Judd Apatow
Essential Judd Apatow Movies to Watch
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Judd Apatow may be one of the most recognizable names in Hollywood today, as the writer, director, and/or producer of a string of R-rated comedies that have become modern classics, but at one point he was just a kid on Long Island who idolized Steve Martin and the Marx Brothers.

As the story goes, Apatow tried his hand at stand-up comedy for the first time at 17, briefly studied screenwriting at college before dropping out, moved into an apartment with Adam Sandler, and eventually met his comedy mentor, Garry Shandling. In 2005, he made his feature directorial debut with The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

"That's the greatest thing about comedy — if you've got talent, it's unmistakable," Apatow wrote in his 2016 book, Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy. No one misses it and you don't have to wait around for a break. It's very easy to get a break. It's very hard to be good enough."

Apatow has gone on to shape what it means to be funny for an entire generation of comedians and moviegoers alike, with films that are as full of heart as they are cringe-inducing humor and sex jokes, and often feature his go-to actors like Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and Melissa McCarthy.

His latest film as a producer, the rom-com Bros starring Billy Eichner, hits theaters this weekend. Below, A.frame is looking back at 10 of his most essential films from nearly two decades of Apatow productions.

1
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
2004
Anchorman
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Directed by: Adam McKay | Written by: Will Ferrell and Adam McKay

Produced by: Judd Apatow

One of the most quotable comedies of the last 25 years, this riotous farce introduced us to a '70s San Diego news anchor played by Will Ferrell and his reaction to the arrival of a new co-anchor (Christina Applegate). The Apatow producer stamp is all over this directorial debut from future Oscar winner Adam McKay, with an iconic cast featuring Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Kathryn Hahn, Fred Armisen, and some very surprising cameos.

2
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
2005
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
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Written, Produced and Directed by: Judd Apatow

Apatow co-wrote (with Steve Carell), produced, and directed this hit romantic comedy that promoted Carell to leading man status. Mixing heartfelt romance and naughty jokes, its ensemble cast of characters and belated coming-of-age story created the template for many comedies to come over the following decade as electronics retail employee Carell navigates the pitfalls of finally experiencing his first time.

3
Knocked Up
2007
Knocked Up
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Written, Produced, and Directed by: Judd Apatow

Apatow's next triple-threat release turned to another aspect of human reproduction, in this case an unplanned pregnancy involving a wildly mismatched pair played by Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl. Several familiar faces from Apatow’s short-lived cult classic series Freaks and Geeks (including Rogen, Jason Segel and James Franco) turned up here and in multiple later films, while Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s supporting characters here went on to get their own vehicle, This Is 40 (2012).

4
Superbad
2007
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Directed by: Greg Mottola | Written by: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

Produced by: Judd Apatow

Anxiety over graduating from high school fuels this wildly popular overhaul of the modern teen comedy, with Michael Cera and Jonah Hill as buddies whose plan to pull off a beer party (along with a scene-stealing Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse) leads to a night of big trouble and even bigger life changes. Greg Mottola helmed this Apatow-produced film featuring a star-making turn by Emma Stone and hilarious support from Seth Rogen and Bill Hader as a pair of unorthodox cops.

5
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
2008
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Directed by: Nicholas Stoller | Written by: Jason Segel

Produced by: Judd Apatow

A more adult kind of separation fuels this breakup comedy with Jason Segel as a dejected musician whose attempts to get over his breakup with big TV star Sarah Marshall (played by Kristen Bell) go haywire when they end up vacationing at the same spot in Hawaii. Nicholas Stoller directed the Apatow-produced rom-com, which features spectacular Oahu scenery and a breakthrough role for Mila Kunis as the receptionist who offers a new way forward after major heartbreak.

6
Funny People
2009
Funny People
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Written, Produced and Directed by: Judd Apatow

Apatow returned to producing and directing his own script with a major change of pace, turning his personal experiences in stand-up comedy into a character study starring his real-life onetime roommate, Adam Sandler. Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kamiński shot the film featuring stalwarts Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen in the story of a terminally ill comic who decides to become a mentor and right the wrongs he’s made in his life.

7
Bridesmaids
2011
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Directed by: Paul Feig | Written by: Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo

Produced by: Judd Apatow

The hilarious hit comedy Bridesmaids stars Kristen Wiig as Annie, a woman in her late 30s who lost her pastry shop during the Great Recession and is struggling both financially and romantically. Nevertheless, as the lifelong best friend of engaged to be married Lillian (Maya Rudolph), Annie must serve as the maid of honor. Committed to making things perfect, Annie leads Lillian and the other bridesmaids down the wild and expensive road to the wedding. If planning and partaking in the festivities weren't already difficult enough, Annie even faces competition from a wealthy bridesmaid (Rose Byrne). The rest of the stellar cast includes Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Chris O'Dowd, and Jon Hamm. Bridesmaids received two Oscar nominations, one for Best Original Screenplay and another for McCarthy for Best Supporting Actress.

8
Trainwreck
2015
Trainwreck
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Produced and Directed by: Judd Apatow | Written by: Amy Schumer

Amy Schumer made an explosive debut as both an actress and a screenwriter with this off-kilter romantic comedy produced and directed by Apatow. Here she plays a free-spirited magazine writer (working for Tilda Swinton) whose years of father-induced warnings against monogamy have turned her relationships into a nonstop disaster. After enjoying a life free of commitment, she accidentally falls for a good guy, a renowned sports doctor (Bill Hader). And, so begins a self-healing journey where she must face her biggest fears. 

9
The Big Sick
2017
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Directed by: Michael Showalter | Written by: Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani

Produced by: Judd Apatow

Another twist on the modern rom-com was Kumail Nanjiani's acclaimed leap to the big screen, which he co-wrote with his wife, producer and podcast host Emily V. Gordon, inspired by their own relationship. Apatow produced the heartfelt story about a burgeoning relationship that takes a sudden and dramatic life-threatening turn, this time set against the world of stand-up comedy from a Pakistani-American perspective.

10
The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling
2018
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Written, Produced and Directed by: Judd Apatow

Apatow produced and directed this two-part documentary feature exploring the fascinating life of his real-life friend and mentor, Garry Shandling, who had passed away two years earlier. Michael Cera returns here as the narrator and guide through the achievements and influence of this comedy innovator, using decades of archival material, as well as new interviews with Shandling's family members and friends, to paint a portrait that comes straight from the heart.

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