While the 00s were dominated by the era of the Judd Apatow comedy, the 10s ushered in a more diverse and dynamic slate of comedy.
It’s hard to make a definitive “best comedies” list because arguments can be made about what exactly constitutes as a comedy or not (just as the Golden Globes). For example, I was tempted to include Jordan Peele’s Get Out on this list, one of the very best movies of the decade, but decided it would fall more into the horror genre. Is Martin Scorsese’s sprawling masterwork about the chaos of corporate greed, The Wolf of Wall Street, really a comedy? In the words of Annette Bening in 20th Century Women, “yes and no.”
From action comedies to romantic comedies to comedy dramas, it was a challenge to narrow this list down to just ten, but I did my best. See below for my picks for the 10 best comedies of the 2010s and sound off in the comments with your favorites!
10. Easy A (2010)
Known as Emma Stone’s breakout performance, this high school coming-of-age comedy right at the dawn of the new decade felt like the end of an era — the male-centric teen comedy — and the announcement of a new one — Emma Stone as a movie star.
While the story is quite conventional in terms of the teen genre, the movie soared thanks to Stone’s charisma and comedic verve. A date scene at a Red Lobster restaurant becomes instantly iconic as does a sing-along in the shower to “Pocket Full of Sunshine.”
Amanda Bynes also gives maybe her best performance ever as an overbearing arch-nemesis to Stone’s protagonist and delivers unhinged mania at its finest, even with a touch of heart. And we can’t forget Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as the best (and most attractive) screen parents ever.
9. 21 Jump Street (2012)
Oscar winners Phil Lord and Chris Miller were just getting started with this reboot/reimagining of the classic 80s TV show. Rebranded as a raunchy buddy comedy for a new generation, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum delivered comedic chemistry that was like a jolt of lightning.
Tatum especially surprises with his wealth of self-deprecating humor and willingness to play totally stupid. The real star here though, was the exceptionally tight and sharp-witted script from Lord and Miller, which would soon become their touchstone, from The Lego Movie to one of the very best movies of 2018, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse.
8. Enough Said (2013)
Nicole Holofcener’s best movie also happens to be more most conventional, in the very best sense of the word. It’s a romantic comedy for adults; on the surface it is a light, breezy romp, but underneath it runs deep with a well of emotional intelligence and nuance.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Eva, a massage therapist who befriends a client, played by the wonderfully deadpan Catherine Keener, who just so happens to be the ex-wife of the new man (James Gandolfini, absolutely glowing in his last onscreen performance) she just started dating.
Clever hijinks ensue, and it swirls around wonderful chemistry between Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini while simultaneously touching on themes of growing older, growing apart, and watching old aspects of your life fade away while new adventures present themselves.
7. This Is the End (2013)
At the height of the golden era of the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg written and produced comedies, this apocalyptic disaster-comedy hybrid turns Los Angeles into a fiery hell-scape as almost a premonition of the city in 2019.
With more cameos than you can count, the star-studded cast features a bunch of actors playing exaggerated (or not) versions of themselves, and it really skewers the notion of celebrity naval-gazing by subjecting the entire cast to hilariously violent deaths.
It’s outrageous, gut-busting and serves self-deprecating lobs left and right with actors totally down to play and make fun of themselves.
6. Booksmart (2019)
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is a joyous coming-of-age high school movie that many have hailed as an updated, female-centric Superbad. That’s a decent comparison, but I’ll take it even one step further.
Booksmart gives us a high school in 2019 that more closely resembles what a senior year graduating class might actually look like in 2019, and that in of itself makes the movie unassumingly revelatory.
Beanie Feldstein doubles down on what she brought to Lady Bird, while Kaitlyn Dever turns in a star-making performance. The supporting cast across the board is excellent including The Real O’Neals‘ Noah Galvin and Billie Lourd making her late grandmother Carrie Fisher proud with insane comedic prowess.
5. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
What Comedy Central’s The Other Two did so well, perfectly skewering the entertainment and music industry, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping did it years earlier. From The Lonely Island, this showbiz satire is the best of its kind we’ve seen and ever likely will see.
Not without its fair share of obscenities and vulgarity, it’s balanced nicely with whip-smart, incendiary commentary on not only the music industry but pop culture at large. The music videos for “Equal Rights” and “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)” are standouts.
4. Young Adult (2011)
A dark comedy from writer Diablo Cody and writer Jason Reitman (Juno) that gives us a protagonist that’s so vile, yet you can’t help but not only root for her, but unfortunately, identify with her as well.
It’s such a delicate balance to strike, and this writer/director duo does it with aplomb and is given the gift of Charlize Theron’s astute and scathing performance, which is arguably the best performance of her career.
Cringe-inducing in moments, laugh-out-loud hilarious in others, Young Adult shows us the boundary-pushing dark places comedy can take us.
3. Lady Bird (2017)
Not only one of the best comedies of the decade, Greta Gerwig’s debut as writer/director is one of the very best movies of the decade, period. Gerwig had been building to this, having co-written two other exemplary films from the decade, Frances Ha and Mistress America, directed by her spouse, Noah Baumbach.
With Lady Bird, Gerwig comes fully into her own filmmaking voice, with an across-the-board impeccable cast speaking her words — including Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein and Lucas Hedges — all working at the top of their game. It’s insightful, gorgeous, wonderful and, best of all, — and why it appears on this list — it’s heartbreakingly hilarious.
A portrait of what it means to move on from home, it’s one of the most singularly voiced coming-of-age stories we’ve seen in a long time. The magic of this comedy is that one minute you’ll be crying, and the next, you’re laughing behind those tears.
2. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
What many consider Martin Scorsese’s magnum opus of this decade, although this year’s The Irishman is making a late-entry case for itself, the director’s swirling odyssey of capitalist excess was taken with a mixed bag upon its release. Nine years later, however, the potency of what exactly one of our greatest living filmmakers was getting at is all too clear.
At the center of the debauchery is a career-best performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as Wall Street hotshot Jordan Belfort, who conned his way to the top of the food chain, and has a glorious fall from grace. The journey getting there is laced with obscene behavior that is an absolute blast to watch.
The splash of sobering water at the end though, when we realize we’ve been laughing along with a monster during the entire three-hour runtime, is when the reality of this pitch black comedy settles in.
1. Bridesmaids (2011)
From an Academy Award-nominated script penned by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, and the introduction of Academy Award nominee Melissa McCarthy bursting onto the Hollywood movie scene, Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids felt like a major turning point in comedy.
Hailed as the female version of The Hangover, Bridesmaids ushered in the new era of female-driven R-rated comedies. Not only catapulting Melissa McCarthy to stardom, the comedy’s box office success spawned countless movies trying to capture the same energy, like Bad Moms, Rough Night and Girls Trip, some arriving with more success than others.
And now, here we are in 2019 with Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers getting critical acclaim, serving up another high watermark in the female-driven R-rated comedy, as if putting a cap on the era that Bridesmaids started.
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