We doubt anyone will ever look back on the last 12 months and laugh. And it won’t go down as one of the best years in movie history either, mostly because so few films were even released. But it wasn’t all bad for comedy lovers. There were still some excellent, hilarious films that premiered during a time when we really, really, really needed them.
From movies that hit theaters before the pandemic, to ones that premiered on cable and streaming services, here are 12 of the best comedies from 2020.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
There were a lot of things we couldn’t have predicted about this year. A surprise Borat sequel was definitely among them. Sasha Baron Cohen’s character seemed too famous to ever pull off another entry. But the brilliant move to give Borat a daughter, along with some great disguises, resulted in a hysterical, smart followup that was even more timely than the original.
The latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s iconic novel gave Anya Taylor-Joy the chance to play the meddling title character. And, to the surprise of no one, she did not disappoint. The movie, which boasted a superb cast, was eminently charming and entertaining. It managed to provide new laughs from old scenes and characters, in a period piece that showed pride and misunderstandings are always funny.
The King of Staten Island
Judd Apatow’s first big screen comedy in five years was a semi-autobiographical story about co-writer and star Pete Davidson’s life. Like his character, Davidson’s father was a New York City firefighter who died on 9/11. That doesn’t sound like great fodder for humor. But like the best Apatow films, the heartfelt story of grief and growing up was full of laughs and hilarious performances.
You can never go wrong casting Issa Rae or Kumail Nanjiani in your comedy. So casting them as a couple was a winning strategy even before they were given a wonderfully ridiculous story. The two witnessed a murder, which forced them to go on a dangerous, intense, absolutely hysterical run to save themselves. The Lovebirds showed why Rae and Nanjiani are two of the best comedic performers working today.
An American Pickle
Casting Seth Rogen as your comedic lead is always a good idea. But An American Pickle offered up two servings of the popular star. He played both Herschel Greenbaum, who wakes up in modern day New York City 100 years after falling into a vat of pickle brine, and his own great grandson Ben. The fish-out-of-water family story was touching and heartfelt. But with two doses of Rogen it was also really funny.
On the Rocks
Lost in Translation writer and director Sophie Coppola reunited with Bill Murray for a father-daughter film with Rashida Jones; unsurprisingly, the story that had everyone asking how much was based on Coppola’s own relationship with her famous dad Francis. We might never know. But even if it is inspired by her father, we doubt he’s as funny as Bill Murray is in this movie. We wouldn’t be that shocked if his hilarious performance earns him an Oscar nomination.
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley
We expected Birds of Prey to be entertaining. And we also expected there would be lots of comedy. With Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, those are both givens. But we weren’t quite prepared for DC’s latest team-up flick to be a true action-comedy that had us laughing the entire time. You know you’ve struck gold when your most intense character, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress, is also one of the most hilarious characters of 2020.
Body-swapping is a classic Hollywood trope for a reason—it’s a great premise for humor. But Freaky found an all-new way to make that old standby feel fresh and funny. The horror-comedy found the perfect balance between scares and good old-fashioned slasher gore. As our own Lindsey Romain said in her review, “It’s a confident, crushing, candy-colored dream of a movie, one that’ll have you cheering and gasping in equal measure.”
The 40-Year-Old Version
Writer, director, producer, and star Radha Blank used all of her many massive talents to create something memorable this year for Netflix. She played a fictionalized version of herself approaching 40 and trying to fulfill the promise of her stalled career. Blank gave a beautiful performance that was also hilarious, in a great movie that deserved a better title.
Bill & Ted Face the Music
Nearly three decades after being tasked with saving the entire universe, Bill and Ted finally returned to fulfill their destiny by saving time and reality as we know it. They managed to pull off the seemingly impossible thanks to some most excellent help. And in doing so, they also delivered one of the best, funniest, most endearing movies of the year. Face the Music was heartfelt and earnest, and had some of the funniest scenes of 2020.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga
Under appreciated comedic genius Rachel McAdams teamed up with Will Ferrell for a love letter to the greatest, most absurd signing competition in the world. And it was everything we hoped it would be. The hilarious, sincere Eurovision Song Contest delivered explosions, memorable songs, murder, magical elves, ghosts, and Dan Stevens’ Alexander Lemtov. And while “Jaja Ding Dong” would have been appreciated any year, in 2020 it felt like a true blessing,
The newest take on the Groundhog Day premise ended up being the perfect movie during a time when we all feel like we’re reliving the same day. But its unexpected relevance isn’t what made Palm Springs truly great. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti were both hilarious while delivering outstanding performances, in a smart movie that made an old idea feel new and fresh.
Honorable Mention: Hubie Halloween‘s brilliance will be appreciated by the masses someday, but unfortunately that day is not today. Or tomorrow. Next week seems unlikely too.
It might not have been a great year for anyone, movies included. But this group of films show 2020 still provided us with some great comedies. And hoo boy did we need them.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.