Most Underrated Comedy Movies of All Time
It's easy to reel off the greatest comedy films. We know all those movies by heart. But what about the comedies that have fallen under the radar?
They are the underrated and underappreciated hilarious movies we love as much as the classics, and they deserve just as many rewatches as the big old blockbusters. We're here to celebrate them.
These are the most underrated comedy films of all time. With one caveat — no box office totals over $100 million. Somebody break out the popcorn and Red Vines and get ready for a good laugh.
30. Dirty Work
Release date: June 12, 1998
Director: Bob Saget
Starring: Norm Macdonald, Jack Warden, Artie Lange, Don Rickles, Christopher McDonald, Chevy Chase, Traylor Howard
Box office: $10 million
Bottom Line: Dirty Work
The late Norm Macdonald's big swing in the movies as a leading man was "Dirty Work" in 1998, based on a short story by "James and the Giant Peach" author Roald Dahl.
While the movie, directed by Bob Saget, plays more like a string of SNL skits instead of a cogent movie, it's still hilarious. We also get a great performance by Jack Warden and Artie Lange before drugs ripped apart his career.
As of fall 2021, it was still streaming on HBO Max.
29. Malibu's Most Wanted
Release date: April 18, 2003
Director: John Whitesell
Starring: Jamie Kennedy, Taye Diggs, Anthony Anderson, Blair Underwood, Regina Hall, Bo Derek, Ryan O'Neal
Box office: $34 million
Bottom Line: Malibu's Most Wanted
Jamie Kennedy was really having a moment in the early 2000s. He was in big-budget blockbuster movies with the "Scream" franchise and had his own show with "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment," which ran from 2002 to 2004.
Right in the middle of it, he even got a shot at being a leading man in his own film and churned out a modest hit with "Malibu's Most Wanted." He played Brad "B-Rad" Gluckman, a suburban kid with dreams of being a gangster rapper and whose father is running for governor of California.
28. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
Release date: Aug. 9, 1985
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Paul Reubens, E.G. Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger, Judd Omen
Box office: $40.9 million
Bottom Line: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
"Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" made a genius move when it hired Tim Burton as director before he shot to worldwide fame. Not only was Burton's Pee-wee Herman a hit with audiences, but it also was a hit at the box office, making almost $41 million on a budget of just $7 million. It also spawned two sequels (neither were directed by Burton).
Burton's dark sense of humor and star Paul Reubens' ability to shoehorn that into his character is what makes this movie tick. And the movie had many '80s kids doubling over in laughter at it.
Fun fact: "Saturday Night Live" legend Phil Hartman was one of the writers for this movie, along with Michael Varhol (who also wrote "The Big Picture" and "The Last Word") and Reubens.
Release date: Feb. 29, 2008
Director: Kent Alterman
Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Andre 3000, Maura Tierney, Will Arnett, David Koechner, Tim
Box office: $43.9 million
Bottom Line: Semi-Pro
Sports movies are hard to pull off — comedy or otherwise — and while "Semi-Pro" was a flop at the box office when it came out, it's proven rewatchable over the years.
"Semi-Pro" nailed the casting and the cool thing for real sports movie aficionados is seeing Woody Harrelson in a follow-up basketball role to "White Men Can't Jump."
It's too bad this ended star Will Ferrell's streak of hit sports spoofs following "Talladega Nights" and "Blades of Glory," because it's definitely better than the latter.
Release date: Jan. 12, 1996
Director: Jason Bloom
Starring: Pauly Shore, Stephen Baldwin, William Atherton, Joey Adams, Kylie Minogue
Box office: $13.4 million
Bottom Line: Bio-Dome
Spew all the hate you want on Pauly Shore's career. But he was one of the bigger comedy stars in the world in the early to mid-1990s. And no movie had a better concept than "Bio-Dome," which saw Shore and costar Stephen Baldwin accidentally stuck in an artificial ecological habitat for a year.
If Netflix is just tossing cash around, we think a "Bio-Dome" sequel on the cheap would be money well spent. The world would be better for it. Just saying.
25. In a World...
Release date: Aug. 9, 2013
Director: Lake Bell
Starring: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Demetri Martin, Ken Marino, Nick Offerman, Tig Notaro, Rob Corddry, Michaela Walkins
Box office: $3.1 million
Bottom Line: In a World...
If you haven't seen "In a World…" yet, it's still on Hulu as of fall 2021, and you could do a lot less than to spend 90 minutes in the world actress/director Lake Bell created about voice-over artists.
Here's a thought. Bell showed she was very, very good at directing with "In a World…" so maybe studios might check and see if she wants to direct some more.
And give her an actual budget.
24. Palm Springs
Release date: July 10, 2020
Director: Max Barbakow
Starring: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milloti, Peter Gallagher, J.K. Simmons
Box office: N/A
Bottom Line: Palm Springs
There's nothing about Andy Samberg's "day in a loop" comedy tour de force that we don't love, and it would be higher on this list save for the fact that it was released almost exclusively on streaming.
What that means is while we think it's underrated, a lot of that has to do with not getting a real gauge on how many people saw the movie. It seemed like a lot, obviously, but we don't know for sure.
What we do know is Samberg, Cristin Milloti and J.K. Simmons ... that works.
23. Black Sheep
Release date: Feb. 2, 1996
Director: Penelope Spheeris
Starring: Chris Farley, David Spade, Tim Matheson, Christine Ebersole, Gary Busey
Box office: $32.4 million
Bottom Line: Black Sheep
We didn't get to see nearly enough of Chris Farley's talents before he died of a drug overdose in 1997 at the age of 33. It's widely thought that his only truly great comedy was "Tommy Boy." Which would be right.
But he does have a similar and suitable companion to his centerpiece film with "Black Sheep," and it's also with the same costar, David Spade. This comedy has been wrongfully pilloried over the years. Yes, Farley's playing almost the exact same character in both movies. So what?
He's hilarious. And so's the film.
22. Hot Tub Time Machine
Release date: March 26, 2010
Director: Steve Pink
Starring: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Crisping Glover, Lizzy Caplan, Chevy Chase
Box office: $64.6 million
Bottom Line: Hot Tub Time Machine
John Cusack spent long enough in "serious" movies that it was a welcome sight to see him getting back in the comedy game (where his career first started) with "Hot Tub Time Machine" in 2010.
We love a good time travel movie, and as far as comedies go, this is one of the best to blend the two genres together. Cusack showed he was as good at knowing when to get back in the comedy game as when to get out.
He was the only member of the main cast to not appear in the 2015 sequel, which grossed almost $50 million less than the original and was demolished by critics and moviegoers.
21. How High
Release date: Dec. 21, 2001
Director: Jesse Dylan
Starring: Method Man, Redman, Obba Babatnde, Mike Epps, Jeffrey Jones, Fred Willard, Lark Voorhies
Box office: $31.3 million
Bottom Line: How High
As far as stoner comedies go, you could do way worse than "How High" starring two of the greatest rappers to ever live at the peak of their careers.
Here's a slight glimpse into the madness. Method Man and Redman smoke a blunt together that contains a marijuana strain partially grown with the ashes of a dead friend right before taking the SATs. Their dead friend appears to them as a ghost during the test and guides them to perfect scores that get them into Harvard.
And that's just the first 10 minutes.
20. The Distinguished Gentleman
Release date: Dec. 4, 1992
Director: Jonathan Lynn
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Lane Smith, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Joe Don Baker, Victoria Rowell, Charles Dutton, Kevin McCarthy, James Garner
Box office: $82.3 million
Bottom Line: The Distinguished Gentleman
Eddie Murphy had one of the more underrated movie star years of all time in 1992, putting out two huge hits with "Boomerang" and "The Distinguished Gentleman" back-to-back.
Murphy wasn't the only one associated with "Gentleman" who had a pair of hits in 1992. Director Jonathan Lynn also had the Oscar-winning "My Cousin Vinny" come out in the same year.
Release date: Aug. 4, 1999
Director: Andrew Fleming
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya, Harry Shearer, Dave Foley, Will Ferrell, Saul Rubinek, Bruce McCulloch
Box office: $6.3 million
Bottom Line: Dick
This is the rare historical fiction comedy. In this case, two future mega-stars in Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams (what great casting) play teenage girls who unwittingly bust open the Watergate scandal.
There have been a lot of great movies made about Watergate and Richard Nixon, but there's only really truly funny one. And this is it.
And there are few better portrayals of Nixon than Dan Hedaya's.
Release date: July 31, 1998
Director: David Zucker
Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Yasmine Bleeth, Jenny McCarthy, Robert Vaughn, Ernest Borgnine
Box office: $7 million
Bottom Line: BASEketball
The Comedy Central cartoon series "South Park" was becoming so popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s that the show's two creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, were getting movies greenlit starring themselves.
"BASEketball" was the most noticeable of those — and the biggest flop when it hit theaters in 1998, making just $7 million at the box office against its almost $25 million budget.
The movie was seemingly ahead of its time in its critiques of professional sports. Maybe it came out about 20 years too soon?
17. Three Amigos
Release date: Dec. 12, 1986
Director: John Landis
Starring: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short, Alfonso Arau, Tony Plana, Patrice Martinez
Box office: $39.2 million
Bottom Line: Three Amigos
As you can probably imagine, expectations were sky-high for the pairing of three of the greatest comedians of all time with one of the greatest comedic directors of all time in John Landis.
With that, "Three Amigos" was such a resounding thud when it came out that it did damage to all their careers. Over the years, we've given it much more credit as a piece of comedic nostalgia.
And it's much funnier in 2021 than it was in 1986, somehow.
16. Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins
Release date: Feb. 8, 2008
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Starring: Martin Lawrence, Joy Bryant, Louis C.K., Michael Clarke Duncan, Mike Epps, Mo'Nique, Nicole Ari Parker, Cedric the Entertainer, James Earl Jones, Margaret Avery
Box office: $43.6 million
Bottom Line: Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins
Martin Lawrence has been in some blockbuster films, but he hasn't been in a lot of truly great ones. "Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins" comes close in terms of comedy.
Lawrence may have been in his prime in the early 2000s, but we got to see him pitch one more no-hitter with this movie, even if it didn't make a ton of money.
There's something great about the "coming home" type of movie that this perfects.
15. I Love You, Man
Release date: March 20, 2009
Director: John Hamburg
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, Jane Curtin, Jon Favreau, Jaime Pressly, Lou Ferrigno
Box office: $92.3 million
Bottom Line: I Love You, Man
Jason Segel's forays into films and television have been few and far between in the last few years, but we have movies like "I Love You, Man" to go by as a testament to his talent. He and Paul Rudd's chemistry is off the charts.
Like any great comedy, "I Love You, Man" is only as good as its supporting roles, and the cast here is amazing, led by Rashida Jones as Rudd's fiance.
14. Best in Show
Release date: Feb. 29, 2000
Director: Christopher Guest
Starring: Jennifer Coolidge, Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Fred Willard
Box office: $20.8 million
Bottom Line: Best in Show
We could have put a gaggle of Christopher Guest's films on this list, but we we went with "Best in Show" and hesitated to do that because it's so beloved.
Just consider this our Oscar-esque lifetime achievement award for one of the most underrated comedic filmmakers of all time.
"Schitt's Creek" fans will see the thread of humor from that show in this movie. "Best in Show" is cowritten by "Schitt's" star Eugene Levy.
13. Next Friday
Release date: Jan. 12, 2000
Director: Steve Carr
Starring: Ice Cube, Mike Epps, John Witherspoon, Tamala Jones, Zeus "Tiny" Lister, Justin Pierce, Jacob Vargas, Lisa Rodriguez
Box office: $59.8 million
Bottom Line: Next Friday
Chris Tucker didn't want to come back for the "Friday" sequel after he said he was never paid for the original. Mike Epps did an above-average job of filling in for Tucker, and the sequel was also a hit.
It was also really funny, thanks in no small part to the addition of talented newcomers like Epps, Jacob Vargas and "Kids" star Justin Pierce, who committed suicide just months after the movie's release.
12. My Blue Heaven
Release date: Aug. 17, 1990
Director: Herbert Ross
Starring: Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Joan Cusack, Carol Kane
Box office: $23.6 million
Bottom Line: My Blue Heaven
You can blow your gangster movie-loving friends' minds when you drop this fact on them. The main characters in "Goodfellas" and "My Blue Heaven" were both based on the same real-life person, mafia snitch Henry Hill.
Here's another fact that will blow your mind. "Goodfellas" was based on the book "Wiseguy" by Nicholas Pileggi, and "My Blue Heaven" was written by Pileggi's wife, legendary writer/director Nora Ephron.
11. Role Models
Release date: Nov. 7, 2008
Director: David Wain
Starring: Sean William Scott, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb'e J. Thompson, Jane Lynch, Elizabeth Banks, Ken Marino
Box office: $92.4 million
Bottom Line: Role Models
This is one of several appearances by pre-Marvel Paul Rudd on this list. While his pairing with Sean William Scott helps make "Role Models" tick, this movie really belongs to its two younger stars — post-"Superbad" Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Bobb'e J. Thompson.
And it's Thompson who gets to deliver the movie's signature line: "You white, you Ben Affleck."
10. Back to School
Release date: June 13, 1986
Director: Alan Metter
Starring: Rodney Dangerfield, Keith Gordon, Burt Young, Robert Downey Jr., William Zabka, Sally Kellerman, Adrienne Barbeau, Sam Kinison, Ned Beatty
Box office: $91.3 million
Bottom Line: Back to School
When you hear someone mention the "Triple Lindy," it's a beacon signaling out to all other "Back to School" fans to come together and sing the praises of the late Rodney Dangerfield and his apex moment — a comedy that grossed roughly $227 million at the box office in today's money.
There is so much to love about "Back to School" outside of Dangerfield's comedy tour de force, but we want to give a couple of special shoutouts to William Zabka as the perfect 1980s bad guy, Robert Downey Jr. as the zoned-out college roomie and Kurt Vonnegut for making an out-of-nowhere cameo.
If you haven't seen "Back to School," check it out. If you have seen it, now would be a good time for a rewatch.
9. Always Be My Maybe
Release date: May 31, 2019
Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Starring: Ali Wong, Randall Park, James Saito, Michelle Buteau, Vivian Bang, Daniel Dae Kim, Keanu Reeves
Box office: N/A
Bottom Line: Always Be My Maybe
Streaming movies are pretty tough to gauge, but we wanted to make sure to include "Always Be My Maybe" because in an era when streaming movies seem to proliferate, this one stands out and shouldn't be forgotten.
Director Nahnatchka Khan may have made her film directorial debut with "Always," but she's been in the game for a long time. She was a television writer and director for over 20 years before Netflix tossed some cash her way.
The electric chemistry between Ali Wong and Randall Park (and, of course, Keanu Reeves) did the rest.
8. The Foot Fist Way
Release date: May 30, 2008
Director: Jody Hill
Starring: Danny McBride, Ben Best
Box office: $245,000
Bottom Line: The Foot Fist Way
We don't have Danny McBride without "The Foot Fist Way" — a low-budget movie about a pathetic taekwondo instructor that was released in January 2006 but didn't begin to catch hold with audiences until it came out on DVD in 2008.
One of the crazier twists about "The Foot Fist Way" was when a then-unknown McBride appeared in character on "The Conan O'Brien Show" in 2008 and audiences were aghast at how terrible his taekwondo demonstration went.
The movie included another underrated comic legend, the late Ben Best, who later cocreated "Eastbound & Down" with McBride and "The Foot Fist Way" director Jody Hill.
7. Real Genius
Release date: Aug. 7, 1985
Director: Martha Coolidge
Starring: Val Kilmer, Gabe Jarret, Michelle Meyrink, William Atherton, Robert Prescott, Jon Gries, Dean Devlin, Yuji Okumoto
Box office: $13 million
Bottom Line: Real Genius
Getting an up-and-coming Val Kilmer in a perfect role, in his youth, was amazing casting by the folks behind "Real Genius."
The real star of this incredibly rewatchable college/techie comedy is director Martha Coolidge, who had an amazing three-film run with "Valley Girl," "Real Genius," and "Rambling Rose," which earned two Oscar nominations.
Coolidge's career after the early 1990s was a much different story, with miss after miss in movies she directed until she essentially turned into almost a solely high-profile television director over the last two decades.
Release date: Oct. 17, 2005
Director: Rob McKittrick
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, Justin Long, David Koechner, John Francis Daley, Chi McBride, Luis Guzman, Kaitlin Doubleday, Alanna Ubachm, Andy Milonakis
Box office: $18.6 million
Bottom Line: Waiting...
Almost anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant knows this movie chapter and verse. What makes "Waiting…" great is its brilliant casting led by Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, Chi McBride and Luis Guzman.
Waiting in the wings as one of the supporting characters is John Francis Daley, the "new hire" who steals the show in the end. Daley's talents aren't just in acting.
He's also the screenwriter behind "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and "Horrible Bosses" and is the writer/director behind the upcoming big-budget version of "Dungeons & Dragons" starring Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez.
5. I'm Gonna Git You Sucka
Release date: Jan. 11, 1989
Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans
Starring: Keenen Ivory Wayans, Bernie Casey, Antonio Fargas, Isaac Hayes, Jim Brown, Janet Dubois
Box office: $13 million
Bottom Line: I'm Gonna Git You Sucka
In the history of parody films, you can't do much better than Keenen Ivory Wayans' "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka." It's a parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone movies and the springboard to Ivory Wayans' groundbreaking television series "In Living Color" and the entire Wayans empire.
The film's premise is as ridiculous as any you will ever hear. Decorated soldier Jack Slade (Wayans) returns home to Any Ghetto, USA, after learning his younger brother died of an "OG" … better known as an overdosing on gold chains.
Slade then brings together former Black heroes to help him get revenge on Mr. Big.
4. Super Troopers
Release date: Feb. 15, 2002
Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
Starring: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Brian Cox, Daniel von Bargen, Marisa Coughlan
Box office: $23.2 million
Bottom Line: Super Troopers
This off-brand stoner comedy focusing on incompetent Vermont state troopers is perfect for your late-night viewing needs. And, yes, that really is award-winning actor Brian Cox as the commander.
One amazing financial statistic about "Super Troopers" is that while the movie made $23 million at the box office on a budget of around $2 million, it reportedly made another $71 million off rentals and sales since its release.
3. Grandma's Boy
Release date: Jan. 6, 2006
Director: Nicholaus Goosen
Starring: Allen Covert, Linda Cardellini, Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson, Peter Dante, Shirley Jones, Shirley Knight, Joel David Moore, Kevin Nealon
Box office: $6.6 million
Bottom Line: Grandma's Boy
Fans of Adam Sandler movies know that he keeps essentially the same group of actors (and friends) in supporting roles in his movies over the years. "Grandma's Boy" was their shot to do it on their own.
Allen Covert — Sandler's limo driver friend from "The Wedding Singer" — is perfect as the slacker video-game creator in the lead. But the cast's chemistry is what gives this movie such staying power.
And it's been a cable and streaming staple for over a decade now.
2. Money Talks
Release date: Aug. 22, 1997
Director: Brett Ratner
Starring: Chris Tucker, Charlie Sheen, Heather Locklear, Paul Sorvino, Elise Neal
Box office: $48.4 million
Bottom Line: Money Talks
Watching Chris Tucker perform on the big screen in the mid-to-late 1990s was getting to see something truly special. It was like watching Michael Jordan in his prime.
"Money Talks" got Tucker across from some decent talent and let him shine, as post-prime Charlie Sheen got out of his way just enough. For the very best moments in the movie, look no further than Tucker's scenes with Paul Sorvino. They are hilarious.
This movie is also a testament to what could have been. Tucker made precious few films in his prime. For example, he had three movies come out in 1997, then just three films over the next decade and all in the "Rush Hour" franchise.
Release date: May 24, 2019
Director: Olivia Wilde
Starring: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Sudeikies
Box office: $25 million
Bottom Line: Booksmart
It's a shame director Olivia Wilde's "Booksmart" fell flat at the box office in 2019, making just $25 million, because the legacy of the film seems to show it's going to live far beyond whatever numbers it brought in during its theatrical release.
The two stars of the movie — Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein — have shown they're two of the best young actors in the world with other projects since the movie's release. And the movie itself isn't just hilarious. It's hilarious and infinitely rewatchable.
Feldstein was actually nominated for a Golden Globe for her role.