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.
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.
Movies just don’t get much funnier than this 1980 classic from David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams. Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, and Leslie Nielsen star in a parody of the disaster flicks of the ‘70s, but Airplane! has far transcended its roots to become one of the most quotable and beloved comedies of all time.
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.
Audiences fell so in love with this look at barbershop culture in the Black community that they turned this low-budget film into a franchise with two sequels. Tim Story’s 2002 film is charming and funny, held together by a great cast that includes Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, and Anthony Anderson. One wonders what they’d be talking about at the barbershop in 2020. Maybe it’s time for another sequel?
Jake Kasdan’s 2011 comedy has found a loyal audience on Netflix, who have regularly returned it to the top ten offerings on the service. The kind of adult comedy that may never get released in theaters again, this is the story of a foul-mouthed middle school teacher who is very bad at her job. It reminds one how sad it is that Cameron Diaz has retired. She was hysterical with material worthy of her talents and often elevated films that weren’t.
Adam Sandler’s 1999 comedy was one of the biggest of his career, coming in the wake of The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy and really making the Sandman into one of the biggest stars in the world. In fact, this story of a slacker who ends up having to take care of an actual child is Sandler’s biggest non-animated hit at the box office, a reminder when his comedies landed in theaters instead of just on Netflix (and when they were much, much funnier too.)
One of Eddie Murphy’s most beloved roles came in this 1992 romantic comedy about an advertising executive who has difficulty staying with just one woman. Murphy meets a new female boss, played by Robin Givens, who is basically a female version of himself, and the tables are turned in this clever comedy that co-stars Halle Berry, David Alan Grier, Martin Lawrence, Eartha Kitt, and Chris Rock.
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.
Sorry, SNL fans, but most adaptations of characters from the most influential sketch comedy show of all time have ranged from awful to horrendous (with the exception of Wayne and Garth, of course). And yet there’s something almost charming about the 1993 update of the alien family that Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin played in the early days of the late-night hit. And it’s got a killer soundtrack!
In The Death of Stalin, Armando Iannucci’s acid dramatization of the days in October 1953 when the Soviet Union lost its paranoid-psychotic totalitarian leader of three decades, the characters’ accents are Cockney, Brit-twit, and Yank — no Russian is spoken — while tortures and mass murders are ordered in tones of crisp English understatement. It takes some time to adjust to the mix of silly, peevish bureaucrats and the serious atrocities they inflict. But that’s the beauty of the thing. Iannucci gets that grotesque horrors often emanate from egotists, clowns, and stumblebums, from small-minded people with vast and unchecked powers.
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.
Zack Galifianakis struck while the iron was hot after his breakthrough comedy turn in The Hangover movies and starred alongside Iron Man himself in another Todd Phillips vehicle. In what’s basically a loose riff on Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Robert Downey Jr. and Galifianakis star as mismatched travelers trying to get across the country so RDJ can be there for the birth of his child. It’s a bit forgettable but the two leads make it a worthwhile comedy distraction on Netflix.
One of the most delightful surprises of the dumpster fire that is Summer 2020 has been Eurovision Song Contest, an unexpectedly sweet and clever flick and Will Ferrell’s best comedy in a decade. The Anchorman star plays half of an Icelandic duo who stumble their way through the Eurovision singing contest, but the movie really belongs to Rachel McAdams, who gives a performance that joyfully reminds everyone that she has absolutely perfect comic timing.
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.
*Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Before he made Hemsworth your favorite Chris in Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi wrote and directed this adaptation of Barry Crump’s Wild Pork and Watercress. Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) has a new foster family, including a sweet foster mother. Sadly, he’s stuck with the surly husband when his new mom passes away, leading Ricky and Hec (Sam Neill) on an unforgettable adventure. Funny and truly heartwarming, this is a comedy that’s almost impossible to dislike.
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.
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.
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.
Greta Gerwig’s Oscar nominee is one of the most personal and striking coming-of-age films of the 2010s. Saoirse Ronan stars as 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, Timothee Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, and Laurie Metcalf, who was robbed of that Oscar.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are nowhere near enough rom-coms on Netflix, and a lot of subscribers have recently re-fallen in love with Rachel McAdams via Eurovision, so why not check out a 2010 old-fashioned flick that features the charismatic star? Directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill), this is the story of a TV producer who tries to fix a broken morning news show. It’s not earth-shaking, but everyone is very likable, and that may be all you need in 2020.
Pair this up with Uncut Gems for a little bit of Sandler whiplash. Years before his most acclaimed role, Sandler was the biggest comedy box office star in the world, as evidenced by his remake of Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, the story of an average guy who becomes an unexpected billionaire. It’s all an excuse for Sandler’s trademark man-child humor, but its got a big heart in some of the right places and certainly outshines some of the recent Happy Madison Netflix Originals.
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.
Most of Muppet Culture has found its way to Disney+, but the modern takes from the ‘10s — this one and Muppets Most Wanted — have escaped onto Netflix for some reason. The 2011 musical by James Bobin is easily one of the best Muppets movies ever and one of the better family films all around of its era. It’s funny, smart, and really understands why people still love Kermit, Ms. Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and the rest of the gang.
*My Best Friend’s Wedding
Julia Roberts might never have been more charming than she is in this 1997 comedy about a young woman who made a pact in college to marry her best friend, played by Dermot Mulroney. Not until her buddy gets engaged to someone else (the wonderful Cameron Diaz) does she realize she really loves him. A great blend of physical humor and memorable characters makes this one of the best rom-coms of the ‘90s. They really don’t make them like this anymore.
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.
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.)
For some reason, the Steven Soderbergh remake of the classic heist film, Ocean’s Eleven, is not on Netflix, but its two very different sequels are. The meta approach of Ocean’s Twelve earned the film something of a loyal following on Film Twitter, whereas the looser, more mainstream final film in the trilogy was underrated then and now. Both are worth a look when you feel like hanging out with some cool, beautiful people.
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.
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.
David Gordon Green directed Seth Rogen and James Franco to two of the best performances of their career in this film about an average guy and his dealer who find themselves in criminal crosshairs after they witness a murder. More than just an average stoner comedy, Green imbues the film with a wonderful action movie pace too, recalling buddy flicks of the ‘80s while still feeling fresh at the same time.
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.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Colin Trevorrow directed this oddly likable hybrid, a winner of a Screenwriting Award at Sundance back in 2012. Inspired by an actual classified ad that someone spotted in 1997, it’s the story of someone seeking a partner to go back in time with him. Of course, safety is not guaranteed. Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, and Jake Johnson are charming in a film that’s really gained a following over the years for a reason.
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.
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.
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.
Sleepless in Seattle
We could all use a little romance every now and then, and it doesn’t get much sweeter than this 1993 blockbuster that made Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan one of the most beloved movie couples of all time. Nora Ephron directs this story of a widower who moves to Seattle and tries to raise his 8-year-old son, and the Baltimore woman who hears his tragic tale and falls in love. They don’t make many films like this one anymore.
Mel Brooks’ last great parody is this hysterical spoof of the world of Star Wars, filtered in a comedic style that is distinctively that of one of movie history’s greatest writers. Spaceballs takes most of its direct aim at the Lucas trilogy (yes, there were only three back in 1987), but Brooks tackles other sci-fi properties too, and he does it all with his wicked sense of timing and hysterical wordplay.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.