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Everybody needs a laugh now and then, and Amazon Prime has a rotating selection of high-quality comedies for those times you need to escape the troubles of the real world and decompress with humor. From classics of the genre to Amazon originals to films that were just in theaters recently, there’s a bit of everything on this list. Hopefully a few of them will hit your funny bone in just the right way.
Movies don’t get much better than Billy Wilder’s pitch-black comedy that was so beloved it actually won the Oscar for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay. This masterpiece stars Jack Lemmon as a low-level employee who lets his superiors at work use his apartment for their extramarital affairs. When he falls for the mistress of his boss, played wonderfully by Shirley MacLaine, things get complicated.
The Big Sick
It’s not common for a breakthrough comedy to be so acclaimed and popular that it actually becomes an Oscar nominee for Best Screenplay, but The Big Sick is not a typical comedy (and Holly Hunter was robbed of a nomination too, by the way). Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon loosely adapt their own story, with Nanjiani starring alongside Zoe Kazan. It’s really as crowd-pleasing as comedies get. You kind of have to be an asshole not to like it.
Mike Nichols’s remake of the beloved La Cage aux Folles is a joyous comedy about acceptance and love that still works well today (which is not something you can about a lot of mid-’90s comedies). Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are phenomenal as a gay couple forced to jump through hoops for their son’s new in-laws, played wonderfully by Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest. It’s funny and smart from front to back.
This 1985 comedy based on the beloved board game made hardly any money or cultural impact when it was released — it didn’t even make back its budget — but it has become such a cult hit over the years, quoted endlessly by Gen-Xers. The main reason is the cast, featuring a wonderful array of talents like Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren.
The Disaster Artist
Few truly awful films have gotten the same amount of attention as Tommy Wiseau’s absolutely horrendous The Room. Just look at this star-packed ensemble comedy that’s about the brotherhood of artistry that created this disaster, and the cult of people who now love The Room in ways that its creator could never have possibly envisioned. You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!
Bo Burnham’s feature film debut won him multiple awards last year and it’s already on Amazon Prime for you to see what all the fuss is about. Elsie Fisher gives a breakthrough performance as a young lady who makes YouTube videos that pretty much only she sees and struggles her way through the most socially awkward years of existence. Smart, moving, and incredibly clever, this is a great comedy that rings of enough truth that it hurts.
Fighting With My Family
Florence Pugh had one of the best years for a young actress in movie history in 2019, anchored mostly by her Oscar-nominated work in Little Women and critical acclaim for Midsommar. However, this was actually the prologue, a fun little comedy based on the true story of an amateur wrestler’s rise to fame. Pugh is charming and believable, and watching this now just reveals her already remarkable range.
Terry Zwigoff adapted Daniel Clowes’s hit graphic novel into this critical darling, a wonderful movie about connections that form between outsiders. Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Buscemi star in a comedy that was so well-received it got an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s a smart movie that looks cynical on the surface but secretly has a big heart.
Harold and Maude
Hal Ashby’s 1971 black comedy about the strange friendship that forms between a young man and an old woman became a beloved movie after its release, playing on college campuses and in art-house theaters before really breaking out on VHS. It’s amazing to consider how a movie that was basically ignored when it was released would be on most lists of the best comedies of all time just a generation later.
Christian Slater kinda does a Jack Nicholson impression and Winona Ryder is at the peak of her ’80s emo-charm in this clever satire of high-school life. Ryder plays the high-school outcast, and Slater plays the guy who teaches revenge is a dish best served with an attitude.
His Girl Friday
Look, a really old movie! The fact is that there aren’t many true classics on any streaming service, and when you get a chance to watch a movie with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell from before World War II, you should take it. This is one of the most delightful and influential comedies ever made, a Howard Hawks masterpiece about a reporter doing one last story with his ex-wife and (maybe) winning her back in the process.
Andy Samberg’s first time headlining a comedy didn’t make much money or get much attention when it was released, but as Lonely Island grew in fame so did this film’s rep. Samberg stars as a stuntman who tries to raise money to save the life of his irascible father, played by Ian McShane, and maybe even win his love too. It’s a goofy, funny film that has held up remarkably well.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Stanley Kramer’s 1963 comedy is one of the most popular ensemble laughfests of all time, a film that gathered as many famous people as it possibly could and then sent them bouncing off each other and across the planet. It’s a defiantly silly snapshot of what humor was like more than a half-century ago with legends like Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, and so, so many more.
Believe it or not, they’re currently making a fourth Jackass film that will be release in March of next year. Go back to the last film with Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, and the rest of the dangerous idiots, a massive and nauseating hit when it was released back in the fall of 2010. These movies are often derided as being dumb, but they’re a glorious, infectious kind of dumb that wants nothing more than to make you laugh.
Jeff Who Lives at Home
Jay and Mark Duplass, known more for their acting and producing, actually directed this quirky comedy starring Jason Segel and Ed Helms as very different brothers. Segel plays Jeff, who kind of just goes wherever the day takes him, while Helms plays Pat, a businessman with a marriage that’s falling apart. It’s an unassuming, gentle little comedy about characters having one of the more unusual days of their lives.
Greta Gerwig’s Oscar nominee is one of the most personal and striking coming-of-age films in years. Saoirse Ronan stars as the titular character, a young Californian who longs for someplace cooler than her own hometown. It’s a heartfelt and very smart film, buoyed by great performances throughout, including Ronan, Tracy Letts, Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, and Laurie Metcalf, who was robbed of that Oscar.
Steven Soderbergh came back from a semi-retirement with this 2017 heist comedy with a remarkably wonderful cast. It’s led by Channing Tatum, but this movie also features simply great performances from Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, and Adam Driver. It’s a fun, smart movie that’s actually made for adults, which means almost everyone ignored it in theaters. Make up for that oversight now.
It’s fun to see a movie that catches a star at just the right moment in his or her career. A great example of that is 1987’s Moonstruck, which contains Cher’s best performance, an acting turn that won the famous singer an Oscar. She stars as an Italian-American who faces a small problem when she falls for the brother of her fiancé, played by an also perfectly cast Nicolas Cage.
The Nutty Professor
No, sorry, not the Eddie Murphy remake with the fat suits, but the Jerry Lewis original from all the way back in 1963. This is one of Jerry’s best, a movie that really highlights his comic timing and fearlessness in terms of doing whatever it takes to get a laugh. Lewis is often imitated without being fully appreciated.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Could this be John Hughes’s best movie? It’s certainly one of them, a consistently clever and funny road movie with two of the best performances in the careers of John Candy and Steve Martin. The Odd Couple dynamic is perfect, and it ends on a sweet note about not judging a book by its cover. And if you cover their ears during one particularly famous scene, it’s good for the whole family.
There are still some people who probably wrote off this excellent comedy because they see Howard Stern as some villain of decency. Sure, it plays more for those who know their Baba Booey from their Stuttering John, but it’s a movie that honestly can work for anyone, a laugh-out-loud biopic about Howard’s rise to fame with a great performance from Paul Giamatti as the villainous man referred to as “Pig Vomit.”
William Wyler directed this swooning classic rom-com starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in two of their most defining roles. Hepburn plays a princess who goes out on her own Rome and runs into a reporter played by Peck. Not only do they have stunning chemistry against a gorgeous backdrop, but Hepburn was so charismatic here that she won the Oscar for Best Actress.
The Skeleton Twins
Craig Johnson directed this dramedy about fraternal twins played wonderfully by Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig that won the Screenwriting Award at Sundance in 2014. Hader plays Milo, a suicidal young man — yes, it’s mostly a comedy — who goes to live with his sister after an attempt. Wiig and Hader have wonderful chemistry as siblings, making their dynamic completely believable. It’s also got one of the best lip-sync scenes ever.
The script for this one is a little thin, but it’s a great example of the sheer ability of a perfect ensemble to make something fun. Just look at who’s in this silly behind-the-scenes look at a daytime soap opera — Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Cathy Moriarty, Teri Hatcher, Carrie Fisher, and Elisabeth Shue. It’s a good choice for when you’re looking for something goofy.
Some Like It Hot
One of the best comedies ever made. It’s as simple as that. When someone in your life is struggling to watch anything made before 1990, introduce them to this Billy Wilder classic, a movie that is so good that it works as a gateway drug to classic cinema. It may have been made in 1959, but the perfect performances by Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe, as well as Wilder’s masterful timing, mean that it’s just as funny as it was six decades ago.
Before they were really household names, Amy Adams and Emily Blunt played sisters in this delicate Sundance dramedy. Adams plays Rose, a house cleaner, and Blunt plays the sister that ends up having to work with her in a new field of cleaning up crime scenes. It’s a character-driven piece with great work from Adams, Blunt, Alan Arkin, and Steve Zahn.
Throw Momma From the Train
Danny DeVito directed this beloved riff on Strangers on a Train, and also stars as a schlub who has a problem in his awful mother, played unforgettably by Anne Ramsey. Billy Crystal plays the guy who agrees to perform the titular act of DeVito’s character will help similarly with his ex-wife.
Under the Silver Lake
A24 had no idea what to do with David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to It Follows, holding it for almost a year after its Cannes premiere and then barely releasing it at all. The lack of exposure may explain how it snuck its way on to Amazon Prime already, but this film is developing a loyal following. It’s one of those movies that everyone will tell you they always loved in about a decade.
Up in the Air
One of the best midlife-crisis comedies of the modern era, this Oscar winner stars George Clooney as a man who has spent more time on airplanes than he has with his family. Clooney’s Ryan Bingham is a full-time “downsizer,” someone who essentially ruins lives everywhere he goes. Clooney does some of his best work here, matched by Vera Farmiga and a breakthrough performance from Anna Kendrick — all three were nominated for Oscars.
Wayne’s World 2
Seen as something of a bomb when it was released because it made a fraction of the original, this 1993 sequel has grown a loyal cult following over the years. It’s a wonderfully silly movie as Mike Myers and Dana Carvey lean into the more ridiculous aspects of their characters even more than the first movie. It’s just really hard not to love Wayne and Garth.