Everyone has a dark side, and that side likes to laugh, too.
For this list, we’re taking a look at movies that are dark or sensitive in terms of subject matter, but also manage to infuse humor into the plot. It’s not necessarily offensive humor, but more of a comical take on things that could otherwise have us blubbering into our popcorn.
#10: “Death at a Funeral” (2007)
A death at a funeral would seem like the natural order of things, sorta; but in this British comedy, it’s really just the backdrop. The film focuses on a family’s attempt to have a proper sendoff for their beloved patriarch. But between dealing with guests on hallucinogenic drugs, deep, dark family secrets, and blackmail attempts, it’s all they can do to deliver the eulogy.
#9: “Trainspotting” (1996)
Debilitating heroin addiction isn’t usually a comedy goldmine, but this twisted ‘90s classic works a fair amount of chuckles into the story, despite its decidedly dark subject matter. Following the exploits of a group of junkies, “Trainspotting” manages to weave humor throughout. And, after a neglected baby dies while they’re busy shooting up, it’s safe to say there are moments when a good laugh is needed.
#8: “Harold and Maude” (1971)
A 79-year old free spirit and a 20-something young man are drawn together by one thing: their fascination with death. Their unconventional friendship sees them exploring and enjoying life, going on a number of adventures together. But as their friendship evolves into a romantic relationship, the two are pulled together even more, causing Harold’s family to lose their cool and turning the May-December romance into a doomed Romeo and Juliet story – but a darkly funny one at that.
#7: “Bad Santa” (2003)
When you’re an alcoholic thief moonlighting as a mall Santa, you gotta wonder what went wrong in your life. At least, you might be inclined to if you cared about anything other than sex and getting drunk. Throw in a naïve and idealistic kid who still believes in Santa Claus and the movie is ripe for inappropriate and offensive behavior.
#6: “Heathers” (1988)
This one’s both quintessentially ‘80s and an anti-teen film. In an era when most teen movies had the kids dancing in the streets or winning over the boy of their dreams, “Heathers” bucked the tradition. Instead, it sees Winona Ryder and Christian Slater as a pair of teenage lovers with blood on their hands. Popular teens being killed off under the guise of suicide makes for some tricky comedic material, but somehow this film manages to pull it off.
#5: “Seven Psychopaths” (2012)
It’s a convoluted dark comedy involving dognapping, serial killers and violent criminals. But somehow, through all the death and destruction, wit and humor manage to be the driving force of the film. It probably helps that it’s got the eternally weird Christopher Walken, since he’s mastered the darkly funny shtick. Plus, the cute doggie manages to survive in the end. So how dark can it be, really?
#4: “The War of the Roses” (1989)
When some marriages go bad, they go very bad. Others get deadly. Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas play a rich married couple that appears to have it all, except they hate each other. And while that may seem pretty standard, their way of dealing with their contemptuous feelings is not: as the divorce proceedings grow more and more heated, the two are pitted against each other in an all out battle for possession of the family home.
#3: “Pulp Fiction” (1994)
From the same mind that later brought the equally dark “Inglourious Basterds” to the big screen comes this exceedingly violent film that sneaks in comedy when you least expect it! Following several intersecting storylines, this Quentin Tarantino film is underscored by brilliant moments of absurdity and brevity. It may seem like everyone in town is out to kill each other, but the violence is interspersed with enough humor, witty dialogue and sharp writing to elevate the movie and make it more than just a gritty crime drama.
#2: “Fargo” (1996)
With films such as “Barton Fink” under their belt, dark comedies are where the Coen brothers shine. “Fargo” centers on a pregnant police chief as she investigates the link between a kidnapping and a series of deaths. What makes this film so darkly comical is the stark contrast between the grimness of the deaths and the politeness of the central antagonist and protagonist. But ultimately, there’s really no way to be polite about running a body through a wood chipper.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
– “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (1949)
– “American Psycho” (2000)
– “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006)
– “In Bruges” (2008)
– “Very Bad Things” (1998)
#1: “Dr. Strangelove” (1964)
If you don’t think the threat of potential global annihilation is funny, well, we don’t blame you. But then again, maybe you just need to watch a darkly funny movie about it – and, thanks to Stanley Kubrick and several Peter Sellers, you can. The threat of nuclear war and mutual assured destruction looms imminent after a paranoid U.S. senior officer orders an errant attack. As multiple factions scramble to prevent a Cold War from turning hot, dark comedy underscores the entirety of the film.