Could you use some hearty laughs? Then you’re in the right place!
Below is a selection of diverse comedies from different countries. I’ve tried to pick iconic movies that give an introductory taste of each country’s culture and sense of humor, but this is only just a beginning. Let’s start this international laughs festival, straight from your home!
(Original Title — OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d’espions)
From the team that brought you The Artist comes a spy parody ripe with visual gags mocking James Bond’s swagger by bringing you his delightfully obtuse and arrogant French counterpart: Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath. The story takes place in Paris and in Cairo, where our hero spy is sent as an expert in the Arabic world, though he knows little to nothing about Egypt nor does he realize the perilous adventures he’s about to embark on.
Available to stream on Amazon Prime
Long Live Freedom (2013)
(Original Title — Viva La Libertà)
Toni Servillo (La Grande Belleza) plays twin brothers Enrico and Giovanni who are diametrically opposed in profession, status, and personality. However, their identical looks come in handy when Enrico (the governor) goes missing and his right-hand man enlists his twin brother: Giovanni (the writer) to replace him and mishaps ensue. This switcheroo political farce harkens back to the premise of Dave, but with better-tailored suits. Long Live Freedom is a satire for people who like their comedy with a political message.
(Original Title — タンポポ)
Labeled a “ramen western” (a satirical pun on the “spaghetti westerns” made famous by Clint Eastwood), this original, creative and offbeat comedy breaks the fourth wall, playfully toys with American cinematic stereotypes, and celebrates Japanese culture’s affection for food and sex — sometimes in the same scene. While the protagonists are on a search for the perfect ramen recipe, Tampopo has all the necessary ingredients for a timeless comedy.
For Japanese animated movies, look no further than this best anime films to watch list.
Drunken Master (1978)
(Original Title — 醉拳)
Based on the real-life Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-Hung, Drunken Master stars a young Jackie Chan bursting into the scene. No one does action-comedy quite like Jackie Chan. This early example shows off the ballet-like precision of his expertly choreographed kung fu sequences as well as his elastically expressive face. The camp physical comedy set to a beautifully rural surrounding and late 19th-century garb make for a slapstick folktale to remember!
Available to stream on Hulu
Delhi Belly (2011)
This action-packed comedy of errors is a little more off-the-wall, racy and sexually explicit than you might expect from a Bollywood comedy — and it’s excellent fun. Praised for shaking up India’s film industry standards, this physical comedy offers up raunchy laughs and an accurate representation of India’s Millennials. Anecdote: The movie’s main musical theme is a play on words, which if pronounced quickly, is a swear word in Hindi (The wordplay goes deep in this one.)
Available to stream on Netflix
What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
This cult classic pairs up long time collaborators Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of The Conchords, Moana) in their trademark understated comedy style. What We Do in the Shadows is an enchanting mockumentary with quasi-historical characters who touch upon tropes from the horror film genre, and kindly poke fun at them. Good for people who like a bit of horror (or spookiness) in their comedy.
Available to stream on Hulu
Wild Tales (2014)
(Original Title — Relatos Salvajes)
This crazy comedy is a masterful take on the dark comedy genre. It’s broken into several different stories that function as one-act tales of different situations, all heightened to a wild, unpredictably wicked, and uproarious climax. This romp is a rollercoaster of a good time and delivers dry, outlandish humor that you’ll be sure to remember forever.
A Man Called Ove (2015)
(Original Title — En man som heter Ove)
If you have a bleak sense of humor, this one’s for you. True to Sweden’s existentialist nature, A Man Called Ove follows Ove, a nihilistic grumpy old man who wants to be left alone to mourn his wife’s death. He and his neighbor unexpectedly strike up a friendship that reminds him of the warmth in the world and that he still has a lot to live for. Some touching moments and some excellent dark humor make for a sweet, ironic and deeply human film. A Man Called Ove will warm your heart one minute, make you contemplate death the next, and make you laugh throughout; a wonderful film!
This cheeky story follows a down-on-his-luck man whose humdrum daily life changes forever when he finds himself in an unbelievable situation: he suddenly has 533 kids. Inspired by a true story, this interesting exploration of a man who navigates a sudden onslaught of fatherhood to hundreds sees him deal with the fruits of his sperm-donating past to deal with love and self-acceptance. A gentle French-Canadian comedy for an entertaining night-in.
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
A timeless classic! For many Americans, this iconic 1980s film was the first exposure to the drawl banter and the attitude of the citizens from the “land down under.” Mick Dundee was the prototype Australian in their eyes and embodied the lost insouciant masculinity of old Hollywood “cool dudes” like Paul Newman. Though it might be less well-known by today’s generation, Crocodile Dundee was a smash hit when it came out and instant cultural phenomenon. This adventure comedy has it all: animals, nature, romance, knives, crocs, a real-life jungle and a concrete jungle, too. Enjoy!
The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
“An epic comedy of absurd proportions”
This allegorical tale follows Xi, a Sān bush farmer, who leads a perfectly peaceful and pleasant life with his tribe before a Coke bottle falls from the sky. Initially thought to be a present from the Gods, it instead only causes conflict. Xi is tasked with disposing of the bottle by sending it off the edge of the Earth. On his pilgrimage, he finds an unfamiliar and ill-adjusted world for which “civilized” is a big misnomer. This screwball comedy offers slapsticky gimmicks, but also exhibits subtle reflections on human nature.
(Original Title — Иван Васильевич меняет профессию)
Also known as Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future, the film is based on the play Ivan Vasilievich by Mikhail Bulgakov. This sci-fi comedy was a Soviet Union classic dealing with situational absurdities from having Ivan the Terrible switch places with an Ivan from the 1970s. This time-travel tale provides a humorous and thoughtful look into the anachronistic differences between two distant eras, as well as pokes fun at Ivan the Terrible, who still acts like a tsar even though he’s lost the hierarchal status. A thoughtful time-traveling comedy for the ages!
Available to stream on: Youtube
So goes the first batch of comedies from around the world. I hope you enjoy the laughs in different languages and some international humor!
(This article was originally published by Mick Cohen-Carroll on Medium.)