The Best Serious Movies Starring Comedians

Over 1.6K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Serious Movies Starring Comedians
Voting Rules
Dramatic or serious films with a traditionally comic actor in a lead role

Dramatic movies starring comedians, ranked by comedy and film fans. Often, after making a name for themselves appearing in wacky or silly movies, comics will purposefully take on a more serious role, often in an attempt to show off their range. Comics like Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler and Robin Williams are all noted for their tendency to alternate between funny and more serious roles (with Williams at some points in his career altogether abandoning comedies in favor of dramas.)

Often, fans are initially resistant to attempts by comedians to change around their style or appeal to new audiences. Sometimes, the experiments blatantly don't work out, with viewers unable to see their favorite funny performers in a new light. But other times, the decision to switch gears in favor of working in a drama pays off for a comedian, sometimes even resulting in award nominations or greater appreciation from acting peers. (As when Eddie Murphy was nominated for an Oscar - and won a Golden Globe - for his role in the musical "Dreamgirls" after years of being written off as the star of goofy features like "Nutty Professor" and "Norbit.")

What are the best serious movies starring comedians? Vote for your favorite serious dramatic films starring comedians. And if your favorite comic-starring drama isn't featured, make your own list and add it as a suggestion!

Most divisive: King Kong
Ranked by
  • Good Will Hunting
    1
    Robin Williams
    843 votes
    • Released: 1997
    • Directed by: Gus Van Sant
    In the heart of Boston, a self-taught genius janitor, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), solves complex mathematical problems at MIT unnoticed. His talents are discovered by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård). The professor seeks therapy for Will's emotional issues from Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), an empathetic psychologist. As Will grapples with his past and future, he finds solace in his relationship with Skylar (Minnie Driver), a Harvard student. Good Will Hunting, a compelling drama directed by Gus Van Sant, won two Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay.

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  • Dead Poets Society
    2
    Robin Williams
    733 votes
    • Released: 1989
    • Directed by: Peter Weir
    In the captivating drama, Dead Poets Society, English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) introduces his students at the conservative Welton Academy to the world of poetry. His unconventional teaching methods, centered around the motto Carpe Diem - seize the day, inspire his pupils to challenge the status quo and explore their individual identities. The narrative unfolds as Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), an aspiring actor, grapples with his authoritarian father's expectations. This 1989 Peter Weir-directed film was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning Best Original Screenplay.
  • The Truman Show
    3
    Jim Carrey
    894 votes
    • Released: 1998
    • Directed by: Peter Weir
    In The Truman Show, Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank, an insurance salesman unknowingly living his life on a TV set. Seemingly ordinary, his existence is in reality a meticulously crafted reality show, broadcasted worldwide. Truman's idyllic suburban life takes a turn when he starts noticing inconsistencies in his daily routine. Co-stars Laura Linney and Noah Emmerich play key roles as Truman's wife and best friend respectively, both part of the elaborate illusion. Directed by Peter Weir, this film offers a thought-provoking take on media manipulation and personal freedom. This satirical drama won several awards for its unique concept and strong performances.

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  • Little Miss Sunshine
    4
    628 votes
    • Released: 2006
    • Directed by: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
    In the indie comedy-drama Little Miss Sunshine, the dysfunctional Hoover family embarks on an unpredictable road trip. Richard (Greg Kinnear), a motivational speaker, his wife, Sheryl (Toni Collette), their rebellious teenage son Dwayne (Paul Dano), and quirky 7-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin) are joined by Edwin (Alan Arkin), a drug-addicted grandfather, and Frank (Steve Carell), Sheryl's suicidal brother. The ragtag group journey in their VW bus to California for Olive's chance to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant. This Academy Award-winning film is a poignant exploration of family dynamics and personal ambitions, each character grappling with their own dreams and disappointments.

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    • Released: 2004
    • Directed by: Michel Gondry
    In the mind-bending drama Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) finds his world turned upside down when he learns his ex-girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), has undergone a medical procedure to erase him from her memory. Struck by despair, he decides to do the same. The movie then takes us on an intricate journey through Joel's mind as his memories with Clementine progressively vanish. Renowned for its unique narrative structure and surreal visuals, this film won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2005. A poignant exploration of love, loss, and memory, it remains a standout in director Michel Gondry's oeuvre.

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  • Awakenings
    6
    Robin Williams
    338 votes
    • Released: 1990
    • Directed by: Penny Marshall
    In Awakenings, Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) is a dedicated and innovative neurologist at a Bronx hospital in the late 1960s. Stumbling upon a group of patients who have been catatonic for decades, victims of a severe form of encephalitis, he finds hope in an experimental drug, L-Dopa. One patient, Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro), emerges from his life-long stupor, inspiring Sayer to administer the treatment to others with miraculous results. As Leonard grapples with a world drastically changed, and Sayer faces the implications of his medical breakthrough, the film explores human resilience and the power of medical science. This drama, based on a true story, was nominated for three Academy Awards.

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