With a vast library at its disposal, HBO Max features enough movies to provide a comprehensive history of comedic cinema. Here are 10 of the best comedy movies you can stream on HBO Max.
Update, 8/31/22: HBO Max removed six of our choices from the platform, so we’ve replaced them with fresh comedy recommendations.
Director Christopher Guest put together a formidable repertory company for his multiple comedic mockumentaries, and Best in Show is the strongest work to emerge. The cast includes Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Jennifer Coolidge, and many other talented improvisers. Together, they take on the absurdity of a high-profile dog show, where various self-absorbed characters obsess over their pampered pooches and flaunt their personal eccentricities.
Eddie Murphy combines his raunchy comedy style with a heartfelt story in Coming to America. Murphy plays Akeem, the prince of a fictional African country, who rejects his designated bride and travels to New York City to search for true love.
Along the way, he and his trusted companion Semmi (Arsenio Hall) get a crash course in American capitalism while working at a fast food restaurant, where Akeem woos the owner’s daughter. It’s a warm, feel-good story full of goofy comedy, including Murphy and Hall both playing multiple ridiculous characters.
Director Peyton Reed creates a masterful parody/pastiche of Rock Hudson and Doris Day’s 1960s romantic comedies in Down With Love. You don’t have to be familiar with those vintage movies to be entertained by the stunning costumes, production design and cinematography of this impeccably crafted movie, or to enjoy the hilarious performances from stars Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger. They play a pair of professional rivals in the publishing world who fall in love via whip-smart banter and possibly the highest proportion of double entendres in any movie ever made.
Will Ferrell is known for his work in raunchy, over-the-top comedies, but his most famous role to date may be in this wholesome Christmas movie. Elf stars Ferrell as Buddy, a human orphan who’s grown up among Santa’s elves in the North Pole. Now an adult (but still equipped with the wide-eyed wonder of a child), Buddy comes to New York City to seek out his biological father (James Caan). While there, he wreaks havoc, falls in love, and, of course, saves Christmas.
Writer-director Douglas McGrath highlights Jane Austen’s sparkling wit in this adaptation of her novel Emma. Gwyneth Paltrow shines as the title character, a young woman of means who appoints herself matchmaker for her friends and associates. Of course, Emma herself falls in love, even if she doesn’t realize it at first. Austen’s novel has been adapted numerous times, and while McGrath’s version is fairly straightforward, it’s energetic and fun, with excellent performances and a charming central romance.
Although perhaps not as well-known as Mel Brooks’ other parody films, High Anxiety is an expert send-up of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers. Brooks recreates Hitchcock’s style so effectively that audiences may get caught up in the central mystery, no matter how absurd it is. Brooks stars as a psychiatrist investigating strange activity at an institute he’s been hired to run. Brooks favorites Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Harvey Korman play some of the oddball supporting characters, bringing their full talents to both the comedy and the suspense.
Marisa Tomei won a rare (and deserved) Oscar for a comedic performance in the brilliant legal comedy My Cousin Vinny. Joe Pesci plays the title character, an Italian-American New Yorker who’s severely out of his element in a small-town Alabama courtroom defending his cousin and his cousin’s friend on a murder charge. The movie successfully subverts stereotypes in the interactions between Vinny and the court officers, functioning as a gripping legal procedural filled with hilariously quotable lines.
You need to be on your toes to keep up with the rapid-fire, witty dialogue in the classic screwball comedy The Philadelphia Story. In typical farce fashion, misunderstandings abound over a weekend in which socialite Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) is set to get married. James Stewart and Cary Grant play her potential love interests, with one as her ex-husband and the other as a snooping journalist. It’s a smart and sophisticated romantic comedy with satisfying Hollywood endings for everyone involved.
Of the comedy stars of the silent film era, Harold Lloyd often gets overshadowed by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. But if you watch Lloyd’s 1923 masterpiece Safety Last!, you’ll see why he deserves to be mentioned right alongside those comedy legends.
Lloyd is as soulful of a character actor as Chaplin, playing a downtrodden department store employee. And he’s as talented a physical comedian as Keaton, especially in a still-dazzling stunt sequence of Lloyd hanging from the hands of a giant clock on the side of a building.
Charlize Theron gives one of her best performances in the scathing dark comedy Young Adult. Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, who previously collaborated on the Oscar-winning Juno, reteam for this wonderfully nasty character study about a self-destructive author (Theron) returning to her hometown and attempting to seduce her married ex-boyfriend (Patrick Wilson).
Cody and Reitman deliver a bleakly funny examination of a toxic narcissist whose supposed artistic success barely covers her loneliness and insecurity.
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