pee-wee's big adventure

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Get your queue in order.

Netflix has been rolling out more original comedy series and standup specials, but it can be an uphill battle to find a good comedy film—and sometimes those generic descriptions make it even more difficult. Here are nine films you can press play on right now.

1) Slow Learners

This 2015 film didn’t see a huge turnout when it was released, and that’s a shame because it’s a fine comedy. Adam Pally plays Jeff, a nerdy teacher who has a book club with his male friends and a not-very-exciting life. Sarah Burns is Anne, his co-worker and friend who is in a similar slump. Together they attempt to make each other over into more interesting people, and while the wait-I’m-falling-for-you plot is nothing new, the comedic chemistry and bits of improvisation between Burns and Pally are the linchpin.

2) Coming to America

Who could forget our introduction to Zamunda or McDowell’s? This 1988 Eddie Murphy film about an African prince who comes to New York to find love has continued to be influential on pop culture: Jay Z and Beyonce used the film as the basis for their Halloween costumes in 2015, and the McDowell’s where Prince Akeem works is on Yelp. It’s a film that works very much in its time and place, so please for the love of god no one reboot it.

3) Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

Netflix released a companion piece to this classic film in 2016—Pee-wee’s Big Holiday—but you’ve got to go back to the source. The 1985 Tim Burton film was the first to showcase the comedic talents of Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) on the big screen, post-Pee-wee’s Playhouse. It gave us Large Marge, the breakfast machine, and a film both kids and adults could hold near and dear.  

4) Wet Hot American Summer

Netflix turned this into an original series in 2015, offering a look at the first day at Camp Firewood, but there’s something about the original film that can’t be beat. It might be because so many of its stars (Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks) weren’t yet famous in 2001, which gives the film about counselors on the last day of camp in 1981 a special feel. It was pretty much panned by critics when it was released, but more than a decade later it’s become a cult classic for its tangential, absurdist bits (like when the counselors go into town and get hooked on drugs) and timeless characters (like Christopher Meloni’s Gene, a chef who talks to cans and fondles sweaters).

5) Clueless

Before Wet Hot American Summer, Paul Rudd starred in this 1995 film, which updates Jane Austen’s Emma for the like, now. It was a star-making role for Alicia Silverstone, who plays Cher, a wealthy, clothes-obsessed high-schooler who fancies herself a matchmaker. It also introduced us to the zeitgeist of mid-'90s youth and their inscrutable lingo, much like director Amy Heckerling’s first film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

6) Clerks

Kevin Smith’s released some real doozies recently, so let’s remember a simpler time: 1994. Clerks was the first in a thread of several interconnected Smith films and follows a day in the life of put-upon New Jersey convenience store clerk Dante and his video-store pal Randal. We’re also introduced to Jay and Silent Bob (played by Smith), a loitering duo that offers even more blue humor in a black-and-white film.

7) Hairspray

It’s a shame there aren’t more John Waters films to choose from on Netflix, but this 1988 film is a good start. Ricki Lake plays Tracy Turnblad, a Baltimore teenager who auditions to be a dancer on The Corny Collins Show. But this isn’t Grease; the film is set in 1962 and Tracy becomes a figurehead for desegregation and racial equality. This is also the final film of Waters’s muse, Divine.

8) Hot Fuzz

As a follow-up to the hugely popular Shaun of the Dead, this 2007 Edgar Wright film had a lot to live up to, but it really does get better with age. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play two cops bumbling around a small town in search of clues about a series of murders. One of its best recurring gags, which involves an escaped swan, became a reality recently.

9) Sharknado

Look, I’m not going to try to sell you on this one. Everything you need to know is there in the title, and the premise has been enough to fuel two more sequels (also on Netflix).

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