Comedy can feel like an ignored genre in modern moviemaking.
Horror’s having a fantastic 2023. Thrillers come out on a weekly basis. Even action movies have had some stellar recent releases. But Hollywood has been in a comedic rut in recent years, with fewer and fewer notable releases from big studios.
But fear not, dear reader — we know how to find some good laughs. We’ve compiled a list of the best comedy movies you can watch at home, scraping streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and HBO Max, as well as free services, to find the best of the best.
Whether it’s a romantic comedy that makes your heart sing while bringing out a smile or a gut-busting laugh-out-loud comedy, we have a variety of options sure to bring you laughter and brighten up your night.
Here are our picks for the best comedy movies you can watch at home right now. If you’re only looking for the best comedy movies on Netflix, we’ve got you covered there, too. Our latest update to this list added Spy as an editor’s pick.
Run time: 2h
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham
As the biggest blockbusters in the world have become more and more comedy-oriented, there’s been less space for true comedies in theaters. Spy is the rare exception, and it’s finally more broadly available to watch at home after its addition to the Max catalog.
A sendup of espionage movies from director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Freaks and Geeks), it stars a pitch-perfect Melissa McCarthy as a desk worker for the CIA who is forced into active duty when her partner (Jude Law) is killed by the daughter of an arms dealer (Rose Byrne, who is positively delightful in this). Add in scene-stealing turns from Jason Statham as an overconfident Bond parody, Allison Janney as McCarthy’s skeptical boss, and appearances by Bobby Cannavale, Peter Serafinowicz, and Miranda Hart, and you’ve got a rollicking good time (with terrific action shot by Day Shift director J.J. Perry). —PV
Spy is available to stream on Max, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Run time: 1h 58m
Director: Mike Nichols
Cast: Nathan Lane, Robin Williams, Gene Hackman
Mike Nichols’ classic adaptation of La Cage aux Folles is a hilarious subversion of your typical “two wildly different families have to get along when their children fall in love” romantic comedy. Nathan Lane, Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, and Dianne Wiest are all hilarious in this sendup of culture clashes and the moral panic of American conservativism.
As Polygon’s Maddy Myers put it in our list of the best LGBTQ comedies you can watch at home:
It’s hard to even imagine Nathan Lane as unconfident about anything in his life, especially when it comes to his melodramatic, hilarious portrayal of drag queen Starina (and her alter-ego, the not-so-mild-mannered Albert) in The Birdcage — but Lane was still in the closet at the time. It’s all the more impressive that the central joke of the 1996 movie is that Albert can’t manage to pass as straight, not even for the benefit of his son’s fiancée’s extremely conservative family. The Birdcage shows all the ways that gender is a performance through its rapid-fire wit and absurd situations, shying away from the preachiness you might expect of a comedy about conservatives forced to face their fears of all things queer. The best part of The Birdcage isn’t the drag performances, although those remain a delight — instead it’s the movie’s portrayal of the middle-aged mundanities of two gay dads existing in the ’90s. They’re normal, and at the time, that felt radical.
To quote a bird (albeit one typically not found in a cage): It’s an absolute hoot. —Pete Volk
The Birdcage is available to stream on Prime Video, with a library card on Hoopla, for free with ads on Pluto TV and Tubi, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Run time: 1h 44m
Director: Bill Holderman
Cast: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen
This delightful and raunchy romantic comedy stars Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen as a group of best friends who have been a part of a long-standing book club. Each of them, though successful in their careers, are dealing with crises of life or love. When one of them picks Fifty Shades of Grey as the next book they’ll all read together, it opens the group up in a lovely story of personal acceptance and self-realization, no matter what stage of life you find yourself in. —PV
Book Club is available to stream on Paramount Plus and FuboTV, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Catherine Called Birdy
Run time: 1h 48m
Director: Lena Dunham
Cast: Bella Ramsey, Andrew Scott, Billie Piper
Lena Dunham’s adaptation of the beloved children’s novel is an outstanding coming-of-age story that is the rare book-to-movie adaptation done right. It’s a warm story about the difficulties of teenage girlhood and all the expectations that come with it in any era (but especially medieval times), anchored by excellent central performances from Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones) and Andrew Scott (Fleabag).
Ramsey plays a young girl named Birdy, whose father (Scott) is attempting to arrange a marriage for her in order to save the family’s finances. A strong-willed girl with a penchant for playfulness and mischief, Birdy is intent on disrupting her father’s plans for her. The movie excels through its layered portrayals of Birdy and her father — neither is pure hero or pure villain, and Dunham complicates the book’s portrayal of the two to much success.
I put Catherine Called Birdy on one Saturday afternoon, expecting it to be enjoyable background fare while I played some games and did some work around the house. Instead, I was completely enthralled for all 108 minutes. It’s one of the most delightful movies of the year, and I can not recommend it highly enough. —PV
Catherine Called Birdy is available to stream on Prime Video.
Run time: 1h 54m
Director: Stanley Donen
Cast: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau
The heist at the center of Charade was successful years prior to the movie, and without realizing it, Reggie (Audrey Hepburn) has been living off the profits from her husband’s crime. When he is suddenly murdered, she realizes she didn’t really know anything about him — or, for that matter, the new man in her life, Peter Joshua (Cary Grant). To make matters worse, the remaining money is missing, and a lot of terrible people think Reggie knows where it is. As more people are pulled into the orbit of the money, it becomes less clear who, if anyone, Reggie can trust.
Hepburn and Grant, two famously talented and charming stars, are at their most charming and talented in Charade. In the span of a single scene, Hepburn might move from pragmatic to seductive to fearful with believable ease. Grant’s initial discomfort with their age gap — 25 years, a still-not-uncommon chasm in Hollywood — resulted in rewrites to the script to make clear that Reggie was pursuing him; it remains one of the few movies in which the gap is acknowledged and dealt with believably, rather than taken for granted. Their chemistry is immediate and undeniable; it’s key in carrying off the film’s snappy dialogue and mixture of flirtatious comedy, captivating mystery, and genuine thriller. It’s His Girl Friday by way of Hitchcock. —Jenna Stoeber
Charade is available to stream on Prime Video, for free with a library card on Hoopla or Kanopy, or for free with ads on Vudu, The Roku Channel, Freevee, Tubi, and Pluto TV. It is also available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Run time: 1h 37m
Director: Amy Heckerling
Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd
There have been many adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma over the years — and many actresses taking on Jane Austen’s self-proclaimed unlikable heroine. There’s Gwyneth Paltrow in the pastel-swathed 1990s version who makes Emma haughty, yet lovable; Joanna Sotomura in the 2013 webseries Emma Approved turns the socialite into an ambitious, albeit misguided lifestyle guru; and more recently, Anya Taylor-Joy’s rendition of the character gives her a piercing mean streak worthy of the original.
All these Emmas have their own merits, but sometimes the most memorable Emma isn’t an Emma at all, but a Cher.
Clueless takes the general framework of Emma — a rich, bored young woman who just can’t stop getting involved in everyone’s business — and transports the story from Regency-era England to 1990s Beverly Hills. Emma is now Cher, played wonderfully by Alicia Silverstone, a chic, stylish, and popular high school student who thinks she knows what’s best for everyone.
The beats of Jane Austen’s original story still play out. Cher takes an unpopular new student under her wing and tries to set her up with a hot match that’ll catapult her to social fame. All those matches end up being catastrophic failures. Cher goes too far and learns a bit about herself along the way. All of it is done with bright, bold 1990s fashion and slang, with iconic quotable lines and the very best that teen movies have to offer. Come for young Paul Rudd, stay for the sentiment that stories are timeless and that human traits transcend eras (and also Cher’s digital closet). —Petrana Radulovic
Clueless is available to stream on Paramount Plus or for free with ads on Pluto TV.
Coming to America
Run time: 1h 56m
Director: John Landis
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones
Eddie Murphy stars in the 1988 romantic comedy Coming to America as Akeem Joffer, the crown prince of the fictional African country of Zamunda who, tired of his mother and father’s meddling in his love life, journeys to the borough of Queens in New York City with his personal aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to search for a wife. Directed by John Landis and based on a story by Murphy, Coming to America is packed with endlessly quotable performances by Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones, Louie Anderson, John Amos, and Murphy and Arsenio in multiple roles. The movie is an absolute riot front to back and an enduring classic for good reason: It’s one of Murphy’s finest films. —Toussaint Egan
Coming to America is available to stream on Netflix, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
Run time: 1h 55m
Director: Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai
Cast: Louis Koo, Daniel Wu, Gao Yuanyuan
Johnnie To is one of our great modern directors, equally adept in hard-boiled triad crime dramas and light-hearted romantic comedies alike. 2011’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart falls in the latter category, and is one of the many high marks of the Hong Kong director’s legendary career. Fresh off the end of a long-term relationship, Chi-yan (Gao Yuanyuan) is an analyst for an investment bank who finds herself in the middle of a love triangle. On one side, there’s Sean (Louis Koo), a CEO who works across the street from Chi-yan and yearns for her through the tall corporate glass windows that separate them. On the other, there’s Kevin (the always-dreamy Daniel Wu), an alcoholic former architect who helps Chi-Yan move on and is inspired by her to start creating again. What follows is a sincere, funny, and truly charming romantic time. —PV
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart is available to stream on Netflix.
Run time: 2h 14m
Director: S.S. Rajamouli
Cast: Sudeepa, Nani, Samantha
One of the very best movies on Netflix, the logline for Eega will clue you in right away as to whether this movie is up your alley or not. A whirlwind slapstick comedy revenge thriller from the director of RRR and the Baahubali movies, Eega is about a man who is murdered by a romantic rival and reincarnated as a fly, teaming up with the woman he loves to exact revenge on the man who killed him. It’s joyously fun and absolutely bonkers (complimentary), with exciting action sequences, groundbreaking visual effects, and plenty of laugh-out-loud jokes. Much to its benefit, the fly in Eega is completely silent, instead pushing director Rajamouli to employ some classic tricks from silent cinema for laughs and gasps alike. —PV
Eega is available to stream on Netflix.
The Gold Rush
Run time: 1h 28m
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Georgia Hale, Mack Swain
Charlie Chaplin’s adventurous comedy is nearly 100 years old, and it absolutely still holds up for the modern sense of humor. In The Gold Rush, Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” is a prospector living on a shack in the middle of the Klondike. Extreme slapstick and farce ensue, as Little Tramp’s blown by Canadian winds, stoops to eating a leather shoe for sustenance, and eventually performs his legendary fork dance. Chaplin — even more than the muscle icons of the 1980s — is the key DNA to modern action entertainment, and if you’ve never seen one of his classics, The Gold Rush is a hilarious entry point. —Matt Patches
The Gold Rush is available to stream on Max and Criterion Channel or for free with ads on Freevee, Tubi, and Plex. It is also available for for digital rental or purchase on Amazon and Apple TV.
I Married a Witch
Run time: 1h 16m
Director: René Clair
Cast: Fredric March, Veronica Lake, Robert Benchley
René Clair, who made his name in early French silent and sound cinema, spent a few years making movies in the U.S. during World War II. Among them is the exemplary black-and-white romantic comedy I Married a Witch, which stars the incomparable Veronica Lake as a witch who hopes to exact revenge on the descendant of the man who imprisoned her by making him fall in love with her.
When two witches — Jennifer (Lake) and her father, Daniel (Cecil Kellaway) — are burned at the stake by Puritans in colonial Salem, they curse the man who denounced them. He and his descendants (all played by Fredric March) will be doomed to be unhappy in love, always marrying “the wrong woman.” Jennifer and Daniel awake 270 years later, and she begins pursuing her target: Wallace Wooley, the latest descendant of the man that caused her execution and also a leading candidate for governor. Oh, and his wedding to the daughter of his top political supporter is tomorrow.
With costumes by the legendary Edith Head, charming practical effects (the two witches are represented by wisps of smoke before inhabiting bodies), and plenty of hilarious gags (there’s a “popped maize” vendor during the “intermission” of the witches’ execution), I Married a Witch is a breezy 77 minutes of Classic Hollywood delight. —PV
I Married a Witch is available to stream on Max and Criterion Channel, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon and Apple TV.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Run time: 1h 42m
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is, without a doubt, one of if not the funniest and most effortlessly cool movies I have ever seen. Partially based on Brett Halliday’s 1941 novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them, Shane Black’s neo-noir black comedy crime thriller stars Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart, a petty thief who, due to a series of extraordinary circumstances, is mistaken for an actor and whisked away from the back alleys of New York to the twinkling lights of Los Angeles for a screen test. While there, Harry inadvertently finds himself ensnared in a murder mystery involving his childhood crush (Michelle Monaghan), a sarcastic private detective (Val Kilmer), and a retired actor named (Corbin Bernsen) with a terrible secret to hide.
Relentlessly meta, wickedly funny, and boasting one of the coolest opening title sequences of its time, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the rough-and-tumble blueprint to Black’s 2016 movie The Nice Guys, and by all degrees the better film of the two. —TE
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is available for digital rental or purchase at Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Run time: 1h 58m
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett
Wes Anderson’s eccentric 2004 ensemble comedy is dedicated to Jacques Cousteau and is a loving (and hilarious) homage to the legendary French oceanographer. Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is an oceanographer/documentarian who loses his best friend to a shark attack while working on his project. Zissou sets out for his next project: to find and kill the shark, and film the whole thing.
The hilarious ensemble cast includes Anjelica Huston (Zissou’s estranged wife who finances his projects), Willem Dafoe (an emotionally insecure German first mate), Owen Wilson (a Zissou super-fan who believes he is Zissou’s son), and Jeff Goldblum (playing Zissou’s rival, a more successful oceanographer). With an excellent soundtrack of Portuguese David Bowie covers by Brazilian singer-songwriter Seu Jorge and Anderson’s typical attention to detail in composition, The Life Aquatic is a cinematic feast of the senses. —PV
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is for free with a library card on Hoopla, or for digital rental or purchase at Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.
Run time: 1h 34m
Director: Abe Forsythe
Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Alexander England, Josh Gad
Director Abe Forsythe’s 2019 horror comedy Little Monsters stars Alexander England (Alien: Covenant) as Dave, a foul-mouthed and down-on-his-luck rock musician living with his sister and nephew after a rough breakup. Attempting to get on the good side of Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), his nephew’s kindergarten teacher, Dave agrees to come along and chaperone the class’ field trip to a petting zoo. Unfortunately for them, the petting zoo sits right next to a U.S. Army base that happens to be experiencing a zombie outbreak. As the class finds itself cornered by the undead horde, Dave will have to help Miss Caroline to make sure everyone gets out alive. Can he win her heart, or at the very least grow as a person for the experience? We won’t spoil it, but we will tell you Josh Gad gets attacked by zombies in the process. —TE
Little Monsters is available to stream on Hulu.
Love & Friendship
Run time: 1h 30m
Director: Whit Stillman
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell
Whit Stillman’s uproarious adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan stars Kate Beckinsale in one of her richest (and most hilarious) roles. Beckinsale plays Lady Susan, a young widow looking to secure appropriate matches for both her daughter (Morfydd Clark) and herself. Susan flirts and schemes her way throughout the movie to the delight of the audience and the frustration of her suitors and friends.
Love & Friendship features terrific supporting turns by Chloë Sevigny (as Susan’s supportive best friend), Tom Bennett (playing a hilariously dense wealthy fool), and the rest of the cast, as well as Stillman’s characteristic biting dialogue and an attention to detail in sets and costuming. But the whole thing is brought together by Beckinsale’s transcendent performance, one of the more recent examples of how comedic roles get ignored during awards season. —PV
Love & Friendship is available to stream on Prime Video.
Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL
Year: 2012 (Magic Mike); 2015 (Magic Mike XXL)
Run time: 1h 50m (Magic Mike); 1h 55m (Magic Mike XXL)
Director: Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike); Gregory Jacobs (Magic Mike XXL)
Cast: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello
Two joyous celebrations of bodies in motion contained within working class stories of trying to Make It Work in the face of a grueling world? Pure excellence. Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, and the rest of the ensemble cast soar, and both movies contain unforgettable set-pieces sure to get you off your feet.
Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike is an excellent subversive rom-com, inverting many standard gender tropes in the genre. The follow-up, Magic Mike XXL, is even more rapturously joyous than the first, celebrating pleasure in its many forms (in this way, you could say it is like Hellraiser without the pain). XXL also doubles as a road trip movie and a “the crew gets back together for one last job” movie. Also: Manganiello goes all out in a minimart dancing to “I Want It That Way.” Perfection, no notes. —PV
Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL are available to stream for free with ads on Tubi, or for digital rental or purchase at Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.
Run time: 1h 41m
Director: Norman Jewison
Cast: Cher, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Gardenia
The joy is in the smaller moments in Moonstruck. A mother cooks an egg-in-a-hole for her daughter. An older couple trades barbs with each other before the conversation shifts on a dime to expressions of eternal love. An elderly man basks in the moonlight with his five adorable dogs.
A widow (Cher) is convinced her ill-fated first marriage was doomed by bad luck after a hasty engagement and wedding. When a suitor (Danny Aiello) proposes, she accepts, but ends up falling for his estranged brother (Nicolas Cage) instead.
With warm sets that feel lived-in, loving depictions of food (the egg-in-a-hole has since been colloquially dubbed “Moonstruck Eggs”) and romance, hilarious family conversations (“Old man, you give another plate of my food to those dogs, I’m going to kick you till you’re dead!”), and complementary lead performances by an assured Cher and an intense Cage, Moonstruck is a touching, uproarious romantic comedy about superstition, love, and family. —PV
Moonstruck is available to stream for free with ads on Pluto TV, Tubi, and The Roku Channel, with a library card on Hoopla, or for digital rental or purchase at Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.
Run time: 1h 31m
Director: John Waters
Cast: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce
The early transgressive comedies of John Waters have been anointed by Criterion as art, and one can only imagine what Waters circa 1970 would make of that. Multiple Maniacs, the provocateur’s second film, is just batshit nutso, constructing a flimsy scenario in which Lady Divine (Waters’ go-to collaborator) spirals out of control on a murder spree and her ex-lover (David Lochary) plots to kill her first with other members of Waters’ Dreamlander acting troupe. In true Waters fashion, the plot is an excuse for bodily fluid expulsion, flamboyant performance, and a moment of backdoor penetration courtesy of a sacred religious object. Today, with scrutiny from every side of the ideological spectrum, it would be almost impossible to do what Waters pulled off back in the ’70s. Criterion knew what it was doing preserving these jaw-dropping memories. —MP
Multiple Maniacs is available to stream on HBO Max and Criterion Channel, for free with ads on Tubi, or for digital rental or purchase at Amazon and Google Play.
The Paper Tigers
Run time: 1h 48m
Director: Bao Tran (Tran Quoc Bao)
Cast: Alain Uy, Ron Yuan, Mykel Shannon Jenkins
Tran Quoc Bao’s kung fu action comedy stars Alain Uy, Ron Yuan (Mulan), and Mykel Shannon Jenkins as the eponymous Paper Tigers: three former martial arts prodigies who, after a lifetime of strenuous training and hard fighting, have grown into beleaguered middle-aged nobodies. But when their master is murdered, the three swear an oath to avenge his memory and bring his killer to justice. If that sounds serious, please know this falls into the Apatowian camp of Dumb Man comedy. —TE
The Paper Tigers is available to stream for free with ads on Tubi, for free with a library card on Hoopla and Kanopy, or for digital rental or purchase at Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.
Run time: 1h 39m
Directors: Jeff Chan, Andrew Rhymer
Cast: Maya Erskine, Jack Quaid
Netflix may be cranking out romantic comedies, but the best still come from a more personal, filmmaker-driven place. Plus One, from Pen15 writers Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival before quietly settling into a place on streaming and has been largely overlooked. Don’t miss it: Maya Erskine (Pen15) and Jack Quaid (The Boys) star as best buds who’ve seen all of their friends get hitched and have become go-to plus ones for the endless marathon of nuptials. Formula works to the movie’s advantage, finding sweet humor in modern situations and wringing Erskine and Quaid for every drip of charisma they have to offer. A gem that could easily been mistaken as product in our current era of rom-coms. —MP
Plus One is available to stream for free with a library card on Hoopla, for free with ads on Tubi, or for digital rental or purchase at Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.
Singin’ in the Rain
Run time: 1h 42m
Directors: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen
Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds
What is there to say about one of the most well-loved movies of all time? I’ll tell you this: If Singin’ in the Rain wasn’t on this list, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs right.
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s timeless 1952 classic is as joyous and funny as you remember — Donald O’Connor’s “Make ’Em Laugh” bit will leave you in stitches — but it’s probably a bit stranger, too. In addition to all the industry jokes and the contemplation on the addition of sound to movies, the 13-minute dream sequence “Broadway Melody” is absolutely hypnotizing. —PV
Singin’ in the Rain is available to stream on Max, or for digital rental or purchase at Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.
Support the Girls
Run time: 1h 33m
Director: Andrew Bujalski
Cast: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, James Le Gros
This terrific day-in-the-life comedy from writer-director Andrew Bujalski (Computer Chess) follows the manager (Regina Hall) of a Hooters-like sports bar as she deals with training new hires, rude customers crossing lines, and an idiotic boss, all the while trying to take care of her girls through various major and minor crises.
Hall, one of the great performers of our time, gives a tremendously layered performance in one of the richest roles she’s had the opportunity to play. Hall’s Lisa is a protective force in the lives of her girls, able to put on a brave face in front of them (and in support of them) even when the circumstances around them seem on the verge of a total spiral. Haley Lu Richardson (as the peppy Maci) and Shayna “Junglepussy” McHayle (as the no-nonsense Danyelle) stand out among the movie’s many great supporting turns.
Funny, heartwarming, and undeniably tangible in its ground-level depiction of a hectic workplace, Support the Girls is a movie about looking out for each other in a trying world. There’s nothing wrong with that. —PV
Support the Girls is available to stream on Prime Video, Hulu, The Criterion Channel, for free with a library card on Kanopy or Hoopla, for free with ads on The Roku Channel, or for digital rental or purchase at Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.
Run time: 1h 54m
Director: Juzo Itami
Cast: Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Kōji Yakusho
This 1985 “ramen western” is a hilarious romp that also happens to be one of the most gorgeous depictions of food ever put on screen. When a pair of truck drivers stop at a run-down ramen shop, they befriend the widowed owner and help her turn the restaurant's fortunes around. A lovely story of community, passion, and human nature all filtered through the appreciation of good food, Tampopo is a cinematic feast. —PV
Tampopo is available to stream on Max and Criterion Channel, or for digital rental or purchase at Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.
To Be or Not to Be
Run time: 1h 39m
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Cast: Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack
Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 masterpiece is an uproarious and touching anti-war story about a group of actors who use their theatrical skills to dupe a group of Nazi soldiers in occupied Warsaw. Superstar acting couple Joseph (Jack Benny) and Maria Tura (Carole Lombard) run a theater planning to put on a performance of “Gestapo,” a comedic play satirizing Hitler. But when Germany invades and a Nazi spy schemes to give a list of secret identities of Resistance fighters to the Nazis, the troupe uses every theater trick in the book to outmaneuver the Nazis (including a visiting Hitler himself) and do their part in the war effort.
With hilarious repeated gags, disguises galore, and a rock-solid emotional foundation of a group of people trying to look out for each other in the face of evil, To Be or Not to Be is a high mark in the history of American cinema and one of my personal favorite movies ever made. —PV
To Be or Not to Be is available to stream on Max and Criterion Channel.
The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience
Run time: 30m
Director: Mike Diva, Akiva Schaffer
Cast: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer
The Lonely Island dropped this musical movie — a spoof of Beyoncé’s Lemonade focused on Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire’s notorious 1980s home run streak — out of nowhere in 2019. It deserves more love.
In line with their previous efforts, like Tour de Pharmacy and 7 Days in Hell (co-starring Kit Harington!), The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience explores the shared psyche of Canseco and McGwire through poetry, abstract imagery, and profane lyrics. Alana Haim, Maya Rudolph, Hannah Simone, Jenny Slate, Jim O’Heir, and Sterling K. Brown — as Sia — all appear. Surprisingly, Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer don’t skimp on the darkness of the Bash Brothers. With lyrics like “Stab that needle in my ass until I am rich / Make me a god with the chemical sciences,” the Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience eventually finds McGwire begging a vision of his father to save his life as Canseco raps about how therapy is for the weak. —MP
The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience is available to stream on Netflix.
Wheels on Meals
Run time: 1h 38m
Director: Sammo Hung
Cast: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao
Few creative teams have ever managed the consistent level of excellence that Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao did with their Hong Kong martial arts action comedies in the 1980s, and Wheels on Meals is one of the best of an outrageously good group of movies (and my personal favorite). Set and shot in Barcelona, the movie centers on Thomas (Chan) and David (Yuen), a pair of cousins who run a food truck (with skateboarding tricks to boot) and find themselves enamored with a local woman (Lola Forner). When they run into a somewhat incompetent private investigator (Sammo Hung) who is also looking for the woman, the group bands together to save her when she is suddenly kidnapped.
Wheels on Meals features some of the very best fight scenes of Jackie Chan’s prolific filmography, as he squares off against legendary kickboxer Benny Urquidez (the two would later fight again in Dragons Forever), who at the time was among the most prominent and successful fighters in the world. The whole movie is worth your time, but if you want to just find their six-minute marathon fight session on YouTube, there are few things better in this world.
If you like this, you should also check out Project A, which came out a year before and features one of the most daring and jaw-dropping stunts of Chan’s illustrious career. —PV
Wheels on Meals is available to stream for free with ads on Plex and FreeVee, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon.