It’s easy to get Netflix tunnel vision when embarking on an epic telly session, but you’d be a fool of Kraken-sized proportions to discount Prime Video’s growing library of gems.
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…
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Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Norfolk’s most famous son (Bernard Matthews aside) hits the silver screen in typical style – singing along to Roachford’s “Cuddly Toy” whilst driving to work at his digital radio station. Alpha Papa might not win over non-fans, but anyone who’s adored Steve Coogan’s past work will get a kick out of seeing how Alan Partridge works on a bigger-than-normal budget (spoiler: really well). It’s a comedy movie rich with all the awkwardness, pathos and lack of self-awareness you’d expect from one of telly’s most brilliantly cringy characters.
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.
Shaun of the Dead
The first movie of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto trilogy”, this horror-comedy is more about guffaws than gore, although it’s not without moments of graphic violence or affecting drama.
Shaun (played by Pegg) is a London shop assistant who’d rather be gaming, drinking or listening to records with his best friend Ed than showing his girlfriend he’s serious marriage material. When a bust-up prompts him to change his ways, it just happens to coincide with a zombie outbreak – meaning he must traverse a ghoul-infested wasteland to rescue his loved ones and survive the night.
Packed with smart references, sight gag and scorching one-liners, Shaun of the Dead adds up to far more than your average horror-comedy film. There’s a real heart and soul to it too, and it’s easy to see why Pegg and Wright are such hot Hollywood properties today.
Dumb and Dumber
Starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as the titular simpletons, Dumb & Dumber is a road movie packed with memorable scenes: the boys’ fingernails-down-the-blackboard rendition of Mockingbird, Carrey’s dream sequence of a fantasy life with Lauren Holly, and the assassination of an endangered snow owl using a champagne cork stand out, as does Daniels’ unfortunately-timed bout of “stomach flu” (never let your friend give you a cup of tea laced with pre-date laxative).
It’s low-brow, gross-out stuff, true – but it’s so gloriously over the top and packed with gags that you’ll have little choice but to succumb to its wiles. A 1990s classic, all told.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (S1-4)
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.
There’s Something About Mary
The Farrelly brothers basically invented the gross-out comedy, and There’s Something About Mary showcases them at their best: sure, it features that famous scene in which an, er… bodily secretion is mistaken for and used as hair gel, but there’s also a lot of heart and soul in this manic rom-com.
Ben Stiller plays Ted, whose crush on Mary (Cameron Diaz) has lasted since high school, when a gruesome zip accident ruined their prom night date. When the pair get a second chance at romance, Ted realises that he isn’t the only one seeking Mary’s affections. In fact there’s a veritable army of suitors lined up against him, including the sleazy private eye (an excellent Matt Dillon) whom he hired to track Mary down.
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.
This Best Picture Oscar-winner is an outlier for the Academy, which usually picks feel-good or “worthy” films, and has never before awarded Best Picture to a foreign-language movie, but watching it it’s easy to see why Parasite has been so lauded: this black comedy is masterfully crafted, shocking, insightful and rips along at a dizzying pace. It’s extremely funny too, serving up a mix of drily humorous dialogue and absurdity that works like a charm.
The film revolves around two South Korean families: the poverty-stricken Kims and the wealthy Parks. The Kims concoct a scheme that sees all four of them installed as well-paid household employees of the trusting Parks, but a shocking revelation makes their triumph short-lived. A wonderfully entertaining treatise on class and inequality – and how the modern world makes parasites of us all.
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!
South Park (S1-23)
In terms of animated comedies, only The Simpsons has run for longer than South Park. Crude in every sense of the word, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s sitcom about four boys in a small Colorado town has become iconic for its topical subject matter, its savage skewering of celebrities, pop culture and trends and its unabashed love for toilet humour.
Amazon has a full 20 seasons of South Park for you to get through (and that doesn’t include the most recent few), and while the quality may vary the briskness of the episodes and the aforementioned toilet humour keeps things ticking along even when the topicality of the subject matter is years out of date.
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.
What We Do in the Shadows
Outstanding horror-comedies are few and far between – for every An American Werewolf in London, there are five Scary Movies – but this Kiwi mockumentary (directed by and starring Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi as well as Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement) about a group of dysfunctional vampires house-sharing hits the spot dead-on.
With plenty of laughs mined from the awkwardness of being a neurotic immortal living in the modern world, it errs on the comedy side of the line, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without the occasional genuine bit of creepiness. If you’re as much fan of This Is Spinal Tap as you are of The Lost Boys, here’s a movie that you certainly won’t think, er, sucks.
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.
Zombieland hits the ground running with a refreshingly self-aware opening credits sequence laying out the ground rules for survival in a post-apocalyptic, undead-infested America. Jesse Eisenberg’s lily-livered Columbus stays alive by following those rules to the letter, while his travelling companion Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is a reckless killing machine on a quest for the last remaining Twinkie. Sharp, witty and blessed with one of the most memorable cameo appearances ever, this is a zombie movie with brains.
There’s a moment in Paddington that’ll make you hop up off the sofa and howl out loud in agony. Whether you’re a fully-grown adult or bushy-tailed sprog, this cinematic ode to everyone’s favourite marmalade addict finds a way to grip your heartstrings tight.
It’s stuffed full of belly laughs, impeccable voice acting from Ben Whishaw and a refreshingly affectionate take on immigration. Can a Peruvian bear vanquish the dastardly Nicole Kidman and find a home for himself in Blighty? We’re not telling, but you’ll have a blast finding out.
A hot steamy hook-up while you’re out of the country for work – probably the dream of anyone that’s ever seen the inside of an airport business lounge. Finding out you’ve got said hook-up pregnant? Not so much. That’s pretty much the gist of Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan’s comedy, which is equal parts hysterical and cringeworthy, yet still manages to pull on your heartstrings too.
Moving to London might be culture shock for Boston native Rob, but it’s hardly a picnic for unwed Irish teacher Sharon – expect prodding parents, unsubtle school kids and a cool clique of antenatal mummies. Don’t miss a foul-mouthed Carrie Fisher as the mother-in-law from hell, either.
All three seasons are now available to stream on Amazon.
Bob’s Burgers (S1-10)
Voiced by H. Jon Benjamin (the man behind Sterling Archer’s vocal cords), Bob Belcher is an average bloke trying to make a living for his family by doing what he does best: cooking burgers. Compared to the Griffins or the Smiths, the Belchers are (relatively) normal, though full of enough quirks and uniquely delivered dialogue to provide plenty of laughs. It’s less surreal than Rick & Morty and more story-driven than Family Guy, but it’s carved out its own unique spot amongst its rivals and deserves to stand up there with them. Well worth a look if you’ve grown tired of Family Guy‘s endless cutaway gags.
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.