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16 greatest comedy films of the 21st century

10 August, 2017 — by The Methods Unsound staff3

BBC Culture published a list of the greatest 100 films made in the 21st century. It didn’t contain a single comedy. Let’s fix that mistake!

four lions

Recently, the good people at BBC Culture published a list of the greatest 100 movies made in the last 16 years. David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive came top.

It was the same day the beeb also published a list of the UK’s favourite ever sitcoms. Mrs Brown’s Boys came top. One of them was voted for by the British public, one by professional critics. Can you guess which? Also… WHY DO YOU STILL LET US VOTE FOR THINGS????

Anyway… The list of 100 greatest movies itself is pretty solid, despite there being a lack of Drive or anything by Ben Wheatley, but these list-making exercises are inherently absurd anyway. Does anyone genuinely think that A.I. Artificial Intelligence is a better film than Amélie? No, you’d have to be a lunatic.

This whole thing took on a new shade of absurdity when David Baddiel wandered into the conversation and pointed out that out of 177 film critics and 100 movie choices, not one of the films on the list is a genuine “out and out comedy.” (Apart from the luudes scene from The Wolf of Wall Street, which is possibly the funniest single piece of physical comedy ever committed to film).

david baddiel twitter

Mr Baddiel has a point. What’s with the snobbishness around comedy? The only vague concessions to humour in the list (and it’s not exclusive to this list) is a smattering of Wes Anderson and the more bittersweet work of Richard Linklater and Pixar. Why does comedy have to be maudlin in order to be accepted into the great pantheon of classic movie lists?

What about all the true gut-busters that you watch repeatedly at home? Yes Solaris may be one of my favourite films of all time, but I’ve only watched it three times in my life. However The Naked Gun I’ve watched three times already this year.

naked gun frank drebin

But then I take a step back and have a think about all this… maybe the last 16 years haven’t been that great for comedy.

All of my favourite modern comedies were in fact made just before the arbitrary 2000 cut-off… Office Space and South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut – both 1999. The Big Lebowski and There’s Something About Mary – both 1998. Groundhog Day and Dumb and Dumber – both mid-90s. Christ even Adam Sandler was still vaguely tolerable back then. But are any of these ‘classics’? Could any of them go toe-to-toe with Béla Tarr or Apichatpong Weerasethakul? Arguably Lebowski, but probably not Wayne’s World 2 (which, I’m sad to say, has not aged well).

This offers very little hope for any comedy made in the 21st century, of which I can only think of two distinct types… a Netflix-funded Adam Sandler vacation with all his buddies, or something that may raise a knowing smile but will ruin it moments later when somebody tries to kill themselves.

That can’t be right can it? Surely there must be some decent “out and out” comedies made in the last 16 years?

the love guru

To answer this question I made asked the entire Methods Unsound staff to vote for their favourite 10 comedies released so far this millennium, and I’ve combined the lists using a complicated scoring method (10th favourite gets 1 point, 1st favourite gets 10 points – alright it’s not that difficult) in order to bring you the following amazing insights into the trends of modern movie comedy…

Apart from a few outliers, most of the best comedies made in the last few years wreak of either Judd Apatow or Will Ferrell. Or both of them together. Does that feel like a disappointing revelation? Or is that just film snobbery bubbling up once again?

Sure they may not be Terrence Malick or Michael Haneke – and even though you bought their DVDs for £3 each back when you still used to watch DVDs, and even though you now hide them behind your copy of The White Ribbon – you’ll still be getting more than your money’s worth from the following films in this list for many years to come.


Methods Unsound’s 16 favourite comedy films of the 21st century

16) Spy [2015]

Reasons to love it: Another hugely mis-marketed Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig film, mainly because all the best bits are soooooooo foul-mouthed (and that’s coming from this website) but by fuckity this may be their finest achievement. Plus there’s Statham being the amazing comic actor we always knew he could be, Rose Byrne totally smashing it as the Lucille Bluth channeling villain and of course, “Thundercunt.”

Favourite quote: “Did he also make you dress like a slutty dolphin trainer?”

15) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World [2010]

Reasons to love it: The only genuinely successful filmic adaptation of the gaming world. It benefits massively from Edgar Wright’s exhilarating direction and a perfectly judged performance from Michael Cera, who stays just on the hilarious side of vulnerable. I would also say it’s the 21st century’s greatest love story.

Favourite quote: “We are Sex Bob-Omb and we are here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff.”

14) The 40 Year Old Virgin [2005]

Reasons to love it: Remarkably for a 118 minute long comedy (133 minute if you go for the extended version) the quality doesn’t let up thanks to Apatow’s script, some genuinely hilarious improvisation and a few magnificent comedic set-pieces. Jonah Hill’s confusion in the eBay store being my personal favourite. A whole lot of filth and a whole lot of heart.

Favourite quote: On the reality of watching a horse-sex show in Tijuana – “It was really giving it to her. And you know what? To be honest I just felt bad for her, we all just felt bad for her.”

13) Little Miss Sunshine [2006]

Reasons to love it: Everyone is on fire in this movie, especially Alan Arkin, No wait, especially Steve Carell, No wait, ESPECIALLY Abigail Breslin – oh my god, the dance at the end, Oh and Paul Dano’s whole character arc is just lovely. I forgot how much I loved this movie when it came out. Let’s watch it again.

Favourite quote: “No, I’m madly in love with you and it’s not because of your brains or your personality.”

12) Step Brothers [2008]

Reasons to love it: So many glorious non-sequiturs come together to make one of the most directly rib-tickling movies on this list: Pam? The fucking Catalina Wine Mixer. Pan? Bunk-beds! Pann? Boats and hoes. Pamm? I think John C Reilly may be the greatest living actor.

Favourite quote: “It’s okay that mine’s not movie quality”

11) Shaun of the Dead [2004]

Reasons to love it: It’s Spaced, but you know, with zombies, and therefore it defined our entire generation. The first in the Cornetto trilogy is also its best, launching the careers of so many of our favourite human beings and perfecting the tricky balance of comedy and horror. Where would you rather spend your days fending off the zombie hordes? Yeah, let’s go to the Winchester for a quick half.

Favourite quote: “Don’t forget to kill Phillip!”

10) In the Loop [2009]

Reasons to love it: Seeing Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker mix it up with the hugely missed James Gandolfini would be reason enough to include this filmic version of The Thick of It. But it also remains one of the few successful sitcom-to-big-screen translations, and one of the finest political comedies ever made. Plus…. well… all the inventive swears.

Favourite quote: “Sorry, sorry, I know you disapprove of swearing so I’ll sort that out. You are a boring F, star, star, CUNT!”

9) Bridesmaids [2011]

Reasons to love it: When the whole world first met Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, the world became a much better place. Plus we also have Chris O’Dowd’s lovely copper, Wiig’s terrifyingly weird flatmates, the stupid fucking cookie and Wilson Phillips!

Favourite quote: “If I wasn’t a cop anymore, I would still go out with a gun and shoot people.”

8) Elf [2003]

Reasons to love it: The fact that right now, in August, I can’t wait for November 1st so I can legit get away with watching Elf is a testament to just how wonderful this movie is. It’s basically pure cinematic prozac, and for so many reasons other than because it’s THE best Christmas movie ever… “Not now Arctic Puffin!” Buddy face-planting a taxi. The World’s Best Cup of Coffee. Ferrell’s unflappable glee… In fact I’m thinking of the gruff security guard yelling “make work your favourite” and I already feel 10 times happier.

Favourite quote: “So, good news, I saw a dog today.”

7) In Bruges [2008]

Reasons to love it: A surprise inclusion perhaps, but it’s more than validated by Colin Farrell’s first ever likeable screen performance (the next won’t come till The Lobster), its dark-hearted cynicism mixed with an air of magic, its foul fucking mouth and Ralph Fiennes’ deliciously nasty yet honourable villain. Plus that bit with the fat tourists.

Favourite quote: “I retract that bit about your cunt fucking kids.”

6) Best in Show [2000]

Reasons to love it: This entirely improvised comedy from Christopher Guest doesn’t have a single weak link in the entire ensemble – from Parker Posey’s waspish yuppie to Jennifer Coolidge’s gold-digger (“we could talk or not talk forever”) – it’s a purebred joy. Sorry.

Favourite quote: “And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten.”

5) Superbad [2007]

Reasons to love it: I once went through a fairly rough break-up in 2007. The only thing that kept me afloat was watching Superbad on repeat for six straight months. I now know this film better than I know my own mother. There’s just so much to enjoy, on repeat, forever… the dick drawings, the 70s-leaning production design, Jonah Hill’s trenchant mouth, Emma Stone being awesome, Michael Cera awkwardly singing to a bunch of coke-heads, McLovin… it’s the perfect ‘journey into the night’ movie. And easily has the best soundtrack on this list.

Favourite quote: “Have you ever looked into his eyes? It was like the first time I heard the Beatles.”

4) Mean Girls [2004]

Reasons to love it: Lindsay Lohan‘s finest hour-and-a-half, Tina Fey’s beautifully measured and incisive script, “is butter a carb?”, the mathletes and the fact that 12 years later Mean Girls is still the best teen comedy ever made that isn’t Heathers.

Favourite quote: “Oh my God, Danny DeVito! I love your work!”

3) Team America: World Police [2004]

Reasons to love it: The sheer unbelievable gall of Parker and Stone… It’s a full-length Thunderbirds piss-take full of sex, violence and swearing – all done through the painstaking and lost art of supermarionation. It’s also the most beautifully cutting and hilarious takedown of US foreign policy ever made. Just like Parker and Stone’s best work, Team America is offensive to everyone, pant-destroyingly hilarious and makes you see the world more clearly. Such is the unique brilliance of America’s very best satirists.

Favourite quote: “Gary, you didn’t kill your brother. Those gorillas did.”

No… you’re right… it’s “Matt Damon.”

2) Anchorman [2004]

Reasons to love it: Like all of Will Ferrell’s movies, you watch it once and think “meh, I laughed twice” then before you know it, 12 years have gone by and you’ve watched it 38 times, laughing harder with every viewing. Anchorman is truly Ferrell’s, if not modern American comedy’s greatest, stupidest masterpiece.

Favourite quote: “You are a smelly pirate hooker.”

1) Four Lions

Reasons to love it: Chris Morris’s only feature-film (so far) strikes an extraordinary balance. It deals with radicalisation and the psychology of martyrdom, but really Four Lions is about mindless stupidity. Unexpectedly (because of both the subject matter and Morris’s past form) the film gets its laughs from pure, honest-to-goodness slapstick and the same dumb-fuck humour of the kind found in a Farrelly Brothers’ movie. And then it pulls its greatest trick by eliciting huge amounts of sympathy for its group of suicide bombers and genuinely leaves you heart-sore by the end. It’s not just the best UK comedy ever, it’s not just the best comedy made in the last 16 years. It’s one of the best comedies ever made full stop.

Favourite quote: “Rubber dinghy rapids bro.”

I would argue that the funniest film of the 21st century is in fact The Room, but I think we all just forgot to vote for it. Also if I had my way, Wet Hot American Summer, Walk Hard and The Heat would be in there too. But hey… what the hell do I know? Please share your own opinions below…

For more slightly wayward film analysis, check out our movie features section including the best Roald Dahl film adaptations.

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16 greatest comedy films of the 21st century | Methods Unsound
16 greatest comedy films of the 21st century | Methods Unsound
Recently, BBC Culture published a list of the greatest 100 films made in the 21st century. It didn't contain a single comedy. Let's fix that mistake!
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Methods Unsound


  • The ghost of Kenneth Williams.

    24 August, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Pfffft! Not one “Carry On…” film. What happened to you guys? You used to be cool(ish).

    • The ghost of Kenneth Williams.

      24 August, 2016 at 11:48 am

      And yes I’m aware the headline is the 21st Century but Carry On is timeless and eternal and belongs to the ages.
      /bends over
      /slide whistle noise
      /trousers fall down

      • Christopher Ratcliff

        24 August, 2016 at 12:39 pm

        Kenneth!!! I thought I’d gotten rid of you when I hired Rentaghost to fulfil our spooky needs. I’ll have to call the support team AGAIN!

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