A great comedy is more than a distraction, but a film that tells its story naturally through a comedic lens. Often, it is easier to wrestle with ideas if they are presented in a way that is both funny and informative, and filmmakers are able to take risks with their storytelling if they trust that the audience is enjoying the ride. Although humor can be extremely subjective, the power of a well told story is universal.
Film fans will often want to look beyond the mainstream successes and look for comedy films that they may have missed in their initial runs. Currently, Netflix has a terrific library of recent films, many of which are comedies, and the streaming service offers cinephiles the chance to check out some terrific films that have flown under the radar. Here are ten great recent comedies on Netflix you may have missed.
10. The Dirt
The musician biopic genre has steadily grown to be one of the most popular in the industry, with recent films such as Straight Outta Compton, Love & Mercy, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Rocketman all becoming box office successes and awards contenders. What makes The Dirt fascinating is that it adheres to the formula of a band biopic, but uses the loose structure as a jumping off point to lean into complete absurdism. The origin story of Motley Crue utilizes fourth wall breaks and nonlinear narrations in order to remind the audience that what they’re watching is far from the truth, and this acknowledgment allows the film to revel in the excess that defined the band.
Each band member takes over the story for part of the film, and as the narration changes, so too does the tone of the film. While the four lead performances, including Douglas Booth as Nicki Sixx, Iwan Rheon as Mick Mars, Daniel Webber as Vince Neil, and Colson Baker as Tommy Lee, are all absolute caricatures, the cast has pretty remarkable chemistry throughout and they nail the scenes of comradery between bandmates. The Dirt isn’t pretending to be high art, but as guilty pleasures go, it’s an interesting spin on the standard rock biopic.
Mindhorn is another surprisingly effective comedy that takes an age old premise and reinvents it; the film is the story of actor Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt), the washed up star of a cult 80s action series in which he portrayed the dazzling cool Detective Bruce Mindhorn. Of course, Thorncroft himself is absolutely nothing like Mindhorn, but he was convincing enough in the role that a young man (Russell Tovey) believes him to be a real detective who asks for his help in solving a real murder. Thus, a great farce ensues, in which Thorncroft must balance both his own ego and incompetence.
The film absolutely relies on Barratt’s magnetism, and he makes Thorncroft a character that is simultaneously pathetic and affable; however, it is also understandable why the character of Bruce Mindhorn grew to be so popular in the first place and became a hero to so many people. The film’s actual plot mirrors many 80s action serials, and the references to similar material are frequent enough to be self-aware, but don’t become too grating or sly. It is one of the more underrated British comedies of the past decade.
8. Ordinary World
A project like Ordinary World risks coming off as nothing more than a vanity project for Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, but the film itself is a surprisingly earnest look at someone aging out of their punk years and coming to grips with their own faded stardom. Armstrong stars in a very self-referential role as Perry Miller, a former punk rocker who has now adjusted to fatherhood. Miller uses his 40th birthday as an excuse to relive his glory days, and calls up his old bandmates for a wild reunion.
What makes the film work is that it justifies Miller’s anxieties, but shows that indulging in nostalgia is ultimately not a good thing for him; as Miller tries to rapidly get back to his old ways, he learns not only that he has become out of touch, but that his youth wasn’t quite as idealized as he remembered it as. Armstrong delivers a surprisingly earnest lead performance, and performs many memorable tracks for the film’s soundtrack.
7. Free Fire
Ben Wheatley is certainly a signature filmmaker, and he’s never been one to subvert his own style, having crafted such unique films as A Field in England, Kill List, and High-Rise. While Wheatley films are often bleak in their outlook on humanity, there’s always a touch of cheeky humor, and Free Fire is perhaps his most outwardly comedic film to date. Taking on the premise of a single location thriller, the film pits two rival gangs against each other as they try to survive in a Boston warehouse.
All of these characters are reprehensible, yet endearing, so seeing them face off against each other makes for an enjoyable experience. It’s hard to pick a standout performance, but Sam Riley is terrific as a wild IRA member who initiates the conflict, and Cillian Murphy is memorable as one of the night’s more moderate members. The kills are gruesome, but strategically planned in ways that are surprising, making for a very dark action-comedy.
6. While We’re Young
While We’re Young is an example of Noah Baumbach playing within his comfort zone, as it is set around the relationships between couples in New York, but the satirical way he deconstructs the musings of multiple generations shows a more matured approach from the filmmaker. It’s the story of two couples who meet through a chance encounter; Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) form a unique bond with the younger Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), inspiring the older couple to try and act more like their counterparts.
The film is at first very goofy, as Josh and Cornelia are infatuated with the free-spirited ways of Jamie and Darby, but as they all grow closer, Josh begins to realize that Jamie isn’t exactly the person he claims to be. Baumbach writes his characters with a rare honesty, and is able to work through serious issues about artistic integrity; Josh and Jamie are both documentary filmmakers, and Josh comes to believe that Jamie sensationalizes the stories he tells. Four excellent performances make this one of the most underrated gems within Baumbach’s filmography.