Best comedies on Netflix
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread may be gracing year-end top-ten lists across the board, but this sprawling tale about a genuinely “gifted” porn star (Mark Wahlberg) is where the director’s talent for big-picture storytelling first made itself apparent. It also wins the contest for the best prosthetic-cock cameo of the past few decades, hands down.
Watch if you liked: The Deuce
Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray
Bill Murray’s performance as a shambling, mumbling groundskeeper (“Cinderella story…outta nowhere…”) obsessed with removing a pesky gopher from the links has become a comedy classic: the definitive improvisational turn in a Hollywood movie. Elsewhere, the movie serves largely as a reminder of how lovably annoying Chevy Chase and Ted Knight could be.
Watch if you liked: Billy Madison
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried
Josh and Cornelia (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, both terrific) are Gen Xers in a marriage cooled by stalling ambitions and a failure to join their friends’ baby parade. It’s sexless nights on the iPad until the unexpected affections of a much younger couple energize their lives. One day, this will be considered a classic, for Adam Driver's definitive portrayal of a millennial alone.
Watch if you liked: Greenberg
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Munn
This Channing Tatum male-stripper movie is filled with male stripping. Tons of it. With the exception of one backstage shocker of a close-up, you don’t get the full monty—but maybe something even better. These choreographed dance numbers, set to pumping remixes of “Like a Virgin” and, unavoidably, “It’s Raining Men,” are hilariously unsubtle. For these sequences alone, Magic Mike connects on a screamingly funny level, and not just for wayward bachelorettes.
Watch if you liked: Step Up
Director: Tamara Jenkins
Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei
Natasha Lyonne plays an awkward teenager growing up in 1970s California, in Tamara Jenkins’s autobiographical indie. And if you’re looking for yet more reasons to love Alan Arkin and Marisa Tomei, this film contains their most affecting character work, as flawed, humorous family members. Director Jenkins recently returned to the Sundance spotlight with the scalpel-sharp Private Life, so it’s a good time to refresh.
Watch if you liked: 20th Century Women
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston
Wes Anderson’s moving oceanic opus stars Bill Murray as an oceanographer in pursuit of a mysterious tiger shark. Of course the movie’s got laughs (of the brittle, finicky variety, Anderson’s wheelhouse), but it works even better in its latter stretch as loneliness takes a starring role.
Watch if you liked: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton
One of the most gloriously demented movies ever made, Tim Burton’s feature debut looks better and better with each passing year. Tell ’em Large Marge sent ya.
Watch if you liked: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt
It’s one of the less essential Coen brothers movies, but there’s still much fun to be had from this cynical farce about a small group of very stupid people caught up in a blackmail scheme. Plotwise, the film is essentially an espionage yarn involving a retired CIA operative (John Malkovich, riotous when he’s angry), his mislaid memoirs, his wife (Tilda Swinton), her lover (George Clooney) and two dumb but ambitious gym employees (Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt).
Watch if you liked: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver
Greta Gerwig (who also cowrote the screenplay) stars as an Ivy League grad who dreams of becoming a dancer, despite having two left feet in more ways than one. Like a lot of Baumbach characters, she’s stuck in the past and a little developmentally arrested—but charmingly so.
Watch if you liked: Mistress America
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey
Reteaming with his School of Rock director, Jack Black plays real-life Texas funeral director and convicted murderer Bernie Tiede. A triumph of small-scale, regional pulp (and blackest comedy), Bernie plays like a Texas tall tale with a weirdly warm heart—a pepper-flecked chili of Americana.
Watch if you liked: Making of a Murderer