This article is updated frequently as titles leave and enter Max. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
Who doesn’t need a laugh these days? Max (formerly HBO Max) has one of the richest and deepest catalogs of any of the streaming services, and so it naturally has the comedy you’re looking for tonight. From classic comedies starring iconic performers to movies that played in theaters recently, this rotating list of laugh generators should have something for everyone.
Runtime: 1h 53m
Director: Martin McDonagh
One of the best films of 2022, and a surefire upcoming Oscar contender, this dark comedy is already out of theaters and onto the streaming giant for subscribers. Colin Farrell does career-best work as a hapless Irishman who discovers that his best friend, played by Brendan Gleeson, doesn’t want to talk to him anymore. A film about how neighbors become enemies feels particularly timely in the currently fractured world, and this one is brilliant, funny, and moving.
Runtime: 1h 43m
Director: Tim Story
It’s been over two decades since the release of this comedy hit that made several times its modest budget, leading to multiple sequels (which are also on Max). The appeal was the feeling that audiences were being transported to an actual barbershop, a community hub where friends could assemble and work through their lives together. It made stars of Michael Ealy and Eve, and boosted the acting careers of Anthony Anderson, Ice Cube, and Cedric the Entertainer.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Runtime: 1h 30m
Director: Stephen Herek
It’s really hard to dislike this charming time travel comedy about two underachieving buddies who travel through time for a school project. Keanu Reeves (Ted) and Alex Winter (Bill) are so wonderfully sweet and funny in a film that has held up better than most comedies of its era. Note: The also-excellent follow-up Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey is also on Max.
Runtime: 1h 55m
Director: Greta Gerwig
One of the biggest films of 2023 has already landed on Max in the form or Greta Gerwig’s daring blockbuster, a comedy that works both as a reminder of the power imagination and the fight for equality. Anyone who thinks this movie is anti-male isn’t paying any attention. The theme of the movie is that no one — not even Barbie nor Ken — should be defined by traditional roles. We should all be free to play however we want. It’s a wonderful film that will truly stand the test of time.
Runtime: 1h 35m
Director: Stanley Kubrick
The large fan base of Stanley Kubrick often mentions dark pieces of work like 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining, but one of his best and most influential films is a comedy about the end of the world. Satirizing the Cold War this aggressively way back in 1964, Kubrick rewrote the textbook for political comedy and presented viewers with an instant classic that was both hysterical and terrifying.
Runtime: 1h 43m
Director: Alexander Payne
What a great movie. The writer/director of Nebraska and The Descendants adapted Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name and produced arguably his best film to date. Reese Witherspoon is amazing as Tracy Flick, an overachieving student who really aggravates a high school teacher named Jim McAllister, played by Matthew Broderick. So much so that he sabotages her run for student government president in a film that understands the intersection of the political and the personal in ways that movies actually set in D.C. rarely do.
Runtime: 1h 38m
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Joel and Ethan Coen’s masterpiece is only one of the best films ever made, a story of violence and redemption in the great American North. The Coens won Best Original Screenplay and Frances McDormand took her first Oscar home for playing the unforgettable Marge Gunderson, a Minnesotan cop who gets entangled in a car salesman’s deeply inept foray into the criminal world.
Runtime: 1h 45m
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Look at me. Barry Sonnenfeld directed one of the best adaptations of an Elmore Leonard novel and anchored it with one of John Travolta’s best performances. Everyone remembers the comeback with Pulp Fiction, but Get Shorty really allows Travolta’s incredible ‘90s charisma to shine. It’s a perfectly calibrated comedy with phenomenal performances all around, including Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, and Gene Hackman too.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Who could have ever guessed that the true(-ish) story of Tonya Harding would become an Oscar-winning dramedy? Margot Robbie does some of the best work of her career as the title character, who reclaims her own story through this odd, funny, and ultimately moving character study that won Allison Janney an Academy Award.
Runtime: 1h 36m
Director: Robert Luketic
Long before she won an Oscar or worked magic with The Morning Show, Reese Witherspoon turned a ditzy blonde into a comedy star in this 2001 romantic comedy from director Robert Luketic. It could be stretching it to call this silly fluff “great” but what elevates the saga of Elle Woods from sorority queen to legal eagle is the total charm and commitment of Witherspoon herself. It’s one of her most likable and memorable performances.
Runtime: 1h 58m
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Comedy doesn’t get much darker than this offering from the 2019 Oscar-nominated Yorgos Lanthimos. The Greek director co-wrote and directed the story of a place where single people go to hook up with others looking for love. The catch? If they don’t find a partner within 45 days, they are turned into animals. As dry and deadpan as comedy gets, there are still some very funny beats in Lanthimos’s exaggerated look at the folly of human connection.
The Naked Gun
Runtime: 1h 25m
Director: David Zucker
No one ever could have guessed that the unsuccessful TV series Police Squad! would turn into the wildly successful film series The Naked Gun, which was such a hit on its release that it turned Leslie Nielsen into a massive star and produced two sequels. The first film is still the best, a gloriously ridiculous spoof of cop shows/films in which Nielsen’s Frank Drebin stumbles upon a plot to kill Queen Elizabeth II that involves Reggie Jackson. It’s too bad they don’t make movies this gloriously stupid (in a good way) as often as they did in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Runtime: 1h 29m
Director: Mike Judge
It barely made a dime when it was released ($12.2 million total) but Mike Judge’s workplace comedy developed a cult following on VHS almost immediately upon its release. Ron Livingston stars in a satire of life in cubicles in the 1990s. Set at a software company and a horrible chain restaurant, the film captured something about the surreal daily drudgery of work life at the turn of the century that changed this kind of comedy forever.
Runtime: 2h 4m
Director: Robert Altman
After a rough patch in the ‘80s, Robert Altman came roaring back with his scathing Hollywood satire written by Michael Tolkin. Tim Robbins does his best film work as a studio executive who can’t decide if his biggest problem is at work or the writer sending him death threats. Altman’s skill with improvisational comedy and knowledge of the Hollywood machine blend to make a simply perfect movie, one of the best of the ‘90s.
Singin’ in the Rain
Runtime: 1h 43m
Director: Stanley Donen
Movies don’t get more delightful than this beloved classic about backstage drama on the advent of the talkie. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor are as charming as charming can be, and the movie contains some of the best choreography of its era, and not just in the titular number. It’s joyous from front to back. Honestly, you have to be kind of a jerk not to like this movie.
The Skeleton Twins
Runtime: 1h 34m
Director: Craig Johnson
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.
Runtime: 1h 36m
Director: Michael Hoffman
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
Runtime: 2h 1m
Director: Billy Wilder
Some Like It Hot is 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 2000, 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.
*Up in the Air
Runtime: 1h 50m
Director: Jason Reitman
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.
Runtime: 1h 59m
Director: David Dobkin
Hit comedies are often just about finding the right comedians at the right time in their career. That’s certainly the case with Wedding Crashers, which made a fortune (almost $300 million worldwide) just by creating the perfect vehicle for Owen Wilson’s shaggy dog charm and Vince Vaughn’s alpha-bro hilarity. The two star as guys who crash weddings and meet girls. The movie helped revive the R-rated comedy and became an instant hit that’s still quoted today.
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