Few films are as memeable, as quotable, as stupidly enjoyable as Adam McKay’s 70’s-set cult classic about a chauvinistic news anchorman (Will Ferrell) threatened by the arrival of a female newsreader (Christina Applegate). Anchorman‘s shaggy pace works in its favour, giving the performances—particularly Ferrell’s—room to breathe and settle into a zany, stonerish tempo. Burgundy became kind of a big deal.
Romantic comedies don’t get much better than Woody Allen’s fourth wall-breaking portrait of a fledgling dramatist (Allen) and his free-spirited, aspiring actor girlfriend (Diane Keaton). These days Diane Keaton’s irresistible Oscar-winning performance might be thought of in the realm of a proto-Greta Gerwig—but that would be under-stating it. Annie is one of cinema’s great sweethearts. We all fell for her; she didn’t fall for him.
Corporate ratbaggery, the patriarchy and temptation to succeed via ill-gotten means are key themes in Billy Wilder’s 1960 masterpiece, starring Jack Lemmon as a mild-mannered insurance company employee and Shirley MacLaine as a suicidal elevator operator. Sounds heavy, plays light.
Describing Bernie as one of Jack Black’s best films might not mean all that much, but it’s also one of the best of director Richard Linklater—and that means a lot. This beautifully crafted true crime story follows a charismatic small town undertaker (Black) and his unusual relationship with an elderly widow, played by a deliciously unlikable Shirley MacLaine. Underneath the comedy is a commentary on how perceptions and preconceptions inform our comprehension of justice.
This beloved David-vs-Goliath story, about an average bloke fighting against compulsory real estate acquisition, could easily have been a down-the-nose ridicule of blue collar Australia. But director Rob Sitch avoids mocking his characters despite sending up the way they talk and even the food they eat—bringing heart, warmth and one-liners. Straight to the pool room!
A scene-stealing Joey Lauren Adams sparkles in the titular role in the third film in Kevin Smith’s Jersey trilogy, revolving around three professional comic book writers. The friendship between two best buds (Ben Affleck and Jason Lee) is strained when one of them explores a romantic relationship a woman (Adams) who is gay. The characters’ discussions oscillate from pop culture monologues to serious considerations of sex and gender identities. Smith matches crudity with maturity, kink with heart.
The first of Kevin Smith’s many yak-a-thons is a tribute to slackers and an ongoing inspiration for cash-strapped filmmakers, demonstrating how to turn scrappy low-fi aesthetics into a selling point. The protagonist (Brian O’Halloran) goes to work at a convenience story on what was, famously, supposed to be his day off— accompanied by an antagonistic video store employee (Jeff Anderson). Gags run the gamut, all the way from Star Wars to necrophilia.
Armando Iannucci’s ferociously sharp tragicomedy explores, with bone-dry wit, power-grabbing among top-level Russian ministers in the aftermath of the titular event. The drama is farcical; the comedy hurts. Like the British auteur’s also terrific In the Loop, The Death of Stalin has an addictive quality; the more you watch it the better it gets.
Frances McDormand…what a performance! She is unforgettable and oddly funny as a pregnant parka-wearing police detective in an extremely deadpan film revolving around a bungled kidnapping and an extortion attempt. Fargo is a high point in the career of the Coen brothers, who are among cinema’s very best directing duos.
The comedy is so dark a prefix such as “black” barely begins to cut it. This 1988 cult movie is up there with Election and Mean Girls as one of the great high school-set classics—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 kill them.
Armando Iannucci plonks viewers in the backrooms of power and spin-doctoring as the UK prepares to enter a war in the Middle East. The inimitable Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) leaps from the screen, hissing and yelling about purviews and lubricated horse cocks. We wouldn’t want it any other way.
This preposterously entertaining 1963 farce is in effect one great big chase scene. A group of strangers scramble to locate what they believe to be buried loot, triggering an unsubtle message about greed. The running time is long but the pace is eruptive, with various kinds of slapstick—from vehicular mayhem to the ol’ slipping on a banana peel routine.
Arriving in 1997, the period of peak Jim Carrey, this wildly charming court room comedy places the star’s unique qualities—the elastic physicality, that thunderously loud cartoon voice—inside a sentimental narrative. The premise is sweetly hinged on a child’s birthday wish: that his high-flying lawyer father, a compulsive liar, must tell the truth for a single day. Cue hilarious proclamations such as “the god damn pen is blue!”
Buongiorno principessa! Rarely do light and dark come together so exquisitely, and with such force they do in Roberto Benigni’s WWII tragicomedy about a jokester (Benigni) who hides the truth of being imprisoned in a concentration camp to his son by pretending it’s all make believe. You laugh while your stomach turns.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s left-of-field rom-com matches Adam Sandler’s awkward, coupon-collecting small business owner with Emma Watson’s sweet executive. From an unexpected early appearance of a harmonium the film is delightfully unpredictable. Its most impressive achievement is tonal, with a surreal quality that feels almost like visualisation of music: you can hear the colours and see the melody.
The titular character’s dialogue-free movie spin-off sends Shaun and co to the big city, on a mission to find and return their amnesia-afflicted farmer. Evoking the craftsmanship of great silent era comedies, in addition to stylistic and thematic inspirations ranging from Jacques Tati to Luis Buñuel, co-directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak construct an utterly delightful work of art: spirited, lively, inventive, humane.
Jack Black’s characteristically boisterous performance as a heavy metal guitarist who becomes a substitute music teacher, leading a bunch of lovable pipsqueaks to a battle of the bands competition, fits this film so well he gives the impression of having shaped the entire thing in his image. The story is archetypal but the energy of the cast is infectious, writer/director Richard Linklater’s earnest approach matching head with heart—while also rocking out.
“Nobody’s perfect” is the famous final line in Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy jewel, which delights, surprises and tickles funny bones until the very end. In a gender and sexual identity-bending on-the-run narrative, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play cross-dressing musicians who hang out with Marilyn Monroe. What a stunning presence Monroe brings, taking the emotionally vulnerable sexy naif archetype in lovely, heartfelt directions.
After being caught watching a naughty movie—containing poetic reflections such as “shut your fucking face uncle fucker”—the South Park kids inadvertently summon the devil and damn near cause the apocalypse. Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s big screen spin-of of their cult TV show is raucously loud and silly, and also kind of brilliant—with rambunctious wit and stupidly catchy songs.
Uproarious non-PC comedy is par for the course for enfant terrible Seth MacFarlane, summoning to life a lewd bong-smoking teddy bear who is besties with Mark Wahlberg. The film’s subtext (yes, it has one) plays out like a reverse Toy Story: instead of saying goodbye to aspects of childhood, formative experiences transmogrify into forces that stunt a person’s growth as an adult. It’s highly entertaining, filthy, facetious.
Peter Weir brilliantly fleshes out a simple premise: what if somebody was the star of their own reality TV show but they didn’t know it? The story of goofy insurance salesman Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), whose voyage of personal discovery reveals the fraudulent nature of his reality, springboards several interesting discussions—including the exploitative consequences of voyeurism and the end of privacy.
Eli Craig’s unique slasher-comedy comes with an ingenious concept: the true ‘villain’ isn’t a person but a preconception. Attractive city slickers nick off for a weekend away and constantly misinterpret the actions of the peaceful and sweet, if a little daft titular characters (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) as menacing, hysterically responding in ways that cause their own death. Gnarly; inventive; outrageous.
Lovingly crafted claymation—from those very talented folk at Aardman—meets a midnight movie premise in this delightful self-aware film. Eccentric inventor Wallace (voice of Peter Sallis) has done it again, managing to turn himself into a beastly werewolf-like rabbit thing. Lucky he has his trusted pooch Gromit to help out.
After Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Stephan Elliott ramped up his quota of cor-blimey Australianisms, dunking audiences into a bizarro backwater burg where an American visitor (Johnathon Schaech) marriages a local (Susie Porter) then leads a rebellion against the ringleader (Rod Taylor) of a town on the edge of existence. Gloriously kitschy and tongue-in-cheek, Welcome to Woop Woop was massively undervalued by critics at the time of its release.
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.
This guide is regularly updated to reflect changes in Stan‘s catalogue. For a list of capsule reviews that have been removed from this page because they are no longer available on the platform, visit here.