Laughter is one of the most powerful forces of good in the world, and movies are a powerful delivery service for laughs. A truly great cinematic comedy is a rare thing. Classic comedies are marked by their timelessly funny writing, iconic performances delivering said funny writing, and scenarios that stand the test of time.
The great movie comedy canon is already full of stone-cold classics, replete with movies by iconic directors like Mel Brooks, John Landis, Billy Wilder, and Harold Ramis. In the past 20 or so years, the comedy landscape has changed wildly. Even more worthy, diverse, and hilarious candidates for the canon have made their way to screens in that time.
9 The ‘Cornetto’ Trilogy (2004, 2007, 2013)
British director Edgar Wright is a truly stylish comedy filmmaker. Wright combines humor, perfectly-timed music, and relatable everyman performances in outrageous situations to make truly idiosyncratic cinematic delights. His magnum opus is the Cornetto Trilogy, three brilliant and unique comedy films starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
The Cornetto trilogy spans all kinds of genres. It consists of Shaun of the Dead, a zombie survival romantic comedy; Hot Fuzz, a buddy cop comedy; and The World’s End, a bar-crawling apocalypse/alien invasion comedy. Pegg and Frost’s performances are perfect matches for Wright’s scripts and situations. All three films hold their own and also make a terrifically funny movie marathon.
8 ‘Spy’ (2015)
The secret agent genre is rife for comedic potential, and when one of Hollywood’s funniest ladies is added to the mix, the result is a terrifically fun comedy gem. 2015’s Spy follows CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) as she’s suddenly thrust into the role of agent to take down Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne,) the Bulgarian arms dealer responsible for taking out Susan’s agent partner (Jude Law.) Susan must go undercover and complete the mission in his stead.
McCarthy is a master of slapstick and her comedy shines especially bright. But what makes Spy great is how great of an ensemble comedy it is. Its entire core cast (McCarthy, Byrne, Jason Statham, Miranda Hart, and Peter Serafinowicz) deliver hilarious turns in one of the funniest films in Paul Feig‘s entire filmography.
7 ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ (2014)
One of New Zealand’s greatest gifts to comedy is director/writer/actor Taika Waititi. One of his absolute funniest films is vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows, a movie so clever it spawned an equally fun TV series. The original film follows three vampires (Waititi, Jemaine Clement, and Jonathan Brugh) struggling to adapt to modern life in Wellington.
In the majority of his work, Waititi has a knack for making Kiwi life relatable to non-Kiwis in hilarious ways. Making vampires the subjects adds a fantastical layer of absurd to its already funny mockumentary format. Both the film and TV series are utterly wonderful.
A delicious satire of foodie culture, 2022’s bleakly funny thriller The Menu takes aim at fine dining and influencer culture. Cynical Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her obnoxious foodie boyfriend Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) travel with a motley group of eccentric rich folks to a private island to dine at Hawthorne, a famous restaurant run by enigmatic Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes.) Their dinner takes darkly funny twists and turns as Chef’s tasting menu gets more and more personal – and dangerous.
The Menu‘s sendup of upper class snobbery and dining culture is sharp, with extravagantly described dishes paired with brutal violence like a fine wine to a meal. The dialogue, written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, is viciously witty, brought to us by some of the minds behind Succession.
5 ‘Plan B’ (2021)
Raunchy teen comedies are a staple of the movie comedy landscape. When they manage to smoothly pair the humor with important messages of social justice, they can really be something special. Such is the case with 2021’s Plan B, a coming of age comedy that hinges on our protagonists’ safe access to birth control. When South Dakota teen Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) has a regrettable first time at a house party, she and her best friend Lupe (Victoria Moroles) go on a wild trek to find the closest safe place to obtain the morning-after pill.
The comedy chops of Verma and Moroles are on full display in the movie, as well as their wonderful chemistry as friends. The situations the pair get into are peak teen cringe (including a run-in with a disturbingly well-endowed drug dealer) but their trust in each other shines through all the chaos they endure. Plan B should become a classic thanks to its terrific leads and important message about reproductive health.
4 ‘In The Loop’ (2009)
Armando Iannucci‘s viciously funny dark comedy TV series The Thick of It (BBC) and Veep (HBO) are sibling series that darkly delight in the gaffes and mishaps of elected public servants. A sort of cinematic bridge between the two series, In The Loop, follows Cabinet Minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander,) foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi in his most iconic non-Doctor Who role) and the rest of their cabinet as they’re forced to come to Washington D.C. to negotiate peace before war breaks out after Foster makes an embarrassing gaffe that threatens world security.
In The Loop is blackly funny, with some of the most creative swearing in cinematic history. Iannucci’s keen eye for political comedy at its most ruthless is on full display in the screenplay, and the cast is more than able to deliver the goods. In The Loop is simply one of the funniest films ever made, on either side of the pond.
3 ‘Booksmart’ (2019)
Every generation there are a few great teen comedies, and one of the finest and funniest of the gen Z generation is Olivia Wilde‘s Booksmart. A sweetly raunchy coming of age movie, Booksmart follows the misadventures of overachieving high school seniors Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) as they try to shed their bookish image and make up for years of being social outcasts. The duo go on a wild night of partying to prove themselves to their classmates before they graduate and go off to college, and all sorts of shenanigans ensue.
What makes Booksmart destined for classic status is that it meshes its chaotic, raunchy party comedy with genuine heart and friendship between its two protagonists. It’s also a major step forward for queer representation in these kinds of comedies, with Amy’s awkward but sweet lesbian journey being a key plot in the story. This film will undoubtedly become a classic for its representation as well as its excellent humor.
2 ‘Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar’ (2021)
2021’s Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is an unexpected escapist comedy treat that is simply busting with goofy humor and spectacular gags. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo star as the titular Midwestern ladies, who escape their humdrum lives and take a vacation to a glorious paradise by the sea known as Vista Del Mar. While on their tropical holiday, the two get tangled up in a villainous plot by wicked Sharon Gordon Fisherman (an unrecognizable Wiig on double duty) and her lovesick henchman Edgar (Jamie Dornan) to destroy the resort with an army of mosquitoes.
The tone of this Josh Greenbaum-directed romp often feels like a hybrid of Austin Powers and a Muppetsmovie for adults where all the puppets are humans. Barb and Star is nonstop goofy, and the visual gags and dialogue consistently land their punchlines, with cameos galore to sweeten the whole deal. There’s even an iconic musical number performed by Edgar on the beach that may be one of the funniest scenes in comedy history.
1 ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ (2022)
It’s still wild to think that 2023’s Best Picture Oscar was given to a sci-fi action comedy featuring a timeline where everyone has hotdogs for fingers. Daniels‘ Everything Everywhere All At Once may well be one of the funniest Best Picture winners ever, and is guaranteed to stand the test of time thanks to its 7 Oscars wins. Overwhelmed laundromat owner Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh)’s life becomes even more unpredictable when she discovers the multiverse exists during a tax audit; repairing her relationships with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) and estranged daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) are integral to finding happiness among the chaos of her life and the key to defeating the nihilist entity known as Jobu Tupaki.
EEAAO is a moving exploration of the Asian-American experience and mother-daughter relationships. It’s also absurdly hilarious. From combat scenes involving weaponized sex toys to a raccoon puppeteering a hibachi chef like Ratatouille, the Daniels know how to make audiences laugh hard amidst all the great action and moving family moments.
NEXT: 10 Most Rewatchable Comedies of All Time