I've long been a proponent of using comedy as a salve to help us get through the darkest moments in history. As soon as the novel COVID-19 virus evolved into an international pandemic, I quickly crawled into bed, curled up in my plush covers, and started watching marathons of mindless sitcoms. Over the last few months, I've done much of the same, forgoing so-called "prestige" television and film in favor of content that was easy-to-follow and had the ability to make me laugh in between bouts of tears.
And now, here we are again, facing another trying moment in history as we anxiously await the voting results of several states to determine who will be the president that runs the US for the next four years. As if the on-going pandemic — which appears to be getting worse instead of better — wasn't already a big enough source of stress, now we are forced to also consider the possibility that the man largely responsible for our government's inaction up to this point might get another shot to fuck everything up once more.
So what's left to do but turn off the news and turn on something funny instead? While it won't fix the madness boiling up around us, at least it can provide you with a couple hours of respite. Below, find ten of the funniest movies you can stream now — because everybody deserves a good laugh now and then.
Austin Powers In Goldmember (HBO Max)
When describing Austin Powers In Goldmember, I like to take a Stefon from SNL approach: “Austin Powers In Goldmember has everything: elaborate dance sequences, a film-within-a-film, BEYONCÉ, an excellent original song (“Daddy Wasn’t There” invented the gays), a club called Studio 69, giant moles...and did I mention Beyoncé?” Once again directed by Jay Roach, the third installment in this box office-smashing trilogy, which stars Mike Myers in a number of roles (including the chief protagonist and antagonist), Goldmember follows the titular Austin Powers as he time-travels to 1975 to try and bring down the titular Goldmember, a supervillain with a gold-plated penis who has been working with his Austin’s arch-nemesis Dr. Evil. The trip reunites Austin with his estranged father as well as with Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyoncé). Like all Austin Powers films, Goldmember is filled with potty-minded toilet humor (a scene with a flatulent “Fat Bastard” is permanently etched in my brain), but if you can get past the raunch, you’ll be treated to a hilariously ridiculous spoof of the spy film genre. And again...Beyoncé.
Barbershop (Hulu and Netflix)
When it comes to representing the Black community on the silver screen, very few comedies can hold a candle to Barbershop, the 2002 film starring too many Black legends to count. Following Calvin (Ice Cube) as he tries to save the family barbershop he quietly lost while betting on “bigger” things, the film largely takes place inside the walls of said barbershop, where different-minded Black hairstylists (and one white man) go back and forth with their opinions on Black culture. Barbershop is carried by its back-to-back string of hilarious jokes, but on a slightly deeper level, the film also proves to be an ahead-of-its-time depiction of how different members of the Black community can think from one another. I will never forget the scene of Cedric the Entertainer, playing the barbershop’s resident cantankerous elder, diving into a list of his most unpopular opinions — including the fact that Rodney King deserved his treatment and all Rosa Parks did was just “sit her Black ass on a bus.” It’s deliberately irreverent and admirably inappropriate, held together by the film’s clear respect for Black narratives by Black creators.
That Booksmart, the whipsmart feature debut by Olivia Wilde, didn’t receive more national acclaim is one of the bigger tragedies of last year (in my humble opinion). Starring Lady Bird’s Beanie Feldstein and Unbelievable’s Kaitlyn Dever as two straight-A, goody-two-shoe high school senior best friends, the film follows the pair as they realize that despite being the only students in school that put grades above everything else (including fun), they aren’t the only ones who got accepted into elite universities. So in an effort to make up for lost time, they decide to make the night before graduation one that they’ll never forget. A raucously funny comedy that almost happens in real-time, the film explores female friendship, queer identity, the soft hearts that sometimes exist inside hard exteriors, and how hard it can be to say goodbye. The always wonderful Beanie Feldstein was deservedly nominated for a Golden Globe for her excellent performance, but Booksmart works partially because the supporting cast (especially Billie Lourd in her kookiest role yet) is just as great.
Bridesmaids (HBO Max)
Paul Feig’s filmography is near spotless (I mean, have you ever seen Spy?), but everything in it pales in comparison to Bridesmaids, an uproarious comedy starring Kristen Wiig as Annie, a down-on-her-luck baker who has to plaster on a happy face as she tries to support her best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), as she plans her upcoming wedding. If that wasn’t enough, she’s also now forced to be in a bridal party with Helen (Rose Byrne), a significantly fancier and far wealthier woman who seems determined to replace Annie as Lillian’s new best friend. Together, these three women supply an endless stream of laughs; throw in Ellie Kemper and Melissa McCarthy as other members of the bridal party and Chris O’Dowd and Jon Hamm as Annie’s very different love interests and you’re set. It’s no surprise Bridesmaids is one of the only true comedies to actually be acknowledged by The Academy, who nominated the film for Best Original Screenplay and co-star Melissa McCarthy for Best Supporting Actress.
Easy A (Netflix)
Shortly after stealing scenes in Superbad (which also appears on this list) and several years before she’d win an Oscar for her performance in La La Land, Emma Stone made her mark on Hollywood with Easy A. Playing Olive Pendergrass, an innocent and unpopular high school student, Stone proved her knack for off-kilter sass and sardonic wit with a character that derived her power from being an outcast. After lying to her best friend (Aly Michalka) about losing her virginity, Olive soon finds herself embracing the role of The Scarlet Letter’s protagonist when a die-hard Christian and President of the Cross Your Hearts Club (a perfect Amanda Bynes) overhears and starts spreading the rumor across campus. Now considered a slut by many of her peers, Olive leans into her newfound reputation and selflessly uses it to help other men (gay men, fat men, etc.) seem cooler by agreeing to let them lie about having sex with her. While Stone has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most beloved leading ladies, it’s hard to imagine where her career would be without this crowd-pleasing comedy.
Hairspray (HBO Max)
To many, John Waters is the Patron Saint of Filth; his films with famous muse Divine are known for their no-holds-barred approach to everything disgusting and decrepit. Which is why, perhaps, Hairspray, his 1988 camp classic about an overweight woman, Tracy Turnblad (a young Ricki Lake), who unexpectedly enraptures America when she’s cast on the daily music and dance show The Corny Collins Show, sticks out so much in his filmography. While the film still feels distinctly like a Waters production — with its deliberately quirky dialogue, over-the-top performances, and the presence of Divine (a drag queen playing a real woman in the 1980s!) — Hairspray also feels surprisingly accessible, a hilarious film that can be enjoyed by all members of the family. And though the film initially feels like a treatise on body image, it actually evolves into something far more daring and political as it dives into discussions about racial tensions through Tracy’s efforts to fully integrate the currently-segregated Corny Collins Show.
Paddington and Paddington 2 (Hulu)
Okay, okay. Maybe Paddington and its even better sequel, Paddington 2, aren’t exactly revered for being “funny” in the traditional sense. But I could not possibly think of two better films to watch back-to-back if you need to escape the current horrors of our world. Voiced by the personal love-of-my-life Ben Whishaw, the titular Paddington is an adorable bear whose optimistic view of the world is borderline unrealistic. Yet, somehow, his charm is still powerful enough to brighten the moods of even the most cynical individuals — and not everyone can say that!
The soothing first film sets the scene, following the recently-displaced Paddington as he finds his way into the home of an adorable English family. Though they’re initially resistant to his hijinks, they eventually grow to see him as another member of their family. But the sequel is really where the franchise hits its stride, an objectively perfect film that finds Paddington going to prison, busting out, and eventually taking down Phoenix Buchanan (an excellent Hugh Grant), a vain actor whose villainy involves a number of elaborate disguises. So grab some marmalade sandwiches and sink into this perfect world. Paddington has the power to make everything better.
Palm Springs (Hulu)
This year has been a weird one for movies, but even in a time where movie theaters were open and everything released as planned, I find it hard to believe that Palm Springs wouldn’t still land somewhere in my top 10. Starring Andy Samberg as a man stuck in a time-loop at a wedding in the titular desert vacation hotspot and Cristin Milioti as the sister to the bride at said wedding, who accidentally gets sucked into the time loop too, the film effectively bridges the divide between sci-fi and comedy to tell a story that’s both playfully slapstick and mind-bogglingly scientific. As Nyles (Samberg) and Sarah (Milioti) attempt to fight their way out of a time-loop that keeps them tied to a wedding ceremony neither really cared to be at in the first place, the pair slowly grow more fond of each other, leading to a conclusion that feels inevitable but still manages to delight and surprise nonetheless. While I’m upset that I wasn’t able to experience a film this funny in a packed theater of hollering adults, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to have it available to stream whenever I’m feeling blue.
If anyone can say The perfect film does not exist, chances are they have yet to experience the brilliance of Superbad, the 2007 Judd Apatow-produced coming-of-age comedy about two high school seniors (three, if we include McLovin) desperate to secure alcohol before heading to a graduation party so they can hopefully get laid by the women using them for their alleged access to a fake ID. Written by Seth Rogen and starring Michael Cera and Jonah Hill, the film is a perfectly crafted story about teenage angst, lifelong brotherhood, a resistance to change, and the shocking lengths teenage boys will go to for sex. It’s American Pie except 100-times smarter. If you’re watching the films on this list in the order they’re listed, don’t be surprised if you notice similarities between Superbad and Booksmart; in a way, they are literally brother and sister, especially since they share an actual brother and sister in stars Beanie Feldstein and Jonah Hill.
There's Something About Mary (Prime Video)
There are rom-coms and then there is...something about Mary. Starring Ben Stiller, Matt Dillon, and a delightful (Golden Globe-nominated) Cameron Diaz as the titular Mary, There’s Something About a Mary is a rom-com that’s much more focused on the comedy than the actual romance. Thirteen years after an unfortunate mishap at his senior prom (aka Ben Stiller accidentally zipped his penis into his prom tuxedo pants), Ted gets another opportunity to pursue Mary, the so-called love of his life. But after hiring Healy (Dillon) to follow her around and learn about her interests so he could better impress her, Ted finds himself competing with Healy for Mary’s affection. Utterly ridiculous and toe-tappingly hilarious, There’s Something About Mary is one of those rom-coms I find myself revisiting at least once a year. (Yes, I own a copy on DVD.) As far as setpieces go, I hesitate to think of anything funnier than the moment when Mary mistakes a glob of Ted’s sperm, casually dangling from his ear after a pre-date masturbation session, for hair gel and proceeds to apply it to her own mane, leaving her with a rather interesting updo at dinner — by which, I mean, a straight-updo.