As the entertainment world continues to invest in the shared-universe method of storytelling, a genre of my formative years finds itself slowly marching towards extinction. And that’s the big-budget comedy.
A staple of my adolescent and teenage life, the blockbuster comedy was arguably the most consistent genre of the late 90s and early 2000s, as there was essentially a new iconic addition to the tapestry of comedies with each passing year. From the glory days of Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler to the decade-defining output from Will Ferrell, the genre was both financially and critically viable in ways that have become a way of the past thanks to the explosion of both franchise filmmaking and streaming content, as comedies have been replaced by the former and relegated to the latter. Think back to life before quarantine: what was the last comedy you saw in theaters?
Due to said quarantine, I’ve not only had to time to revisit these movies but have been in the emotional headspace to need them, as there’s no serotonin drip quite like that of nostalgia, especially one that’s as pure as early 2000s comedies.
So, with our desire for laughs from the past and with a little help from some of the staff here at BroBible, here are our Top 10 of Those Comedies from 2000-2010.
Just Missed The Cut: Pineapple Express, Knocked Up, Old School, Talledega Knights, Dodgeball, Blades of Glory, Bruce Almighty, Get Him To The Greek, American Pie 2
I had to lobby to get Zoolander on here and it had to box out some worthy competitors including Talledega Nights, Dodgeball, and Blades of Glory. You could argue those movies (especially the first two) are objectively funnier than Ben Stiller’s dive into the world of male modeling, but in the end, it’s impossible to talk about any of the comedies that explored idiosyncratic subcultures through an absurdist lens—a subgenre that helped define the zeitgeist of the decade—without paying respects to the one that started it all.
Zoolander obviously wasn’t the first film of its kind, as Caddyshack took a similar approach while examining the bizarrely wonderful ecosystem of a private country club and Happy Gilmore would capture the same spirit while using the world of professional golf as a backdrop (there’s apparently something about sports with less than mass appeal that makes them ripe for the picking). It wasn’t even the first notable example from the new millennium, as Super Troopers hit theaters nine months before Zoolander was released in September of 2001.
However, it’s safe to say the Broken Lizard crew lacked the name recognition that Stiller brought to the table, and while Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell weren’t the stars that the movie would soon help them become, it features a truly formidable cast (including the seemingly obligatory inclusion of an unrecognizable Andy Dick as a masseuse best described as “Burn Victim Princess Leia) supplemented by a retroactively incredible list of cameos of the biggest names in pop culture at the time, including Fred Durst, Stephen Dorff, and Billy Zane.
This satirical look at an inherently bizarre industry is the perfect example of the formula all of its spiritual successors would harness. It’s the essence of Idiot Comedy and 85% of the jokes are variations of the “Male Models Are Dumb” trope but it incorporates so many different elements that help take it to the next level. In addition to the many lines I still quote to this day, it features references to 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Godfather within the span of five minutes, an approach to blackface that Hollywood apparently could still learn from, and ridiculous touches that help define the universe it constructs, like a DJ spinning at a funeral and the fact that Mugatu pivoted to high fashion after inventing the piano key necktie.
Does Zoolander deserve anything higher than the tenth spot? No, but it’d be a crime not to recognize the impact it had on comedy in the 2000s.
9. The Other Guys
I actually remember the first time I saw The Other Guys. I was in high school and I probably had just begun experimenting with the marijuanas. There was a tiny, four-screen theater in a nearby strip mall that we used to raise absolute hell in, especially when we were newly stoned.
And yet, despite our newfound interest in humor-enhancing narcotics, I remember leaving Preakness Theaters in Wayne, New Jersey feeling unimpressed with The Other Guys. It wasn’t just me, either, as most of my friends seemed to agree. I can’t really explain why a bunch of 16-year-olds didn’t find the latest comedy from Will Ferrell as hilarious as his recent outputs — maybe the whole economics aspect of the film turned us off — but for whatever reason, we left the theater thinking Will Ferrell had lost his fastball. And boy, how wrong we were.
I’ve always said that if I’ve seen a movie once, I haven’t really seen it, and that couldn’t be any more true when it comes to The Other Guys. After initially feeling unimpressed in my teenage years, The Other Guys has since grown into cult status, with each rewatch highlighting a toss-away line or moment you might not have noticed before. Whether it be Mark Wahlberg’s fierce commitment to his character, the hilarious subplot with Eva Mendes, Will Ferrell’s general Will Ferrellness, the excellent supporting cast (The Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr.), or Michael Keaton’s constant references to TLC, The Other Guys is now firmly one of the most underrated films of this iconic comedy era.
8. The Hangover
I’m definitely reverse-dating myself here, but The Hangover is one the first adult comedies I can remember watching as a kid and it’s still one of my favorites to this day. I was a mere 10-years-old when it first hit theaters during the summer of 2009, and there was no way in hell my parents were letting me see this movie. This is completely reasonable now that I’ve seen the movie, but because of this, it took on an almost mythical status among me and my fellow youngsters who were also barred from seeing the flick.
It wasn’t until a year or two after The Hangover‘s theatrical release until I was finally able to watch it at a friend’s house with the utmost secrecy so that my parents wouldn’t find out. Without a doubt, it lived up to the legendary status that my friends and I had built it up to be in our heads. The scene I can distinctly remember as being the funniest to 12-year-old Zach is this one:
When Mr. Chow jumped out of the trunk my pals and I busted up laughing for who knows how long. We had to pause the movie so we didn’t miss anything in the aftermath.
Now that I actually have some real-world experience with the shenanigans that usually take place when one goes out drinking with friends, The Hangover has taken on a new life. The best part, for me, is picking out which of my real-life friends correlates with each character in the film. Like, “Oh yeah, I can totally see ____ doing that.” That relatability makes it that much better. And on top of how funny it is, it’s actually a very solid movie, with a simple but creative story that’s well-written. That’s not something many comedy flicks can claim.
What makes Superbad unlike any of the other movies on this list: it’s, by far, the most real of the group.
Look at the movies above you: they all have some built-in element of outlandishness that makes it inherently difficult for the audience to put themselves in the characters’ shoes. Sure, you’ve had probably had a hangover after a blackout in Las Vegas, but have you ever stolen a tiger from Mike Tyson and been attacked but a rabid yet micropenis’d Asian man? Didn’t think so. All of the honorable mentions, all of the entries above, and all of the classics below, are inherently fantastical. Comedic, sure, but they’re just as fictional as comic book movies and cartoons. But Superbad and all of its post-teen, pre-20s glory operates in the exact opposite world from every other movie in this list: our world.
Superbad is, at its core, about a group of high schoolers trying to lose their virginity, which is something that quite literally every single person reading this has experienced. Trying to lose your virginity was high school and that’s a life experience that we can not only all relate to, but find the humor in. In the way that period pieces — movies about British Empire era England, World War II, the 1960s, etc — feel ageless because they already exist in the past, Superbad now possess that same quality, a quality that will make this subtle sub-two-hour masterpiece age better than most of the films on this list.
6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Anyone who has ever been through a rough breakup has found themselves in Peter Brenner’s talented shoes but most of us drank our problems away while Peter put pen to paper and produced the epic ‘Dracula’ musical which also gifted us one fo the most unexpected scenes in Rom-Com history. This film ranks a solid 8 out of 10 on the Quotability Scale with memorable lines such as “I just went from six to midnight” and “when life gives you lemons just say ‘fuck the lemons’ and bail.” A scene doesn’t go by without a memorable quote and it’s not just the stars, background characters like Paul Rudd as the Surfing Instructor, Jonah Hill as the hotel employee, and Jack McBrayer as a newlywed are constantly delivering magic.
Hawaii’s state fish really is the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a for anyone out there that’s wondering.
FSM is one of the most re-watchable comedies in history and that was exhaustively tested by FX showing it around the clock, 24/7/365, for what seemed like an eternity. There was a point in time when you could flip on the TV at any hour and FSM was on and still, somehow, it was always incredible. The script was based on writer/star Jason Segel’s own breakup with actress Linda Cardellini (‘Bloodline’, ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’) and I think the heartbreak from Segel’s own life helped add that level of authenticity that bleeds through like Peter after he got punched in the face by real-life pro surfing legend Kalani Robb.
It’s not easy to quantify what exactly made Forgetting Sarah Marshall such a perfect comedy but we can start by saying it’s arguably the best movie ever based in Hawaii. 9 times out of 10 when a movie’s filmed in Hawaii it is so the stars can get paid during gan extended vacation but FSM was so good it spawned ‘Get Him To The Greek’ starring Russel Brand as Aldous Snow. But this wasn’t just two hours of gorgeous beach scenes. It’s the depressed AF Peter Brenner montages and Aldous Snow soliloquy’s that take this film to the upper echelon of Comedy. The ‘Dracula’ musical finale coupled with Jason Segel pouring his heart out butt naked facing yet another girl who just stomped on his heart makes for one of the best endings of any Apatow film.
5. Wedding Crashers
While there may be superior comedies on this list, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more quotable one, as Wedding Crashers — now 15-years-old — still has lines circulating through the pop culture lexicon. “What a loser! Oh, what an idiot!” and “Crab cakes and football. That’s what Maryland does!” and “You motorboatin’ son of a bitch! You old sailor you! Where is she? She still in the house?” still cross my consciousness almost once a month. Whether it be catching the movie on TV or seeing it quoted on social media to simply lobbing lines back and forth with my buddies, Wedding Crashers remains a fixture of the 21st-century comedy filmography.
Possessing a strength similar to that of Superbad, Wedding Crashers benefits from its grounding in reality: while the actual content of two late-30s dudes showing up uninvited to dozens of weddings a year is surely outlandish, the idea of two best-friend being confronted with the final days of your youth — which is more or less the central conflict in Wedding Crashers, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn’s characters finally growing up — is, yet again, a very tangible, relatable life moment that ties us to the story.
Most of all, more than a story about romantic love, Wedding Crashers is a tale of brotherly love between two buddies, who’ve become something more than best friends but less than spouses. Every guy, regardless of their age, knows what it’s like to have a best friend and in that familiar embrace of friendship, Wedding Crashers and its mile-a-minute one-liners possess a quality of endearingness that’ll keep it relevant far longer than it probably deserves.
4. Step Brothers
Of all the movies on this list, Step Brothers is arguably the one that’s still part of the cultural zeitgeist the most, as various quotes from this 2009 film have entered into and remained in our lexicon. From “did we just become best friends?” to “you don’t say that!”, few — if any — of the films on this list have had both the staying power and sustained cultural relevance that Step Brothers had.
Made with Will Ferrell operating at his peak, Step Brothers is perhaps the purest distillation of this era of comedy. In almost every film on this list, there’s a central, propulsive theme of finally growing up and becoming a man, in whatever form that maturation may have taken — marriage in The Hangover, going to college in Superbad, getting over your ex in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, falling in true love in Wedding Crashers, losing your virginity in a still unlisted classic — and Step Brothers is, quite literally, a story about two man-children finally, in its simplest form, growing up.
And the outcome is a comedy of the least intelligence but perhaps the strongest staying power. The hilarity of immaturity will always remain relatable no matter where the world is or where you are in it.
3. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
When I was younger, The 40-Year-Old Virgin was actually my favorite of this lot. More so than most of the comedies on this list, The 40-Year-Old Virgin truly embraced physical comedy, as some of its funniest scenes (the wax scene, the throw-up-in-the-car scene, etc.) rely on putting Steve Carrell and his body through a terrible situation.
It’s also a movie that — released when I was just 12-years-old — came before the loss of my virginity but during the in the midst of my earliest stages of, as Slick Willy once put it, my sexual relations.
As a result, my pre-teen friends and I were the perfect audience for this film, as we paradoxically existed in the same headspace as the titular virgin, despite being an entire generation apart. Now, as I find myself smack in the middle between Andy’s age and the age I was when I first saw the movie, although my perspective on the jokes and the film’s general humor has changed, its effectiveness has not. While I may be laughing at The 40-Year-Old Virgin for different reasons — now, instead of looking at Andy’s plight through the lens of a 13-year-old virgin, it’s from the point of view of a 27-year-old man with a decade-plus of sexual activity — I’m still laughing all the same.
2. Tropic Thunder
Tropic Thunder is one of those movies that deserves an extensive oral history. 5,000 words, interviews with the cast and crew, creating a full a sprawling tapestry of this truly remarkable piece of American filmmaking that simply would not be made in today’s day and age.
The greatest testament to Tropic Thunder and its staying power is that it’s now been around long enough for newly-woke teenagers to discover and therefore wage war against. Earlier this year, I wrote an article about how a section of the internet seemed to have newly-discovered Robert Downey Jr’s Academy Award-nominated performance and are attempting to cancel him for it, not realizing that the very character was, in and of itself, a very criticism of the ideas they’re now trying to tear down. The whole point of the Kirk Lazuras character is to clown on celebrities for thinking their artistic credibility gives them a free pass to play whoever they want, however they want. Just look at all the uproar Scarlett Johansson caused when she said she should be allowed to “any person, or any tree, or any animal, because that’s my job and the requirements of my job.”
Clowning on actors aside, it’s Tropic Thunder‘s cast that elevates the film both above the material and the rest of the entries on this list. From RDJ’s award-season-recognized turn to Jack Black’s crack-addicted comedy hack, from Danny McBride’s demolitions expert to Nick Nolte’s deranged and fraudulent memoirist, the supporting crew orbiting Ben Stiller’s lead is arguably the best we’ve seen in a comedy film this century (Bill Hader, Jay Baruchel, and Steve Coogan also appear). Not to mention the peripheral presence of Matthew McConaughey as the slimy yet sincere agent and Tom Cruise as the truly cartoonish Les Grossman, which has since become one of the greatest cameo roles of all-time. One could only imagine what it would’ve been like if they cast Kevin Hart instead of… Brandon T. Jackson?
1. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Was there ever a doubt? Years ago, I saw a tweet — and I’m paraphrasing here — that said something like “before memes, dudes used to just sit around and yell Anchorman quotes at each other”, and I’m not sure there’s ever been a statement that’s hit me to my core quite like that.
Released in 2004, Anchorman caught its now-iconic cast at very unique moments in all of their careers. Will Ferrell, of course, was coming off a transcendent run on Saturday Night Live followed by consecutive big-screen hits with Zoolander, Old School, and Elf. On the verge of true stardom, Anchorman launched Ferrell into Hollywood’s upper echelon, making him undoubtedly *the* preeminent comedic actor of the early 2000s.
There’s Steve Carell who, after breaking out on The Daily Show with his partner-in-crime Stephen Colbert, was just a year away from landing the lead role of Michael Scott on The Office, inarguably one of the most popular American television comedies of all-time. In the years since Carell was able to parlay that comedic success into a dramatic acting career that has garnered him both critical praise and award recognition.
Paul Rudd was the most established actor at the time, having consistently appeared in noteworthy films such as Clueless, Romeo + Juliet, and Wet Hot American Summer. Still, similar to Ferrell and Carell, Anchorman launched his profile into another stratosphere that’s made him one of the industry’s biggest stars, as evidenced by his presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In making Anchorman, these three proven commodities were both elevated by the material and elevated the material itself with their still-untapped star potential. The result was not only a highly-effective comedic cocktail in the short term but has also served to benefit how well the film has aged, as these three actors have gone on to become staples of Hollywood for the last two decades.
When Ferrell is inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame — if such a thing were to exist and if he weren’t already inducted — his bust would be the mustached face of Ron Burgundy.
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