The 10 Best Comedy Movies of 2021: If this global pandemic couldn’t equip you with the vitality of lightness and humor in your life, I doubt if anything ever can. Personally, the pandemic gave me plenty of time for introspection. I connected more to the films I admired. It connected me to people whom I haven’t even met. It also made me reconsider my physical interactions with people. But most importantly, it made me appreciate how the sheer art of comedy can keep you sane. In these dark, chaotic times to live in, laughter’s basic necessity as a ‘medicine’ is only being proven.

2021 was an amazing year for the genre of laughter in cinema. We got all sorts of comedies, and self-awareness got real breathing space. Directors started experimenting with the genre with impressive results. From animated films to superhero movies to films about politics, the genre marked its presence everywhere. I’ve tried to write about comedies in this list, which I loved last year. I hope, you enjoy watching them as much as I enjoy recommending them to you!

Special Mention

How it Ends

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

Directors: Zoe Lister-Jones, Daryl Wein

Since the pandemic and the invention of stay-at-home, I’ve been able to better connect with apocalypse-based art. There is an unexpected closure to the fact that sooner and not later, the world must end. Along with it, everything and everyone is bound to perish. As if speaking up close to such urgency, directors Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein made this incredibly feel-good comedy set on the last day of the earth.

Following protagonist Liza and her younger self, as they walk through the streets expressing themselves like they never did, the film’s basic niceness takes newer shapes and forms. I was surprised how organically the generic American indie coming-of-age comedy blended with the film’s high-profile ideas. Additionally, the writing has a lot of clarity as to how it can approach Liza, her regrets, and her confusion. And while there’s a fair share of adulting, the film boasts of a warm Pixaresque core. The film might be divisive, but it knows what to do with itself.

Related Best Comedy Movies of 2021 – How it Ends [2021]: ‘SXSW’ Review – An Exuberant Comedy About the End of the World

10. 7 Days

Director: Roshan Sethi

Did you think that ‘Desi’ wedding rom-coms just don’t work? Well, here’s one to prove you wrong. Roshan Sethi’s debut film as a director and mentored by the Duplass brothers, 7 Days is so outright hilarious that it made my abdomens ache. Set in the NRI space of America, the film is the story of Ravi and Rita as their ‘first meeting’ for arranged marriage turns into combat for survival. Basically, the film’s core happening takes place just a day before the first COVID-19 lockdown was announced. We weren’t even talking about it!

The film mostly works because of the charm of its leads. Geraldine Vishwanathan and Karan Soni are two people with tremendous talent and they gel incredibly with each other. Sethi has poured in all his love for Bollywood in the film, with references as stretched as Kal Ho Naa Ho. These are in direct contrast with the nature of the couple’s relationship, which is fantastically real and chaotic. Through it all, the film is so engaging and relatable that you’ll forget to notice its loopholes.

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9. Dug Dug

Best Comedy Movies of 2021

Director: Ritwik Pareek

Ritwik Pareek’s satire on faith and its madness, Dug Dug is infectious fun to be had. On the surface, it is packaged as a dark and informed socio-cultural drama. However, what really composes its high point is its utter madness and vibrancy. Based on true events, this film is about a mysterious bike that is reluctant to move from the place where its owner died in an accident. No matter how far and unreachable it is from the spot, the next morning one will find it at the same place. Thus, the village’s godmen find a solution- to construct a temple and worship it.

Dug Dug has all the apt workings one associates with a satire. It is one of the most visually stunning films of the year, with colors like pink and blue stamped over it. However, these bright colors are in direct contrast with the overall bleakness of the situation. It is the kind of socio-culturally informed and surprisingly ‘local’ film that puts its themes across in a subtle fashion. Through simple, lineal rural drama, the film deftly balances its political commentary.

Related Best Comedy Movies of 2021 – Dug Dug [2021]: ‘TIFF’ Review – A satire on religious faith, myth-making, and the politics of it all

8. Stop and Go

Best Comedy Movies of 2021

Directors: Mallory Everton, Stephen Meek

A COVID comedy might sound like a terrible idea. However, with the right set of writers and the right hands to execute it, it can be very wholesome and unproblematic. In recent memory, Mallory Everton and Stephen Meek’s SXSW-premiered Stop and Go is the best of its kind. Basically, a road trip with two sisters called Jamie and Blake going to the far-away hospital to have their grandma discharged from their retirement home, the film has a rather simple setup.

Related Best Comedy Movies of 2021 – Recovery [2021]: ‘SXSW’ Review – A Charming, Clever COVID Comedy

Even its aesthetics confirm the fact that it doesn’t boast about its relevance. However, it is so whip-smart and loveably funny that you’ll want to acknowledge it for each of its jokes. The writing, which has been done by its excellent leading pair Whitney Call and Mallory Everton, is always excellently riotous. It majorly benefits because the leads are a pair of besties in real life as well, and that equips their banter with a much-needed sense of joy and cheer.

7. Ninjababy

Best Comedy Movies of 2021 - Ninjababy

Director: Yngvild Sve Flikke

Yngvild Sve Flikke’s Ninja Baby is a playful, unpretentious celebration of the female gaze. Starring Kristine Kujan Thorp is one of the best roles of the year as Rakel, this film is about a budding comic-book artist who apparently aspires to become a number of things in her life. For the moment though, she’s unexpectedly dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. And since it’s been six months now, she simply cannot abort this baby. To garnish this injury with an insult, Ninja Baby, a hand-drawn literal infant, jumps out of the sheets to remind her how awful she is.

At its core, Ninja Baby is about motherhood. It is about how big of a responsibility it is and how we cannot just make people shoulder it. It’s refreshingly unsentimental about observing pregnancy as something biological and neutral. Fortunately, though, Yngvild never makes the drama around it too structured or heavy. With the aid of snappy editing and sloppy characters, she makes it chaotic and profoundly funny. Her writing is careful in fleshing out these characters with a lot of care, without disrupting the organic flow of the protagonist and her journey. In short, Ninja Baby is a very off-kilter look into the dilemmas of motherhood.

6. El Planeta

Director: Amalia Ulman

Black-and-white aesthetics in modern film work up to the point where they serve a purpose. So far, most of such films have tended to work in their own original ways, most recently Rebecca Hall’s subdued directorial debut Passing. The monochromatic transitions in Amalia Ulman’s wonderfully potent directorial debut El Planeta are equal parts, charismatic and deceptive. Initially, it feels like a call back to the delightful, punctured, and wholesome English comedies of the yore. But as we progress with the narrative of Leonor and her mother, we realize that the film’s dialed down, laid-back visual energy deliberately underscores the tragedy of this relationship underneath.

El Planeta is an occasionally charming and almost entirely original black comedy. Without heavy themes or a narrative that penetrates too deep, it succeeds in becoming all the more surprising for how understated its way of playing out is. Crucial scenes are staged unsuspectingly and yet, palpably enough to keep one invested. The small town struggles, a strange and amusing mother-daughter relationship, and their dual obliviousness hit hard for being familiar. Watching Ale Ulman shining bright as Maria without being a professional actress is one of the biggest surprises of the year. And Martin Scorsese’s cameo puts all those Stan Lee stints to shame.

5. The French Dispatch

Director: Wes Anderson

Well, here’s complete disclosure. The French Dispatch is only the second live-action entry by Wes Anderson that I have seen. And by the end of it, I was in awe of Anderson’s vision and overall creativity. The immersion and involvement that I felt throughout were akin to a kid’s first experience of witnessing The Statue of Liberty. With an intentional emotional disenchantment from the material, the film becomes a warm and lovely cinematic repertoire. It’s a graciously funny and intimate ode to the expatriate journalistic spirit of a European publication.

The film finds Anderson working with a medium rarely exploited to its full potential. It’s an anthology composed of three short films. However, the staging is so masterful and organic that the anthological form and structure cease to matter if at all it does. With sharp humor, indulgent burgeons, and great actors, these three stories dismantle a sense of privilege. It’s an expressive, intelligent film that went under the radar too quickly.

Related Best Comedy Movies of 2021 – Every Wes Anderson Film Ranked

4. Red Rocket

Best Comedy Movies of 2021 - Red Rocket

Director: Sean Baker

The compelling mastery of The Florida Project ensured Sean Baker’s smooth transition from an emerging indie voice to a definitive master. The charm, humanism, and simplicity of his work are never dismissive of the overall darkness and complexity. The realism seamlessly blends in with each grain of his aesthetics. His empathy and marginal poetry have such vastness that they easily make their way into the character study of a… washed-up ex-porn star. His style and approach are never second to the thrilling black comedy setup that he has used here.

Featuring a star-making turn from Simon Rex and shot in a tongue-gagging 35 mm by Drew Daniels, Red Rocket is insanely funny. It’s a fusion of many tonalities without the least bit of processing involved. The writing of the film is so winning that it ensures the film’s effortless transformation into the screen. At its core, it is supposed to be an extraordinarily layered character study of a very unlikeable person. This is also where a very ball-busting critique of masculinity comes into play. Most importantly, its chaotically funny casting confirms Red Rocket’s position on the list.

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3. Everything Went Fine

Best Comedy Movies of 2021

Director: François Ozon

François Ozon, one of the more important modern filmmakers of French cinema, has made his best movie in years with Everything Went Fine. Based on a biographical novel written by Emmanuelle Bernheim, the film chronicles the last days of her father André. With the kind of premise that the film contains, its position as a rather unsentimental comedy feels violating and nearly wrong. However, while keeping us constantly moved and laughing, Ozon manages to make a powerful plea in favor of euthanasia for older people.

The film pans out like a refreshing mainstream drama. There are typically three acts, very human characters with real problems. There are plenty of laughs big and small, and certainly, a lot of fun to be had. However, a complex but familiar core relationship between a father and daughter is what powers it all. The terrific chemistry between Sophie Marceau and Andre Dussollier enables us to root for them. Above all, the writing is powerful enough to make us feel what these people are feeling, with immediately rooted effectiveness.

2. The Worst Person in the World

Best Comedy Movies of 2021

Director: Joachim Trier

Joachim Trier’s last entry into his supposed ‘Oslo Trilogy’, The Worst Person in the World is one of the best-written films of the year. It’s no less than a marvel how wonderfully the ‘writing’ vanishes when translated as a film. Following four years in the life of a young woman named Julie, the film takes a fabulous novel-like structure with a prologue and an epilogue. It circulates around her extremely personal navigation of her love life and her career path. It’s a clear coming-of-age journey put to film, but wherever you think the ‘comedy’ goes here, it doesn’t.

The romantic comedy approach and the overall hilarity in her confusions are wry and playfully told. Renate Reinsve is extraordinary in how ably she slips into the skin of our heroine Julie, aided by a fantastic supporting performance by Anders Danielson Lie. However, Trier’s extraordinary storytelling command steers clear from a definitive form and function. He effortlessly lets the narrative play out. There is characteristic intimacy to the execution of its best moments, and just the right amount of sensitivity. Mainly, the film is an instant, innovative classic. It rises above the ‘male’ and ‘female’ gaze to make it youthfully human and unadulterated.

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1. Licorice Pizza

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson has made his lightest and most comforting movie in the form of Licorice Pizza. He puts the central coming-of-age romantic comedy to a subversive and nostalgic lens. On the surface, it’s a typical age-gap love story set in the San Fernando Valley in 1973. There are allusions to the cinematic character of the time and the blatant racism exercised by white people. However, scratching beyond the familiar surface, the film’s delightful; Richard Linklater-esque sappiness sends you on a head-rush of sorts.

This is one of those seminal masterpieces which benefit from the small things. The cinematography is lush and lively, investing us thoroughly. Also, the leading performances by debutants Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman are effing extraordinary. Additionally, PTA’s direction has an affinity to the times and a constant, consistent ability to take one by a storm of surprise. However, in the end, it’s the reflective and nuanced writing that emerges as the crystal-clear winner here. Licorice Pizza is one of the finest films of the year and a must-see.

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20 Best Comedy Movies of 2022

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