Comedy has been one of the most popular movie genres since the very beginning of cinema. Silent clowns like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were ascendant in the 1920s and 30s, before giving way to the fast-talking screwball comedies of Classic Hollywood. From the 1960s onward, a variety of comedy sub-genres proliferated. This accelerated further with the rise of independent cinema in the 1990s and streaming in the 2010s.
All this is to say that tastes may change, but the desire to laugh is constant. Laughter is the best medicine, after all, and audiences have certainly had a lot to get treated for over the last decade. Fortunately, they’ve had no shortage of films to choose from. The most successful comedies of the last 10 years span a range of sub-genres, from musicals and superhero films to sci-fi and feel-good dramedies. (Note: This list excludes animated kids’ movies and comedies made for the Chinese market.)
Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are a young, married couple adjusting to their new lives as parents. But their domestic bliss is shattered when a raucous fraternity moves into the house next door. The frat throws loud, wild parties that keep Mac and Kelly up all night. Mac and Kelly set out to shut the frat down, leading to a feud between the couple and the frat’s president, Teddy (Zac Efron).
Byrne, Rogen and Efron are excellent. The latter two have great chemistry, especially when unleashing zingers on each other. In particular, many critics considered Neighbors to be the first movie where Efron really shed his Disney star persona and established himself as a versatile actor.
Pitch Perfect 2 focuses on the Bellas, an a cappella group going up against a German musical group for the title of world singing champions. Pitch Perfect 2 builds on everything that made the original so successful: a witty script, great original music and charming performances from the ensemble cast, not to mention the camaraderie between the lead characters, which is genuinely infectious.
Hailee Steinfeld and Rebel Wilson, in particular, put in scene-stealing performances, as does Keegan Michael-Key in his cameo. The movie also shows off the directorial chops of Elizabeth Banks, in her feature debut. None of the songs is quite as catchy as ‘The Cup Song’ from the first movie, but a few of the tunes are sure to stick in your head long after the credits have rolled.
Inspired by a true story, Green Book follows African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on his 1962 tour of the Deep South. He is accompanied by his Italian-American driver and bodyguard Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen). Green Book explores issues of identity and prejudice, and the central narrative looks at how Shirley and Lip’s relationship changes both men.
Green Book was a critical as a well as a commercial success, and went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. However, some critics complained that it failed to engage fully with its subject matter, instead resorting to feel-good tropes. A few compared it Driving Miss Daisy, another movie accused of glossing over the harsh realities of racism. These criticisms might be valid, but Green Book is nevertheless a well-crafted and life-affirming film with more than enough heart and humor to justify a viewing.
“We Jump Street, and we ’bout to jump in yo ass.” 22 Jump Street is the sequel to 2012’s 21 Jump Street, which in turn was based on the TV series from the late 80s. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star in this buddy cop romp about two detectives posing as college students in order to track down a drug dealer.
Hill and Tatum are hilarious in their own ways. Tatum was born to play lovable jock Jenko, and Hill’s performance as the neurotic and fast-talking Schmidt is legendary. The scene where he ad-libs a slam poem would be quoted by fans for years to come. “Cynthia!” Hill declares, throwing in some interpretive dance for good measure. “Cyn-thi-a! Jesus died for our sin-thi-as!” Genius.
The Hangover Part III is the final installment in the franchise about a group of buddies who have a wild night in Vegas, and subsequently try to find their missing friend Alan. In Part 3, the lead characters must deal with some unfinished business from the first film. The original film was a runaway success, and made a star out of Bradley Cooper.
Part 3 made a big splash at the box office, proving that audiences still connected with the chemistry between Zach Galifianakis, Cooper, Ed Helms and, of course, Ken Jeong. But critics gave the film mostly negative reviews. They have a point. The movie lacks the madcap energy of the first, and the script is much weaker. The jokes are fewer, and they don’t land with the same force. The third time isn’t always the charm.
The Intouchables is a French comedy-drama about the relationship between a paralyzed man (François Cluzet) and his caretaker (Omar Sly). It was a phenomenon in France before finding fans the world over, including Steven Spielberg, who ranked it as one of his all-time favorites.
As with Green Book, some viewers might find The Intouchables a little too saccharine. But others will enjoy its warm tone and uplifting narrative. Not to mention, the performances from the leads alone are worth the price of admission.
Mark Wahlberg, Seth McFarlane and Mila Kunis star in this flick about an immature slacker and his foulmouthed talking teddy bear. It’s also McFarlane’s directorial debut, following his work on the hit animated sitcom Family Guy.
Most of the best jokes come from the bear himself, who is essentially an insult comic fused with a Build-a-Bear. He is debauched and crude, and his inappropriate comments (which a human could never pull off) are repeatedly hilarious. The plot is fairly generic, but Ted makes up for with a seemingly inexhaustible stream of jokes and whacky situations, including a near-fatal duck attack.
Men in Black was one of the landmark comedies of the 90s. The charisma of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, along with the creative alien designs from Rick Baker, made for a thoroughly entertaining sci-fi adventure. The third entry boasts the same strengths, alongside much better special effects.
As a result, Men in Black 3 is a fitting book-end to the first two films. The time travel subplot revolving around the young Agent K is especially well-executed. The film isn’t particularly original or groundbreaking, but it packs more than enough humor to please fans.
This offbeat comedy follows the world’s most vulgar superhero (Ryan Reynolds) on his mission to protect a young mutant (Julian Dennison) from Cabel (Josh Brolin), a mercenary from the future. Deadpool 2 doesn’t take itself very seriously, which might be the best thing about it. The result is an action-comedy that manages to be both a love letter to the superhero genre and a satire of it.
The script is hilarious and self-aware, with Deadpool repeatedly breaking the fourth wall and exploding genre conventions. A third film is currently in development, this time by Marvel Studios, following Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019.
Deadpool is almost like a one-man standup routine from Ryan Reynolds. His passion for the role is clear to see. Rhett Reese, one of the script’s writers, called Reynolds “the keeper of the Deadpool flame for many years … if we ever do something that is off the Deadpool path, or if it doesn’t feel like Deadpool, he catches it.”
Reynolds nails Deadpool’s screwball humor and casual attitude toward violence. It’s no small feat to make such a bizarre character so likable. If Reynold brings this same energy to the third film, this time with the full Marvel Cinematic Universe at his disposal, the results could be spectacular.