The best black comedy movies: Don’t feel bad for laughing
Of all the comedy subgenres, black comedies are the best. Black comedies are considered movies featuring bleak & taboo subjects like death, mutilation, doomsday, etc. for our enjoyment or laughter. If you laugh at over-the top violence, then you probably love black comedies.
The term black comedy wasn’t coined until 1935 by French theorist André Breton, but the genre dates back to author Johnathan Swift in the 1700s – Breton credits Swift as the creator of black comedies. Black comedies can also refer to comedies featuring a majority Black cast. As they are known today, dark comedies were originally called black comedies translated from the French humour noir.
Sometimes the best black comedies don’t set out to be comedies. They start as dramas and, purposely or not, make us laugh while forcing us to deal with serious & taboo topics. IMDb doesn’t list some black comedies as comedies, but it doesn’t make them any less funny.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove deals with nuclear war & doomsday in a lighthearted manner. The film’s nonchalance about a rogue U.S. general deciding to drop atom bombs on Russia exemplifies how Kubrick uses comedy to underscore the imminent danger.
Peter Sellers’s three characters tie the movie together. His nervous president & insane ex-Nazi scientist couple perfectly with George C. Scott’s over-the-top General “Buck” Turgidson. Sellers is also intensely funny as the hapless Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake trying to talk sense into the paranoid Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper. Sellers & Scott’s performances make Dr. Strangelove a must-watch for fans of black comedies.
Pulp Fiction is one of Quentin Tarantino’s most recognized works. It has over-the-top violence thanks to its two mob hitmen, played by John Travolta & Samuel L. Jackson, but also has Tarantino’s innate ability to splice in comedy.
Travolta & Jackson provide much of the comic relief. When Jackson is intimidating Brett in the apartment, we know Brett won’t survive the conversation, yet it’s mostly about his meal. Even when Travolta shoots Marvin, it’s incredibly hilarious. It’s on the list of Tarantino’s most hilarious uses of over-the-top violence.
If you find yourself laughing through Pulp Fiction, it’s okay – it’s also meant to be funny. Pulp Fiction, much like the rest of Tarantino’s work, is a black comedy.
The Death of Stalin
In a movie about Joseph Stalin’s death set in Soviet Russia, none of its actors speak with a Russian accent. The Death of Stalin is a hilarious black comedy about the Central Committee vying for power after Stalin’s death.
While not a Monty Python movie, The Death of Stalin’s satire & comedic timing is on par with the famous British comedy troupe. A movie set during the Soviet Union’s height doesn’t seem like the perfect comedy, but trust us, you won’t be able to stop laughing. The ensemble cast is impeccable and effortlessly finds the humor in its dark story.
Jojo Rabbit won writer & director Taika Waititi an Oscar. It’s a coming of age movie about a young boy befriending a Jewish girl in Nazi Germany. It’s hard to make anything about Nazis a comedy, but Waititi does it with ease. Jojo Rabbit is a fresh take on a World War II film and makes light of a global tragedy –but not in a disrespectful way.
Jojo Rabbit takes a hard look at Nazi Germany through the innocent eyes of a child. This perspective and the bizarre but captivating humor help make the film a black comedy. Waititi’s cast is also delightful together and a hilarious joy on screen.
Heathers is one of the best teen films of the 1980s not made by John Hughes. Director Michael Lehmann directed a fantastic black comedy about suicide, high school hierarchy, and teen angst. Its comedic moments and bright, happy ending overshadow its dark subject matter.
Heathers nails every high school caricature perfectly, and every line is memorably funny. Daniel Waters wrote an incredible story that’s provocative yet chock full of comedy. While definitely the darkest movies on the list, Heathers will still make you laugh.