With Bullet Train, The Suicide Squad, and Everything Everywhere All at Once, the 2020s have already delivered some terrific action comedies. But the decade has a lot to live up to after all the action comedy classics that blended the two genres so spectacularly in the 2010s, like the game-changing meta superhero movie Deadpool or the raunchy spy caper Kingsman: The Secret Service.
What if a regular guy decided to put on a mask and fight crime? That’s the question posed by Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Mark Millar’s subversive Kick-Ass comics. Dave Lizewski doesn’t have superpowers or fancy tech; he just has a drive to help people.
Kick-Ass’ hysterically unsuccessful vigilante career is contrasted with the truly badass antics of Batman-esque dark knight Big Daddy and his gun-toting daughter Hit-Girl.
With Melissa McCarthy in the role of a desk jockey-turned-field agent, Paul Feig’s espionage caper Spy upends every tradition of Bond movies. From Q-style gadgets to cheesy one-liners in the face of certain doom, Spy tackles all the clichés.
One of Feig’s funniest movies, Spy features a scene-stealing supporting turn by Jason Statham as a secret agent who’s as clueless as he is charismatic.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
When he came aboard the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Taika Waititi revitalized Thor’s on-screen adventures with a much-needed dose of humor in Thor: Ragnarok. Odinson finds himself stranded on the bright, colorful world of Sakaar, where he’s forced to fight as a gladiator against a familiar foe.
There are countless self-aware gags in Thor: Ragnarok, like the God of Thunder describing the Hulk as “a friend from work,” but Waititi didn’t lose sight of the emotional core of the vulnerable heir to the Asgardian throne learning what it takes to be a true leader.
The Other Guys (2010)
Adam McKay brought his own unique brand of absurdist humor to the “buddy cop” movie in The Other Guys. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star as a pair of NYPD desk jockeys who get swept up in a city-wide conspiracy that affects their pensions.
The Other Guys has just as many hilarious sight gags and self-aware one-liners as McKay’s debut feature, Anchorman, but with plenty of explosions, shootouts, and car chases along the way.
Game Night (2018)
John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein combined Hitchcockian thrills with a dose of dark humor in their underappreciated gem Game Night. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as a competitive couple whose game night turns into a real-life mystery when one of the guests is kidnapped by gangsters.
There are plenty of great gags in Game Night, like McAdams trying to dig a bullet out of Bateman’s arm before finding an exit wound, but the mystery plotting is also genuinely compelling.
21 Jump Street (2012)
Although it began its life as the reboot nobody asked for, 21 Jump Street ended up being the meta action comedy everybody needed. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller constantly draw attention to the far-fetched premise, the obscure I.P., and the nature of franchise filmmaking without losing sight of the emotional core of a friendship being tested.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum prove to be perfectly matched, both comedically and dramatically, with convincing chemistry as long-time best friends. Tatum makes a great “straight man” opposite Hill’s tour de force of comedy.
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
James Gunn brought the perfect blend of heart and humor to Guardians of the Galaxy. Based on an obscure property with a talking tree, the first Guardians movie proved that Marvel Studios could make a riveting, action-packed, emotionally engaging hit movie out of anything.
While Gunn filled the movie with both sci-fi spectacle and darkly comedic banter, he let dramatic scenes like Groot’s sacrifice play out without comic relief to deflate the pathos.
The Nice Guys (2016)
Shane Black, the master of the “buddy cop” movie, returned to the director’s chair for a “buddy P.I.” movie set in the 1970s. The Nice Guys combines slapstick with social satire in an action-packed detective caper.
Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling were so well-matched in the lead roles that their dynamic would’ve sustained as many sequels as Black’s first big hit, Lethal Weapon, if it had been a bigger smash at the box office
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Kick-Ass isn’t the only Mark Millar comic that Matthew Vaughn brought to the big screen in spectacular style in the 2010s. He also turned The Secret Service into a hard-R riff on the James Bond formula with the first entry in the Kingsman franchise.
The first Kingsman film set a high bar for the series that followed with Colin Firth’s hilarious turn as Harry Hart and a string of stunning set-pieces like the “Manners maketh man” bar brawl and the Lynyrd Skynyrd church massacre.
After making his on-screen debut with his mouth sewn shut in a supporting role in someone else’s PG-13 movie, the Merc with a Mouth was finally able to shine in his own R-rated solo movie. Like the comics it’s based on, Deadpool breaks down the artifice of superhero stories by having its eponymous masked vigilante smash through the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience.
The sharp self-awareness of Deadpool helped to freshen up a genre that was going stale. The action scenes are as fun as any comic book movie, but the fourth wall breaks make it a totally unique experience.