The 50 Best Comedies on HBO Max Right Now (January 2021)

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The 50 Best Comedies on HBO Max Right Now (January 2021)

Can a streaming service have too much content?

Probably not, but HBO Max is determined to find out. Warner’s streamer has an overwhelming variety of movies, cartoons and TV shows from the last century of entertainment, and although I love that as a customer, it’s beyond daunting as a guy whose job involves making lists of the stuff you can stream on services like this. But after poring over the hundreds of movies currently available through HBO Max, I’ve been able to strip it down to the 50 funniest, and you can find those results below.

As far as comedy movies goes, HBO Max has the best, deepest, and most varied selection of any streamer at the moment. Good luck finding this many classics or pre-’90s comedies on the other services. HBO Max today feels like Netflix did a decade ago, before the streaming world splintered into a dozen different walled off rivals. That’s a good thing.

Also, my standard disclaimer for these comedy lists: I’m not judging these exclusively on their cinematic qualities. Acting, storytelling, and technique are all apart of the equation, but the most important single facet is how much it makes me laugh.

With that out of the way, let’s get to it. Here are the 50 funniest movies on HBO Max today.

1. This Is Spinal Tap


spinal-tap.jpg
Year: 1984
Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: R
Runtime: 82 minutes

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The only rock documentary worth watching, according to Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl—next to Pennebaker’s Dont Look BackThis Is Spinal Tap isn’t really a documentary at all, though it aspires to so much more truth than any countless, beatific biopic that’s come out in the past couple decades or so. The story of a fictional metal/cock rock band told through talking head interviews that chronicle their iconic ups and downs, Spinal Tap is our best, early glimpse at the team who’d go on to make Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind and Best in Show. While it isn’t the first of its kind, it feels like it could be: So deeply does it understand the world it parodies, Spinal Tap knows that a mockumentary is best a biopic of people who never existed, taking the personalities that define this starfucking realm and then, ever so slightly, ever so lovingly, cranking them to 11. —Dom Sinacola


2. The Great Dictator

chaplin_Great_dictator.jpg
Year: 1940
Director: Charles Chaplin
Stars: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Rating: G
Runtime: 126 minutes

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Charlie Chaplin’s first “talkie” was a biting satire that he wrote, directed, produced, scored, and starred in-as both of the lead roles, a fascist despot who bears a rather marked resemblance to Adolf Hitler and a persecuted Jewish barber. Good satire can be powerful, and this film was: Released while the United States was still formally at peace with Germany, it stirred greater public attention and condemnation of the Nazis and Mussolini, anti-Semitism and fascism. (That said, Chaplin later recounted that he could never have made the satirical film even a year or two later, as the extent of the horrors in German concentration camps became clearer.) The choice to play both the tyrant and the oppressed man was an inspired one, underscoring the frightening but inescapable truth that we all contain a little bit of both characters. This is a strikingly pertinent film for our particular moment in history, and well worth dusting off and queueing up not only for its incredible craft but for its resonance as a study in projection. —Amy Glynn



3. The Philadelphia Story

philadelphia_story_poster.jpg
Year: 1940
Director: George Cukor
Stars: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 112 minutes

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Can you believe there was a time when Katharine Hepburn was known in Hollywood as “box office poison”? This adaptation of a Broadway hit was a vehicle to get her career back on track after a series of flops. Her performance as icy heiress Tracy Lord in this “remarriage” comedy is a force of nature. Happily, her no-longer-drunken ex is played by Cary Grant, who is a fabulous foil. Jimmy Stewart and Ruth Hussey round out the cast as reporters in not-so-clever disguise. Pretty much everything about this movie is a pure delight, and the script is a masterpiece. —Amy Glynn


4. Shaun of the Dead

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Year: 2004
Director: Edgar Wright
Stars: Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Nick Frost, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

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Together, 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead established precedents for the “modern” zombie film that have more or less continued to this day. The former made “zombies” scary again, and the latter showed that the cultural zeitgeist of zombiedom (which was picking up around this point) could be mined for huge laughs as well. Most importantly, the two types of films could exist side by side. Shaun of the Dead makes a wry, totally valid criticism of modern, digital, white-collar life through its wonderful build-up and tracking shots, which show slacker Shaun wandering his neighborhood failing to even realize that a zombie apocalypse has happened. Once he and his oaf of a friend finally realize what’s happening and take up arms to protect their friends and loved ones, the film becomes a fast-paced, funny and surprisingly emotional action-comedy. Few horror comedies have actually combined the elements of humor and serious horror the way this one does in certain scenes—just go back and watch the part where David is dragged through the window of The Winchester by zombies and literally torn to pieces. It’s a film that works on so many levels, and manages to be uproariously funny while still being quite faithful to the fidelity of Romero-style zombies. Much in the same way as Zombieland (a definite spiritual successor), it shows that whether the zombies are “scary” is ultimately a matter of how everyone reacts to them. Shaun of the Dead was so momentous that it’s next to impossible to make a zombie comedy at this point without being accused of ripping it off—take Fido, a film that seems based entirely on the “domesticated zombie” gag at the end of this film. —Jim Vorel



5. Modern Times

modern-times.jpg Year: 1936
Director: Charles Chaplin
Stars: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: G
Runtime: 88 minutes

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If time is a flat circle, then Modern Times is like a flat sprocket—the travails of the Little Tramp navigating a mechanical world being so incessant and repetitive that elements like luck and hope only serve to spur along Chaplin’s farce even though they hold little grip on his characters’ futures. Not much changes for the Little Tramp throughout: He tries to survive, and yet the institutional system craps him back out to where he started, desperately hungry and penniless, left with nothing to do but try again. This was also Chaplin’s last go as the Tramp, and it’s easy to imagine that, throughout the film’s many misadventures—joined by equally good-natured partner in crime, the gamin (Paulette Goddard)—as he gets sucked up and sublimated into the modern industrial machine, this “disappearance” was kind of by design. It’s a weird way for Chaplin’s beloved character to go out, but so are the many ways in which Chaplin shows how the modern industrial machine becomes part of the Tramp, too. He may get squeezed through a giant, sprocket-speckled apparatus, becoming one with its schematics, but so too does the assembly line—with all that twisting, wrenching, and spinning—impress itself onto the Tramp, leaving him unable after a long shift to do anything but waggle his arms about as if he’s still on the assembly line. It’s no wonder, then, that the President of Modern Times’ factory setting bears a striking resemblance to Henry Ford: Chaplin, who toured the world following the success of City Lights, witnessed the conditions of automobile lines in Detroit, how the drudgery of our modern times weighed on young workers. The Great Depression, Chaplin seems to be saying, was the first sign of just how thoroughly technology can kill our spirits, not so much discarding us as absorbing our individuality. Modern Times, then, is a film with a conscious far beyond its time, a kind of seamless blending of special effects, sanguine silent film methods and radical fury.—Dom Sinacola


6. Being There

being_there_poster.jpg Year: 1979
Director: Hal Ashby
Stars: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Warden, Melvyn Douglas, Richard Dysart
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 130 minutes

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In terms of directorial output in a decade, Hal Ashby’s run in the 1970s is impressive. Starting with 1970’s The Landlord and ending with Being There, Ashby’s films racked up 24 Oscar nominations and seven wins. But while Harold and Maude, Shampoo and Coming Home compete for the hearts and minds of Ashby fans, it’s Being There that stands out both for its timelessness and timeliness. In the story of the childlike Chance (Peter Sellers, in a role that redeemed a sagging reputation), a gardener whose innocence and simplicity confuses and gets misread by the “savvy” players of Washington, D.C., Ashby shows how gentle humor can express sharp truths about all-too-human foibles. —Michael Burgin



7. The Thin Man

the_thin_man_poster.jpg Year: 1934
Director: W. S. Van Dyke II
Stars: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, Minna Gombell, Porter Hall
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Sequels are far from a recent development. Hollywood pumped out six movies in the ‘30s and ‘40s starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as the bantering sleuths Nick and Nora Charles. The first—and maybe the best—of them is 1934’s The Thin Man, where the retired detective and his heiress wife investigate a murder in between bon mots and many, many cocktails. The Thin Man is a sterling example of the slick, high society confections that Hollywood excelled at during the Depression, and Nick and Nora have influenced pretty much every hyper-verbal cinematic couple that followed.—Garrett Martin



8. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

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Year: 1985
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Paul Reubens, E.G. Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger, Jan Hooks, Cassandra Peterson
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Tim Burton’s full-length directorial debut is also one of his best. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure brings us into the bizarro world of Pee-wee Herman, the excitable, ageless protagonist that’s hopelessly attached to his bike. After it’s stolen in broad daylight, we see Herman travel across the U.S. to reclaim his baby. And through the adventure and its ongoing discoveries (who knew the Alamo didn’t have a basement?) we’re introduced to unforgettable characters like Herman; his (sort-of) love interest, Dottie; the horrifying trucker ghost Large Marge; the snotty, rich Francis; and Herman’s dog, Speck. Herman’s wacky world is fully realized through the eye of Burton, and this one stands alone as a film that kids and adults can both get a kick out of.—Tyler Kane


9. When Harry Met Sally

when-harry.jpg
Year: 1989arth
Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Easily the most beloved romantic comedy of its decade, the story of Harry (Billy Crystal), Sally (Meg Ryan) and their 12-year journey to couple-hood boasts a solid script by Nora Ephron that feeds and feeds off of the unexpected chemistry between its leads. (And with each new generation of lovers watching the diner scene for the first time, another woman laughs and another man sits silently, wondering what’s so funny.) —Michael Burgin



10. Hot Fuzz


hot-fuzz.jpg
Year: 2007
Director: Edgar Wright
Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Timothy Dalton, Olivia Colman
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes

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The second chapter in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (before there was ever such a thing), Hot Fuzz is clear evidence that Edgar Wright is capable of anything. A blockbuster action flick, a thriller, a pulp plot, a winking noir, a commentary on classism in an increasingly urbanized society—the movie is all of these things, down to the marrow of its very existence. Moreso than Shaun of the Dead or The World’s End, Hot Fuzz inhabits its influences with the kind of aplomb to which any cinephile can relate: Somewhere between fascination, revulsion and pure visceral joy there walks the Michael Bays, the Don Simpsons, the John Woos, the Jerry Bruckheimers, and Wright gives each stalwart his due. Plus, he does so with total respect, showing that he understands their films inside and out. And in that intimate knowledge he knows even better that filmmaking is a conflagration: Best to burn it all down and see what remains than build it from the ground up. —Dom Sinacola


11. Happy Gilmore

happy gilmore poster.jpg
Year: 1996
Director: Dennis Dugan
Stars: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen, Frances Bay, Carl Weathers
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Adam Sandler could’ve retired in 1998, after his first three movies, and his comedy legacy would’ve been secured. (He maybe should’ve retired then, but let’s not get into that.) It’s hard to pick between The Wedding Singer, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, but let’s talk about that last one right now. The tale of a failed hockey player becoming a champion golfer is an ideal vehicle for Sandler’s inchoate frat boy rage, and the absurd streak that elevated Madison above most Hollywood comedies of the day is even more visible here. It has some of the same problems as most Sandler movies—an underwritten, unbelievable love interest (here played by Modern Family’s Julie Bowen), a bare bones story that’s little more than a launching pad for jokes—but Gilmore is an ideal character for Sandler, and a great supporting cast (including Carl Weathers, Ben Stiller, Richard Kiel, Joe Flaherty, and Christopher McDonald as the iconic villain Shooter McGavin) help turn this into a legitimate classic. Also there’s a great chance this is the main thing younger people know Bob Barker from, which is actually kind of sad.—Garrett Martin



12. School of Rock

school_of_rock_poster.jpg
Year: 2003
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Jack Black, Joan Cusack,
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 110 minutes

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School of Rock gets plenty of comic mileage of the fact that Jack Black’s character, Dewey Finn, isn’t nearly as book smart as his students: “You’re gonna have to use your head, and your brain, and your mind, too,” he tells them. But it’s Dewey who uses his head, brain and mind as he becomes musical mentor, creator of lesson plans and manipulator of an inflexible educational system. (With school music programs being slashed at schools nationwide, School of Rock was ahead of its time.)

School of Rock doesn’t go overboard on the sentimental aspects—it establishes that young guitarist Zach has a controlling, overbearing father without beating the audience over the head with it. And while it advocates giving children a means of self-expression and catharsis, it doesn’t elevate rock music into something more than it should be.—Curt Holman


13. Safety Last!

safety-last-poster.jpg Year: 1923
Directors: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Stars: Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Bill Strother
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 80 minutes

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“I shouldn’t have bothered scoring the last 15 minutes,” Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra told me after accompanying Safety Last! at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. He said he and his ensemble couldn’t even hear themselves over the uproarious laughter in the Castro Theatre during Harold Lloyd’s famous building-scaling sequence. The scene, with its iconic clock-hanging finale—is such a perfect mix of suspense and comedy that it doesn’t much matter that the rest of the film seems to exist merely as a lead-up. —Jeremy Mathews



14. Gremlins 2: The New Batch

gremlins-2-movie-poster.jpg Year: 1990
Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Zack Galligan, Phoebe Cates, John Glover, Robert Prosky
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 107 minutes

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Joe Dante didn’t want to make a sequel to Gremlins. The first film exhausted him and was wrapped up so nicely, he didn’t see a need to carry the story forward. The studio, however, refused to give up and, out of desperation, gave him complete creative control. They sure got what they paid for, as the cult classic sequel throws absolutely everything at the viewer with zero interest in whether it will stick or not. It’s a slapstick comedy wrapped up in cartoonish violence and some sharp-edged satire about corporations and capitalism. Oh, and there’s a cameo by Hulk Hogan to boot. —Robert Ham


15. Midnight Run

midnight_run_poster.jpg Year: 1988
Director: Martin Brest
Stars: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, Dennis Farina, John Ashton
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Rating: R
Runtime: 122 minutes

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The ’80s created the textbook action/comedy formula, and director Martin Brest was smack dab in the middle of it. His Beverly Hills Cop was originally written as a straight action movie, until Eddie Murphy was cast in the lead role. Instead of keeping the overall self-serious tone of the film and just inserting some out-of-place comedy set pieces into the narrative, Murphy and Brest infused a lighthearted tone across the entire project, while keeping the basic requirements of an action structure in place. Midnight Run, Brest’s follow-up to Beverly Hills Cop, perfects this fusion. None of the action sequences take themselves too seriously, and none of comedy comes across as mugging, desperate to extract easy chuckles. The premise and structure are very simple and fairly predictable: It’s a traditional road movie wherein a grizzled bounty hunter (Robert DeNiro) has to transport a mob accountant (Charles Grodin) across the country, with the mob and the police squarely on their tail. What makes Midnight Run still feel fresh after 30 years is Brest’s aforementioned handle on tone, and the terrific chemistry between DeNiro and Grodin, so on point it’s surprising they weren’t reunited for other similar flicks after this. Usually the rough masculine bounty hunter would be the wild card against the accountant’s stuffy straight man, yet DeNiro and Grodin find refreshing ways of tinkering with that formula, with DeNiro’s character eventually coming across as a regular good guy who was dealt more than a few bad hands, and Grodin as a lovable but sometimes infuriating weirdo. —Oktay Ege Kozak



16. Billy Madison

billy madison poster.jpg
Year: 1995
Director: Tamra Davis
Stars: Adam Sandler, Darren McGavin, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Bradley Whitford, Norm MacDonald
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 42%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 89 minutes

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There’s a strong case to be made that Billy Madison is the best Adan Sandler movie. Sure, it’s not as human as The Wedding Singer, and it’s hard to vote against Happy Gilmore, but Madison so thoroughly exceeded the abominably low expectations I had for it in 1995 that it wound up being one of the most memorable movies of the decade. It’s still hilarious today, a perfect vehicle for Sandler’s man-child persona, and one that surrounds him with a fantastic supporting cast, including Bradley Whitford, Darren McGavin, Norm Macdonald, Chris Farley, and a giant penguin, among others. It’s not the story or even the jokes that make Billy Madison so funny—it’s the surreal flourishes, the way lines are delivered, how Tamra Davis (both a woman and an outsider to the small circle of men who have directed most of Sandler’s movies since) is able to contrast Sandler’s weirdness with a world that feels recognizable in its everyday mundanity. Later Sandler movies feel lazy and untethered from the real world, but Madison doesn’t suffer from either flaw. It’s dumb comedy done with enough weirdness and intelligence to become a true classic.—Garrett Martin


17. City Slickers

city-slickers.jpg Year:
Director: Ron Underwood
Stars: Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 114 minutes

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If you’re like me, City Slickers falls into the category of movies you liked when they came out, but you’re not sure if they hold up. Are the jokes dated? Were they funny when I was 22, but not so much now? Well, rest easy. Sure, there are a few jokes that might be a little juvenile and Billy Crystal’s shtick is a tad over the top now and then, but for the most part, this is a film with a well-crafted screenplay and actors who know when to improvise to great effect. Daniel Stern reminds one why he’s one of the best (and most underused) comedic actors around (the birthday party scene is side-splittingly funny), and the late Bruno Kirby (whose life was tragically cut short at 57 due to Leukemia) was simply one of the most versatile actors of his generation. —Michael Burgin



18. Metropolitan

Year: 1990
Director: Whit Stillman
Stars: Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Taylor Nichols, Allison Parisi, Dylan Hundley
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 98 minutes

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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


19. Down By Law

down_by_law_poster.jpg
Year: 1986
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, Ellen Barkin
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

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What makes Down By Law the quintessential Jarmusch film is in the deliberate exclusion of a sequence most other directors would have turned into their calling card. Two innocent inmates (John Lurie and Tom Waits) are joined by a third prisoner (Roberto Benigni), who is guilty but has a pretty airtight argument for self-defense. While playing cards, they discuss various exciting prison break scenes in film history, which motivates Benigni’s character to mention that he has a foolproof plan of escape. After a scene that references such cinematic moments, Jarmusch directly cuts to the prisoners already running away from prison, having cut the escape sequence all together. Jarmusch succinctly demonstrates that he isn’t interested in action but is far more fascinated by the individual quirks and mannerisms of his characters, while the dialogue that references such other prison break films expresses how deeply American mainstream pop culture has defined a big part of his personality.—Oktay Ege Kozak



20. American Graffiti

american-graffiti.jpg Year: 1973
Director: George Lucas
Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 110 minutes

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Before George Lucas started telling stories about distant galaxies, he wrote and directed a stellar coming-of-age film that plays beautifully off of the power of nostalgia. Set in the 1950s and chronicling a group of recent high school graduate’s last night in town before leaving for college, the film captures the striking time of a universal life transition nearly all can relate to. With heavyweights such as Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Mackenzie Phillips and Harrison Ford, this is a must-see for any teenager heading off to college.—Brian Tremml



21. Jojo Rabbit


jojo-rabbit-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Taika Waititi
Stars: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 108 minutes

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In the opening moments of Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, a German-language cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles plays over the fanatical cheers of the Nationalists lining the streets for their führer. Using historic black-and-white footage with the rocking guitars that would launch Beatlemania twenty years in the future creates a more immediate understanding of the inner clockwork of 10-year-old “Jojo” (Roman Griffin Davis). Davis delivers a performance far beyond his 11 years: Lonely and isolated, he portrays the desperation and the vulnerability Jojo possesses as he enters the Bund deutscher Arbeiterjugend (Hitler Youth). Run by the recently demoted Captain “K” Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), the Hitler Youth Summer Camp trains boys to hunt and throw grenades, while girls are taught to how to bandage a wound and give birth. But to Jojo, it represents his opportunity to become a man and a member of Hitler’s army. Production designer Ra Vincent details Adolf Hitler’s god-like status in Jojo’s mind by cementing his mug all over Jojo’s bedroom walls. Waititi’s script showcases Jojo’s fan-boy nature with detailed facts about the dictator with which the boy burdens his mother (Scarlett Johansson), and a charismatic imaginary Hitler that comes to Jojo’s aid when he’s feeling his most vulnerable. Like a Whitman-esque dream, imaginary Hitler (Waititi) contains multitudes. Waititi performs the role of dictator with such ridiculous fanfare, his interpretation couldn’t be mistaken for the real thing. Occasionally clown-like with a reserved charisma aimed directly at Jojo’s sensitive side, Hitler works to build the young boy up like a father would pal around with his son. But when dismissed, this internal figure becomes irate, launching into a horrendous tirade typically reserved for large crowds. Representing the fear of going against the state, the insecurity around his status as a male and the longing he has for his father, who has been away at war for over a year, Jojo’s imagination powers his entire world view—it just happens to take the shape of Hitler. In Jojo Rabbit, Waititi infuses a level of humanity into WWII without blindly forgiving those responsible, nor hiding behind the guise of good guys in bad situations, nor allowing even a 10-year-old boy to get away with hate without swift retribution and thorough self-examination. Combined with larger-than-life characters, splintering tragedy and a unique coming-of-age journey, Jojo Rabbit conveys a message about love’s ability to conquer loneliness. That’s a message that’s fervently needed. —Joelle Monique


22. American Splendor

american-splendor.jpg Year: 2003
Directors: Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman
Stars: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Judah Friedlander, James Urbaniak
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Harvey Pekar’s “American Splendor” books are fascinating: Pekar believed that even the most mundane and seemingly uncomplicated lives were worth documenting. American Splendor showcases this theory by combining real footage of Pekar, fictionalized versions of characters from his life—maintaining both stylized caricatures and naturalistic drama—and even animated segments pulled from the comics to create a cohesive whole that presents an ordinary life as a fascinating experience. —Ross Bonaime



23. A Christmas Story

A_Christmas_Story_film_poster.jpg Year: 1983
Directors: Bob Clark
Stars: Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, Ian Petrella, Scotty Schwartz, R.D. Robb
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 93 minutes

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To wring something as genuinely warm and heartfelt as it is hilarious from a central theme of rampant consumerism is a rare thing. To supplant Christmas Day TV scheduling previously reserved only for classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street is quite another. Director Bob Clark assembles a pool of onscreen talent who were clearly born to inhabit Jean Shepherd’s treasured story of childhood amidst Major Awards, first swear words, cynical Mall Santas, and—of course—the ruminations on what it truly means to shoot your eye out. —Scott Wold


24. Down and Out in Beverly Hills

down_and_out_poster.jpg Year: 1986
Director: Paul Mazursky
Stars: Nick Nolte, Richard Dreyfuss, Bette Midler, Little Richard, Tracy Nelson, Elizabeth Peña
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
Rating: R
Runtime: 103 minutes

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Anyone who’s seen a handful of Jean Renoir films will attest to the famous auteur’s fascination with examining unfair class structures, mocking the bourgeoisie all the while. And Boudu Saved from Drowning is an underseen work from Renoir that covers his favorite themes with a slightly lighter tone from, say, The Rules of the Game, about a well-to-do family rescuing a drowning vagrant (Michel Simon) and growing fond of him, enough to “civilize” him into becoming part of the bourgeoisie. Co-writer/director Paul Mazursky takes Renoir’s biting but levelheaded comedy and turns it into a bug-eyed, mocking satire about the vast class and income inequality in Los Angeles, a city that’s become even more ravaged by the gap between the rich and poor since the remake’s release in 1986. The well-meaning but clueless rich family in the original turn into raging narcissists played spectacularly by Bette Midler and Richard Dreyfuss. Simon’s lovable Chaplin-like tramp in the French version is turned into Nick Nolte’s raving, drunken, sometimes incomprehensible bum. Down and Out in Beverly Hills isn’t necessarily a better film than Boudu, but the stark difference in tonal and satirical approach make them different enough experiences to warrant such a solid remake.—Oktay Ege Kozak


25. 13 Going on 30

13 going on 30 poster.jpg
Year: 2004
Director: Gary Winick
Stars: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis, Kathy Baker
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 97 minutes

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What could’ve been easily dismissed as a shameless Big ripoff might be even better than that Tom Hanks classic. Jennifer Garner is at her most charming as a 13-year-old in a grown-up’s body, and perennially underrated Judy Greer shines in her finest film role as Garner’s best frenemy. The gently nostalgic script might deserve the most credit, though—a movie like this could have been ruined by lethal levels of cheese, but 13 Going on 30 has the exact right amount of crowd-pleasing schmaltz. —Allyn Moore



26. Desperately Seeking Susan

desperately_seeking_susan_poster.jpg Year: 1985
Director: Susan Seidelman
Stars: Rosanna Arquette, Madonna, Aidan Quinn, Mark Blum, Robert Joy, Laurie Metcalf
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 104 minutes

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At the height of her mid ‘80s ubiquity Madonna made an auspicious jump into acting with Desperately Seeking Susan, a cool, pleasant trifle about a bored suburban housewife (Rosanna Arquette) who tries to live vicariously through Madonna’s bohemian Susan before becoming directly entangled in her life. Despite various antics involving stolen ancient jewelry and shady mobsters, Susan is a pleasant, low-key snapshot of a long-gone New York. Look for cameos from Steven Wright, John Turturro and Giancarlo Esposito, along with a who’s who of Lower East Side musicians and performers, including Richard Hell, Ann Magnuson, John Lurie, Richard Edson, Annie Golden and Arto Lindsay.—Garrett Martin


27. Stranger Than Paradise

stranger_than_paradise_poster.jpg Year: 1984
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: John Lurie, Eszter Balint, Richard Edson
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Jarmusch has fashioned a wildly idiosyncratic, stylish and coherent body of work. In the early ’80s, right out of film school, Jarmusch inadvertently helped define the American independent movement when his second feature, Stranger Than Paradise, found an audience of people who enjoyed its hip-but-relaxed pace, deadpan humor and apparent awareness of world cinema. The film is stylistically simple, with even fewer shots than the film he made during school, Permanent Vacation, and it seemed to satisfy a hunger for movies that eschew Hollywood formula. That hunger didn’t go unnoticed by the industry, which has since created specialized subsidiaries of major studios, festivals like Sundance and cable channels that champion “independent” filmmakers.—Robert Davis



28. A Hard Day’s Night

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Year: 1964
Director: Richard Lester
Stars: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfrid Brambell
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: G
Runtime: 87 minutes

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That opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” is iconic on its own, but when it’s paired with scenes of the Fab Four gleefully outrunning a crowd of screaming fans? Forget about it. The first Beatles movie—a mockumentary filmed at the height of Beatlemania—also happens to be their best; it’s funny, silly, weirdly melancholy at times (it’s hard not to see the foreshadowing when Ringo temporarily quits the band after feeling unappreciated) and full of some fantastic early performances. It manages to poke fun at the fame machine from the inside, and we always get the sense that no one found it funnier than John, Paul, George and Ringo.—Bonnie Stiernberg


29. City Lights

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Year: 1931
Director: Charles Chaplin
Stars: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers, Florence Lee
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: G
Runtime: 90 minutes

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In his later years, Charlie Chaplin was known for bringing pathos into his comedy whenever he had the opportunity. City Lights is the movie where he earns every bit of it. While its structure resembles Chaplin’s usual picaresque format, there’s more of a deliberate purpose as the tramp tries to help a poor, blind flower girl, played adorably by Virginia Cherrill. Harry Myers also deserves a mention for his performance as the millionaire who’s generous when he’s drunk and can’t remember his good deeds when he’s sober. —Jeremy Mathews



30. An American Werewolf in London


american_werewolf_poster.jpg Year: 1981
Director: John Landis
Stars: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

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Few directors have ever displayed such an innate tact for combining dark humor and horror the way John Landis does. At the height of his powers in the early ’80s, one year removed from The Blues Brothers, Landis opted for a much grittier, scarier story that stands as what is still the best werewolf movie of all time. When two travelers backpacking across the English moors are attacked by a werewolf, one is killed and the other, David (David Naughton), infected with the wolf’s curse. Haunted by the simultaneously unnerving and hilarious visions of his dead friend, David must decide how to come to terms with the monster he has become, even as he strikes up a relationship with a beautiful nurse (Jenny Agutter). The film lulls you into comfort with its witticism before springing shocking, gory dream sequences on the viewer, which repeatedly arrive unannounced. The key moment is the protagonist’s incredibly painful, traumatic full transformation, set to the crooning of Sam Cooke doing “Blue Moon,” which is still unsurpassed in the history of the genre. Legendary FX and monster makeup artist Rick Baker took home the first-ever Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for creating a scene that has given the wolf-averse nightmares ever since. —Jim Vorel


31. Time Bandits

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Year: 1981
Director: Terry Gilliam
Stars: John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 110 minutes

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The first in Terry Gilliam’s “Trilogy of Imagination,” Time Bandits breathes with the unfettered glee of cinematic magic. Told through the eyes of Kevin, a neglected 11 year-old (Craig Warnock), the film details a literal battle between Good and Evil, between God (Ralph Richardson) and the Devil (David Warner)—though they’re never explicitly referred to as such. What Gilliam accomplishes, as Kevin meets such luminaries as Robin Hood (John Cleese), Napoleon (Ian Holm) and an irrepressibly charming King Agamemnon (Sean Connery, of course), is the perfect ode to imagination, wherein a kid’s bedroom musings gain the seriousness and weight of world-shaking war. Like a much weirder step-cousin to Bill & Ted, Time Bandits employs nostalgia and pseudo-history in equal measure to capture, with boundless invention, what it feels like be 11 again.



32. Babe: Pig in the City

babe-pig-in-the-city-movie-poster.jpg Year: 1998
Director: George Miller
Stars: James Cromwell, Elizabeth Daily, Magda Szubanski, Mickey Rooney, Mary Stein
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%
Rating: G
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Three franchises mostly define George Miller’s almost five-decade career: Mad Max, Happy Feet and Babe—the latter comprised by the two films Miller wrote about the talking pig who thinks he’s a sheepdog. Miller has kept such a distinct visual language throughout these 50-some years, we can draw a direct aesthetic line between Fury Road’s lavish colors depicting the grotesque beauty of a post-apocalyptic hellscape, and Babe: Pig in the City’s old-school fairy-tale world, equally enchanting and deadly. It’s is a textbook example of solid sequel-making: Instead of blindly recreating the charming family drama of Babe, following the titular pig hell-bent on defying his social place in his world, Miller dials the story’s fantasy to 11 to take us to an awe-inspiring metropolitan city that’s a hodgepodge of the most beautiful and recognizable urban spots in the world. Pushing human characters even more to the background, Miller’s film tells of Babe’s latest exploit leading a group of plucky and downtrodden animals in their quests for freedom and dignity. Like so many classic children’s entertainments, in Pig in the City, horrors lurk around every corner but the possibilities of life’s wonders similarly shine. —Oktay Ege Kozak


33. The Gold Rush

chaplin_gold_rush_poster.jpg Year: 1925
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Stars: Charlie Chaplin, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Georgia Hale
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 82 minutes

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The Klondike gold rush made the perfect setting for Charles Chaplin’s tramp to run wild. Chaplin took all the motifs he could find from adventure novels, melodramas and other stories of the northern frontier, tossed them in a blender and served up a collection of what would become his most famous scenes. He finds humor in peril—with a suspenseful teetering cabin scene, as well as starvation (when he famously makes a meal of his boot) and of course finds time to show off with his dancing roll scene. However, no one has succeeded in finding any humor in the atrocious voiceover Chaplin added to the 1942 rerelease. Be sure to watch the original version. For a more serious take on the Klondike hardships, see Clarence Brown’s The Trail of ’98 (1928).



34. Elf


elf_poster.jpg Year: 2003
Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Ed Asner
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 97 minutes

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In a sense, making Christmas “funny” can be as easy as responding to something meant to be sincere and joyful with cynicism and darkness. Is there any comedic Christmas character that embodies a genuine love of Christmas? Thankfully, we have Will Ferrell’s fearlessly committed performance as the titular elf to answer this question with a resounding yes. Nothing represents Christmas cheer better than Will Ferrell in yellow tights, a green parka and cone-shaped cap. He wrings a ton of comedy out of responding to everything with wide-eyed, childlike wonder. Arguably our generation’s classic Christmas movie, watching Buddy the Elf makes you laugh, makes you smile and, to paraphrase from the Grinch, makes your heart grow three sizes bigger. Even if the movie devolves into a formulaic, race-against-the-clock flick in the last 30 minutes, its myriad gifts outweigh its problems. From endlessly quotable nuggets like “cotton-headed ninnymuggins”; the hysterical fruit spray scene; Zooey Deschanel showcasing her pre-She & Him singing chops; Mr. Narhwal and the arctic puppets (a band name if I ever heard one); to, finally, Ferrell’s infectious enthusiasm, Elf is instant holiday merriment. —Greg Smith & Jeremy Medina


35. Clerks

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Year: 1994
Director: Kevin Smith
Stars: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonauer, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

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Does Clerks hold up? That’s a tough question. It’s the exact same movie it was in 1994, obviously, as unapologetically raunchy and jaded as ever. It’s at once barely competent as filmmaking and yet probably the most artistically cohesive and competent work Kevin Smith has ever made. Clerks was never really a great movie, per se, but made a deep impression for two reasons. First off, the rags-to-riches story behind its creation was basically the ultimate summation of the entire 1990s fascination with indie films. Here’s a guy who made an ugly, lo-fi, black-and-white comedy without professional actors for less than a year’s worth of college, and because it had a voice and verisimilitude that hadn’t really hit the big screen yet, he got distribution through the biggest indie film company of the day and the movie wound up making millions. Secondly, if you were a teenager or twentysomething at the time, Clerks was legitimately hilarious. These characters spoke like your friends, or at least like amplified versions of them. It’s far from a great movie, and most of the acting is as terrible as you probably remember, but it still has that middle-class wastrel charm that made it stand out 24 years ago, and some of the jokes still land, even if your taste in comedy has changed greatly since you first saw it. —Garrett Martin


36. Flirting With Disaster

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Year: 1996
Director: David O. Russell
Stars: Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Tea Leoni, Alan Alda, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Back when he was able to make movies without Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, David O. Russell made this gem, which is still his funniest film. This dark screwball comedy reins in Ben Stiller’s tendency to go big, taps into Téa Leoni’s well-known comic chops, and gives Patricia Arquette the opportunity to show off her own formidable comedy skills, and then surrounds them all with such experienced pros as Mary Tyler Moore, Lily Tomlin, Alan Alda and George Segal. If you think Russell’s recent movies have grown a little too pandering and self-indulgent, you should watch this taut farce.—Garrett Martin



37. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America

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Year: 1996
Director: Mike Judge
Stars: Mike Judge, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Robert Stack, Cloris Leachman
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 80 minutes

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Mike Judge was at the top of his powers in the mid to late ‘90s, when he was juggling Beavis and Butt-Head with King of the Hill and also developing Office Space. Although it lacks the music video commentary that was often the funniest part of the MTV series, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America is the rare feature-length adaptation of a TV show that’s actually better than the source material. A higher budget resulted in the best animation ever associated with Beavis and Butt-Head, while the extra length of a movie let Judge and his co-writer Joe Stillman take the cultural satire the show was known for in deeper and wider ranging directions. It also features Robert Stack’s best animated performance since that time he got to cuss in the Transformers movie.—Garrett Martin


38. Mars Attacks

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Year: 1996
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Jim Brown, Rod Steiger, Natalie Portman, Lukas Haas,
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54%
Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes

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With Jack Nicholson as president, Sarah Jessica Parker’s head appearing atop a chihuahua body and an alien race that speaks in a bird-like squawk, Mars Attacks is filled with enough campy goodness to make even the most serious sci-fi fan crack a smile. Although it was initially received poorly among critics and fans alike, repeat viewings of Mars Attacks made this one shine for a cult audience.—Sean Doyle


39. The Player

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Year: 1992
Director: Robert Altman
Stars: Tim Robbins, Greta Scaachi, Fred Ward, Whoopi Goldberg
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: R
Runtime: 124 minutes

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Robert Altman’s cameo-heavy Hollywood satire was rapturously received in 1992, and along with the next year’s Short Cuts it represents his late-career peak. Structured a bit like a film noir, albeit in the shallow, pampered world of movie executives, The Player’s mockery of the business gradually grows warmer until it seems to embrace the schmaltz and insincerity of Hollywood. It’s smart satire with a wicked bite and a couple of great performances from Robbins and Goldberg, and a bonus Burt Reynolds cameo for all you Gator fans.—Garrett Martin



40. The Ruling Class

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Year: 1972
Director: Peter Medak
Stars: Pete O’Toole
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 154 minutes

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Peter O’Toole is electrifying in this bitter satire of British social status and the treatment of mental health. The Ruling Class frequently switches tones with no warning—this the kind of movie where characters will occasionally break out into absurd songs despite not being a musical, but that also ends with a bleak final passage that is way more of a horror film than anything else. It’s not particularly subtle in its critique of capitalism and class structure, but satire doesn’t have to be subtle to be effective. O’Toole was nominated for an Oscar for this one, and it’s obvious why when you watch it.—Garrett Martin


41. Man Bites Dog

man-bites-dog-movie-poster.jpg Year: 1992
Directors: Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde
Stars: Rémy Belvaux, Benoît Poelvoorde, Andre Bonzel
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: NC-17
Runtime: 97 minutes

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An undeniable forebear to Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Man Bites Dog won the International Critics’ Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, only to receive an NC-17 rating upon its US release, banned in Sweden altogether. One can understand the squeamishness: Man Bites Dog unflinchingly portrays serial murder in its graphic banality, victims ranging from children to the elderly to a gang-raped woman whose corpse is later photographed with her entrails spilling all over the table on which she was violated, the perpetrators lying in drunken post-revelry, heaped on the floor. Filmed as a mockumentary, Man Bites Dog goes to distressing lengths to portray the exigencies of murder as basely as possible, incorporating the reluctance of the crew filming such horrors to offer the audience a reflection of the ways they were probably reacting. The fascinated sorrow expressed by the documentary film’s director (Rémy Belvaux) as he realizes what making a documentary film about a serial killer actually means, becoming more and more complicit with the killings as the film goes on, explicitly points to our willingness as bystanders to stomach the horrors displayed. Still, we react viscerally while the film explores conceptual themes of true crime as pop culture commodity and reality TV as detrimental mitigation of truth, ultimately indicting viewers apt to enjoy this movie while simultaneously catering to them. Benoit (Benoît Poelvoorde), the subject of the faux film, is of course an incredibly intelligent societal outcast beset by xenophobia and misogyny, offering up countless neuroses to explore behind his psychopathy and serial murder, which he treats as a legitimate job. But Man Bites Dog is more about the ways in which we consume a movie like Man Bites Dog, concerned less about the flagrant killing it indulges for laughs than it is the laughs themselves, implying that the real blame for such well-known horror falls at our feet, in which each day we take big, basic steps to normalize the violence and hate that constantly surrounds us. —Dom Sinacola



42. Singin’ in the Rain

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Year: 1952
Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Stars: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen, Rita Moreno
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: G
Runtime: 103 minutes

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The most legendary of Hollywood musicals, Singin’ in the Rain is a warm, beautiful, feather-light look at Hollywood on the cusp of the talkie revolution, with timeless performances from Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. Musicals can be an acquired taste in the year 2020, but this is one of those legit classics that pretty much anybody interested in the movies should see at some point in their life. It’s a charming, romantic trifle that’s made with perfect precision.—Garrett Martin



43. Swingers

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Year: 1996
Director: Doug Liman
Stars: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughan, Ron Livingston, Patrick Van Horn, Alex Désert, Heather Graham
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

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With their breakout roles in Swingers, Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau established the personalities that still define them 20 years later. Vaughn’s a fast-talking Eddie Haskell type who isn’t quite as charming as he thinks, and Favreau’s an affable everyman with a sensitive side. This carries over to their recent work: Vaughn motormouths his way through comedies and dramas alike, while Favreau makes big budget Hollywood films that tend to be a little bit smarter and better crafted than most. The ease and charm of their friendship is what makes Swingers so memorable—it would’ve been called a bromance so often if that portmanteau existed in 1996. Swingers is a character-first comedy that captures a specific time and place in vivid detail. —Alan Byrd


44. Inherent Vice

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Year: 2014
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
Rating: R
Runtime: 148 minutes

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Inherent Vice shares Thomas Pynchon’s instability: always in flux, it perseveres as a screwball elegy to a lost time, refusing to function solely as a stoner comedy or a serious drama or any one thing. Anderson is mannered enough to shift from one tone to another organically, making the whole seem part of one larger kaleidoscopic feeling rather than a series of disjointed vignettes, and that alone is a huge accomplishment. That he also characteristically includes a series of unforgettable scenes makes this film one that must be seen again.—Jeremy Mathews


45. Idiocracy

idiocracy_poster.jpg Year: 2006
Director: Mike Judge
Stars: Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Terry Crews, David Herman
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
Rating: R
Runtime: 84 minutes

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Idiocracy’s dystopian setting is based on the idea of runaway “dysgenics,” the opposite of selective breeding: the inverse of natural selection, once the intelligent segment of the population gets “outbred” by the stupid. It’s an interesting idea to drop on Everyman Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), who arrives as a time traveler from 500 years earlier only to have himself proclaimed as the smartest man in creation. The average person in this setting, though, is facing a rather featureless, bland and frankly obnoxious day-to-day life, with a crippled economy, food shortages and poor mental and physical health. The upside? They’re mostly too stupid to notice or care theirs is an existence of boring, mushy pablum. —Jim Vorel



46. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

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Year: 1979
Director: Allan Arkush
Stars: P.J. Soles, Vincent Van Patten, Clint Howard, Mary Woronov, the Ramones
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 94 minutes

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This might be known as “that Ramones movie,” but it’s P.J. Soles’s show. As Riff Randell, the biggest Ramones fan at Vince Lombardi High, the Carrie and Halloween actress gives us one of the best on-screen depictions of what it means to be a passionate fan of anything, but especially rock ‘n’ roll. Riff’s enthusiasm is infectious and her love for the Ramones updates the archetype of the teenage girl swooning over ‘50s and ‘60s pop stars for the late ‘70s, just as the Ramones revived bubblegum pop through the dirty lens of that rotting decade. You don’t have to like the Ramones to like this movie—you just have to like rebellion and rock ‘n’ roll and the wholesale destruction of confining institutions like the American high school.—Garrett Martin


47. Josie and the Pussycasts

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Year: 2001
Directors: Harry Elfont, Deborah Kaplan
Stars: Rachael Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson, Tara Reid, Parker Posey, Alan Cumming
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 53%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 99 minutes

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Josie and the Pussycats isn’t the disaster many thought it was when it came out, but it’s also not quite the brilliant, subversive satire that many today have tried to argue. It’s an occasionally funny, occasionally audacious parody of pop culture that criticizes the corporate vacuousness of the entertainment industry, but lightly, and only to the extent that that same industry would let a thoroughly corporate product like this criticize it. Is it better than most disposable turn-of-the-century teen comedies? Of course. Is it a fun way to kill 100 minutes? Yeah, especially if you’re old enough to be nostalgic for that era and get the movie’s pop cultural references. Is it some brilliant lost classic waiting to be rediscovered? Not quite. It’s a slick, silly film smart enough to update an old Archie comic into an irreverent, self-referential comedy, and that’s more than good enough.—Garrett Martin



48. Semi-Pro

semi-pro_movie_poster.jpg Year: 2008
Directors: Kent Alterman
Stars: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin, Will Arnett, Andrew Daly
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 22%
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

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Semi-Pro awkwardly welds two distinct comedies together—the first a serious, gritty sports comedy in the vein of Slap Shot starring Woody Harrelson and Maura Tierney, and the second one of Will Ferrell’s live action cartoons. They don’t quite gel together, but both hit high notes on their own. A fantastic supporting cast buoys this narratively listless film, including Andy Daly, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Andy Richter, and Jason Sudeikis, making sure it’s funny even when it’s not necessarily good.—Garrett Martin


49. American Pie

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Year: 1999
Director: Paul Weitz
Stars: Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Eugene Levy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61%
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

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The original American Pie is a cut above the typical raunchy teen sex comedy for two reasons. First is the cast. The cast members that have charisma have a ton of it, including Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott in career-defining roles, and Alyson Hannigan as the surprisingly experienced band geek. Ringers like Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolidge do the comedic heavy-lifting when needed. (SCTV legend Levy basically had a second or third career popping up in all the sequels to this thing.) On top of that, it’s surprisingly sweet for a movie about getting laid, especially considering at one point Scott’s character Stifler downs a beer full of semen. It was a gross-out comedy that your parents could enjoy. A lot of it probably plays horribly today, of course—even in ‘99, setting up a webcam so your friends could ogle a naked classmate crossed the line from joke to sexual harassment. So maybe tread lightly with this one.—Garrett Martin



50. Schizopolis

schizopolis.jpg Year: 1996
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: Steven Soderbergh, Dave Jensen, Betsy Brantley, Eddie Jemison
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61%
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

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Everything and nothing at all, Schizopolis came about in the midst of a prolific period for Steven Soderbergh—though one could say that for practically any movie he’s made throughout his career. Released the same year as Gray’s Anatomy, and on the heels of King of the Hill and The Underneath, one an award-winning bildungsroman and the latter a remake of a Robert Siodmak noir, Schizopolis puts something of a cap on the notion of Soderbergh as auteur. Here he seems capable of making any kind of movie he wants to make—this time a largely improvised experimental comedy shot on a quick-and-dirty microbudget, pretty much between breakfast and dinner. And, as further testament to Soderbergh’s weird pandextrousness, Schizopolis feels inextricably of its time, mapping in broad, absurd strokes the way meaningful communication has become a lost privilege of a technologically advancing society. As Soderbergh himself (who also stars) states in a prelude to the actual film: “In the event that you find certain sequences or ideas confusing, please bear in mind that this is your fault, not ours.” As a director in full control of even his most tossed-off films, he’s probably right. —Dom Sinacola

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