Netflix subscriber? In the mood for some belly-shaking, side-splitting laughs?
Then you’ll want to scroll down and feast your eyes on this article, where we’ve assembled our favourite comedy movies and stand-up specials from the streaming service’s current crop. From black comedies to biting satires to heart-warming rom-coms, they're all here – and be sure to check back regularly for updates, as new films and specials arrive on Netflix all the time.
Oh, and if you’re more interested in funny TV series than funny films, don’t worry: we’ve also got a list of those too: The best comedy TV shows on Netflix.
Why can't all teen comedies could be as funny, pacy and ultimately life-affirming as 2007's Superbad, which manages to juggle all the tropes of the genre (partying, sex, friendship) without feeling hackneyed or bloated?
It's ninety minutes of proof that parties are sources of never-ending angst. You need someone over the age limit to buy the booze – your high school friend with an ID that reads "McLovin" will do. You’ve got to impress the girls – Seth works out that headbutting them in the face works a charm. And in American movies, there’s always the chance the cops will show up – we just wish all of them were as warped as Bill Hader and Seth Rogen.
Being John Malkovich
The fact that Charlie Kaufman’s brilliant script ever got made at all is amazing, but the fact that it got made with such panache and poise by debut director Spike Jonze is simply unbelievable.
Part black comedy, part satire, part musing on the nature of identity, Being John Malkovich concerns unfulfilled puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack), who inadvertently discovers a portal that spirits anyone who enters into celebrated actor John Malkovich’s head, allowing them to “be” the film star for 15 minutes. A game Malkovich sends himself up brilliantly, while Cameron Diaz is almost unrecognisable as the homely Lottie, Craig’s animal-loving wife.
The Big Lebowski
The Coen brothers’ cult hit – a surprisingly louche, lackadaisical and outwardly lightweight followup to the multiple award-winning thriller Fargo – is packed to the gills with clever call-backs, references to old movies and other smart touches that astute viewers will pick up on.
But it’s also an absolute riot, as Jeff Bridges’ middle-aged slacker sets out to right a wrong (in a case of mistaken identity, two hoodlums “soiled” his beloved rug) and ends up drawn into a kidnapping case involving German nihilists, a wealthy paraplegic, performance artists, a sullen teenage car thief, the police chief of Malibu, California, possibly hallucinatory cowboys and bowling. With an outstanding script and supporting cast including Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro and John Goodman, The Big Lebowski is a rare cinematic gift – one that keeps on giving with subsequent viewings.
Burn After Reading
Burn After Reading might be the Coen brothers’ “spy movie”, but it has far more in common with a bedroom farce than the typical espionage thriller.
In this black comedy, a succession of awful human beings – played by the likes of Frances McDormand, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and, in one of his career highlights, Brad Pitt – find their lives intersecting in various ways, all against the backdrop of Virginia, Washington DC and the US intelligence community. While it might sound like light fare, a clever and quirky followup to the creepy bleakness of the Coens’ previous film, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading is actually similarly dark – it’s just funnier along with it.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island cohorts Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer bring their brand of humour – previously confined to YouTube, the occasional Saturday Night Live sketch and their three albums – to the big screen in this surprisingly amusing mockumentary about Conner4Real, an egomaniacal pop star.
With old friends sidelined or cut out of his life altogether, Conner’s life and career spiral into disaster as his second album flops – which of course, makes for an entertaining ride. The of cameos from dozens of real-life celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Seal and Paul McCartney add plenty of spice to the mix.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
"He's not the Messiah; he's a very naughty boy!" Falling foul of blasphemy laws in several countries upon its 1979 release (it was banned for eight years in Ireland), Life of Brian is now regarded as one of the greatest comedy films ever made, a British national treasure and a smart satire on the hypocrisy of organised religion. Like pretty much everything else ever made by the Monty Python team, it’s now available to watch on Netflix, bringing this fantastic film – in which a regular, unremarkable Judean man is mistaken for Jesus Christ – to a brand new audience.
Jim Jefferies: Freedumb
Russell Howard fans, be warned: this is not the bland, inoffensive ‘satire’ that you’re used to. Aussie-born adopted American stand-up Jim Jefferies isn’t known for holding back and he certainly doesn't do anything to change that in Freedumb, his new Netflix exclusive.
If you discovered him off the back of his gun control routine ‘going viral’ after every mass shooting in America (so every few weeks then) there might be more jokes about potty training here than you’d expect but his Bill Cosby bit and the Donald Trump material shows he can still channel his inner Bill Hicks when he’s got a point to make. Just don’t watch it with your mum.
Will Ferrell’s patchy movie output doesn’t take away from the fact that when he’s good, he’s really good, and Step Brothers is one of his films which – perhaps a little surprisingly, given its premise – illustrates this fact. Ferrell and the superb John C. Reilly play coddled middle-aged men who still live with their respective mother and father – and are forced to live together as step brothers when said parents get married.
If it sounds like the sort of film Adam Sandler would turn down, Step Brothers actually morphs swiftly from standard slapstick fare to, well, superior slapstick buddy comedy fare as the two enemies become allies and unite to combat a greater threat. It won’t change your life, but it will keep you laughing for 90 minutes of it.
We’re the Millers
If you're worrying about how you’re going to smuggle an RV full of cannabis over the US border before Trump builds his long-promised wall, this movie has a few pointers for you.
In order to fool border patrol, Jason Sudeikis’ character – a small-time weed dealer – gathers together a fake family to join him on his trafficking trip. But with the wife being a penniless stripper, the daughter a homeless rebel and the son a painfully awkward adolescent, this dysfunctional brood is about as good at keeping a low profile as Katie Price. The Millers are capable of inducing a few laughs if cringe-worthy comedy is your thing, though. And they’ll make you feel much better about your own family.
The middle entry in the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Edgar Wright “Cornetto Trilogy”, Hot Fuzz affectionately parodies the action blockbuster genre in the same way as Shaun of the Dead took on zombie movies – by making them into a comedy movie packed to the gills with the genre’s tropes and traits.
Not only is Hot Fuzz – in which Pegg’s heroic police officer is shipped off to a sleepy rural village for making the rest of the Met look lazy in comparison – hilarious, it’s also a brilliantly edited and warm homage to the likes of Point Break, Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys – albeit a very English one.
Game Over, Man!
A slacker comedy version of Die Hard might sound as tortuous as walking barefoot over broken glass, but Game Over, Man! is a pleasant surprise. “Pleasant,” however, would not be the appropriate term for the source of most of the laughs – this is one of the most effective gross-out comedies in recent times, packed with dismemberment, toilet humour, graphic nudity and all the rest of that good stuff.
The setup? A group of well-trained international terrorists take over a swanky high rise hotel in Los Angeles, taking everyone (including 90s pop-reggae star Shaggy) hostage except for three members of the housekeeping staff. Can this trio of losers turn the tables on the bad guys and save the day? Well, what do you think?
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
This brisk and breezy teen rom-com makes for a welcome antidote from the usual Netflix Original gross-out fare or gloomy sci-fi epics.
Based on Jenny Han’s popular YA novel, it tells the story of sensible, reserved high school girl Lara Jean, whose life is turned upside down when the secret love letters she’s written to her crushes (never intending to send) end up in the hands of the boys in question.
Aside from the crippling embarrassment, the main issue is that one of these lads is her sister’s ex, sparking off a series of events that include subterfuge, jealousy, heartbreak, self-discovery and, yes, true love. Ahhhh.
Dr Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire is a masterclass in absurdity. As with its close cousin Catch-22, it takes a very, very serious subject (in this case: nuclear annihilation) and offers it precisely zero respect. The results are hilarious.
Every character here is an absolute idiot, from the deranged general whose obsession with ‘precious bodily fluids’ kicks off the whole crisis to the uppity British captain who tries to stop him (but without disobeying orders of course). From the yee-hawing bomber pilot to the prevaricating president, to the goose-stepping Dr Strangelove himself.
Peter Sellers plays three of the roles (brilliantly) while George C Scott excels as the xenophobic General Turgidson. Oh, and underneath all the funny stuff, it’s still quite terrifying.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Netflix has occasionally sought out real quality with its original movies, as evidenced by this wry, intelligent indie comedy-drama written and directed by Noah Baumbach – one of cinema’s most perceptive chroniclers of modern human relationships.
Starring Adam Sandler (in his best “serious” performance since Punch-Drunk Love), Ben Stiller, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) examines a dysfunctional New York family through the prism of several of its members, all of whom revolve around Hoffman’s preening, needy and manipulative patriarch.
Chris Rock: Tamborine
After a long absence from the stand-up stage, Chris Rock has, like Dave Chappelle before him, been tempted back by Netflix’s armfuls of cash – but thankfully this one-hour special (his first recorded special since 2008, apparently) feels like slightly more than a contractually-obliged box-ticking exercise.
While Rock’s riffs all focus on well-worn subjects – US politics, police brutality, raising children, infidelity and divorce – his original takes and masterful delivery make the hour fly by. There’s a sense that he never quite hits fifth gear; that this one-time bad boy of comedy’s razor edge has been dulled by his years as part of the entertainment establishment – but that’s probably to be expected of a man of 53. We can only hope that more specials follow; we reckon Rock still has plenty more to say.
When Harry Met Sally
Is When Harry Met Sally the best romantic comedy of all time? Arguably – and if not, it’s certainly the most influential, having shaped expectations and tropes for a bunch of successors, some worthy, some less so (and some starring Matthew McConaughey in his “doing anything for a pay cheque” period).
Taking place over twelve years, the Nora Ephron-scripted, Rob Reiner-directed movie tells the “will they, won’t they” tale of two friends that meet on their way to New York and somehow never fall out of each other’s lives. As well as having some great lines, relatable characters and a involving story, the film introduced such ideas as “high maintenance” people into mainstream cultural discourse.
Norm MacDonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery
Veteran Canadian standup comic and former SNL cast member Norm MacDonald never became a household name on this side of the Atlantic, but his deadpan delivery, timing and turn of phrase have made him something of a comedian’s comedian in America – an enduring icon whose refusal to “modernise” doesn’t make him any less relevant than when he started out in the 1980s.
This hour-long special, which takes on subjects as diverse as auto-erotic asphyxiation, Wikipedia, Germany’s predilection for going to war “with the entire world” a fine showcase of Norm’s talents, and if you enjoy it make sure to check out his Netflix-produced chat show, Norm MacDonald Has a Show.