This post is updated frequently as movies leave and enter Netflix.
As the world continues to fall apart, don’t you just want to something to make you laugh? Netflix is becoming the country’s biggest source for a laughter after a long week at work, but it can be hard to find exactly what you’re in the mood for when you log on to the service. So we’re here to help. (And for more public service announcements, check out our regularly updated lists of the 100 Best Movies on Netflix and the 50 Best TV Series on Netflix.)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Judd Apatow has made several funny movies and a great TV show (Freaks & Geeks) but this remains his best and funniest movie front to back. Steve Carell can try to go dramatic all he wants, he will always be remembered for having his chest hair waxed. Carell is great but the supporting cast really makes this one, including Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, and Catherine Keener.
About a Boy
There’s been a bit of a reappraisal of Hugh Grant’s acting ability in the last year with his great work in Paddington 2 and A Very English Scandal, but his career-best work may still be in this adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel about a man-child who learns how to grow up from his friendship with a kid. Minnie Driver is pretty delightful here too.
No matter what you think of Woody Allen in 2019, he’s made some great movies over the course of his career, and this massive hit remains arguably his best. You know how the Academy ignores comedy when they hand out Oscars? Not this time, as Annie Hall won awards for Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actress, and even Best Picture. It’s a template for hundreds of relationship comedies to come.
As Good As It Gets
Speaking of Oscar-winning comedies, believe it or not, this is the last movie to win both the Oscar for Best Actor (Jack Nicholson) and Best Actress (Helen Hunt). James L. Brooks’s romantic comedy is a perfect example of a movie that caught its cast at just the right moment, getting one of the last Nicholson performances that could be called charming and supporting it with great work from Hunt and Greg Kinnear.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Few SNL veterans are lucky enough to get even one comedy character that becomes iconic, but Mike Myers has two. He followed up the success of Wayne’s World with an even bigger (and SNL-unrelated) franchise, writing and starring in three movies about the horniest spy in swinging London. The first one is still the best of the three, a movie that works because of the boundless energy brought to it by Myers. It’s goofy, raunchy, and still very funny.
Any list of the greatest baseball movies of all time that doesn’t include Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham is simply incomplete. This another great example of a movie that found its three stars at exactly the peak of their powers. Tim Robbins is at his gawky best, and few screen couples had the chemistry that Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon had here. Watch this scene and try to argue otherwise.
Burn After Reading Get unlimited access to Vulture and everything else New York. LEARN MORE »
Joel and Ethan Coen followed their Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men with one of their most cynical and hysterical movies, a comedy of errors about some incredibly stupid people. Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, Richard Jenkins, John Malkovich, and J.K. Simmons star in a movie that’s basically about, well, a bunch of total idiots. No drops an F-bomb like John Malkovich.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
We should include a kids’ movie or two on this list, right? Maybe your quest for a comedy to watch this weekend includes a babysitting gig or time with your family? Well, this is one of the better options on Netflix, a genuinely funny cartoon about ingenuity and creativity. It also features a character named Professor Poopypants. Told you it was funny.
Kevin Smith’s best film is also one of his most personal, the story of a man who falls in love with a lesbian and destroys his friendship in the process. Smith has never been better than he is here at capturing believable, funny human relationships, and he gets his best acting work of his career as well from Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, and Jason Lee. It won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for a reason.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Another family movie! This adaptation of the famous kids’ book by Judi and Ron Barrett completely expands on the world of its source material to tell the story of an inventor (voiced wonderfully by Bill Hader) who unleashes a storm of food. The character design here is clever and the script is very smart, written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who went from this to make a little flick called The LEGO Movie and produce Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. They know a thing or two about great cartoons.
*Don’t Think Twice
Mike Birbiglia directs, writes, and stars in one of the smartest movies ever made about improv comedy. He’s a member of a group of comedians in New York City who watches as one of them becomes famous … while the others do not. How even jealousy impacts friendship is smartly examined in this funny, empathetic movie that also stars Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci, and Keegan-Michael Key.
Dumb and Dumber
Very few actors have launched their careers with the success that Jim Carrey did in the ’90s, bounding into the public consciousness with Ace Ventura, The Mask, and his best comedy, Dumb and Dumber. Forget Green Book —if Peter Farrelly has to win an Oscar, it should have been for this example of perfect comic timing. The Farrelly brothers did what great comedy filmmakers often need to do — get out of the way of their talented stars, who work as well here as any comedy duo of the era.
The Edge of Seventeen
Great comedies about those harrowing days of late teenage life, especially from a female perspective, are few and far between. So it’s a shame that more people didn’t see this one with Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, and Woody Harrelson. It’s truthful, hysterical, and anchored in reality in a way that most of the movies don’t even try to be.
Remember record stores? This movie may not be classically great, but it’s a wonderful time capsule of mid-’90s culture, a time when it was cool to hang out in record stores all day. It’s also got a great ensemble, including Liv Tyler, Robin Tunney, Renee Zellweger, Ethan Embry, and Rory Cochrane. It’s fun and will play differently for those of you who grew up with music stores as a part of their lives than it will for the iGeneration.
Greta Gerwig got a lot of deserved attention for Lady Bird but it wasn’t her first semi-biographical screenplay, and maybe wasn’t even her best. She co-wrote this quarter-life crisis comedy with director Noah Baumbach, in which she stars 27-year-old New Yorker Frances Halladay. It’s one of those films that doesn’t have much of a plot but works because of the genuine, empathetic way it approaches its leading lady, a character who feels both incredibly specific and yet universally relatable at the same time.
Michael Dowse’s 2011 hockey comedy is a great sports movie about finding your ideal role in life. It made hardly anything in theaters but found an audience at home (so much so that they’ve already made an inferior sequel). Seann William Scott stars as Doug Glatt, a sweet but kinda dumb guy who becomes the tough guy on a hockey team. You know, the one who starts and finishes most of the fights. It’s funny and surprisingly sweet with Scott’s career-best work.
It’s hard to overstate how culturally impactful Mike Nichols’s The Graduatewas when it was released in 1967. And it’s equally remarkable to think how much this movie still connects with audiences a half-century later. It’s both a document of when it came out, down to its music and fashion, and a piece of work that taps into themes about those hazy days after college that will be forever timeless. There’s a reason it’s regularly listed as one of the best films of all time.
People love to talk about “movies that could never be made today” as if that’s some criticism of the modern state of comedy. The truth is that comedy has always shifted and changed to reflect the times. However, one has to wonder if this dark comedy about murders at an average high school could get to the screen in 2019. With peak-of-their-charisma performances from Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, Heathers has an edge we don’t see that often anymore, and it has things to say about teen life that still resonate. There’s nothing more dangerous than high school.
Only the middle part of what is referred to as Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy is on Netflix (all three would be on this list if they were eligible) but it’s also arguably the best (the other two are Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End FYI). Hot Fuzz is not just a parody of dumb action movies but a love letter to flicks like Point Break and Bad Boys too. The best parodies come from fandom, and this is definitely one of the best.
Long before he directed Frances McDormand to an Oscar for Three Billboards, Martin McDonagh wrote and directed this pitch-black 2008 comedy starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as a pair of hit men stuck in purgatory, a.k.a. Bruges, Belgium. McDonagh’s dialogue is razor-sharp, but it’s the performances from Farrell and Gleeson that really make this comedy deadly.
The Incredible Jessica James
There are not a lot of great Netflix Original comedies (sorry, Adam Sandler fans) as the company has focused more on sci-fi and drama in its first few years of nonstop production. One of the exceptions is this Sundance hit, a great vehicle for Jessica Williams. The former Daily Show correspondent stars as the title character, someone trying to find happiness and love. She’s charming and delightful in a movie that not enough people have seen.
It could be argued that Steven Soderbergh’s character study of the man who blew the whistle on lysine price-fixing in the ’90s isn’t exactly a comedy, but it’s close enough to make the list. It’s certainly quirky and odd, and contains one of Matt Damon’s most inspired, unforgettable performances. The success of Soderbergh’s Netflix Original High Flying Bird is likely going to lead people to some of his earlier works. Hopefully they find this one.
Remember the movie that almost started a war? It was actually pretty funny. The drama leading up to the release of The Interview, a movie that made Kim Jong-un so mad that he ordered a hack of Sony and threatened terrorist attacks against multiplexes, understandably overshadowed the actual movie. The truth is that while it’s not perfect, The Interview contains some inspired work from James Franco, and a great supporting turn from Randall Park as Kim. Go ahead and watch it. North Korea will never know.
Long before he was Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds was a fat kid named Chris Brander. Ignoring the arguably offensive fat jokes, this is an underrated laugher about a guy who is stuck in the friend zone with his best friend (played by Amy Smart) but gets a chance to make his dreams come true a decade later. It’s far from perfect but features very likable performances from Reynolds, Smart, and Anna Faris.
Kicking and Screaming
Noah Baumbach, who would go on to make several films on this list (Frances Ha, While We’re Young), made his directorial debut with this 1995 comedy released when the filmmaker was only 26. It’s a great ensemble with fun, youthful energy and has a theme that Baumbach would return to over the years: young people struggling with responsibility and getting older. Trivia: It was also the first producing credit for Baumbach’s college roommate, a young man named Jason Blum.
Kung Fu Hustle
You have likely never seen a movie quite like this 2004 martial arts comedy, Stephen Chow’s masterpiece. Set in 1940s China, this worldwide hit features some of the best stunt work you can find on Netflix, all in service of a movie that often plays like a live-action cartoon. It’s ridiculous and unforgettable.
The Land of Steady Habits
Nicole Holofcener is one of the most underappreciated writer-directors alive, even if she did just earn an Oscar nod for co-writing Can You Ever Forgive Me? You simply have to see Enough Said, Lovely and Amazing, and Please Give. Her latest stars Ben Mendelsohn as a man deep in a mid-life crisis that comes from the realization that he’s not as important as he thought that he was his whole life. It’s not as good as some of her best work, but minor Holofcener is still worth a look.
Long before she won an Oscar or worked magic with Big Little Lies, Reese Witherspoon turned a ditzy blonde into a comedy star in this 2001 romantic comedy from director Robert Luketic. It could be stretching it to call this silly fluff “great” but what elevates the saga of Elle Woods from sorority queen to legal eagle is the total charm and commitment of Witherspoon herself. It’s one of her most likable and memorable performances.
The Little Hours
There’s a movie on Netflix that features Aubrey Plaza as a profanity-spewing nun and you haven’t watched it yet? Jeff Baena’s Sundance hit also stars Alison Brie, Dave Franco, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, and Fred Armisen in a ridiculous, raunchy retelling of The Decameron. It’s reminiscent of classic Mel Brooks in the way it skewers classical storytelling structures with modern comic sensibilities.
Comedy doesn’t get much darker than this 2015 offering from the 2019 Oscar-nominated Yorgos Lanthimos. The Greek director co-wrote and directs the story of a place where single people go to hook up with others looking for love. The catch? If they don’t find a partner within 45 days, they are turned into animals. As dry and deadpan as comedy gets, there are still some very funny beats in Lanthimos’s exaggerated look at the folly of human connection.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
There’s a bunch of Monty Python specials and movies on Netflix, but this remains arguably the career peak of one of the most beloved comedy troupes of all time. A parody of tales like those of the Knights of the Round Table, Holy Grail is one of the most heavily quoted movies of all time, a comedy that feels like it’s playing in some theater somewhere in the world, probably at midnight, every single day. Its popularity simply never recedes.
Monty Python and the Life of Brian
Holy Grail may be laugh-out-loud funnier, but it’s arguable that Life of Brian is actually smarter. Monty Python’s most controversial movie stars Graham Chapman as Brian Cohen, the neighbor of Jesus Christ. It’s an incredibly smart film that caused quite an uproar when it was released due to accusations of blasphemy. Modern comedy could use a little more blasphemy every now and then.
Long before he was Batman or Birdman, Michael Keaton was Mr. Mom in one of John Hughes’s most beloved ’80s scripts. Watched through a modern lens, Mr. Mom is remarkably dated in its handling of gender issues, but it remains a funny snapshot of the battle of the sexes from over three decades ago, and contains a committed physical performance from Keaton.
Not every movie on a list like this should be a smash hit, so we’re digging a little deeper for this South by Southwest hit starring the delightful Noël Wells of Master of None and Saturday Night Live. She also wrote and directed this story of a young lady returning to her hometown and dealing with some unresolved issues regarding her ex-boyfriend, now with a new partner. Wells is charming and funny.
*Nick & Norah’s Ultimate Playlist
Peter Sollett directed this adaptation of Rachel Cohn’s hit novel with sweet, likable performances from Michael Cera and Kat Dennings as the title characters. It’s one of those films that succumbs to a dozen or so clichés of the rom-com genre, but you just don’t care because you enjoy watching the couple at its center have the craziest night of their life. Sometimes that’s all you need.
Jenny Slate should be a household name. She’s always charming, has great comic timing, and seems to find new dramatic registers with each outing. This remains her best overall film and performance, the story of a stand-up comedian who has to deal with a few of life’s unexpected curveballs. Shorthanded as “the abortion comedy,” there’s more to Obvious Child than just that brief description allows. It’s smart and genuinely likable — things that aren’t often said about what could be called a rom-com.
Observe and Report
Jody Hill’s brand of humor isn’t for everyone but if you watched Eastbound and Down and have yet to see this then you’re doing something wrong. Similar to that show, this pitch-black comedy is about an aggressive idiot, played here by Seth Rogen as a mall cop who goes to extremes. In your face in every way, this is the kind of movie that either really works for you or really doesn’t. Find out on which side of the aisle you fall.
David Gordon Green’s stoner comedy is often written off as, well, just a stoner comedy. That’s not really fair because this is a razor-sharp script with perfect comic timing by Seth Rogen and especially James Franco, who has arguably never been better. Yeah, we said it. This is one of those comedies that still works viewing after viewing. And you don’t have to be high to love it (but it doesn’t hurt).
Pretty in Pink
Netflix knows that a lot of their paying subscribers grew up in the ’80s, and so there’s a ton of classic films by people like Steven Spielberg and John Hughes, who wrote this cult classic, a film that really defined a generation in terms of music and fashion, and helped launch the Brat Pack. It’s not a great movie as much as a great time machine, a way to revisit 1986 in all its pain and glory.
Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls got a lot of buzz last year, even winning some awards for its great central performance from Regina Hall. If you liked it, check out Bujalski’s last film, another movie about a very unique working environment. Cobie Smulders, Guy Pearce, and Kevin Corrigan star in this quirky rom-com set in the high-pressure world of personal trainers.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Michael Cera stars in Edgar Wright’s vibrant adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel, a movie that feels like it could come out exactly the same way today, almost a decade after its release. Wright’s style is perfect for this material, capturing the tone and structure of the source material with his razor-sharp editing and wit.
Set It Up
When Set It Up hit Netflix in the Summer of 2018, it felt like a splash of cold water for one reason: the rom-com is in a dire state. They barely get released in theaters at all any more, and they’re typically awful when they do. So to see an old-fashioned, charming romantic comedy felt like something new again. It also helps that Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell have future starswritten all over them. They’re charming and delightful — two things we wish we could say about more rom-coms in the past decade.
There are enough exaggerated characters and broad humor in Guy Ritchie’s second film to qualify it for this list. The story of bookies, gangsters and boxers gets so ridiculous that it almost approaches a kind of “tough guy slapstick” if you think about it. You may want to use Netflix’s subtitles feature for some of the heavy accents.
Every few years, a comedy comes completely out of nowhere and taps something in the Zeitgeist that makes everyone involved a star. No one knew who Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn the day before Swingers came out, but it launched them into the celebrity sphere, where they still reside. This movie is still money, baby, as it captures the posturing of young men trying to get work and get laid in Hollywood in the mid-’90s.
*Swiss Army Man
There are a lot of movies on Netflix. There are not a lot of movies like this Sundance hit. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse. The former Boy Who Lived stars with Paul Dano in a film that can’t really be captured in a tiny list entry. Just watch it and report back.
The Trip to Spain
Maybe you haven’t heard of The Trip franchise? Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan play barely fictionalized versions of themselves, traveling to different places around the world as they deal with their own personal problems and eat really well. This is the third movie in the series after 2011’s The Trip and 2014’s The Trip to Italy. They’re worth a look just for Brydon’s perfect celebrity impressions.
Hit comedies are often just about finding the right comedians at the right time in their career. That’s certainly the case with Wedding Crashers, which made a fortune (almost $300 million worldwide) just by creating the perfect vehicle for Owen Wilson’s shaggy-dog charm and Vince Vaughn’s alpha-bro hilarity. The two star as guys who crash weddings and meet girls. The movie helped revive the R-rated comedy and became an instant hit that’s still quoted today.
Wet Hot American Summer
David Wain’s ode to teen camp movies didn’t find much of an audience at all when it was released and critics mostly hated it, but it became a word-of-mouth cult classic over the years. Audiences took to it so much on DVD and cable that it even returned for a revival series on Netflix. See where it all began at Camp Firewood way back in 2001.
While We’re Young
Look, another Noah Baumbach movie! When Netflix launches movies by auteurs, they often include a lot of their older films in the catalogue, and so the inclusion of The Meyerowitz Stories means a lot of old Baumbach. This 2014 comedy may not be his deepest work, but it’s one of his funniest, with likable, perfectly tuned performances from Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, and Adam Driver.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Sometimes it’s fun to watch what could be a mediocre movie get totallycarried by the charms of its two stars. That’s the case here. Is this a great comedy? Not really, but Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks are so delightful and fun to watch that you just don’t care.