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As the 2010s have wound to a close, HeadStuff gathered the collective minds of our Film section to bring you our picks for the best comedy movies of the decade. Below are #20 to #1.
20. Little Monsters
Upon initial viewing of the trailer for Abe Forsythe’s Little Monsters, I was interested in if still slightly hesitant of another possible run-of-the-mill zom-com offering. Thankfully, the film is so much more than that, hitting all the right notes when it needs to – bringing to mind the familiar power of Edgar Wright’s 2004 classic Shaun Of The Dead.
Dave (Alexander England) is loud, offensive and a failure. But when he meets his nephew’s school teacher, Miss Caroline (played by the incredible Lupita Nyong’o), his world is literally turned upside down in the worst way imaginable. Cue vicious sock puppets, mini Darth Vaders, blood drenched renditions of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ and some truly laugh out loud moments. Little Monsters is a superb debut with a surprisingly heartfelt message at its core and the much needed zombie slaying to back it all up. John Hogan
19. Lady Bird
In this coming of age movie, director Greta Gerwig explores the tumultuous relationship between a headstrong mother and daughter as well as her own love/hate relationship with her hometown: Sacramento, California. Christine McPherson “Lady Bird” (Saoirse Ronan) is desperate to move to a “city with culture” for college where she can finally escape her judgemental mother (Laurie Metcalf). Her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) is the only person keeping her sane.
Lady Bird loses sight of herself after finally bagging a popular boyfriend, Kyle (Timothée Chalamet). She can’t keep her quirks and be accepted by Kyle and his friends. It’s only after realising what she might lose that she sees being different might not be a bad thing. Lady Bird is a gorgeous film, one that perfectly sums up what it feels like to be a teenager when one’s problems are the most important in the world. Scout Mitchell
18. Logan Lucky
Weird how Daniel Craig played a southern-accented character in two films this decade. Almost like he prefers character work over playing the character that defined his career. Anyway out of the two I prefer Logan Lucky to Knives Out. Both are well-plotted and exceptionally paced movies with a huge amount of heart but Logan Lucky is that bit more fun and heart-warming. Set in Virginia – one of the USA’s poorest states – the film follows the Logan brothers (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) who bring together a motley crew including the bleach blonde bomb maker Joe Bang (Craig) to help them rob a NASCAR speedway.
All of the characters in Logan Lucky – bar the dirtbag promoter played by Seth MacFarlane – are decent people. Even Hilary Swank’s clenched jaw FBI agent is just doing her job. Director Steven Soderbergh came out of retirement to direct this movie and he seems to have found a new energy in doing it. It’s like we’re back watching Ocean’s 11 but instead of a well-oiled machine going through the motions the film feels like it’s held together with spit and electrical tape. It runs just as well though and the engine powering it is fuelled by love. Andrew Carroll
17. The Big Sick
Like Annie Hall before it, The Big Sick gave new life to a genre that is so often maligned for saccharine sentimentality and witless one liners. The rom-com, in it’s traditional form, hasn’t been making the cultural impact it once did but the truth is, the genre isn’t gone, it’s just less recognisable and The Big Sick is a shining example of this subtle re-definition. In fact, had the tale not been based on true events, incredulous audiences would be forgiven for thinking this is yet another absurd Hollywood idea of ‘true love’ after reading the plot synopsis. Instead what was offered was one of the most honest and heartfelt takes on relationships that mainstream cinema has given us in years.
Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani plays himself, a stand-up comedian in Chicago who embarks a whirlwind romance with a young white girl named Emily (Zoe Kazan) after a one night stand. The obstacles to their ‘happy ever after’ aren’t your typical genre affair. Kumail’s heritage means he’s expected by his parents to take part in an arranged marriage with a woman from his culture and then there’s the titular Big Sick, the mysterious illness that threatens Emily’s life and leaves her in an induced coma for much of the runtime. So there’s enough story here to film a tome but the excellent script, written by Nanjiani alongside real life partner Emily V. Gordon, never overdoes it and deftly interweaves the elements, giving each of them the required time to breath.
The cultural and generational gap between Kumail and his parents isn’t played for cheap laughs, but rather it’s a source of real conflict for a character who is desperate to be true to himself and to the country he hails from. When the film pivots into Terms of Endearment type territory, it never loses sight of its characters or the emotional reality of the situation. Don’t be put off, this is still a humour driven film and it’s always funny, but its pathos lands just as well as many of the jokes do. The supporting work, especially from the likes of Holly Hunter and Ray Ramano as Emily’s parents, all play their part and then some and Nanjiani proves that there is no one better to play him than himself. Even if Emily isn’t conscious for a sizable portion of the film, the scenes Kazan and Nanjiani share are endearing in that way that if you see the film with your significant other, it’s likely a few knowing looks will be shared between the two of you. The Big Sick was 2017’s nicest surprise in almost every way. The romantic comedy is dead. Long live the romantic comedy. Mark Conroy
16. Game Night
Essentially an extended comedic riff on David Fincher’s 1997 thriller The Game, Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play a married couple who invite their friends and Bateman’s shady brother (Kyle Chandler) to their routine weekend game night. However, when armed gunmen disturb the festivities, it proves difficult to work out whether it’s part of some interactive role playing mystery Bateman’s brother orchestrated or if it’s real.
Light as a feather despite multiple genuinely thrilling double crosses and scenes of violence, Game Night’s wickedly smart screenplay is packed full of zingers and a ton of heart. It takes the time to establish the film’s central relationships, meaning you understand and enjoy the characters and are invested in the strange odyssey they find themselves on. While Bateman and McAdams are at the top of their game, the stacked supporting cast of Game Night deserve a mention. Featuring Billy Magnussen, Jesse Plemons, Lamorne Morris and Sharon Horgan, each of them are hilarious while adding depth to their respective roles. Stephen Porzio
15. Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Scott Pilgrim set a new standard for how to tell a story of a comic character on the big screen. From breathtakingly realistic CGI, incredibly compact set transitions, vividly engaging action sequences, and a wide array of talent to bring the characters to life, this film is only subtly shy of a total success.
Michael Cera effectively portrays 22-year-old Scott as he struggles through a transitionary period in his life. That said, he enters into a barrage of battles with the exes of the only person he is sure he wants, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). This film has something for everyone, and, while its box office total did not match up to its budget, it does complete the job of telling the funny offbeat story it sets out to, and is worthy of being cited as one of the best comedies of the decade. Brandon Doyle
14. Sorry to Bother You
Writer-director Boots Riley’s debut, Sorry to Bother You is an ambitious comedy/political satire that leaves you dying to see more from the brain of the person that created it. The film follows young black telemarketer Cash (Lakeith Stanfield) who adopts a white accent to succeed at his job. As he earns multiple promotions, he is swept into a corporate conspiracy involving his company’s CEO (Armie Hammer). Caught in a dilemma, he must choose between profit and joining his activist girlfriend (Tessa Thompson) and friends to organize labor.
Wearing its socialist leanings loud and proud, Sorry to Bother You is a molotov cocktail of contemporary themes, tackling the clash between unions and big businesses, race and class divides, modern day slavery and the general dumbing down of society. What’s most impressive though is that the movie backs up its exciting fresh ideas with a killer soundtrack from Tune-Yards and Riley’s band The Coup, dazzling visuals aplenty and A+ absurdist humour, the latter recalling Michel Gondry at the peak of his craft. Stephen Porzio
13. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa retains the awkward cringe comedy that made Steve Coogan’s loser entertainment presenter so iconic on radio and TV while upping the stakes around him for the big screen. Now DJing at North Norfolk Digital, when Alan realises that due to lay-off’s either him or fellow DJ Pat (Colm Meaney) will be fired, he convinces the station’s owners to ‘just sack Pat’. When the dismissed presenter crashes a company party with a shotgun and holds its staff hostage, Alan sees it as his chance to be the hero.
Packed full of gem quotables, mostly from Alan’s terrible radio patter: “You can keep Jesus Christ. That was Neil Diamond… truly the King of the Jews” or “We’re asking, what is the worst monger? Iron, fish… rumour… or war?”, Alpha Papa is literally a laugh a minute movie. Plus, after 22 years playing Partridge, Coogan has never been better, the character seemingly infused into the actor’s DNA. Stephen Porzio
12. Moonrise Kingdom
Writer-director Wes Anderson’s return to live action following Fantastic Mr Fox, 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom is probably his sweetest film to date. Set in the 60s, two teenagers (Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman) flee their respective homes and go on the run, setting up a base for themselves at the title cove. Meanwhile, their dysfunctional guardians and social services (personified by a scary Tilda Swinton) try tracking them down and separating the two.
While Moonrise Kingdom may lack both the energy and poignancy of Anderson’s follow up The Grand Budapest Hotel, the bones of what were to come are here. The clean retro colours pop. The stacked supporting cast are incredible (it boasts one of the last great Bruce Willis performances as a police chief). Meanwhile, the central idea that the two teenagers are so much more mature than any of the adults chasing them is always funny. Stephen Porzio
11. The Meyerowitz Stories
Headstuff contributor Liam De Brun said in his Marriage Story review that he believed the film to be writer-director Noah Baumbach’s first masterpiece. I’d disagree. I believe that honour should go to The Meyerowitz Stories.
If Marriage Story is a probing exploration of divorce, The Meyerowitz Stories is one about family – following the lives of dysfunctional adult half-siblings (Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Elizabeth Marvel) living in the shadow of their artist father (Dustin Hoffman). The Meyerowitz family structure may be complicated with Stiller and Sandler’s parents having different mothers. That said, the way these characters communicate with each other – burying lingering resentments, barely listening to each other, talking over themselves – is all too relatable to those with big loud families. Couple that with some utterly hilarious side-plots – Sandler’s film student daugher (Grace Van Patten) showing her family her hyper sexualised amateur short fillms – and the Sandman giving maybe his best performance ever as a man whose repressed anger has left him with a debilitating limp and you have a classic. Stephen Porzio
10. The Big Short
How do you make a movie centring on subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations fun? With his first foray into more dramatic territory following the likes of Anchorman and Step Brothers, writer-director Adam McKay used a host of A-listers, stylistic flourishes and absurd comedy to jazz up The Big Short’s depiction of what led to the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. The result: a hilarious if scaberous and terrifying retelling of true life events.
On top of its portrait of amoral fatcats and the people who predicted the bubble bursting, bet against the banks and profitted on the recession, what’s maybe most noteworthy about The Big Short is its use of celebrity cameos – the joke being that one needs fourth wall breaking appearances from Margot Robbie or Selena Gomez to explain financial concepts because otherwise people would be confused or disinterested. These scenes are fast, funny while making a salient point about how we consume information today. Stephen Porzio
9. What We Do in the Shadows
Seldom do many mockumentaries ever make it big in the ever-changing world of comedy, and it’s especially astounding when one with a premise as ridiculously simplistic as 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows conquers that spotlight. Certainly, this particular entry in the sub-genre would never have even seen the light of day without the talented minds of Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement at the helm.
Taking place in a modern-day New Zealand, What We Do in the Shadows chronicles the day-to-day lives of four vampires as they struggle to cope with the rapidly changing culture around them. While shot in the same free-camera style as Borat, directors, screenwriters and stars Waititi and Clement fill the movie to the brim with witty quips and clever camera tricks that could give Shaun of the Dead a run for its money.
Even die-hard fans of Waititi and Clement get a special throwback to their classic HBO show, Flight of the Conchords. This is thanks to a cameo from Rhys Darby that really goes to show just how unique New Zealand comedy really is. Brandon Doyle
8. Inherent Vice
Pitched somewhere between The Big Lebowski and The Big Sleep and based upon the writings of the notoriously dense American novelist Thomas Pynchon, halfway through Inherent Vice, I can honestly say that no one will be able to comprehend its increasingly manic and mad-cap plot. The story, set in 1970, features at its centre Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix, channelling Neil Young’s appearance Harvest-era), a PI hired by his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) to locate her missing lover Mickey Wolfman, a famous real-estate developer. However, on top of this Doc has to deal with dead musicians, Aryan Brotherhood members, loan sharks, district attorneys, police informants, dirty cops and whacked-out doctors.
The film feels as woozy as its pot-loving protagonist. However, the writing is hilarious and Anderson’s evocation of 1970’s LA is a joy to behold with its bright colours and wonderful clothes (Owen Wilson’s outfit was apparently inspired by The Muppets). Phoenix looks like he is having the most fun of his career, as does Josh Brolin, as hippie-hating cop “Bigfoot” Bjornson, and Martin Short in a brief role as the permanently intoxicated Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd. Johnny Greenwood’s score is beautiful and despite frequent references to Charles Manson, one comes away from the film longing to be a part of the strange 70’s atmosphere Inherent Vice portrays. Stephen Porzio
7. The Lobster
A lot of the comedy in Yorgos Lanthimos’s work comes from the brazen antics of his characters: I often find myself shrieking – half in disbelief, half in terror – at characters lashing out at each other in bizarre (though perhaps not unexplainable) acts of anti-social behaviour. The Lobster is no exception. Here the adults all have the mental capacities of a teenager and the patience of a toddler.
This makes for some seriously strange interactions as Colin Farrell’s introverted David attempts to navigate the social demands of his dystopian society. There, heterosexual partnership is prized above all else and anyone who remains single is sentenced to live out their lives as an animal: the good news is you get to choose which one. As a result, the dissociative performances characteristic of Lanthimos is used to great effect, with each character appearing to have learned English by rote and trying (and frequently failing) to appear human. “It is more difficult to pretend that you do have feelings when you don’t, than to pretend you don’t have feelings when you do” David astutely observes. You’ll probably find yourself laughing, but it won’t be a comfortable laugh. Neither should it be. Sarah Cullen
6. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Take the offbeat humour typically associated with the filmography of Wes Anderson, blend it with a far more sweary version of Pixar’s Up and add a small dosage of Huckleberry Finn and you have Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Taika Waititi’s fourth directorial feature (and second on this list) is a heartfelt and hilarious adventure which is elevated through the brilliant chemistry of its lead actors. Sam Neill is on top form as the cranky Uncle Hec while newcomer Julian Dennison is an absolute revelation as the troublesome Ricky Baker.
The film strikes the right balance between humour and humane as the two protagonists begin as polar opposites before learning to appreciate each other and that maybe they aren’t so different after all. Hunt for the Wilderpeople a great look at how two individuals who live on the margins of society find solace and company in each other and it is quite touching in parts in contrast to the more over-the-top comedic moments. In short, it’s an odd little treat of an indie comedic adventure and is one which certainly put Mr. Waititi on the Hollywood map landing him big projects like Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit and a directorial credit for the season finale of The Mandalorian. We have this film to thank for his success. Sean Moriarty
Just when you think you’ve seen every variation on the high school buddy comedy, Booksmart – the directorial debut from actress Olivia Wilde – comes along and makes viewers realise why they loved the sub-genre in the first place. Evoking memories of American Graffiti, Dazed and Confused and Superbad, the film centres on two bookworm high school students (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) who come to believe they’ve wasted their best years by prioritising school over partying. On the even of their graduation, they decide to rectify matters and paint the town red.
A wickedly funny script, the most lovable central duo in recent memory, an actor turned filmmaker excited to flex their directorial muscles and a cast of future stars of tomorrow (looking at you, Billie Lourd) combine to create an infectiously fun cinematic experience. What makes Booksmart must-see, however, is its humanist streak. Like so often is the case in secondary school, there are no villains in Wilde’s film; only people who act out due to personal insecurities or fears of being seen as different. It’s to Booksmart’s credit every part of its ensemble cast gets a chance to be a three-dimensional character, this inclusivity and warmth never dulling the movie’s comedic edge. Stephen Porzio
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
It’s rare that a comedy can feel as melancholic as it is delightful. Within the first few seconds of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel we know that almost every character we meet over the next 100 minutes is dead. But before time takes everything away there is an incredibly funny caper movie there for us. The Grand Budapest Hotel’s recently hired lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) becomes firm friends with concierge Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and aids him in spiriting away the portrait Boy With Apple from the home of his dead octogenarian lover Madame D. (Tilda Swinton). Pursued by her son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) from the hotel to a prison to an Alpine Monastery the two men flee forging a bond through fire and really funny jokes.
Anderson’s use of miniatures and real life locations create the fairy tale-like space while his writing breathes life and character into it. The film ultimately orbits around Monsieur Gustave whose pronouncements such as “Strange, she was shaking like a shitting dog” in Fiennes’ unmistakable accent are the heart and soul of a film constructed out of incredible jokes and set-pieces from a monk-to-monk search through to Brody’s Vaudevillian Nazi Count Dracula brooding. It all ultimately fades away with the line “It was an enchanting old ruin but I never managed to see it again”. The memories of that candy coloured hotel, it’s equally colourful occupants and the impression of a time that may never have existed ensures that Anderson has created a modern classic that is as funny as it is heartbreakingly sad. Andrew Carroll
3. The Favourite
Another entry from writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite is a scathing satire on the British royalty of the 18th century. When England is at war with France, the court of the immature Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) prefers focusing on ducks racing and pineapple tasting rather than serious politics. Her lover, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), is the one truly ruling the country. When the Duchess’ young cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, both let pettiness take centre stage in order to get the Queen’s attention.
This dark comedy subverts all expectations of historical dramas – leading to some walkouts at my screening from those who wanted something more traditional. Whether it’s the acid-tongued, sweary and provocative conversations or the strange set-pieces – including a royal waltz transforming into a hysterical break dance – The Favourite shocks and delights in equal measure. It looks stunning too, with incredible fish-eye lens shots deployed to make the aristocratic conventions it depicts feel even more strange. Charline Fernandez
2. The Death of Stalin
One of the more impressive feats a comedy can achieve is to make you laugh while simultaneously horrifying you. The Death of Stalin is in essence that sensation: the movie. Taking the real world events that surrounded Stalin’s sudden death and the scramble for power that followed, the film reimagines both the situation and the regime itself as a farce.
Anomalous accents, preposterous clothing and the occasional joke in the worst taste; the film relishes in reminding you that no monster of history is safe from being ridiculed and depicted literally dying in a puddle of their own piss. Yet the film never shies away from depicting the horrors that took place. The humour is biting but it sinks its teeth in that much deeper because you know these massacres and injustices took place. But make no mistake, this is not a ridiculing of real people’s suffering but instead the thoroughly enjoyable evisceration of some truly terrible people, a mocking of their self-importance and a hot stream of indignity on pompous leaders who think themselves gods. Richard Drumm
He wears a blue duffle coat and a red bucket hat under which his collection of pre-made marmalade sandwiches lives. Everyone knows the famous Peruvian bear created by British author Michael Bond in 1958. In the 2014 live action animated film, Paddington Bear is reimagined once again as he travels from deepest, darkest Peru to Paddington Station, London. Here he meets the Brown family, whose kind-heartedness allows him to start fresh in an alien territory.
Paddington is a charming fellow with a hopeful outlook on life. He sees the best in everyone he meets regardless if that feeling is mutual. But he still values respect – if you’ve forgotten your manners, he’ll fix you with a (surprisingly intimidating) hard stare. Ben Whishaw has the perfect voice for this adorable bear – his consistent politeness is endearing and makes the audience feel fuzzy inside. Clumsy, chaotic – who remembers that bathroom scene? – but undeniably loveable, this bear is a furry friend for all ages. Scout Mitchell