The 27 Best Comedy Movies of 2021 (So Far)

From Melissa McCarthy as a superhero to Awkwafina as a dragon.

best comedy movies
(Image credit: Netflix, sony movie classics, lionsgate)

Because 2021 was...you know, stressful, we all need a little extra comedy. There are not one but two quarantine films on here, and there are also some pretty solid metaphors for the past year: Reliving the same day over and over! Desperately needing a vacation! Getting stuck inside an abandoned funhouse and having to fight the demonic animatronics! (Nicolas Cage is starring in that one, which makes perfect sense.) There are also some new comedy films to watch out for, including a new Judd Apatow movie, as well as some up-and-coming comic actors like Kathryn Newton.

Whatever you're particularly craving, this list has it all, from chic intercontinental widows to Melissa McCarthy in a super-suit to Awkwafina as a very derpy dragon. A few of these have a release in cinemas first, and some are going straight to streaming, but they'll all hit our televisions soon. Curl up with a glass of wine and let these funny, witty, or just plain silly picks wash over you.

'Friends: The Reunion'

WATCH IT

Release Date: May 27, 2021

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer

While not technically a ~movie,~ the Friends cast has reunited to reminisce on the show's '90s glory that ran for 10 epic seasons. You can expect the same humor during the reunion as the cast reflects on some of their favorite moments and plays trivia games.

'Bad Trip'

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Release Date: March 2, 2021

Starring: Eric André, Lil Rel Howery, and Tiffany Haddish

One word: pranks. Sold to Netflix in March, Bad Trip is about two best friends who go on a road trip from Florida to New York City together and, well, let's just say a lot of crazy sh*t happens.

'Moxie'

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Release Date: March 3, 2021

Starring: Amy Poehler, Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Nico Hiraga, Sydney Park, Josephine Langford, and more

Featuring classic Amy Poehler humor, Moxie centers on a shy 16-year-old, inspired by her mother's rebellious past, who publishes an anonymous zine that calls out sexism in her school.

'Space Jam: A New Legacy'

WATCH IT

Release Date: July 16, 2021

Starring: Lebron James, Don Cheadle, Sonequa Martin-Green, Cedric Joe, Ceyair J. Wright, and Harper Leigh Alexander

The highly-anticipated live-action/animated sports comedy featuring Lebron James in all of his basketball glory will be released this summer. In the movie, James attempts to save his son by helping the Looney Tunes win a basketball match. 

'Don't Look Up'

boston, ma december 1 actors leonardo dicaprio and jennifer lawrence walk along the train platform next to an acela train at south station during on location filming of dont look up at south station in boston on dec 1, 2020 the film stars jennifer lawrence, leonardo dicaprio, meryl streep, and is directed by adam mckay photo by david l ryanthe boston globe via getty images

(Image credit: Boston Globe)

WATCH IT

Release Date: December 24, 2021

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Rob Morgan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Himesh Patel, Tyler Perry, Ron Perlman, Chris Evans, and Mark Rylance

Yes, you read that cast correctly. In this dark comedy, two astronomers, played by DiCaprio and Lawrence, warn the world through a media tour about an asteroid that will destroy the earth.

'Raya and the Last Dragon'

WATCH IT

Release Date: March 5, 2021

Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Izaac Wang, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, Lucille Soong

All hail Kelly Marie Tran. This film is many things—a gorgeous fantasy vision, a powerhouse cast of predominantly Asian-American actors, a sweeping epic story—but at its core it's a buddy comedy between Raya (Tran) and Sisu (Awkwafina). When the hilarious trailer's not nearly as funny as the actual film, you know you're watching something magical.

'Blithe Spirit'

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Release Date: February 19, 2021

Starring: Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann, Judi Dench, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Michele Dotrice

Man uses medium to jump-start his writer's block. Medium accidentally conjures man's dead wife. Man's new, living wife is pissed. Hijinks ensue. Dan Stevens has chosen some really interesting roles lately and was the absolute best part of Eurovision Song Contest, so hopefully he's found his niche as a comic leading man. And Mann and Fisher are always welcome, so this promises to be the kind of OTT, weird love triangle I'm into.

'To All The Boys: Always and Forever'

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Release Date: February 12, 2021

Starring: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, John Corbett

The first two were super-sweet, and even though I'm in the "Lara should have chosen John Ambrose" camp (I KNOW) this is still the sweet ending to the saga we all needed. I appreciate that to an 18-year-old, going to college with your boyfriend and starting your happily ever after is the most important decision of all time, but as an old person I can still appreciate the sweetness even if the stakes are lower than I expected.

'The Map of Tiny Perfect Things'

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Release Date: February 12, 2021

Starring: Kathryn Newton, Kyle Allen, Josh Hamilton, Jorja Fox, Jermaine Harris, Anna Mikami

If Palm Springs was your thing, and it should be, then you'll want to give this film a spin. Two teens are trapped in an infinite time loop, and they have to figure out why and how to get out of it. The wrinkle in this time-travel movie is that the girl (Newton) might not want to break the loop after all. Time travel love stories are always interesting, and this one looks like tween rom-com gold.

'Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar'

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Release Date: February 12, 2021

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans Jr., Reyn Doi, Vanessa Bayer

This film kind of shouldn't work—it's about two friends (Wiig and Mumolo) who take a vacation, while a supervillain (also Wiig) plans to destroy the town because they...made fun of her when she was a kid? Some film critics hate, hate, hated this film with a passion. But a lot more of them loved the cuteness, the banter, the fact that these two women live in their own world of pure joy. I'm in the second camp, and I recommend it to everybody.

'Willy's Wonderland'

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Release Date: February 12, 2021

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant, David Sheftell, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner, Kai Kadlec, Caylee Cowan

As goofy as it is nuts, Nicolas Cage is PERFECTLY cast. He's the nearly wordless hero(?) who's tasked with cleaning a "family fun center" a la Chuck E. Cheese in exchange for the owner fixing his car. Except instead of the animatronics jerkily lapsing into song, they try to murder you. Cage's character tries to murder them first—it's schlocky ridiculousness with a slasher feel.

'The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run'

WATCH IT

Release Date: March 4, 2021

Starring: Tom Kenny, Antonio Raul Corbo, Bill Fagerbakke, Jack Gore, Rodger Bumpas, Awkwafina, Clancy Brown, Keanu Reeves

SpongeBob loses his meowing snail Gary and has to go find him. That's it, that's the whole movie, but honestly who needs anything else? With continued wacky shenanigans, the fun is in the voice cast: Awkwafina, Brown, Reeves(!), as well as the silly sight gags that work for adults just as much as kids.

'Locked Down'

WATCH IT

Release Date: January 14, 2021

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Stephen Merchant, Mindy Kaling, Lucy Boynton, Dulé Hill, Jazmyn Simon

We knew there would be some quarantine movies, but this packs quite a bit of star power with Ejiofor and Hathaway as a couple who are thisclose to getting a divorce when COVID-19 hits. Stuck at home for what feels like an eternity (ugh), they hatch a plan to solve their financial problems...and maybe rediscover what they liked about each other in the first place. It's not exactly a heist film, but minus the stealing of a multi-million-dollar diamond, it's absolutely relatable.

'I Care a Lot'

WATCH IT

Release Date: February 19, 2021

Starring: Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza González, Dianne Wiest, Chris Messina

This might be the most divisive film of 2021? There's basically no in-between with this: You either love-to-hate Pike as her character defrauds senior citizens, or you just hate her. This is the definition of black comedy, and it's not for everyone, but Pike post-Gone Girl plays merrily abhorrent to perfection.

'French Exit'

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Release Date: February 12, 2021

Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Danielle Macdonald, Imogen Poots, Tracy Letts, Valerie Mahaffey

Patrick deWitt's razor-sharp book has been compared to a kind of "trans-atlantic Arrested Development." At the center is Frances—Pfeiffer has never been better, apparently—whose spendthrift days as a socialite are behind her. She faces pennilessness in Paris along with an eclectic cast of characters. It's worth the read, and the watch, for the wittiest dialogue ever. (Check out the content warnings if that's important to you though, because this puts the "dark" in dark comedy.)

'Thunder Force'

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Release Date: April 9, 2021

Starring: Octavia Spencer, Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Ben Falcone, Jason Bateman, Pom Klementieff, Kevin Dunn, Melissa Leo, Melissa Ponzio

Ooo, Spencer and McCarthy were the duo I didn't realize I needed. Emily (Spencer) has invented a serum to give people superpowers, and her BFF Lydia (McCarthy) accidentally takes it. The two turn into an unlikely crime-fighting duo against The King (Cannavale, who had excellent banter with McCarthy in Spy). McCarthy's IRL husband Falcone directs; After a few misses including Tammy and Superintelligence, hopefully this is the perfect vehicle for everybody involved.

'Happily'

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Release Date: March 19, 2021

Starring: Joel McHale, Kerry Bishé, Stephen Root, Natalie Zea, Paul Scheer, Natalie Morales, Kirby Howell-Baptiste

McHale mastered the deadpan in Community and has now graduated to creepier humor in Happily. A married couple have the perfect relationship, and their friends loaaathe them for it. A mysterious stranger suggests a "correction" of sorts—and, just like with The Shining, it goes super poorly. This has very funny people in it, so let's hope for laughter alongside the blood spatter.

'Ghostbusters: Afterlife'

Release Date: November 19, 2021 (TBD on streaming)

Starring: Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon, Sigourney Weaver, Paul Rudd, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd

Egon has grandkids?? This second attempt at a reboot, finally being released after a lot of COVID delays, is informed by a lot of nostalgia for the original. Paul Rudd, who showed he can do serious-funny with Ant-Man, is here to teach a new generation of kids all about ghost traps and proton packs.

'Cruella'

WATCH IT

Release Date: May 28, 2021

Starring: Emma Stone, Mark Strong, Emma Thompson, Paul Walter Hauser, Kirby Howell-Baptiste

"I was born different, born bad, and a little bit mad." And with that, the one-of-a-kind Cruella DeVil gets her own backstory. The dog-wearing fashion designer definitely looks stylish and sexy, thanks to Stone, but I think I'm most intrigued to see how we're supposed to root for her?? Thompson and Strong look like they're chewing the scenery like crazy, so come for the A-list stars giving it 110 percent.

'The French Dispatch'

Release Date: October 22, 2021

Starring: Benicio del Toro, Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand

This long-delayed Wes Anderson flick has a typically stuffed cast of characters as they work at a newspaper in 20th century France. Anderson-esuqe shenanigans ensue. I'll basically watch Chalamet and Wright in anything, and this is another film that's eagerly awaited after long delays.

'Zola'

Release Date: June 30, 2021

Starring: Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun, Ari'el Stachel, Colman Domingo, Jason Mitchell, Nelcie Souffrant, Nasir Rahim

This is THAT movie. The one based on a Twitter thread? You know! This one was supposed to come out in 2020 but we're finally getting it this summer: Zola (Paige) bonds with fellow pole dancer Stefani (Keough) and the two decide to take a road trip to Florida with Stefani's pimp and boyfriend. What could go wrong? Everything.

'I'm Your Man'

Release Date: September 24, 2021

Starring: Maren Eggert, Dan Stevens, Sandra Hüller, Hans Löw

Stevens appears on this list for the second time speaking German (is he bad at anything??) in this look at modern love. A researcher reluctantly agrees to take part in an experiment in which she lives with an android (Stevens), whose sole purpose in life is to make her happy. Yes, please? It promises to be equal parts creepy and funny, judging by the clips.

'Spider-Man: No Way Home'

Release Date: December 17, 2021

Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Marisa Tomei, Alfred Molina, Jamie Foxx, Jacob Batalon

One of the most underrated aspects of some Marvel movies is their sense of humor (see also: Thor: Ragnarok, basically Chris Hemsworth doing standup). The Spider-Man films benefit from this as well as a cheerfully earnest Holland delivering them. No spoilers, but the ending of the second film takes the story in new directions, which should help it feel fresh.

'Coming 2 America'

WATCH IT

Release Date: March 5, 2021

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones

The classic comedy Coming to America finally got a sequel this year, over 30 years since the heartfelt original. Prince Akeem of Zamunda (Murphy) is about to ascend the throne when he discovers that he has a son (Fowler) from a one night stand during his time in Queens, NY. The man comes to Zamunda to be trained as an heir to the throne, to the dismay of Akeem's daughter (Layne).

'Plan B'

WATCH IT

Release Date: May 28, 2021

Starring: Kuhoo Verma, Victoria Moroles, Michael Provost, Mason Cook, Jolly Abraham, Jacob Vargas, Rachel Dratch

Fans of Booksmart and Blockers need to check out this teen drama featuring a strong female friendship. A South Dakota teen (Verma) needs a morning-after pill after her first sexual encounter. After the local pharmacist refuses to sell it to her, she and her BFF Lupe (Moroles) embark on a road trip to get the pill from a Planned Parenthood three hours away.

'Free Guy'

WATCH IT

Release Date: August 13, 2021

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi, Lil Rel Howery, Joe Kerry, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Channing Tatum

In his latest hilarious action-comedy, Reynolds is a background character in a jam-packed video game. One day, he breaks his pattern and falls for a player, Molotov Girl (Comer), who recruits him to break apart the game from the inside.

'Sing 2'

Release Date: December 22, 2021

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Reese Witherspoon, Nick Kroll, Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale, Eric André, Bono

This sequel to the 2016 animated musical brings back the original animal stars as they work on their next big show, and try to convince the world's biggest rock star to come out of hiding and join them onstage.

Katherine J Igoe
Katherine J Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributing editor at Marie Claire online who covers celebrity, fashion, entertainment, and lifestyle—from “The Bachelor” to Everlane to Meghan Markle. She also edits the Couples + Money series, so she’s always looking for volunteers at couples.money@hearst.com. Igoe: “I go to the store,” not “Her huge ego".