Bill Hader Made an Epic List of Essential Movie Comedies; Here’s Where to Stream Them


We all know Bill Hader’s a funny guy; with the release this month of The Skeleton Twins and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, he’s proving himself a pretty damn fine actor as well. But your film editor was heretofore unaware that Mr. Hader is such a movie geek — at least, that’s the impression I’m left with from his epic list of “200 Essential Movies Every Comedy Writer Should See.” It’s part of the new book Poking a Dead Frog by Mike Sachs, shared in full over at xoJane, and it’s a pretty remarkable (and esoteric) gathering of comedies and seriocomic dramas from the 1920s up to the present day. (And, I might add, there’s a good deal of crossover with our own list of the 50 Funniest Movies Ever Made.) So, with an eye on adding to your holiday weekend viewing queue, we combed through Netflix and Hulu Plus to see how many of Hader’s picks are available for your streaming needs. Links, and a few thoughts on his selections, after the jump.


1941 (1979): Spielberg’s first comedy was also his first box-office disappointment, but it’s slowly found an audience, thanks in no small part to the performances of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988): Terry Gilliam at his Terry Gilliam-est, with a very funny uncredited appearance by Robin Williams.

Annie Hall (1977): Or, Where All The Romantic Comedies Come From .

The Apartment (1960): Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine provide Billy Wilder with the only ending that matches Some Like It Hot.

The Bad News Bears (1976): Walter Matthau + beer + cursing children = comedy gold.

Barton Fink (1991); Fargo (1996): For your Coen Brothers needs.

The Birdcage (1996); The Graduate (1967): Two very different, and very funny, Mike Nichols movies from opposite sides of a remarkable career.

Coming to America (1988); Trading Places (1983): From back in the days when Hader’s fellow SNL alum Eddie Murphy was funny.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986): Pardon my French, but you’re an asshole!

Duck Soup (1933): Hader is apparently a bit of a “Marxist” — he lists the first seven Marx Brothers movies (which sounds about right), though this is sadly the only one that Netflix is streaming. Still, if you had to pick just one…

The General (1926); Our Hospitality (1923); Sherlock Jr. (1924): He also seems to be quite the Buster Keaton fan, plucking three of the Great Stone Face’s near-perfect silent features. The General is the best-known; my favorite will always be Sherlock Jr. But you can’t go wrong with any of these.

Ghostbusters (1984): Oh, like anybody needs any prodding from me (or Hader, for that matter) to drop everything and go watch Ghostbusters.

His Girl Friday (1940): Howard Hawks directs Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in this fast-talking, rip-snorting, pip of a newspaper comedy. (This one’s also public domain, so you can even watch it without a Netflix membership.)

The Long Goodbye (1973); M*A*S*H (1970): Hader clearly loves Robert Altman, naming not only popular favorites like M*A*S*H and The Player, but dramas like Short Cuts and less acclaimed efforts like A Wedding. Netflix has two of Altman’s best: his unique take on detective yarns, and the classic anti-war farce that begat the beloved TV show.

The Naked Gun (1988): More laughs-per-minute than just about anything on Netflix.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002): Significantly, the only Adam Sandler movie on the list. Read into that what you will!

Shaolin Soccer (2001): Both this film and director Stephen Chow’s equally energetic and totally batty follow-up Kung Fu Hustle make the cut. (The latter is streaming free on Crackle, if you don’t mind some commercials.)

Vernon, Florida (1981): Much movie-geek respect to Mr. Hader for throwing in Errol Morris’ bizarre and fascinating documentary portrait of a Florida town and its peculiar inhabitants.


To Be or Not to Be (1942): Hulu Plus is where you’ll find more of Hader’s world and classic cinema picks, since the big draw of the service is their deal with the Criterion Collection. Luckily, this one is currently streaming free for non-Plus viewers — and this tricky and brilliant WWII comedy (with Ernst Lubitsch directing Jack Benny and Carole Lombard) is one of our all-time favorites.

Amarcord (1973); I Vitelloni (1953): Two Fellinis, twenty years apart, equally perfect.

Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932): Renoir’s classic French farce is mostly remembered these days as the basis of Paul Mazursky’s wonderful Down and Out and Beverly Hills, but hats off to Hader for going back to the source.

The Circus (1928); City Lights (1931); The Gold Rush (1925): A miraculous three-movie, six-year streak of comic perfection from the great Charles Chaplin.

Down by Law (1986); Mystery Train (1989); Stranger Than Paradise (1984): Another remarkable run — the first three films by deadpan comedy master Jim Jarmusch.

Closely Watched Trains (1966): Because it wouldn’t be a list of essential comedies without a little bit of the ol’ Czech New Wave…

Jules and Jim (1962); Shoot the Piano Player (1960): …or the French New Wave, for that matter. Two early classics from Truffaut, neither of them traditional “comedies,” but both sharp, funny, and unforgettable.

Good Morning (1959): Most movie buffs think of Yasujirō Ozu as the delicate and refined director of such dramas as Tokyo Story and Floating Weeds, but this 1959 comedy is equal parts coming-of-age movie and satire of the television age.

L’Atalante (1934); Zero for Conduct (1933): The final two (of only four) films by French genius Jean Vigo, who died at 29, just as he was establishing a distinctive and influential filmmaking style.

Schizopolis (1996): We don’t tend to associate Steven Soderbergh with wacky comedy, but this low-budget, homemade effort (which came at the end of a strange, searching period of post-debut success) has a blackout-sketch quality that’s closer to Monty Python than Costa-Gavras.

Salesman (1968): Renowned documentarians Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin crafted this tragi-comedy account of four traveling Bible salesmen, which maintains its melancholy and satirical bite even after decades of imitation.

The Evil Dead (1981): Hader actually lists all three films in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, but only the first is streaming at either site—but for free here, not even requiring a Plus membership.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988); Parenthood (1989): Aside from the Criterion titles, Hulu also offers up two Steve Martin classics, featuring the two distinctive halves of his onscreen persona: the idiot man-child and the steamed family man. He would seldom do either of them as well again.