It’s easy to get Netflix tunnel vision when embarking on an epic telly session, but you’d be a fool of Kraken-sized proportions to discount Amazon Prime Video’s growing library of gems.
As this collection of Stuff favourites shows, Amazon’s streaming service has become particularly adept at laughter generation. And remember; all of these movies and TV shows are already included in your Prime subscription, so sit back and prepare to engage your face’s smile apparatus with these comedy masterpieces...
Feel free to sign up here for a gratis month trial of Amazon Prime video.
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm
Kazakhstan’s favourite son returns to the screen, with Sacha Baron-Cohen’s creation once again poking fun at Americans – this time in the midst of a chaotic Trump presidency and the COVID-19 pandemic. While the civilian victims of Borat’s pranks sometimes seem a little undeserving (seemingly being accommodating to an eccentric foreigner rather than outright agreeing with his terrible opinions) it’s hard to feel sorry too many people in this movie, as its hidden camera setups delivering almost-unbearable levels of cringe and no small amount of laughs.
To call the film scorching satire would feels inaccurate – it simply reinforces what most right-minded viewers already think about bigots, gun nuts and Republicans – but at the very least, Borat’s antics are reliably entertaining.
This Best Picture Oscar-winner is an outlier for the Academy, which usually picks feel-good or “worthy” films, and has never before awarded Best Picture to a foreign-language movie, but watching it it’s easy to see why Parasite has been so lauded: this black comedy is masterfully crafted, shocking, insightful and rips along at a dizzying pace. It’s extremely funny too, serving up a mix of drily humorous dialogue and absurdity that works like a charm.
The film revolves around two South Korean families: the poverty-stricken Kims and the wealthy Parks. The Kims concoct a scheme that sees all four of them installed as well-paid household employees of the trusting Parks, but a shocking revelation makes their triumph short-lived. A wonderfully entertaining treatise on class and inequality – and how the modern world makes parasites of us all.
Coming to America
One of the classic big screen comedies of the 1980s (and set to get a sequel, Coming 2 America, in March 2021), Coming to America stars Eddie Murphy as a pampered African prince seeking a wife in New York – and where better to find a royal consort than the borough of Queens?
The fish-out-of-water setup proves a rich source of gags, bolstered by a fantastic supporting cast including James Earl Jones, John Amos and a pre-superstardom Samuel L Jackson, but this is definitely Murphy’s show. Even if his central protagonist is a little less outwardly comedic than some previous roles, Murphy’s performances as several other characters gives him ample licence to show off his talents.
Don’t write Bridesmaids off as some clichéd chick flick; it’s a really enjoyable rom com that successfully balances its heartfelt message with the perfect amount of well-executed gross-out moments, as Kristen Wiig struggles with her responsibilities as her best friend’s maid of honour. IT Crowd fans should also get a kick out of seeing Chris O'Dowd as an honest Irish copper – while Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson appear as the sort of flatmates you'd rather live without.
DreamWorks’ beloved CGI series started almost over two decades ago with this wonderful modern fairy tale about a curmudgeonly green ogre (voiced by Mike Myers) who falls in love with a beautiful princess. Sending up various fantasy and fairy tale tropes along the way, Shrek is a kids’ movie that gives adults plenty to enjoy too. Packed with clever references and in-jokes, it’s spawned a long-running series – but do yourself a favour and start at the beginning.
Spaced is a series about two London flatmates hanging out and talking about stuff, usually as a way of avoiding work. Written by and starring Jessica Hines and a pre-Hollywood stardom Simon Pegg, it might sound like your classic odd couple sitcom – but it's much more than that. That's partly thanks to the surreal troupe of supporting characters – from intense artist Brian to military-obsessed man-child Mike – but it's the stream of pop culture references that make it a classic. It's a geek's dream, with appreciative hat-tips to everything from Star Wars to Resident Evil.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (S1-3)
Hankering for a grown-up TV show in the vein of Mad Men? One also set in mid-century Manhattan? The Marvelous Mrs Maisel might be the new series for you. Rachel Brosnahan stars as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a quick-witted middle-class housewife with what she thought was the perfect 1950s New York lifestyle: husband, kids and a beautiful Upper West Side apartment. When things take an unforeseen turn, she stumbles into trying out stand-up comedy – and discovers she has something of a talent for not only making people laugh, but for hitting upon life’s truths and enigmas while doing it.
With three seasons to binge upon, this award-winning comedy drama makes for a lightweight, enjoyable watch.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
What better way to banish a broken heart than to whisk yourself off to tropical climes for some sun and surf? That’s what Jason Segal’s struggling musician does, only to discover that his TV actress ex (Kristen Bell) and her obnoxious new beau (a priapic British rock star played memorably by Russell Brand) are guests at the very same Hawaiian hotel.
This movie from the makers of Knocked Up isn’t just consistently hilarious, it’s also a surprisingly perceptive look at how people can unhealthily idealise their romantic partners, and how they need to properly let go before they can move on.
Based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, Ghost World stars Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson as teenage best friends on the cusp of adulthood – and distinctly pessimistic and cynical about their prospects and the world in general. If you like your comedies light and airy, the irony levels of this cult coming of age tale might well weigh you down – but those with a taste for thought-provoking, character-driven indie flicks will embrace its dark sense of humour.
Given a choice between death and eternity as an avatar in a virtual world that’s almost indistinguishable from the real one, many of us would pick the latter without question – but before too long we might be questioning our decision.
That’s the setup for this Amazon original sitcom from Greg Daniels (he of the US Office and Parks and Recreation fame), in which app developer Nathan has his consciousness uploaded to a luxurious digital heaven, only to quickly discover that not only have his earthly problems not suddenly disappeared, they’re now bolstered with a bunch of new ones. Mixing sci-fi, satire, romance and more, Upload is sure to strike a chord with anyone who spends time pondering the future of tech. That means you, Stuff reader!
South Park (S1-23)
In terms of animated comedies, only The Simpsons has run for longer than South Park. Crude in every sense of the word, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s sitcom about four boys in a small Colorado town has become iconic for its topical subject matter, its savage skewering of celebrities, pop culture and trends and its unabashed love for toilet humour.
Amazon has a full 20 seasons of South Park for you to get through (and that doesn’t include the most recent few), and while the quality may vary the briskness of the episodes and the aforementioned toilet humour keeps things ticking along even when the topicality of the subject matter is years out of date.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Gus Van Sant’s well-crafted comic biopic stars a memorable Joaquin Phoenix as John Callahan, an alcoholic who embarks on one bender too many, resulting in a devastating car crash. Paralysed, plunged into a deep depression, and still boozing, Callahan eventually finds solace in friends, art and the twelve-step programme.
Phoenix is typically excellent as the often-unlikeable Callahan, and there’s also superb support from Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara. A funny, thought-provoking and inspiring tale about conquering your worst impulses and “choosing life” – with little of the sentimental cheese that often creeps into such films.
The Office (US, S1-9)
It might have started out as a pale shade of the British original, but NBC’s long-running sitcom quickly found its feet and its own comedic voice. Even if Steve Carell’s Michael Scott is a bit broader and a bit less melancholy than Ricky Gervais’ David Brent, it’s hard to deny that Carell has made the role of “awkward boss at a mid-level paper company” his own, and made himself into a massive star in the process.
You know the drill: The Office is a sort-of mockumentary set in a dreary Pennsylvania workplace populated by a few normal folks – representing us, the viewers – and a few caricatures. The comedy mostly springs from the interactions between the two, and the formula works so well that NBC managed to keep it going for an astonishing nine seasons.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes and stars in this riotous six-part sitcom about a single woman’s attempts to navigate the many pitfalls of modern London life. Even if that sounds like a hackneyed synopsis, or one that fits roughly 10,000 British sitcoms, we suggest you delve in anyway, because Waller-Bridge’s eyes-open approach – acerbic, dry, unashamed, raw – doesn’t feel unoriginal in the slightest. It’s also really, really funny, which is probably worth mentioning too.
A second series, with both Waller-Bridge and on-screen rival Olivia Colman returning, is also now available to stream on Prime Video – albeit not for free. If you have access to BBC iPlayer, however, have at it on there.