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70 Greatest Comedies of the 21st Century

From rom-coms to raunch-coms, ‘Anchorman’ to ‘Girls Trip’ —our updated list of the funniest movies of the millennium so far

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WHAT’S SO FUNNY? ? If you’re talking about screen comedy in the 21st century, the answer is easy: bumbling manchildren, the more boorish and clueless and stuck in their stunted adolescence, the better. Talking foxes, Huey Lewis-loving serial killers, world-saving marionettes, foul-mouthed political fixers and boisterous bridesmaids — all great as well. German father-daughter duos and goofy stoners? Bring ’em on! Headbanging teachers and backstabbing bureaucrats? Yes, we’ll take them too.

Since the turn of the century, we’ve giggled at the poignant and the perverse, rom-coms and raunch-coms, new-and-improved takes on singular comic types and loose, highly improvised ensemble pieces that spread the spotlight around. Some of these movies have been gently witty, while others have displayed all of the subtlety of a dose of Sex Panther cologne. But they’ve all consistently cracked us up, in a two-decade-plus span in which — let’s be honest — we’ve need a laugh or two. Or three. Or a dozen.

After a number of heated arguments and lots of name-calling and the occasional chaotic pie fight, we’ve narrowed down our choices for the greatest comedies of the 21st century. Culling this down was a tough call; humor is a seriously subjective topic, and every one of our 19 writers weighing in had their own idea of what constitutes “hilarious.” But this list represents the best cross-section of screen comedy of our millennium, a collection that runs the gamut from droll to bladder-loosening.

And, since we’d originally published this list in early 2018, we’ve updated it and added 20 new entries — including several first-rate comedies that were regrettably left off the list. (All apologies, Dewey Cox.) Given the high possibility of sidesplitting, you may wanna have a medical professional on hand. And don’t forget to stay classy, San Diego.

From Rolling Stone US


‘Kung Fu Hustle’

Stephen Chow understands one thing about martial-arts movies that’s too often forgotten: They should be fun.Kung Fu Hustle works so well because its director/cowriter/star knows – hell, embraces – that his story of a wannabe gangster in 1930s Shanghai is the kind of movie that needs to be constantly topping itself. So he does just that, making each action sequence – a physics-defying fight against dozens of dapper thugs, a stand-off with a warrior named “the Beast,” a man-versus-axes showdown – more pulse-pounding yet hysterically ridiculous than the one before. It’s both a wuxia epic and a parody of one at the same time. If Buster Keaton and Jackie Chan had a baby, that kid would grow up to make this movie. BT


‘Hail, Caesar!’

A madcap comedy that doubles as an oddball morality play, the Coen brothers’hooray-for-Hollywood hootenanny stars Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix, a studio fixer in early Fifties Tinseltown dealing with dim actors (see: George Clooney’s sublimely ridiculous Baird Whitlock), pregnant stars, miscast cowboys, scheming communists and other threats to his studio employers — all while trying to decided whether or not to pack it in. It’s as silly as any film the Coens have made, but it’s also rich in behind-the-scenes detail and surprisingly reflective on its hero’s Catholic faith. Anyone showing up for over-the-top musical numbers won’t be disappointed, either. KP


‘Force Majeure’

How funny is it to watch a grown man cry? If it’s a Swedish man who, in a moment of weakness and terror, abandons his wife and kids to die in an avalanche, the correct answer is: “very funny, very funny indeed.” Filmmaker Ruben Östlund’s alpha-dude-in-crisis moviewas plenty relevant when it came out in 2014; nowadays, it feels almost prophetic, having anticipated the epidemic of masculine selfishness that seems to be running roughshod over the culture. In that sense, it’s as much a horror movie as it is a masterpiece of cringe comedy – and a reminder that those two genres aren’t always that far apart. KL



Alexander Payne’s oenophilic comedy has likely put a dent in merlot sales forever, but it’s aged into a quaffable vintage, courtesy of Paul Giamatti’s performance as a self-loathing wine connoisseur. As he and his soon-to-be-married friend (Thomas Haden Church) venture to California wine country for a bachelor weekend, Sideways develops a sharp buddy-movie dynamic between a pungent misanthrope and a pleasure-seeking horndog. There’s sweetness at the film’s core, drawn out in his boozy courtship of a fellow enthusiast (Virginia Madsen), but Payne gets a buzz off Giamatti’s ornery belligerence, which at one point has him lunging for the wine-tasting spittoon. ST


‘Wet Hot American Summer’

Meet the only film on this (or any other) list in which a deranged Vietnam veteran played by Law & Order: SVU’s Christopher Meloni learns valuable life lessons from a talking can of vegetables that can suck its own dick. (“And I do it a lot.”) With a gaggle of alums from the influential sketch comedy group the State both in front of and behind the camera – and a cast of soon-to-be superstars including Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Rudd – this send-up of raunchy Reagan-era teen comedies has an anything-for-a-laugh approach that actually gets laughs every time. This one-time cult curiosity has since spawned two Netflix spinoff series … as well as a legendary DVD audio commentary track that just adds extra fart sounds. STC


‘Knocked Up’

Filmmaker Judd Apatow’s chronicle of a one-night stand gone horribly wrong would have worked perfectly fine as Farrelly Brothers, gross-out comedy. But it’s the writer-director’s attention to detail that made this a classic. In addition to watching Seth Rogen bumble around after getting Katherine Heigl pregnant, Apatow included a horde of its schlubby hero’s screwball friends, i.e. guys who fart on their buddy’s pillows to give each other pinkeye. And for all of the romcom’s relentless gags, it has a heartstring-tugging story arc that keeps you rooting for Rogen’s natural underdog until the last scene. KG


‘High Fidelity’

Stephen Frears’ adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel wryly tackles the culture of record-store gatekeepers, led by a stubbornly romantic John Cusack in the definitive Cusackian performance (all apologies, Lloyd Dobler). Aided by a manic breakout performance by Jack Black, this comedy functionsas a gentle tribute to anal-retentive, list-making music snobs everywhere, even as it skewers the adolescent male dream of waiting for “the perfect girl.” Watch out for a pitch-perfect Springsteen cameo and the ultimate rejoinder to anyone who demands taste supremacy: “How can it be bullshit to state a preference?” VM


‘Bad Santa’

Grinches never had a Christmas movie to call their own. And then Billy Bob Thornton slapped on a gin-soaked beard and a vomit-encrusted Santa suit, and tucked everyone’s stockings with the fattest piece of coal in the mine. What’s remarkable about Bad Santa is how far its director, Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World), goes to avoid any hint of Yuletide sentimentality: Thornton’s thieving Kris Kringle is a degenerate alcoholic who works malls, hates kids and loves anal sex with equal passion. Not to mention that the snot-nosed, Claus-crazy imp who’s supposed to redeem him, the unfortunately named Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), is the rare outcast that’s genuinely disturbing. We are all John Ritter reaction shots. ST



An “adaptation” of New Yorker writer Susan Orlean’s book about a true life Floridian flower thief, one starring Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Nicolas Cage, doesn’t naturally suggest comedy … except for the fact that it was written by the era’s great meta-fictional gag man, Charlie Kaufman. The neurotic genius turned an ill-fitting gig into a hilariously self-incriminating vivisection of the movie business, with Cage playing both Charlie and his less scrupulous brother (fictional but credited as a co-writer, because of course), absolutely straight – and still getting laughs through fidelity to Kaufman’s rapid-fire self-owning. It proved that an aggressively smart, formally disorienting movie could still let everyone in on the joke. EH


‘Game Night’

We always hear that they just don’t make star-heavy, studio-sanctioned ensemble comedies anymore — but occasionally they still do, and the results are glorious. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams lead a first-rate cast as a longtime married couple whose regular, hyper-competitive game night becomes an unexpectedly high-stakes affair, thanks to the participation of his shady brother (Kyle Chandler, beautifully subverting his nice-guy image). Bateman’s intelligence and slow-burn impatience has rarely been put to better use, Jesse Plemons steals scene after scene as a socially inept neighbor, and Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Kyle Bunbury and New Girl‘s Lamorne Morrison all do bang-up work. But the MVP here is McAdams, a heretofore unacknowledged screwball comedy heroine of the Myna Loy school; her reading of the line “Oh no, he died!” will make you despair she spent so many years making wispy time-travel romances instead of broad comedies.—J.B.


‘Palm Springs’

There’s a bit of a twist to this romantic comedy from director Max Barbakow about a bridesmaid (Cristin Milioti), a wedding guest (Andy Samberg) and a never-ending ceremony that you may have heard about; we’re not keen on spoiling anything for those who haven’t seen it yet. Let’s just say this: It’s produced by the Lonely Island gents, so expect that level of lunacy. Fans of certain early 1990s comedies — one in particular — will get a kick out of the conceit. It’s a movie with some substantial concepts on its mind, yet is so easy going down that its more cerebral, existential elements are balanced out by its go-for-broke absurdity. There’s a reason it’s on our list, i.e. it’s hilarious. And we’d be perfectly happy if Milioti and Samberg, who have insane screen chemistry, were cast in a series of movies together and become the foul-mouthed Doris Day and Rock Hudson of the 2020’s.—D.F.


‘Ghost World’

This just in: Precocious teens can be real assholes. Directed by Terry Zwigoff (Crumb), the film adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ comic cast Thora Birch in the career-defining role of smart, cruel young woman named Enid, who distracts herself with obscure music, afternoons at the diner and a flair for talking trash about hometown dorks with her best friend, Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson). It takes a middle-aged record geek (Steve Buscemi, going full-on Steve Buscemi) to crack Enid’s derisive shell – at which point this bittersweet comedy catalyzes her timeless realization that it’s easier to mock other people’s lives than to make one of your own. JBe


‘The Lobster’

Welcome to the darkest of dark comedies – a satire of romance in which the laughs all have serrated edges. Director Yorgos Lanthimos, who previously crafted the bleakly hilarious family drama Dogtooth, introduces us to a future society in which everyone must find a mate or be turned into an animal. Colin Farrell is magnificently deadpan as the newly dumped David who goes looking for love in all the wrong places. With The Lobster, Lanthimos doesn’t just poke fun at the grimness of dystopian dramas: He’s gleefully ridiculing a culture in which marriage is a convenient distraction from loneliness and true love is a lie you tell to trick someone into settling down. And it’s got the best EDM joke ever. TG


‘The Royal Tenenbaums’

Set in a storybook vision of New York drawn in equal parts from old New Yorker cartoons and Salinger’s Glass family stories, Wes Anderson’s sprawling third feature mines laughs and pathos from one family’s decades of pent-up resentment, disappointment and unexpressed desires. Gene Hackman plays the neglectful patriarch of a family that includes a resentful ex-wife (Anjelica Huston) and three children who never lived up to their early potential: a burnt-out athlete (Luke Wilson), a failed playwright (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a paranoid stockbroker (Ben Stiller). The director’s signature precise-to-precious filmmaking, clever dialogue and painstakingly designed world of board game closets, tracksuit-clad kids and wannabe cowboy authors keep it funny. The emotions roiling beneath its colorful surface keep it real. KP


‘Love & Friendship’

In his Nineties indie classics Metropolitan and The Last Days of Disco, Whit Stillman told witty tales of cultured New Yorkers, obsessed with social codes adopted from Jane Austen novels. Given the chance to adapt Austen’s actual work, the writer-director unexpectedly embraced one of author’s most unapologetically amoral characters: the social-climbing widow Lady Susan, from the novella of the same name. Kate Beckinsale is an absolute delight as the anti-heroine, who conspires with her equally shameless American pal (Chloë Sevigny) to manipulate the super-rich, including a moneyed doofus well-played by Tom Bennett. Throughout Love & Friendship, Susan amusingly weaponizes upper-class politeness, exploiting her hosts’ fear of rudeness to milk them for all they’ve got. NM


‘Eighth Grade’

Stand-up comic Bo Burnham’s directorial debut is so attuned to the life of its 13-year-old heroine Kayla (Elsie Fisher) and her social-mediafied, status-obsessed middle school world that it feels like a documentary at moments; you don’t have to be a preteen or the parent of one to recognize the misfit anxiety, the giddiness behind a mall hangout, the need to connect and the sense of being stuck in the middle of purgatory (or worse, puberty). It’s a Tales of an Eighth-Grade Nothing that will crack you up one second and make you tear up the next. And to quote Kayla, it’s 100-percent “Gucci!”—D.F.


‘Hot Fuzz’

Mel Brooks once noted that parody plays best when it looks like the real thing – a lesson that director Edgar Wright has definitely taken to heart. Reteaming with frequent co-writer/star Simon Pegg and their partner-in-crime Nick Frost, the filmmaker and friends send up the conventions of the contemporary, “Bayhem”-infused cop action flick in this story of a maverick London detective reassigned to a provincial police force. There’s only the tiniest degree of separation – and silliness – between Hot Fuzz‘s big set pieces and those of Bad Boys 2 or Point Break (both of which are explicitly referenced). But in that sliver, the movie finds huge laughs and a delightful sense of small-town anarchy in the U.K. JBa


‘Team America: World Police’

Remember the halcyon days of 2004 when the United States didn’t yet realize 9/11 and our invasion of Iraq would trigger decade(s)-plus of escalating chaos? South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone turn a goof on an old, semi-obscure Sixties kids’ show (Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds) into a take-no-prisoners puppet-apalooza, ripping into gung-ho military jingoists, foreign-policy hawks, limousine-liberal movie stars, broadway musicals and every single movie montage set to a patriotic country song. The fact that it has not dated at all but seems more timely than ever is, frankly, depressing and sad. But then you remember that it features puppets having the most pornographic sex imaginable.Amer-i-ca! Fuck yeah!AN



Taking a page out of their mentor Judd Apatow’s book, cowriters/BFFs Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg went back to their youth and crafted a teen comedy with dick drawings (dozens of ’em), dirty jokes … and a heart and soul. Yes, it’s about two high-school dudes (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera) trying to get laid, and the antics involving a party gone out of bounds, period blood, a character named “McLovin’,” kooky cops and copious alcohol consumption that ensue – so far, so grossout. But underneath all the teen-boys-are-genuinely-disgusting humor and Porkys-style shenanigans is a thread of deep-seated insecurity, stemming from the fact that adulthood is fast approaching and soon these close friends will be heading off to different colleges. By that time that talking about “p in vagee” gives way to an affectionate “boop” at the end, you’re smitten. All this, plus a near-perfect turn from Emma Stone. Super, indeed. EZ


’24 Hour Party People’

Thanks to his signature character Alan Partridge, comedian Steve Coogan is an expert at playing a legend in his own mind. But what if the legend lived up to the hype? That’s the wild sex-drugs-and-rock & roll thrill behind thisstranger-than-fiction true(ish) story of influential music-biz pioneer Tony Wilson – a blowhard TV-news cornball turned record-label founder and nightclub impresario who brought Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays to the world before going broke. Coogan and his frequent collaborator, director Michael Winterbottom, chronicle Wilson’s rise and fall with fourth-wall-breaking bravura and good-natured glee. STC


‘Frances Ha’

Who likes understated, black-and-white slice-of-life dramedies that pop with colorful humor and awkward comments? Twentysomething angst doesn’t get any better or more comically bittersweet than this cracked character study from director Noah Baumbach and cowriter/star Great Gerwig, in which the eponymous heroine aimlessly pings from downtown Manhattan to Northern California, Paris to Vassar – yet really just ends up going endlessly in circles. There are plenty of slapstick comedy moments as Gerwig’s lost soul busts up old friendships and burn bridges, but this minor gemthrives on the laughter bred from cringe-worthy moments. “I’m embarrassed. I’m not a real person yet.” Neither are we, Frances. Neither are we.KYK



Meet Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst who must reluctantly step away from her longtime desk post and fill in as a emergency-replacement field agent in order to track down an arms dealer’s daughter. Spoiler: It initially does not go well. Bridesmaids director Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy reunited for this uproariously funny send-up of Bond, Bourne, and their lesser espionage brethren. The notion of McCarthy as would-be super-spy is a grand slam to begin with, but the movie never goes for the easy gag. The laughs come from the sheer force of McCarthy’s personality, and her performance recalls the quick-thinking, fast-talking, foul-mouthed genius of Eddie Murphy’s early work; she’s perpetually underestimated but always the smartest person in the room, and the film’s witty screenplay serves as a wry, sly commentary on gender roles and workplace discrimination without ever stopping to obvious messaging.—J.B.


‘School of Rock’

There were always hints of Jack Black’s potential greatness in the acoustic-metal grandiosity of Tenacious D and the record-clerk pomposity of High Fidelity – but it took Richard Linklater to get a full-service performance out of him. The comedian’s passion for the guitar gods of yesteryear made him the only choice to play a would-be rocker who fakes his way into a fifth-grade substitute teaching gig and turns his musically gifted students into his backing band. The jam sessions and “rock appreciation and theory” classes find Black perfectly in his element, but little touches make the difference, too: His poor, rumpled approximation of what a teacher is supposed to sound like; his little shimmy toward Joan Cusack to Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen”: and his tender treatment of a young singer with stage fright. Play this comedy loud. ST


‘Burn After Reading’

It truly says something about the genius and prescience of the Coen brothers that they made the most pointed, insightful comedy about the Trump era…back in 2008. Assembling a cast of both repertory-company regulars (Frances McDormand, George Clooney, Richard Jenkins) and delightful one-and-doners (Brad Pitt, John Malkovich), Burn nails the deliciously dark and emotionally merciless vibe the filmmakers were clearly aiming for with near-misses like The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty, weaving a tale of deception, blackmail and murder on the fringes of the D.C. intelligence community. Pitt crafts one of the great dumb-guy supporting turns (topping even his own previous career best, True Romance) and Malkovich is at his Malkovich-iest, while the carefully crafted set-up and punch line to the mysterious goings-on in Clooney’s basement remains one of the single biggest laughs in the Coen canon.—J.B.


‘The Trip’

In which British comedians and longtime buds/collaborators Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon drive through the English countryside, sampling food and wine that costs more than your monthly rent and turning dueling Michael Caine impersonations into a game of showbiz oneupmanship. The first in a series of comic travelogues that the duo did for the BBC and turned into feature-length free-for-all goofs, it’s a road movie that enjoys taking the piss out of male insecurities and showbiz narcissism almost as much as providing a showcase for its stars’ particular gifts. It’s the comedic My Dinner With Andre that you never knew you were waiting for. KL


‘Sorry to Bother You’

For years, Boots Riley blew minds as the leader of the political rap-funk group the Coup, dropping tracke wherein he decried racism, spat in the face of capitalism, and had some dark laughs about how fucked-up life can be. No surprise, then, that his feature debut as writer-director would be similarly brazen and hilarious, with LaKeith Stanfield playing a going-nowhere Bay Area dude who takes a job as a telemarketer. He then discovers that he can be a superstar salesman by affecting a dopey white-guy voice on his calls. Part enraged commentary about racial inequality, part Charlie Kaufman-y trip into the surreal, this freewheeling satire gathers a brilliant ensemble — including Tessa Thompson, Danny Glover and Steven Yeun — who are all on Riley’s warped wavelength. But don’t let the title fool you: Riley and his coconspirators very much want to bother you, provocatively challenging our allegiance to corporations and the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Few films in recent years possess the chaotic energy and righteous anger of a street protest, but it’s also WTF hysterical: It says something about this shocking comedy that now-disgraced star Armie Hammer’s cameo as a whacked-out CEO is far from the movie’s strangest sight.—T.G.


‘The LEGO Movie’

Forget theSolo debacle: No two filmmakers are better at skewering the whiz-bang sugar rush of blockbuster cinema than Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The geniuses behind the Jump Street films transformed what could have been a toy ad into a subversive, thrilling action-comedy that celebrated the power of make-believe while mocking the conformity of corporate culture. Chris Pratt voiced the sweet, enthusiastic Emmet, who learns that he’s “the one” who alone can save the universe – a clichéd movie trope that, like many other tentpole tenets, Lord and Miller have a ball spoofing. Equally hilarious and heartfelt, The Lego Movie is a tsunami of sight gags, pop-culture ribbing and killer zingers. It imagines a universe where Superman desperately wants to get away from the super-needy Green Lantern; where the love interest goes by Wyldstyle but really doesn’t want you thinking she’s a DJ; and where Batman is the biggest douche on the block. Everything is awesome!TG


‘Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’

Was Sacha Baron Cohen exploiting his unsuspecting marks – be they big city feminists, bigoted rodeo audiences, psycho gun merchants, unsuspecting news anchors or craven politicians – by pretending to be a dimwitted, bigoted Kazakh journalist on a journey through America? Was he being unfair to the people of Kazakhstan? Is it against the law to take a dump in front of Trump Tower? Should people refrain from ever saying “my wife” in that accent? All of these things may be true, and yet Borat has lost none of its punch as a laugh machine, in part because the humor often come from deeply uncomfortable places. Indeed, it sometimes feels like the film both captured and embodied something rotten in the American soul at a critical point. Yes, this movie becomes harder to watch as the years pass by. And yet, somehow, it also becomes funnier. BE


‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

Wes Anderson drops his patented doll-house stylistics and deep-cut quirk into Mitteleuropa on the eve of World War II, as various folks pass through a lavish luxury hotel run by one Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) – a buffoonish dandy, “ruthless adventurer and a con artist, who prays on feeble-minded, sick old ladies” and realizes, too late, that his worldview is on a collision course with history. There’s the usual stable of Anderson rep company players (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton), a mentor/student relationship involving a bellboy named Moustafa (Tony Revolori) and absurd side plots involving invaluable paintings and prison breaks. But what really makes this comedy work is the Fiennes madness at its center; done in between Voldemort duties and other villainous roles, his living relic of a bygone age is one of the greatest comic creations of recent years, elevating themovie beyond the meticulous charm the filmmaker naturally delivers. “I go to bed with all of my friends.” EZ