The Best Comedies on Amazon Prime (September 2022)

Comedy Lists Amazon Prime
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The Best Comedies on Amazon Prime (September 2022)

No streamer is harder to navigate than Amazon Prime Instant Video. If you miss how Netflix was during its early streaming years, when it had a large lineup of movies from across the decades available for instant watching, you’d probably be a fan of Amazon Prime. The volume is just ridiculous. There’s so much stuff to watch here that finding it can be a nuisance, even through the official Prime Video apps. Much of what you’ll find are TV shows, including several Amazon originals, and thousands of other things you’ve probably never heard of before or since. There’s also a large library of hilarious movies, though, including some of the most beloved and influential comedies ever made. That’s what we’re here to share with you today: the best comedies on Amazon Prime Video.

Oh, and some movies that are pure comedies will rank higher than other movies that are better written or directed or acted, but just aren’t as purely funny. There is no universe where Anchorman 2 is a better movie than Charade, but one of them definitely makes us laugh more, and it’s not the one Stanley Donen made.

For a broader list, check out The 50 Best Movies on Amazon Prime or you can peruse The 40 Best Comedy Movies on Netflix

Here are the best comedy movies available to stream for free with Amazon Prime:

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

anchorman_2_poster.jpg
Year: 2013
Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Meagan Good, James Marsden, Kristen Wiig
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 119 minutes

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Anchorman 2 succeeds because it’s not a repetition of what worked in the first film, but, rather, a continuation. (As Adam McKay told Paste, this was purposeful.) As a result, with the exception of a rousing, cameo-crammed news team melee toward the end and a hint of jazz flute, Anchorman 2 is refreshingly light on winks, nudges and other forms of gratuitous fan service to the first film. McKay and co-writer Will Ferrell avoided erring to the other extreme, as well. To their credit, the duo seems to have realized you don’t have to reinvent the wheel—you just need to keep it rolling.—Michael Burgin


The Big Sick


big_sick_210.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Michael Showalter
Stars: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Rating: R
Runtime: 120 minutes

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The Big Sick can sometimes be awfully conventional, but among its key assets is its radiant view of its characters. Based on the first year in the relationship of married screenwriters Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, this indie rom-com has a mildly risky structure and some trenchant observations about the culture clashes that go on in immigrant families living in America. But what cuts deepest is just how profoundly lovable these people are. That’s not the same as being cutesy: Rather, The Big Sick is defiantly generous, understanding that people are horribly flawed but also capable of immeasurable graciousness when the situation requires. So even when the film stumbles, these characters hold you up. Nanjiani plays a lightly fictionalized version of his younger self, a struggling Chicago stand-up who is having as much success in his career as he in his dating life. Born into a Pakistani family who moved to the United States when he was a boy, he’s a dutiful son, despite lying about being a practicing Muslim and politely deflecting the attempts of his parents (Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff) to set him up in an arranged marriage. That’s when he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), an American grad student with whom he’s instantly smitten. She swears she doesn’t want a relationship, but soon they fall for one another—even though Kumail knows it can’t work out. What’s most radical about The Big Sick is its optimistic insistence that a little niceness can make all the difference. —Tim Grierson


Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure / Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey

movie poster bill and ted.jpg Year: 1989 / 1991
Director: Stephen Herek / Pete Hewett
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Bernie Casey, Amy Stock-Poynton; William Sadler, Joss Ackland, Pam Grier
Rating: PG
Runtime: 90 minutes / 98 minutes

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In the end we just can’t pick between these two. Both movies are classics, but for different reasons. Both movies are part celebration and part knowing parody of the California party dude stereotype that was so popular in the ‘80s, and although Excellent Adventure might be the more beloved movie today because of its historical set pieces and the simple fact that it came first, Bogus Journey is the stronger, smarter, and, yes, more challenging movie. It’s a surreal trip through the afterlife that at times feels like Tim Burton with more edge, succeeding at both low brow, crowd-pleasing humor and slightly deeper, more philosophical material. (Yeah, today’s pretentious Rick & Morty Redditors probably love this movie.) Both are far better than they need to be, two hilarious bookends that prove that sequels can be great, actually.—Garrett Martin


Bill & Ted Face the Music

bill-ted-face-the-music-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Dean Parisot
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, William Sadler
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 91 minutes

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Our enjoyment of Bill & Ted Face the Music may only be the direct result of living with a kind of background-grade dread for what feels like the whole of our adult lives. Those of us who will seek out and watch this third movie in the Most Excellent Adventures of Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted (Theodore) Logan (Keanu Reeves) are bound by nostalgia as much as a desire to suss out whatever scraps of joy can be found buried in our grim, harrowing reality. Sometimes, death and pain is unavoidable. Sometimes it just feels nice to lounge for 90 minutes in a universe where when you die you and all your loved ones just go to Hell and all the demons there are basically polite service industry workers so everything is pretty much OK. Cold comfort and mild praise, maybe, but the strength of Dean Parisot’s go at the Bill & Ted saga is its laid-back, low-stakes nature, wherein even the murder robot (Anthony Carrigan, the film’s luminous guiding light) sent to lazer Bill and Ted to death quickly becomes their friend while Kid Cudi is the duo’s primary source on quantum physics. Because why? It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. There may be some symbolic heft to Bill and Ted reconciling with Death (William Sadler) in Hell; there may be infinite universes beyond our own, entangled infinitely. Cudi’s game for whatever. A sequel of rare sincerity, Bill & Ted Face the Music avoids feeling like a craven reviving of a hollowed-out IP or a cynical reboot, mostly because its ambition is the stuff of affection—for what the filmmakers are doing, made with sympathy for their audience and a genuine desire to explore these characters in a new context. Maybe that’s the despair talking. Or maybe it’s just the relief of for once confronting the past and finding that it’s aged considerably well. —Dom Sinacola


Borat Subsequent Moviefilm


borat_Sequel_210.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Jason Woliner
Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

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The gung-ho hilarity and up-for-anything attitude Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova brings to the Borat sequel (playing Borat’s daughter, Tutar) makes for the closest thing to a can’t-miss-it performance that 2020 has provided. It’s one thing that Bakalova holds her own against Sacha Baron Cohen and his seasoned on-camera bravura. It’s another thing altogether to supplant him as the breakout of the sequel, shepherding the soul of a movie—that nobody expected to be as perversely touching as it is—while keeping in hilarious lockstep with the scuzzy legacy that the Borat name implies.

Since Borat Subsequent Moviefilm dropped on Amazon Prime, Rudy Giuliani has unsurprisingly remained the movie’s most noteworthy conversational export. News headlines about Giuliani and his most unusual way of removing a mic were the topic of the day at whatever the pandemic-era equivalent of the watercooler is. But it’s to the credit of Bakalova, the mockumentary’s other buzzed-about element and secret weapon, that its shocking climax is as effective as it is in targeting Donald Trump’s private attorney.—David Lynch


Charade

charade.jpg Year: 1963
Director: Stanley Donen
Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant
Rating: 7+
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Cary Grant is the most charming male lead ever. Audrey Hepburn is the most charming female lead ever. Everything else is just bonus in this romantic thriller about a woman pursued in Paris for her late husband’s stolen fortune: the Henry Mancini score, the Hitchcock-ian suspense, the plot twists and Walter Mathau as a CIA agent. It’s a screwball comedy and an international spy thriller, and works equally as both. —Michael Dunaway


Coming 2 America


coming_2_america_poster.jpg Year: 2021
Director: Craig Brewer
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne, Shari Headley, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones, John Amos
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 109 minutes

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Coming 2 America effectively uses the legacy of Zamunda to expand the narrative space not only of the classic original, but for Black diasporic affinity at large. At the end of the 1988 romantic comedy, the royal marriage of Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) and Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley) further symbolically enmeshed the interconnected experience between African-Americans and Black Africans. In this sequel, the legacy of that union is explored through the gendered opportunities of Prince Akeem’s lineage and the pressure he faces to determine his royal successor—all while appeasing the tyrannical leader of Zamunda’s neighboring country Nextdoria, General Izzi (Wesley Snipes). Coming 2 America is an exciting follow-up that’s ensemble cast and increasingly complex musings mostly outweigh its shortcomings. In present-day Zamunda, Prince Akeem enjoys the company of his wife, his three badass warrior daughters and his dear albeit mischievous dude-in-waiting Semmi (Arsenio Hall). But when dying, nearly expired King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) reiterates that Akeem’s eldest daughter, Princess Meeka (KiKi Layne, Beale Street! Beale Street!) will not be eligible to inherit the throne because she is a woman, Akeem and Semmi return to Queens to find Akeem’s long-lost bastard son, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler). Of course, hijinks ensue along the way. Semmi and Akeem must fumble around a new New York stuffed less with mustard-colored cabs and more with rideshares. They become acquainted with an increasingly gentrified Queens, visit some familiar friends and meet new members of Akeem’s extended family as they court Lavelle. This film’s greater comedic elements come from these familiar moments of cross-cultural tension and new intergenerational differences. Coming 2 America is a deeply fun, goofy, incredibly cast Blackity-Black movie. Viewers be warned of the emotional whiplash they might receive from the returning likes of James Earl Jones and John Amos, as well as the steady stream of Black artists and icons from across the diaspora who make surprise appearances in the film. Coming 2 America achieves exactly what an effective sequel should: It reinforces themes from the original film while offering new, intriguing points of tension, nodding to old gags in a way that rewards fluent fans without alienating newbies.—Adesola Thomas


Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge

dilwale-210.jpg Year: 1995
Director: Aditya Chopra
Stars: Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Amrish Puri
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 188 minutes

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Usually referred to simply as DDLJ, this movie is credited to have started Shah Rukh Khan on his path to eventual superstardom. Even today, Bollywood actresses tend to play second fiddle to their male counterparts, so Kajol (who goes by her first name) never quite got the same glory. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that DDLJ changed the game for Hindi rom-com films. Twenty years on, Bollywood films continue to invoke DDLJ as an epitome of romance, with young actors trying to recreate their own versions of Raj and Simran. Set partially in London and partially in Punjab, India, DDLJ was one of the first films to specifically target an Indian diasporic audience with a story that stays true to Indian traditions such as respect for your elders, while also advocating young lovers to follow their heart. A win-win situation! Raj and Simran accidentally meet on a train trip across Europe. After a couple of cute confrontations, sparks fly between the two. But Simran’s father has promised her hand to a friend’s son in Punjab. On overhearing his daughter’s love for Raj, he flies in a rage and immediately packs the family bags for a flight to India and a quick wedding. Raj follows Simran with the intent to ask her father for Simran’s hand in marriage. He befriends the prospective groom, and slowly wins over all the family members with his shenanigans. But will he be able to convince Simran’s strict father? A hit soundtrack, lovely visuals of India and abroad, and a leading couple that charmed their way into its audiences, all contribute to DDLJ being included in all sorts of Bollywood lists. —Aparita Bhandari


Election


election_210_poster_2.jpg Year: 1999
Director: Alexander Payne
Stars: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Tom Perrotta writes novels that strip the veneer from polite and “civilized” mid-American suburban life to expose it as the Starbucks-ian jungle that it is: The most reptilian impulses of human nature can strike at any time to dismantle the weak ones in the pack, or to at least flirt with pure narcissistic and hedonistic behavior. In fact, two great films based on his work outline this thematic connection—in Todd Field’s Little Children, the sexual indiscretions of small town characters are narrated like an old school National Geographic documentary, and in Alexander Payne’s Election, the soundtrack blares with a screeching, angry tribal chant whenever a character feels slighted, preparing for an attack to socially destroy an enemy. Perrotta and Payne’s narrative covers a rift between a high school teacher, Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), who isn’t self-aware enough to realize how much of a selfish prick he really is, and a student, Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), the embodiment of blind and ruthless ambition, during the election to appoint the new student body president. Underneath this simple story rides a precise and nimble exploration about the lengths anyone might go to on the road to success to protect their fragile ego while stabbing many backs. Witherspoon’s now-iconic take on Tracy Flick is the embodiment of that person we’ve all encountered who will do and say literally anything to get ahead in life. However, Broderick’s seemingly caring and guiding teacher also succumbs to his own basest desires. Which one perishes, and which one comes out on top depends not on any preconceived cosmic hierarchy of good morals (or ethics—what’s the difference?), but on who can be the shrewdest and cleverest animal in the pack. —Oktay Ege Kozak


Galaxy Quest


galaxy quest poster.jpg
Year: 1999
Director: Dean Parisot
Stars: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell
Rating: PG
Runtime: 104 minutes

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J.J. Abrams once called this Star Trek parody one of the best Trek movies ever. He’s not wrong. Galaxy Quest is less interested in making fun of Star Trek than in making fun of Star Trek culture, from obsessive fans to goofy special effects to actors who alternately hate, resent or are proud of their time on the show. It also features one of Alan Rickman’s greatest roles, in case you’re one of those kids who only knows him from his Harry Potter stuff and wants to take in the full measure of the man.—Alan Byrd


The General


general_buster_keaton_poster_210.jpg Year: 1926
Directors: Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckham
Stars: Joseph Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender
Genre: Silent, Comedy, Romance
Rating: NR
Runtime: 79 minutes

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When Yankee spies steal his locomotive and kidnap his girlfriend, a Southern railroad engineer ("The Great Stone Face" Buster Keaton) is forced to pursue his two beloveds across enemy lines. While a few Charlie Chaplin pictures give it a run for its money, The General is arguably the finest silent comedy ever made—if not the finest comedy ever made. At the pinnacle of Buster Keaton’s renowned career, the film didn’t receive critical or box-office success when released, but it has aged tremendously. It’s a spectacle of story, mishmashing romance, adventure, action (chases, fires, explosions) and comedy into a seamless silent masterpiece. —David Roark


Heathers


Thumbnail image for heathers_poster.jpg Year: 1989
Director: Michael Lehmann
Stars: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Kim Walker
Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes

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As much an homage to ’80s teen romps—care of stalwarts like John Hughes and Cameron Crowe—as it is an attempt to push that genre to its near tasteless extremes, Heathers is a hilarious glimpse into the festering core of the teenage id, all sunglasses and cigarettes and jail bait and misunderstood kitsch. Like any coming-of-age teen soap opera, much of the film’s appeal is in its vaunting of style over substance—coining whole ways of speaking, dressing and posturing for an impressionable generation brought up on Hollywood tropes—but Heathers embraces its style as an essential keystone to filmmaking, recognizing that even the most bloated melodrama can be sold through a well-manicured image. And some of Heathers’ images are indelible: J.D. (Christian Slater) whipping out a gun on some school bullies in the lunch room, or Veronica (Winona Ryder) passively lighting her cigarette with the flames licking from the explosion of her former boyfriend. It makes sense that writer Daniel Waters originally wanted Stanley Kubrick to direct his script: Heathers is a filmmaker’s (teen) film. —Dom Sinacola


Legally Blonde

netflix legally blonde.png
Year: 2001
Director: Robert Luketic
Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Jennifer Coolidge, Victor Garber, Matthew Davis, Holland Taylor
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 96 minutes

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If you like the color pink and are currently between the ages of 25 and 45, there’s a good chance you’ve practiced the “Bend-and-Snap” at home at least once in your life. Legally Blonde, starring Reese Witherspoon as the lovable blonde-sorority-girl-turned-law-student who proves to her doubtful ex-boyfriend and all the other Harvard kids to be actually, like, really smart, is a perfect example of all of the girl power Rom-Coms released in the early 2000s. It’s smart, it’s quotable, and the outfits are downright iconic. There’s nothing high brow about it, it’s just pure, unadulterated fun. Just like the “Bend-and-Snap,” the film Legally Blonde works every time.—Annie Black


Licorice Pizza

licorice-pizza-poster.jpg
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie
Rating: R
Runtime: 133 minutes

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Licorice Pizza is writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s second ode to Los Angeles in the early 1970s: A city freshly under the oppressive shadow of the Manson Family murders and the tail end of the Vietnam War. But while in his first tribute, Inherent Vice, the inquisitive counter-culture affiliate Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) earnestly engages with his surroundings and follows the threads of societal paranoia all the way to vampiric drug smuggling operations and FBI conspiracies, Licorice Pizza’s protagonist, 25-year-old Alana Kane (Alana Haim), refuses to follow any such thread. A bored, directionless photographer’s assistant, Alana nonchalantly rejects any easy plot-point that might help us get a grasp on her character. What are her ambitions? She doesn’t know, she tells successful 15-year-old actor Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, son of Philip Seymour Hoffman) over dinner at a restaurant called Tail o’ the Cock. What interests and excites her? It’s hard to say. When Gary first approaches Alana while she’s working picture-day at his high school, it’s hard to imagine that Licorice Pizza isn’t going to follow the playful design of a sunny Southern California love story. Alana is instantly strange and striking, and—when Anderson introduces her in a languid dolly-shot with a mini-skirt, kitten-heels, slumped shoulders and a gloriously pissed expression—we are compelled to fall in love with her, just like Gary does, at first sight. Of course, Anderson quickly rejects the notion that Licorice Pizza is going to be a straightforward romance. Anderson knows that this ambling, disjointed structure reflects what it’s like to be young, awkward and in love. Each shot, filled with dreamy pastels, glows with a youthful nostalgia. Anderson and cinematographer Michael Bauman balance out this haziness with a unique control of the camera, implementing long takes, slow dollies, and contemplative pans galore. What is it that Alana gets from being friends with someone ten years younger than her? And why does Gary always return to Alana even when she tries her best to put him down? Like gleefully gliding through the streets of L.A. in the midst of a city-wide crisis, it’s a madness you can only truly understand when you’re living it.—Aurora Amidon


The Little Hours


the little hours movie poster.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Jeff Baena
Stars: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Raunchy comedies rarely cop to such well-regarded sources: The Little Hours claims its basis lies within Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century novella collection The Decameron, which makes its structure, bawdiness and characterizations all feel appropriately pithy. A series of incidents involving three horny nuns—Alessandra, Genevra, and Fernanda (Alison Brie, Kate Micucci and Aubrey Plaza, respectively)—and sexy farmhand-on-the-run Massetto (played by Dave Franco in full romance novel cover mode), The Little Hours finds writer/director Jeff Baena (who minored in Medieval and Renaissance Studies at NYU) delighting in updating The Decameron’s light and witty stories, helped by the fact that Boccaccio’s language was opposed to the flowery erudition of most of the period’s texts. That translates to a very vulgar (and funny) movie both indebted to and different than a wide spectrum of vulgar nun and nunsploitation movies that have spanned porn, hauntings and thrillers promising both nude nuns and big guns.—Jacob Oller


Love & Friendship


love_friendship_210.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Whit Stillman
Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Xavier Samuel
Rating: PG
Runtime: 93 minutes

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The title of Whit Stillman’s latest comedy may be Love & Friendship, but while both are certainly present in the film, other, more negative qualities also abound: deception, manipulation, even outright hatred. Underneath its elegant period-picture surface—most obviously evident in Benjamin Esdraffo’s Baroque-style orchestral score and Louise Matthew’s ornate art direction—lies a darker vision of humanity that gives the film more of an ironic kick than one might have anticipated from the outset. Still, the humor in Love & Friendship is hardly of the misanthropic sort. As always with Stillman, his view of the foibles of the bourgeois is unsparing yet ultimately empathetic. Which means that, even as Stillman works his way toward a happy ending of sorts, the film leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste—which is probably as it should be. Such honesty has always been a hallmark of Stillman’s cinema, and even if Love & Friendship feels like more of a confection than his other films, that frankness, thankfully, still remains. —Kenji Fujishima


My Man Godfrey

my-man-godfrey-criterion.jpg Year: 1936
Director: Gregory La Cava
Stars: Carole Lombard, William Powell
Rating: 7+
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Gregory La Cava’s My Man Godfrey is kind of like a proto-Le Dîner de Cons—or Dinner for Schmucks—except that My Man Godfrey is really good and neither the latter nor the former film measure up to it. (Because Le Dîner de Cons is coarse, condescending trash, too.) La Cava’s inroads to skewering the upper crust is through the upper crust itself: The film takes its outsider protagonist, Godfrey “Smith” Parke (William Powell), who’s not an outsider at all but a man in exile from high society’s bosom, and inserts him into circumstances where he’s the sanest, sharpest man in the room. Rich people are wild. That’s the film’s subtext, or just its text, because Godfrey’s charges, the members of the family Bullock, are either completely out of their gourds or stuffed headfirst up their own asses. They’d have to be, perhaps, to mistake him for a vagrant when he’s actually a member of the elite class just like they are. They’d also have to be observant and considerably less self-absorbed to make these fine distinctions. La Cava has fun with the scenario, as does Powell, and as does the rest of the cast, in particular Carole Lombard, playing young Irene, who falls head over heels for Godfrey, blithely unconcerned with his disinterest, and Gail Patrick as the daffy Mrs. Bullock, full of unfettered, dizzying joy. Dizziness, of course, is a requirement. Films like My Man Godfrey, screwball joints that move at a laugh-a-minute pace, demand the exhaustion of their viewers, and La Cava wears us out as surely as he delights us. —Andy Crump


Pride

pride.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Matthew Warchus
Stars: Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West
Rating: R
Runtime: 120 minutes

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From its first frames, Pride opens itself wide to scrutiny: this is based on a true story. We’re used to this, of course. We turn to the cinema for escape, but by invoking REALITY the so-called “true story” breaks the illusion we’ve sought, and in turn, we feel it’s our obligation to call the veracity of every single element on the screen into question. Heartfelt speechifying, noble human gestures, lifelong struggles against adversity: when a film purporting to be true douses these idealistic pursuits in a sheen of Hollywood glitter, it’s hard to take that film seriously—let alone not resent it. Two hours of being willfully manipulated hardly sounds like a good time at the multiplex. Which makes Pride kind of remarkable, because unlike so many other attempts to translate honest-to-goodness life to celluloid, it refuses to take itself too seriously. —Andy Crump


The Return of the Living Dead


return_living_dead_210.jpg Year: 1985
Director: Dan O’Bannon
Stars: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Matthews, Beverly Randolph, John Philbin, Jewel Shepard, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Linnea Quigley,
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

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John Russo is a huge unknown in terms of important figures in zombie cinema, at least among those who aren’t big horror geeks. Russo is the man who created the original story for Night of the Living Dead alongside George Romero, and thus is essentially one half of the driving force for the most famous zombie film of all time. After the two parted ways post-NOTLD, their settlement dictated that Russo would retain the rights to any future films with the phrase “living dead” in the title. Thus, Romero’s “of the dead” monikers in future films. Russo, meanwhile, wrote his sequel as a novel, which was then finally adapted as a film 17 years after the original NOTLD with extensive rewrites by director Dan O’Bannon. The result is one of the all-time zombie classics, a film that is equal parts gory and hilarious while making a concerted effort to capture the youth movement, art aesthetic and, especially, music of the mid-’80s. It’s influential in so many different ways: the comedic tone; the youth focus; the scapegoating of an American military experiment gone wrong as the genesis of the zombies. The zombies too have been completely redesigned with all-new capabilities—they’re intelligent, they can speak, they can move fast and, for the first time ever, they’re specifically targeting human brains. That last point was so influential and so ubiquitous in the genre after 1985 that it’s incorrectly been assumed by many people for decades that the Romero zombies are brain-eaters. For these reasons, ROTLD is undoubtedly one of the most significant zombie films ever. And by the way—with ROTLD, Day of the Dead, Demons and Re-Animator all being released in 1985, is it safe to say this was the greatest year in the history of zombie cinema? —Jim Vorel


Role Models

role models poster.jpg
Year: 2008
Director: David Wain
Stars: Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jane Lynch, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Elizabeth Banks, Ken Jeong, Ken Marino
Rating: R
Runtime: 99 minutes

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Even though it’s rated R, Role Models could easily be mistaken as a Judd Apatow-produced attempt at a family film. Much of what makes this feel like an Apatow film is how reliable the plot is. The end is no surprise to anyone who’s watched even a dozen Hollywood films, but what’s important is the journey. David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer) allows the characters to meander to their destined plot points for as long as the jokes will take them—which can be quite a while in some cases. But since the overall story isn’t in question, this time spent elsewhere doesn’t detract; it instead deepens the characters. The jokes aren’t revolutionary either, but they are spot on. Role Models is not experimental like some of Wain’s other comedy projects (Stella, The State). What it is, though, is well acted, well written and extremely polished. Most important of all, it’s really funny. Apatow should be flattered by the comparison..—Sean Gandert


Saint Ralph

saint-ralph.jpg Year: 2005
Director: Michael McGowan
Stars: Adam Butcher, Campbell Scott, Gordon Pinsent
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 98 minutes

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Saint Ralph is the story of Ralph Walker, a precocious Catholic schoolboy living in Canada in the early 1950s. Blessed with an Eddie Haskell eagerness and plagued by a cruel libido, he’s willing, at one point, to receive fellatio from a swimming-pool jet. But, when the 14 year-old’s mom slips into a coma, he decides to win the Boston Marathon, a miracle he hopes will wake her. Ralph falls short as a sports film, but it succeeds as a coming-of-age comedy. To see this boy bring a jar of dog feces to his mother’s hospital bed because “smell is one of the strongest memories,” and to see him blanch from shock at the possibility of actually having a consensual kiss, is much more poignant and charming than the many training montages. First-time writer/director Michael McGowan, the steadfast Campbell Scott as Father Hibbert, and magnetic newcomer Adam Butcher as Ralph create an endearing tale of woe and redemption, redeeming the melodrama.—Kennan Mayo


Valley Girl

valley-girl-poster.jpg Year: 1983
Director: Martha Coolidge
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Deborah Foreman, Elizabeth Daily, Cameron Dye, Michelle Meyrink, Lee Purcell, Richard Sanders, Colleen Camp, Frederic Forrest
Rating: R
Runtime: 99 minutes

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Long before Paul Thomas Anderson became the undisputed representative of the San Fernando Valley, Martha Coolidge’s silly slice of mid-’80s teen anthropology, Valley Girl, provided a snapshot of a style through two contrasting performances. Nicolas Cage’s wild-haired, fuck-you scum-punk Randy and Deborah Foreman’s prep-posterous post-hippy Julie have their star-crossed cross-town love affair in the heart of a shifting L.A. Showing flashes of his later whirling dervish brilliance, Cage exudes a stuffed-animal magnetism that’s just self-destructive enough to poke through his softly charming grin. Foreman’s pitch-perfect deliveries and class turmoil provide a winning foil, and their romance plays as well as the film’s best laughlines. Bolstered by a bangin’ soundtrack (“I Melt with You” owes plenty to the film) and some lovely location shots from around L.A., Valley Girl’s warmth overcomes its well-worn narrative.—Jacob Oller