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...
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The Nice Guys
Remember buddy cop movies? Weren't they great? Shame they don't make them anymore. But wait! What's this? It's a buddy cop (ok: buddy private detective) movie! From Shane Black - the man who wrote the first two Lethal Weapon films! And it has Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling investing seedy goings-on in 1970s Los Angeles!
If that sounds like a tasty recipe to you, you're going to adore The Nice Guys. It's brilliantly silly at times – far funnier than any of the Lethal Weapon films in fact – gloriously action-packed at others and Crowe and Gosling (hey, they both have bird names!) make a great pairing. If it never gets a sequel it'll be a travesty.
It’s all too easy to look down your nose at the entire Jackass concept: grown men hurting themselves on camera then giggling about it afterwards. We’re not exactly talking Truffaut here – but then French New Wave cinema never made anybody laugh as much as seeing somebody have their rotten tooth pulled out by a Lamborghini Murciélago or bungie jumping inside a portable toilet.
It’s not big, it’s not clever – but Jackass 3 is incredibly, side-splittingly funny. You won’t feel good for enjoying it. But you will enjoy it. Sorry.
We’re the Millers
If you're worrying about how you’re going to smuggle a camper van full of cannabis over the US border before the current president builds his ludicrous wall, this movie has a few pointers for you.
In order to fool border patrol, Jason Sudeikis’ character – a small-time drug dealer – gathers together a fake family (Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts and Will Poulter) 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 nerd, 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.
Jim Carrey is at his frenetic, rubber-faced early career best as the loser who turns into a manic, hot-stepping, zoot suit-wearing ball of confidence when he puts on an ancient cursed mask.
At the time of its release, The Mask was presented as a showcase for the greatest CGI effects of the time (which, despite being noticeably “not real”, still hold up pretty well 25-plus years on), but it’s Carrey’s presence that really makes everything work – and an honourable mention must go to Cameron Diaz in her breakout role as his love interest. Smmmmooookin’!
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!
To call Olivia Wilde’s teen comedy a female-centric Superbad does it a huge disservice; Booksmart stands up brilliantly on its own. At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the parallels in the two films: both centre around a pair of seemingly inseparable friends in the final days of high school who are dragged into a wild night of partying, self-discovery and hopeless attempts to lose their virginities before heading out into the “real world”.
Appropriately enough Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein is the kid sister of Superbad’s Jonah Hill; with any luck she’ll go on to enjoy the same level of success as her Oscar-nominated brother. Feldstein and co-star Kaitlyn Dever are charming, moving and hilarious as the academically obsessed BFFs who realise (possibly too late) that they may have wasted the best years of their lives in pursuit of good grades.
South Park (S1-22)
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.
Dan Harmon’s sitcom about an American community college (widely regarded Stateside as a sort of low-rent vocational alternative to university) is packed with exactly the sort of knowing pop culture references, clever subversion of cliché and OTT characters that film and TV geeks adore. Little wonder it quickly established itself as a cult favourite – and now you can find out what all the fuss is about by binging the entire thing: all six seasons are available for streaming on Prime Video.
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.
What We Do in the Shadows
Outstanding horror-comedies are few and far between – for every An American Werewolf in London, there are five Scary Movies – but this Kiwi mockumentary (directed by and starring Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi as well as Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement) about a group of dysfunctional vampires house-sharing hits the spot dead-on.
With plenty of laughs mined from the awkwardness of being a neurotic immortal living in the modern world, it errs on the comedy side of the line, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without the occasional genuine bit of creepiness. If you’re as much fan of This Is Spinal Tap as you are of The Lost Boys, here’s a movie that you certainly won’t think, er, sucks.