If there was ever a year that needed some good laughs, it’s 2020. Times are tough, we’ve all had an unusual amount of alone time this year, and there’s nothing like a good guffaw to burn off a little stress and make you feel primally connected to something. Fortunately, while many of the year’s biggest blockbusters and highly-anticipated horror titles were delayed, a lot of high-profile comedy movies made their way to streaming and DVD, giving us something to laugh about at home.
Like everything else in 2020, it’s been an interesting and unusual year in comedy. There’s a whole lot of genre-bending; comedies that skew towards drama, action-comedies, horror-comedies, and animated funny movies for kids. And then there’s that Will Ferrell movie that made us cry like babies. A strange year indeed.
We sorted through 2020’s comedy releases, from the streaming hits to the straight-to-VOD surprises, and the few that had the chance to screen in theaters, and picked our favorites. Check out the Collider Staff’s best comedy movies of the year below, and if you’re looking for something you can watch right now, head over to the Best Comedies on Netflix and the Best Comedies on Amazon Prime.
12 Hour Shift
If you like your comedy it bit twisted and very bloody, settle in for a super-fun thriller with Brea Grant’s 12 Hour Shift. Set in a hospital during one very gnarly, unrelenting shift, the film stars Angela Bettis as a nurse whose black market organ-selling scheme goes way off track when her not-to-bright but extremely determined cousin (Chloe Farnworth) loses a harvested kidney. Grant has snappy dialogue and a sharp eye (especially in one dance-fuelled scene transition that truly delighted me,) but as an experienced actor herself, she’s especially keen at getting killer performances out of her cast. Bettis is reliably excellent in the lead, and David Arquette charms his way through his minimal scenes, but Farnworth is a dang force of nature as an unstoppable dimwit who will do whatever it takes to save her own dolled-up skin, no matter how dastardly. It’s the kind of genre-bender that will have you cringing through the comedy and smiling through the squirmiest bits. – Haleigh Foutch
An American Pickle
As a longtime fan of Seth Rogen, An American Pickle didn’t have to sell me too hard on watching it earlier this year when it dropped onto HBO Max. Penned by Simon Rich (who also wrote the short story on which his script is based), An American Pickle follows Herschel Greenbaum (Rogen), an immigrant working in a pickle factory who accidentally gets sealed up into a vat of pickle brine in the early 20th century and is released from his salty tomb 100 years later into modern-day Brooklyn. Herschel’s only surviving relative is Ben (also Rogen), an app developer who welcomes Herschel into his home. As the two reconnect, their very different approaches to life get them into some very odd situations, including Herschel’s spectacularly failed attempts to start his own pickle business. Cue Herschel learning what an intern is, what a health inspector is, and what wokeness is with a 20th-century attitude.
Things get very silly very fast as Ben reacts poorly to Herschel’s new life, leading them both to confront their own issues around loss and loneliness. Much of American Pickle’s comedy is infused with earnestness and sweetness rooted in the idea that families are stronger together, so when it falls apart, it can lead to places that are as amusingly absurd as they are enlightening. –Allie Gemmill
Bad Boys for Life
The most endearing element of the Bad Boys movies isn’t the over-the-top action and wild-as-all-hell setpieces, but rather the charisma and comedic banter of its two lead actors. Even after a 17-year hiatus, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence easily reconnect with that magic in Bad Boys for Life, delivering a movie that’s equal parts hilarious and high-octane.
The movie leans into the fact that these two guys are well into middle age (although looking at Smith, you’d never be able to tell), resulting in some truly delightful gags that are closer to the near-farcical comedy of the first film. One particularly memorable scene involves Mike (Smith) trying to stealthily drop off Marcus’ (Lawrence) baby grandchild before pushing Marcus into a high-speed chase in the Burnett family minivan. There’s also several easter eggs for fans of the series that produce some solid laughs, in particular the film’s masterful opening sequence. Bad Boys for Life manages to be one of the year’s best comedies without slimming down the action one iota, which is another way of saying you should watch it immediately. The only bummer is that it’s a cop movie, with one scene in particular that has aged horribly since its release back in January. So maybe just pretend that they’re superheroes? — Thomas Reimann
Hugh Jackman turned in one of the strongest performances of 2020 in Bad Education, a dramedy based on one of the biggest embezzlement cases in U.S. history. Jackman plays Frank Tassone, a Long Island superintendent who is the model leader with an unblemished record. Frank’s carefully-constructed veneer of perfection begins to crack when it is revealed his close friend, assistant superintendent Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney), is revealed to have been using school district funds for her own personal gain. Pam’s downfall begins to expose just how long and deep her deception has gone and Frank’s participation in this crime.
Bad Education is not a comedy in that it explicitly aims for laughs. However, you will find yourself laughing at the characters of Bad Education because those on both the right and wrong side of history are depicted through Mike Makowsky’s script and Cory Finley’s direction. Bad Education is a comedy steeped in dark, dry humor that helps increase the tension as the plot moves forward while exposing its blandly callous antagonists. –Allie Gemmill
Bill and Ted Face the Music
One of the brightest spots of 2020 was Bill and Ted Face the Music. In an otherwise very bleak year, the third movie in the Bill and Ted franchise gave us a shot of joy. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter return for the threequel after nearly 30 years away, once again playing our favorite San Dimas time-travelers nearly 30 years after 1991’s Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
Bill and Ted Face the Music makes very smart and interesting choices with its story. The movie brings us into the present day, where Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) are still living in San Dimas and still trying to make the song that will apparently unite the world. While they’re still musicians and best friends, they’re also dads and husbands, so the pressures of life weigh even heavier on them. (They’re also still very co-dependent on one another — a running joke that often results in some of the funniest moments of the movie.) Bill and Ted Face the Music sees the guys trying to save the world once more. This time, they try to steal their world-saving song from themselves. As they bop around on their own timelines, they meet multiple Bills and Teds, some who are in jail, some who are failed rock stars, and some who are hanging out in a nursing home together. This set-up allows Reeves and Winter to really play around and indulge in the goofiness, making for a very fun and heartwarming romp. –Allie Gemmill
Birds of Prey: and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
In the year 2020, it’s not hard to make “the best DCEU film thus far.” But Birds of Prey accomplishes this task with unparalleled, unprecedented flair. It backflips over the DCEU finish line with glitter bombs and double middle fingers up. It redefines how much auteurs can and should flex in mainstream superhero cinema (Cathy Yan is doing everything, and I love every second of it). It gives Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn her necessary emancipation and then some — watching Robbie inhabit this role without any icky need to pacify the male gaze is a goddamn joy. Its action sequences (with assists from John Wick’s Chad Stahelski) are pounding, fluid, brutal, clear pieces of poetry. Its comedy bits are committed to, hard; nothing has made me laugh harder than Quinn’s love and desire for a breakfast sandwich. It reminds us that Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a powerhouse comedian, Ewan McGregor and Chris Messina are powerhouse villains, and Rosie Perez is a powerhouse, period. It is, sincerely, one of the wildest “mainstream action-comedy films” I’ve ever seen in a movie theater released by a major studio, and I look forward to revisiting it as the fearlessly alive pop art object it is for years to come. — Gregory Lawrence
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
If you haven’t seen Borat Subsequent Moviefilm yet, you’ve definitely heard about it. Sacha Baron Cohen’s surprise revival of his 2006 character/pop culture phenomenon made headlines for all kinds of reasons (from the right-wing rally prank spotted earlier this year to the shameful display from Rudy Guilliani that became a bonafide political talking point), but the sequel isn’t just another satirical skewering of America’s political hypocrisy, it’s a surprisingly tender reminder of the humanity behind the partisan hate. Where Borat sought to expose the vile beliefs that belied illusions of decency, the sequel looks to highlight the shared bit of vulnerability behind the now explicit hatred that dominates our discourse, and of course, make us laugh.
Cohen is unsurprisingly fearless and hilarious in his return to form, but arguably the breakout of the year is Maria Bakalova, who stars as Borat’s daughter and steals the show, going toe-to-toe with Cohen for every outrageous gag, and anchoring the film in her character’s journey to independence. So yes, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is surprisingly touching, but also the hardest I’ve laughed out loud in quite a while, and all these years later, you still can’t help but marvel at just how far Cohen (and now, Bakalova along with him) is willing to go for the bit. – Haleigh Foutch
Downhill doesn’t quite measure up to its Swedish predecessor Force Majeure, but it’s a solid film in its own right that deserves to be seen. Fox Searchlight’s remake from The Way Way Back directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon boasts some serious star power between Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The duo play a longtime couple whose marriage is put to the test by a harmless avalanche. As a wall of snow descends upon their family, Ferrell makes a split-second decision to grab his phone run, abandoning his wife and children in the process. He argues that his survival instincts simply kicked in, but she’s having none of it, and the rest of their vacation suffers from the resulting fallout. Miranda Otto co-stars as a randy hotel concierge who is very open and honest about her busy sex life. Ferrell is somewhat miscast here, but Louis-Dreyfus does wonders with the role, and truly deserves a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. It’s a treat whenever she graces the big screen, and her comic timing here is as impeccable as always. – Jeff Sneider
The most recent take on Jane Austen‘s Emma. is perhaps the most sumptuous and salty entry into the canon of movie adaptations based on the beloved author’s work. Screenwriter Eleanor Catton takes care to preserve the more biting tones of Austen’s wits in this version of the Emma tale, while director Autumn de Wilde and her crew craft a vision of Regency-era England which borders on pure confectionary delight. These two elements serve as the perfect stage for Emma.’s pitch-perfect cast, led by Anya Taylor-Joy as the titular wannabe matchmaker, to play out the dramas within a small town.
Unlike previous Emma adaptations starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Romola Garai respectively, or even the uber-popular modern take Clueless, de Wilde’s Emma. brings out the darker, more searing aspects of Austen’s story. Taylor-Joy’s Emma is a bit more overtly conniving in her schemes to push together two unsuspecting potential lovers, with those efforts making the pain more acutely felt when it all goes awry. But for every sour, there is plenty of sweet which comes in the form of dry, pointed comedy. You need look no further than Josh O’Connor as the insufferable vicar Mr. Elton, always prone to a bit of self-important monologuing, or Emma’s down-the-nose stares which blatantly communicate her dislike of a particular person or comment, or moments of more physical comedy (like a chuckle-worthy piano forte duel), all of which bring out the funnier side of Emma. — Allie Gemmill
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga isn’t like any classic Will Ferrell film. Nor is it like Wedding Crashers, the last Ferrell-Rachel McAdams joint from the same director, David Dobkin. If it can be compared to any other Ferrell comedy, the closest I can come up with is Stranger than Fiction with a seasoning of Blades of Glory. I’m not even sure if it’s interested in being a “comedy” the way any other comedy is. It plays more like an inspirational sports drama that happens to use wigs, elves, European accents, and theatrical songs to convey its earnest messaging. Its heart is fully, unabashedly, designedly on its sleeve. The big climactic set piece is a performance of a gorgeous ballad with barely any jokes. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Eurovision is a wholly unique experience, one that made me feel — and made me cry — throughout. The tagline says it all: “Nobody wins solo.” — Gregory Lawrence
Extra Ordinary might just be the sweetest movie of 2020, and this odd little horror-comedy is never quite what you expect. Completely charming, laugh-out-loud funny, and occasionally quite creepy, Extra Ordinary is a ghost-busting good time that lovingly embraces the hallmarks of the haunting genre and repackages them as a rom-com. Directed by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, the Irish indie stars Maeve Higgins as Rose Dooley, a gentle and kind, if a bit lonely, woman who happens to have powerful (and sometimes terrible) paranormal gifts. Usually, that leads her to some pretty quotidian ghosts who just need a little help passing over, but all that changes when she takes a gig helping a local man named Martin (Barry Ward) get rid of his angry deceased wife’s spirit and the sinister has-been rock star Christian Winter (Will Forte) rolls into town with a devilish plan to find his way to new glory. Higgins and Ward make for a positively delightful duo and their chemistry eases you right into Extra Ordinary’s joyful oddball romance-meets-exorcism riff. — Haleigh Foutch
Arguably the best horror-comedy since the original Scream, Freaky is a bloody body-swapping comedy wherein an awkward teenage girl (Kathryn Newton) trades places with that of a hulking serial killer (Vince Vaughn). This unholy mash-up of Friday the 13th and Freaky Friday (hence the legally clearable title) shouldn’t work but it does, spectacularly, thanks largely to the two committed, wholly believable, and often laugh-out-loud funny lead performances and a whip-smart script by director Christopher Landon and Michael Kennedy, which thoughtfully embraces modern-day sensitivities (“Pronouns!”) while still delivering the gore-drenched goods (the bisection of a mercurial shop teacher played by high school movie legend Alan Ruck is particularly satisfying). As he did with Happy Death Day 2 U, Landon also makes room for some wonderfully emotional moments, proving that if you’re going to make a movie this obsessed with pumping blood, you’re going to need a beating heart too. Underseen during its initial drive-in/theatrical run in November, Freaky is already available to rent on VOD and should have its cult classic status cemented immediately. It’s that good. – Drew Taylor
Guy Ritchie has never been one to pussyfoot around, and neither am I, so I’ll give it to you straight. The “c-word” is used a lot in this testosterone-driven flick. It’s a vulgar term that’s even more unbecoming when you consider the film’s title, but if you can get past that popular British slang word — and a bunch of other offensive stuff too, to be sure — you’ll see that Ritchie really is an equal-opportunity offender, and no one gets off easy in The Gentlemen. Matthew McConaughey plays a major weed dealer who is looking to cash out and sell his operation to the highest bidder. Charlie Hunnam plays his right-hand man, one who’s forced to deal with a nosy reporter (a hilarious Hugh Grant) who comes snooping around while McConaughey fends off a power-hungry gangster played by Henry Golding. The film co-stars Colin Farrell in a scene-stealing turn as a boxing coach who has taught his fighters how to use their unique athletic skills outside of the ring. The Gentlemen may not be a crime comedy on par with Ritchie’s early films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but it’ll satisfy fans of those films with its clever twists and turns. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you about the pottymouth on this movie. – Jeff Sneider
Fair warning, Happiest Season is a bit heavier and a lot more emotional than a lot of folks were expecting when they hit play, but that’s part of what makes Clea DuVall’s Christmas dramedy worth watching. Kristen Stewart stars as Abby, a gay woman who wants to propose to her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) at her family’s big Christmas gathering. There’s just one problem – Harper’s family doesn’t know she’s gay, leading to a classic rom-com set-up of farcical false identities and secret trysts. Except they play a bit different here, because Happiest Season marks a long-overdue chapter in queer representation as the first gay Christmas rom-com.
That meant that Happiest Season had a lot of weight on its shoulders that your average holiday romp doesn’t have to carry, and the conversations the film sparked only proved how hungry people are for that representation. (And the film’s conspicuous absence in Hulu’s presentation at the 2020 Disney Investor Day, despite the fact that it reportedly shattered Hulu’s viewership records for Hulu originals, only shows have far we still have left to go.) But whether you’re Team Harper or Team Riley (Aubrey Plaza in a film-stealing supporting role), Happiest Season is a heartfelt romantic dramedy with a fantastic comedic cast. Now I just need a spinoff sequel that’s all about Mary Holland and Dan Levy’s characters being the best. – Haleigh Foutch
Adam Sandler’s Netflix output has, by and large, been largely underwhelming. But Hubie Halloween, his first Halloween-themed movie for the streamer and his first, period, since the underrated supernatural comedy Little Nicky, was surprisingly successful; a warm-hearted, low-stakes romp, more trick than treat. Sandler plays the title character, a resident of Salem, Massachusetts who loves Halloween despite being scared of just about everything. On this Halloween, though, there might just be something to be frightened of – a series of mysterious kidnappings leads to a number of suspects including an escaped lunatic and, possibly, a werewolf.
Stacked with Sandler’s usual supporting cast of regular all-stars (including Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph and Rob Schneider) and some notable new additions to the team (Julie Bowen, Ray Liotta, a scene-stealing June Squibb), Hubie Halloween meanders but never feels lost, with a number of wonderful character bits and recurring gags (like a weird runner about women dressing like Harley Quinn). Who knows, this could wind up an annual favorite, like a PG-13, piss-joke-filled version of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. – Drew Taylor
Nothing will prepare you for The Hunt — and that’s a good thing. After an unfortunate shelving back in 2019, The Hunt was finally released in early 2020 to a very curious public. What was all the fuss about? Why was it shuttered away? Was it really the shocking, politically polarizing movie it was marketed as and which earned it that unusual shelving away? Welp, no, not really. Look, The Hunt makes it clear in plain fuckin’ English that both liberals and conservatives are in its crosshairs and takes every opportunity to mercilessly mock the behavior of both sides. But that is both the point and not quite the point of this Craig Zobel, Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof-penned comedy starring Betty Gilpin.
The Hunt begins with a seemingly disparate group of people drugged and tossed in the middle of a forest. Upon waking, the group discovers they share a common thread: They represent the portion of the American populace that clings to the kind of insidious ignorance which another portion of the populace believes is ruining the country. From there, a ham-fisted rendition of The Most Dangerous Game ensues, with the mysterious Crystal (Gilpin) breaking away from the pack to figure out what the hell is going on.
Crystal’s search for answers leads to some big surprises. It also allows her to showcase a very unusual set of skills, which might put her up next to John Wick as one of the best action heroes in recent memory. Through Crystal’s arc, The Hunt delivers its most brutal and shocking plot twists. Along the way, Gilpin brings her full range as a comedic actor to the table, nailing some tricky line delivery that toes the line between absurd and black comedy. The movie’s plot twists, as well as some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments (keep your eyes peeled for a very good sequence set in a bunker), help argue The Hunt’s thesis that, honestly, we might be well and truly fucked here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. because whatever is going on right now just ain’t working. — Allie Gemmill
The King of Staten Island
While The King of Staten Island really is more of a drama than a comedy, A) It’s a Judd Apatow movie and B) It’s still classified as a comedy, so we’re saying it counts for the purposes of this list. And it’s a good movie! Pete Davidson pulls from his own personal life to chronicle the story of a directionless young man aimlessly wandering about Staten Island, wondering if he’ll ever make it out. The comedy comes mostly from Davidson’s dark humor with regards to his father’s death and his interactions with his friends, but the film makes clear that the humor masks a deep pain and grief that he keeps avoiding at all costs. It’s Apatow’s most ambitiously dramatic and emotional film yet, while also maintaining an overwhelming sense of humanity through humor. – Adam Chitwood
Love and Monsters
Well, this one came out of nowhere. Love and Monsters was one of a host of genre movies Paramount quietly shuffled to VOD when it was very clear that theaters wouldn’t be open in time (see also: Spontaneous, Spell), and it was a huge surprise (in a very good way). In the future an asteroid threatens to wipe out the earth; when the asteroid is destroyed, the chemical fallout turns all of the cold-blooded creatures on earth into huge, hideous mutated monsters. Dylan O’Brien plays a survivor who sets out to connect with his long-separated (socially distanced?) love, traversing a world that threatens to gobble him up at every turn. Visually sophisticated with a surprising amount of heart, Love and Monsters ventures into some unexpected territory, including a tender relationship between O’Brien’s character and a stray dog (supposedly the two loved each other in real life) and a Twilight Zone-y twist that, wouldn’t you know it, humans were the real monsters? With winning supporting performances by Michael Rooker (as a jaded wanderer) and a very adorable Jessica Henwick as O’Brien’s paramour, Love and Monsters is very much worth seeking out. – Drew Taylor
On the Rocks
At least 2020 gave us a new Sofia Coppola movie. The weirdly overlooked On the Rocks, part of A24’s partnership with Apple TV+, is a fine, effervescent return to form for Coppola whose last film was the darkly hued (but still quite funny) female revenge film The Beguiled. In On the Rocks, Rashida Jones plays a creatively stunted writer who suspects that her husband (Marlon Wayans) might be cheating on her, leading her to team up with her rascally father (Bill Murray) to try and get some answers. Lighthearted, full of unabashedly delightful performances and ensconced in the velvety, extremely wealthy version of New York City that only someone like Coppola could adequately portray, it oscillates between frivolity and deep pathos with ease. In fact, it’s the interludes where Jones is obsessed with the vitality of her creative life that you feel Coppola reaching for an autobiographical truth that just so happens to be nestled inside an airy screwball comedy. Featuring a terrific score by French pop band Phoenix (led by Coppola’s husband) that is, damnably, still unavailable, and lush cinematography by Philippe Le Sourd, On the Rocks is a truly unsung gem. – Drew Taylor
Pixar’s first original film since 2017’s Coco (yes, seriously), Onward is Pixar at their most imaginative and heart-tugging. Based, in part, on the childhood of co-writer/director Dan Scanlon, Onward tells the tale of two elf brothers (MCU refugees Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) who live in a mundanely magical realm and who embark on an epic quest to spend another day with their dearly departed father. This is an undeniably clever contraption; seeing how Scanlon and a small army of talented artists, technicians, and storytellers conjure a world that is at once suburban and super-fantastical is a feat in and of itself. (We want a pet dragon!) But that Pixar difference, of course, is the intricateness of that storytelling and the way that they are able to inject real emotion into something that, in the wrong hands, could have been a purely intellectual exercise. It’s also one of the studio’s funniest films, with a centerpiece sequence set at a mythical beast’s chain restaurant, that will leave you howling with laughter. It might have gotten the short end of the stick with its theatrical run, but Onward (which plays and looks a lot like the Pixar version of an Amblin movie) is on Disney+ now. If you haven’t seen it yet, do it now. It is an epic quest very much worth embarking on. — Drew Taylor
Or, wait, did he say that or “on a giant IMAX screen”?
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