Most action comedies are more action than comedy, or more comedy than action. It’s rare that an entry in this subgenre brings out the best in both of its components, but there are some that strike the balance.
Both action and comedy have the capacity to be the most entertaining genres in cinema, so action comedies have the potential to fire on all cylinders with the entertainment factor, but few of them have the sumptuous combination of exciting action and hysterical comedy. Here are the best action comedies that blend the genres perfectly.
Updated Nov. 25, 2021 by Colin McCormick: There’s something about the combination of action and comedy that consistently draws audiences. The best action comedy movies feature intense and pulse-pounding action sequences only to break the tension with well-placed jokes, and the exhilarating back-and-forth gives audiences a huge rush. The genre continues to grow, and there are always new examples of action comedy movies that combine the genres well. If audiences are looking for some thrills to go along with their laughs and vice versa, there are plenty more wonderfully balanced action-comedies to check out.
- Available to stream on FuboTV and IndieFlix
Bruce Willis is one of the most iconic action movie stars of all time, but it’s a lot of fun to see him riffing on his own tough-guy persona in movies like Red. In it, Willis plays a retired CIA agent who becomes targeted by the government.
Willis is joined by some other great actors like Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich, each playing badass spies who may be past their prime but still kick plenty of butt. There are some great action moments, including a fun fight between Willis and Karl Urban. Malkovich is hilariously eccentric in a scene-stealing role.
The Other Guys (2010)
- Available to rent on Apple TV
The pairing of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg seems bizarre, but it works so well for the hilarious buddy-cop action comedy movie The Other Guys. Ferrell and Wahlberg play disrespected cops who team up to solve a massive case.
Director Adam McKay delivers some fun action moments mostly thanks to Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson as a pair of hilariously clichéd cops. But the two leads also make for a hilarious team, with Wahlberg showing off his surprising comedic chops.
The Suicide Squad (2021)
- Available to rent on Apple TV
While James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies benefit from his irreverent sense of humor, The Suicide Squad feels like the result of Gunn being allowed to embrace his wildest ideas. The R-rated comic book movie follows a group of supervillains forced into a dangerous mission together.
Gunn took inspiration from adventure movies like The Dirty Dozen while also injecting the movie with his dark sense of humor. The result is one of the bloodiest, funniest, and most outrageous comic book movies ever made, as well as one of the best action comedy movies.
- Available to rent on Apple TV
Few people would have envisioned Melissa McCarthy as an action star, but she pulls it off wonderfully in Spy while also remaining her usually hilarious self. McCarthy plays a desk worker at a spy agency who is put into the field on a mission.
The movie has a fun time playing against audience expectations with its casting. McCarthy is very impressive in the movie’s fight sequences while Jason Statham delivers the funniest performance in the movie as an over-the-top and dim-witted superspy.
True Lies (1994)
- No streaming options available
Arnold Schwarzenegger is another legendary action star who is fun to see in a slightly sillier role. In James Cameron’s True Lies, Schwarzenegger plays a government agent who hides his dangerous life from his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) only for those two worlds to collide.
Given that it is Schwarzenegger and Cameron teaming up again, it should be no surprise that the movie delivers some genuinely amazing action scenes. But the marital storyline is also surprisingly hilarious, with Schwarzenegger and Curtis delivering terrific comedic performances.
21 Jump Street (2012)
- Available to stream on Netflix
When Jonah Hill took on the task of writing and starring in a movie reboot of 21 Jump Street, an old cop show about undercover officers infiltrating a high school, he set out to combine the wacky antics of John Hughes’ high school comedies with the high-octane thrills of Michael Bay’s action movies.
Thanks to Hill’s hilarious on-screen chemistry with his co-star Channing Tatum and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller bringing a distinctive visual flair to the movie, that curious vision was realized. The sequel, aptly titled 22 Jump Street, is also well worth a watch.
Kindergarten Cop (1990)
- Available to stream on FuboTV, Showtime, DIRECTV and Spectrum On Demand
Comedy is not necessarily one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s strengths as a performer, but he has given brilliant comic performances when he’s leaned into the self-parodying element of his comedic vehicles.
Ivan Reitman’s Kindergarten Cop is a prime example, as he plays a tough-as-nails detective who begins working as a kindergarten teacher in order to catch a drug dealer who is suspected to be in contact with his ex-wife and son.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
- Available to stream on Tubi TV
Guy Ritchie’s film adaptation of the classic The Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV show did a great job of both recapturing the zany spirit of the original series and keeping up with the nonstop thrills of modern action cinema.
Having been overlooked for the role of James Bond in favor of Daniel Craig, Henry Cavill relishes the consolation prize that is the role of Napoleon Solo in this movie.
Bad Boys (1995)
- Available to stream on HBO Max and Spectrum On Demand
After he got his start directing music videos but before he could command nine-figure budgets to create deafening displays of “Bayhem,” Michael Bay helmed the first installment in the Bad Boys franchise.
The second one was bigger and bolder, and the third one was much better-received than anyone expected when it hit theaters earlier this year, but the first movie is still the best, capturing the unique comic energy created by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s unparalleled chemistry.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
- Available to stream on fubo TV, FXNow, DIRECTV and Spectrum On Demand
Matthew Vaughn brought an R-rated comic sensibility to the familiar tropes of spy movies when he adapted Mark Millar’s Kingsman comics for the big screen. Kingsman is a Bond movie by way of the Deadpool school of self-aware zaniness.
Colin Firth is a compelling lead as Harry Hart, an uber-skilled gentleman spy who’s twice as polite and three times as violent as 007, while Taron Egerton’s portrayal of rookie Eggsy is infinitely lovable. Plus, Samuel L. Jackson delightfully hams it up as the villain, Valentine.
Free Fire (2016)
- Available to stream on fubo TV, Showtime, Hoopla, Kanopy, DIRECTV and Spectrum On Demand
Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire uses narrative simplicity to its advantage. Set in Boston in the ‘70s, the film is about an arms deal gone wrong that culminates in an intense gunfight. There’s no pesky plot getting in the way of the visceral action and fun comedy.
This movie is carried by its cast, which is filled with such greats as Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, and Sharlto Copley, while Wheatley’s strong command of unconventional filmmaking techniques makes Free Fire feel unique.
Pineapple Express (2008)
- Available to stream on Netflix
As the story of a witness to a mob hit going on the run, Pineapple Express establishes itself as an action-packed thrill-ride early on. And since that witness is a stoner, there’s also a healthy dose of humor in the setup.
Seth Rogen and James Franco are hilarious in the lead roles, with such supporting players as Danny McBride and Craig Robinson backing them up, so the cast takes care of the comedy. Thanks to director David Gordon Green and his cinematographer Tim Orr, the action is shot spectacularly.
48 Hrs. (1982)
- Available to stream on Paramouth Plus
Nick Nolte is a gruff comic foil for his zany co-star Eddie Murphy in the movie, which tells the story of a no-nonsense cop (Nolte) who reluctantly lets a criminal (Murphy) out of jail for 48 hours to help him track down his old partner-in-crime. They’re the ultimate mismatched buddy cop pairing.
Big Trouble In Little China (1986)
- Available to stream on Starz and Spectrum On Demand
Following the martial arts movie wave of the 1970s, the ’80s brought on a new era for the genre that was marked by increasingly weird action and a backdrop of the occult. Big Trouble in Little China was perhaps the wackiest take on this.
Kurt Russell stars as truck driver Jack Burton, who helps his best friend Wang Chi to save his fiancée, who has been trapped in the hidden underworld beneath Chinatown by an ancient sorcerer. Russell hilariously subverts his usual tough-guy persona, instead playing an incompetent, pratfalling loser who is completely unprepared for combat situations.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
- Available to stream on Paramount Plus and Amazon Prime Video
Since his parents were actors, Ben Stiller grew up on film sets, and he once noticed that the cast of a war movie treated their experience like they’d actually been in a war zone and seen active combat. So when Stiller became a filmmaker in his own right, he made a hysterical satire about actors starring in a war movie.
Thanks to Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Black, and their supporting cast (including an infinitely hilarious turn by Tom Cruise as a ruthless, giant-handed studio executive), Tropic Thunder is never more than a few seconds away from a laugh-out-loud moment, and there’s plenty of action to boot.
Rumble In The Bronx (1995)
- Available to stream on Kanopy and FILMRISE
Jackie Chan is a hugely influential action star who mixes superb fighting styles with the psychical comedy of Buster Keaton. Chan has woven these two things together on the screen brilliantly in everything from the Police Story saga to The Tuxedo.
The movie that got Chan noticed by Hollywood was Rumble in the Bronx, in which he plays a Hong Kong cop who travels to New York and falls in with a local gang as he plots to bring down a nefarious crime syndicate.
The Nice Guys (2016)
- Available to stream on Hulu
Shane Black’s The Nice Guys deserved a lot more attention from moviegoers than it got. Thanks to Captain America: Civil War and Me Before You, it was buried at multiplexes in 2016, but it’s one of the most fiercely original movies in years.
It’s a noir-tinged, ‘70s-set buddy cop story starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as a pair of mismatched private eyes who are forced to work together. Gosling and Crowe have hilarious chemistry; it would be great to see them reunited in a sequel.
Midnight Run (1988)
- Available to stream on Netlfix, Peacock and Peacock Premium
Martin Brest’s Midnight Run is essentially Planes, Trains and Automobiles with guns. Robert De Niro stars as a bounty hunter named Jack Walsh who brings in a mob accountant named Jonathan Mardukas, played by Charles Grodin, while evading the feds, the mob, and his closest rival.
De Niro and Grodin are perfectly cast, with the former brilliantly tackling his first comedic role and the latter supplying his usual pitch-perfect delivery to each line.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
- Available to stream on HBO Max, HBO, Max Go and Spectrum On Demand
Sylvester Stallone was initially attached to star in Beverly Hills Cop and wrote a draft of the script as a dark, dramatic action thriller. When the producers decided to give it a comedic angle, Stallone dropped out and reused some of his ideas in Cobra, while Eddie Murphy came aboard Beverly Hills Cop and brought his unbridled comic energy along with him.
Director Martin Brest has a handle on the plot, ensuring that it’s always moving forward with palpable momentum, while Murphy makes the most of his first starring role with a barrage of ad-libbed hilarity.
Hot Fuzz (2007)
- Available to stream on Max Go, DIRECTV and Spectrum On Demand
Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz is ostensibly a parody of the conventions of buddy cop movies, but it’s also a prime example of one. Simon Pegg stars as a big-city cop transferred to a small town, while Nick Frost is the bumbling local cop he’s partnered up with. Together, they uncover a widespread conspiracy in a town with a low crime rate contrasted with a suspiciously high accident rate.
Wright is one of the few comedy filmmakers who actually bothers to use framing and editing to add to the humor, and he has a strong handle on directing thrilling action, too.
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