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The 45 Best Comedies of the 21st Century

If it's true that laughter is the best medicine, consider this list a panacea.

The 45 Best Comedies of the 21st century.

The 45 Best Comedies of the 21st century.

Leah Lu

After over a year of a pandemic, the world could use a laugh. Luckily, that laughter is just a few clicks away on a streaming service of your choice. And this bizarre, in-progress century has already produced any number of great comedies that you can fire up any time you need a serotonin burst. Here are 45 made since 2000 that never fail to leave our sides splitting.

As we tend to lean toward the indie side — and away from certain men-behaving-badly movies, although “This Is the End” is essential — there are also some titles on here that you might not have seen. There are even some you may not consider to be straightforward comedies. You may not think of “Lost in Translation” or “Mistress America” or “Toni Erdmann” as laugh riots, but we felt it best to be broad in our approach — any movie that balances its darker shades with cathartic humor was eligible. One is even in Finnish and has an instant-classic scene built around “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

UPDATESince this list was published in 2017, many funny movies have been released. We have updated the list with additional entries from the past four years.

“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” (2020)

“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”

So much of good comedy relies on the commitment of its performers, and there’s no one – no one – in David Dobkin’s wacky Netflix charmer who isn’t committed to the bit. From top-line stars like Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams to supporting standouts like Dan Stevens and Hannes Óli Ágústsso (the “Jaja Ding Dong” dude), the Oscar-nominated comedy works so beautifully because everyone is invested in the film, even approaching a clearly silly idea with nothing less than respect.

The Eurovision Song Contest might be a decidedly, well, Euro affair, but it’s won plenty of fans stateside over the past few years, and Dobkin’s film is well-acquainted with its inherent charm. Basically, people going for it, through song and dance and costumes and lyrics and deep, deep patriotism. The musical comedy’s songs are both great – catchy, cute, pop winners – and bizarre, Eurovision in microcosm. Yet no one is really making fun of the entire affair, instead the audience is asked to laugh with its characters, not at them, which makes the whole thing both funnier and sweeter, it’s endearing to the extreme. —Kate Erbland

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (2020)

BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM, (aka BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM: DELIVERY OF PRODIGIOUS BRIBE TO AMERICAN REGIME FOR MAKE BENEFIT ONCE GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN), center: Sacha Baron Cohen, 2020. © Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”

©Amazon/Courtesy Everett Collection

This laugh riot arose from the fevered brain of Sacha Baron Cohen, who enlisted director Jason Woliner, a WGA-winning and Oscar-nominated team of writers, and a fearless cast and crew for this outrageous yet serious sequel, launched 14 years after the original. After the midterm elections in 2018, Baron Cohen set out to assemble a Borat movie targeting Trump. He and his merry band swiftly came up with the idea of Kazakhstan giving Borat’s daughter (Maria Bakalova) as gift to VP Mike Pence. Baron Cohen believed that Borat could get Trump supporters to reveal their true feelings and come around to his point of view. And a daughter might be just the ticket to infiltrate Trump’s inner circle. The production faced real danger when Bulgarian comedienne Bakalova met in a hotel room with presidential adviser Rudy Giuliani, who was all too eager to follow the script. That’s when Baron Cohen as Borat-in-disguise broke into the room to save the day. —Anne Thompson

“The 40-Year-Old Version”

Radha Blank appears in <i>The 40-Year-Old Version</i> by Radha Blank, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Eric Branco.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“The 40-Year-Old Version”

Radha Blank won the Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic section of Sundance 2020 and no wonder: here was a comedy shot in black-and-white that expressed something vividly, vibrantly new. Blank stars as a version of herself who’s a playwright, but hasn’t had one of her plays produced in a very long time. She’s maybe cherishing that 30 Under 30 award a little too much, the further she gets from having received it. “I just want to be an artist!” she sobs at one point. Yet that’s hard to do when she’s under pressure to write “a Harriet Tubman musical” — something Blank’s been asked to do in real life — and told by one middle aged white male producer that her work is “inauthentic… I asked myself, did a Black person write this?” So Radha ends up cutting a rap mixtape under the name Radhamus Prime, and finds a new creative release. Blank delivered one of the definitive “laugh, or otherwise you’ll cry” comedies of the 21st century.—Christian Blauvelt

“I Care a Lot” (2020)

“I Care a Lot”

TIFF

J Blakeson’s darkly funny thriller “I Care a Lot” makes a meal out of leaning into the icy, often hilarious villainy of such indelible characters as a ponytailed crime boss played by Peter Dinklage, a smarmy lawyer (Chris Messina) who dresses as if Colonel Sanders was a stand-up comedian, and star Rosamund Pike, returning to her frosty “Gone Girl” best. The film, a pulpy social thriller about the decidedly unfunny world of “professional guardians,” is well-suited for midnight movie positioning and is at its most enjoyable when it’s giddily tracking just how very, very bad people can be.

With a slight twist in either direction, “I Care a Lot” could be a horror film or a wrenching drama, but Blakeson’s pitch black humor and wildly committed cast keeps it feeling, even in its worst moments, hugely entertaining. Most of that is due to Pike, again capturing the cold, often very funny sociopathic tendencies of Amy Dunne in David Fincher’s vicious “Gone Girl” adaptation. No one is having as much fun as Pike here, gliding through self-made carnage in crisp monochromatic suits and spotless sneakers, utterly untouched by the pain she’s inflicting. Twists abound, and while they don’t always pay off, at least “I Care a Lot” cares enough to deliver a full, bloody meal of a film for anyone intrigued by the allure of anti-heroes who can’t laugh at themselves, though we sure as hell can. —KE

“On the Rocks” (2020)

On the Rocks

“On the Rocks”

Courtesy of Apple

For this father-daughter New York valentine, Sofia Coppola concocted a family comedy for her “Lost in Translation” and “A Very Murray Christmas” star Bill Murray, along with that TV special’s co-star Rashida Jones, whose role is modeled — as Scarlett Johansson’s was in “Lost in Translation” — on Coppola herself. This time, Murray plays Felix, a larger-than-life globe-trotting art dealer trying to help his novelist daughter make sense of her career, marriage, and parenting. The comedy sizzles whenever Murray is on-screen: he is overbearing, insensitive, an instinctive womanizer, and his distrust of his son-in-law Dean (Marlon Wayans) — which is really a statement of how he views himself — gets his daughter Laura into a serious mess. Along with his trademark comic timing, Murray brings sweet tenderness to his doting pater familias. —AT

“Palm Springs” (2020)

PALM SPRINGS, Cristin Milioti, 2020. ph: Chris Willard / © Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Palm Springs”

©Hulu/courtesy of The Everett Collection

Shiftless ennui never seemed so fun. Built on the same narrative framework and cinematic language as modern comedy classic “Groundhog Day,” Max Barbakow and Andy Siara’s Sundance sensation cleverly reorients the time loop conundrum into its own new story. Nyles (Andy Samberg, finding a delightful medium between funny and just plain sad) is already deep into his same-day-repeating-forever troubles by the time the film kicks off – even worse, his repeating day is a particularly bad one, and finds him stuck at a Palm Springs wedding that’s going to end in heartbreak. Nyles has embraced the endlessness, but after he’s unexpectedly joined by a fellow stuck-in-time-traveler in the form of Sarah (Cristin Milioti, a wonderful foil), things really get fun.

The natty narrative setup allows for all sorts of amusements, as Nyles and Sarah careen through a life without consequences, complete with plenty of day drinking, at least one extended dance montage, and an adorable romance. Samberg and Milioti are a winning pair, funny and frisky and down for everything, a match that makes both the comedy of the film and its eventual pathos shine bright. —KE

“Toni Erdmann” (2016)

TONI ERDMANN, from left: Sandra Huller, Peter Simonischek, 2016. © Sony Pictures Classics /Courtesy Everett Collection

“Toni Erdmann”

©Sony Pictures/Everett Collection / Everett Collection

The moment that Toni Erdmann first reveals himself is one of the great guffaw-inducing entrances of all time. Peter Simonischek plays the title character, really just the comical alter ego of a 70-year-old who’s hoping to reconnect with his grown daughter, Ines (Sandra Hüller). She’s living an empty life of workaholism and what better way to inject a little fun into her life than dressing up as someone else and pulling pranks on her? It’s literally a plan based on “forced fun” but that’s not to say it’s not effective. Ines is one of a number of German executives working to outsource key operations of their company to Romania, and much of Marin Ade’s film takes place in the Eastern European country. For a movie so light on its feet, it has more than a little to say about globalization and its discontents. Ines typifies a white collar mindset where everything, to use the business jargon, has become so “frictionless” that even her massage — which she walks out of for being too soft — is also without meaning. Ade delivered a 21st century comedy of capitalism, a worthy heir to “The Apartment” and “Playtime.” —CB

“A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” (2014)

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

“A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence”

Many of this young century’s best comedies rely on dialogue to convey their laughs. There are not as many where the humor feels baked into the set design, where the sight gags are more notable than the one-liners. Roy Andersson is one of the few to achieve such a thing. The Finnish master staged tableaux vivants of absurdity in “Songs from the Second Floor” and “You, the Living,” but “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” is the embodiment of his deadpan style. As a ferry passenger lies dead on the floor of the ship’s restaurant, the biggest question is: who should drink his perfectly untouched glass of beer? After all, why should it go to waste? That incident reflects his droll view of humanity. And the vignettes just keep coming: one sequence in a beer hall featuring endlessly repeated variants of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is comedy by repetition that’ll leave you breathless with laughter. Why is “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” being sung in a Gothenburg beer hall? Don’t ask why. Just open yourself to Andersson’s inimitable wavelength. —CB

“Greener Grass” (2019)

“Greener Grass”

The world of “Greener Grass” feels so real and so recognizable, even as it becomes more and more layered with absurdities that make it feel alien. It’s like Wes Anderson taking on a “Black Mirror” installment, or the David Lynch of “Wild at Heart” suddenly directing an episode of “Desperate Housewives.” Yet it’s all original, and it’s given to us by two ingenious comedians in their feature film directorial debut: Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe.

IFC Midnight snatched up “Greener Grass” out of Sundance 2019: it’s the definition of a midnight movie. Two housewives are best pals in a suburban neighborhood where everyone wears pastels and engages in vicious one-upsmanship  — until one decides, according to what you’ll find is a logic unique unto “Greener Grass,” to give her baby to the other as a gift. Then another child suddenly turns into a dog. It’s a satire of keeping up with Joneses unlike anything else. Well, maybe not quite. Love all that stuff with Kyle MacLachlan as Dougie and Jim Belushi as the gangster in “Twin Peaks: The Return”? Imagine an entire movie of that. As singular and stylish a movie as that sounds, “Greener Grass” is, above all, funny. It’s the hardest this writer has ever laughed at Sundance. —CB

“This is the End” (2013)

"This Is the End"

“This Is the End”

Suzanne Hanover/©Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

How would you behave during the apocalypse? In Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s raucous directorial debut, a gaggle of celebrities play versions of themselves at what turns out to be an end-of-the-world party at James Franco’s house. They include Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, and Mindy Kaling, who respond to the explosive biblical finale in a number of hilarious ways. The expansion of the producer-writer-director duo’s short film “Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse” (2007) proved an auspicious career boost, grossing $126 million worldwide. –AT

“The Big Sick” (2017)

“The Big Sick”

Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani nabbed a Best Original Screenplay nomination for synthesizing their harrowing true romance into a sharp and winsome comedy about a courtship that begins with a culture clash and survives a coma. After Gordon and Nanjiani wrote the script as an intense form of couples therapy, uber-producer Judd Apatow and director Michael Showalter whipped it into shape and cast Zoe Kazan as the young woman who falls for a Pakistani-American comic and Uber driver (Nanjiani). When she’s hospitalized, her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) learn to appreciate her tortured lover’s affection for their sleeping beauty before she comes back to life. —AT
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“Booksmart” (2019)

“Booksmart”

The best possible modern mashup of “Superbad” and “Bridesmaids” and innumerable other comedies about the glory and grossness of close friendship, Olivia Wilde’s feature directorial debut isn’t just an ode to smart girls, bad high school experiences, and one last night of debauchery, it’s also just damn funny. Initially inspired by a decade-old Black List script (which leaned a bit more heavily into the romantic possibilities of a couple of overachievers going nuts during the waning days of high school), screenwriter Katie Silberman’s take on the material puts a fresh twist on a classic setup. Best friends forever, Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) have spent their high school years hitting the books and shrugging off any and all social gatherings (aside, of course, from sleepovers with each other and the necessary political protest), all in hopes of putting all their energies towards getting top grades. It’s all panned out as they planned.

But they discover that, well, it’s also panned out for everyone else who didn’t hole themselves up for four years. Cue a “one last night to do something cool” and “big important party” arc, which lovingly follows the dynamic duo as they attempt to make up for lost time. The contemporary touches help bolster an already deeply felt and very amusing film about two good girls trying to do bad (Amy is a lesbian, their high school is believably diverse, the teens are treated like actual humans). Meanwhile, Feldstein and Dever’s bond (which exists off-screen as well) raises the emotion and humor of the film at every turn. Sharply directed, snappily edited, and aided by a banger of a soundtrack, it’s a high school classic in the making. —KE
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“Crazy Rich Asians” (2018)

“Crazy Rich Asians”

Sanja Bucko

Based on Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel of the same name, “Crazy Rich Asians” follows Chinese-American professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) as she travels to Singapore with her secretly wealthy boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding). Once the pair arrive in the glittering country, Rachel is shocked to learn just how rich Nick and his family are (really, really rich), and how fiercely his mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) wants to protect her son from marrying seemingly below his station. Despite the glitzy nature of the story — and its unabashed rom-com sensibilities — the film takes great pains to provide empathetic emotion to each character, even the seeming bad guys. That might not sound like obvious comedic material, but it’s exactly that sort of gamble that allowed Jon M. Chu’s smash hit to earn its laughs: nothing in the film is cheap, including the humor.

Even its more broad gags, including the exploits of the new money Goh family (led by Ken Jeong, but absolutely dominated by Awkwafina in a show-stealing turn as Rachel’s old pal Peik) and the vicious, Godfather-inspired pranks from Nick’s group of catty girlfriends, are steeped in careful character work, all the better to make those laughs really stick. Nothing may be more obviously funny than Peik popping her trunk outside the Young estate to get a better look at the wide variety of dressy options she stashes there for just such an occasion, but the hilarity comes straight from the heart. —KE
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“Girls Trip” (2017)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michele K Short/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock (8970068v)Tiffany Haddish"Girls Trip" Film - 2017

Tiffany Haddish in “Girls Trip”

Michele K Short/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

There’s plenty of star power behind “Girls Trip,” including always-bankable director Malcolm D. Lee and big names like Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith, but it’s impossible to deny its biggest breakout: then-newcomer Tiffany Haddish, who made off with not only the comedy’s best lines and bits of physical humor, but its most eye-popping performance. Haddish’s zippy charisma sets the film’s tone early, zinging between bouts of physical comedy (no one lunges at a co-star with as much pizzazz as Haddish) and wonderful off-color one-liners that are as shocking as they are masterfully delivered. Later in the film, Haddish serves up what will likely become contemporary cinema’s best example of how to use fruit to simulate sex acts (sorry, “American Pie”), a sequence so deliciously raunchy that it’s worth the price of admission alone.

Those pure laughs are more than enough to sustain a comedy so crystalline that it was a classic the minute it hit screens, as “Girls Trip” nails laugh after laugh even amidst — and oftentimes because of — dramatic issues that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lifetime movie. As the film’s central ladies make their way through all the glory that New Orleans’ Essence Fest has to offer, including run-ins with a slew of big talents in a seemingly never-ending parade of cameos (Diddy makes off with the best one, predictably bolstered by Haddish’s involvement) and at least one wildly ill-conceived adventure fueled by absinthe, “Girls Trip” keeps the momentum whirling ever onward into the next big comedic set piece. Even as it all ends with a heartwarming reveal, that doesn’t dilute its more raucous sensibilities; it only makes it more clear why Lee and his ladies should turn “Girls Trip” into a franchise that can spawn more uproarious vacations. —KE
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“Lady Bird” (2017)

"Lady Bird"

“Lady Bird”

A24

Greta Gerwig’s feature directing debut earned Oscar nominations for her writing and directing, and Irish actress Saoirse Ronan scored her third Oscar nod as Christine “Lady Bird” Macpherson, a culture-vulture eager to escape her Sacramento Catholic School. When scouting local colleges, her frustrated mother (Laurie Metcalf) drives the teenager so crazy she jumps out of the moving car. Tracy Letts is Lady Bird’s sad and adoring father, while Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet are her challenging romantic entanglements.

It’s the best mother-daughter relationship comedy since “Terms of Endearment,” but the emotional depth that drives the movie forward is never too far away from a well-earned laugh. Gerwig’s sense of comic timing is impeccable, from the memorable car-jumping sequence of its opening moments all the way through the rousing finale. —AT
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“Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

"Thor: Ragnarok"

“Thor: Ragnarok”

Disney/Marvel

“Thor” proved the most challenging superhero to get right for Disney and Marvel Studios. After Kenneth Branagh successfully launched the franchise in 2011 by rooting it in Shakespearean family drama, Alan Taylor derailed the comic book hero with his flimsy 2013 sequel “The Dark World.” Fortunately, the studios brought in Taika Waititi to helm “Thor: Ragnarok” and that decision led to one of the best Marvel movies to date.

Brimming with eye-popping colors and the sharp humor that defines all of Waititi’s movies, “Thor: Ragnarok” is light on its feet and allows Hemsworth not to be overburdened with the world-ending pseudo-gravitas of “The Dark World.” “Ragnarok” takes Thor out of Asgard and makes him a prisoner on Sakaar, but Waititi doesn’t just repeat the fish-out-of-water story of the original “Thor.” The writer-director makes the smart decision to pair Thor’s Hemworth opposite Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk in order to create the comic book equivalent of a rollicking buddy comedy. Throw in Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and you get a superhero movie built on the comedic chemistry that sizzles among its cast members. —Zack Sharf
Stream on Disney+; rent or buy on Amazon.

“The Death of Stalin” (2017)

Steve Buscemi The Death of Stalin

“The Death of Stalin”

Armondo Ianucci’s first adapted work takes the vulgar bureaucratic satire of “Veep” and “In the Loop” into the Soviet Union, with all the delightful and nasty twists you can imagine. Adapting a scenario by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin’s graphic novel, the movie unfolds against the tumultuous backdrop of 1953 as Stalin’s sudden demise creates a ridiculous power struggle among the awful, vindictive politicians left to sort out the government he left behind (and also the persecution). Steve Buscemi leads an extraordinary cast of (non-accented) actors who relish the opportunity to toss around Ianucci’s combative dialogue and vulgar outbursts in a delightful self-destructive spiral.

Yet Ianucci never sugarcoats the nature of the villains he takes on as his protagonists; if anything, the bleak finale provides a cogent reminder that even the nuttiest leaders are more than just punchlines when real lives are at stake. Still, while the movie contains remarkable period detail, “The Death of Stalin” has more in common with the Marx brothers than anything about the period in which it’s set: It’s “Duck Soup” with dictators. —Eric Kohn
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“Knives Out” (2019)

“Knives Out”

The devious and crackling “Knives Out” might typically be considered as more of a whodunnit than a comedy, but a time when even the most star-studded comedies have to be disguised as something else in order to be released in theaters, there’s no denying that Rian Johnson’s mega-hit is one of the funniest murder-mysteries ever made. That starts with Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc, a Southern-Fried super detective who chews every last inch of the film’s richly appointed scenery as if it were bad manners to leave any of it on his plate.

And while there’s only room for one monologue about donut holes in this movie, the rest of Johnson’s ensemble cast each gets their moments to shine. Cheekily pivoting from “America’s Ass” to “America’s Asshole,” Chris Evans is a shit-eating delight as the entitled grandson of murdered novelist Harlan Thrombey, Toni Collette is the first genuinely funny Instagram influencer in the entire history of creative fiction, and Michael Shannon is there to prove that some reaction shots can land harder than any punchline. But it’s Harlan Thrombey’s unassuming caregiver Marta (played by Ana de Armas) who gets — and gives — the last laugh. The only character who fully recognizes that she’s in a farce about rich Americans who think of their wealth as a birthright, Marta delivers the best joke of this unexpectedly hilarious movie by reducing the Thrombey family to a killer punchline. —David Ehrlich
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“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2019)

"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Sony

Quentin Tarantino’s $90-million elegy to a lost Hollywood is hilarious — until it’s not. The shifting 1969 narrative centers on declining western TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his loyal stunt double and driver Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton lives on Cielo Drive, next door to angelic rising star Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her A-list director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), hot off “Rosemary’s Baby.” They’re riding the counterculture surge in Hollywood, while Dalton swigs booze in his trailer and loses his shit when he forgets his lines. Pitt won the Supporting Actor Oscar as war hero Booth, who is more zen, and more dangerous than his boss, holding his own both with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) and the menacing followers of Charles Manson. Tarantino often doesn’t get enough credit for his comedic chops, but “Hollywood” proves that he excels at finding ways to make you laugh when you least expect It. — AT
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“Parasite” (2019)

“Parasite”

Neon

The momentum toward the Best Picture Oscar had been building steadily since the Cannes Palme d’Or win for Hitchcockian genre-master Bong Joon Ho (“Okja” and “Snowpiercer”). This raucously entertaining comedy — and yes, it’s a very dark comedy — about a family of con artists who infiltrate a rich family far above them in status was a surprisingly accessible thrill-ride. “Parasite” excels at telling us who we are, in every society all over the world.

As unlikable as many of the film’s characters are, you still root for them, partly because they make you laugh. The bloody finale teeters on the edge on slapstick, like many of the film’s big moments, but every punchline arrives like a shock to the system. In truth, “Parasite” is an unclassifiable blend: Director Bong’s mix of comedy, thriller, and social critique wowed global audiences, boosted by enthusiastic independent distributors who pushed the film into a global hit ($201 million foreign, $53 million domestic). That success proves there is true hope for filmmakers looking to entertain the masses on their own terms. — AT
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Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” (2004)

How far would you go for some sliders? In “Harold and Kumar,” a couple of stoners getting the munchies is treated as an odyssey of epic (and hilarious) proportions. The unlikely franchise-starter has endeared itself to cannabis enthusiasts as well as those who don’t partake, inspiring moviegoers to Just Say Yes for more than a decade; given the strides that marijuana (both medicinal and otherwise) has made in recent years, you could even say that the cult classic was ahead of the curve. –Michael Nordine
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Juno” (2007)

The chemical equation of writer Diablo Cody plus director Jason Reitman explodes onscreen with this non-traditional family comedy showcasing Cody’s edgy contemporary dialogue. The story of a whip-smart teenager (Elliot Page) who gets pregnant by her new boyfriend (Michael Cera) and decides to give the baby up for adoption to a yuppie couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) plays like a comedy but packs an unexpected emotional wallop. Everyone came out ahead on this movie (Cody won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar), which grossed $231 million worldwide. The down side: this inventive indie spawned far too many imitators.  —AT
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Shaun of the Dead” (2004)

This acerbic action comedy introduced a winning combo: sparring buddies Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and master of style Edgar Wright, who dreamed up the script with Pegg. He plays a sad sack who turns out to be more brave and adept at slaying the walking dead than he ever would have thought. And he gets the girl. More Working Title collaborations followed, but the first time out was the charm: mash up a witty British romance and a zombie gorefest, and hilarity ensues. —AT
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Old School” (2003)

You’re my boy, Blue! Say what you will about the Frat Pack films that followed it, but “Old School” still gets a passing grade. Part of the one-two punch (the other being “Elf”) that made Will Ferrell a bona fide movie star, this reminder that you’re never too old to start a fraternity also brought us Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn at their best. Its hilarity is all the more impressive when considering other movies of its kind haven’t aged as well — we’re looking at you, “Wedding Crashers.” —MN
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Trainwreck” (2015)

Producer Judd Apatow steered breakout standup comic Amy Schumer to her smash big-screen debut ($141 million worldwide) by helping her to write a recognizably real woman to play — accessible, honest, emotional — within the genre confines of a mainstream romantic comedy. Sure, potty-mouth Schumer acts out, surrounded by crazy chaos, but leading man Bill Hader makes a gallant, alert, reactive foil, and at the end, order is restored and Schumer gets her man. Even so, “Trainwreck” moves the needle when it comes to male-female relations at the movies, bloody tampons and all. —AT
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O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000)

Packed with corn-pone humor and catchy southern roots music, this rollicking Coen brothers 1930s adaptation of Homer’s “The Odyssey” follows a gang of escaped dimwit prisoners led by pomaded charmer Everett McGill (George Clooney), who tries to get back his wife (“Raising Arizona” star Holly Hunter) by singing her into submission. T-Bone Burnett’s best-selling soundtrack won the Grammy for album of the year and cinematographer Roger Deakins nabbed an Oscar nomination for his pioneering digital alterations to this Working Title film’s color palette. But as always, helping Clooney, Hunter, Tim Blake Nelson, John Turturro and John Goodman earn this meandering fable’s countless laughs was the main goal.  —AT
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Best in Show” (2000)

It doesn’t go up to 11, but Christopher Guest’s account of a barking-mad dog show is still the finest mockumentary ever made about anything besides a Stonehenge-obsessed rock band. Last year’s similar “Mascots” was funny enough, but mostly served to remind viewers what a one-of-a-kind accomplishment “Best in Show” is — the line between laughing with and at these characters may be thin as Guest endears his ensemble to us even as he mocks them, but at least we never stop rooting for the doggos. 12/10 would watch. —MN
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About a Boy” (2002)

Do we miss Hugh Grant yet? The once-ubiquitous rom-com star has grown choosier in recent years, appearing onscreen less often so that he might command more attention when he does. His smug charm has rarely been but to better use than it was in “About a Boy” (yes, Working Title), which came during that happy early-2000s period when adaptations of Nick Hornby novels were a genre unto themselves. No man is an island, which is to say that Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette and Rachel Weisz deserve as much credit as Grant. —MN
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Borat” (2006)

If “Bruno” and “The Dictator” taught us anything, it’s that “Borat” was truly lightning in a bottle. Sacha Baron Cohen’s feature-length social experiment pissed off nearly as many people as it delighted, which surely pleased the fearless provocateur (even if Pamela Anderson seemed pretty bewildered by the whole experience). Plus, when’s the last time a comedy was credited with bringing back a comeback as hilariously lame as “…not!”, let alone increasing tourism to Kazakhstan? —MN
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The Heat” (2013)

This yin-and-yang teaming of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as mismatched cops in a summer buddy comedy was Paul Feig’s wildly successful ($230 million) follow-up to “Bridesmaids.” Bullock’s ambitious, uptight and trim FBI agent is forced to team with McCarthy’s sloppy, overweight, profane, maverick Boston cop in order to nab a nasty drug lord. Feig’s casting combo was inspired, as McCarthy’s anarchic improv loosens up Bullock’s controlled comic timing. —AT
Rent or buy on Amazon.

Check out choices 15 – 11 on the next page, including bad neighbors, obvious children, and unexpected sisters.

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