Jason Reitman’s Oscar-winning comedy-drama turns 10-years-old this year, and it hasn’t aged a day. It’s still very sweet and charming, and unforgettable.
This was Ellen Page’s star-making performance, and to this day it is still her best work. It’s one of the finest comedic performances from an actress in the history of the genre, as she creates a character the audience can totally fall in love with. It also has a terrific ensemble cast including Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner and J.K. Simmons, all of whom bring their A-game.
As funny as Juno clearly is, the film does what all great comedy-dramas are capable of doing. It balances its laughs with its tears, coming across as more than just your average comedy. It’s a film with genuine heart.
As Robert McKee said, laughter really is all that matters in a comedy, and Superbad is absolutely chock-a-block with laughs from start to finish.
This film made stars out of its actors, and it’s not hard to see why. It includes early performances from Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Emma Stone, all of whom ooze with confidence and charisma, masterfully delivering a very witty script from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
Superbad isn’t a film that claims to be anything other than what it is. It’s a comedy about a group of teenage boys who try and buy alcohol to impress some girls. That’s it, and it relies solely on its ability to make you laugh, which it excels at.
Rogan and Goldberg’s work is normally fairly hit-and-miss (the less said about Sausage Party the better), but Superbad remains the funniest film they’ve made to date.
5. 21 Jump Street / 22 Jump Street
Okay, so this might be a bit of a cheat, but these two films really do go hand-in-hand.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are fast-becoming Hollywood’s new kings of comedy, and these two films represent their finest work to date. The concept is a re-imagining of the original TV series from the late eighties, starring Johnny Depp. The beautiful thing about it is that it knows exactly what it is, and it embraces it.
The first film is constantly making jokes about the fact that Hollywood has ran out of ideas, so is just rehashing old ones, and the sequel repeatedly jokes that they need to give the people what they want, and do the ‘exact same thing’ as last time. These films are so wonderfully self-aware and self-referential, that it is bordering on genius.
On top of that, they are hysterically funny. The first is laugh-a-minute, and the sequel is one of the rare examples of a film that is comfortably as good as the first, if not slightly better. Also, there is no doubt that these films wouldn’t work as well if it wasn’t for Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum’s frankly oustanding lead performances, with the pair sharing exceptional chemistry.
These films are terrific. They are consistently intelligent and self-aware, and are two of the funniest comedies Hollywood has produced in a long time.
4. Four Lions
This film is the absolute definition of a ‘black comedy’. Topics don’t come much darker than that of a group of would-be suicide bombers planning an attack, yet Four Lions never fails to be side-splittingly hilarious.
Four Lions is laugh-a-minute, thanks to a fantastic screenplay from Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain and Chris Morris, who also directs the film, as well as some terrific performances from a lesser-known cast. It has you laughing constantly, even at times where you really should be crying. If anything, the more dangerous this film’s plot gets, the funnier the jokes become.
The wonderful thing is that there is so much more going on here. This isn’t just funny; it’s a film that has a lot to say. It’s not afraid to show the naivety and foolishness of many of its characters, and it tackles both sides of the argument in a fair and mature fashion.
Four Lions is a film that really shouldn’t be as funny as it is. It’s a meaningful and important piece of cinema hidden within a hilarious film that may well be the most underrated comedy of the last decade.
3. In Bruges
In Bruges is written and directed by Martin McDonagh, and it stars Colin Farrell as a hitman who is forced to go into hiding after a job goes wrong. Brendan Gleeson’s character goes with him to Bruges, as they await further instructions.
The film is a true black comedy. While being exceptionally funny, the subject matter really is quite serious at times. It’s consistently taking you by surprise, but at the same time you are always fully engrossed in the story and entertained by the way it’s told. The Oscar-nominated screenplay by McDonagh is sheer perfection, and it’s brought to life by a cast at the top of their game.
Colin Farrell gives the finest performance of his career in this, managing to be genuinely funny while also evoking clear emotion. Brendan Gleeson and Clémence Poésy are convincing in their supporting roles, and Ralph Fiennes steals the entire movie as soon as he appears, with one of his most memorable performances.
What sets In Bruges apart from the rest is that while it is as funny (if not more so) as some of the best comedies we’ve seen in years, it’s also a gorgeous piece of cinema, anchored by fantastic direction, real emotion, a stunning European setting and a wonderful score from Carter Burwell. This film goes beyond just being extremely funny. It’s filmmaking at its finest, and it’s one of the most underrated movies of the 21st century.
2. Shaun of the Dead
This is where the empire forged by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright all began. Shaun of the Dead is, quite simply, cinematic comedy genius. This fusion of romantic comedy and zombie horror shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it inspired a whole new era for parody films.
The film tells the story of Shaun, a deadbeat who is trying to prove himself to his girlfriend and her friends during the zombie apocalypse. It’s wonderfully done, and the comedy is seriously smart. It’s not crude for crude’s sake, it’s intelligent. It trusts its audience to think, and it’s as rich in visual gags as it is in its dialogue.
Wright’s stamp is all over this. The beauty of his work is that you can tell he is a man who truly loves cinema and wants to create something memorable. There is some terrific visual comedy in this, particularly one in which the characters beat up a zombie to the tune of ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, which is an idea Wright has since brought to full force in Baby Driver. The mixture of Wright’s directing, Chris Dickens’ editing, and the snappy script keep this film moving at an exciting pace. It never slows down, and it barely goes a second without a joke.
Shaun of the Dead changed the game for comedy. It’s something that should actually be used to teach film students, almost becoming a rite of passage in this day and age, and is an undisputed classic.
1. Hot Fuzz
The second entry in Pegg and Wright’s ‘cornetto trilogy’ is an absolute masterclass. If Shaun of the Dead was a parody of the zombie genre, than Hot Fuzz is a buddy cop movie, through and through. After the success of its predecessor, this film oozes confidence, and it’s all the better for it.
Pegg acts against type in this, playing Nicholas Angel, a talented police officer who has been moved from London to a tiny little village, simply because he’s making his colleagues ‘look bad’. The concept in itself is hilarious, and the rest of the film’s plot rides on the fact that this ‘perfect village’ isn’t all it seems, as various strange murders start occurring.
This is a film that gets better with each watch, and that’s the mark of a true work of genius. There is so much detail and thought put into this, that it’s impossible to catch everything in one go. It has obvious jokes, of course, but there are plenty of subtle ones that go unnoticed, as well as some clever running gags with satisfying pay-offs, such as the runaway swan. This film is constructed to perfection, and not one single detail has been missed.
Of course, it’s also a parody of many action movies, particularly those directed by Michael Bay (Wright even emulates some of Bay’s trademark camerawork in this). The references to these films are primarily used to subvert expectations, before going all-out in the third act.
It’s extremely well directed by Wright, and swiftly edited by Dickens, with a fantastic script and terrific performances from a talented cast. This is one of the most meticulously-crafted comedies ever put to film. While many comedies rely solely on jokes, but show no directorial flair, Wright is a true master of visual comedy, and that’s the reason his films are able to go so far beyond being just ‘funny’.
These aren’t just great comedies; they are outstanding pieces of filmmaking that will forever stand the test of time. This creative team are some of the finest comedic talent working today, and Hot Fuzz may just be their masterpiece.