These are the darkest and funniest dark comedies

The phrase “dark comedy” just hits the ears in a unusual way. How can comedy and dark themed elements merge on screen? Well, to understand the phrase, it is important to discern what creates a dark comedy. Most of the time, this genre is fundamentally layered with darker subject matter. We may be exposed to death, war, suicide, or mental health issues; virtually nothing is off limits. Although there is darkness, there is also a clarity to it. By incorporating comedy into their grim subjects, these films provide a more breathtaking experience. It breaks the story away from being labeled as either a drama, horror or even merely a comedy itself, enabling the film to tackle provocative concepts without rejecting audiences.

The dark comedy genre is very wide and can be used to tell a variety of stories. The following list compiles the best of what makes a dark comedy what it is. These award-winning classic films from both modern and previous films still take audiences on a journey, through heavy themes that stand alone as dark, but with comedy that adds realism (or sometimes surrealism) and relief, allowing us to laugh and to deal with the pain. These are some of the darkest and funniest dark comedies.

9 Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance)

Fox Searchlight Pictures

This Oscar winner for Best Picture tells the story of an aging man trying to find himself in a world that keeps moving forward. by Michael Keaton Riggan Thompson has been flushed out and stuck in the past. He mostly lives in his own head and can not accept that he is no longer the popular actor of his youth. We all have that voice that tells us we are too good, or not good enough. Thompson has that voice (which sounds like his old superhero character Birdman), and it’s quite loud. The film takes us on an unusual journey to this character’s consciousness. How he deals with the world around him is quite funny. The reality of the characters and the environment is more contemporary than he understands. It is our world that we are still seeing evolve. Voëlman satirize everything that modern society consists of in a way that makes us look and laugh in the mirror. Is this really what we do and how we spend our days?

8 A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange Herrelease Trailer: Kubrick's Classic Returns This Spring
Warner Bros.

Alex and his three drones act as if they are children in a playhouse. Sing, dance and break anything they can get their hands on. But how do these young men prepare for a night of ultra-violence? They’re sitting in a milk bar drinking … you guessed it, milk. While the series of violence is embedded in the minds of the viewers, A Clockwork Orange has this strange contrasting lightness. Alex is quite cheerful at the beginning of the film. We see him as this happy psychopath who with a cane like the famous dancer and actor Gene Kelly, whose “Singin ‘in the Rain” he mockingly imitates while beating the homeless. We get to know this young man through the film and see how he goes through the trials and tribulations of rehabilitation. The film contains bright colors, energetic and rather uplifting classic scores, along with exuberantly eccentric characters balancing its incessantly dark subject matter. It remains a classic and is often referred to as Stanley Kubrick’s best.

7 Shaun of Death

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are ready to fight zombies in Shaun of the Dead
Universal pictures

Edgar Wright is a genius when it comes to mixing genres. This classic zombie comedy was filled with explosive violence and pure panic at the incoming apocalypse. The main focus of Shaun of Death is the external world not plunging into violence; instead it’s a movie about a boring guy who leads a boring life as a salesman for a boring company. He is forced to fight to not only stay alive, but to overcome his own fears. Shaun is the every human being who wonders what they would do if there was ever a zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately for him, he is thrown into the middle of it and turns into an action hero in this bloody, delightful dark comedy.

6 American Psycho

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Lions Gate / Columbia Tri-Star

While Patrick Bateman is at its core an unreliable narrator, his voice-overs allow us to truly get into the mind of a violent narcissist in American Psycho. What really creeps under his skin is hilarious because of its total ridiculousness. Business cards, seriously? How obsessed he is with the texture, the slanted wording and sleek shine under fluorescent lights humorously reveals so much about this character, especially when Bateman almost foams around the mouth while observing a map that might be just a little more sophisticated than his is. This character thrives on his own perfection and power over himself, but when that search for power manifests over others, it is when the story takes a much darker turn. At its core, it’s all about a man obsessed with his own self-esteem, and a dark hilarious dissection of 80s narcissism.

5 Dr. Strangelove, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

Dr StrangeloveFINALE

Stanley Kubrick‘s masterpiece encompasses one of our most inherent fears as a society. Nuclear war is a threat to the whole world and has been so since the technology was discovered. Kubrick uses fear as the driving force behind his characters through paranoia and neuroticism. They are completely involved in the procedure and removed from the outside world, but the outside world may or may not be a threat. The threat is their own anxiety, based on what they have wrought as represented by a flickering light on a screen. Technology, whether credible or not, prevails in this satire. These are the eyes and ears in the war room filled with generals and scientists. Ironically, this room is without a single real window to the outside world. As an example, Dr Strangelove‘s “amazing good idea” is based entirely on computers that determine the fate of those who live or die.

4 Jojo Rabbit

Taika Waititi is Hitler in a new Jojo rabbit photo
Fox Searchlight Pictures

How can Hitler be funny? Ever since Mel Brooks wrote a song called “Springtime for Hitler” for The manufacturers, filmmakers tried to exploit the dark humor of one of the worst dictators of all time. Here it helps to have him played by the film’s director Taika Waititi, which captures the pure megalomania of the character by playing him as a messy cartoon character (and imaginary friend of a Hitler youth). He brilliantly portrays the haste of the Nazis and their obscene, horrible fanaticism under his direction; we are all aware of the atrocities of World War II, but Waititi allows us to see the absurdity and stupidity of racial hatred through the eyes of a child. While Jojo never really meets his hero the führer, he sees first-hand the horrors of war and tyranny. This is where the film goes from innocent and fun, to genuine and brutal. Jojo Rabbit combines these seemingly helpless moments perfectly with breaks from the laughter of Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant.

3 Beetlejuice

Michael Keaton sits on a tombstone as the titular Beetlejuice
Warner Bros. Pictures

One of Tim Burton‘s most famous movies, Beetlejuice is filled with dark undertones. Maybe it’s not morbid enough to see our innocent young protagonists being thrown from a bridge after their death. What about following them into the world of the dead and seeing how their fallen souls just yearn for purpose and direction in a useless endless new universe? The ideas of Beetlejuice is extremely dark (including Winona Ryder as a young girl with suicidal thoughts), and yet Burton manages to make them hilarious. Michael Keaton as the musty Beetlejuice is brilliantly funny. He is detached, from the wall, and completely mean, while still being somehow charming at heart. He is a demon with style, swag and a spinning head, and helps bring an amazing comedy to a dark movie.

2 Fargo

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The Coen brothers are masters at casting unusual characters in a very realistic environment. Fargo chronicle of a series of unfortunate events that lead to misunderstandings and even further unfortunate events. From Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy)’s wife being abducted, to a roadside massacre, all hope seems lost. But who is called to resolve the matter? The Only Marge Gunderson (brilliantly played by Frances McDormand). Each character is unique and entertaining in their own way. The criminals are joking this silly, Tarantino-like joke, Jerry is a comically pathetic salesman, and Marge is ridiculously pregnant and witty in a dry way. It’s a joy to see how these characters go about their day and endure the snowy environment around them. All the fun and games can come to a screaming (or wood-splitting) halt in the last act of the film, and the subject matter can become quite serious, but the frivolity of the dialogue and acting brings a fresh breath to what could have been ‘ a melodrama that one can see on Investigation Discovery.

1 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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To condense this movie accurately into a simple summary or to put it in a genre box looks just as ridiculous as the movie itself. It’s wild, hilarious, scary, and simply weird, but Hunter S. Thompson would probably add that there are not enough weird and unusual things in the world. Although the film is fairly simple in its sober plot, it is riddled with drug-induced panic and a tense paranoia that makes the audience restless, no matter how funny or silly it may become. The movie is meant to make you feel like you have no idea what’s going on. The fear of uncertainty starts from the moment Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro fly through the desert in their swaying red cabriolet. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas still referred to as one of the weirdest movies ever made. It’s a psychedelic experience that makes us laugh at these characters’ hustle and bustle, while also making us completely unbalanced by the “in-your-face” visual spectacle and manic, dark behavior on screen. It is a perfect blend of hilarity and uncomfortable darkness.

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