After we recovered from watching Borat’s latest adventure, we got to thinking about satire, and the ways sharp comedy can reflect the worst (and best) aspects of our culture. Here are 10 more satires you can stream right now.
Alexander Payne’s black comedy, based on Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name, is about a student government election that goes off the rails when a teacher (Matthew Broderick) tries to undermine the candidacy of the ambitious Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon). “Election” is a classic but perhaps worth considering in a different light: As the New York Time’s A.O. Scott noted last year, Tracy Flick has for too long been cast as the film’s villain. It’s time to take a more critical look at that meddling teacher. (Stream on Amazon Prime)
“Sorry to Bother You” (2018)
In Boots Riley’s feature directorial debut, Cash (Lakeith Stanfield) climbs the corporate ladder at a telemarketing company after a co-worker (Danny Glover) coaches him to use his “White voice” (which in actuality is David Cross’s) on calls with potential clients. But Cash’s success, which also follows his involvement in a union demonstration, comes at a steep price. There are a lot of worthy messages in “Sorry to Bother You” — about capitalism and oppression and racism — but be prepared for things to get really, really weird at the end. (Stream on Hulu)
Now is a great time to revisit the predecessor to the film that has taken over the news cycle. The first movie — which was Oscar-nominated for best adapted screenplay — introduced scores of moviegoers to fictional Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev and his incompetent and unintentional ways of exposing misogyny, racism and anti-Semitism. Hurry before the film leaves its current streamer on Nov. 1. (Stream on Amazon Prime)
Mike Judge (of “Office Space” and “Beavis and Butt-head” fame) and co-writer Etan Cohen imagine a dystopian future that finds America ruled by anti-intellectualism, with dire consequences for the environment, entertainment and humanity. A certified box-office flop, “Idiocracy” — which Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday dubbed “'Borat’s’ dark twin” — has been somewhat redeemed over the years by fans who appreciated the film’s cultural commentary, and lately, those who find its themes all too familiar. (Stream on HBO)
“Jojo Rabbit” (2019)
Taika Waititi goes after Nazis while playing a bumbling Adolf Hitler in his multiple-Oscar-nominated film about a young German boy who dreams of joining the Hitler Youth. Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) begins to realize his goal with Waititi’s clownish — and imaginary — Hitler by his side but is offered different perspectives by his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) and an unlikely friend (Thomasin McKenzie).
It’s tough to balance comedy with a subject as reprehensible as Nazi Germany, but most critics believed Waititi and his ensemble cast pulled it off. “'Jojo Rabbit’ may have fun puncturing demagoguery and fanaticism, but it’s deadly serious when it comes to the heart, and its ability to turn,” Hornaday wrote in a 3½-star review of the film that would go on to earn an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. (Stream on HBO)
A beloved and pioneering comedy? Roger that! This parody trains its mockery on the disaster-film genre to hilarious results. In 2010, the movie was added to the National Film Registry, which chooses selections that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. Yes, we’re serious, and don’t call us Shirley. (Stream on Netflix)
“Knives Out” (2019)
Writer-director Rian Johnson infuses this “Clue”-like mystery with social commentary as detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) investigates the death of renowned author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), whose relatives stand to inherit his massive fortune — or assume so, anyway. The film’s ensemble cast also includes Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas as Harlan’s nurse, Marta. (Stream on Amazon Prime)
“The Forty-Year-Old Version” (2020)
Playwright Radha Blank reflects on her career through a heightened reality — as a Black, female, New York City-based artist trying to reinvent herself — in this charming and poignant comedy, which earned the directing award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. (Stream on Netflix)
Warren Beatty plays Jay Billington Bulworth, a Democratic senator from California who has all but given up on his life, career and political pretenses in this well-reviewed comedy, which was also directed and co-written by Beatty. For all of its sharp political commentary, the film — which stars Halle Berry as the love interest who inspires Bulworth to start speaking his mind — has also been criticized for reinforcing racial stereotypes. (Stream on Starz)
Horror has long been a satire-compatible genre (see: “Stepford Wives,” “Get Out,” etc.), and the combo is particularly thrilling in Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning film about the upstairs-downstairs relationship between an elite South Korean family and the working-class people they hire to make their lives easier. (Stream on Hulu)