Judd Apatow has produced, written, and directed more than his fair share of popular studio comedies, and with the release of his newest directorial feature effort coming this Friday, July 17, 2015, we thought it would be worthwhile to compile a list of the Top 5 Judd Apatow Movies. So without further ado, here are our favorite films bearing the Apatow stamp of approval:
5. The Cable Guy (1996)
Judd Apatow produced Ben Stiller’s second directorial effort, The Cable Guy, which stars Matthew Broderick and Jim Carrey in a buddy comedy that’s more than a little cringe worthy. After enlisting the services of a local cable guy to install premium content for his personal home entertainment system (a cable guy with more than passing interest in serial broadcast programming), Borderick’s mild mannered Steve M. Kovacs finds a friendship with Carrey’s titular character that may have been more than he bargained for. While The Cable Guy might represent Judd Apatow’s most idiosyncratic work as a producer, with the film’s script infamously dark and hard to clearly define, it’s also one of the more intellectually nuanced films that Apatow has ever put his hands on, making it a must-see film in his filmography.
4. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
In another producing role, the Will Ferrell and Adam McKay penned satire about broadcast news is still one of the most quoted studio comedies of the twenty-first century. This is a distinction that it is unlikely to relinquish anytime soon, and deservedly so. While much of McKay and Ferrell’s work proves too unwieldy and immoral to be sustainable for more than the run time allotted to an SNL sketch (which is where both comedy writers honed their chops as comedy writers), Apatow’s role as producer of this film helped bring a lot of the insipid humor together thematically, providing some structure and narrative cohesion to the film’s unending conveyor belt of unscripted riffs and frat house gags. The film might not stand the ultimate test of time, but it’s still immensely enjoyable and entertaining ten years on. Anchorman is still one of Apatow’s greatest moments as a producer.
3. Funny People (2009)
In what is probably his greatest moment as a director, Funny People stands as one of the most honest studio comedies from the past decade. While the film’s uncompromising tone polarized audiences looking to find a more typical Adam Sandler led farce, Apatow’s third effort as a director is one of his best for never shying away from the most intimate of personal truths. In Sandler’s George Simmons, Apatow tackles the age-old question over the inseparability between misery and comedy through a character abjectly enslaved to the former, while his assistant Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) enjoys more of the levity ultimately found in the latter. It might behoove some to rank this film a little higher, but solely for the sake of accessibility, Funny People will take the number three spot, though that should by no means serve as any indication that it is inferior to either of the two films that will supersede it on this list.
2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
After struggling to come into his own as a leading man in Hollywood, Jason Segel sought the advice of his friend in the business of making movies. And Apatow told Segel to write his own role, which the former Freaks and Geeks star did, enlisting the mentor who guided him towards creative fruition as an independent talent as his producer. While Apatow’s work producing scripts both written and directed by other Freaks and Geeks alumnus Seth Rogen, along with his high school best friend and writing partner Evan Goldberg, proved just as fruitful, it is in Segel’s penned script for Forgetting Sarah Marshall where we can see Apatow shaping a talent dissimilar from his own entirely. This makes the Nicholas Stoller directed romantic comedy a true gem in Apatow’s larger cinematic oeuvre.
1. Knocked Up (2007)
Carried on the chemistry held between Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigel, Apatow’s second directorial piece is also his best, both immediate and heartfelt, and never afraid to say exactly what we’re all thinking. While The 40-Year-Old Virgin is sweet and genuinely touching in much the same way, Knocked Up is a slightly tighter film from a writing stand point, with clearly defined character arcs that intersect, diverge, and finally come together again in the pursuit of a common destination. While the film is of the same sophomoric vein as all of Apatow’s fare, there is a certain playfulness at work in Knocked Up. This playfulness allows the viewer to forgive some of Apatow’s excesses as a filmmaker, his lack of cinematic fluency balanced out by his adept talent as a screenwriter. Knocked Up is a smart, sophisticated take on the hot topic of unplanned pregnancy.