Judd Apatow’s mark on the comedy landscape cannot be overstated. With 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin he ushered in an entirely new style of comedy. One marked by improvisation, long takes, and lacking in huge recognizable stars. This “grounded” approach was immediately embraced by audiences and kicked off a slew of imitators, all while Apatow produced and helped shepherd the individual voices and careers of folks like Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and Kristen Wiig, among many others.
But looking closer at the films that Apatow directed himself is fascinating. There’s a common thread among them all—a balance of R-rated humor with sincere emotion—but as the years go on, Apatow tries to push closer into drama territory while changing up his cinematic style a bit. And with Apatow’s latest effort, The King of Staten Island, releasing this Friday on VOD now felt like a good time to revisit and rank all of Apatow’s films.
[Editor’s note: While Apatow’s documentaries are excellent—particularly The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling—this list is focused only on his narrative feature films.]