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The 25 Best Comedies Of The 21st Century So Far

The 25 Best Comedies Of The 21st Century So Far

In Preston Sturges’ comedy masterpiece “Sullivan’s Travels” (hey, read our Struges retrospective here!), Joel McCrea plays a young Hollywood director who, fed up of making nothing but low-rent comedies, sets out to make a serious, important picture, only to realize at a screening of a Disney cartoon, that more good comes from his simple, unpretentious laughers than from his more worthy work.

As it ever was, so it ever shall be. Today, comedies don’t get any more respect than they did 73 years ago when Sturges was making his movies: dismissed and sniffed at by critics, ignored by awards bodies and undervalued by moviegoers. Yet comedy is arguably the hardest kind of movie to make, and when they’re made well, you end up with a film that gives immeasurable pleasure to millions for years to come.

We’re a way into our series on the Best Movies Of The 21st Century So Far (catch up on horror, animations, music documentaries and sci-fi), and with a comedy-packed summer including “Spy,” “Trainwreck,” “Dope,” “Ted 2,” “Vacation” and more on the way, we decided the genre was the next logical step. We decided to keep the list to pure, unfiltered comedies —dramedies like “Almost Famous” or “The Descendants” will be saved for a separate piece down the line. Nevertheless, we’re sure there’ll be some omissions you can quibble over, so take a look below, and let us know your own favorites in the comments.

25. “Tropic Thunder” (2008)
On the long list of potentially offensive areas that most studio comedies would balk at even implying, blackface has to be pretty near the top. But it’s a territory that Ben Stiller’s “Tropic Thunder” does not just flirt with —it barrels right in, courtesy of Robert Downey Jr’s finest (Oscar-nominated) comedic hour as the five-time Academy Award-winning Aussie Method actor Kirk Lazarus. But the film has so much more to offer than simply RDJ pulling an Al Jolson. From the fake movie trailers to Tom Cruise as a fat balding studio honcho to the phrase ‘going full retard’, almost all of the film’s many jokes land, perhaps because what its satirizing is so worthy of send-up: the delusions of Hollywood actors that the experiences they have are somehow equivalent to the real-life tribulations undergone by their characters’ inspirations. In a time when political correctness has the deadening effect of grinding many films down to unobjectionable, bland paste, “Tropic Thunder” is a spicy, courageous treat, sideswiping several sacred cows with commitment, intelligence and fart gags.

24. “The Trip” (2010)
Even by the highly eclectic standards of Michael Winterbottom’s filmography, “The Trip” feels like an anomaly. Edited into a theatrical feature for stateside release after it aired in its six-part TV show incarnation on the BBC, it stars Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan as two characters who may or may not be the actors themselves, as they journey around the North English countryside, ostensibly on a tasting tour for The Observer newspaper. But while a bare minimum of foodie/travelogue stuff is included, the delight and the comedy of the film is in the interactions between these British comedy stalwarts —the competitive, one-upmanship of their relationship manifesting itself most hilariously in frequent extended bouts of impersonation— and also in the meta-collision between their onscreen and real-life personas. A remarkably clever project with more layers than a finely sauteed onion, it’s also oddly wise amid the laughs —a meditation on aging, talent and the transcience of fame that is even more pointedly melancholic in recent follow-up “The Trip to Italy.

23. “Team America: World Police” (2004)
Of all the things that could fuel a puppet-based feature-length comedy, perhaps righteous anger at U.S. foreign policy and the inanity of celebrity culture are not the first to spring to mind, but then “Team America” comes from those “South Park” guys Matt Stone and Trey Parker (co-written with Pam Brady), so perhaps it’s not quite as surprising after all. But even those of us who’ve never fully embraced “South Park” found “Team America” utterly brilliant and totally hilarious, perhaps because, like “Tropic Thunder,” it’s pointedness seems aimed at a celebratory culture of American military might that is largely regarded as sacrosant. Then again, with the daft puppet sex scenes, wildly un-PC portrayal of Kim Jong-Il, unshakeable Matt Damon impersonation and the bona fide brilliant songs (“I’m so Ronery” is a personal favorite), perhaps the more fratboy element of the audience took the “America, Fuck Yeah!” vibe at its face value. Which is itself the mark of the greatest satire: those who are its primary targets might not even recognize it as such.

22. “Elf” (2003)
As everything from “Santa Clause: The Movie” to “Jingle All The Way” to “Get Santa” will prove, it’s very, very hard to pull off the Christmas-themed movie. But if you get it right, as Jon Favreau undoubtedly did with “Elf,” your place is cinematic history is ensured (mainly by annual, ritualistic TV airings, but still…). The premise of the film reeked of cynical high-concept comedy of a kind that could have seen David Spade or Rob Schneider involved: Buddy (Will Ferrell) is a human raised as one of Santa’s helpers who leaves the North Pole in search of his real dad (James Caan), a workaholic publisher on the naughty list. But Ferrell works where so many others wouldn’t have —his turn is equal parts utter naivety and man-giant physicality (mixed with some unexpected and hilarious rage). And Favreau builds the film around him with a rare charm, from a genuinely sweet romantic sub-plot with cynic Zooey Deschanel to the Rankin-Bass winter wonderland. Making a movie that can sit alongside the holiday classic canon is a near-impossible task, but “Elf” pulled it off in style.

21. “In Bruges” (2008)
For anyone not acquainted with recent developments in English-language theater, their introduction not just to the work of Martin McDonough, but to the skewed, pitch black sensibility he shares with his brother John Michael (whose “The Guard” was also a contender for this list) would have been with Martin’s feature debut “In Bruges.” Based on his own intricately plotted script and spackled throughout with firecracker dialogue that manages to be quippy, lyrical and wildly profane all at once, “In Bruges” stars Irish national treasure Brendan Gleeson, gives Ralph Fiennes a surprising against-type turn as a cockney gangster and hands Colin Farrell one of his best roles to date as the callow hitman serving out his time in a Bruges that comes to stand for Purgatory. Constantly surprising but also confident enough to allow the chemistry of the stars to work its own unscripted magic, “In Bruges” is still Martin McDonough’s best and funniest film, though follow up “Seven Psychopaths” is a lot better than its reputation might suggest.

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Comments

mairr

Superbad higher than Anchorman? You have really bad taste.

    BKJ

    Macgruber isn’t on this list???? Shame on you!!!!

Szemkel

Napoleon Dynamite?!?!

Mark

Man, guess I’m the only "The Other Guys" fan

    Woody

    Other Guys is the funniest movie of all time.

latghesh

where is the dictator?its better than borat

    This man's doctor

    You are clinically insane.

bobbybrown

this is a very hard read.you are adding words unnecessarily and its not worth the effort to follow seeing as there is basically no actual description of any movie there. good picks, bad writer

Joanne

Thank you thank you thank you for NOT including the extremely overrated wank-fest that was’The Hangover’

harper

Well I’ve seen maybe about 3,000 movies and the Hangover is probably the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. So not even top 25 comedy of the last 15 years? Weird. Horrible Bosses was also hilarious.

Ana B.

I’m just curious: are comedies made exclusively in English-speaking countries?

Mari

Adventureland

it seems like you’re trying to avoid being called snobish putting stuff like wedding crashers and step brothers above films by wes anderson and noah baumbach.

Taylor Lambert

Napoleon Dynamite wasn’t even an honorable mention?!

Nigel

Hot Rod should be in there

AddictedAICN

KLOWN anyone?

Doug Funny

Snatch, Joe Dirt, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jackass: The Movie, Lost in Translation, School of Rock, Napoleon Dynamite, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Tropic Thunder, (500) Days of Summer, Idiocracy, Grandma’s Boy, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, Waiting…, Ted, Zombieland, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Forgetting Sarah Marshall ……

Danness

Anything for people of colour? Sheesh!

    babe

    watch soul plane

brad wesley

I agree some of these films belong on the list, but they went way too mainstream for this list. Think out side the box and or do a bit more research. I can think a 3 off the top of my head, "rolling Kansas", :"in the loop" and "cedar rapids".

Joel

No mention of IN THE LOOP? To smart for most ppl?

    Ben

    says the guy who misspells “too”

Cornelius

Friday or Coming to America didn’make the mention list

Adolfo

Shaun of the Dead should be No1

Steve

How can you omit Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Easily the funniest movie of last decade. Come on…

Keith

the most ridiculous article title of the 21st century so far

Michael

I love lists like this, especially when I learn of new films! Never heard of four lions, but it sounds must see.

Would have loved to see where you’d stick "Eagle vs Shark" on this list. Don’t even see it on your list of contenders. Definitely should see it if t flew under your radar. Stars jemaine from Flight of the Conchords and it’s just brilliant.

Freddie

Usually agree with the majority of your list and there are some of my all-time favourites in here but Tropic Thunder? Really? The only good bit is the opening and RDJ’s performance is severely overrated. Would like to have seen Pride on this list. A flawed film but hilarious, heartfelt and poignant nonetheless. Also, I do like Wedding Crashers but it shouldn’t be this high/should only be an honourable mention. Speaking of which, Bridget Jones’ Diary should certainly be in the top ten. Oscar nominated performance, iconic British film and one of the wittiest scripts of the century.

Albert

You know they make comedies in other countries as well, right?

Can’t spot any films in contention in any other language than english. Really awful.

trebor

Black Dynamite!

Lixx

So let me get this straight. No mention ANYWHERE for Napoleon Dynamite????????

Masya

Your exclusion of IN THE LOOP is atrocious

ProCosom.com

The World’s End & Burn After Reading would clearly have deserved to be at least in the Top 25 (if not top10).

Starsky & Hutch should also be on your Top 25 list

Jowana Bueser

Include the entire Cornetto Trilogy, ranking Hot Fuzz the highest.

Joseph K.

In the Loop from satirical mastermind Armando Iannucci was missed. And just in case a sports films list is in the near future, I wholeheartedly believe Miracle with Kurt Russell should top the list.

NELLA

Hot Fuzz!!!!!

Alex

Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, The Comedy, Reflections of Evil, Untitled Star Wars Mockumentary

Alex

In The Loop, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, Kaptin Boom, The Room, Shallow Hal, Not Another Teen Movie, Freddy Got Fingered, Road Trip, Eurotrip, Dude Where’s My Car, Strangers with Candy, Love Actually, Girls Will Be Girls, Death at a Funeral, Orange County, Chicken Run, Josie and the Pussycats, Rat Race, Slither

Cameron

Personal top 5 would be Borat, World’s End, This is the End, School of Rock and Bridesmaids

Lucas

Tropic Thunder should be much higher ! Where is Woody Allen ? Where are 21 and 22 Jump Street, They Came Together, Pineapple Express, Be kind rewind, Burn After Reading… ? And where are all the foreign comedies ? The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, OSS 117, Les Beaux Gosses (The French Kissers)… Very strange list.

Not enough variety

"The Squid and the Whale" over "Frances Ha" and "A Serious Man" over "O Brother Where Are Thou." A different kind of comedy, but the dark political satire "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" deserves a spot, it brought attention to the Romanian New Wave. Jim Jarmusch’s "Coffee and Cigarettes" is underrated, I’d include it. "Lost in Translation" is definitely a favorite for many (not me but it’s still good). And "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Adaptation" should qualify.

that guy

Wedding Crashers? Are you serious?!

budai Robet

Borat!!!!!!!!!!!!!

rob

what about In The Loop

Nathan Duke

Oh, yeah – In the Loop. Forgot about that one. The only reason I didn’t include Alexander Payne or Wes Anderson films on my earlier list (or Noah Baumbach) was that I figured they’d be considered comedy/drama. Right?

WHoa, slow down

Comedy is subjective????

Alain Delon

Do you guys really have a sense of humor? This list is horrible.

Jonathan Winchell

You clearly just forgot about In the Loop. It wasn’t even in the honorable mentions. It should be in the top five.

cirkusfolk

You say you are only including straight comedies and then put films like In Bruges in there and mention Silver Linings Playbook etc? If that’s the case, you should definitely include Sideways and Punch Drunk Love. Otherwise just stick to the likes of Step Brothers and the Hangover. Being a big Jason Bateman fan, I would e mentioned Horrible Bosses (I know you guys hate it) and the under appreciated Extract. Also, I know you guys are probably just trying to be cool, but there’s no doubting Napolean Dynamites charms.

Wes

1. Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson); 2. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson); 3. Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson); 4. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach); 5. Punch-Drunk Love (PTA); 6. American Hustle (David O. Russell); 7. O Brother Where Art Thou (Coen Bros.); 8. Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen); 9. Magic in the Moonlight (Woody Allen); 10. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell) 11. I’m So Excited (Pedro Almodovar)

Bubalooguts

In the Loop, Black Dynamite, and Napoleon Dynamite. Also, you guys probably considered it too much of a drama, but I thought Sideways had some of the funniest moments of any movie I’ve ever seen.

Dante

"Tropic Thunder" needs to be way way higher. but the exclusion of "Hot Fuzz" is a crime. Terrible.

roberto

where is white chicks???

v.

I’m usually relatively in agreement with you folk, but the amount of Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn says pretty much everything that needs to be said about this list.

Steven

@ Sati: I’ll second this. I normally don’t take any issues with the lists you guys create but any list of modern comedies that doesn’t include "In the Loop" is a terrible list.

sati

Where the hell is "In the Loop"?

Bill Simmons

WHERE IS THE HANGOVER?

kevin

Shawn of the dead? Really? That was the weakest of the trilogy! And Anchorman not in the top ten??? I’m usually not in such disagreements with your lists, but there are ones in here that definitely need swapping out.

Rick

Love seeing O Brother Where Art Thou. Its my favorite Coen Brothers movie.

Nathan Duke

Oof. I typically agree to an extent with these lists – but this one, I don’t know. Very glad to see Borat and Bridesmaids (which I’d rank even higher) on there. But I’d have included Hot Fuzz over Shaun of the Dead, which I think is woefully overrated. I’d also have added Midnight in Paris, I Heart Huckabee’s and Burn After Reading over Team America (Stone/Parker’s worst, for my money), Elf, Zoolander, the overrated Superbad (much preferred Mottola’s Adventureland), Wedding Crashers, Step Brothers and Old School. Just my opinion. Nurse Betty was also better than all of those.

Georgio

Bridesmaids is the worst of the list. I didn’t find it funny. Something about Kristin Wiig is off-putting.

Bob

Groundhog Day?

Craig

This Is The End should be in the top 25 or even the top 10!!!!

john

borat?really i like cohen’s humour,but borat almost a piece of crap!

Stephen

Due Date

Eskimo Joe

Surprised everyone forgot Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Venkatesdh Joshi

My favorite comedy films are The Big Lebowski, Hangover, Superbad, Airplane, rush Hour, Hot Fuzz and many other classic comedy films.

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