We compile a list of low-budget, underappreciated comedy films to add to your watchlist, as well as one wild card where the budget is unknown…
Let’s get straight to it. Films are featured in this list because they have been forgotten, side-lined, overlooked or just plain lost to the jumble of our lives. These are the 12 budget comedy films (and a maybe-low-budget film) that really should be seen more.
Rules Of Engagement
– These films have made me chuckle, giggle and belly laugh. Now, it might seem that I’m bragging about my immense sense of humour (which I am), but I’m also saying I only recommend films that I’ve watched myself. What’s good for the goose is great for the film nerds.
– Every film bar the ‘Maybe’ has to have been made for under $5 million, and if you didn’t read the number out like Dr Evil from Austin Powers, you’re wasting your life.
– All the films have been released after 2000.
– Films need to be available to stream. There will be no dumpster diving on eBay to find the only DVD copy left on earth. It’s radical, but I’d like you to be able to watch these films in the comfort of your pants.
– Each film comes with a serving suggestion, because why the fudge not?
Explaining the Maybe…
Trying to pin down the finances of movies is like navigating a haunted maze filled with rumours; the hedges keep moving, and you have to fight trolls (also known as studio financial officers) to uncover the truth. And sometimes you can’t; sometimes Goliath wins.
The ‘maybe’ is a film I highly suspect is a low-budget banger, but it’s impossible to know, like a woman’s heart or what’s in the mystery meat special at porta cabin on the A4.
So, without further ado, here are the 12 low budget comedies and a maybe to add to your watchlist.
Supporting Characters (2012)
Daniel Schechter’s 2012 film follows two friends editing an independent movie trying their best in New York. They have to deal with love, life, and a depressive, hyperbolic director who just keeps getting in everyone’s way of trying to finish the film: a hilarious turn by Kevin Corrigan.
There are jokes in amongst the drama, an early one about dog euthanasia had me giggling*, but these are spaced out, peppered in, scattered; and that’s a good thing. This isn’t some rib-breaking, can’t-breathe snot-creation comedy. This is a well-observed, clever Sunday afternoon watch; maybe while peeling potatoes for the roast dinner, the cat purring against your fluffy socks.
*Context – I’m known as D.I., aka Dead Inside, around these parts.
Where to watch: For free (with ads) on Amazon.
Serving Suggestion: A Manhattan cocktail, but pump up the pretentious level by serving it in a jam-jar along with a humble brag of how Elliott Gould gave you the recipe.
Tristram Shandy: A Cock And Bull Story (2006)
Another film about making films, but this time, a very British affair. The perfect vehicle to showcase the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ of the century – Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
Based (sort of) on the 18th-century novel The Life And Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne.
This film is so meta that there is no fourth wall; it’s just an open-plan exploration of the chaos of filmmaking, novel writing, life living, historical battle reenactors, childbirth, and the unpredictable nature of sash windows. It’s also very funny.
Warning, you’ll never think of the word saliva in the same way.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Serving Suggestion: I could be childish, but I’m going to resist and recommend a nice cold glass of Horse’s Ass instead. There really is a wine called this; I’ve just ordered eight bottles for ‘friends’.
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
For a title with the word ‘kids’ in it, there is a lot of sex in this film – funny, cringy, skin-slapping sex. To be fair, there are worst ways to spend an afternoon than watching Mark Ruffalo’s arse going ‘at it’.
Starring powerhouses Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a married couple with two teenage children, this film is a light-hearted comedy drama exploring the complexities of modern family life. Set in the endlessly smug and sunny Los Angeles, everyone looks impossibly healthy and cool, but they hide a wealth of anxiety. Exactly like the real Los Angeles!
Written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko, she takes the ‘meet your sperm donor dad’ set up into new and unexpected places.
Budget: $4 million
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play movies, Amazon Prime and Apple TV
Serving Suggestion: An locally sourced, organic, seasonal smoothie with a red wine chaser.
I like it dark; See the above joke about dead dogs.
But even I couldn’t help but enjoy this joyous, sweet, easy-going film. Starring Jena Malone, Mandy Moore and Macaulay Culkin as teenagers in their last year of a Christian high school which, it turns out, is very much like every other high school. There are confused walking hormones in every corridor, an unmarried mother keeping a baby bump hidden under various body warmers, and drive-by exorcisms. Ok, maybe it’s not like every high school.
Could it have been sharper? Of course, but when all the world does is bring knife fights to Twitter, it’s nice to wrap yourself in something that wears its heart on its sleeve. Watch after a long sesh of doom scrolling to grow a heart that has shrunk two sizes too small.
Budget: $5 million
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV
Serving Suggestion: The blood of Satan, not just for the irony, it also has a full-bodied flavour that pairs well with sugary treats.
Win Win (2011)
I get a sweat on trying to wrestle my bra on in the morning, so sports films, even comedy ones, aren’t my bag, but this little indie movie from director Tom McCarthy won me over.
We delve into the life of small-town attorney Mike Flaherty, played by Paul Giamatti and his loveable high school lyric-clad losers, aka The Wrestling team. He’s got 99 problems, and as these things tend to do, that number is going to increase exponentially. Starring Amy Ryan as the ‘no bullshit’ wife, Bobby Cannavale as the comic relief and Alex Shaffer as the lifeline. A gentle and upbeat family comedy that hits the warm and gooey bits I’ve heard humans have.
Budget: $5 million
Where to watch: YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime.
Serving Suggestion: A protein shake.
Four Lions (2010)
Chris Morris’s comedy is like eating a P.B. B&B sandwich* on the toilet – it isn’t for everyone. His debut feature film follows four jihadis from Sheffield and their dreams of sticking up two fingers at western hypocrisy.
It has something to say, is fantastically subversive, and its whiplash humour is infinitely quotable (I still use the Rubber Dingy Rapids when talking about the afterlife).
Jumping off the career of Adeel Akhtar (excellent in Utopia), and solidifying Riz Ahmed’s career (ferocious in The Road To Guantánamo), plus a deliciously ludicrous turn by Benedict Cumberbatch. Punching in every direction, it does so with the power of laugh-out-loud ridiculousness.
*P.B., B&B is a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich supposedly eaten by Elvis on his golden crapper. Class.
Budget: $3.7 million
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV
Serving Suggestion: A kebab with all the works. In homage to a scene from the film where the greatest hostage scene of all time happens. Screw Die Hard. Yeah, I said it.
In A World… (2013)
In A World… is one woman’s dream of becoming a voice-over legend like her dad. Funny in all the right places, charming everywhere else, this film is a cheeky little feminist twist on the underdog story. It’s written and directed by, as well as starring (she probably did the catering as well) the annoyingly talented Lake Bell.
Fred Melamed does a great turn as a selfish father who needs a lesson in supporting his children. Tig Notaro also stars (who I love in Star Trek: Discovery) and Nick Offerman (who I love in everything). There are others, but you know this isn’t Wikipedia.
Enough is going on in this 93-minute budget banger to play on expectations, but it’s also not going to get you burning your bras and forming a breakaway nation of women only. But if I did, it would be called ‘Boobie Town’ in an ironic way.
Budget: $1 million
Available on: YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime.
Serving Suggestion: Tie in with the theme and have a big box of popcorn: pairs perfectly with the tears of men.
In The Loop (2009)
It has been pointed out to me at the end of an exhausting debate, where I’ve drained the will to live from everyone at the bus stop, that other humans aren’t as into politics as I am. But even if you’re not into the poo-throwing circus that is modern politics, this is a must-watch.
Based on the TV series The Thick Of It, you don’t need to have watched that to enjoy this. Written and directed by Armando Iannucci, it’s the blackest of political satire. Up there with Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.
Following an inept set of British and American legislative underlings, some trying to start a war, others trying to stop it, the 105-minute film is stuffed with swearey insults, insults with added swears, and sometimes just swears. Jokes fly out from every scene, all laced with a heavy dose of cynicism.
This is a very British kind of farce – there are no heroes, but you’ll be laughing so hard you won’t have a chance to feel depressed at the state of it all. Starring Peter Capaldi as The Swear Master, Tom Hollander as The Master of None and James Gandolfini as Master of Military Hardware (he isn’t, that’s the joke. Watch the goddamn film.)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, and Netflix.
Serving Suggestion: A big pot of tea with dunkable biscuits; only Original Digestives need apply.
Dear White People (2014)
Some of the jokes and references sailed over my head, but not everything has to be for white people. But even if your melanin count is at Dracula levels, you should still watch this film, not only because it’s culturally significant, which it is, but because it’s unapologetically smart, wickedly funny and a bit of brilliance.
Following the growing tension of black and white students at a fictitious, prestigious Ivy League college, this film charts its own course. There are no clichés, no homogenization of groups and very few clear-cut answers. Written and directed by Justin Simien, this film is a big old tin of brain lube. Watch it with people who have one.
Budget: $1.3 Million
Where to watch: Apple TV and Google Play
Serving Suggestion: Since this film is about college students, a dangerous amount of luminous alcohol in shot form feels right.
This film about the back end of humanity has front-loaded its heart. A mockumentary about the trials and tribulations of Kenny, an Australian port-a-loo plumper whose line of work will never go down the pan… I’ll get my coat.
Starring Shane Jacobson in the title role, even with all that human, er, waste floating around this film is thoughtful, doesn’t gross out on its own premise and is a riot.
Budget: Less than $1 million
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play
Serving Suggestion: Kenny warns his customers that spicy food changes the ‘piss-to-shit ratio’, so get yourself a curry and brace yourself for some laughs.
Please Give (2010)
There is guilt, and then there’s ‘upper-class white lady living in New York selling dead people’s furniture at eye-watering prices’ guilt. Meet Kate. (She also has a sideline in waiting for a bitter old neighbour to die so she can extend her flat).
Mother of an ungrateful teenager and wife to an unworthy husband, they look on, puzzled, as she tries to ease all that sticky soul shame in any way possible. Played perfectly by Catherine Keener, Ann Morgan Guilbert also stars as the living obstacle to the master suite, aka The Bitter Old Neighbour, and Sarah Steele is The Ungrateful Daughter.
It all comes together under the creative vision of Nicole Holofcener, writer and director. This film is for you if you like your comedy perceptive, laced with cringe and old ladies saying things we’re all thinking.
Budget: $3 million
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, and Netflix.
Serving Suggestion: A cushion to hide behind for all the mortifying ‘well-meaning’ moments.
Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001)
For someone who doesn’t ‘do’ sport, I have more than enough sports films on this list… two. But I’m willing to get out of my comfort zone if you’re willing to watch a cult classic.
Following an England team on the edge (in every sense of the word) of the World Cup in Brazil, Ricky Tomlinson heads a great cast who give it their all. For the long-suffering England Football fans* this film can cut a little deep, but that is where the best humour lives… slashed right into the bone.
Directed by Steve Barron, this is a joyously farcical and self-deprecating look at England’s favourite game.
*My feminist Spidey–sense flared up and I have to tell you England has won a major football tournament since 1966. The Euros 2022, the players just happened to have boobs while doing it.
Budget: £3.6 million
Where to watch: Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play and Apple TV
Serving Suggestion: A slightly warm, overpriced pint you’ve had to queue for 40 minutes to get that true World Cup experience.
Boy is basically a man being eleven years old and all, has a goat called Leaf (who eats everything) and a younger brother called Rocky (who thinks he has superpowers), but that’s only the start of his problems after his Grandma leaves him in charge for the week.
A quirky coming-of-age film set in 1984’s New Zealand, which, if it’s an accurate representation, was full of weed farms, burnt-out cars, woefully inadequate adults and beautiful landscapes.
Directed by Taika Waititi in his second outing as a feature-length director, he uses the young cast to great effect. Blending heart-breaking drama with laugh-out-loud humour, this is a refreshing film that doesn’t shy away from the darker parts of growing up when you have crappy parents, but somehow you still feel hopeful when the credits run.
Where to watch: Watch Free with Ads on Amazon
Serving Suggestion: Follow Boy’s lead by treating your friends to ice lollies and hammer home the theme with Kiwi-flavoured ones.
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