StayAtHome Film Festival: Neil’s Comedy Picks

“There’s only one sure thing in this life, Blondini, and that’s doubt. I think.” — Bruno Lawrence in Goodbye Pork Pie

One of the best things you can do during tough times is to sit down and lose yourself in a great comedy film. In my view watching comedy films is good for you, and our free library movie streaming services Beamafilm and Kanopy have some absolute comic gold. I’ve picked just a few of my favourites and tried my best to make the selection as broad as possible to suit every taste and tickle a wide variety of different funny bones.

The choices range from from Howard Hawks’ sassy, wise-cracking masterpiece His Girl Friday to Juzo Itami’s off beat but fabulous “ramen western” Tampopo–not to mention the opportunity to watch Geoff Murphy’s seminal Kiwi comedy classic Goodbye Pork Pie. I hope you enjoy my picks and are inspired to explore our extensive movie catalogue further. Enjoy!


Year: 1985
Length: 116 minutes
Director: Juzo Itami

Click here to watch the full film!

Juzo Itami’s “ramen western” is a totally unique, wryly funny Japanese comedy revolving round food and relationships. It will simultaneously make you laugh and your mouth water and perhaps even tempt you into the kitchen. It is often described as the best movie about food ever! The plot is simple: a pair of truck drivers befriend the widowed owner of a noodle restaurant, and the narrative is interwoven with other stories about food on various levels. This delicious comedy is sweet, surreal and unlike any other.

Discover More:

Overdrive: Hungry after watching Tampopo? Check out the great selection of cookbooks available on Overdrive.

Borrowbox: Borrowbox also has cookbooks available as eBooks–especially Australian titles. Enjoy!

Mon Oncle

Year: 1958
Length: 111 minutes
Director: Jacques Tati

Click here to watch the full film!

Another truly unique comic masterpiece, this time about the central character’s struggle to understand the French fascination with modern architecture and the modern world. This multi-award-winning film features the recurring Tati character of Mr Hulot: in this particular film he is a slightly lost soul bemused by the vagrancies of the modern world. Tati elevates sight comedy to unexpected and unpredictable heights–to, as some people have commented, almost philosophical levels. It also sports a huge supporting cast of dogs which Tati found in the local dog pound. After the film ended, he had become so attached to the dogs he refused to return them there, instead finding homes for them by advertising in a local newspaper: “good homes required for film stars”. This side-story reflects well the film’s quirky, warm-hearted and synchronous nature.

Discover More:

RBdigital: Monsieur Hulot may have struggled with modern architecture, but you don’t have to! Browse contemporary architecture and design magazines (including Architectural Digest and Interior) via RBdigital.

Mango Languages: Did you know that two versions of Mon Oncle were filmed at the same time–one with the dialogue in French, the other in English! (They also swapped out the street signs in the background.) Understand both versions with the help of Mango Languages.

The General

Year: 1926
Length: 75 minutes
Director: Buster Keaton

Click here to watch the full film!

This classic silent movie from the birth of cinema is often cited as one of the best movies ever made. Buster Keaton–“the comic who never smiles”–stars as a locomotive driver during the America Civil War. It’s a physical comedy, but a strong case could be made that this film is in fact the birth of the action movie. The startling, breath-taking, real-life stunts and action-driven plot insures that it rattles along at a breakneck pace, adding strength to such a claim.

Discover More:

Proquest Research Library: Did you know that in the real-life events that inspired The General, it’s the Union army rather than the Confederates that conduct the raid? Learn more at the Proquest Research Library.

Gale in Context: Biography: Roger Ebert has called Buster Keaton “the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies”, but how exactly did he get the name Buster? Find out at Gale in Context: Biography!

His Girl Friday

Year: 1940
Length: 92 minutes
Director: Howard Hawks

Watch the full film here!

His Girl Friday is a masterclass in wise-cracking, sassy, super-fast, ultra-sharp comic dialogue. Made during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the virtuosic comic performances from leads Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell combine with the fabulously taut script to make this screwball comedy funny to this day. The overlapping jokes, dialogue and comic moments come so thick and fast you really need to watch it twice to pick up on everything that’s going on.

Discover More:

DigitalNZ: Before he appeared onscreen, Carey Grant worked in vaudeville–but have you ever wondered about vaudeville in New Zealand? Check out DigitalNZ to see some fantastic local vaudeville posters, reviews and more.

Haynes Manuals AllAccess: Did you know that one of Carey Grant’s first cars was a 1927 Packard Sport Phaeton? He probably didn’t do his own repairs, but if he did he could have used our Haynes Manuals AllAccess database!

Goodbye Pork Pie

Year: 1980
Length: 105 minutes
Director: Geoff Murphy

Watch the full film here!

Even if this seminal Kiwi classic comedy has dated somewhat, it is still an essential watch for anyone interested in NZ film. Shot in 1979 on a tiny budget, the film is a time capsule of certain aspects of NZ life in the early 1980s. The film’s comedy is energetic, frenetic, frantic, sarcastic and very Kiwi. The film’s fast-moving plot involves two loser heroes who race across the New Zealand landscape in a yellow mini, getting into all sorts of scrapes and escapades along the way.

Discover More:

Naxos Jazz Library: As well as being a director, Geoff Murphy was also known for playing a mean jazz trumpet. Listen to streaming audio of classic jazz via our fantastic jazz database!

BWB Books Treaty of Waitangi Collection: Geoff Murphy’s third film, Utu, is partly based on the life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki. Read more about Te Kooti in Judith Binney’s Redemption Songs: A Life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, available now via our BWB books collection.

Frances Ha

Year: 2012
Length: 86 minutes
Director: Noah Baumbach

Watch the full film here!

Steeped in the vibe that is New York in the early part of the 21st century, this is a tale of New York youngsters, their lives, loves and relationships as seen through the eyes of a struggling dancer. Greta Gerwig’s portrayal of the endearing, loopy, slightly maddening and very endearing central character Frances Ha steals the show. It is a touching, fresh, gentle and friendly observational comedy that uses New York as a kind of side character and is a really enjoyable way to spend a night, afternoon or morning in.

Discover More:

Naxos Video Library: Did you know that the Naxos Video Library contains live recordings of a range of dance productions? (As well as theatre, opera, jazz and more!)

Combined search: Frances Ha has been described as “mumblecore”–but what exactly is this genre? Search across our eResources to find a range of explanations.