Comedy is an underrated genre that often boasts awards-worthy performances like Billie Lourd in Booksmart or Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry to Bother You.
Thanks to duds like Dirty Grandpa and Holmes & Watson, the 2010s threatened to kill off the comedy movie genre altogether. As fans have sought humor elsewhere, in blockbusters like Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy as opposed to full-on comedies, full-on comedies have become less and less viable at the box office.
There are always plenty of hidden gems like Booksmart and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but the genre’s mainstream output is in decline. Despite the disappointment of movies like Dumb and Dumber To, the 2010s still had a ton of hysterical comedic performances to offer on the big screen.
10 Ryan Gosling As Holland March In The Nice Guys
Shane Black’s neo-noir caper The Nice Guys is one of the most underrated comedies of the past decade. Ryan Gosling gives a hilarious performance in the lead role as bumbling P.I. Holland March.
Gosling shared impeccable chemistry with his co-star Russell Crowe, who offered a hysterical deadpan counterpoint to March as his tough-as-nails partner Jackson Healy.
9 Taika Waititi As Viago In What We Do In The Shadows
There are a few hilarious performances in Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s vampire-infested mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, from Rhys Darby as mild-mannered werewolf ringleader Anton to Clement himself as Vladislav the Poker.
But arguably the funniest is Waititi as the 379-year-old Viago, who anchors the movie by explaining all the vampiric lore to the cameras for the audience’s benefit.
8 Greta Gerwig As Frances Halladay In Frances Ha
Noah Baumbach directed Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha from a script the two co-wrote. The narrative doesn’t follow a strict plot and instead follows its title character as she coasts through life, trying to find some direction as she approaches 30.
Gerwig’s performance perfectly captures the universally identifiable feeling of being young, free, and aimless. Each vignette brings new dimensions to this lovable character.
7 Michael Keaton As Riggan Thomson In Birdman
Ironically, the role that finally gave Michael Keaton some artistic credibility was the role of a fading movie star from a years-old superhero franchise desperately trying to claw back some artistic credibility with a Broadway play.
Shot and edited to look like a single take, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman is a dark comedy masterpiece that was showered with Academy Awards. Keaton suits the movie’s pitch-black comedic tone like a glove.
6 Lakeith Stanfield As Cassius “Cash” Green In Sorry To Bother You
Boots Riley’s satirical gem Sorry to Bother You is an incisive critique of capitalism. Lakeith Stanfield stars as Cash, a telemarketer who climbs the corporate ladder by using his “white voice,” provided by Arrested Development’s David Cross.
The whole movie is anchored by Cash’s journey as he unionizes with his friends, then abandons them to side with his corporate overlords, and eventually uncovers a terrifying conspiracy. Stanfield brings an everyman quality to the role that helps land the story’s more outlandish turns.
5 Billie Lourd As Gigi In Booksmart
Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein anchor Olivia Wilde’s laugh-out-loud directorial debut Booksmart with tangible chemistry as lifelong best friends, but the movie’s MVP. is a supporting player who steals every scene she’s in.
Billie Lourd’s character Gigi is completely unpredictable. One minute, she’s jumping off the side of a ship into the ocean. The next, she’s at a party across town, bone dry.
4 Riz Ahmed As Omar In Four Lions
Chris Morris’ challenging religious satire Four Lions invites viewers to sympathize with a terrorist. Riz Ahmed stars as Omar, a down-on-his-luck Muslim extremist, who plans to bomb the London Marathon because he can get a hold of some pop culture-related costumes to disguise himself and his friends.
There are a ton of wacky characters in this movie but Omar keeps the story grounded as Ahmed brings a real relatability to him.
3 Ralph Fiennes As M. Gustave In The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the funniest comedies of the past decade, and with its changing aspect ratios and blend of live-action and animation, it’s also one of the most visually ambitious. While the story is framed by lobby boy Zero, the star of the movie is Ralph Fiennes as concierge M. Gustave.
Fiennes brings plenty of his regular pathos to the role, but it’s primarily a comedic performance, and considering he usually plays sinister villains, Fiennes nailed the character’s foul-mouthed hyper-campiness.
2 Melissa McCarthy As Megan In Bridesmaids
Melissa McCarthy scored an unprecedented Oscar nod for her supporting turn in Bridesmaids as Megan (unprecedented because it’s a raunchy comedy, not because she didn’t deserve the recognition).
All throughout Bridesmaids, McCarthy steals every scene she’s in. When she’s introduced, she tells a wild story about falling off a cruise ship. After Annie makes a scene at the bridal shower, Megan takes way too many of the puppies being offered as gifts. On the plane, she flirts with a man she suspects is an air marshal.
1 Saoirse Ronan As Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson In Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut Lady Bird perfectly captures the foibles of growing up through a series of troubled romances, arguments with parents, and journeys of self-discovery.
Saoirse Ronan gave a revelatory performance in the title role, seamlessly embodying a Sacramentan teen and nailing the tonal balance between the movie’s hysterical comedy and its heartbreaking drama.
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