The Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski wasn’t overly popular when it was first released in the late ‘90s – especially because it was the duo’s follow-up to their chilly Oscar-winning masterpiece Fargo and, when audiences were expecting another Fargo, the Coens gave them a screwball stoner comedy – but it has since developed a cult following.
The problem with the movie is that it has a style that is so unique, there are hardly any movies like it. But there are movies with a sense of humor that’s just as quirky – if not identical to Lebowski’s own sensibility – that’ll tickle your ribs in the same way. Here are 10 Quirky Comedies To Watch If You Like The Big Lebowski.
10 The Royal Tenenbaums
Pretty much every film from Wes Anderson’s filmography could be included on this list, since he’s the first name in quirky comedies, but the one that’s the closest in style to The Big Lebowski is The Royal Tenenbaums.
It has a very loose plot, just like Lebowski; it has a hilarious cast of memorable and unusual characters, like Lebowski; and it has a dark and carefree sensibility, like Lebowski. It is the quintessential tale of a dysfunctional family, with a patriarch who abandoned his kids when they were teenagers returning during their adulthood in an attempt to make amends with them.
9 In Bruges
Martin McDonagh’s feature directorial debut is as much an existential study of guilt as it is a quirky dark comedy, as two hitmen are sent to lay low in Bruges after a botched job. The film’s Belgian setting is so obscure and mundane that it acts as a beautiful metaphor for purgatory.
On the surface, the movie appears to be a series of zany sketches revolving around bizarre characters, but dig a little deeper and you’ll see that, thematically, it’s so much more than that. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson play the central duo, while Ralph Fiennes provides phenomenal support as the pair’s foul-mouthed boss.
8 Being John Malkovich
Director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman have collaborated on a number of quirky movies – including one in which Nicolas Cage plays dual roles as Kaufman himself and his fictional twin brother – but their finest hour is also their first, Being John Malkovich.
It’s about a struggling puppeteer who takes an office job and finds a portal into the mind of John Malkovich behind a filing cabinet. What makes the movie work is that, despite this quirky premise, it’s really a story about human relationships. Under the guise of a weird comedy, we get an earnest tale about what happens when a married man falls in love with another woman.
7 Midnight in Paris
Watching a Woody Allen movie these days can be a pretty uncomfortable affair, but at least if he doesn’t actually act in it and there isn’t a relationship with an inappropriate age difference, it’s not too bad. Midnight in Paris stars Owen Wilson as a kind of laid-back, West Coast version of Allen who yearns to live in the 1920s.
He travels to the French capital with his fiancée, played by Rachel McAdams, and finds that at a certain point in the city, at the strike of midnight, he can go back to the ‘20s and rub shoulders with Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso. It’s a lot of nostalgic fun.
6 The Nice Guys
This movie didn’t do nearly as well at the box office as it deserved to. It was written and directed by Shane Black, the creator of the Lethal Weapon franchise, and it seemed to be the first chapter in the next big buddy cop franchise.
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe star as two private eyes in the 1970s who reluctantly pair up when a couple of their cases cross over with the death of the same porn star. Like The Big Lebowski, The Nice Guys is a Raymond Chandler-esque mystery story with a more comedic bent than Chandler’s own stories.
Kevin Smith maxed out ten credit cards to fund his directorial debut Clerks. He shot it on black-and-white film to save money and filmed during the night (working in the store he was shooting in during the day).
Clerks changed the face of indie cinema in 1994, because the story of two hockey-loving convenience store employees in New Jersey who debate Star Wars and hate their jobs resonated with a huge audience and pundits realized that the more weirdly specific a movie’s identity was, the more relatable it would become. 25 years later, Clerks remains a timeless classic beloved by comedy fans.
4 The Squid and the Whale
Noah Baumbach has a way of making indie movies look and feel like indie movies, all the while being accessible to a mainstream audience. This was his fourth film, and his first major success, and it tells the story of two boys dealing with their parents’ divorce in the mid-‘80s. Baumbach drew on his personal childhood experiences to develop the script.
The Squid and the Whale has a very minimalist style – it was shot on Super 16mm film with mostly handheld cameras – so the focus is on the performances of the actors, and here, they’re impeccable. Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, and an early-career Jesse Eisenberg all give stellar turns in the lead roles.
3 Office Space
Mike Judge’s Office Space celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. It’s a hilarious articulation of the monotony of corporate America and the boredom of working in an office.
It stars Ron Livingston as an office drone who gets so fed up with filing TPS reports and making copies with a copier that doesn’t work that he decides to just stop going to work when he doesn’t feel like it and tell his bosses how he really feels when he does decide to come into the office. Jennifer Aniston, in an early film role, Stephen Root, and Gary Cole appear in supporting roles.
2 Inherent Vice
If you’ve ever wondered what The Big Lebowski would look like if it was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson instead of the Coen brothers (or, perhaps you’ve only just realized you want to see that now that you know it exists), then Inherent Vice – Anderson’s adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name – is the movie for you.
It might not be as laugh-out-loud hilarious as the Coens’ stoner classic, but it features two impeccable turns from Joaquin Phoenix, who fits into the pseudo-Dude role well, and Josh Brolin, who relishes the chance to do anything silly to counteract his typically gruff persona.
1 Napoleon Dynamite
Jon Heder stars as the title character in what is possibly the quirkiest comedy ever made. It’s a movie about a high school nerd who wants to ask the girl he likes to the dance and get his new friend Pedro elected class president.
On paper, it might sound like a generic high school movie. But in this movie, it’s all about the sense of humor and the visual style, and they’re utterly unique to brothers Jared and Jerusha Hess. Napoleon Dynamite might be a little too weird for mainstream audiences, but for anyone who enjoyed The Big Lebowski, it’ll be a comic delight.