30. Frances Ha
The collaborative screenwriting effort by Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig has become the quintessential film of Baumbach’s directorial career—a glowing achievement considering his stellar oeuvre—and the keystone dry, indie comedy for all quirky singles wondering what’s next. The crisp black and white photography gives it a distinct visual character, which fashions New York City as the artsy breeding ground for young, whiney, enigmatic 20-somethings with no profound motivation or singular direction. But you don’t have to know Frances’s experience to understand. In a sense, her story is universal. Nearly everyone knows the dreary slog that comes with finding oneself in the midst of everyone else (a theme that’s magnified in a zoo as wild New York City). But few can depict the experience with such relatability without sacrificing empathy and critique. Frances Ha cemented their unparalleled approach. (Luke Hicks)
29. Four Lions
Four Lions revolves around a group of young Muslims who set out to become radicalized terrorists. On paper, that’s a disturbing concept, but the story also explores what they’re like as people beyond their ideological extremism. Movies like this risk descending into exploitation territory, but Four Lions is a nuanced commentary about religion gone awry, with themes that are surprisingly human and laden with pathos. Furthermore, it’s the only film in history where terrorism is compared to The Lion King. (Kieran Fisher)
The typical big studio Hollywood “comedy” nowadays is pretty darn abysmal, but once in a while there’s an exception to the general rule that sparkles like a diamond in the rough. Kay Cannon’s directorial debut about a trio of friends plotting to lose their virginity on prom night and the parents determined to stop them is one such standout. It’s the sort of premise that in the wrong hands could have turned into something cringe-inducing in all the worst ways, but Cannon handles the solid script from Brian and Jim Kehoe fabulously and strong performances both generations of actors really seal the deal, making for an end-product that’s a thigh-slapping good time.
27. Magic Mike XXL
Magic Mike XXL maneuvers like the best dance routine, simultaneously light on its feet and carrying emotional weight. Director Gregory Jacobs utilizes a vignette structure to loosely trace a plot through the American south as Mike (Channing Tatum) and his ragtag crew of stripping buddies make their way to a convention in Myrtle Beach. Their exploits are fun and comical, but the film is also deeply entrenched in positivity; it’s a plea to care for each other and a display of the good that comes from sincere acts of kindness. Take the film’s best sequence: the aptly nicknamed Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) performs in a Georgia gas station to prove to himself that he can make a girl’s day. It’s a grand display as much as it is a simple gesture, one that puts as big a smile on her face as there was on mine. Turns out, the biggest organ that Magic Mike XXL possesses is its heart. (Anna Swanson)
26. Eighth Grade
Eighth grade is such a notoriously bad time that I, having heard plenty of 0/10, would not recommend reviews from survivors, weaseled my way into skipping it. Of course, that meant I went directly to high school, do not pass go, do not collect $200, which in retrospect probably wasn’t any better. But I digress. The point is, eighth grade is a horrible, horrendously awkward life stage for the vast majority of people, and Bo Burnham’s directorial debut manages to find humor in the misery without belittling said misery. You will laugh, you will cringe, and there’s one scene where you will at least sniffle a little because it plucks at the heartstrings with surgical precision.
25. The Lego Movie
Lego is one of capitalism’s greatest inventions, but The Lego Movie is one of the best anti-business comedies of modern times. The film boasts a hatred of corporations, despite being produced by a massive corporate entity, which is hypocritical in a way. However, there’s no denying that The Lego Movie is an easy movie to empathize with, as its core message is earnest and fundamentally sound. It’s also a very funny movie that contains some effective commentary, coupled with some catchy songs and stunning animation. (Kieran Fisher)
24. The Favourite
Humor is hugely subjective and as far as filmmakers go, few people evidence this simple truth more than Yorgos Lanthiamos. With his acerbic, bone-dry wit and the particular flat affect he manages to maintain across all his films, he’s a decidedly polarizing figure—if you like him, you love him, and if you don’t, you find all his movies strange and utterly unpalatable. He’s the cilantro of cinematic tastes. But for those of us who enjoy him, Lanthimos’s sapphic take on the notoriously buttoned-up world of British royalty on-screen had our hearts from “you look like a badger.”
23. True Grit
The humor of True Grit, and indeed the bulk of the Coens’ filmography, is summed up five minutes into the movie when a man about to be publicly executed makes a crack about killing the wrong man, inspiring a sharp bark of laughter somewhere in the depths of the gathered crowd. You might not find this film featured on other comedy lists, but we here at Film School Rejects—or at least, Meg Shields and I—are that bark of laughter in the crowd, and what a riotous good time it is. There are jokes about spelling, a bear-wearing “surgeon” with questionable intentions, and a 14-year-old strong-arms a cantankerous auctioneer into buying a bunch of ponies he does not want. Now that’s what I call humor.
22. The Big Sick
While the romantic comedy as a genre has fallen far from the heights of its glory days, the past decade has seen a handful of films serve to remind us that just because theatrical release rom-coms aren’t as prolific as they used to be the genre still has plenty of great stories left to tell. Especially on the humor front, the ultimate rom-com standout of the decade is undoubtedly The Big Sick, a semi-autobiographical film co-written by the husband-wife team of Kumail Nanjiani, who also stars as a fictionalized version of himself, and Emily V. Gordon. As has been mentioned before, plenty of other films on this list compellingly blend of comedy and drama, but on this front, The Big Sick is a particular standout in how it shows Kumail using his comedic skills to try to cope with girlfriend Emily’s mysterious life-threatening illness. The scene where he finally hits a breaking point and loses his temper with a drive-thru employee who refuses to take any liberty with the menu items is both hilarious and heartbreaking.
21. Thor: Ragnarok
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has consistently taken the quips-aplenty approach to storytelling ever since Iron Man, Taika Waititi’s delightful MCU debut is the only one that feels like it could honestly be classified first and foremost as a comedy film. There’s a scene that features Anthony Hopkins pretending to be Tom Hiddleston masquerading as Anthony Hopkins watching a play starring Sam Neill as Anthony Hopkins and Matt Damon as Tom Hiddleston. In other words, it’s a goddamn delight from start to finish. *Chef’s kiss.*