In order to understand the best comedies of the 2010s, it’s important to travel back further through history. The 2010s were a weird decade for the comedy genre. The mid-2000s were marked by the introduction of “the Judd Apatow influence”—a type of comedy that was heavily improvised, incredibly dirty, but also surprisingly sweet and heartfelt. Audiences ate it up, turning films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad into huge hits. This influence carried over to the beginning of the 2010s, which is when a shift in the kinds of films studios were making started to occur. The arrival of the Marvel Cinematic Universe gave every major studio in town an excuse to look for their next huge franchise, and as a result of those films being incredibly expensive, the number of studio-backed comedies began to decline. At the same time, the box office prospects of the few studio comedies that were being produced also became far more hit-and-miss.
No longer was the next Judd Apatow-produced, star-driven comedy a lock. Even fan-demanded sequels like Anchorman: The Legend Continues and Zoolander 2 were met with cool receptions, which gave studios an even bigger excuse to put their money towards movies where things blow up instead of films in which two dudes talk about genitalia for five minutes.
That’s not to say the 2010s were a bad decade for comedy, and the lack of consistently great traditional comedies gave way to more artful, interesting comedies from “serious” filmmakers. People like Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, and Greta Gerwig not only made some of the funniest movies of the 2010s, they were also some of the best. And then you had filmmakers like Taika Waititi and Phil Lord and Chris Miller who were able to work within the confines of massive studio blockbusters and still deliver hilarious, whip smart comedies.
Here are the best comedies of the 2010s.
20. Deadpool (2016)
“Guy came in here looking for you. Real grim reaper-type. I don’t know. Might further the plot.”
Combine the R-rated comedy raunch that was so popular in the 2000s with the most successful genre in the 2010s—the superhero movie—and you get Deadpool, one of the highest-grossing R-rated films of all time. The film’s self-referential screenplay and visual style cop to the fact that it’s a superhero movie made on a much smaller budget, but Ryan Reynolds’ pitch-perfect casting as the Merc with a Mouth goes a long way here. Deadpool is able to take the “superhero movie” in directions others can’t simply because its lead character knows he’s in a superhero movie, giving the filmmakers the opportunity to play with the genre in interesting ways. But none of this works if the Deadpool casting isn’t right, so it’s a testament to Reynolds’ charm and quick-witted deliver that this movie is as consistently funny as it is.
19. Easy A (2010)
“I don’t think letting Peter Hedlin motorboat you behind a Bed, Bath, and Beyond really makes you a super slut.”
Filmmaker Will Gluck has made a career out of crafting surprisingly good-to-great movies that look kind of terrible, which is certainly the case with Easy A. The film arrived in the wake of the raunchy Apatow-influenced, male-focused films of the mid-to-late 2000s and presented a teen-centric take on The Scarlet Letter (again, sounds terrible right?). But the movie consistently charms when in the wrong hands it may have induced eyerolls, and no doubt a huge part of why it works so well is Emma Stone. While the now-Oscar-winning actress had breakout roles in Superbad and Zombieland, this is the film where she got the chance to shine in the lead, and shine she does. Stone is at once supremely confident and cripplingly self-conscious, echoing the experience of many, many teenagers. Easy A presents a story about femininity and sexuality that avoids being preachy or mean-spirited, instead traveling down more complex roads. It’s consistently funny and quick-witted, and Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson play possibly the best onscreen parents of the decade.
18. Inherent Vice (2014)
“Like Godzilla says to Mothra Man, let’s go eat some place.”
Coming off of The Master, many expected Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2014 Thomas Pynchon adaptation to be similarly self-serious, long, and dramatic. And that’s what some saw—a semi-serious, meandering detective story from the POV of a pothead. But those who got on Inherent Vice’s wavelength understood that this was PTA’s version of a broad comedy; a silly, definitely not self-serious detective story where the mystery ultimately doesn’t matter, and the series of misadventures that befall Larry “Doc” Sportello are really what it’s all about. It’s The Big Lebowski by way of PTA, with Joaquin Phoenix delivering a hilariously committed performance that showcases some terrific physical comedy and a willingness to really get weird. It’s a film that works so much better when you stop trying to figure it all out, sit back, and enjoy the show.
17. Game Night (2018)
“How can that be profitable for Frito Lay?”
It felt like Game Night—a David Fincher-inspired, cinematic, mystery-laden comedy about a group of friends whose game night goes horribly wrong—might be the film to finally bring the studio comedy back en vogue, as it was packed with thrilling, visually gorgeous set pieces. But alas, the box office was somewhat disappointing. For those who didn’t catch this one, it’s your loss. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are delightful as a game-loving couple working through relationship issues as they search for Bateman’s brother, but the entire ensemble cast gets a chance to shine in this slick, keeps-you-guessing comedy. Jesse Plemons gives a supporting performance for the ages.
16. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
“Well, I tried to start a revolution, but I didn’t print enough pamphlets.”
The funniest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie by a long shot, Thor: Ragnarok is a film that constantly goes for the joke and scores. The movie essentially rebooted the title character, as director Taika Waititi brings Chris Hemsworth’s inherent charm to the forefront at last. This is a high concept comedy the refuses to take itself too seriously while also landing genuine emotional stakes—a tightrope walk that many have attempted and failed in the past. Waititi’s quick-witted sense of humor permeates every frame, made all the better by his scene-stealing performance as Korg. And while the movie certainly owes a debt to James Gunn’s also funny but more dramatic Guardians of the Galaxy for paving the way, that Waititi is able to tread somewhat similar territory (space-set epic featuring a band of outsiders) while still carving his own unique path is a testament to his talent as a brilliant filmmaker.
15. Frances Ha (2012)
“I’m not messy, I’m busy.”
Frances Ha marked a turning point for filmmaker Noah Baumbach. His earlier films like The Squid and the Whale and Greenberg were marked by a cynicism and anger that made them a bit prickly, but starting with Frances Ha, Baumbach lightens up a lot—and his films are all the better for it. This 2012 delight was co-written by and stars Greta Gerwig, who we now know as the towering filmmaking talent behind Lady Bird. This intimate story of a twentysomething trying to find her place in the world in New York is relatable to an upsetting degree, and Baumbach and Gerwig inherently know exactly when to go for the laugh, and when to go for the heartache. At once hilarious and tremendously sad, every bone of Frances Ha is crafted with a verve for life, which seeps through onscreen. From the choice to showcase it in black-and-white to the long shot of Frances dancing down a NYC street to “Modern Love,” this is one of the most irresistibly charming comedies of the decade.
14. Hail, Caesar! (2016)
“Would that it ‘twere so simple.”
The Coen Brothers are known for their brilliant, idiosyncratic comedies, and their willingness to go in the complete opposite direction audiences are expecting is part of what makes them so fascinating. After winning the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director they next made the espionage farce Burn After Reading, and after crafting their dramatic, extremely sad Inside Llewyn Davis, they next skewered Hollywood in the supremely silly Hail, Caesar! This is a movie in which nothing and everything matters all at the same time. It’s a film that stops dead to present a closeted-movie-stars song and dance number featuring Channing Tatum, and a film that sidelines huge movie star George Clooney in a room with a bunch of communists for almost the entire runtime. The Coen Brothers have a wicked sense of humor, and Hail, Caesar! puts that on full display to hilarious, surprising effect.
13. 21 Jump Street (2012)
“Did you just say you have the right to be an attorney?”
The brilliance of 21 Jump Street can be attributed to filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s embrace of the unexpected. This is a high school movie that leads you to believe it’s going to be traveling down the same path that so many high school movies have traveled over the years, only to take a sharp left turn and instead force its protagonists—Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill—to confront a teenage generation that cares about the environment, is far more accepting of the LGBTQ community, and embraces emotional sensitivity. It’s a superb subversion of expectations made all the more enjoyable by the cast’s eagerness to upend these particular tropes.
12. This Is the End (2013)
“It’s too late for you, you’re already in the hole.”
The aptly named This Is the End not only announced Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg as talented writers/directors in their own right, but also put a surprising spin on the “Apatow Bro Comedy” that had dominated the 2000s. The film is populated with many familiar faces from that era, but they’re all playing a version of themselves on the eve of the apocalypse. It’s a brilliant yet risky hook that even the studio tried to convince Rogen and Goldberg to drop, but it works so well in the finished film that you can’t really imagine the movie without it. Danny McBride gets two of the greatest entrances in recent movie history, the friendship between Rogen and Jay Baruchel gets a spectacular payoff, and Jonah Hill plays the most likable dick imaginable. This certainly stands as one of the most purely fun comedies of the decade.
11. Spy (2015)
“This arm has been ripped off completely and re-attached, with this fuckin’ arm.”
Melissa McCarthy was possibly the breakout comedic actress of the decade, and her 2015 spy comedy Spy stands as her funniest entry yet. Reuniting with Bridesmaids and The Heat director Paul Feig, McCarthy puts a twist on her public image by inhabiting the role of a lowly assistant to a sexy spy (Jude Law) who is forced to step up and take on the spy role when he seemingly gets murdered. She’s fantastic in the role, but the secret weapons of Spy are Jason Statham playing up his badass persona in hilarious fashion and Rose Byrne absolutely killing it as the film’s deadly villain. Spy isn’t breaking the mold in terms of structure or visual style, but in terms of laughs-per-minute, this one succeeds wildly.
10. The World’s End (2013)
“What the fuck does WTF mean?”
The release of the Rogen/Apatow comedy This Is the End coincided with the release of another world-ending comedy of a very different sort: Edgar Wright’s The World’s End. The third film in the loosely connected Cornetto Trilogy served as the mature follow-up to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, as co-writer/star Simon Pegg tackles issues of addiction, depression, and the downfalls of nostalgia in his best onscreen performance to date. And while The World’s End takes its characters seriously, the film is also packed with Wright’s signature visual gags and crackling humor, making for a watch that is equal parts hilarious and kind of heartbreaking. The sci-fi elements weave in perfectly, and Wright and Pegg’s screenplay once again features an airtight structure that is all about setup and payoff.
9. The LEGO Movie (2014)
“I only work in black and sometimes very, very dark grey.”
Phil Lord and Chris Miller have made a career out of turning terrible ideas into great movies, and that’s certainly the case with The LEGO Movie. What could have been a feature-length advertisement for a toy is instead a story about creativity, and how the “chosen one” narrative is complete and utter hogwash. It’s thematically rich for a “kids movie,” but on top of that it’s also an incredibly funny, fast-moving, visually dynamic adventure film packed with jokes and visual gags galore.
8. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
“Just leave me to do my dark bidding on the internet!”
Before Taika Waititi became The Internet’s Boyfriend, he co-wrote, co-directed, and co-starred in a mockumentary about vampires called What We Do in the Shadows—and it remains one of his best films. The movie presents the lives of a group of vampires living together in hiding as wonderfully banal, as it’s a story where all the “little moments” make all the difference.
7. The Nice Guys (2016)
“Sweetheart, how many times have I told you? Don’t say ‘and stuff.’ Just say ‘Dad, there are whores here.’”
One of the most underrated comedies of the decade, Shane Black’s The Nice Guys is a magnificent detective story, a jaw-dropping physical comedy showcase for Ryan Gosling, and a hilarious buddy comedy all at once. The 1977-set film finds a private eye (Gosling) teaming up with a Yoo-hoo-drinking enforcer (Russell Crowe) to try and track down missing girl, but as noirs tend to go, they end up entangled in a much larger web of conspiracy. The chemistry between Gosling and Crowe is incredible, and Gosling’s display of physical comedy is downright Oscar-worthy. Every beat lands, and every joke is honed to perfection. It’s a shame not many saw this one in theaters, because they missed one of the best comedy team-ups in recent memory.
6. Lady Bird (2017)
“What you do is very anarchist. Very baller.”
Coming-of-age stories are a dime a dozen, but when Lady Bird was released in 2017, it earned its place at the top of the heap right alongside films like Sixteen Candles, Clueless, and Almost Famous. Writer/director Greta Gerwig’s 2002-set film isn’t quite just a drama, nor is it quite just a comedy, which means it’s totally eligible for this list. The movie is genuinely funny and oftentimes hilarious, thanks to pitch-perfect deliveries from the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Beanie Feldstein, and Timothée Chalamet (“What you do is very anarchist. Very baller.”), and that comedy makes the drama all the more impactful. These people feel real and tangible. You come out of the film feeling like you know Lady Bird, and you care deeply for her. That’s the power of great filmmaking.
5. Paddington 2 (2017)
“If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.”
Paddington 2 is a miracle. The first Paddington itself was a pleasant surprise, as director Paul King crafted a supremely charming, wholesome story of a lost bear simply looking for a place to belong. But somehow the sequel is even better, as Paddington is on the hunt for the perfect gift for his Aunt Lucy. That’s it. That’s the plot. Along the way Paddington gets locked up in prison, shares his marmalade sandwich recipe with a hardened inmate played by Brendan Gleeson, and then at the end of the movie, Hugh Grant leads a giant musical number. That all of this not only works but also genuinely makes your heart swell with joy and makes you want to be a better person is part of the magic of Paddington 2, a movie that may or may not have the power to actually change the world.
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
“Keep your hands off my lobby boy!”
Wes Anderson’s 2014 Oscar-winning hit The Grand Budapest Hotel is not just one of the filmmaker’s most successful films yet, it’s also the funniest. Anchored by a go-for-broke performance from Ralph Fiennes, the multi-layered story chronicles the friendship between a concierge and a lobby boy at an upscale hotel in a fictional, war-torn European country. It’s got things you might expect from a broad comedy—a prison break, quick-changes, and a downhill skiing chase that plays up the physical comedy—but through the lens of Wes Anderson, every facet of the film feels unique and handmade. It’s a delight through and through, immaculately crafted and layered with a feeling of wistfulness throughout. To say it might be Wes Anderson’s best film is not to denigrate his previous films, but to underscore just how good The Grand Budapest Hotel is.
3. Bridesmaids (2011)
“I’m glad he’s single because I’m going to climb that like a tree.”
Before it was released, Bridesmaids was unfairly positioned as “the female version” of the many, many dude-centric R-rated comedies that populated the previous decade, but very quickly audiences realized this was something wholly unique. Written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, the film offers a complex look at female friendship that is equal parts can’t-stop-laughing hilarious and whoa-too-real brutal honesty. There’s not a weak link in the entire ensemble cast, and while Melissa McCarthy rightfully broke out in a huge way (scoring an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress), Rose Byrne’s sneakily smarmy turn as Helen feels like it never really got its due as a tremendous comedic performance. The film refuses to devolve into stereotypes about female friendships and offers a complex, complicated protagonist in Wiig’s Annie, which not only made it refreshing at the time but have served it well as time has gone on. This one holds up as a comedy classic for a reason.
2. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
“Ten seconds is an eternity, Harry! It’s a third of the way to Mars!”
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is one of the most underrated films of the decade, full-stop. While some unfairly wrote this off as a Justin Bieber parody, those who actually saw the film know Popstar is a ridiculous comedic masterpiece on the level of Step Brothers and Anchorman. The filmmaking team of The Lonely Island bring the story of Conner4Real to life via mockumentary format, chronicling the disastrous release of a new album from a megafamous musician who is as confident as he is oblivious. Directors Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone bring a genuinely cinematic visual style to the film, which somehow makes the increasingly bizarre shenanigans that much funnier. Andy Samberg delivers one of the great comedic performances of the decade as Conner, and it’s a testament to his work that despite Conner’s lack of self-awareness, you still find him endearing. On top of all of that, the soundtrack is genuinely fantastic, as the songs from Conner, his tourmates, and his former band The Style Boyz (for life) are insanely catchy. The film’s rewatchability is off the charts, making it all the more frustrating that it wasn’t rightly hailed
1. MacGruber (2010)
“KFBR392 KFBR392 KFBR392 KFBR392 KFBR392 KFBR392”
The best comedy of the decade is MacGruber, of course. What else? This feature film adaptation of the recurring SNL sketch is the brainchild of Will Forte, John Solomon, and Jorma Taccone, and it is as ridiculous as it is insane. And this is an incredibly insane movie. It’s a film that shouldn’t work, but Taccone homages 80s actioners just enough to feel familiar, but not so much so that MacGruber feels like downright parody. It stands alone as the weird, hysterical comedy that it is, with Forte giving a go-for-broke performance as the titular inept action hero. Every actor commits to the bit, from Kristen Wiig to Ryan Phillippe to Val Kilmer, and the movie is all the better for it. The brilliance of MacGruber is best explained by pointing out that it features not one but two hilariously over-the-top sex scenes, one of which involves Forte’s MacGruber making love to a ghost. This doubling down on ridiculous, weird bits is the essence of MacGruber’s charm. What other movie would not only go there, but go there in such a strangely confident way? There is only one MacGruber, and it’s a comedic masterpiece.