The best comedy movies on Prime Video Australia

Subscribe to Prime Video? In the mood for a rib-tickler? Critic Luke Buckmaster has scoured the platform and retrieved the funniest films—from recent hits to decades-old classics.

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Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The (1994)

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It’s clear from the start of Stephan Elliott’s fabulously glitzy road movie about drag queens travelling to Alice Springs for a cabaret show that something magically weird is in the air. Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce are the drags in question, injecting fabulous flair into their fancy frocked characters, who gave Australia exactly what it needed: “a cock in frock on a rock.”
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American Fiction (2023)

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Jeffrey Wright’s character in American Fiction—the haughty novelist Thelonious “Monk” Ellison—will go down as an all-timer in the actor’s oeuvre. He’s never been better as this eviscerating and bitterly amusing character, who launches an act of rebellion against the literary establishment by writing a book poking fun at clichés expected from Black writers—only for it to become a smash-hit.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

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John Landis’ scrappy genre-merging classic is funny weird and funny ha-ha, starting in the key of a culture clash backpacker comedy then spectacularly shifting. The transformation of David (David Naughton) into a werewolf doubles as a metaphor for puberty (like Teen Wolf), with absurd melodrama prioritized over outright horror (like Vampire’s Kiss).

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (2023)

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There’s many familiar story elements in Kelly Fremon Craig’s adaptation of Judy Blume’s classic coming-of-age novel, which pivots around the titular 12-year-old (Abby Ryder Fortson) as she moves into a new neighbourhood, makes friends, and offers periodic prayers to the big dude upstairs. But this film feels delightfully fresh, very effectively capturing the desperation teenagers have to become adults, and the inevitable awkwardness this entails. Abby Ryder Fortson is a wonderful lead.

Bad Boy Bubby (1993)

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Rolf de Heer’s notorious cult classic about a tortured soul (Nicholas Hope) who spent his first 35 years locked in a grubby apartment still, after all these years, almost defies description, laced with boundary-pushing scenes discussed only in hushed tones. Bubby’s venture into wider society provides social critique, an unflinching portrait of mental illness and much more.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

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I love the poster tagline for this good-natured and stupidly entertaining time travel movie: “History is about to be rewritten by two guys who can’t spell.” In other hands, we’d want to wring the necks of the air-headed titular characters, but Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter manage to make them charming doofuses, supported by a brisk plot and an endearingly daft vision of heroism.

The Birdcage (1996)

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“We are family! I got all my sisters and me!” I’ll always associate Sister Sledge’s song with this hilarious remake of the French farce La Cage aux Folles. Val Goldman (Dan Futterman) and Barbara Keeley (Calista Flockhart) nervously introduce their future inlaws, Val having asked his gay father and partner (Robin Williams and Nathan Lane) to pretend to be straight to appease Barbara’s conservative parents (Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest). The performances are pitch-perfect and the film carries a timeless message about acceptance.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

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The sick shimmer of the original Borat movie lost some of its freakshow appeal, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s grotesquely entertaining Kazakh journalist maintained a higher purpose—exposing American prejudice. Returning to the USA to present a gift to “Premier McDonald Trump,” Borat’s second round of rambunctious misadventures exposes right wing ignorance and bigotry, with characteristically shocking zeal.

Bottoms (2023)

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Emma Seligman’s lewd and loud high school movie is a fine female-led companion piece to Superbad, cranked full of sass and potty-mouthed conversations. Gay bickering besties PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) start a self-defense club at school as a way to mix with hot girls—but things get messy and, for the viewer, frequently laugh-out-loud funny.

Catherine Called Birdy (2022)

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Lena Dunham’s high-spirited coming-of-age movie, based in 13th century England, has pace and humour tuned to the peppy personality of its young protagonist. Fourteen-year-old Lady Catherine (a very entertaining Bella Ramsey) knows she’s supposed to be married off—preferably to a wealthy blue blood—but wishes for a different life and rebels against the patriarchy. Dunham never takes the audience’s attention for granted, fussily filling her adaptation of Karen Cushman’s novel with all sorts of stylistic details.

Cosi (1996)

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You’ve never seen a film about a theatre production quite like this one, starring Ben Mendelsohn as an unemployed actor hired to direct a community production of Mozart’s opera Così fan tutte. And here comes the twist: all the actors are patients of a Sydney psychiatric facility. The interplay between the characters is sometimes very funny and the cast is great—including Barry Otto, Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, Jacki Weaver, Colin Friels, David Wenham and Pamela Rabe.

Groundhog Day (1993)

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I love the poster tagline for Harold Ramis’ brilliantly innovative comedy: “He’s living life like there’s no tomorrow. Because there isn’t.” High concept movies don’t much shrewder than the story of Bill Murray’s cranky, borderline nihilistic weatherman, forced to live the same day again and again in a crummy snowed in small town. It’s the grand daddy of the time loop movie: often imitated, never matched.

Heathers (1988)

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A comedy so dark the prefix “black” barely begins to cut it. Michael Lehmann’s cult movie is up there with Election and Mean Girls as one of the great high school-set comedies—but with a more potent air of irreverence. Winona Ryder joins a clique of students called the Heathers while Christian Slater plays the demon on her shoulder, encouraging her to commit dastardly deeds.

His Girl Friday (1940)

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One of the great comedies of the 1940s, Howard Hawks’ classic is remembered less for what it says than how it says it—streams of frantically paced verbal ping pong bouncing between its zinger-delivering characters. Cary Grant’s newspaper editor tries to win back his wife, Rosalind Russell’s hotshot journalist, by forcing her to work with him on a big murder story. Rolled gold repartee ensue.

Kenny (2006)

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Packed to the hilt with true blue turns of phrase and centered around Shane Jacobson’s adorably fair dinkum, dunny-cleaning protagonist, this well-loved film is a very bloody ‘strayan mockumentary. Despite the titular character’s profession, which famously involves confronting smells that outlast religion, the film never indulges in gross-out gags—wisely leaving yucky stuff to our imagination.

Kick-Ass (2010)

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This wittily irreverent superhero movie follows a delusional teenager, Aaron Johnson’s Dave Lizewski, who dons a bogus costume and declares himself a caped crusader. Matthew Vaughn wickedly subverts the genre and makes way for scene-stealing supporting performances—particularly from Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz.

Liar Liar (1997)

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Struck by a birthday wish that came true, made by his crestfallen son, Jim Carrey’s scrupleless lawyer finds himself unable to lie or withhold the truth. Carrey is in very fine form, bellowing like a madman and stretching his body every which-way. Armed with this great human special effect, director Tom Shadyac delivers the funnies—including riotous courtroom spectacle and the classic “the pen is blue” scene.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

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My favourite Coen brothers film is a singular experience: a delightfully funny and witty musical celebration of American folklore, by way of ancient Greek literature (loosely adapting Homer’s The Odyssey). George Clooney leads a trio of nitwit escaped convicts across rural Mississippi circa the Great Depression, tricking them into helping him locate his estrange wife. Farce, folly, and thigh slappin’ tunes abound.

Palm Springs (2020)

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“Today, tomorrow, yesterday—it’s all the same.” So says Andy Samberg’s protagonist Nyles as he floats on an inflatable banana lounge, sounding a lot like Bill Murray from Groundhog Dog. Max Barbakow’s tremendously entertaining time loop movie owes much to the 90s classic, reworking its premise to have the curse of temporal repetition affecting two potential lovers: Nyles and Cristin Milioti’s Sarah. The pace is snappy, the writing shrewd.

The Player (1992)

Rightly regarded as one of the finest Hollywood comedies about Hollywood, Robert Altman’s zippy satire has a punchy script full of industry talk, with writers pitching all sorts of twisted plotlines. The story of the film itself follows film producer Griffin Mill (Robin Williams) as he tries to figure out who is sending him death threats. Altman brings a crisp meta energy and some visual aplomb, including an audacious eight minute opening shot journeying through a studio lot.

Two Hands (1999)

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Gregor Jordan’s offbeat Australian crime caper casts a then little-known Heath Ledger as a bird-brained wannabe crook, who misplaces a big bag of cash and finds himself tumbling down the “in over your head” crime movie trajectory. It’s not a great performance, but it suits the scratchy, uneven but endearing charm of the film, which mixes Lock Stock-esque crime shenanigans with a quintessentially Aussie sense of humour.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

One of the great scripts from Nora Ephron explores the platonic then romantic journey of the titular characters (Billy Crystal and Megan Ryan) who take 12 years to fall in love. The famous “I’ll have what she’s having” fake orgasm scene showed audiences that films can break taboos while retaining humour and heart.