Who doesn’t love a good laugh? No one, that’s the answer and believe you me that there were plenty of great reasons to laugh in the last decade (still feels weird saying it). Despite the seemingly light nature of the genre, comedy is no laughing matter. Hah, get it? The very best of them can be used to powerful effect. They can be used to celebrate or critique beliefs, people, ideologies and cultural norms. A way in which we can discuss uncomfortable subject matters with a healthy bit of perspective and humour. They can help us see, accept and overcome the foibles and baggage of life through narrative framing and performance. Hell, sometimes it can be some mad goofy shit to add a bit of colour to our lives.
The beauty of comedy is how malleable and diverse the genre can be and it’s one that deserves to be acknowledged! So while the New Year is still fresh, we want to kick it off with a rundown of some of the best comedies of the 2010s.
10. Scott Pilgrim v. the World (2010)
Breakneck speed. That’s the name of the game when it comes to director Edgar Wright’s love letter to old-school arcade games in the form his live-action adaptation, Scott Pilgrim v. the World. Everything about this film oozes his signature high energy from its snappy, witty dialogue to its relentless jump cuts. In a world where every sit-com, comedian and film tries to drag out a joke as long as they can to eat up time, Scott Pilgrim is that beautiful, rare exception.
Just as you think you’re done laughing at one absurd throwaway line, the film strings yet another and before you know it, the situation escalates to a full-on melee. All of if executed with flawless timing, not unlike a perfect combo. All of this is made possible thanks to a stellar cast starring the likes of Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aubrey Plaza and even Chris Evans! Scott Pilgrim is a crazed, neon-coloured riot that you cannot miss.
9. The Big Short (2015)
If someone told me that they were planning on making a comedy docudrama about the 2008 Housing Market Crash before 2015, I’d laugh them out of the room. Against all odds, director Adam Mckay and writer Charles Randolph has managed find to gold amidst the endless rabbit hole of moral corruption and blind stupidity in the world of finance. Aware of the unwieldy nature of his piece, Mckay both patronizes and educates us while still keeping us in the loop as we follow Christian Bale’s Michael Burry, Steve Carell’s Mark Baum and Ryan Gosling’s hilariously incorrigible Jared Vennett.
Even when the film buckles down to deal with the hard facts, there’s plenty of satire and hard-hitting jabs that will keep you captivated. The performances and script is too funny to turn away, the magnitude of the catastrophe too tragic to disregard. If it takes comedy to spare us the folly of repeating history, then I believe McKay may be our only hope.
8. Game Night (2018)
By all means, Game Night seemed like yet another entry in a saga of mediocre SNL ensemble piece ala Date Night. In some sense, it has all the makings of one but the key difference that sets this film in a class of its own is its brilliant use of call-back humour. Throughout the film, every comedic bit, every gag and every chuckle-worthy encounter matters in the grand scheme of things. So when the shit hits the fan, it feels well earned and genuinely hysterical. It makes the transition from facetious discussions of murder to insane instances of physical humour plausible.
And just when you think you’ve seen the full extent of the joke, the film pulls a sleight of hand and escalates it to even nuttier proportions! Game Night was made for group viewings and parties. The fun part is finding out which guest fits Jesse Plemons’ Gary.
7. The Death of Stalin (2017)
Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is a ruthless satirical piece on the final days of Stalin’s Sovie Union as his horde of sycophantic lieutenants vie for power after the old man kicks it. The real-life drama and events that animate this historical comedy only make the entire endeavour that more hilarious. Seeing actors put their own interpretation and creative spin on storied figures of Soviet history was an utter hoot. The standout performances here being Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor as Stalin’s monkey-brained successor George Malenkov and Simon Russell Beale as the insidious Lavrentiy Beriya.
Whether you’re a shinning proletariat or a filthy industrialist, there’s plenty of mileage here. Years from now when we examine comedy’s mystifying power to make ludicrous out of the lofty and extract humour from history, The Death of Stalin will undoubtedly be remembered. In the dignity of academic discussions and in the raucous of dinner parties.
6. Booksmart (2019)
Who doesn’t remember the joys and embarrassments of school days gone by? The dizzying highs and crippling lows of being young and finding yourself. More often than not, these experiences find their finest expressions in coming-of-age stories of youth. There’s been plenty of them this decade with plenty of heart and hilarity but we found Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart a little funnier than the rest of its competition. The film follows a pair of Grade-A senior schoolgirls as they realize the sombre truth of high school. Grades aren’t everything and they’ve been missing out.
Watching Kaitlyn Denver’s Amy and Beanie Feldstein’s Molly on their epic quest to find Nick’s party as they navigate through hardship and first loves is an endearing as it is comical. By the end of it all, you’ll find yourself having a little more hearty laughs than heartfelt tears. Though it doesn’t quite supplant Superbad’s place in pop culture, it is a solid contender in my books.
5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
Quentin Tarantino’s propensity for delicious double-speak dialogue and his obsidian-black sense of humour has reached its zenith in 2019’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Though it might not exactly be his magnum opus, it is undoubtedly the funniest piece of cinema in his impressive catalogue. Tarantino takes us on a wild, drug-fuelled journey through Hollywood in the late ’60s. An era of depravity, madness, cults, kung fu superstars and it is amazing!
In the film, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt both played heightened and insane versions of themselves as Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. Therefore to have Leo channel his inner frustration through struggling actor Rick Dalton as he loses himself to find perfection was deeply satisfying. Being a Tarantino film, Once Upon a Time delivers in the third act a gut-busting, jaw-dropping action setpiece that will leave you rolling on the floor for hours. You’ll know when it hits, trust me.
4. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Parody films are a hard act to pull. There’s always the risk of missing the mark and doubling down on cheap, gross humour to get through. Films like the Wayan’s Scary Movie saga tend to come to mind. 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows by Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement shows us how it’s done. The film is a mockumentary chronicling the life and times of a group of vampires living in New Zealand.
Everything from their murderous exploits to their casual conversations to their encounters with the human world is captured through the lens of a documentary. Waititi and Clement takes time tested beliefs of vampiric mythology and expertly turn them on their heads to amusing effect. There’s rarely a dull moment with this trio of bloodsucking cohabitors thanks to the film’s masterful writing and smart direction.
3. Seven Psychopaths (2012)
Black comedies are like olives. They’re not for everyone and there hasn’t quite been one this decade as magnificently articulated as Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths. Follow me if you can: A struggling film writer gets involved in a dognapping business that soon involves the mafia, a deadly serial killer and a suicidal pacifist. Only in McDonagh’s wonderfully wicked mind can these disparate elements coalesce to form a consistently funny and coherent plot.
There’s a brief dialogue in the film that has Sam Rockwell’s Billy call out Gandhi’s quote on how “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” that best sums up this film. Irreverent and unexpectedly insightful. It all culminates in one of the most awkward shootouts ever to be put to screen. Seven Psychopaths is a shotgun blast of metatextual humour, witty repartee and inane action sequences that will leave you catching your breath till the end of the credits.
2. Four Lions (2010)
Few subjects are as contentious and complicated as Islamic terrorism in the Western world. An issue that has left millions crippled in fear and millions more falsely demonized and it can be a hard subject to broach. But where civil discussion fails, comedy prevails! Chuck Morris’ Four Lions is nothing short of a miracle. A film that deftly satirizes the existential motivations of radical Jihadists while at the same time pokes fun at the system that creates them. At no point does Morris seem to take sides as he deconstructs, reconstructs and make a farce of a profoundly uncomfortable subject.
At no point are our deluded heroes shown to be wholly sympathetic or completely sinister. Morris purports with Four Lions that the road to terrorism is paved with good intentions, disenfranchisement and quite a bit of idiocy. Such a task would have instantly made Morris’ Four Lions worthy of our top spot if not for another who accomplished an even more impressive feat.
1. One Cut of the Dead (2017)
At the heart of all comedy is the concept of the bit. The bit can be best described as a brief, running joke or gag that relies on timing and taste. Some bits are quick and effective jabs. Some bits can be spread throughout a film, coming and going. Regardless of its execution, there’s one cardinal rule: it should leave before it overstays its welcome. It is entropy, the longer it lingers, the less it becomes funny. To that, director Shinichirou Ueda says f*ck your rules! This film has a bit that lasted for nearly 40 bloody minutes and throughout its duration, not once did its magic wore off.
After all of it, he then proceeds to break another cardinal rule of comedy: if you have to explain the joke, it loses its lustre. I so desperately wish I could tell you more but alas I cannot. It would be a grand disrespect to One Cut and the talented crew that made it. It pushes the boundaries of the genre to its limits and is without a single, solitary iota of doubt, the greatest comedy of this decade!