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.
21. Knocked Up (2007)
> IMDb user rating: 6.9/10 (358,939 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 83% (2,085,028 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 89% (252 reviews)
> Starring: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann
“Knocked Up” raked in a slew of nominations and awards, including the 2008 People’s Choice Award for Favorite Movie Comedy, and the 2008 AFI award for Movie of the Year. The comedy follows the aftermath of a one-night stand between Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl). Weeks after their night together, Alison reveals to Ben that she’s pregnant, and the mismatched duo explore the questionable future of their partnership. The film was directed by HBO’s Judd Appatow, and is one of many comedies that Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd have starred in together.
20. Force Majeure (2014)
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (54,986 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 76% (10,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (163 reviews)
> Starring: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren
“Force Majeure” is a Swedish dark comedy about a family whose dynamics are fractured following a predicted avalanche in the Alps. Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), fearing the catastrophe, flees and leaves his family behind. While the avalanche stops short of having any dangerous physical impact, the idea that Tomas was ready to abandon the family causes a dramatic and darkly hilarious rift which unfolds throughout the film. The comedy was later adapted by American filmmakers, who re-created it as “Downhill,” starring Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
19. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (391,048 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 79% (1,205,243 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (222 reviews)
> Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Luenell, Chester
Sacha Baron Cohen’s iconic role as Borat earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. The mockumentary follows Borat (Cohen), a supposed reporter from Kazakhstan, as he travels through the United States commenting on American culture and participating in a series of misadventures. The film leans into shock-value through a series of offensive interactions as Borat attempts to wed actress Pamela Anderson.
17. Frances Ha (2012)
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (78,986 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 77% (20,271 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (185 reviews)
> Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Michael Zegen
Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach co-wrote the script for “Frances Ha,” an irreverent and quirky film about Frances (Gerwig), a modern dancer, her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner), and their lives in New York City. Frances moves from Brooklyn to Chinatown, but struggles to make ends meet when her dance company is no longer able to employ her. The film received 49 award nominations and one win.
16. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (298,246 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (256,798 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 78% (154 reviews)
> Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman
The Coen brothers drew inspiration from the Odyssey when creating “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, a story about a Mississippi prisoner, Everett McGill (George Clooney) who hits the road with two fellow inmates (John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson), partaking in a series of strange Homer-esque adventures. Not only was Clooney awarded with a Golden Globe Award for best actor, the film’s soundtrack also earned a Grammy.
15. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (37,404 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (25,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 87% (99 reviews)
> Starring: Steve Coogan, Lennie James, John Thomson
“24 Hour Party People” is a British biographical comedy that highlights the music scene in Manchester from 1976 to 1992. News reporter Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) rises in the music industry after televising a concert by the Sex Pistols, and eventually opens the record label Factory Records. The film was heavily-based on the real Wilson’s life on the music scene.
14. Ghost World (2001)
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (117,647 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 84% (73,554 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (162 reviews)
> Starring: Steve Buscemi, Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro
Based on a comic by Daniel Clowes, “Ghost World” is about two eccentric teenagers – Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) – who grow interested in the love life of an older man Seymour (Steve Buscemi). After seeing a personal ad placed by Seymour in the local paper, Enid and Rebecca decide to prank him, leaving him waiting alone at a café for a potential date who never shows. Enid takes pity on him, and subsequently decides to help him find a match. The film was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award.
13. In The Loop (2009)
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10 (58,148 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 82% (100,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (179 reviews)
> Starring: Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini, Chris Addison
“In The Loop” was a follow-up film to the British series “The Thick of It,” and served as a comedic, satirical commentary on Anglo-American politics and war in the Middle East. The film took home wins from the British Comedy Awards, the British Independent Film Awards, the Scotland BAFTA awards, and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
12. In Bruges (2008)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (402,967 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (112,943 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 84% (200 reviews)
> Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ciarán Hinds, Elizabeth Berrington
Filled with extreme violence and dark comedy, “In Bruges” was filmed (and set) in Bruges, Belgium. The comedy follows two Irish assassins, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell), who are hiding out in the country after a precarious hit job. Creator and director Martin McDonough received numerous accolades for this original creation, including Best Screenplay from the British Independent Film Awards, the BAFTA Awards, and the International Cinephile Society Awards. Colin Farrell won a Golden Globe Award for his performance.
11. Sideways (2004)
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (185,184 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 79% (197,759 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (233 reviews)
> Starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh
“Sideways” brought the world of wine into comedy with the story of two friends, Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church), who go on a last-hurrah wine country trip before Jack gets married. Jack ends up cheating on his fiancée with a woman they meet, Stephanie (Sandra Oh), while Miles gets to know Stephanie’s friend, Maya (Virginia Madsen). The film won an Oscar for Best Writing, along with a massive amount of additional awards and nominations.
10. Superbad (2007)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (543,101 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (634,860 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 88% (209 reviews)
> Starring: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader
In “Superbad”, three teenagers Seth (Jonah Hill), Evan (Michael Cera), and Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) engage in a series of misadventures in an attempt to secure alcohol for a big, upcoming high school party, hoping to improve their chances of having sex before leaving for college. Fogell, who rebrands himself as “McLovin” during a botched fake ID fiasco, falls under the care of two cops (Bill Hader and Seth Rogen). Nothing goes according to plan, and hilarity ensues.
9. Lady Bird (2017)
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10 (260,681 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 79% (22,988 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 99% (398 reviews)
> Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges
Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut “Lady Bird” is an indie coming-of-age comedy, loosely inspired by Gerwig’s life growing up in Sacramento, California. The film explores the relationship between Christine, known as “Lady Bird” (Saoirse Ronan), and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf). The critically acclaimed film won a number of awards, including Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy).
8. Adaptation. (2002)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (186,123 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (188,786 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (211 reviews)
> Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton
Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman wrote “Adaptation,” a comedy about Kaufman’s own experience attempting to adapt a book called “The Orchid Thief”. The film, directed by Spike Jonze, follows a depressed screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) who is attempting to adapt a novel by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) called “The Orchid Thief.” Kaufman is tormented by his fictional twin brother Donald (Nicolas Cage), and the lives of the characters interweave in a dark, hilarious manner.
7. Best in Show (2000)
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (59,123 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (56,525 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (115 reviews)
> Starring: Fred Willard, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Jennifer Coolidge
“Best in Show” leans into the humor already present in a milieu that can’t take itself all too seriously: the world of show dogs. With an all-star, comedic cast, “Best in Show” explores the lives of Gerry and Cookie Fleck (Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara), Meg and Hamilton Swan (Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock), Sherri Ann (Jennifer Coolidge), Harlan Pepper (Christopher Guest) and others as they compete with their glamorous show dogs to win best in show. The film won an AFI Award, an American Comedy Award, a British Comedy Award, and a Canadian Comedy Award.
6. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (132,732 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (228,109 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (190 reviews)
> Starring: Stephen Chow, Wah Yuen, Qiu Yuen, Siu-Lung Leung
Stephen Chow wrote, produced, and starred in “Kung Fu Hustle,” an action-packed comedy about gangs in China in the 1940s. Sing (Stephen Chow) and Bone (Feng Xiaogang) pose as gang members, triggering a strong reaction from real gang leaders, which puts a neighborhood in Shanghai at risk. Three retired Kung Fu Masters (Dong Zhihua, Yu Xing, Chiu Chi-ling) step in to protect the community.
5. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (182,044 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (25,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (192 reviews)
> Starring: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Jonathan Brugh
Co-directed by and starring Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, “What We Do in the Shadows” is a mockumentary about vampires trudging through ordinary life. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Viago (Taika Waititi), and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) are vampire roommates living in Wellington, New Zealand, who must manage interpersonal relationships and adult responsibilities, despite their supernatural status. The film later inspired a beloved television series of the same name.
4. The Lego Movie (2014)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (334,943 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (222,964 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (253 reviews)
> Starring: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett
The only animated film on this ranking, “The Lego Movie” centers around Emmett (Chris Pratt), a LEGO figurine who, despite being an average LEGO man, is deemed special, and saves the LEGO world from the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). The comedy won a slew of accolades, including awards from BAFTA, American Cinema Editors, Austin Film Critics Association, Chicago Film Critics Association, and New York Film Critics.
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (745,547 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 86% (97,896 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (310 reviews)
> Starring: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody
One of many stylized films directed by Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” explores the dynamics amongst hotel workers and guests in a fictionalized, picturesque European hotel in 1932. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) is the concierge of the hotel, and is eventually suspected of murder after one of the hotel guests (Tilda Swinton) dies, leaving behind a valuable painting. The film was nominated for, and won, a number of Academy Awards.
2. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (530,779 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (498,702 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (213 reviews)
> Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis
A zombie apocalypse is the setting for Shaun (Simon Pegg) to win back the heart of his ex-girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield) in this British comedy. The film employed the genres of science fiction and horror, and grossed nearly six times what it cost to create. “Shaun of the Dead” was beloved by critics and audiences alike. The film was directed by Edgar Wright, who also created the comedy “Hot Fuzz.”
1. Wild Tales (2014)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (196,455 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (10,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (157 reviews)
> Starring: Darío Grandinetti, María Marull, Mónica Villa
“Wild Tales” is an Argentinian Spanish-language anthology film comprised of six shorts, four of which are based on the Argentinian director Damián Szifron’s own life. All shorts fall within the realm of dark comedy, exploring themes of violence and vengeance. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, and won awards from BAFTA, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Argentina, and the Havana Film Festival.
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