It’s easy to get Netflix tunnel vision when firing up your preferred streaming device for an epic telly session. But don’t be a fool of Kraken-sized proportions and discount Prime Video’s growing library of gems. Here’s our guide to the best Amazon Prime Video comedy.
As this collection of Stuff favourites shows, Amazon’s streaming service has become particularly adept at laughter generation. And remember; all of these movies and TV shows are already included in your Prime subscription. So sit back and prepare to engage your face’s smile apparatus with these comedy masterpieces…
Good Omens (S1-2)
Fans of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s beloved comic fantasy novel have for years been crossing fingers, toes and other body parts in the hopes that one day, somebody would take a chance on a screen adaptation of Good Omens – and that somebody turned out to be Amazon, which produced this star-studded series (now returned for a second, Gaiman-approved season of material not based on the book).
Set in modern-day England, it stars David Tennant and Michael Sheen as a demon and an angel whose eons-old friendship faces obliteration (along with the rest of the world) as the Antichrist comes of age and Armageddon looms. With the massive supporting cast including Jon Hamm, Jack Whitehall, Miranda Richardson and Michael McKean and a budget capable of bringing the novel to life, the fanboys and girls’ waiting has not been in vain.
Las Vegas was created to feed partygoers everything they want… until all they want is darkness, sleep and a bucketload of Alka Seltzer. And The Hangover is the movie incarnation of that attitude of unbridled intemperance, a film in which a four-man stag party in Sin City careers outrageously off the rails. And yes, there are hilarious consequences.
If you’re hungry for more, the two sequels are also streaming on Prime Video. But neither quite hit the hedonistic heights of the original.
The Nice Guys
Remember buddy cop movies? Weren’t they great? Shame they don’t make them anymore.
But wait! What’s this? It’s a buddy cop (ok, buddy private detective) movie! From Shane Black – the bloke who wrote the first two Lethal Weapon films! And it stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as rival P.I.s who decide to team up on a case that goes right to the corrupt heart of 1970s Los Angeles.
If that sounds like a good recipe to you, you’re going to love The Nice Guys. It’s loveably silly at times, gloriously action-packed at others, and it’s a travesty that it’s never had a sequel.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Ron Burgundy has life figured out. He’s got it all: great friends, great hair and a great job as news anchor for a local San Diego television network. But when a woman walks into the newsroom with designs on becoming his on-air partner (it’s the 1970s, so workplace sexism isn’t even disguised) things become complicated, with Ron’s jealousy and insecurities coming to the fore in hilarious fashion.
Yes, the humour never strays far from the infantile, but it’s really, really funny, and packed with great characters – which is just about as much as you can ask for from a comedy film.
Is Amélie as twee and whimsical as it initially seems? Maybe, just a little bit. But Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s stylish French rom-com is also funny, heart-warming and unconventional – a love letter to Paris that’s redolent in Gallic charm and wit and rarely cloying.
Audrey Tatou’s performance as the titular character, a lonely woman who decides to improve people’s lives through some light interference, made her into a star, but there’s plenty of merit besides her turn – like the quasi-retro colour cast that apparently went on to inspire Instagram’s winsome vintage filters.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson’s unique filmmaking style shines through in this stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved novel. An enchanting tale of a cunning rural fox outwitting three nasty farmers, Fantastic Mr. Fox manages to meld the Anderson and Dahl’s oeuvres far more successfully than you might imagine.
The animation and sets are gorgeous (Anderson’s visual style works as well with models as it does with people) while the script breathes new life and humour into the book while largely preserving its essence. And there’s a great, wonderfully rakish performance by George Clooney in the title role. It’s a film both kids and grown-ups will adore.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Taika Waititi’s Antipodean adventure sees grumpy old bugger Hec (Sam Neill) and his wayward wannabe-gangster foster son Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) attempt to outrun and outwit the police in the wild New Zealand bush. It’s an irresistible combination of sweetness and hilarity that will go down well with the whole family.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (S1-5)
Hankering for a grown-up TV show in the vein of Mad Men? One also set in mid-century Manhattan? The Marvelous Mrs Maisel might be the new series for you. Rachel Brosnahan stars as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a quick-witted middle-class housewife with what she thought was the perfect 1950s New York lifestyle: husband, kids and a beautiful Upper West Side apartment. When things take an unforeseen turn, she stumbles into trying out stand-up comedy – and discovers she has something of a talent for not only making people laugh, but for hitting upon life’s truths and enigmas while doing it.
With three seasons to binge upon, this award-winning comedy drama makes for a lightweight, enjoyable watch.
Triangle of Sadness
Wealth, beauty, sexual politics and social hierarchy all find themselves in the crosshairs of Ruben Östlund’s clever, riotous and frequently disgusting social satire, which bagged the Cannes Palme d’Or and was nominated for Best Picture at the 2023 Oscars.
In series of long chapters focussing on specific situations, Östlund delivers a pitch-black dissection of the hyper-rich, as seens through the (relatively destitute) eyes of a pair of models-cum-influencers who snag a freebie aboard a luxury cruise. From painfully awkward interactions between members of different societal tiers, to a Captain’s dinner that goes terribly wrong, to a brilliant final section in which all manner of traditional roles – gender, class, race – are turned upside down, this is an enjoyable but cynical exploration of how the modern world keeps power and money fundamentally entangled.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Still recovering from a rough breakup, unemployed Toronto slacker and part-time bass player Scott Pilgrim bumps into his dream girl: the pink-haired, sardonic American Ramona Flowers. She’s into him too, but their path towards true love is beset by several obstacles – namely seven of Ramona’s evil exes, each of whom Scott must defeat in order to win her heart.
Director Edgar Wright’s frenetic pace, prominent ‘visual’ sound effects and quickfire cultural references make this just about as close to an on-screen comic book as you can get – and its cast is packed with familiar faces.
24 Hour Party People
Michael Winterbottom’s dramatised history of Madchester, Factory Records and The Hacienda has no right to be this funny – but what do you expect if you cast Steve Coogan as broadcaster and Factory co-founder Tony Wilson, the ringmaster to a chaotic circus of booze, drugs, sex and tragedy?
Fast-paced, compelling and engagingly postmodern, it functions both as a character study and an informative inside look at the story behind bands like The Happy Mondays and New Order.
Freaks and Geeks (S1)
Before Judd Apatow and Paul Feig hit the big time with the likes of Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Bridesmaids, they co-created a little TV comedy-drama based on Feig’s own adolescence in early 1980s Michigan. Dubbed Freaks and Geeks (most of its main characters fall into one or both of these categories) it lasted just one 18-episode season – something that’s still hard to fathom, given how fantastic it is.
Perhaps viewers just weren’t ready for a well-written, warm and entirely honest portrayal of the highs and lows of high school. Despite its untimely demise, it kickstarted a bunch of major Hollywood careers (James Franco, Linda Cardellini, Jason Segel and Seth Rogen being the obvious examples) and is regarded as a cult classic 20 years later.
All 18 episodes are now streaming on Prime, so why not go back to school?
Nathan for You (S1-4)
This brilliant spoof reality series, in which deadpan Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder swoops in to save ailing small businesses with absolutely woeful advice, has largely flown under the radar this side of the pond, but do yourself a favour and give it a shot. Often so surreal and bizarre you won’t believe Nathan’s clients aren’t in on the joke, Nathan for You is a true original.
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti find themselves trapped in a time loop in this offbeat romcom. Should they fall asleep or die, they wake up and live the entire day – in which they’re guests at a wedding in California desert – through again. The pair decide to make the most of their temporal purgatory, indulging in wilder and wilder behaviour in the knowledge that whatever happens, they’ll just end up back at square one. Everything, it seems, has become meaningless.
If might sound like a hackneyed idea but Palm Springs feels different by dint of focussing on a pair of people rather than just one. The chemistry and tensions between the two keep the film nicely involving – and it’s genuinely funny to boot.
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm
Kazakhstan’s favourite son returns to the screen, with Sacha Baron-Cohen’s creation once again poking fun at Americans – this time in the midst of a chaotic Trump presidency and the COVID-19 pandemic. While the civilian victims of Borat’s pranks sometimes seem a little undeserving (seemingly being accommodating to an eccentric foreigner rather than outright agreeing with his terrible opinions) it’s hard to feel sorry too many people in this movie, as its hidden camera setups delivering almost-unbearable levels of cringe and no small amount of laughs.
To call the film scorching satire would feels inaccurate – it simply reinforces what most right-minded viewers already think about bigots, gun nuts and Republicans – but at the very least, Borat’s antics are reliably entertaining.
Given a choice between death and eternity as an avatar in a virtual world that’s almost indistinguishable from the real one, many of us would pick the latter without question – but before too long we might be questioning our decision.
That’s the setup for this Amazon original sitcom from Greg Daniels (he of the US Office and Parks and Recreation fame), in which app developer Nathan has his consciousness uploaded to a luxurious digital heaven, only to quickly discover that not only have his earthly problems not suddenly disappeared, they’re now bolstered with a bunch of new ones. Mixing sci-fi, satire, romance and more, Upload is sure to strike a chord with anyone who spends time pondering the future of tech. That means you, Stuff reader!
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Gus Van Sant’s well-crafted comic biopic stars a memorable Joaquin Phoenix as John Callahan, an alcoholic who embarks on one bender too many, resulting in a devastating car crash. Paralysed, plunged into a deep depression, and still boozing, Callahan eventually finds solace in friends, art and the twelve-step programme.
Phoenix is typically excellent as the often-unlikeable Callahan, and there’s also superb support from Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara. A funny, thought-provoking and inspiring tale about conquering your worst impulses and “choosing life” – with little of the sentimental cheese that often creeps into such films.
The Office (US, S1-9)
It might have started out as a pale shade of the British original, but NBC’s long-running sitcom quickly found its feet and its own comedic voice. Even if Steve Carell’s Michael Scott is a bit broader and a bit less melancholy than Ricky Gervais’ David Brent, it’s hard to deny that Carell has made the role of “awkward boss at a mid-level paper company” his own, and made himself into a massive star in the process.
You know the drill: The Office is a sort-of mockumentary set in a dreary Pennsylvania workplace populated by a few normal folks – representing us, the viewers – and a few caricatures. The comedy mostly springs from the interactions between the two, and the formula works so well that NBC managed to keep it going for an astonishing nine seasons.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes and stars in this riotous six-part sitcom about a single woman’s attempts to navigate the many pitfalls of modern London life. Even if that sounds like a hackneyed synopsis, or one that fits roughly 10,000 British sitcoms, we suggest you delve in anyway, because Waller-Bridge’s eyes-open approach – acerbic, dry, unashamed, raw – doesn’t feel unoriginal in the slightest. It’s also really, really funny, which is probably worth mentioning too.
A second series, with both Waller-Bridge and on-screen rival Olivia Colman returning, is also now available to stream on Prime Video – albeit not for free. If you have access to BBC iPlayer, however, have at it on there.
The world doesn’t seem short on wry, quirksome comedy drama series exploring the crushing ennui of modern life, but Amazon has furnished us with another one – and it’s a delightful surprise.
Starring Maya Rudolf and Fred Armisen as a married couple struggling with an encroaching middle-aged itch, Forever starts off as one kind of show and quickly transforms into another. Funny, smart and affecting, it’s Amazon’s best new original series in a long time.
Amazon spent a long time trying to “do a Netflix” by creating its very own blockbusting TV shows, and Transparent was the moment it got it right. For a start, this is really bold – it tells the story of a sixtysomething divorcee announcing to his three grownup kids that he’s always felt different and is now going to live as a woman.
Sounds heavy, and it sort of is, but it’s also darkly funny, with a degree of wit and sharpness that’s still rare even in this golden age of TV. The bickering between the three kids (each of whom is riddled with their own individual problems and peccadillos) is as chucklesome as it is awkward and believable. Amazing telly.
Red Oaks (S1-3)
A hidden gem in Amazon’s catalogue, Red Oaks‘ unremarkable premise belies a nuanced show that blends humour and pathos surprisingly adeptly.
Set in 1980s suburban New York, it follows the bumbling but tumultuous life of David Myers. From the enigmatically aloof love interest to parental turmoil at home, all the classic teen drama tropes are ticked off here with just enough of a twist to sustain your intrigue. What really elevates this show above the many others that riff off a similar tune is its riotous roster of characters. Sleazy, feckless tennis coach Nash alone is worth the price of admission.
The Big Sick
Silicon Valley star and stand-up comedian Kumail Nanjiani plays himself in this dramatisation of how he and his wife, the writer Emily Gordon (here called “Emily Gardner” and played by Zoe Kazan), met each other, fell in love and got married.
An enjoyable culture-clash romantic comedy revolving around Nanjiani’s desire to lead a normal American life while his Pakistani parents pressure him to enter into an arranged marriage with a woman he barely knows, The Big Sick really gets going when Emily falls seriously ill, forcing our hero to confront the two sides of his life – not to mention meet her parents, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.