10 Best Comedy Movies Of 2021, Ranked
These movies made us laugh more than any other new releases from the past year.
With the world continuing to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2021, there have been many times in the last year when all of us have collectively needed a good laugh – and fortunately Hollywood was there for us in that respect. Between some of the best filmmakers in the industry flexing their comedic muscles and surprise hits that came out of nowhere, the last 12 months saw a number of awesome comedy movies hit theaters and streaming services and they made us cackle until it hurt.
To celebrate these awesome cinematic successes, we’ve put together this Top 10 list highlighting the best of the best from the past year. Keeping in mind that the ranking prioritizes funny above all else, let’s dig in!
10. Raya And The Last Dragon
There were a number of funny animated movies released in 2021, including Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe's The Mitchells vs. The Machines and Jared Bush, Byron Howard, and Charise Castro Smith’s Encanto, but in the comedy department the edge belongs to Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, and Paul Briggs’ Raya And The Last Dragon, earning it the number 10 spot on this list. Its advantage? The effervescent presence of Awkwafina as Sisu.
The young star has proven to be a bright spot in anything she does, and earlier this year she got us laughing hard with her antics as an unconventional mythical hero. Her raspy voice and quick comedic timing translate beautifully in animation, and there is a great buddy rapport with Kelly Marie Tran’s Raya that is as solid a dynamic as any of its kind in live-action in the last year.
9. Free Guy
When properly utilized, Ryan Reynolds can deliver laughs as big as any star in Hollywood, and in 2021 his prime performance was in Shawn Levy’s Free Guy. It’s a very different turn than his cynical, R-rated antics in the Deadpool movies, but few can play ridiculous optimism like he can, and it’s the driving force behind the video game-inspired adventure.
Shawn Levy is a big go-to guy for family-friendly adventure, and on beyond taking advantage of Ryan Reynolds natural charm he has a good deal of fun playing with the tropes of gamer culture and the strange physics that the setting provides. Lil Rel Howery gives a standout supporting performance, and Jodie Comer demonstrates some surprising comedic chops while also being the movie’s big badass.
8. Jungle Cruise
Jaume Collet-Serra’s Jungle Cruise took a hell of a long time to get into theaters, as principal photography was completed all the way back in 2018, but when it did finally hit the big screen and Disney+ this summer, it proved to be worth the wait. In addition to spinning a fun adventure based on the Disneyland ride, the movie also sports some of the most charismatic leads of the year, with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt proving to have great comedic chemistry together.
After years of trying to adapt other classic theme park rides for the big screen, Disney finally managed to match the terrific energy of the first Pirates of the Caribbean with Jungle Cruise. As one would hope, the puns are charmingly bad, but the highlight is the back and forth between Dwayne Johnson’s Captain Frank Wolff and Emily Blunt’s Lily Houghton, who both get to sling some sharp barbs in addition to pulling off some entertaining physical comedy.
7. Bad Trip
Despite my previously established appreciation for the comedy of Eric André, I can’t say that I went into Kitao Sakurai’s Bad Trip with the highest expectations – assuming the “prank” movie genre was pretty well-cornered by Sacha Baron Cohen and the Jackass gang – but limited expectations can provide the best surprises, and this is a case in point.
Those who aren’t into blue/gross-out humor need not apply, but it’s genuinely impressive how much mileage the movie is able to get out of unabashed shamelessness. Not every bit in Bad Trip works, but the ones that do click make you laugh until you need a moment to catch your breath.
6. Werewolves Within
When it comes to end of year lists, any film that is able to successfully juggle genres and tones has opportunity to show up in multiple places, and that’s the position Josh Ruben’s Werewolves Within is in. Just a few days ago I ranked the movie as the fifth best horror feature of 2021, and now it’s time to laud it for how funny it is.
Delivering that special awkward energy that made him such a delight on Veep and Detroiters, Sam Richardson is brilliant as Finn Wheeler, a ranger who finds himself assigned to a mountain town in the midst of a lycanthrope attack, and he is surrounded by an amazing ensemble of character actors who make spectacular comedic fodder as chaos ever escalates. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Werewolves Within is a strong candidate to be called the best video game movie ever.
5. The Suicide Squad
Most of the comic book movies released in 2021 are ultimately too serious to qualify as one of the best comedies of the year, but James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is the big exception. The filmmaker’s comedic sensibilities have been a driving force in his work ever since he made his directorial debut with the horror comedy Slither in 2006, and with DC Films giving him the go-ahead to go buck wild with crazy R-rated action for the summer blockbuster, he did just that and created one of the funniest films of the last 12 months.
James Gunn’s ear for witty banter is working at full force in The Suicide Squad, and the spectacular ensemble cast he put together is impeccable in their delivery. It’s actually hard to even nail down which character is the funniest – be it John Cena’ Peacemaker, Sylvester Stallone’s King Shark, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, or Daniela Melchior – because as soon as your brain puts up a candidate, your brain immediately reminds you of a hysterical sequence that puts someone else in the comedy spotlight.
4. The French Dispatch
Twenty-five years after the release of Bottle Rocket, cinephiles have made it clear that some are delighted by the whimsy of Wes Anderson, and others very much aren’t – but those of who are of the former persuasion got a hell of a lot to love in 2021 with the release of The French Dispatch. With the filmmaker taking a crack at making an anthology feature, the movie is an awesome five-for-the-price-of-one deal (including the wraparound story), and each has a different flavor that inspires big laughs.
The second chapter, “The Concrete Masterpiece,” is The French Dispatch’s funniest, as the premise about the homicidal artist (Benicio Del Toro) is played with perfect pitch, and Adrien Brody is the precise kind ridiculous in his rage flusters – but all of the segments have their own big laughs even among more somber and dramatic moments. It delivers exactly what you want from a Wes Anderson film.
3. Licorice Pizza
Paul Thomas Anderson has made some extremely grim and dark dramas (e.g. There Will Be Blood, The Master, and Magnolia), but some of his best works have been his lighter movies (e.g. Punch Drunk Love, Inherent Vice), and Licorice Pizza is a fantastic addition to the latter canon. It’s the filmmaker’s first crack at making a coming-of-age story, and the youthful energy is possesses is wild, endearing, and joyous.
There’s a terrific rambunctiousness to the hijinks of the lead characters – played flawlessly by Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman – but that’s paired with a wonderful ambitiousness that is genuinely endearing. The executed revenge against Bradley Cooper’s Jon Peters is the movie’s comedic highlight, but there are big laughs throughout, from Gary’s surprise arrest at the Teenage Fair that ends up being a bizarre case of mistaken identity, to Alana’s unfortunate tumble off the back of a motorcycle driven by Sean Penn’s Jack Holden.
2. I Care A Lot
J Blakeson’s I Care A Lot is a different kind of entry on this list, as it’s a comedy, but it also has a heart that is shriveled and black and pumps viscous tar. There isn’t a single redeemable human being among the cast of characters, as they are all either motivated by awful intent or willful ignorance, and it’s disturbing to think that it actually reflects a real part of modern society – but what’s magical about its sociopathic darkness is that it hits a point where it succeeds in being hysterically funny.
While audiences are naturally repelled by bad people doing bad things to good people, the rules are completely different when it’s bad people doing bad things to other bad people, and I Care A Lot is that notion incarnate. Rosamund Pike’s Marla Grayson puts the “devilish” in “devilish grin,” playing a lead even more evil than Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne, and the darkness in the film keeps you guessing and laughing right up until the shocking ending.
1. Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar
After the spectacular success of Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids in 2011, it took nearly a full decade to see the release of a new film written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig – but even if it takes another 10 years for them to make a third feature, it will be worth it if the movie is only half as phenomenal as Josh Greenbaum’s Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar. It is one of the most unrepentantly goofy comedies in recent memory, and far and away the most successful title in 2021 at inducing fits of hysterical laughter.
Critics may be praising Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, but Jamie Dornan has no greater cinematic moment in the past year than his lovelorn ballad in Barb and Star that has him praying to seagulls on the beach for romantic guidance. The incessant babble produced Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig as the titular leads is miraculous in how consistently funny it manages to be, and Damon Wayans Jr. has some of the best scene-stealing moments of the year as Darlie Bunkle, the world’s least clandestine secret agent. It’s an endless delight, and the best comedy of 2021.
We can only hope that there will be as many movies next year that make us laugh as hard as we did at this selection of titles. For a full look at what’s ahead in the next 12 months, both on the big screen and on streaming, check out our 2022 Movie Release Calendar.
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NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
By Nick Venable