This post is updated frequently as movies leave and enter Netflix. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
As the world continues to fall apart, don’t you just want to something to make you laugh? Netflix is becoming the country’s biggest source for a laughter after a long week at work, but it can be hard to find exactly what you’re in the mood for when you log on to the service. So we’re here to help. (And for more public service announcements, check out our regularly updated lists of the 100 Best Movies on Netflix and the 50 Best TV Series on Netflix.)
The romantic comedy genre has been in a dire state for many years now, but Hollywood occasionally produces a clever twist on the stale formula. Take this Richard Curtis (Yesterday) movie that features Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams at their most charming. Gleeson plays a man who can travel back in time, and uses that ability to alter his romantic future, learning that it’s better to accept life one day at a time with all of its imperfections.
*Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
The movie that made Jim Carrey a superstar is over 25 years old already, but its star’s fearless physical comedy style doesn’t really age. Carrey plays the title character, who gets caught up in a case involving the kidnapping of the Miami Dolphins mascot. It’s just an excuse for Carrey to act as goofy as possible. He would do anything to get a laugh.
Yes, it’s super-weird that Netflix didn’t add this great Aardman family film before Christmas, but if you’re in the mood for that holiday spirit outside of the Peppermint Mocha window, this is one of your best options. It’s a sweet, clever film about how the son of Father Christmas saves the day for one kid and recaptures the entire spirit of the holiday. We don’t talk enough about how great Aardman, the team behind Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, are every single time out. Aardman rules.
As Good As It Gets
Believe it or not, this is the last movie to win both the Oscar for Best Actor (Jack Nicholson) and Best Actress (Helen Hunt). James L. Brooks’ romantic comedy is a perfect example of a movie that caught its cast at just the right moment, getting one of the last Nicholson performances that could be called charming and supporting it with great work from Hunt and Greg Kinnear. Some of it is a bit dated, but it catches just enough lightning in a bottle in terms of casting to justify another look.
The Austin Powers Trilogy
Mike Myers never could have imagined that his goofy superspy parody would launch a franchise, but all three films about the inimitable Austin Powers are on Netflix, just waiting for a rainy-day marathon. The reason these movies work is Myers’ complete fearlessness — he’ll do anything to make you laugh.
*The Back to the Future Trilogy
Robert Zemeckis directed all three movies in one of the most beloved trilogies of all time. The story of a teen who goes back in time turned Michael J. Fox into a household name and still serves as the template for how to do this kind of family/sci-fi adventure. The two sequels may not be as good but they’re better than you remember.
Between Two Ferns: The Movie
Scott Aukerman directs a Netflix Original movie version of his own web series starring the king of awkward interviews, Zach Galifianakis. Believe it or not, they did find a way to string together the hysterical shorts into a movie with a story, although the highlights are still the mean questions asked to people like Benedict Cumberbatch, Will Ferrell, Gal Gadot, Tiffany Haddish, Jon Hamm, Matthew McConaughey, and many more.
Can’t Hardly Wait
This 1998 teen comedy became something of a cult hit in the early days of DVD thanks in large part to its talented young cast, including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Lauren Ambrose, Seth Green, and more. Sure, it’s just another teen party comedy, but there’s a sweetness to it that’s infectious and, as ancient as this may make you feel, nostalgic now that it’s over two decades old.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Another family movie! This adaptation of the famous kids’ book by Judi and Ron Barrett completely expands on the world of its source material to tell the story of an inventor (voiced wonderfully by Bill Hader) who unleashes a storm of food. The character design here is clever and the script is very smart, written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who went from this to make a little flick called The LEGO Movie and produce Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. They know a thing or two about great cartoons.
*The Death of Stalin
Armando Iannucci, the creator of Veep and The Thick of It, co-wrote and directed this viciously dark satire about the power struggle that emerged in the wake of the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. More nervously unsettling than laugh-out-loud funny, Iannucci’s style works well for his incredible cast, including Steve Buscemi, Paddy Considine, Jason Isaacs, Rupert Friend, Michael Palin, and Andrea Riseborough.
Dolemite is My Name
Eddie Murphy is back! It’s been a long time since we saw this version of Eddie, who reminds us how funny and charismatic he can be with the right part. That part is the flashy personality that was Rudy Ray Moore, a washed-up musician who transformed himself into the character of Dolemite. Like The Disaster Artist and Ed Wood, this is an ode to DIY filmmaking with not just a great performance from Murphy, but Wesley Snipes and Keegan Michael Key too.
The Edge of Seventeen
Great comedies about those harrowing days of late teenage life, especially from a female perspective, are few and far between. So it’s a shame that more people didn’t see this one with Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, and Woody Harrelson. It’s truthful, hysterical, and anchored in reality in a way that most of the movies don’t even try to be.
Greta Gerwig got a lot of deserved attention for Lady Bird but it wasn’t her first semi-biographical screenplay, and maybe wasn’t even her best. She co-wrote this quarter-life crisis comedy with director Noah Baumbach, in which she stars 27-year-old New Yorker Frances Halladay. It’s one of those films that doesn’t have much of a plot but works because of the genuine, empathetic way it approaches its leading lady, a character who feels both incredibly specific and yet universally relatable at the same time.
Get Him to the Greek
Remember when Russell Brand was a star? Riding the fame from his supporting role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he headlined this spin-off as Aldous Snow, an obnoxious rock star who takes a talent scout played by Jonah Hill along for the ride of his personal meltdown. Brand and Hill are funny, and you may have forgotten that Rose Byrne and Elisabeth Moss pop up in funny supporting roles too.
Michael Dowse’s 2011 hockey comedy is a great sports movie about finding your ideal role in life. It made hardly anything in theaters but found an audience at home (so much so that they’ve already made an inferior sequel). Seann William Scott stars as Doug Glatt, a sweet but kinda dumb guy who becomes the tough guy on a hockey team. You know, the one who starts and finishes most of the fights. It’s funny and surprisingly sweet with Scott’s career-best work.
Relive one of the best comedies of all time over and over again on Netflix. Believe it or not, this 1993 Bill Murray vehicle wasn’t that rapturously received critically or commercially when it came out, but it’s become a beloved genre classic. Murray stars as a weatherman forced to relive the same day over and over again until he gets it right. It’s not just the clever premise but how much co-writer/director Harold Ramis and Murray inject humanism and truth into it. And it’s held up so much better than most early ‘90s comedies.
The Coen brothers wrote and directed this divisive 2016 comedy about the film industry in the 1950s. Forget Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood and stick with this razor sharp gem with a great Coen ensemble that includes Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, and many more.
Long before Popstar and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Andy Samberg starred in his first Lonely Island project and first major film after Saturday Night Live. Relatively ignored and critically derided at the time, Hot Rod has developed a loyal cult following over the years. It’s easy to see the Lonely Island comedy voice developing in this story of a goofy stuntman trying to perform the biggest stunt of his career to save the life of his irascible father.
The Incredible Jessica James
There are not a lot of great Netflix Original comedies (sorry, Adam Sandler fans) as the company has focused more on sci-fi and drama in its first few years of nonstop production. One of the exceptions is this Sundance hit, a great vehicle for Jessica Williams. The former Daily Show correspondent stars as the title character, someone trying to find happiness and love. She’s charming and delightful in a movie that not enough people have seen.
One of Cameron Crowe’s best films became something of a punchline with its heavily quoted lines (“Show me the money,” “You had me at hello,” everything that cute kid says) but it’s actually a wonderful romantic comedy that has held up incredibly well in the quarter-century since its release. Tom Cruise plays the title character, a sports agent who is pushed into starting his own agency while he falls in love with a single mother, played by Renee Zellweger. It’s sweet, smart, and funny.
Julie & Julia
Meryl Streep landed an Oscar nomination for this Nora Ephron adaptation of two stories: the legendary Julia Child and a New Yorker named Julie Powell who tried to cook all 524 recipes of the famous chef. The movie is a little slight, but the performances are great, including Streep, Amy Adams, and Stanley Tucci. It’s also a movie with a nice message about getting outside your comfort zone and a reminder of how influential Julia Child was on the home chef market for generations.
Long before he was Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds was a fat kid named Chris Brander. Ignoring the arguably offensive fat jokes, this is an underrated laugher about a guy who is stuck in the friend zone with his best friend (played by Amy Smart) but gets a chance to make his dreams come true a decade later. It’s far from perfect but features very likable performances from Reynolds, Smart, and Anna Faris.
Kung Fu Hustle
You have likely never seen a movie quite like this 2004 martial arts comedy, Stephen Chow’s masterpiece. Set in 1940s China, this worldwide hit features some of the best stunt work you can find on Netflix, all in service of a movie that often plays like a live-action cartoon. It’s ridiculous and unforgettable.
The Land of Steady Habits
Nicole Holofcener is one of the most underappreciated writer-directors alive, even if she did just earn an Oscar nod for co-writing Can You Ever Forgive Me? You simply have to see Enough Said, Lovely and Amazing, and Please Give. Her latest stars Ben Mendelsohn as a man deep in a mid-life crisis that comes from the realization that he’s not as important as he thought that he was his whole life. It’s not as good as some of her best work, but minor Holofcener is still worth a look.
The Little Hours
There’s a movie on Netflix that features Aubrey Plaza as a profanity-spewing nun and you haven’t watched it yet? Jeff Baena’s Sundance hit also stars Alison Brie, Dave Franco, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, and Fred Armisen in a ridiculous, raunchy retelling of The Decameron. It’s reminiscent of classic Mel Brooks in the way it skewers classical storytelling structures with modern comic sensibilities.
Comedy doesn’t get much darker than this 2015 offering from the 2019 Oscar-nominated Yorgos Lanthimos. The Greek director co-wrote and directs 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.
It’s hard to say that you’ll laugh out loud at this look at marital dysfunction, but Azazel Jacobs indie critical darling has enough black humor to qualify. The wonderful Tracy Letts and Debra Winger star as an estranged, middle-age couple who are both having relatively open affairs. As their lovers insist that they end the marriage, the couple is surprised to fall back in love with each other.
*The Money Pit
Tom Hanks and Shelley Long star in this 1986 hit about a couple who end up with a disastrous home and try to renovate it with hysterical results. A whole generation of ‘80s kids love this movie, which has a nice blend of physical comedy for the little ones and the kind of nightmarish situation to which their parents can relate.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
There’s a bunch of Monty Python specials and movies on Netflix, but this remains arguably the career peak of one of the most beloved comedy troupes of all time. A parody of tales like those of the Knights of the Round Table, Holy Grail is one of the most heavily quoted movies of all time, a comedy that feels like it’s playing in some theater somewhere in the world, probably at midnight, every single day. Its popularity simply never recedes.
Monty Python and the Life of Brian
Holy Grail may be laugh-out-loud funnier, but it’s arguable that Life of Brian is actually smarter. Monty Python’s most controversial movie stars Graham Chapman as Brian Cohen, the neighbor of Jesus Christ. It’s an incredibly smart film that caused quite an uproar when it was released due to accusations of blasphemy. Modern comedy could use a little more blasphemy every now and then.
Not every movie on a list like this should be a smash hit, so we’re digging a little deeper for this South by Southwest hit starring the delightful Noël Wells of Master of None and Saturday Night Live. She also wrote and directed this story of a young lady returning to her hometown and dealing with some unresolved issues regarding her ex-boyfriend, now with a new partner. Wells is charming and funny.
Jared Hess and Jack Black’s goofy senses of humor meshed well in this 2006 comedy hit. Black plays a cook at a Oaxacan monastery who unexpectedly becomes a famous luchador, but that’s just the skeleton of a plot on which to hang physical humor and silly behavior. It’s the kind of comedy that’s easy to put on in the background while you’re doing other things. Sometimes that’s all you want from Netflix.
The Naked Gun
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 1988 release that it turned Leslie Nielsen into a massive star and produced two sequels. The first film is still a 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. The second film is also on Netflix (but not the third.)
*Observe and Report
The timing may not seem right for a movie about violent cops, but Jody Hill’s pitch-black comedy gets at something about corrupt power and the kind of personality drawn to the force, and people seem more drawn to it than ever during Summer 2020 for that reason. It’s vicious and hysterical.
Jenny Slate should be a household name. She’s always charming, has great comic timing, and seems to find new dramatic registers with each outing. This remains her best overall film and performance, the story of a stand-up comedian who has to deal with a few of life’s unexpected curveballs. Shorthanded as “the abortion comedy,” there’s more to Obvious Child than just that brief description allows. It’s smart and genuinely likable — things that aren’t often said about what could be called a rom-com.
The Other Guys
Is this Will Ferrell’s last great comedy? Capping off a decade that included Anchorman, Old School, Step Brothers, and Talladega Nights, the SNL alum co-stars with Mark Wahlberg as two cops forced to step into the spotlight after the hysterical death of the two most popular officers on the force. Ferrell and Wahlberg are great in one of Adam McKay’s funnier comedies. He should reunite with his best leading man and make another one.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky adapted his own book into this tender and moving coming-of-age comedy starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller. It’s a remarkably smart film when it comes to teen issues that are rarely reflected accurately like depression and anxiety. And Chbosky directs his ensemble to beautiful, nuanced performances.
Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls got a lot of buzz last year, even winning some awards for its great central performance from Regina Hall. If you liked it, check out Bujalski’s last film, another movie about a very unique working environment. Cobie Smulders, Guy Pearce, and Kevin Corrigan star in this quirky rom-com set in the high-pressure world of personal trainers.
The team behind this 2000 comedy knew that movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer were so incredibly popular that people would turn out in droves for a parody of them. In fact, this movie made more than both, launching an entire franchise of Airplane-esque mockeries of popular horror films. It’s more than just a comedy, it’s a snapshot of a fascinating movement in pop culture.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Michael Cera stars in Edgar Wright’s vibrant adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel, a movie that feels like it could come out exactly the same way today, almost a decade after its release. Wright’s style is perfect for this material, capturing the tone and structure of the source material with his razor-sharp editing and wit.
Sleeping With Other People
If you love Russian Doll (and really who doesn’t) then you should dig into the history of its creator, Leslye Headland. She wrote and directed this clever 2015 comedy starring Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Jason Mantzoukas, and, of course, Natasha Lyonne.
Set It Up
When Set It Up hit Netflix in the Summer of 2018, it felt like a splash of cold water for one reason: the rom-com is in a dire state. They barely get released in theaters at all any more, and they’re typically awful when they do. So to see an old-fashioned, charming romantic comedy felt like something new again. It also helps that Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell have future stars written all over them. They’re charming and delightful — two things we wish we could say about more rom-coms in the past decade.
Swiss Army Man
There are a lot of movies on Netflix. There are not a lot of movies like this Sundance hit. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse. The former Boy Who Lived stars with Paul Dano in a film that can’t really be captured in a tiny list entry. Just watch it and report back.
It may not be accepted in 2020, but Sydney Pollack’s comedy about a man who dresses as a woman to finally make it in his career was a blockbuster hit when it was released almost four decades ago. Watch it now for the incredible comic timing of Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, and Bill Murray, among others. It’s one of those ‘80s comedies that really shattered all expectations, making over $175 million (in 1982 movie) and even winning an Oscar for Lange. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards! That just doesn’t happen for comedies anymore.
If a studio had released this delightful romantic dramedy in theaters, even just in major cities, people would have noticed. It’s smart, funny, and contains a pair of wonderful young performances. It’s the story of Danny (Callum Turner) and Ellie (Grace Van Patten), two struggling New Yorkers drawn together over a mysterious briefcase.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
This horror/comedy made hardly an impact when it was released in 2010 but has become a true cult hit in the decade since on DVD and streaming services. The main reason is that Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk have perfect comic timing as a pair of lovable hillbillies who get caught up in a crazy horror movie situation that leads to a lot of laughs and buckets of blood. Now give us a sequel!
*Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
After John C. Reilly’s pitch perfect spoof of the rock biopic, one would think that the tropes skewered in this laugh-out-loud comedy would go away but watching this now after the success of films like Bohemian Rhapsody makes its genius seem even sharper.
While We’re Young
Look, another Noah Baumbach movie! When Netflix launches movies by auteurs, they often include a lot of their older films in the catalogue, and so the inclusion of The Meyerowitz Stories means a lot of old Baumbach. This 2014 comedy may not be his deepest work, but it’s one of his funniest, with likable, perfectly tuned performances from Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, and Adam Driver.
*Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Both versions of the Roald Dahl classic are on Netflix but take Gene Wilder over Johnny Depp every time. This movie is a beloved classic for a reason, carried effortlessly by Wilder’s charm and the Dahl’s unforgettable story. Everyone has seen this at some point in their life. It’s a rite of passage in childhood for a reason.
Jason Reitman directs the always-great Charlize Theron in this 2011 dark comedy about a writer of young adult novels who returns to her hometown to wreak havoc. The movie is a bit inconsistent at times but Theron (and Patton Oswalt) is simply great, especially in the way she allows her character to be genuinely unlikable. It’s a smart movie about someone who thinks she’s superior to those around her and learns maybe she’s not.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Sometimes it’s fun to watch what could be a mediocre movie get totally carried by the charms of its two stars. That’s the case here. Is this a great comedy? Not really, but Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks are so delightful and fun to watch that you just don’t care.