A good dark comedy can make anything funny which is why you’ll find serial killers, zombie hordes, and social justice issues littered throughout this streaming guide.
A post-apocalyptic world overrun with the undead? Yeah, we can laugh at that. A couple of high school girls killing their friends for more likes on Twitter? Sure, sounds humorous. A karate-filled flick about toxic masculinity? Hey, we don’t make the rules on what constitutes a joke.
These movies may be bleak, murder-ridden melodramas, but they also serve up some masterclasses in comedic filmmaking.
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Run Time: 111 min | IMDb: 7/10
Boots Riley recruited an incredibly talented cast to bring his dark, absurdist comedy vision to life, but even without names like Tessa Thompson and Lakeith Stanfield, this first-time directorial effort is a masterclass in how to weave social justice issues like the wealth gap and the pitfalls of capitalism with surreal humor. Stanfield plays Cassius Green, a telemarketer living in Oakland who figures out a way to use his “white voice” to make sales. As he moves up the ladder, selling while hiding his identity, he’s pulled into a conspiracy that forces him to choose between cashing in at humanity’s expense or joining his friends in a rebellion against the system
The Art of Self Defense (2019)
Run Time: 104 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
Jesse Eisenberg makes more than one appearance on this list but it’s this lesser-known offbeat comedy that really lets him shine. Eisenberg plays Casey, a timid accountant who begins taking karate classes after being assaulted by a motorcycle gang. With the help of his mysterious Sensei, Casey starts to become more masculine, more confident, and more aggressive, which leads to all kinds of issues in his personal and professional life. The film takes some twists and turns we won’t spoil here, but it’s a wonderfully dark, comedic take on the perils of toxic masculinity, and Eisenberg feels like the perfect guide into such a bizarre world.
A Simple Favor (2018)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
Paul Feig’s darkly comedic murder mystery is a lesson in style, in more ways than one. The film, which stars Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, follows the unlikely friendship between a mommy vlogger struggling to live life as a single parent after the death of her husband, and a fashionista with a son of her own and a dangerous secret she’d kill to keep. Literally. Besides Lively’s envious wardrobe and the pair’s undeniable chemistry, this film is filled with dry wit, dry martinis, and, what else, murder.
The Sisters Brothers (2018)
Run Time: 122 min | IMDb: 7/10
You probably haven’t heard of this dark comedy starring John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jake Gyllenhaal … and that’s a damn shame. The film follows the story of two notorious assassins, the Sisters Brothers, who are tasked with hunting down a threat to their wealthy employer during the time of the California Gold Rush. Bizarre happenings and hilarious hijinks ensue, but there’s real heart to the story, particularly when it comes to the bond of these two men. Reilly is incredibly adept at straddling the line between humor and drama, and his chemistry with Phoenix’s badly-behaved brother makes every joke, no matter how bleak, land.
Tragedy Girls (2017)
Run Time: 98 min | IMDb: 6/10
How far would you go for more social media followers? Would you start brutally murdering your friends and neighbors to convince your small town that a serial killer was on the loose, so they’d listen to your podcast? No? Good, because that’s what the teenage girls in this film do and they’re certified psychopaths, but like, the fun, watchable kind. It’s Heathers for the digital age. Try not to love it too much.
I, Tonya (2017)
Run Time: 120 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Margot Robbie found an ingenious way to retell an infamous story we’re all familiar with in I Tonya. Part biopic, part gloriously off-the-rails mockumentary drama, this account of Tanya Harding’s rise in the world of figure-skating is filled with violence and raucous comedy – and that’s before we ever get to the whole Nancy Kerrigan bit. Robbie’s Harding is a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking rebel who upended the privileged, impossible-to-break-into sports world in the 80s and though she’s not the hero of this story, she’s too fun to watch to be classified as its main villain.
Run Time: 103 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
One for the outsiders, Heathers is the darkest of the ’80s teen comedies. While your “teen-angst bulls*t” may not have had a body count, everyone can relate to the constant pressure to be popular that plagues high school hallways. Winona Ryder proves herself to be the ultimate cool-girl as Veronica, who takes matters into her own hands in order to destroy a toxic clique. Cynical and more than a little cruel, Heathers changed the game for teen films forever and it even spawned some other dark comedy pics on this list.
Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Run Time: 95 min | IMDb: 7/10
Joss Whedon is a master at blending horror tropes with sharply comedic dialogue and he doesn’t disappoint with this Drew Goddard-helmed flick that’ll put you off “relaxing mountain retreats” for life. The movie stars Chris Hemsworth as one of a group of five friends who head to the woods for some R&R. The remote cabin they stay at quickly becomes a hellish prison they struggle to escape from and though there are plenty of jumps and thrills, nothing ever feels so serious you can’t laugh at it.
Run Time: 88 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Jesse Eisenberg star in this zom-com about a group of survivors traveling the country together during the zombie apocalypse. Eisenberg plays Columbus, a nerdy kid who believes if he sticks to his rules he’ll make it out of this thing alive. Harrelson plays Tallahassee, a man on an odd mission, and Stone plays Wichita, a grifter, and con-artist with her own reasons for joining the pair. It’s a gore-filled riot that knows how to make fun of itself.
The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009)
Run Time: 94 min | IMDb: 6.2/10
The strange mundaneness of military life doesn’t get explored too often in comedic form, but this film did a decent job of focusing on the humorous realities of war if those realities included goats and LSD and a 24-hour Barney & Friends listening party. Ewan McGregor plays Bob Wilton, a reporter who travels overseas to investigate a U.S. Army unit training “psychic spies.” These deluded Jedi warriors are led by Django (Jeff Bridges), a Lt. Col who spent years studying ancient techniques to pass them onto his students, the peace-loving Lyn (George Clooney) and the weapons expert Hooper (Kevin Spacey). It’s basically Star Wars disguised in desert camo and it’s all kinds of weird.
The Day Shall Come (2019)
Run Time: 87 min | IMDb: 5.8/10
This dark, satire from director Chris Morris proves it’s hard to catch a real terrorist, but it’s surprisingly easy to manufacture your own. That’s what FBI agent Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) does when her boss pressures her to score a win for her department. Kendra finds the online sermons of Moses Al Shabazz (Marchant Davis), a poor preacher in charge of a small religious commune in Miami. She decides to set Moses up, having undercover agents try to sell him guns, weapons-grade uranium, and other terrorist goodies but her plans spin wildly out of control thanks to some unpredictable characters and Moses’ own bizarre revolutionary ideas.
Run Time: 96 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
The Office favorite Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page star in this absurd comedy that offers a fresh spin on the masked vigilante genre. Wilson plays Frank, an everyday guy who dons some tights and an alter ego to fight crime when his wife falls prey to a drug dealer. The only problem with his crusade for justice is that he’s not particularly adept at taking down bad guys. Imagine if Dwight Schrute had put on a costume and tried to hunt down the Scranton Strangler, and you’re almost there with this film.
Most Likely To Murder (2018)
Run Time: 90 min | IMDb: 5.1/10
What do you get when you combine Hallmark-like holiday vibes with a murder-mystery plot? This dark comedy starring Adam Pally and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom. Pally plays Billy, a guy who peaked in high school and returns to his hometown to find life has moved on without him. To get back together with his ex Kara (Bloom), Billy concocts a plan to prove Kara’s new boyfriend – a former social outcast at their school – killed his mother. It only gets stranger from there.
Assassination Nation (2018)
Run Time: 108 min | IMDb: 5.9/10
Suki Waterhouse and Odessa Young star in this angst-filled tale of teenage revenge. The flick follows four high school girls who go on a rampage in their quiet, small-town after a data hack reveals damning information about the town’s residents. The girls take on ex-boyfriends, past abusers, would-be-rapists, and other misogynistic a-holes with nail guns and katanas and all kinds of armed weaponry. It’s a dark comedy paired with high-octane action.
Little Monsters (2019)
Run Time: 93 min | IMDb: 6.3/10
Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o stars in this darkly comedic zombie flick, playing a plucky schoolteacher charged with keeping her class safe amidst a surprise zombie outbreak. Josh Gad joins her as Teddy, an obnoxious television personality who hosts the class on the field trip gone wrong and, with the help of a washed-up musician, the three try to fight off the undead — and not kill each other in the process. It’s a nice change of pace to see Nyong’o flexing her comedy muscles, and there’s enough gore and thrills to keep horror fans on the edge of their seats.