The best comedy movies on Stan

Subscribe to Stan? Want a funny movie to watch? Critic Luke Buckmaster has combed the archives and picked some of its very best rib-ticklers.

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The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)

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Judd Apatow and Steve Carrell (the director, star, and co-screenwriters of The 40-Year-Old Virgin) do a fine job creating a daggy but endearing protagonist who is, as the title indicates, sexless, and who falls in love with a businesswoman played by Catherine Keener. Like most Apatow films it’s too long, by quite a way, but the manchild humour has heart and the central characterisation never condescends—to us or the man himself.

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 shirking formula. 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).

Anchorman – The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

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Few films are as memeable, quotable and 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. Ron Burgundy became kind of a big deal.

Bad Santa (2003)

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From the very first scene, in which the camera crawls along a bar towards a sozzled cigarette-smoking Billy Bob Thornton in a Santa suit, Terry Zwigoff delivers a hilariously lewd heist comedy and a Christmas movie with a difference. In a totally unsentimental way, Bad Santa reveals a heart buried deep beneath the soiled department store costume, through the story of Thornton’s potty-mouthed crook connecting—for want of a better word—with a sweet chubby boy (Brett Kelly).

Bernie (2011)

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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.

Beverly Hills Cop 2 (1987)

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The heat is on! Eddie Murphy was at his A game in the second—and best—installment in his most famous franchise, playing a motormouth detective who relocates from the back alleys of Detroit to the swimming pools of Beverly Hills. Helmed by action auteur Tony Scott, Murphy gets to the bottom of a series of irresistibly silly “alphabet crimes.”

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

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I love the poster tagline: “History is about to be rewritten by two guys who can’t spell.” Stoner vibes and time travel collide in this stupidly entertaining—but smartly written—film about the titular knuckleheads (Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter), who go back in time to retrieve famous people from history for a class presentation. As, erm, Abraham Lincoln once said: “Be excellent to each other.”

Bridemaids (2011)

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Who could forget Kristen Wiig on the plane, drunk and high as a kite, giving shtick to a flight attendant she thinks is named Stove (it’s Steve)? This moment is a good example of Wiig’s hilarious talents and director Paul Feig’s wise decision to let scenes breathe, trusting his script and actors. Wiig, playing a skittish maid of honour, emerged as the star, with Melissa McCarthy delivering an irrepressibly funny supporting performance.

The Castle (1997)

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Rob Sitch’s 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 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!

Down Under (2016)

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The Cronulla Riots is a tough subject to mine for laughs, but Abe Forsythe does a terrific job in his squirm-inducing satire that begins with news footage of the riots set to the tune of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. The writer/director gets his targets right, focusing on warring tribes of hotheaded young men who are foolishly ignorant and zenophobic. Still, given the event was fuelled by racially-motivated violence, it’s a minefield.

Election (1999)

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Alexander Payne uses a high school election to satirize American democracy, with Reese Witherspoon’s perky overachiever running for student body president and Matthew Broderick’s civics teacher determined to stand in her way. The performances pop and the script is devilishly sharp, commenting on the difficulties of maintaining integrity in a world of moral and political nuances.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

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Bueller. Buelllller. Buellllleeerrr! John Hughes’ 1986 ode to playing hooky and goofing around—starring Mathew Broderick as the titular class-cutting rascal—is obviously a product of the 80s. But its good-natured presentation of youthful rebellion has timeless qualities, making broad statements about the teenage experience that still resonate.

I, Tonya (2017)

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Margot Robbie’s celebrity-shedding performance forms the centre of this “real-or-not?” biopic about disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding. Director Craig Gillespie questions who’s to blame for the knee-capping incident for which the athlete is best remembered, taking a fourth-wall-breaking approach that crackles and fizzes. The most compelling themes run in contrasts: humour and sadness, reality and artifice.

Mean Girls (2004)

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The spritzy, prickly dialogue in Tina Fey’s very sassy Mean Girls script is delivered by the cast faster than usual, in the great tradition of screwball comedies. Lindsay Lohan is the new kid on the block at an Illinois high school, unwittingly thrust into a cutthroat classroom hierarchy. Director Mark Waters eschews the familiar gloss covering teen movies in favour of an edgier approach. It’s imminently rewatchable.

Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

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PJ Hogan’s portrait of a love-hungry sad sack, brilliantly played by Toni Collette, has a dark and complicated soul. Muriel (Toni Collette) is, as one character famously puts it, a rather terrible person. The film is a twisted tragicomedy in which weddings are bitterly ironic and beautiful friendships are squandered. Collette makes dweebiness dangerous, and turns self-pity into flagellation.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

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Like the film that bears his name, Napoleon Dynamite dances to his own beat. Jon Heder’s very entertaining performance pushes the character to the brink of believability: he’s cartoonish, but real enough to feel genuine. Heder’s presence seems to dictate the offbeat rhythms of the film, which hovers around the protagonist’s life at high school, where a new friend runs for class president. Vote Pedro!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

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Like most John Hughes movies, this on-the-road classic is a little sweet in the tooth, but earns its sentimental conclusion. Steve Martin’s advertising executive Neil Page endures not just transportation delays and cancellations en route home from a business trip, but the unrelenting horrors of a sloppy and slobby John Candy—who’s perfect as a blabbermouth with a heart of gold.

Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)

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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.

School of Rock (2003)

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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 it seems like the entire thing was shaped 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.

The Sum of Us (1994)

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In this Australian classic Jack Thompson’s kindly father Harry suffers a stroke, but that doesn’t stop him from breaking the fourth wall (“the trouble with having a stroke is people treat like you like a fuckwit,” he tells the audience). Adapted from a play of the same name, the story involves Harry and his gay son Jeff (Russell Crowe) looking for Mr/Mrs Right.

A Sunburnt Christmas (2020)

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Bad Santa in the outback! An on-the-run crook (Daniel Henshall) looking for stashed loot hides on a farm, convincing two young kids there (Lena Nankivell and Eadan McGuinness) that he’s the jolly fella from the North Pole. Wacky and sweet in a backhanded way, director Christiaan Van Vuuren balances sass and sentiment.

Ted (2012)

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Uproarious non-PC comedy is par for the course for Seth MacFarlane, who summons to life a lewd bong-smoking teddy bear that’s besties with Mark Wahlberg. The film’s subtext (yeah, 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. Entertaining, filthy, facetious.

The Truman Show (1998)

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Peter Weir brilliantly fleshes out a simple premise: what if somebody was the star of their own reality TV show and 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.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)

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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.

Up in the Air (2009)

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In another version of this film, protagonist Ryan Bingham—whose job is to fire people on behalf of their employees—would come across as sickeningly smug. But George Clooney’s charisma steers the character towards more palatable directors, while retaining a core amorality. But maybe…he changes his ways? Jason Reitman paces the film well and is supported by fine performances from Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.


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.