Top 10 Judd Apatow Movies

Over the past two decades, Judd Apatow has had a hand in some of the best comedies to come out of Hollywood. He’s often seen as this generations John Hughes and in 2007, was ranked #1 on Entertainment Weekly’s The 50 Smartest People in Hollywood. He’s known as a uber-producer, but also writes and directs, preferring to work with familiar faces rather than entirely new casts. Many of his fans go back to his excellent TV series from 1999, Freaks and Geeks, which was cruelly cancelled after just one season, which is various interviews, Apatow has mentioned as his motivation for his success and growing net worth.

Let’s have a look at our top 10 picks from his already extensive career…

10. Step Brothers (2008)

Director: Adam McKay | Producer: Judd Apatow | Writers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

Ahh! John C. Reilly, the perennial underdog, the forgotten character who so admirably supports those around him, without ever really getting the credit he deserves. His turn in Step Brothers is so good that it appears natural, almost to the point where you end up not appreciating some of the great comic moments that he conjures up.

The chemistry between Will Ferrell and Reilly is undeniably what creates the funniest moments, with both improvising large portions of the dialogue whilst filming.

Ultimately, itʼs one step away from being great, but still well worth a watch.

9. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

Director: Adam McKay | Producer: Judd Apatow | Writers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

Re-teaming Anchorman Director (Adam McKay) and itʼs producer (Apatow) with Will Ferrell should have been a magical mix, itʼs a more tightly plotted affair than Anchorman, with Will Ferrell flitting between downright hilarious to over the top goofiness from scene to scene.

When the film gets it right, its undeniably funny, with John C. Reilly proving to be an excellent straight man to Will Ferrellʼs thick-as-shit Ricky Bobby.

Talladega Nights just about manages to keep us laughing, mainly due to its fast paced nature.

8. Bridesmaids (2011)

Director: Paul Feig | Producer: Judd Apatow | Writers: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo

Female-focused comedies used to be restricted to the Sex in the City type flicks that men have to be dragged kicking and screaming to watch, Bridesmaids managed to break that mould by bridging the gender gap and then go on to become the biggest comedy of 2011.

Kristen Wiig’s excellent turn as Annie, the hard drinking, disorganized, no nonsense heroine of the film, which Wiig co-wrote, is just as funny as any of her male counterparts in other Judd Apatow movies.

A mention also has to go to Melissa McCarthy (of Mike and Molly) for some of the funniest scenes of the last few years.

7. Funny People (2009)

Director: Judd Apatow | Producer: Judd Apatow | Writer: Judd Apatow

Given its subject matter – a successful stand-up comic is diagnosed with leukemia and has one more year to live – it may come as a surprise to learn that Funny People is nowhere near as dark or sad as you might think.

Adam Sandler gives one of his better performances as the doomed aforementioned comic, with the main cast allowed room to improvise but still staying within the confines of the scene.

Out of all the films on this list, Funny People is probably the highest rated by film critics, with some excellent set pieces and a free flowing feel that makes the 150 minutes breeze by.

This is one of Apatowʼs more personal movies, having wrote, produced and directed it, He also used to be room-mates with Adam Sandler, which may explain how he managed to get such a good turn from him.

6. The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)

Director: Judd Apatow | Producer: Judd Apatow | Writers: Judd Apatow, Steve Carell

When a movies’ main star is willing to have his chest hair ripped out for the sake of authenticity, thatʼs when you know you have a winning comedy on your hands folks!.

Judd Apatow made the jump to the directors chair for this one, with Steve Carrell excelling, playing the average guy going through his everyday sex-free, boring life, but managing to make a loveable character out of Andy. This was the movie that brought Judd Apatow to the attention of the masses, and is still a hugely entertaining watch 8 years – and many repeated viewings – later.

Seth Rogen and Paul Judd are outstanding as Andyʼs friends and co-workers, improvising a lot of their scenes, including the ʻ Do you know how I know youʼre gayʼ scene, with the entire thing being completely unscripted.

This is the type of film that Vince Vaughn would give his left testicle to make, but only someone with Steve Carrellʼs laid back like-ability could pull off. Genius.

5. Knocked Up (2007)

Director: Judd Apatow | Producer: Judd Apatow | Writer: Judd Apatow

Written and directed by Judd Apatow, It was originally conceived as a sequel to The 40 Year Old Virgin, with Seth Rogen and Paul Judd working at Smart Tech.

This is Apatowʼs most personal movie, with a lot of the scenes based on his real life experiences. Knocked Up manages to be both a straight up R-rated comedy and a rom-com all at the same time.

This is easily Seth Rogenʼs best role as heʼs never better than when playing the ordinary Joe stoner type, which some have said is closest to how he is off screen.

Overall, itʼs a great story about the responsibilities that come with age and having a family.

4. The King of Staten Island

Director: Judd Apatow | Producer: Judd Apatow | Writer: Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, Dave Sirus

Judd Apatow co-worte The king of Staten Island with the main star, Pete Davidson, who drew on his own childhood experiences of bereavement, owing to Pete losing his firefighter father on 9/11. The result is a solid comedy but with a big heart.

The cast is rounded out with a brilliant turn from Bill Burr alongside Marisa Tomei and Steve Buscemi.

If this movie had been released under normal non-covid conditions in theatres , it could have been one of the biggest comedies of the year, as it received good reviews and would have boomed through word of mouth. 

3. Pineapple Express (2008)

Director: David Gordon Green | Producer: Judd Apatow | Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

Another film written and starring Seth Rogen, who originally wrote the screenplay in 2001, but could only get it made after his success in Knocked Up and The 40 year old Virgin.

Originally, Judd Apatow wanted a $50 million budget, but due to the drug-related storyline, he could only raise $25m.

With Danny McBride cast as Red, many bits were improvised, with whole scenes making the final cut that wasnʼt even scripted. James Franco proved he could do comedy, with some of the best lines coming his way.

This is still one of my favorite movies to kick back and relax to.

2. Superbad (2007)

Director: Greg Mottola | Producer: Judd Apatow | Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

Itʼs a rare thing for a comedy to meet with almost universal praise from the critics, itʼs even more unusual when its an R-rated comedy with dick jokes and scenes featuring menstrual blood.

Superbad played to its strengths, written by best friends Seth (Knocked Up) Rogen and Evan Goldberg, they based it on their own experiences in high school.

Johan Hill, Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are all perfectly cast as the put upon nerds trying to get some love and attention.

Not only does Superbad contain some of the best moments of comedy over the past decade, but its also got a kick ass soundtrack.

1. Anchorman (2004)

Director: Adam McKay | Producer: Judd Apatow | Writers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

Will Ferrell is a comedy god, and Ron Burgundy is still his greatest creation. The brain child of both Ferrell and director Adam McKay, Will Ferrell was inspired by a story about Jessica Savitch, a female news anchor in Philadelphia in the early 1970ʼs and how she battled her way up the ladder against male chauvinism.

The screenplay was originally rejected by Dreamworks over 20 times before they finally rolled the dice on it, still fearing that it would be a financial failure (it wasnʼt, it grossed $90m on a budget of $25m). During filming, the actors would often ad-lib lines, sometimes doing over 20 different versions of a scene.

So much footage was recorded that the first trailers featured a number of scenes that never made the final cut, the mountain of extra footage was used to create a loose sequel called Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie, which was released on DVD late in 2004.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, was released in 2013 and although funny, its not quite up to the gold standard of the first one. It would come in at number 11 on this list though.