MacGruber, he made a freaking movie. After starring in one of the greatest comedies of the 2010s, it seemed like MacGruber had faked his death for another decade, but it turned out he was just in prison. The stupid, selfish, insecure explosives expert has come a long way from stealing car stereos, and he’s finally returning to television. Everyone should be celebrating the return of the Mac. A sequel was teased periodically through the years, but Will Forte’s nagging success with Last Man on Earth prevented the co-writer and star’s recommitment to the vest and mullet. The sequel series, streaming exclusively on Peacock, reunites Forte with his co-writers John Solomon and Jorma Taccone, the latter of whom also directed the motion picture. It also reunites MacGruber with his, now ex, wife Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig), and his friend Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe).
MacGruber (2010) toes the line between slapstick spoof and action-comedy. The tempest of references to Saturday Night Live skits, invincible action hero pictures, and MacGuyver flow effortlessly through the comedic presentation and performances. Forte delivered an all-time great comedic performance through his physical acting and unbelievable line delivery. He bounces between cheesy action star and useless narcissist seemingly effortlessly. His facial contortions accentuate the extremity of his wackiness. From f’ing ghosts, to rippin’ throats, the film never stops pushing the boundaries of its absurdity. The endlessly quotable comedy is more than just the leading man’s exceptionally funny performance. Val Kilmer, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, and Maya Rudolph breathe life into the dry military backdrop. The oddballs and straight played characters contribute to a picture worth more than the sum of its parts–which would already be substantial. For more absurd, hilarious, star-studded comedies, check out the curated list below.
21 Jump Street
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Writers: Michael Bacall, Jonah Hill, Patrick Hasburgh
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle
Before Spider–Man: Into The Spiderverse blew everyone’s mind, before they were replaced on Solo: A Star Wars Story, before The Lego Movie warmed hearts and built the foundation of a cinematic universe, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller surprised audiences with a funny adaptation of an ’80s television series. 21 Jump Street, starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as two police officers undercover in a California high school, cracked people up with its blend of action and comedy. It’s a party up front and business in the back in this story about undercover cops trying to bust a high school drug ring. The premise could easily have slid hoaky or problematic, but the cast and writing keep the tone light and breezy. The supporting cast is stuffed with familiar faces and young talent, and it features one of Ice Cube’s funniest performances. Hill and Tatum’s chemistry and comedic timing are a delight. They’re part buddy cop, part Dumb and Dumber. It doesn’t dabble in absurdism or slapstick like some of the other movies on this list, but it’s a laugh-out-loud comedy that tees up a sequel with more to enjoy.
22 Jump Street
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Writers: Michael Bacall, Oren Uzeil, Rodney Rothman
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Nick Offerman, Peter Stormare, Wyatt Russell
In the spirit of sequels that subvert the formula of the progenitor—Ocean’s 12, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Aliens–22 Jump Street ups the stakes, amplifies the absurdity, and pokes fun at the franchise along the way. Hill and Tatum reunite as Schmidt and Jenko who’re tasked with infiltrating a college drug ring. The film takes a meta approach to obvious criticisms of the lead actor’s ages compared to their roles, and the unoriginality of repeating a similar story across movies. The ability of the filmmakers and cast to laugh at themselves alongside the audience is commendable. Like its predecessor, the film keeps the tone light–a hallmark of Lord and Miller’s filmography. Its self-referential nature means the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. It keeps the jokes coming right on into the credits, spoofing the creative ways Hollywood works to retell the same stories.
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
Director: Steve Oedekerk
Writers: Steve Oedekerk, Jack Bernstein
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ian McNeice, Simon Callow, Maynard Eziashi, Bob Gunten, Sophie Okonedo
After an unprecedented year in 1994–starring in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber–Jim Carrey slipped back into the Hawaiian shirt and slicked up hairdo of Ace Ventura in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. This sequel one-ups the original in every way. It’s wackier, louder, and even more over the top. From the Cliffhanger parody in the opening down to the fade-out at the end, Ace blasts the audience over the head with cheesy, ridiculous line delivery. Carrey’s classic vocal and facial manipulation create a dynamic range of expression for Ace to exist and annoy literally everyone. Directed by Steve Oedekerk, who would go on to write and direct Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls is one of the director’s first steps on his road to comedy greatness. While Oedekerk wrote several films Jim Carrey starred in, this is the only opportunity the writer/director had to direct the timeless star.
Austin Powers International Man of Mystery
Director: Jay Roach
Writer: Mike Myers
Cast: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green
In the 90s, Mike Myers ruled the world. Wayne‘s World 1 and Wayne‘s World 2, So I Married an Axe Murderer, and two Austin Powers films solidified the comedy icon as a film legend. He played to his strengths in the 007 spoof series Austin Powers, and he introduced the character in an all-time great satire. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery rocketed Austin Powers, a James Bond-type spy, from the 1960s into the 1990s, and he brought every anachronism he could with him. Myers plays both protagonist and antagonist as Austin Powers and his arch-nemesis, Dr. Evil. The “fish out of water” schtick is played to maximum effect as Powers (Mike Myers), a swinging spy from the ‘60s, attempts to navigate the social climate of America in the 1990s. Behind the bond parody and endless sex jokes lies a movie about identity and personal evolution. But at the end of the day, the film, and series, is remembered for its persistent and crass sense of humor. Like MacGruber and MacGuyver, one only needs a passing knowledge of the source material to appreciate the skewing.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Director: Jay Roch
Writers: Mike Myers, Michael McCullers
Cast: Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling
Another fantastic sequel gracing the list, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is the colorful follow-up to the 1997 original, still written in part by and starring Mike Myers. The movie takes the audience back from the 1990s to the 1960s as Austin Powers chases Dr. Evil through time. Where many sequels go bigger or in a different direction, The Spy Who Shagged Me feels like a continuation of the characters and gags from the first flick. Myers strapped on some prosthetics and a kilt to play a third character in the franchise, a mercenary called Fat Bastard. It’s just a silly and tawdry as its predecessor, and it doesn’t play around too much with the time travel plot elements–even breaking the fourth wall to tell viewers to turn their brains off and enjoy the comedy spectacle rather than dissect the theoretical physics of it all. Still, the film sees a more sensitive side of Austin who is plagued by insecurity following the theft of his mojo–his virality, his verve. The kick-ass, comedic, insecure action star’s self-awareness separates him from MacGruber as a man, and as a movie star.
Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar
Director: Josh Greenbaum
Writers: Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans Jr., Reyn Doi, Adrian Makala
Anything goes in Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar, and nothing can be assumed. Kristen Wiig and co-star, and co-writer, Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids) turned in a quirky, heartwarming, hilarious, and wild comedy centered around two middle-aged midwest women on vacation. Spelled out, it sounds generic, but the film is more Austin Powers than it is Bad Moms. Kristen Wiig shimmers as Star and as the cheesy, pale, maniacal villain, Sharon Gordon Fisherman. Sharon’s scheme to unleash a submarine swarming with deadly mosquitos in a revenge plot against the town of Vista Del Mar fits kindly alongside Dr. Evil’s desire for sharks with freaking laser beams attached to their heads. There’s a love triangle, a nonchalant approach to sexuality, and more than one song and dance number. Annie Mumolo shines just as bright playing Barb, the widow with some self-exploration to do. She and Wiig spit out dialogue scary fast in their smooth midwest accents. Their commentary and friendship are delightful. Join Barb and Star at Vista Del Mar, or miss one of 2021’s best comedies.
Director: Scott Sanders
Writers: Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, Scott Sanders
Cast: Michael Jai White, Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson, Byron Minns, Kevin Chapman
If MacGruber didn’t exist, Black Dynamite might be the funniest movie of the 21st century. The satirical update on blaxploitation b-movies captures the look and feel of ’70s grindhouse cinema while mocking it. Co-writer and star Michael Jai White whips and slays so much ass as the titular, Black Dynamite. No stranger to the leading male role–he’s freaking Spawn–White’s physicality and explosive line delivery makes Black Dynamite as fun to watch as he is to listen to. Whether he’s practicing his Kung Fu or cleaning up the streets, he’s entertaining as hell. Black Dynamite crafts an entire world populated by intriguing characters. There’s little wonder why the movies spawned an anime prequel series following Black Dynamite, Bullhorn, Cream Corn, and Honeybee. The film is endlessly entertaining and jam-packed with jokes and visual gags that pile over one another, layer over layer, like a comedy cake. The worst thing about Black Dynamite is that we still haven’t gotten a sequel.
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Writer: Pam Brady
Cast: Andy Samberg, Isla Fisher, Jorma Taccone, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Ian McShane
Starring Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone–the director and one of the writers of MacGruber the movie, series, and planned sequel picture–as brothers bent on raising enough money for their step-father’s heart operation, Hot Rod is hilarious. With a robust supporting cast including Will Arnett, Chris Parnell, and Sissy Spacek alongside the already listed cast, the movie arrived as an instant classic. Rod (Andy Samberg) is raising money to fix his stepdad’s heart so that he can try and kick his ass once he’s healthy. He sells tickets, rents his time, and accepts tips for stunting. It’s charming and ridiculous watching his crew design small-scale ways for Rod to hurt himself for a few bucks. The movie offers several avenues for humor outside of the pure schadenfreude of watching Rod hurt himself. Its creative use of editing creates a couple of the best bits in the film. All of that to say, Hot Rod has layers. It’s one of the best comedies of the 2000s era, and it’s no surprise almost everyone in the movie has ventured towards continued success.
Director: Jim Abrahams
Writers: Jim Abrahams, Pat Proft
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Cary Elwes, Valeria Golino, Llyod Bridges, Kevin Dunn, Jon Cryer
By 1991, it was an honor to be spoofed by Jim Abrahams and Pat Proft. Hot Shots! pokes fun at the late, great Tony Scott’s Top Gun. Starring Charlie Sheen, Cary Elwes, and a bunch of folks from Seinfeld, Hot Shots! Is a ’90s treasure. Like a few of the parodies on this list, familiarity with the source material enriches the experience, but the slapstick goofs endemic to an Abrahams comedies are all on display. The movie mocks more than Tony Scott’s classic, it mocks the military et al. The big-budget comedy is the first pairing of the Two And A Half Men duo of Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer. Given the writer and director as well as the source material, is surprising Val Kilmer doesn’t pop in with a wink and a nod in this absurd hit.
Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogan
Writers: Dan Sterling, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogan
Cast: James Franco, Seth Rogan, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons
The Interview is one of several delightful productions by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan. While Rogan is a comedy legend by this point, the two were instrumental in the TV adaptations of Preacher and The Boys by Garth Ennis. Before they struck success producing TV adaptations of graphic novels, the two teamed up for a few awesome comedies including 50/50, This Is the End, Neighbors, and The Interview. In The Interview, Rogan is the producer of a widely circulated entertainment talk show hosted by Dave Skylark (James Franco). They land an interview with the supreme leader of North Korea, the authoritarian Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). Skylark and his producer are recruited by the CIA to assassinate Kim. It’s over the top, just completely ridiculous, but the movie is injected with energy thanks to the obvious fun the cast–and hopefully crew–had making the movie. It’s one of the last Rogan and Franco pictures, due to allegations and legal trouble surrounding Franco, so enjoy their electric dynamic one last time in this absurd picture.
Director: Peter Atencio
Writers: Jordan Peele, Alex Rubens
Cast: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Darrell Britt-Gibson
Key and Peele made the jump to the big screen in Keanu following the end of their hit sketch comedy show on Comedy Central. Written and directed by Key and Peele alumni, Peter Atencia, the movie feels like a long-form adaptation of their sketch comedy. The movie is littered with trademarks and callbacks to their show–them playing multiple characters, wordness to the turdness, Liam Neesons through–but all four seasons aren’t a prerequisite for enjoyment. The movie follows the men on a weekend adventure to rescue Jordan Peele’s new kitten, Keanu, who was stolen during a home invasion. A case of mistaken identity gets Key and Peele in the door with the 17th street Blips. The Blips are the newest, hardest gangsters around, but even they feel they have something to learn from the Allentown brothers, the duo whose identity the protagonists have adopted in order to further their investigation. The tone and visual style are expressly aligned with MacGruber, right on down to the celebration of ’80s music.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad
Director: David Zucker
Writers: Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Pat Proft
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, Ricardo Montalban, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson
David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Pat Proft are some of the most influential names in comedy. Their slapstick revival presented as spoofs of popular films and filmmaking trends spawned some of the most ridiculous and hilarious movies of the late 20th century. Despite all of their influence, the movie that most feels at home alongside MacGruber is The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad. Police Squad was a short show that ran briefly in the 1980s. It introduced detective Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) and the police squad he relies on to crack cases and combat crime. The movie perfectly lifted the tone and overly literal brand of comedy from TV to film. The Naked Gun doesn’t get included in conversations surrounding best adaptation, though it’s rightfully revered as a comedy classic. Its never-ending, “yes and…” approach to its jokes pushes each gag to the limit of its comedic potential, including a sex scene to rival the awkward genius of MacGruber’s.
The Other Guys
Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Adam McKay, Chris Henchy
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson
When it comes to Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, most people’s first thoughts might be Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Step Brothers, or Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, all of which are exceptional comedies. One of their movies stands out, though, when compared to MacGruber; The Other Guys. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star as The Other Guys. They are the dudes on the police force filing paperwork while the hero cops in movies–like Lethal Weapon–are out fighting people, shooting guns, chasing criminals, and walking away naturally as explosions erupt behind them. Will Ferrell’s buttoned-up persona hides one of the best bits in the film and pairs swimmingly with Mark Wahlberg’s over eager badass with something to prove. Their amazing comedy dynamic is so powerful, studios attempted to recreate the electricity in the comedy franchise Daddy’s Home.
Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg, Judd Apatow
Cast: Seth Rogan, James Franco, Gary Cole, Danny McBride, Kevin Corrigan, Craig Robinson
Pineapple Express is probably the best contribution to the stoner comedy genre of the new millennium–no hate Jay and Silent Bob, please don’t track me down and whoop my ass. The innocent stoner image of the two protagonists is sharply contrasted against the cutthroat world of drug empires warring over territory and supply. Seth Rogan and James Franco lit up the screen, among other things, as Dale and Saul. Dale and Saul are two potheads connected by commerce that wind up in a world of danger as a result of Dale witnessing a murder at Saul’s weed supplier’s house. Bonafide comedy geniuses like Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down), Craig Robinson (The Office), and Gary Cole (Veep) are just a few faces among a stable of funny folks. The action in the latter half, and the thematic throughline of friendship and perseverance are classic MacGruber, and every fan, smoker or not, should cross this joint off the list.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Director: Mel Brooks
Writers: J.D. Shapiro, Evan Chandler, Mel Brooks
Cast: Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Roger Reeves, Amy Yasbeck, Dave Chappell
Like Young Frankenstein, Robin Hood: Men in Tights is a tongue and cheek skewering of the classic story told time and again. This telling comes by way of Mel Brooks‘ specific tone of sarcasm and satire. It’s at once an excellent parody and a fantastic standalone rendition of the tale of Robin Hood. Starring Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride), Dave Chappell (Chappell’s Show), and Richard Lewis (Curb Your Enthusiasm), the movie is about a rugged, charming, capable hero liberating his people from the forces of tyranny—MacGruber’s wet dream. Mel Brooks takes on a new generation of comedians and actors with this cast, but the movie isn’t left wanting over it. Like a Jim Abrams or a Zucker picture, the movie breezes from one joke to the next, intermingling visual gags as set up or punchline. It’s a great comedy that takes place outside the modern, militaristic setting MacGruber fans might be happy to take a break from.
Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Writers: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Cast: Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge, Jerry Kemp, Warren Clark, Michael Gough, Peter Cushing
Following their success with Airplane!, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker returned four years later with Top Secret! Val Kilmer stars in this international spy spoof about a rock n’ roll musician on a cultural mission in east berlin in the 1950s. In between musical numbers, Kilmer helps a woman in need who happens to be involved in a French resistance plot to stop the ruling regime’s plot to decimate the NATO powers’ naval might. Like all of their comedies, Top Secret! Is an endless tide of punchlines. Kilmer’s devil may care attitude in the face of threats makes him more cool than comedic most of the time, but he’s not out of place, he’s half the fun. Given the writers, it’s as over the top and silly as one could expect. Don’t let this classic get buried by the ever-growing list of great comedies discovered and released every year.
Director: Ben Stiller
Writers: Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Etan Cohen
Cast: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Brandon T. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Tom Cruise
Tropic Thunder is a mid-2000s powerhouse. The action-comedy about a film production gone awry sees a cast of actors lost in the jungles of southeast Asia. The whiney, coddled, self-centered crew marches on in character, unaware that their director is dead and not filming in secret. With full tough guy acts on display and not two cents worth of wits between them, everyone acts with the overt machismo of a threatened MacGruber. Ben Stiller is a triple threat as the director, one of the writers, and stars in the picture. The meta-commentary on Hollywood filmmaking and the personalities in the industry are icing on the cake in this laugh-out-loud comedy.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Director: Jake Kasdan
Writers: Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan
Cast: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, David Krumholtz, Nat Faxon, Tim Meadows, Jonah Hill
If any man embodies the capability, the cult of personality, and the idiocy of MacGruber, it’s Dewey Cox. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a great comedy and a fantastic parody of James Mangold’s (Logan) Walk the Line. Walk the Line is the Oscar-nominated biopic about Johnny Cash starring Joaquin Pheonix. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story follows a music sensation with a tragic past named Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly). Dewey’s career sees him jump across musical genres and styles throughout the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s whilst battling the demons of his past–mostly the haunting memory of halfing his brother in a machete fight. No genre, musical icon of the era, or sink is safe in this Abrahams and Zucker-esque Apatow production.
Director: Akiva Shaffer
Writers: Jared Stern, Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg
Cast: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Billy Crudup, Rosemary Dewitt
The Watch plays it a little more straight than most of the other movies on this list, but the serious scenario contrasted against nitwits caught up in an action film is classic MacGruber. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade are The Watch–a neighborhood watch group formed after a murder at the store where Ben Stiller works. The group of lonely men finds themselves at odds with the general concern of their leader, but their banter and antics are giggle worthy–until the aliens arrive. The Watch goes from a bread n’ butter comedy picture to a sci-fi action comedy you can almost hear the writers laughing along to as it unravels. The amount of comedic talent behind this picture is insane. It even features a few scenes with Will Forte and one of his Last Man on Earth co-stars, Mel Rodriguez. For Stiller fans, Vaughn fans, or people who enjoy Rogan and Goldberg’s comedic writing, The Watch will likely tickle your funny bone.