Whether mockumentary-style, satirical, dark, slapstick, romantic, or otherwise, movie comedies have been entertaining audiences for decades. In fact, Statista found that comedy was the fourth most popular film genre in North America, grossing over $33.5 billion between 1995 and 2022. (These are the highest grossing R-rated comedies of all time.)
While the early 20th century saw Charlie Chaplin’s silent slapstick gems, the rise of talkies like the Marx brothers’ “Duck Soup” brought comedy into a multi-dimensional world, one with more opportunity for depth and nuance. By the 21st century, comedy films exploded with sub-genres, some raunchy and shocking, while others explored meaningful, yet darkly hilarious subject matter. (These are the funniest American movies of all time.)
To identify the 21 best comedies of the 21st century, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of August 2022. All ratings were weighed equally. Only movies with at least 25,000 audience votes were considered, and only one film per director was included in the list.
Accolades and awards are plentiful among the 21 best comedies of the 21st century. “Sideways”, “Adaptation.”, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” each won an Academy Award. Seven films took home Golden Globe Awards, and six won BAFTA awards. Across the 21 comedic films, there were 11 with Academy Award nominations, 13 with Golden Globe Award nominations, and ten with BAFTA nominations.
Film critics and audiences don’t always agree on which comedies are the best. No. 9, “Ladybird,” an award-winning comedy directed by Greta Gerwig, has the highest Tomatometer critic score, 99%. However, the film’s Rotten Tomato audience score is 79%, showing the largest discrepancy between critic and audience scores of any film on this list.
Which comedy is most loved by audiences? No. 2, “Shaun of the Dead” holds the highest Rotten Tomato audience score of 93%. Critics and audiences were most aligned on No. 15, the British political-musical-satire “24 Hour Party People”. The film scored 87% among both critics and audiences.
While the 21 best comedies of the 21st century cover a plethora of comedic sub-genres, the most frequent are comedy-drama, dark comedy, and mockumentary. The list also includes two coming-of-age comedies, one animated action-comedy, one romantic comedy, and one horror comedy.
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