On of the bigger surprises of 2016 is how incredible the year has been for comedy in film. This is always a hit or miss genre. For every great comedy per year, there is usually more than a few bad ones to match. 2016, however, was a refreshing change. Comedy of all kinds, whether it be a sequel or a remake or an original property, has dominated ever since January. These films have been animated and live-action, they’ve action comedies, rom-coms, and farces. The great comedies of have been so varied and interesting that we had trouble narrowing it down to just a select few for this list. Thus, through careful analysis of how much they made us laugh, here are the best and funniest comedies of 2016.
The Brothers Grimsby
Sacha Baron Cohen has been anything but consistent since his comedic masterpiece Borat. Predictably, reaction to the flailing screen comedy star has been anything but unanimously positive. The Brothers Grimsby continued his trend of causing more head-shaking discussion than laughter– namely with his alleged down-punching toward the titular white working class town and a gag that saw Donald Trump become infected with AIDS. But Cohen’s willingness to swing indiscriminately and weaponize offensive stereotypes to put the onus of morality onto his audience has always been a pivotal element to his genius, and it’s dishonest to pretend that that off-screen viewer discomfort is without comedic value in a world where every joke is placed through a cultural purity test. The Brothers Grimsby was never going to be a return-to-Borat form but it does offer a sort of scribbled version of that same genius, albeit, at times, almost indecipherable. – David Shreve, Jr.
Love it or hate it, Deadpool was a major box office draw over the course of the first few months of 2016, and has since gone down as one of the most successful movies featuring original X-Men characters in recent memory. Not since Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United from 2003 has there been a major motion picture event based on the Marvel Comics feature franchise that has generated quite as much widespread acclaim. In that light, it’s even more surprising to find that Deadpool – as directed by Tim Miller and starring Ryan Reynolds in the role he was always meant to play – was also one of the best comedies of the year. Playfully mocking the standard tropes of the romantic-comedy, Miller and Reynolds delivered one of the most accessible superhero blockbusters to date that honored its source material to a tee, while simultaneously managing to offer the kind of metatextual humor and self-referential satire that the character is so well known for already. – Sean K. Cureton
In 2016, Ghostbusters was brought back to us with a vengeance for one of the most laugh-out-loud funny movies in a year filled to the brim with tons of really powerhouse comedies. This is no surprise given that comedic genius Paul Feig was at the helm, delivering in full with the Ghostbusters remake in the same way he did in films like Bridesmaids or Spy: through a smart script and the flawless chemistry between a cast of genuinely hilarious women. It’s Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and MVP Kate McKinnon who carry the movie. The four of them play off each other so well with high energy and an effortless rapport of wicked funny lines, whether they be improvised or scripted. Of course it helps that they’re aided through some strong physical comedy and incredibly funny supporting characters. In particular is Chris Hemsworth as their secretary, Kevin, who is much funnier than anyone probably could have reasonably imagined. If you slept on this one, give it a go. The Ghostbusters remake is a refreshing and hilarious take on the material. –Ryan MacLean
Centering on a Hollywood “fixer” working during the Classical Hollywood era of the 1950s, Joel and Ethan Coen’s Hail, Caesar! could have been a bigger awards season contender if the two talents attached cared about that kind of thing. Instead, the Coen brothers released their latest studio comedy without much in the way of pomp or circumstance at the beginning of February – a time of year stereotypically relegated to the movies that major studios have largely abandoned any hopes of making back big money on – and saw returns of $33.1 million on a budget of $22 million. Yet Hail, Caesar! is easily one of the best movies of the year, and definitely the best comedy of 2016. Starring the likes of Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, and others, Hail, Caesar! artfully mocked the kind of fear and paranoia that gripped the American nation in the midst Cold War era as reflected by the film industry. What resulted was one of the very best, and funniest, Coen brothers movies to date. – Sean K. Cureton
How To Be Single
How To Be Single is one that came out of nowhere. Mostly overlooked upon its initial theatrical release, it’s recently been gaining traction as it airs on HBO and for good reason. Presenting itself as a sort of anti-rom com, How To Be Single is in actuality much smarter and funnier than that sounds. It doesn’t mock rom com conventions, there’s no snark to be found. Instead How To Be Single is more of a send-up of rom com tropes. One that’s honest, sweet, and insightful but also one that happens to be funny as hell. Much of this lies on the strengths of the cast stocked with comedically gifted women (a common thread among the comedies of 2016). Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, and Leslie Mann all get many funny moments but the entire movie rests on the shoulders of Dakota Johnson, a legitimately astonishing talent (comedic or otherwise) who never falters. She has a natural intuition for comedy that really shows in How To Be Single. – Ryan MacLean
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Following up last year’s What We Do in the Shadows, an essentially perfect laugh-a-minute comedy, Taika Waititi released Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a dramedy about a grieving and cantankerous old man, a troubled young teen, and a dog named Tupac seeking escape into the New Zealand wilderness, and this more dramatic formula did nothing to dilute the director’s reputed knack for comedy. This time around, Waititi trademark ear for timing and wit is assisted by two delightful performances from an unrecognizable Sam Neill and an absolutely prodigious Julian Dennison and a script that is infused with an endearing charm. – David Shreve, Jr.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
If we were to compile a list of sequels that are better than their predecessors, Neighbors 2 would likely find its way onto it. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising does what all great sequels do; it builds on the framework of the original while expanding it in fresh and exciting ways. In this case, pitting Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne against a hard-partying sorority instead of just another fraternity adds a more subversive edge, exploring the sexist divides in the Greek system. They want to save the property value of their soon-to-be sold house but in doing so they run the risk of stomping down on young, newly empowered women. As well, the girls prove themselves to be much smarter and more devious than their male counterparts from the previous film. Thus, the resulting war between the two sides is both hilarious and thematically substantial. The gags work, the physical comedy is top notch, and the cast (including the always funny Zac Efron) nails every bit of it. – Ryan MacLean
Based on the real life experiences of Saturday Night Live head writer Chris Kelly, Other People is one of the most affecting cancer comedies of all time. Dealing with the diagnosis and gradual decline of his late mother over the course of several months, Jesse Plemons plays the fictionalized David Mulcahey to Molly Shannon’s stirring role as Joanne Mulcahey. Forced to contend with a conservative family and an emotionally distant father who has refused to acknowledge his own son’s gay sexual identity for ten years, Other People is one of the most surprising new comedies to see release in 2016, and one that should not be ignored by anyone who enjoys the genre for its harder hitting moments and novel interrogations of tragedy in comic relief. – Sean K. Cureton
Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday
When Netflix announced the production of a Pee-Wee Herman film, 31 years after the Tim Burton classic Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, even the most ardent of Pee-Wee fans (yes, we exist) had to be skeptical of this strange exercise in niche nostalgia. Luckily, the absurdist fabric of the original television program aged as well as its star Paul Reubens (who shows only the slightest signs of screen age). Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday maintains all of the original shows charm– Pee-Wee’s small town manchild naivete, his unpressed blurry sexual orientation, and his machine gun witticisms– while adding more contemporary elements to the bit. Though some unfamiliar with the source character might find the shtick a bit grating (that was always part of the point), there is plenty within Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure for fans new and old to enjoy, including what I think is the funniest film line of the year (“Why are the cops after us? Are you guys witches?!”) – David Shreve, Jr.
Popstar: Never Stop Stopping
The silliest entry of 2016, Popstar: Never Stop Stopping provided comedian Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island cohorts an opportunity to hit all of their best comedic and musical notes. Half riff on the self-seriousness of the pop music industry and half exercise in top notch “dumb guy” comedy, Popstar is one hundred percent unhinged fun. These days comedies too often fall into two categories: dramatic (think Apatow) or mean (think Sandler), and Samberg’s crew are our best reminder that sometimes, laughter without tears or victims is the best form of the medicine. This is evident in the scene in which Conner Friel’s childhood turtle takes ill and the projectile vomiting makes it impossible not to laugh at a scene that surrenders all of its dramatic weight or when feuding bandmates meet for the first time in the back of a limo to resolve the film’s driving conflict and, instead of facing their personal demons, the scene instead takes an unexpected turn as fans rush the vehicle looking for anatomical autographs. – David Shreve, Jr.
Featured Image: Columbia Pictures