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The 50 Best Comedies of the 21st Century Thus Far

Written by on August 10, 2016 

40. State and Main (David Mamet)

State and Main

The circus-like world of Hollywood overtakes idyllic small-town America in David Mamet‘s pitch-black ode to the fateful meeting of art and commerce. Despite the fact that State and Main is undoubtedly the most puppy-dog-eager comedic work of Mamet’s career, the film is so much darker than I remembered. While the movie’s lead actor (Alec Baldwin) slobbers after underage girls, its crew rushes around behind the scenes, attempting to cover up any evidence of his lustful misdeeds. This reveal fails to scandalize the production until someone, a small-time busybody with big-city ambitions, decides to exploit it. The clichéd notion of Hollywood corrupting the values of good, old-fashioned, small-town America condescends to those very values. Instead, Mamet takes the higher road: the citizens of this tiny berg are intelligent and endearingly distinct, some bemused by the chaos while others quietly net a healthy profit from the production. At the end of the day, the studio needs a completed movie, no matter what happens. As an exhausted A.D. tries to calm his pregnant wife over the phone as she goes into labor, the cynical director demands to know if dinner reservations have been made. The assistant protests, explaining that his wife is having a baby. The irritated director replies, “Is that on the call sheet?!” – Tony H.

Best line/joke: After he’s informed that Alec Baldwin’s movie star character likes 14-year-old girls, William H. Macy‘s bluntly spoken director replies, “Well, get him something else. We want to get out of this town alive. Get him half a 28-year-old girl.”

39. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai)

Dont Go Breaking My Heart

It’s probably cheating, but consider this an entry for much of Johnnie To’s comedy work from the past decade and a half. Short of possibly Sion Sono, To has been one of the most breathlessly prolific directors of the ’00s, spreading his time between immaculately directed crime films (e.g. Drug War) and superlative “comedies,” including Office and, here, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. The latter is the most conventional of those three, but it nonetheless puts most American romantic comedies to shame. To, like Nicholas Ray before him, has a fundamental understanding of the relationship between space and emotion, and nowhere is that more apparent than in his understanding of comedy. He places characters whole buildings apart, but their rapport is always fluid as the camera skillfully skips back and forth and his characters build their relationship, piece-by-piece, onscreen. – Michael S.

Best line/jokeLouis Koo and Yuanyuan Gao flirting through the window.

38. Hot Rod (Akiva Schaffer)

Hot Rod

Andy Samberg battling with Ian McShane in the living room is a memory I won’t soon lose. Their sheer willingness to give into roles that were so positively absurd was delightful. Hot Rod never takes itself seriously — there’s no underlying message that it strives to achieve, and even the laughs are borderline childish. Yet there’s something alluring about that combination. Samberg is great at slapstick and this is the kind of film tailored to him — which is no wonder, considering it was The Lonely Island’s (a group made up of Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer) first foray into feature films. It also sports a hell of a cast: Will Arnett, Danny McBride, Isla Fisher, and Bill Hader. – Bill G.

Best line/joke: “He died instantly… the next day.”

37. Klown (Mikkel Nørgaard)

Klown

It’s not so much the fact that Klown‘s characters are, to put it lightly, absolute fucking idiots, or that these absolute fucking idiots are, in a classic (but fairly tired) comedy set-up, put in charge of a young child that makes this movie so relentlessly funny. Rather, it’s the willingness to “go there,” no matter how awful a place “there” might be, and still avoid the sense of trying too hard. As far as I can tell, Mikkel Nørgaard‘s Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque comedy has no aspirations to any kind of social commentary or implicating the audience in its protagonists’ actions, and in that way it’s almost primal – much in the way an unwanted ejaculation on the face or semi-naked charge of a concert stage might be. – Nick N.

Best line/joke: “Frank, I was fucking raped.”

36. They Came Together (David Wain)

they_came_together

David Wain‘s latest feature, an affectionate dismantling of the romantic comedy genre, marks his most consistent and, for my money, the funniest comedy of the decade thus far. In an era where much of the spoof genre lazily repeats scenarios for cheap laughs, They Came Together is a remarkably brilliant dissection of tropes, led by two of the most likable actors in Hollywood — not to mention a gathering of exceptional (and unexpected) supporting players. You can say that again. (Tell me about it.) – Jordan R.

Best line/joke: Christopher Meloni‘s Roland covering up his fecal accident.

35. 21 Jump Street (Phil Lord and Chris Miller)

21 Jump Street

The world has seen its fair share of updates of old properties over the past sixteen years. Most times, these take the form of hilarious misjudged reboots that seek to add some grit and danger to inherently dumb ideas. 21 Jump Street reaches an almost critical level of meta humor when it directly addresses its origins, but still remains steeped in its comedic premise enough to pull off an actual story. Adding the glorious physical odd couple of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as former high school strangers who become gloriously goofy best friends brings heart to the proceedings. Genre and social awareness — for its crime story and its high school story, respectively — brings it all home. – Brian R.

Best line/joke: The increasing bonkers-ness of what will and will not explode during a major car chase.

34. MacGruber (Jorma Taccone)

MacGruber

Taking its ludicrous sensibilities and sprinting with it, MacGruber pleases on the simple idea of not talking down to its audience (a sure-fire understatement). Instead, it flails about in all its glory of absurd, juvenile, and, frankly, stupid humor, allowing Will Forte to run, throat-rip, and hump his way from gag to gag with Kristen Wiig, while a pitch-perfect Ryan Phillippe plays the appalled straight-man. Unafraid of going for low-brow, balls-out comedy, MacGruber pairs its excessive, R-rated action-comedy stylings with one of the funniest sex scenes in modern cinema and a supervillain named Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer). Standing as one of the best SNL-style big screen comedies, MacGruber succeeds with often straightforward hilarity and an odd story of friendship and sorta-redemption. If you see it for one reason, let it be for the how-to on staging a proper distraction. – Mike M.

Best line/joke: The arc of the “distraction” gag.

33. Idiocracy (Mike Judge)

Idiocracy

The scary thing about Mike Judge’s Idiocracy is how, as every year passes, its vision of the future seems less and less ridiculous. While initially seen as something of a disappointment compared to Office Space, time has been kind to Idiocracy, and it stands quite well on its own as a funny, all-too-real satire. Terry Crews and Dax Shepard both have a lot of fun with their characters, and Judge’s sense of humor is a perfect match for a dry actor such as Luke Wilson, who sometimes struggles to find roles that match his strengths. – John U.

Best line/joke: “The #1 movie in America was called Ass. And that’s all it was for 90 minutes. It won eight Oscars that year, including Best Screenplay.”

32. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles)

Borat

Sacha Baron Cohen’s recent comedies may have some retroactively questioning if his 2006 mammoth hit is all it’s cracked up to be, but, a decade later, the entire country could use a rewatch. On his tour through America, pushing every button possible along the way, the comedian satirically explores racism, bigotry, and jingoism, exposing the country’s underbelly through his most indelible character. Sure, the film ensures you’ll never again say “my wife” with the same tone, but there’s a sly brilliance to the comedic timing here, particularly considering how much is off-the-cuff. – Jordan R.

Best line/joke: Borat and Azamat’s “relationship.”

31. Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow)

Kung Fu Hustle

After years of culturally specific comedies — including collaborations with fellow Hong Kong superstar auteur Johnnie To — 2001’s Shaolin Soccer arguably put Stephen Chow on the radar for many western critics, but his real breakthrough in the United States was Kung Fu Hustle. A meld of classic Hong Kong martial arts sensibilities and a visual style equally indebted to King Hu and Chuck Jones, this is an endless fountain of comic invention. Filled with memorable characters — Qiu Yuen’s perpetually irritated landlord is an easy highlight — crisp action scenes, and starring an endearingly doofy anti-hero, Kung Fu Hustle both pokes fun at and honors a stalwart cinematic tradition. – Michael S.

Best line/joke: Road Runner/Coyote chase between Sing and the landlady.

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