentric parapsychologists who create a business exterminating ghosts, but the real story begins when they discover a demon spirit inhabiting the apartment of cellist Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver).
Will Ferrell was a forceto be reckoned with in the early aughts, and though Talladega Nights is no Anchorman, it remains one of the better examples of just how funny Ferrell and director Andy McKay could be when left to their own devices. The central plot concerns infamous NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) and the downward spiral he endures after losing to newcomer Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), but it’s the ensemble cast, which includes John C. Reilly and Leslie Bibb, that truly builds the film’s foundation. The cinematography is also surprisingly excellent, thanks to Oliver Wood’s involvement. And then there’s the one-liners. Dear Lord baby Jesus, anyone?