Black comedy films practically exist for those of us who struggle to keep a straight face in inappropriate situations. At the heart of these movies lies an uncanny ability to juxtapose humor and dread, making it difficult to decide whether you should laugh or cry. In most cases, it’s always both, as these films always tend to subvert societal norms to shock and amuse viewers. What makes this genre so unique, however, is that it’s culminated some of the most bleak yet unforgettable endings in cinematic history. As a result, they force audiences to reflect on the more unsettling parts of humanity that are often brushed over with jokes and smiles. Here are 10 black comedy films that landed their punchlines with a sinister twist.
- Release Date
- March 31, 1989
- Michael Lehmann
- Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, Penelope Milford
If you’re vengeful about the tumultuous social politics of high school, then Heathers is the perfect film for you. The narrative is told from the perspective of Veronica, a member of the popular and wealthy group of Heathers. Like most teenagers, Veronica is satisfied with the social capital that comes with her popularity, but is quickly disgusted by the Heathers’ treatment of others. Her frustration and alienation by the Heathers leads her to embark on a relationship with the mysterious J.D. Dean, a new student with a murderous appetite.
There were three alternate endings considered for Heathers, some of which were darker than others. Yet the one chosen still manages to push the movie’s bleakness over the edge, while maintaining its satirical tone. After J.D.’s plan to blow up the school fails, Veronica watches as he commits suicide, before going inside and taking the red scrunchie from Heather Duke, declaring herself as leader. In doing so, she ends the reign of the Heathers, and moves past her murderous tendencies by reshaping the high school through acts of kindness and allowing people to make a choice. It might not be as dark as its alternate endings, but J.D.’s attempt to stage a mass suicide is certainly up there with some of the most twisted endings of all time.
Stream on Hulu and Disney+
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
- Release Date
- July 6, 2018
- Boots Riley
- Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, LaKeith Stanfield, Patton Oswalt, Steven Yeun, Terry Crews
- Main Genre
Boots Riley puts a lot of his social activism into his directorial debut, Sorry to Bother You. The film is full to the brim with powerful metaphors, with a shockingly sinister ending that most viewers might not see coming. It predominantly focuses on Cassius, a young Black man who lands a job at a telemarketing company. While there, he is taught to use his “white” voice in order to boost his sales. This proves to work, but he eventually uncovers an unsettling truth that the company is selling cheap labor for a company called WorryFree, where employees sign their lives away to work in factories.
It’s an incredibly powerful critique of capitalism and modern slavery, while also emphasizing racial power dynamics. Its underlying themes are made even more sinister by the film’s end, where Cassius learns that WorryFree is turning their workers into horse-human hybrids in order to make them stronger and more obedient. To his horror, Cassius was also given the powder that creates the hybrids himself, which leads to him rallying the others together to rebel against WorryFree’s CEO. It’s a truly terrifying ending that is deeply rooted in horror, but it’s critical for making not only Cassius pay attention to the effects of uncontrolled capitalism, but also the viewer themselves.
Stream on Prime Video
American Psycho (2000)
- Release Date
- April 13, 2000
- Mary Harron
- Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Bill Sage, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon
- Main Genre
Both Bret Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho and Mary Harron’s cinematic adaptation of it are meant to be viewed as satire, despite Patrick Bateman becoming a hailed figure in the manosphere. Right off the bat, Bateman is shown to be incredibly unhinged, with the film detailing his manic skincare routine that takes up most of his morning. He then takes a turn for the worse after he discovers that his colleague, Paul Allen, has a better business card than him. This petty realization sends Bateman on a murderous rampage, which leads to him confessing his crimes to his lawyer via phone call.
However, in a shocking twist, it’s revealed that Bateman never committed any murders. Even Paul Allen, whom he murdered with an ax, is apparently still alive. Because of this, the ending to American Psycho has left fans scratching their heads for decades, with most of it being open to individual interpretation. Yet regardless of whether Bateman’s killing spree was real, the ending holds a very dark message about how white, wealthy men often get away with whatever they want. Additionally, it is also a reference to the extremes that people will go to in order to stand out in their mundane worlds.
Stream on Peacock Premium
Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)
- Release Date
- August 5, 2022
- Halina Reijn
- Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Pete Davidson, Lee Pace
- Main Genre
Bodies Bodies Bodies is possibly the perfect jab at Gen Z. Its story focuses on a group of 20-somethings who visit their friends’ mansion during a thunderstorm, and decide to play a party game where one person is a “killer” that must wipe out the group. However, things take a turn for the worse when one of the group is found actually murdered outside, leading everyone to turn against each other in order to find the culprit. It wastes no time highlighting the complexities of this group’s friendship, as even before the murders, they were already shown to lack trust in one another.
Multiple murders later, the last two standing, Bee and Sophie, discover the first murder was the result of a tragic yet incredibly stupid accident while filming a TikTok video. This means that all the other deaths didn’t need to happen, and it could have all been resolved had they found the first victim’s phone. Not only that, but it also carries an important message about how younger generations tend to value their online personas rather than their true selves or friendships. The friendship group is only held together through the digital sphere, unable to hide behind their phones as they confront their deep-rooted hatred for each other, using their digital identities to get approval.
Stream on Fubo TV and Paramount+
I Care a Lot (2020)
I Care a Lot follows the story of legal guardian, Marla Grayson, a con woman who seizes the assets of the elderly and vulnerable before placing them into care homes. However, Marla makes a grave mistake when she cons the mother of a powerful gangster, Roman, who begins to hunt her down. The two eventually realize they can combine their two evils and get what they want, starting up a business plan based on Marla’s scam and freeing Roman’s mother. Yet right when you think Marla has won, she is shot dead by the son of another woman she conned, who died alone in her care home.
The ending is incredibly dark because the film does a fantastic job of conning the viewer throughout its runtime. Marla, as a whole, is a satirical embodiment of the ‘girlboss’, making it seem as though you should be siding with her over Roman. In reality, the film is actually a critique of neoliberal feminism, and how it relies on the exploitation of innocent people to work. By killing off Marla at the end, viewers are reminded of the brutality of her actions, as she embraced the harmful power of the patriarchy rather than dismantling it.
Stream on Netflix
Considered one of the most beloved cult films of all time, Brazil provides audiences with one of the best blends of humor and horror. It tells the story of Sam, a low-level government employee who gets wrapped up in a conspiracy beyond his control. After he discovers that an administration error led to the wrongful arrest and death of an innocent man, Sam quite literally meets the woman of his dreams, Jill, and discovers she is considered a terrorist accomplice. In order to keep her safe from government officials, he uses his newly promoted position in Information Retrieval to track her down before her arrest.
Eventually, Sam is caught, where he is placed in a torture chair for his crimes. He is then stuck in multiple strange scenarios, before Jill eventually rescues him. However, the end takes a truly dark twist and reveals that Sam was never rescued, and he is still strapped to the torture chair. Its ending is a true reflection of the inefficacy of resistance when up against such dehumanizing systems and governments, reminding viewers how the pursuit of an orderly society could become humanity’s downfall.
Rent on Apple TV
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Stanley Kubrick’s satirical masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is easily the acclaimed director’s funniest work. As a whole, the film serves as a scathing critique of Cold War politics, as well as the dangers of pushing for nuclear weaponry. The story itself is focused on a deranged United States Air Force general who orders a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, while also showing how the President of the United States attempts to stop the attack from happening.
Despite the fact that the whole world is at risk of being destroyed, Kubrick managed to make the film absolutely hilarious. However, he doesn’t shy away from giving it a bleak ending. No one in the film is able to solve the problem, which leads to the nuclear bombs being dropped, with utterly ridiculous plans to repopulate. Billions potentially die, all because of the incompetence of some of the world’s most powerful leaders, with the ending highlighting how flaws within human decision-making should be evidence enough that humanity shouldn’t have access to such catastrophic weaponry.
Rent on Amazon Video
- Release Date
- November 18, 2022
- Mark Mylod
- Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Janet McTeer, Nicholas Hoult, Aimee Carrero, John Leguizamo
The Menu is an absolutely perfect blend of dark comedy and horror, centered on an elusive dining experience put together by an unhinged chef. Foodie Tyler takes his date, Margot, to Chef Slowik’s exclusive island restaurant, where things quickly take a sinister turn for the worse. Dark secrets are revealed, fingers are chopped off, and a cook commits suicide during each of the twisted courses. As the night progresses, Margot realizes she shouldn’t actually be there at all. Slowik, too, picks up on Margot’s true identity, realizing that she hasn’t had the same privileges as his carefully selected guests. He reveals that all the guests will die that night, but gives her the chance to die with the staff instead.
Unprepared to face her fate, Margot breaks down Slowik’s ego by reminding him of when he was at his happiest – flipping burgers at a diner. Because of this, Slowik allows her to leave before turning the rest into human S’mores. The ending carries an important message about class divisions, and how rich people gentrify experiences and make them virtually inaccessible. How this gentrification causes things as simple as food to become unenjoyable, used purely to entertain the rich, whether it’s to brag or critique. Margot is let go because she reminds Slowik that even the most simple of foods can bring people the most pleasure.
Stream on HBO Max, Hulu, and DIRECT TV
- Release Date
- May 30, 2019
- Bong Joon-ho
- Seo Joon Park, Kang-ho Song, Seon-gyun Lee, Yeo-Jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi, Hye-jin Jang
- Main Genre
Parasite is considered one of the best films ever made, and for good reason. The plot follows a lower-class family, the Kims, who scheme to work for a wealthy family, the Parks. After Kim Ki-woo secures a tutoring job with the Parks, the rest of the Kim family then deceptively infiltrates the family by working in other jobs that they offer. When the Parks go away on a camping trip, the Kims enjoy the luxuries of their home, but not before it’s revealed that the former housekeeper’s husband, Geun-sae, has been living in the house’s basement to escape loan sharks.
The Kims then become trapped in a violent and chaotic struggle when the Parks suddenly arrive home, resulting in multiple deaths. After the Kim family’s father, Ki-taek becomes enraged at how Mr. Park reacts to Geun-sae’s body odor, he stabs him to death. It’s then revealed he now lives in the basement, with Ki-woo eager to earn money to buy the house and free him. The film focuses on three central themes – social disparity, deception, and the moral consequences of actions – which all tie together for its haunting end. It highlights that the ascent of the social ladder can result in you getting pushed straight back down again, yet the wealthy already at the top will always be protected. Its light-hearted jokes are, quite literally, placed in the film to try and lighten this dark truth.
Stream on HBO Max and DIRECT TV
Don’t Look Up (2021)
- Release Date
- December 24, 2021
- Adam McKay
- Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Timothee Chalamet, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Gina Gershon
- Main Genre
Netflix’s Don’t Look Up is truly a living nightmare and a perfect disaster movie. A doctoral candidate in astronomy, Kate Dibiasky, makes the shocking discovery that a world-ending comet is set to hit Earth in six months. Together with her professor, Doctor Randall Mindy, they inform the President of the United States in the hopes that the world can be saved. However, no one listens to them, and they are even labeled crazy by the media. Big tech companies attempt to extract resources from the comet, which will eventually break it down, despite none of their tech having received peer review.
In the end, all attempts to save humanity fail, and it isn’t until the world can physically see the comet in the sky that they take it seriously. The film closes with the world dying, as the rich escape to another planet. Don’t Look Up is hilarious because it is scarily similar to how the world deals with issues such as climate change, ignoring it for as long as they can’t see the effects of it. Its satirization of how the elites handle the disaster is perfect, even when they try to turn it into a commodity. The ending reminds viewers that it could very well become our reality, unless we come together and agree that we must save our Earth from ourselves and impending disasters.
Stream on Netflix
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