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.)
50 First Dates
Before he shuffled his comedies off to the ownership of Netflix exclusively, Adam Sandler had one of the biggest hits of his career with this reunion with his co-star in the beloved The Wedding Singer, Drew Barrymore. In this 2004 comedy, Sandler plays a marine who falls in love with a woman who has anterograde amnesia, meaning he has to woo her again with every new day. It doesn’t feel that long ago that a Sandler movie could make $200 million at the box office, but it’s getting harder to remember.
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.
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.
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.
Eric Andre turns his prank-tastic schtick into a brilliant hidden camera comedy that focuses its Borat-esque energy on the good people of this country, those who are shocked by Andre’s ridiculous behavior, and often reach out to help. Andre plays a Florida Guy who travels with his buddy (Lil Rel Howery) to chase after who he thinks is the love of his life. Tiffany Haddish steals the movie, but it’s really the bystanders who make it work.
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?
Do you ever think about what could have been if we didn’t lose Chris Farley so young? This 1997 martial comedy is far from a classic comedy, but it’s one of the few cinematic projects that we got from one of the funniest men that ever lived, and that alone makes it worth at least one look. Farley plays an orphan who was raised by ninjas. That’s about all you need to know.
Just before he gave his sword to the MCU and Star Wars universes, Jon Favreau made arguably his most personal film, writing, directing, and starring in this 2014 comedy about a famous chef who has to find his passion again after falling from grace. A sweet and tender film, it features a great supporting cast and Favreau’s best performance.
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.
Look at that cast! The collection of talent in this 2011 rom-com hit was impressive when it came out, but it looks even more remarkable now. Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, and Kevin Bacon star in an ensemble piece about the ups and down of trying to build and maintain a relationship in the modern era.
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.
Ryan Murphy, the new king of Netflix, co-wrote and directed this adaptation of the massively successful book of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert, a personal account of the writer’s journey around the world to find out what’s really worth living for. It’s a cheesy, sure, but Julia Roberts is incredibly likable (as always) in the lead role, and she’s ably supported by Javier Bardem, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, and Billy Crudup.
There was a time, young readers, when Eddie Murphy was the biggest stand-up comedian in the world. Raw remains the highest-grossing stand-up comedy concert movie of all time, and one of the funniest that will ever be made.
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.
Ten years ago, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis starred in this romantic comedy at the arguable peaks of their fame. Timberlake plays Dylan Harper, a man who forms a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship with Mila Kunis’s Jamie Rellis. The two think that they can do this without growing feelings. They’re wrong, of course.
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.
Alice Wu wrote and directed a delightful coming-of-age dramedy that spins the norms. A loose retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, it features a star-making performance from Leah Lewis as Ellie Chu, a girl who starts writing love letters for the awkward Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer). The object of his affection, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), turns out to be more than just a typical unrequited love. It’s a sweet and smart film.
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.
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.
Julie & Julia
Nora Ephron wrote and directed an Oscar-nominated adaptation of the true story of Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a New Yorker who set out to make all 524 recipes in one of the most famous cookbooks ever published by Julia Child (Meryl Streep). Ephron balances Powell’s story with Child’s, creating a comedy of dual personalities and revealing how inspiration can come from the most unexpected places.
No, not the Will Ferrell soccer movie — this is the directorial debut from Netflix darling Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story). He wrote and directed a personal story about a group of college grads struggling with how to move on from what they experienced in education and join the real world. It’s a charming, funny movie that stars Josh Hamilton, Chris Eigeman, Eric Stoltz, and Parker Posey. Fun trivia: The film also marked the first production effort from Baumbach’s college roommate, Mr. Jason Blum.
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.
Long before she won an Oscar or worked magic with Big Little Lies, 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.
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.
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.
Julia Roberts might never have been more charming than she is in the beloved 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.
When it was released in 1988, this romantic comedy barely had an audience, although people who did see it could tell that co-star Julia Roberts would be something special (this was the year before Pretty Woman), and it also marked the debut of Matt Damon. In the three decades since, the cult status of Mystic Pizza has only grown. Check it out and remember the good old days.
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 doesn’t have to be the holiday season to enjoy the antics of the Griswolds in one of the most beloved Christmas movies ever made. Written by John Hughes, it’s the third film in the Vacation series, but it’s arguably the most popular, a movie that people around the world watch every year.
Charlie McDowell directed this brilliant little sci-fi gem, a movie that features two of the best performances in the careers of Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss. The two play a couple whose therapist (Ted Danson) suggest they take a retreat to find themselves as partners again. From the beginning, something seems just a bit off about the retreat, but the pair discovers something straight out of The Twilight Zone that we wouldn’t dare spoil here.
This a case of a relatively mediocre indie comedy being elevated greatly by a remarkable cast. The ensemble here is perfect, consisting of Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer — with Paul Rudd as the title character to these women. Rudd’s brother is a memorable character, a guy who means well but generally causes problems for his sisters.
Gore Verbinski directed one of the best animated films on Netflix, an Oscar-winning film featuring voice work by Johnny Depp in the lead role and some of the most inspired visuals in any animated film this decade. Rango is a chameleon who stumbled into a town called Dirt in this inventive riff on the Western genre that plays equally to children and adults.
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.
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.
Greg Mottola’s 2007 comedy became so beloved for a generation that it’s already a reference point. Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Superbad turned Michael Cera and Jonah Hill into stars overnight, and introduced the world to future Oscar winner Emma Stone. Some of its gender issues already seem a little dated, but there’s an innocent charm to the film that holds up.
Long before Jumanji made him a star to a new generation, Jack Black was known as half of the best comedy metal band in the world, Tenacious D, with Kyle Gass as the yin to Black’s yang. This 2006 feature comedy debut for the band is kind of an origin story for the most metal band of all time as they try to find a pick that belonged to Satan himself, and can turn them into legends.
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.
There was a time when every year seemed to produce another romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock. In the middle of that run, she starred alongside the equally charming Hugh Grant in this film by Marc Lawrence. It’s not the top tier for either star, but Netflix is remarkably light on romantic comedies, so the star power may be all that’s needed for fans of this once gigantic genre.
Before he was Deadpool or Pikachu, Ryan Reynolds was a star of a number of indie comedies, including this cult comedy about life in the restaurant business. Rob McKittrick wrote and directed the flick that made double its budget in its opening weekend, helping to really propel the careers of Reynolds, Anna Faris, and Justin Long. And it was an even bigger hit on DVD, striking a nerve with anyone who’s ever worked as a waiter or waitress.
It’s got some serious flaws, but this is worth a spot on this list by virtue of being the last film directed by one of the best in comedy history, Harold Ramis. The Chicagoan co-wrote and directed this vehicle for Jack Black and Michael Cera, who play a pair of hunter-gatherers who are banished from their tribe in this prehistoric comedy.
Yes, God, Yes
Natalie Dyer (Stranger Things) is delightful in this 2020 coming-of-age comedy that has had a quick cycle from July VOD to Netflix. She plays Alice, a junior at a Catholic high school in 2000 who learns a few things about sexuality. It’s a smart character study that avoids the clichés of the teen sex comedy to present something truer.
Peyton Reed directed Jim Carrey in one of his last blockbuster comedies as a bank loan officer who promises himself that he will say yes to everything that crosses his path, leading to some unexpected developments. It’s not one of Carrey’s best, but it has a fantastic ensemble that includes Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins, Rhys Darby, Terence Stamp, and many more.
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.
The best way to enjoy the strangest film in David Gordon Green’s filmography might be to live up to the first two syllables of the title and partake in something that will add to the hilarity. In all seriousness, Your Highness is a fascinating comedy to watch go off the rails, the kind of thing wherein one suspects the cast and crew had to be high themselves to think it was all working. Still, there’s a fascinating fearlessness to this movie, especially for fans of Danny McBride and James Franco.
Before they were household names, Emma Stone and Jesse Eisenberg co-starred in a movie about a group of misfits united by the zombie apocalypse. If you’re wondering why people have been clamoring for a sequel for the entirety of the ‘10s, do yourself a favor and catch up with this pretty clever flick. (And then maybe skip the actual sequel.)