10 Best Black Comedy Movies That Will Make You Laugh And Cringe

The black comedy films are some of the darkest and most hilarious ever made.

By Nathan Kamal | Updated

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Everyone loves to laugh, which is probably why comedy has been one of the most popular film genres since the very beginning of cinema. Black comedy (which is to say, dark, often taboo-breaking humor) is a style that has the potential to either elevate a workplace comedy into something great like The Office or the simple tale of a bear encountering illicit substances into a satire like Cocaine Bear. We have put together a list of the best black comedy movies out there, so sit back, enjoy, and wonder if it’s really okay to joke about that.

Very Bad Things (1998)


Very Bad Things is what would happen if you put a lens of nihilistic realism over the Hangover movies and admitted that maybe things wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) work out completely okay for a group of selfish jerks on a bachelor party bender in Las Vegas. The directorial debut of Peter Berg (later of Friday Night Lights and a whole bunch of Mark Wahlberg movies) is a dark, violent film that examines the logical procession of events that would happen when a bunch of idiots actually try to cover up a murder.

Starring Christian Slater, Daniel Stern, Jon Favreau, and Cameron Diaz, Very Bad Things follows a group of friends after they accidentally kill a sex worker and spiral into a maelstrom of further deaths, brutal accidents, and soul-crushing despair. But you know, it’s funny!

Burn After Reading (2008)

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The Coen Brothers have always been known for the comedic element of their films, and it has never been darker or snarkier than the black comedy espionage satire Burn After Reading. The film stars Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand as two not-so-bright gym employees who luck across the unpublished tell-all memoir of a disgruntled former spy (John Malkovich), and well, things don’t go well.

Burn After Reading has a typically astonishing cast for a Coen Brothers movie, including George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and the great J.K. Simmons as a nameless CIA officer bewildered by what all these idiots are doing. If your typical spy movie is about James Bond types being cool and competent, Burn After Reading is about people too stupid to even realize they’re screwing up.

Harold and Maude (1971)


Harold and Maude is not only one of the great black comedy movies of the 1970s, but it is also one of the decade’s sweetest/weirdest romances. Hal Ashby’s film centers on Harold (Bud Cort), a death-obsessed young man with a habit of scaring off blind dates his mother sets him up with by staging horrific fake suicides. Enter Maude (Ruth Gordon), an elderly woman with a laissez-faire attitude to life, who inspires him to a whole new mindset.

You could make a good case for Harold and Maude as being the original manic pixie dream girl movie, as long as the MPDG is a 79-year-old Holocaust survivor. While a lot of black comedy leans hard into the meanness of life, this is one that actually has some positive to say under all the fake death.

The Death of Stalin (2017)


Unlike the other movies on this list, The Death of Stalin mines black comedy out of a real-life event: the sudden, unexpected death of Soviet leader Josef Stalin in 1953 and the mad scrabble for power in Russia that resulted. Written and directed by Armando Iannucci (Veep and Avenue 5) and based on a French graphic novel, the film puts a dark, absurdist eye on some of the then-most powerful men in the world acting like buffoons as they try to figure out how best to save their own skins.

Of course, it helps when you have a cast of ringers like Steve Buscemi, Paddy Considine, Jason Isaacs, and many more to portray some of the most notorious figures in Cold War history. Where else are you going to see Malfoy’s dad from Harry Potter punch out Dionysius from Thor: Love and Thunder?

The Lobster (2015)


Colin Farrell has made quite the career as a character actor specializing in sadsacks in the last few decades, most recently winning a Golden Globe for his performance as a bewildered Irishman shunned by his best friend in The Banshees of Inisherin. But years before that, he starred in the bizarre black comedy The Lobster, in which he plays David, a man who must find a romantic partner in 45 days or be permanently transformed into… well, a lobster.

To be fair, David got to pick the animal he wants to be turned into in this odd film by Yorgos Lanthimos, but that doesn’t make it any less weird (and arguably, weirder). Supported by Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly, The Lobster is one of the highlights of Farrell’s career and of dark comedy cinema.

Heathers (1988)


Director Daniel Waters’ debut film Heathers would be unthinkable to make now: a movie in which a teen planning to kill everyone at his high school is not only a protagonist, but the coolest guy in the movie. But times were different, and this black comedy film stars Christian Slater (in his second appearance on this list) as a rebellious outsider new kid and Winona Ryder as a member of a mean girl clique who has doubts as to the harsh social structure of high school.

Heathers may be the truest pure satire on this list, mercilessly lampooning high school popularity contests, homophobia, slut-shaming, teen suicide, and school bombings. It’s the kind of movie that sometimes goes too far, but you can’t say it doesn’t touch on something real.

In Bruges (2008)

Black Comedy


Colin Farrell joins Christian Slater in the two-timers club on this list with In Bruges, the first film from acclaimed playwright Martin McDonagh. The film stars Farrell alongside his future Banshees of Inisherin star Brendan Gleeson as two hitmen sent to hide in the historic Belgian town of Bruges after a killing gone wrong, leading to a series of violent, darkly hilarious events.

In Bruges is a profane, philosophical film that is unafraid to delve both into child death and the slapstick of Farrell being chased in a circle by an overweight tourist, making it simultaneously one of the most serious and silliest movies on this list. Plus, if you’ve never seen Ralph Fiennes furiously slam a phone on a desk over and over, here’s your chance.

American Psycho (2000)

Black Comedy


American Pyscho is adapted from Bret Easton Ellis’ still-controversial 1991 novel, which follows unhinged Manhattan yuppie Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) through a series of alternately horrific and incredibly awkward encounters. Mary Harron’s film version of the story retains all of the violence and borderline unfilmable ferocity of the book, but also makes the brilliant choice to turn the story into a satirical commentary on the ultimate patheticness of a man-child like Bateman.

Christian Bale’s performance in American Pyscho is a perfect balancing act of a man seemingly at the apex of society, but perpetually on the verge of breaking down sobbing at the mere idea of not being able to get the restaurant reservation. It’s brilliant, gory, and hilarious.

Fargo (1996)

Black Comedy


Coen Brothers again! This black neo-noir comedy won Ethan and Joel their first Academy Award (along with one for star Frances McDormand), and deservedly so. Fargo follows a heavily pregnant Minnesota small-town police chief (McDormand) investigating a series of senseless murders, as the hapless man (William H. Macy) behind them digs himself deeper and deeper into violent crime.

Fargo is a dark, deceptively quiet comedy, with its brutal bursts of violence being contrasted with the pleasant upper Midwest attitudes of its characters to pitch-perfect effect. At the very least, you’ll never look at wood chippers again.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Black Comedy


There is much less overt violence in Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy masterpiece Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb than some of the others on the list, but far higher stakes. Dr. Strangelove has no less a satirical target than the end of the world due to nuclear bombing, along with mutually assured destruction, male reproductive vanity, Operation Paperclip (the real-life program in which the U.S. recruited Nazi scientists to gain a Cold War advantage), and the fact that fighting in the War Room is not, in fact, allowed.

Peter Sellers famously plays the triple role of U.S. President Muffley, British RAF Captain Mandrake, and former Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove (nee Merkwürdigliebe), with each being the performance of a lifetime. Practically every line of the film is a classic, from “​​replenish our precious bodily fluids” to “Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines.” It’s fair to say that Dr. Strangelove is essentially a perfect movie and the perfect black comedy. You certainly can’t beat an apocalyptic ending like that.