Seven films written and directed by comedian Albert Brooks are about to be available for streaming for the first time on Netflix. As of tomorrow, Netflix subscribers will be able to watch Defending Your Life; Lost in America; Modern Romance; Mother; The Muse; Real Life; and Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World at a moments notice, and as often as you want.
These films are brilliant comedy classics full of quotable lines, great performances and more laughs than any movie released since. They’re so good, it would be nearly impossible for us to rank them, so just watch them all, but here’s a rough guide of how we’re planning to (re)watch them.
Defending Your Life is celebrating a 25 year anniversary, so that’s as good a place as any start, and might be the best, and is certainly the funniest depiction of the afterlife ever put onto film. Brooks stars in the film with Meryl Streep and Rip Torn. Next pair up a double feature with Lost in America and Modern Romance, two movies that will make you understand how amazing romantic comedies used to be. In LiA, Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty play a married couple who drop out of society to travel America in a Winnebago. You know, like Easy Rider. Things start so promising for the couple, with beautiful melted cheese sandwiches, but quickly go awry in every way possible, and this is the movie that made the phrase “The Desert Inn has heart” unforgettable. Modern Romance features Brooks and Kathryn Harrold going through relationship problems. They break up, they make up, they break up. And Brooks personifies the awful break up and every terrible thing you or your friends have ever done out of desperation. Bruno Kirby co-stars, and Bob Einstein has a great scene- scratch that, every scene in this movie is great. This might be the most quotable of all the Brooks films. Watch it and leave time to just start it over again as soon as the credits roll.
When you’re ready to move on, cue up Real Life. It’s actually the first film Brooks directed, and it’s one of those ‘so brilliantly far ahead of its time that you can’t even believe it happened’ movies. It’s a spoof of the 1973 reality TV show “An American Family” and stars Brooks, Charles Grodin, Frances Lee McCain, J.A. Preston and Matthew Tobin. Brooks is a documentary filmmaker attempting to live with and film a dysfunctional family for a year. Between this and Brooks’ later written novel 2030, it’s clear that Albert can see the future- or at least the awful things coming down the pike. Not only does he show us Real Housewives decades before they existed, but we also look at the craziness of the crew, the ego of the director and so much more. Jump forward in time to The Muse next. Brooks plays a Hollywood screenwriter with writers block, who is referred to the services of a muse played perfectly by Sharon Stone. Jeff Bridges and Andie MacDowell co-star. And the scene at a party where Brooks’ character explains what he does for a living is one of the funniest ever filmed. The Muse actually gets funnier every time you watch it.
Take a break, stretch your legs and then cue up Mother, because now that we’ve seen Albert be dysfunctional at work, with romantic partners, and with the afterlife, all that’s really left to explore is Brooks playing a grown son who has a dysfunctional relationship with Debbie Reynolds, perfectly cast as his mother. This film may drive you crazy, but it will also make you laugh as you grit your teeth. Finally, Brooks most recent film that he wrote directed and starred in- Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World. To improve its relations with Muslim countries, the United States government sends comedian Albert Brooks to south Asia to write a report on what makes followers of Islam laugh. The film stars Albert Brooks, Sheetal Sheth and John Carroll Lynch. And finally you can get the answer to the question about why there is no trick or treating in India.
Watch. Rinse. Repeat.
“Albert Brooks and his films have been a huge influence on American comedy,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer at Netflix, “His innovative early short films and comedy albums lead to body of film work that thrives in the culture and keeps us laughing today. We are proud to have our U.S. Netflix members revisit these great works and to help introduce Brooks’ comedies to the next generation of fans.”
Brooks marked the announcement with a taped message:
Back in 2012 we wrote up 10 great Albert Brooks movies you have to see in our Lock Yourself in Weekend with Albert Brooks and six of these seven movies made our list.