The 50 Best Indie Comedy Movies

The 50 Best Indie Comedy Movies

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The best highly-rated but little-known comedy movies as featured on agoodmovietowatch.com.

Note: to see if each film is available for you to stream on Netflix or elsewhere, click on the title to be redirected to the movie page.

40. Moonstruck (1987)

7.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Norman Jewison

Actors

Al Therrien, Amy Aquino, Anita Gillette, Ann McDonough

It’s easy enough to pitch Moonstruck with the promise of Cher and a young Nicolas Cage getting hot and heavy in 80s New York, but it’s so much more than its two outsized leads. Loretta (Cher) is on track to marry Johnny (Danny Aiello) when he tasks her with inviting his brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage) to their wedding. Before long Loretta and Ronny are having a whirlwind affair that threatens to derail everything. 

Despite the somewhat risque premise, Moonstruck is a lighthearted, sentimental, romance fit for the holidays. A big cast playing the warm-hearted family rounds things out, and some of the best moments are digressions that explore the romantic entanglements outside of the central couple.  At times Moonstruck feels a bit too big, too over-the-top, too cheesy, but it’s a New York slice cheesy, it’s a ‘That’s Amore’ cheesy, it’s a cheesy that tucks you in at night after a  helping of manicotti and a big bottle of wine.

39. Nobody’s Fool (1994)

7.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Robert Benton

Actors

Alice Drummond, Angela Pietropinto, Angelica Page, Bruce Willis

Moods

A-list actors, Lighthearted, Slice-of-Life

One of those long-lost mid-budget dramas that’s content with observing the rich yet uneventful lives of average folk, Nobody’s Fool reminds us that nothing exciting or shocking needs to happen to make a good story. The late, eternally charismatic Paul Newman leads an ensemble of character actors in relaxed, memorable roles—Bruce Willis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Margo Martindale, and Jessica Tandy, among others. It’s the authentic, neither-love-nor-hate relationship among all these characters that drives all their individual drama forward and keeps the film from stagnating into anything less than endearing. Here, the idea of things never really changing in this small community is meant to be a comfort, not a lament.

38. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

7.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Jon Avnet

Actors

Afton Smith, Bob Hannah, Carol Mitchell-Leon, Chris O'Donnell

Moods

A-list actors, Easy, Emotional

As southern movies go, Fried Green Tomatoes is inoffensively sweet and realistic—it’s not afraid to touch on the genuine issues that plagued America in the 1930s while also cushioning some blows, as feel-good movies are wont to do. But the film seems less interested in presenting a clear picture of the past than it is in telling a specific tale: that of outsiders forming bonds and making it together in an unforgiving society. 

The main narrator is Ninny, an 83-year-old woman seemingly forgotten by everyone except Evelyn, an unhappy housewife who is “too young to be old and too old to be young.” Ninny recalls the stories of Sipsey and Big George, Black laborers who dared to succeed in their deeply racist community; of Smokey, the town outcast, who still helped people even if he was denied it himself; of Ruth, the domestic abuse victim; and of Idgie, the tomboy who spat on the face of all decorum. Then, of course, there’s the unspoken relationship between Ruth and Idgie, which hint at something quite radical for its time. 

These are all the people conventionally denied happy endings, and in period films, you’d expect to be abandoned in tragedy. But here they sing; they win and lose in equal measure, and even though it might seem like light and familiar fare to some, it still goes down heartily and unforgettably—funnily enough, like a plate of fried green tomatoes.

37. Re-Animator (1985)

7.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Stuart Gordon

Actors

Al Berry, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, Bunny Summers

Moods

Dark, Intense, No-brainer

Taking the Frankenstein story to its low-budget ’80s extremes, Re-Animator finds lots of dry humor and gory thrills in the simple story of a mad scientist in medical school. But instead of any Frankenstein’s monster terrorizing the university, it’s the hubris of man and their arrogance in denying the inevitability of death that constantly threatens every other innocent person in the film. The scare to minute ratio here is refreshingly low, meaning Re-Animator isn’t driven by a need to manipulate audiences, but by the primal thrills of fake guts and blood—and a sharp, snarky performance from Jeffrey Combs.

36. Ghost World (2001)

7.2

Country

Germany, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Terry Zwigoff

Actors

Alex Solowitz, Anna Berger, Ashley Peldon, Bob Balaban

Moods

Original, Sunday

Based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes, Ghost World is a dark comedy that follows the exploits of teenage outcasts Enid and Rebecca (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson) as they navigate the many complexities of burgeoning adulthood. Central to the story is the unlikely friendship that Enid strikes up with a lonesome older man (played by Steve Buscemi), a curious relationship that drifts through various humorous and melancholy situations. It’s an original and often poignant look at alienation and identity, with Birch delivering a wonderfully deadpan and often hilarious performance, despite her entirely pessimistic attitude. It’s the type of film that’s just right when you’re in the mood for something just a little bit different.

35. The Wedding Banquet (1993)

7.2

Country

Taiwan, United States of America

Director

Ang Lee

Actors

Ang Lee, Gua Ah-leh, Mason Lee, May Chin

Moods

Easy, Lighthearted, Lovely

Even with a plot that wholeheartedly embraces the tropes of a fake marriage and of found families, The Wedding Banquet never falls into the trap of histrionic melodrama. There’s a calmness to this film that’s made all the more poignant by how none of these characters are truly right or wrong, good or bad. Everyone is just trying to stay in their lane while nurturing the little bits of happiness they can find. The Wedding Banquet is a relatively early example of a lighthearted gay romance and an American co-production that’s incredibly sensitive about representing Taiwanese culture properly on screen.

34. Pieces of April (2003)

7.2

Country

United States, United States of America

Director

Peter Hedges

Actors

Adrian Martinez, Alice Drummond, Alison Pill, Anney Giobbe

Moods

Character-driven, Emotional, Grown-up Comedy

The entirety of Pieces of April takes place on Thanksgiving Day, a busy holiday meant to bring loved ones together. Sure enough, April, the eldest Burns daughter, takes great pains to prepare a nice dinner for her visiting family. But we soon learn that she is motivated less by excitement than by dread: she’s long been estranged, disowned even, by her uptight mother, Joy, who is only agreeing to come because she’s sick with cancer. April seems to be on a reluctant mission to fix their fraught relationship, but pesky (albeit funny) mishaps, both on her and Joy’s end, keep getting in the way. 

Shot digitally and very closely with hand-held cameras, Pieces of April looks as intimate as it feels. It’s a snapshot of an era and of a particular family dynamic, one that relatably relies on both love and scorn to keep going. It’s an excellent, honest, and underrated gem of a movie.

33. Volver (2006)

7.3

Country

Spain

Director

Pedro Almodoóvar, Pedro Almodóvar

Actors

Agustín Almodóvar, Antonio de la Torre, Blanca Portillo, Carlos Blanco

Moods

Dark, Original

Pedro Almodovar’s films tend to swing wildly between comedy/farce and melodrama/tragedy. Volver somehow hits the sweet spot right in the middle of all four genres, with an added dose of magical realism. It’s a total joy to watch, which is really saying something since the story touches on murder, adultery, incest, malignant tumors, ghosts, and Penelope Cruz’s derriere. But maybe that’s the magic of Almodovar’s films? He’s able to take dark themes and surround them with bright colors, warm characters, and screwball humor—and really, is there anything better than that?

32. Office Space (1999)

7.3

Country

United States of America

Director

Mike Judge

Actors

Ajay Naidu, Alexandra Wentworth, Charissa Allen, David Herman

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Grown-up Comedy, Quirky

Before “burnout,” “bullshit jobs,” and “quiet quitting” became part of our everyday lexicon, there was a film in the ‘90s that prophesied the rise of these workplace problems. Office Space follows three co-workers who, having had enough of their dreary low-paying jobs, fight back against their company via an embezzlement scheme. 

Office Space makes the most out of its indie budget as it mostly takes place in the cramped quarters of a company, effectively bottling us into the cubicled windowless world of the characters. But the real beauty of the film is in the details, from its quick zingers and thoughtful takes on the essence of work down to its elaborate “planning to plan” scheme in the background and the employees’ forced politeness singing happy birthday to their boss. Modern viewers will notice that Office Space sits right in between the dystopian thriller Severance and the beloved sitcom The Office—a dark comedy that highlights the necessity of humanity in everyday work. 

31. C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)

7.4

Country

Canada, France, Morocco

Director

Jean-Marc Vallée

Actors

Alex Gravel, Danielle Proulx, Denis Trudel, Élizabeth Adam

Moods

Original

C.R.A.Z.Y. is crazy good, so to speak. A portrait of a French-Canadian family in 70’s Quebec that will knock your socks right off, it’s the story of a boy struggling with his identity and his relationship with his father. Featuring a killer soundtrack (including but not limited to Bowie, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones), it received Best Canadian Film in 2005 at Toronto International Film Festival. There are many things I would like to say about C.R.A.Z.Y. but I fear it’s one of those films you enjoy best when you go into them not knowing much.

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