When it comes to comedy, I can appreciate any style with any level of depth. While there may have been better-crafted comedies this decade, these were the 10 (well, 11) that made me laugh the most and the hardest.
21 Jump Street / 22 Jump Street
(2012/2014, Phil Lord & Chris Miller)
The last thing we needed was a film version of a mostly forgotten undercover cop show from the late ’80s. But Lord & Miller took all the clever, silly ideas they used in the animated realm and applied them to these two pieces of live-action insanity. Sure, a few jokes here and there are already dated, but these journeys into high school and college provided laughs from beginning to end.
Best Line: “Cyn-thi-a! Cyn-thi-uh? Jesus died for our Cyn-thi-as. Jesus cried. Runaway bride. Julia Roberts. Julia Rob… hurts!” – Schmidt (Jonah Hill)
The Death of Stalin
(2018, Armando Iannucci)
If you thought Veep and The Thick of It were relentless, wait till you see this absolutely vicious political comedy. Using real Soviet history to skewer entitlement, hubris and fascism, this is a comedy that’s not afraid to go absolutely pitch black for a laugh, or to make you wince a second later.
Best Line: “I’m the peacemaker and I’ll fuck over anyone who gets in my way.” – Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi)
Olive (Emma Stone): “I was just wondering what your church’s stance on lying and adultery was?”
Pastor (Fred Armisen): “It’s not a good thing.”
Olive: “Oh, I agree wholeheartedly. But then, tell me this: Assuming there is a hell…”
Pastor: “Oh, the Christian church recognizes the existence of hell.”
Olive: “OK, we’ll just say there’s a hell.”
Pastor: “There is. Just so we’re clear.”
Olive: “OK, but for argument’s sake…”
Pastor: “No, there’s no argument. It’s there: right below our feet, right above the Orient.”
(2010, Chris Morris)
A third-rail comedy that offers far more than provocation, Four Lions follows a quartet of inept would-be terrorists (including Riz Ahmed) as they attempt to bomb the London Marathon. Obviously, this movie would never be made today. But that’s not why you should see it. You should see it because it’s hilarious and finds the humanity in its unlikely protagonists.
Best Line: “The report makes crystal clear that the police shot the right man, but as far as I’m aware, the wrong man exploded. Is that clear?” – Negotiator (Benedict Cumberbatch)
Best Line: “How can that be profitable for Frito-Lay?” – Gary (Jesse Plemons)
Holly (Angourie Rice): “Dad, there’s like whores here and stuff.”
Holland (Ryan Gosling): “Sweetheart, how many times have I told you? Don’t say ‘and stuff.’ Just say, ‘Dad, there are whores here.’”
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
(2016, Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone)
A brilliant parody of the pop music industry in the streaming era, Andy Samberg is at his best as a man-child Conner4Real, a spoiled, mostly untalented solo artist whose cratering sales lead him to reconnect with the group that first brought him fame. And for once, the bevy of cameos work, particularly Joan Cusack as Connor’s hard-partying mom and Will Arnett as a pitch-perfect Harvey Levin stand-in.
Harry (Tim Meadows): “You were only up there for 10 seconds.”
Conner (Andy Samberg): “That’s a third of the way to Mars!”
(2015, Paul Feig)
Another movie that lets each member of its ensemble shine, it’s Melissa McCarthy’s best straight-up comedy vehicle. Playing a CIA analyst who finally gets to go out into the field, she’s bumbling but never a joke herself. But Brits Miranda Hart and Jason Statham steal the show.
Best Line: “Well, I make a habit out of doing things that people say I can’t do: Walk through fire, waterski blindfolded, take up piano at a late age.” – Rick Ford (Jason Statham)
(2014, Chris Rock)
Critically acclaimed but widely underseen by audiences, Chris Rock’s satire about a comedian attempting to become a “serious actor” has a tremendous cast and a bit of a mean streak. Plus, DMX singing “Smile.” Would that this film were as successful as any slap-dash Madea flick.
Andre (Chris Rock): “You coming to the party, right?”
Carl (Ben Vereen): “Some people got to work. I’ll tell you what: I’ll come to your next bachelor party.”
Andre: “That’s not funny, man.”
Carl: “Tell me something. Your next wife: She gonna be white or she gonna be Asian?”
Andre: “It’s still not funny, man.”
Carl: “Oh, it’s only funny when you say mean shit. Right?”
What We Do in the Shadows
(2014, Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement)
This mockumentary tweaked vampire mythology to suit its own comic needs, creating one of the most memorable and hilarious films of the decade. It’s so beloved by its small cult that it even spawned a TV show, one I promise I’ll get to one of these days.
Vladislav (Jemaine Clement): “Leave me to do my dark bidding on the internet!”
Viago (Taika Waititi): “What are you bidding on?”
Vladislav: “I’m bidding on a table.”
Honorable Mentions: Cedar Rapids (2011), Crazy Stupid Love (2011), The Favourite (2018), Inherent Vice (2014), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)