This is part of our Decade Rewind, which runs throughout November. Keep up as we look back at the best, worst, and otherwise interesting movies and shows of the 2010s.
Comedy is in the eye of the beholder. Trying to put together a definitive ranking of the decade in film comedy is kind of like trying to drain a lake with a thimble or any of those other impossible tasks they used to use to test suspected witches back in the day. That said, we here at FSR like to think we’re a well-watched bunch with a wide range of tastes, so we decided to take our best stab at the impossible anyway.
Note that this list is entitled “Best Comedies of the Decade” and not “Funniest Comedies of the Decade”—while eliciting quality laughs is a major part of being a great comedy, I wanted to consider other factors as well, such as craftsmanship, originality, performance, and cultural impact. In other words, this list seeks to capture what constituted greatness within the comedy genre throughout the 2010s and represent a wide range of subgenres, comedic voices, and senses of humor, from the darkest of black comedies to the most outlandish slapstick gags. I polled the rest of the FSR team to help shape this list, but ultimately I used my judgment and made some executive decisions regarding what made the cut and where things ranked to make sure foreign films and less-seen indies didn’t get left out in the cold just because they haven’t been seen as widely.
So, without further ado, here’s our definitive ranking of the films that have kept us in good spirits over the past ten years…
In 2019, who doesn’t love Zac Efron? He’s long since shed his High School Musical skin for a ripped bod and interesting slate of recent roles like his turn as Ted Bundy. And while Neighbors is a role you’d expect from Zefron (the bro-y leader of a fraternity) it’s his straight-faced commitment to the bit that makes it so dang funny. Zefron’s Teddy is the thorn in the side of his new neighbors Kelly (Rose Byrne), Mac (Seth Rogen), and their infant daughter as they wage a war against each other of escalating noise complaints and increasingly crazy pranks. And while Rogen nails his usual laissez-faire dude persona, it’s really Byrne that brings an added dimension that’s sorely missing from these adolescent-masculine fueled romps. Neighbors blends suburban comedy of errors with the booze-and-drugs fueled energy of a college movie that can more than hold its own next to classics like Animal House. As we become less and less interested in the antagonistic antics of frat-based comedy, I can’t think of a better cap on the genre than Neighbors. (Jacob Trussell)
49. The House That Jack Built
There are two types of people in this world: those who find The House That Jack Built to be hilarious and cowards. Lars von Trier’s latest concerns a big ding dong named Jack (the fantastic Matt Dillon), who, over the course of the film, recounts his very cool and definitely impressive murders to a spiritual guide named Verge (Bruno Ganz). In one exploit, Jack cons his way into a woman’s home and brutally murders her. He should flee, but his compulsions prohibit him from leaving until he assures himself that he’s cleaned up every last trace of blood. Lo and behold: a local cop comes a-knocking and Jack finds himself in a pickle (that, admittedly, he relishes quite a bit). After weaseling his way out of trouble and escaping with the corpse in tow, von Trier reveals that there’s something Jack didn’t account for. The body leaves a huge fucking breadcrumb: a chunky trail of blood as it’s dragged behind Jack’s murder van. To top it off, what comes blasting over the speakers? David Bowie’s “Fame.” A needle-drop for the ages and a pitch-perfect punchline for this absolute moron, utterly convinced of his own prowess and sophistication. Laughing at violence against women? Not funny. Laughing at the kind of pathetic male ego that equates murder to high art? Very fucking funny. No dunk dunks harder than a self-dunk. Von Trier, you madman, you’ve done it again. Anna and Meg damn near pissed themselves and we assume the Academy will retroactively be in touch. (The Megaswan)
48. They Came Together
For many satires, skewering the romantic comedy is an easy target, one that involves punching down and gaining cheap laughs. This is why They Came Together, a brilliant comedy from David Wain that takes aim at the genre tropes but does so with a fresh sense of humor, feels so welcome and refreshing. Credit should also go to Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, each at the top of their game. The two play a couple who recount the outlandish cliches that comprise the ups and downs of their relationship. Populated by laugh out loud jokes and one of this decade’s best cameos, They Came Together is an underrated gem that deserves the world. It’s safe to say I like it even more than fiction books. (Anna Swanson)
Fucking your wife’s gravestone? Classic MacGruber. In a decade that wasn’t particularly hot for farce, MacGruber filled a void. This is the closest we’re ever going to get to a Mission: Impossible spoof. And boy oh, boy, does MacGruber deliver the goods. MacGruber is crude and scraggly in all the right places: a lovingly made send-up of ragtag teams, international bad guys, and widowed legends with nothing to lose. Val Kilmer’s turn as the sweaty mastermind Dieter Von Cunth is so fantastic it threatens to cast a shadow on all past and future action villains. MacGruber is the stupidest fun you’re liable to have at the movies; a foul, self-aware, and unbelievably goofy film that, for my money, is one of the decade’s best and most underestimated comedic offerings. (Meg Shields)
46. Girls Trip
While Tiffany Haddish had been around long before Malcolm D. Lee’s 2017 box office sensation, Girls Trip was the wakeup call we all needed to realize we were all sleeping on a comedic genius. I don’t get the deal with the peach scene in Call Me By Your Name, especially when the vulgar brilliance of Girls Trip’s grapefruit gag exists—and in the very same release year, to boot. While “raunchy buddy comedy” is hardly a groundbreaking concept, and Bridesmaids had already paved the way for a gaggle of other comedies that gave women the opportunity to be just as gross as men, Girls Trip still stands out from the pack in how it manages to constantly push the boundary between outrageous comedy and poor taste, dancing on the line but never crossing it.
Humor is a tool that can be used towards a wide variety of ends. One particularly bittersweet use for comedy is as a defense mechanism, and few films in recent memory have highlighted this particular brand of comedy quite like Tully, the heartfelt but utterly unromanticized portrait of 21st-century motherhood from the powerhouse writer-director team of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman. Charlize Theron stars as Marlo, an overworked, underappreciated mother of three who uses sardonic wit to mask the depths of her exhaustion, and while the people in her life don’t appreciate her jabs, we most certainly do.
Teen films, particularly those dealing with teenage girlhood, have had something of a renaissance as of late (there are two more entries belonging to this general trend yet to come on this list). Olivia Wilde’s feature directorial debut, one of the most recent films to join this playing field, plants itself more staunchly in the comedy realm than many of its counterparts that take more of a dramedy approach. While the central friendship between Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) is plenty endearing, as far as comedy is concerned it’s off-kilter rich girl Gigi (Billie Lourde) who deserves a special shout-out.
There are a lot of reasons why a great movie can fly under the radar. In the case of Blindspotting, the classic issue of studios not knowing how to market films that don’t cleanly fit within traditional genre categories seems to be at work. While the trailers for the film indicate a tense drama revolving around a formerly incarcerated black man, Collin (Daveed Diggs) witnessing the shooting of an unarmed black suspect by a white police officer, the film itself is better described as a pitch-dark comedy featuring hard-hitting social commentary. One particular scene in which rough-and-tumble but paper-white Oakland boy Miles (Rafael Casal) sweet-talks a black salon owner into buying pre-owned straightening irons off him at the cost of best friend Collin’s braids is a particularly remarkable combination of sharp insight and quality humor.
42. One Cut of the Dead
There’s a lot to love in Shinichiro Ueda’s utterly delightful zom-com, from the gory carnage to the pure affection for movies and the people who make them, but it’s the comedy that stands out the strongest as it shifts gears with the film’s brilliantly conceived three-act structure. The film starts as a found footage romp with laughs earned from Ed Wood-level troubles as a film crew attempts to shoot a zombie attack movie only to find themselves attacked by real zombies. It’s silly, slapstick-friendly shenanigans that then give way to a jump backward in time with the filmmaker trying to bring his vision for a zombie movie together against immense odds. The energy relaxes as the horror movie becomes less about the undead and more about the artistic struggle, and the humor here takes on a warmer sheen. Finally, we shift once more as they enter production on the film within a film once more, but this time we’re privy to the exquisitely detailed production from the ground up. What we thought was chaos is actually perfection, and we watch as new perspectives force new laughs and smiles onto our faces. One Cut of the Dead is a very funny film that leaves you cheering for the underdog and laughing along with their triumph. (Rob Hunter)
41. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
With its video game graphics, offbeat slang and in-jokes, and hyperactive pacing, Edgar Wright’s comic book adaptation was the first movie I saw that felt as if it were tailor-made for my generation of late millennials. So much is packed into the ambitious movie’s runtime–and so many stars, many of them up-and-comers, are packed into its cast–that’s it’s tough to isolate one joke or scene as the epitome of Scott Pilgrim’s humor. I think a lot about when Scott (Michael Cera) can’t decide whether to say “I gotta pee” or “Who, her?” so the spinning wheel in his mind lands perfectly between both and he says “I’ve gotta pee on her.” Jokes like these come and go in the blink of an eye, eclipsed by the next bit before you know what hit you. The fact that the obvious humor in any given moment—say, the vegan three strikes rule, or Wallace (Kieran Culkin) claiming Scott’s not home as he clearly leaps out the window in the background, or “Bread makes you fat?!”—goes completely unacknowledged by the surrounding deadpan characters makes it even more impossible for those of us watching at home not to collapse in a fit of giggles. (Valerie Ettenhofer)