The 3 best comedies on Netflix – not including Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

If you want to cheer yourself up in January, Netflix may not be the best place to start but we've found what we can

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in still from Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
(Image credit: Sony)

Cheer up, mate! Yes, Blue Monday – the day scientifically proven, by scientists, to be the most depressing of the year – has just passed, so it's all downhill from here. So there's no reason to be down in the dumps. The world's in a great state.

Now to be honest, Netflix is not exactly a rib-tickling comedy ho-honiverse. I thought putting together a roundup of great Netflix comedies would be easy-peasy lemon squeezy, but it actually turned out to be difficult-difficult lemon difficult. Put it this way: the mirth-fest currently top of their comedy genre list is Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, a Quentin Tarantino film featuring grotesque violence, a cameo appearance by the Manson family, and a lead character who may have killed his wife. Oh, my sides!

Still, part of the reason Netflix is the world's favourite streaming service is that it really does have something for everyone, to stream for 'free' (once you've paid your monthly sub). So as well as lots of great action movies, horror, anime and documentaries, I did eventually manage to find some quite funny movies to turn into a listicle. Our shortlist of the best films to watch on Netflix in January is short on new comedies, although it does have a film about a machete-waving hitchhiker. However, here are some smile-inducing older classics to make you bust a gut, and cheer you right up in this cold and blue January.

Dolemite is my Name

I'm a real sucker for a feel-good underdog comedy about someone with no talent for movie-making, attempting to get a film made. Sadly, Ed Wood and The Disaster Artist are not on Netflix right now, but this excellent Eddie Murphy vehicle is. Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, a foul-mouthed 70s stand-up comedian and poet, who's considered by some to be an inventor of the rap genre. He decides to branch into films, playing his alter-ego Dolemite. In the film within the film, he's the baddest pimp in town, on a revenge mission against the corrupt cops who had him put away, aided by an army of kung-fu-fighting prostitutes. As the maker of the film, he's inept but determined, despite an absence of funds, sets and talent. 

This film could easily have been an offensive mess, but Murphy's clever performance, and the genuine fondness it has for his hapless crew, make it really rather heart-warming, with some laugh-out-loud funny moments. If you've ever seen the original Dolemite, you'll note that the supposed clips from it in Dolemite is my Name look way better than they did in the real life movie.

You may also like: The aforementioned Ed Wood (about the maker of the 2nd worst film of all time) and The Disaster Artist (about the maker of the 1st worst film of all time). Although neither of them are on Netflix.

The Dictator

This extremely non-PC comedy from Sacha Baron-Cohen got somewhat mixed reviews due to its schoolboy humour, a lot of which is wee- and poo- and sex-based. However, ignore scenes such as the one of a man swinging into a window on a rope groin first, and you have quite an intelligent satire on both the tyrants of the Middle East and the hypocrisies of the democratic West. 

Baron-Cohen plays Admiral General Aladeen, Supreme Leader of the Republic of Wadiya and owner of 'the Supreme Beard'. He's clearly meant as a dim-witted amalgam of Ghaddafi and Saddam, and in the film he also has Osama Bin Laden as a house guest. Obviously the specific people satirised date it a bit, what with them all being dead and all, but the themes explored are eternal and universal. 

Aladeen attends a New York assembly of the UN in order to give a speech maintaining his pretence that he is not building weapons of mass destruction – in fact work is well underway on his 'Beard of Doom' rocket. Due to unfortunate circumstances, his beard is shaved off, and since he is now supposedly unrecognisable, he is locked out of the meeting while his treacherous uncle Tamir brings in a lookalike to give the speech instead. Tamir, played with weaselly exasperation by Ben Kingsley, is intending to sell Wadiya's oil rights to the Russians, the Chinese and a representative from Shell. 

What follows is a tight 80 minutes of extremely vulgar comedy, mixed with some more old-fashioned humour that is more like the Marx Brothers, plus that slim layer of political satire, which has genuine bite. I should think you'll either find it pants-wettingly funny, or watch it stony-faced for 10 minutes before deciding it's not for you. 

You may also like: The Brothers Grimsby. Baron-Cohen's follow-up to The Dictator is so crass and offensive, it makes its predecessor look like Last of the Summer Wine.

Alpha Papa

Turning over-the-hill radio DJ and former chatshow host Alan Partridge into an action hero doesn't sound like a great idea on the face of it, but Steve Coogan pretty much  pulls it off with Alpha Papa. Whether attempting to describe a crime to the police – "Actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm… harm… chronic thuggery… brandishment" – or taking a tactical decision to 'stow' his genitals after losing his trousers while escaping through a window, Alan is not a classic action star in the Bruce Willis or Sly Stallone mould. However, when he becomes the face of a siege at the local radio station where he's employed, he rises to the occasion, even if only because he thinks it will secure him the coveted breakfast show slot. 

While most of the cast is a who's who of early 2010s comedy, the canniest move here is bringing in proper actor Colm Meaney to play Pat Farrell, aggrieved host of late-night folk music show Roll Out The Farrell. While the laughs keep coming, he provides some real pathos – and a certain amount of physical threat – as the hostage-taking D-Jock.

You may also like: In the Loop – political comedy from Armando Ianucci, who co-wrote Alpha Papa. Features some very advanced swearing from Peter Capaldi.

Duncan Bell

Duncan is the former lifestyle editor of T3 and has been writing about tech for almost 15 years. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. His current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy. A cricket fan for over 30 years, he also recently become T3's cricket editor, writing about how to stream obscure T20 tournaments, and turning out some typically no-nonsense opinions on the world's top teams and players.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially like a cross between Reddit and DeviantArt, before the invention of the internet. There was also a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."