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The 20 Best Comedy Movies on Netflix Instant

November 6, 2012  |  8:30am

Sometimes, at the end of a long day, you just need to laugh. And while there are a handful of quality sitcoms on the air right now, they rarely match the joys of a fully developed comedic film. The movies on this list range from romantic comedies to goofy slapstick to dramedies that soak their melancholy in laughter. But all are listed under “Comedy” according to Netflix’s genre descriptions and are currently available on Netflix Instant (as of January 2013—we’ll continue to update as the selection changes). For a more varied list, check out our list of the 50 Best Movies on Netflix Instant.

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20. Sleepwalk With Me
Year: 2012
Director: Mike Birbiglia
Charlie Chaplin once said, “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” Mike Birbiglia takes the pain of a struggling comic, an unsure boyfriend and a scared sleep-disorder patient, and plays with these mounting problems for our amusement. Not many sleep-disorder stories—even those first shared with Ira Glass on This American Life—have ever been as funny as Birbiglia’s.—Monica Castillo

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19. Meet the Parents
Year: 2000
Director: Jay Roach
Robert DeNiro’s comedy chops are unquestionable at this point, partly thanks to his role as the over-protective father who brings out the absolute worst in his son-in-law to be, male nurse Gaylord Focker. Plenty of laugh-out-loud moments make this slapstick comedy of errors a fun, popcorn movie night.—Josh Jackson

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18. The Trip
Year: 2011
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Two British actor/comedians playing versions of themselves travel the beautiful and bleak north England countryside, stopping to eat at various upscale restaurants, but mostly just talking. And talking and talking. And doing impressions of Michael Caine, Woody Allen, and Liam Neeson, as well as British personalities an American audience might not recognize. But mostly just talking, with overlapping affection and competition. Sound like a good idea for a film? It absolutely is.—Jonah Flicker

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17. Clueless
Year: 1995
Director: Amy Heckerling
A combination of comedy, romance and high-school spunk, Clueless is a story with true ’90s flair. Alicia Silverstone stars as the pretty and popular Cher, a privileged valley girl with a penchant for matchmaking. While she cruises potential boyfriends for her girlfriends, she struggles to figure out her relationships. The film is a charming, modern take on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma, and with performances by a youthful Paul Rudd and Brittany Murphy, it’s anything but an airhead. Could we love this film anymore? As if!—Megan Farokhmanesh

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16. Metropolitan
Year: 1990
Director: Whit Stillman
There have been nearly as many “next Woody Allens” in film as there have been “next Michael Jordans” in basketball or “next Bob Dylans” in music, but sometimes the moniker fits. In Whit Stillman’s debut, he staked his claim as the Woody of the upper-class WASPy NYC set and won a whole army of loyal followers. For good reason, too—seldom has any director, regardless of experience, so deftly juggled dialogue that could so easily have delved into too-clever-by-half-isms, or trained such a sympathetic eye on a sometimes questionable nostalgia for the end of an age. Most of all, though, seeing Metropolitan just makes you feel smart and witty and somehow elevated. Not bad for the price of a movie ticket.—Michael Dunaway

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15. Harold and Maude
Year: 1971
Director: Hal Ashby
I guess you could categorize this as a romantic comedy. Teenaged Harold (Bud Cort) and 79-year-old Maude (Ruth Gordon) do find love. And it is darkly funny. But Hal Ahsby’s masterpiece is unlike anything we’ve seen before or since its 1971 release.—Josh Jackson

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14. Barton Fink
Year: 1991
Director: Joel Coen
While hung up with the intricate plotting of Miller’s Crossing, The Coen Brothers took a break to write a script about a blocked screenwriter (Jon Turturro). Reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch at their most darkly satiric, Barton Fink depicts a self-important New York playwright who struggles to write a Hollywood wrestling picture while residing in a rotting hotel. A jaundiced metaphor for the compromised creative process of show business, Barton Fink delivers the deadpan comedy and quirky performances of the Coen’s trademark, including Oscar nominee Michael Lerner as a bombastic studio chief, John Mahoney as a boozing, Faulkner-esque novel, and John Goodman as a cheerful salesman with a dark secret. Audiences can obsess over the meaning of lines like Goodman’s “I’ll show you the life of the mind!” but any answers the film holds are unlikely to be reassuring.—Curt Holman

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13. This is Spinal Tap
Year: 1984
Director: Rob Reiner
This is satire at its best, as “the world’s loudest band” tours the country with outrageous songs, even more outrageous leather pants, and amps that go just a little bit higher. Christopher Guest plays the misguided lead guitarist, Nigel Tufnel, and his biting comedic timing carries the film. It’s a must-see for music fans of any genre.—Caroline Klibanoff

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12. In the Loop
Year: 2009
Director: Armando Iannucci
If clever verbal humor were easy, we’d have more comedies like In the Loop. But it’s not, and this one stands in a class of its own. It’s the most quotable film of the decade—by miles—and the cynical potty mouths on screen are so articulate and creative that, after the avalanche of witticisms, you’re left with the lingering sense that you’ve seen not just a funny movie but also a wicked political satire of the highest order, the kind where the absurdity speaks for itself.—Robert Davis

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11. Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog
Year: 2008
Director: Joss Whedon
Written during the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike, Joss Whedon’s NPH-starring sinister musical series was one of the first to have success online. The serial/movie follows Dr. Horrible as he struggles to balance his life as an evil genius with his love life. His crush is the lovable Felicia Day, and his nemesis, Captain Hammer, is played by Nathan Fillion.—Riley Ubben

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