In 2021, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic started, everyone was looking for a reason to continue to have hope and laugh. And as theaters reopened globally, comedy films gave a reason to come out and laugh in front of the big screen again. Movies that were supposed to be released years ago saw the light of day, while new ones unexpectedly stole the hearts of moviegoers. The range of films that came out this year was wide, ranging from stale dad jokes to the romantic comedy beefed up into something new for the 2020s. Some might’ve found solace in Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch and its quirky visual storytelling or a classic Ryan Reynolds or John Cena movie that brings characters known and love back. Whatever one’s taste is, they could’ve found something for them. These are the best comedy movies that made us laugh in 2021.
10 Vacation Friends
2021 wouldn’t be the same if the world wasn’t graced with Vacation Friends (or any other John Cena movie, for that matter). Couple Marcus and Emily (Lil Rel Howery and Yvonne Orji, respectively) are on vacation to Mexico when Marcus’ plan to propose to her goes awry. He decides to propose in the hotel lobby, where they meet another couple (Cena and Meredith Hagner) who seem a little too carefree and wild. Vacation Friends manages to turn a buddy comedy film into something with substance; its characters are fleshed out and it has an actual storyline that’s surprisingly good. The movie also offers the perfect mix of comedy and seriousness enhanced by the outstanding performances by its cast.
9 Don’t Look Up
As the world slowly seems to rot around us, Don’t Look Up is an escape that’ll almost make anyone forget it’s based on reality. The movie boasts what may be the ensemble cast of the year as it has Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet, Ariana Grande, and many more familiar faces. Lawrence is an astronomy student who discovers a comet that’s going to hit the Earth and kill everyone, and with her professor (DiCaprio), she tries to warn the government and media to stop what’s coming. The strength of the humor in the film lies in its political satire—the roadblocks that Lawrence and DiCaprio face are a corrupt government, the pervasive nature of social media and constructed news, capitalism, and a divided society on exactly is and isn’t real.
8 Bad Trip
Each year, the movie world remembers hidden cameras can either have one of two results: end poorly or turn out good. Bad Trip is an example of it going well. Two best friends (Eric André and Lil Rel Howery) decide to take a road trip to New York City to rediscover a high school crush. The catch here is that they decided to steal a car belonging to an ex-convict sister, she gets upset, and then she decides to hunt them down after discovering her car is gone. Bad Trip is a cousin to Borat, although it’s less politically inclined and wonderfully relies on the strangers who’ve been unknowingly starring in a movie.
7 Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Two middle-aged Midwestern women have decided they’ve had enough of Nebraska. They’re going to leave and go on vacation for the first time, and, naturally, they’ve chosen to go to Florida. But everything starts to go south when a native to the area, traumatized by childhood bullying of her pale skin, decides to concoct an evil plan to kill everyone. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is unapologetic about what it’s about and doesn’t take itself seriously. As these two white women escape from the doldrums from everyday life, their lives seem almost too perfect in the hotel—complete with musical numbers by the staff. No cliché villain will ruin this vacation, and viewers are given the perfect amount of comedy for quality entertainment.
6 Red Rocket
The Florida Project’s director Sean Baker returned in 2021 with Red Rocket, a comedy-drama about a former porn star who has very few redeeming qualities. He chases the American Dream and leaves his former life behind to return to his hometown in Texas. However, he’s extremely unlikable, his ex-wife wants nothing to do with him, and his shamelessness is hilarious to watch. Some might think that this man has some redeeming qualities, but as the movie progresses, it shows he has a one-dimensional personality. And the viewer begins to root against him and his exploits, making this movie a spectacle of schadenfreude.
5 Love Hard
Romantic comedy movies have discovered dating apps, which has led screenwriters down an entirely new rabbit hole. Love Hard is a product of that new obsession. A dating column writer (Nina Dobrev) is a serial dater; she uses all of her dating app adventures for her writing endeavors. She finds what could be “the one” on the other side of the country. However, when she comes to meet him for Christmas, she finds out that she’s been catfished. Love Hard is a funny movie, but it also has wholesome moments. It teaches that appearances aren’t everything when it comes to finding true love, nor is it intentional at the end of the day.
4 Ghostbusters: Afterlife
The most recent installment in the Ghostbusters series, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, is set thirty-two years after the events of Ghostbusters II. Egon Spengler, one of the original members of the Ghostbusters, has left his farm to his daughter and her two children. There the children discover the equipment used by their grandfather and accidentally let loose a ghost, leading to catastrophic events. While this is a Ghostbusters film, it holds up respectfully to its predecessors while managing to sneak a few jokes in here and there. All in all, it is an enjoyable movie that breathes life into a classic series.
3 North Hollywood
Named after a neighborhood in Los Angeles, this movie is a coming-of-age story about a young man who has a decision to make. He can follow the footsteps and dreams paved out for him by his father, or he can follow his dream of becoming a professional skater. Its premise is simple, but it allows the story to develop and flow realistically. Solid performances, visually appealing cinematography, and well-timed comedic scenes made this film an unforgettable and touching experience.
2 Free Guy
Ryan Reynolds is back and he showed up ready to serve one of the most entertaining performances of the year. Guy (Reynolds) is a non-playable character in a video game just trying to live his best life. He doesn’t know that he’s in a video game and works as a bank teller, but when someone from the outside world tries to get his attention, the world as he knows it is turned upside down forever. Free Guy is a chaotic, but fun ride, an experience that feels like an homage to its non-comedic action movie predecessors like The Matrix. Strangely heartwarming, Free Guy is worthy of seeing at least once.
1 Licorice Pizza
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza does not disappoint. Fifteen-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) has asked out twenty-five-year-old Alana Kane (Alana Haim), leading to an on-off dance of whether they’re a couple or not. It’s yet another coming-of-age story, but there’s something intimate about Licorice Pizza; it seems almost like a play or musical visually unfolding on the screen. This was both Haim’s and Hoffman’s first major acting roles, which is surprising when looking at the quality of their acting. This is a situation that seems outlandish, as we have this fifteen-year-old pursuing a woman ten years older than him, but Anderson made it work and seem authentic. Because of this, audiences couldn’t help to laugh along and be charmed by the movie.
Willem Dafoe is gliding on Green Goblin’s glider in a video from the set of Spider-Man: No Way Home.
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