The best comedy films on Netflix
Director: Andy Tennant
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Patrick Dempsey
For a few years in the early 2000s, Reese Witherspoon was Hollywood’s undisputed queen of comedy. Her follow-up to the hugely successful ‘Legally Blonde’, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is another silly, sweet and surprisingly enjoyable blockbuster comedy, this time following a Southern gal-turned-city slicker who heads to her hick home for the holidays.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Legally Blonde’
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: John Candy, Leon, Doug E Doug
So loosely based on real events that it barely earns that tag, this good-natured sports movie takes inspiration from the incident in 1988 when the tropical island of Jamaica fielded a bobsled team to the Winter Olympics (they returned five times, but have yet to win a medal). John Candy is his usual effusive self as the team coach, who wrestles his ragtag band of Rastafarian sledders into fighting shape.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Dodgeball’
Director: Greg Mottola
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds
Before he got all serious and actor-y, Jesse Eisenberg played the goofball hero of this lovable coming-of-age comedy set in a failing amusement park over one long summer. ‘Superbad’ director Greg Mottola creates a poignant atmosphere of teenage disillusion, and the laughs are provided by a hugely talented supporting cast, including Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and Martin Starr.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’
Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick
If you think cancer is no laughing matter, this bittersweet bromance will do its level best to persuade you otherwise. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a young man given a 50 percent chance of survival by his doctors, who leans on best pal Seth Rogen to get him through the tough times.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Knocked Up’
Director: Betty Thomas
Cast: Shelley Long, Gary Cole, Christine Taylor
Taking the cheery, all-American family from the 1970s TV show and dropping them smack in the middle of the thug-life ’90s was a masterstroke, and this goofy comedy more than lives up to its premise. When their house is threatened with foreclosure, the Brady kids band together to raise the money by entering a local talent contest with their psychedelic sunshine pop. It doesn’t exactly go to plan…
Watch it if you liked… ‘Scooby-Doo’
Director: John Landis
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones
Eddie Murphy re-teamed with his ‘Trading Places’ director John Landis for this comedy about an African prince who travels to the US to hunt for a bride but finds only poverty and hardship. The satire never cuts especially deep, but Murphy is on charming form, having a ball playing multiple characters and trotting out a largely awful African accent. Let your soul glo…
Watch it if you liked… ‘Beverly Hills Cop’
Director: Jonathan Lynn
Cast: Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn
A flop on first release, this country-house comedy based on the successful board game (better known in the UK as Cluedo) has become a cult favourite in recent years, thanks in large part to Madeleine Kahn’s wildly OTT performance. It’s daft as hell, but the setup is amusing, the one-liners are sharp and Kahn is quite something to behold.
Watch it if you liked… ‘This is the End’
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof
Finding himself with a little free time after shooting his epic 2012 ‘Avengers’ movie, director Joss Whedon gathered a few friends and old ‘Buffy’ cast members together at his LA pad and shot this intimate and rather lovely adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, the wellspring of every romantic comedy written since the sixteenth century.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston
It might not make you laugh out loud, but Wes Anderson’s weirdest, quirkiest film (and that’s saying something) is packed like a sardine tin with good cheer and smart one-liners. Bill Murray plays a marine biologist, loosely based on Jacques Cousteau, who traverses the oceans in his personal submarine investigating undersea life.
Watch it if you liked… ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast: John Travolta, Danny DeVito, Rene Russo
This entertaining slice of post-Tarantino crime comedy, adapted from Elmore Leonard’s novel, sees John Travolta’s errant Mafia enforcer travelling to Hollywood to collect a debt, only to find himself mobbed by producers wanting to adapt the script he’s been writing on the sly.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Pulp Fiction’
Director: Ben Stiller
Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell
Blue steel! The world of fashion was ripe for lampooning, and this scattergun comedy from writer-director-star Ben Stiller has become a cult favourite. He plays Derek Zoolander, the miner’s son turned male model who finds there’s more to life than just being really, really ridiculously good looking.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Anchorman’
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Judy Davis
Woody Allen’s most savage, self-loathing comedy – made in the wake of his split from Mia Farrow – sees him playing a whoring, cursing, ill-tempered writer who callously draws on his family and friends for inspiration for his scabrous stories. The sprawling cast also includes Robin Williams, Tobey Maguire, Billy Crystal, Demi Moore and Paul Giamatti.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Annie Hall’
Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride
For a while there, it seemed like the stoner comedy was a strictly ’70s movement. Then along came dedicated tokers Seth Rogen and James Franco to reboot the genre for the twenty-first century. This giddy, lovable road movie follows Rogen’s weekend smoker and Franco’s addled dealer as they go on the run from a gang of mobsters.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Up in Smoke’
Director: Gene Saks
Cast: Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon
Neil Simon’s smash-hit Broadway play about two old friends – one prissy and neat, one slobby and raucous – who are forced to share a flat was transformed into a classic movie thanks to the inestimable talents of leading men Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Are you an Oscar or a Felix?
Watch it if you liked… ‘Some Like It Hot’
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton
One of the silliest, most enjoyable blockbuster comedies of recent years, this pastiche of grandstanding cop movies features Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as the second-string detectives who must step up to the plate when the top guns go out the window (literally). A pre-renaissance Michael Keaton is great value as the TLC-quoting police chief.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Talladega Nights’
Director: Dennis Dugan
Cast: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald
Kids today won’t believe you, but there was a time, long ago, when Adam Sandler used to be funny. ‘Happy Gilmore’ is his best straight-up comedy, the story of a hockey player with serious anger management issues who becomes an unlikely star on the golf links. His rival, shit-eating Shooter McGavin, is one of the most memorably awful comedy villains.
Watch it if you liked… ‘The Waterboy’
Director: Cameron Crowe
Cast: John Cusack, Ione Skye, Lili Taylor
If you’ve never had a jilted lover turn up outside your window in the middle of the night carrying a boombox, you haven’t lived. With his debut, journalist-turned-filmmaker Cameron Crowe took the staples of the ’80s teen romance – shy loners, rich princesses, goofball sidekicks – and added a deep layer of wit, insight and soul. John Cusack was never better.
Watch it if you liked… ‘The Breakfast Club’
Director: David Zucker
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, OJ Simpson
When the ‘Airplane!’ trio of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker turned their attention to TV with cop show ‘Police Squad’, it didn’t go down too well: reviews were unfairly scathing and the show sank without trace. Luckily, they managed to revive the character of Frank Drebin for this relentless big-screen adventure, which features more spot-on gags than ten lesser movies put together.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Hot Shots’
Director: Danny DeVito
Cast: Billy Crystal, Danny DeVito, Anne Ramsey
Danny DeVito cooked up a wonderful Hitchcockian brew for his directorial debut, riffing on the master director’s ‘Strangers on a Train’ idea of two men committing each other’s murders. The two poor saps in question are writing teacher Billy Crystal and his disturbed pupil DeVito, who suffers under the world’s most domineering mother.
Watch it if you liked… ‘The War of the Roses’
Director: Michael Lehmann
Cast: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty
The Heathers are three equally evil and self-centred high-schoolers with the same name, who fall victim to the murderous tendencies of their supposed pal Veronica (Winona Ryder) and her wannabe-bad boyfriend JD (Christian Slater). Sharp as a samurai sword and dark as midnight, this is black comedy at its very finest.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Clueless’
Director: Pete Hewitt
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, William Sadler
Arguably superior to its time-travelling predecessor ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’, ‘Bogus Journey’ sees our slack-jawed heroes from San Dimas, California murdered by evil robot Bill and Ted from the future only to embark on a journey through hell, heaven and everything in between. Party on, death!
Watch it if you liked… ‘Wayne’s World’
Director: John Hughes
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara
The original Time Out review bemoaned the fact that ‘no one got to wring the little blighter’s neck’. We’re still not entirely sure who pissed in our critic’s chips that day. The truth is that high-schooler Ferris Bueller is a hero for our times: sure, he’s a bit of a rich kid, but he’s also witty, kind and deeply cool. Save Ferris!
Watch it if you liked… ‘Pretty in Pink’
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Michael Caine
By the mid-1980s, Woody Allen was in his stride when it came to making upscale comedies about the tangled personal, professional and psychological lives of his fellow Manhattanites. Here, he plays the ex-wife of Hannah (Farrow), a woman now married to another man (Caine) who is falling in love with one of her two sisters… Warm, sharp, urbane, it’s one of Allen’s very best comedies.
Watch it if you liked… ‘Annie Hall’
Director: Richard Lester
Cast: The Beatles, Wilfred Brambell
Four moptop scamps run wild in London in this riotous, freewheeling backstage comedy. The twist, of course, is that these rascals are the most famous lads in the civilised world – The Beatles. With a script inspired by their press interviews, a simple got-a-show-to-do plot and surprisingly spiky gags about everything from teen exploitation to the IRA, this is quite simply the greatest rock ‘n’ roll movie ever made, and one of the finest comedies to boot.
Watch it if you liked… ‘This is Spinal Tap’
Directors: Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker
Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen
Joke-for-joke perhaps the funniest movie ever made, ‘Airplane!’ single handedly invented the spoof genre, setting the bar so high that no other film since has managed to meet it. Almost every line is quotable – ‘I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue’; ‘Joey, do you like films about gladiators?’; ‘I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley’ – and the straight-faced cast only make it more hilarious. Genius is not too big a word.
Watch it if you liked… ‘The LEGO Movie’