In Bruges

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The 60 Best Black Comedies, Ranked By Tomatometer

Let’s say you’re the type to laugh while handling the darkest subject matters: Murder, doomsday, blackmail, and maybe even a lil’ tasty cannibalism. If so, twisted friend, you sure have arrived at the right spot to get your gallows guffaws: The 60 Best Dark Comedies, Ranked by Tomatometer!

All this dark material ranges in variation of glib macabre glee, different styles that we’ll touch upon in our selection of the best-reviewed funny black comedies. Most common are movies about murder and the subsequent covering-up, especially when the corpses have a habit of popping up at the most inconvenient times. Think Best Picture-winning Parasite, Fargo, Burn After Reading, and Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry.

Another style of the black comedy movie: Mining jokes out of political fallout when millions of lives are at stake, as seen in Dr. Strangelove, In the Loop, and The Producers. Or how about movies that get you on the serial killer’s side, like being on the ride for The Voices or Monsieur Verdoux. They twist you around enough to make you feel amusingly guilty hoping they’ll get away with it all.

The emergence of the black comedy movie seemed to come around in the 1940s, when filmmaking had evolved enough to artistically interpret real-world horrors (e.g. World War II) with mordant humor, as seen in To Be or Not to Be and Arsenic and Old Lace. Of course, how would they have known their groundbreaking path through the dark side would eventually come to the taboo of cannibalism, as seen in appetizing films like Delicatessen and Eating Raoul? And lest you assume we’re not in touch with our more subtle side when it comes to comedy of the damned, we’ve included philosophical destroyers Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?, Carnage, and the brilliant Withnail and I.

Major players in the realm of dark comedies include status quo-defecating John Waters (Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos), Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Todd Solondz (Happiness, Welcome to the Dollhouse), and the devilish Danny DeVito (The War of the Roses, Ruthless People). Our final stipulation for their movies and everything else on the list is that each had to be rated Fresh, and have at least 20 reviews, to ensure enough critics have shared in the gleeful discomfort.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad (feel free to keep adding more) world out there these days: Grab life by the ruffled lapel and throw it into the wood chipper with The 60 Best Black Comedies, Ranked!

#60

Adam's Apples (2005)
70%

#60
Adjusted Score: 70571%
Critics Consensus: Good and evil collide with interesting results in Adam's Apples, a dark Biblical allegory that's alternatively funny and shocking.
Synopsis: Following a stint in jail, Adam (Ulrich Thomsen), a former neo-Nazi, is temporarily assigned to live in a religious enclave.... [More]
Directed By: Anders Thomas Jensen

#59

Carnage (2011)
70%

#59
Adjusted Score: 77323%
Critics Consensus: It isn't as compelling on the screen as it was on the stage, but Carnage makes up for its flaws with Polanski's smooth direction and assured performances from Winslet and Foster.
Synopsis: When some roughhousing between two 11-year-old boys named Zachary and Ethan erupts into real violence, Ethan loses two teeth. Zachary's... [More]
Directed By: Roman Polanski

#58

The Ref (1994)
72%

#58
Adjusted Score: 75276%
Critics Consensus: Undeniably uneven and too dark for some, The Ref nonetheless boasts strong turns from Denis Leary, Judy Davis, and Kevin Spacey, as well as a sharply funny script.
Synopsis: Bickering spouses (Judy Davis, Kevin Spacey) annoy the cat burglar (Denis Leary) who takes them hostage in their Connecticut home.... [More]
Directed By: Ted Demme

#57

The Voices (2014)
74%

#57
Adjusted Score: 77393%
Critics Consensus: The Voices gives Ryan Reynolds an opportunity to deliver a highlight-reel performance -- and offers an off-kilter treat for fans of black comedies.
Synopsis: A mentally unhinged factory worker (Ryan Reynolds) must decide whether to listen to his talking cat and become a killer,... [More]
Directed By: Marjane Satrapi

#56

Better Off Dead (1985)
76%

#56
Adjusted Score: 77437%
Critics Consensus: Better Off Dead is an anarchic mix of black humor and surreal comedy, anchored by John Cusack's winsome, charming performance.
Synopsis: Lane Meyer (John Cusack) is a teen with a peculiar family and a bizarre fixation with his girlfriend, Beth (Amanda... [More]
Directed By: Savage Steve Holland

#55

Used Cars (1980)
77%

#55
Adjusted Score: 78210%
Critics Consensus: Robert Zemeckis' pitch-black satire of American culture doesn't always hit the mark, but it's got enough manic comic energy to warrant a spin.
Synopsis: Rudy Russo (Kurt Russell) is an unscrupulous car salesman who aspires to become a politician. In the meantime, however, Rudy... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#54

Freeway (1996)
77%

#54
Adjusted Score: 78065%
Critics Consensus: A modern update on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, Freeway is an audacious black comedy with a star-making performance from the young Reese Witherspoon.
Synopsis: Following the arrest of her mother, Ramona (Amanda Plummer), young Vanessa Lutz (Reese Witherspoon) decides to go in search of... [More]
Directed By: Matthew Bright

#53

Bad Santa (2003)
78%

#53
Adjusted Score: 85681%
Critics Consensus: A gloriously rude and gleefully offensive black comedy, Bad Santa isn't for everyone, but grinches will find it uproariously funny.
Synopsis: In this dark comedy, the crotchety Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton) and his partner (Tony Cox) reunite once a... [More]
Directed By: Terry Zwigoff

#52
#52
Adjusted Score: 88209%
Critics Consensus: With Burn After Reading, the Coen Brothers have crafted another clever comedy/thriller with an outlandish plot and memorable characters.
Synopsis: When a disc containing memoirs of a former CIA analyst (John Malkovich) falls into the hands of Linda Litzke (Frances... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#51

Catch-22 (1970)
79%

#51
Adjusted Score: 81506%
Critics Consensus: Catch-22 takes entertainingly chaotic aim at the insanity of armed conflict, supported by a terrific cast and smart, funny work from Buck Henry and Mike Nichols.
Synopsis: This scathing war satire follows Capt. John Yossarian (Alan Arkin), a pilot stationed in the Mediterranean who flies bombing missions... [More]
Directed By: Mike Nichols

#50

Killer Joe (2011)
80%

#50
Adjusted Score: 86092%
Critics Consensus: Violent, darkly comic, and full of strong performances, Killer Joe proves William Friedkin hasn't lost his touch, even if the plot may be too lurid for some.
Synopsis: A cop (Matthew McConaughey) who moonlights as a hit man agrees to kill the hated mother of a desperate drug... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#49

Pink Flamingos (1972)
81%

#49
Adjusted Score: 85349%
Critics Consensus: Uproarious and appalling, Pink Flamingos is transgressive camp that proves as entertaining as it does shocking.
Synopsis: A bizarre fat woman (Divine) and her misfit family compete with a Baltimore couple (David Lochary, Mink Stole) to be... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#48
#48
Adjusted Score: 84383%
Critics Consensus: A high-concept high school reunion movie with an adroitly cast John Cusack and armed with a script of incisive wit.
Synopsis: After assassin Martin Blank (John Cusack) has trouble focusing on his work, resulting in a failed assignment, he returns to... [More]
Directed By: George Armitage

#47

Happiness (1998)
82%

#47
Adjusted Score: 83169%
Critics Consensus: Happiness is far from a cheerful viewing experience, but its grimly humorous script and fearless performances produce a perversely moving search for humanity within everyday depravity.
Synopsis: This dark ensemble-comedy is centered on the three Jordan sisters. Joy (Jane Adams) moves through lackluster jobs with no sense... [More]
Directed By: Todd Solondz

#46

T2 Trainspotting (2017)
81%

#46
Adjusted Score: 99782%
Critics Consensus: T2 Trainspotting adds an intoxicating, emotionally resonant postscript to its classic predecessor, even without fully recapturing the original's fresh, subversive thrill.
Synopsis: First there was an opportunity, then there was a betrayal. Twenty years later, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the... [More]
Directed By: Danny Boyle

#45
#45
Adjusted Score: 91312%
Critics Consensus: Seven Psychopaths delivers sly cinematic commentary while serving up a heaping helping of sharp dialogue and gleeful violence.
Synopsis: Boozy writer Marty (Colin Farrell) is a man in search of a screenplay. He has a catchy title but no... [More]
Directed By: Martin McDonagh

#44
#44
Adjusted Score: 85121%
Critics Consensus: The Brand New Testament takes a surreal, subversive, and funny look at Biblical themes through a modern -- and refreshingly original -- lens.
Synopsis: God is discovered living in Brussels with his daughter.... [More]
Directed By: Jaco Van Dormael

#43

Men & Chicken (2015)
84%

#43
Adjusted Score: 86856%
Critics Consensus: Men & Chicken's bizarre setup only skims the surface of a challenging, well-acted comedy with a warm heart to match its grotesque visuals and dark themes.
Synopsis: Two outcast brothers get to know their biological family and discover the horrible truth about themselves and their relatives.... [More]
Directed By: Anders Thomas Jensen

#42

Four Lions (2009)
83%

#42
Adjusted Score: 86988%
Critics Consensus: Its premise suggests brazenly tasteless humor, but Four Lions is actually a smart, pitch-black comedy that carries the unmistakable ring of truth.
Synopsis: A group of young Muslim men living in Sheffield decide to wage jihad, and they hatch an inept plan to... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Morris

#41

Harold and Maude (1971)
85%

#41
Adjusted Score: 89694%
Critics Consensus: Hal Ashby's comedy is too dark and twisted for some, and occasionally oversteps its bounds, but there's no denying the film's warm humor and big heart.
Synopsis: Cult classic pairs Cort as a dead-pan disillusioned 20-year-old obsessed with suicide and a loveable Gordon as a fun-loving 80-year-old... [More]
Directed By: Hal Ashby

#40
#40
Adjusted Score: 92897%
Critics Consensus: The Art of Self-Defense grapples compellingly with modern American masculinity -- and serves as an outstanding calling card for writer-director Riley Stearns.
Synopsis: After getting attacked on the street, Casey enlists in a local dojo that's led by a charismatic and mysterious sensei.... [More]
Directed By: Riley Stearns

#39

In Bruges (2008)
84%

#39
Adjusted Score: 91012%
Critics Consensus: Featuring witty dialogue and deft performances, In Bruges is an effective mix of dark comedy and crime thriller elements.
Synopsis: After a particularly difficult job, hit men Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) head to Belgium to hide out... [More]
Directed By: Martin McDonagh

#38
#38
Adjusted Score: 87883%
Critics Consensus: The War of the Roses is a black comedy made even funnier by hanging onto its caustic convictions -- and further distinguished by Danny DeVito's stylish direction.
Synopsis: After 17 years of marriage, Barbara (Kathleen Turner) and Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) want out. The trouble is, neither one... [More]
Directed By: Danny DeVito

#37
#37
Adjusted Score: 92176%
Critics Consensus: Tongue-in-cheek satire blends well with entertaining action and spot-on performances in this dark, eclectic neo-noir homage.
Synopsis: Two-bit crook Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) stumbles into an audition for a mystery film while on the run from... [More]
Directed By: Shane Black

#36

Game Night (2018)
85%

#36
Adjusted Score: 99575%
Critics Consensus: With a talented cast turned loose on a loaded premise -- and a sharp script loaded with dark comedy and unexpected twists -- Game Night might be more fun than the real thing.
Synopsis: Max and Annie's weekly game night gets kicked up a notch when Max's brother Brooks arranges a murder mystery party... [More]

#35

Eating Raoul (1982)
86%

#35
Adjusted Score: 86133%
Critics Consensus: Eating Raoul serves up its spectacularly lurid tale with a healthy heaping of pitch-black humor and anarchic vigor.
Synopsis: The absurd Blands (Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov) lure swingers home to be conked by a skillet, robbed and removed by... [More]
Directed By: Paul Bartel

#34
#34
Adjusted Score: 89320%
Critics Consensus: In Order of Disappearance's black comedy doesn't always hit its targets, but on the whole, it still adds up to a sly, entertaining revenge thriller.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Hans Petter Moland

#33

Ingrid Goes West (2017)
86%

#33
Adjusted Score: 99466%
Critics Consensus: Led by strong performances from Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, Ingrid Goes West delivers smart, topical humor underlined by timely social observations.
Synopsis: Following the death of her mother and a series of self-inflicted setbacks, young Ingrid Thorburn escapes a humdrum existence by... [More]
Directed By: Matt Spicer

#32
#32
Adjusted Score: 85400%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Writer and notorious marriage detractor Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) falls for girl-next-door Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), and they tie the... [More]
Directed By: Frank Capra

#31

Female Trouble (1975)
88%

#31
Adjusted Score: 89816%
Critics Consensus: Director John Waters' affection for camp brings texture to societal transgression in Female Trouble, a brazenly subversive dive into celebrity and mayhem.
Synopsis: An obese woman (Divine) gives birth to an obnoxious child and embarks upon a bizarre and violent life of crime.... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#30

Cheap Thrills (2013)
88%

#30
Adjusted Score: 91697%
Critics Consensus: Gleefully nasty and darkly hilarious, Cheap Thrills lives down to its title in the best possible way.
Synopsis: A series of escalating bets pits recently reunited friends against each other.... [More]
Directed By: E.L. Katz

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 92407%
Critics Consensus: World's Greatest Dad is a risky, deadpan, dark comedy that effectively explores the nature of posthumous cults of celebrity.
Synopsis: When the son of high school English teacher Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) accidentally kills himself, Clayton writes a fake suicide... [More]
Directed By: Bobcat Goldthwait

#28

The Lobster (2015)
87%

#28
Adjusted Score: 102624%
Critics Consensus: As strange as it is thrillingly ambitious, The Lobster is definitely an acquired taste -- but for viewers with the fortitude to crack through Yorgos Lanthimos' offbeat sensibilities, it should prove a savory cinematic treat.
Synopsis: In a dystopian society, single people must find a mate within 45 days or be transformed into an animal of... [More]
Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos

#27

After Hours (1985)
89%

#27
Adjusted Score: 93555%
Critics Consensus: Bursting with frantic energy and tinged with black humor, After Hours is a masterful -- and often overlooked -- detour in Martin Scorsese's filmography.
Synopsis: In a Manhattan cafe, word processor Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) meets and talks literature with Marcy (Rosanna Arquette). Later that... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#26

Delicatessen (1991)
89%

#26
Adjusted Score: 92924%
Critics Consensus: Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet deftly combines horror, sci-fi, and humor in Delicatessen, a morbid comedy set in a visually ravishing futuristic dystopia.
Synopsis: Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) is a butcher who owns a run-down apartment building in post-apocalyptic France. The building is in constant... [More]

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 92961%
Critics Consensus: An outstanding sophomore feature, Welcome to the Dollhouse sees writer-director Todd Solondz mining suburban teen angst for black, biting comedy.
Synopsis: Middle-school student Dawn Weiner (Heather Matarazzo) faces degradation at school -- where she is teased constantly -- and at home.... [More]
Directed By: Todd Solondz

#24

The Producers (1968)
90%

#24
Adjusted Score: 98628%
Critics Consensus: A hilarious satire of the business side of Hollywood, The Producers is one of Mel Brooks' finest, as well as funniest films, featuring standout performances by Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel.
Synopsis: Down and out producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel), who was once the toast of Broadway, trades sexual favors with old... [More]
Directed By: Mel Brooks

#23

A Serious Man (2009)
89%

#23
Adjusted Score: 97606%
Critics Consensus: Blending dark humor with profoundly personal themes, the Coen brothers deliver what might be their most mature -- if not their best -- film to date.
Synopsis: Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a physics professor at a 1960s university, but his life is coming apart at the... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#22
Adjusted Score: 121110%
Critics Consensus: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri deftly balances black comedy against searing drama -- and draws unforgettable performances from its veteran cast along the way.
Synopsis: After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter's murder case, Mildred Hayes makes a bold move, painting three... [More]
Directed By: Martin McDonagh

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 88584%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When a local man's corpse appears on a nearby hillside, no one is quite sure what happened to him. Many... [More]
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

#20

Polyester (1981)
93%

#20
Adjusted Score: 93581%
Critics Consensus: As proudly tacky as its titular fabric, Polyester finds writer-director John Waters moving ever so slightly into the mainstream without losing any of his subversive charm.
Synopsis: A frustrated housewife, Francine Fishpaw (Divine), tries to maintain her sanity while taking care of her dysfunctional household. Elmer (David... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 90213%
Critics Consensus: The Firemen's Ball is an uproarious comedy of incompetence, mining laughs and sharp satire from an allegory that is amusing and distressing in equal measure.
Synopsis: In Milos Forman's satire on Communism set in a small Czechoslovakian town in the 1960s, the local firemen decide to... [More]
Directed By: Milos Forman

#18

Trainspotting (1996)
91%

#18
Adjusted Score: 95273%
Critics Consensus: A brutal, often times funny, other times terrifying portrayal of drug addiction in Edinburgh. Not for the faint of heart, but well worth viewing as a realistic and entertaining reminder of the horrors of drug use.
Synopsis: Heroin addict Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) stumbles through bad ideas and sobriety attempts with his unreliable friends -- Sick Boy... [More]
Directed By: Danny Boyle

#17
Adjusted Score: 105958%
Critics Consensus: A thrilling leap forward for director Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman is an ambitious technical showcase powered by a layered story and outstanding performances from Michael Keaton and Edward Norton.
Synopsis: Former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is mounting an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life... [More]

#16

Heathers (1989)
93%

#16
Adjusted Score: 96433%
Critics Consensus: Dark, cynical, and subversive, Heathers gently applies a chainsaw to the conventions of the high school movie -- changing the game for teen comedies to follow.
Synopsis: Veronica (Winona Ryder) is part of the most popular clique at her high school, but she disapproves of the other... [More]
Directed By: Michael Lehmann

#15

Fargo (1996)
94%

#15
Adjusted Score: 100342%
Critics Consensus: Violent, quirky, and darkly funny, Fargo delivers an original crime story and a wonderful performance by McDormand.
Synopsis: "Fargo" is a reality-based crime drama set in Minnesota in 1987. Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is a car salesman... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#14

Withnail and I (1987)
94%

#14
Adjusted Score: 94615%
Critics Consensus: Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann prove irresistibly hilarious as two misanthropic slackers in Withnail and I, a biting examination of artists living on the fringes of prosperity and good taste.
Synopsis: Two out-of-work actors -- the anxious, luckless Marwood (Paul McGann) and his acerbic, alcoholic friend, Withnail (Richard E. Grant) --... [More]
Directed By: Bruce Robinson

#13

Ruthless People (1986)
93%

#13
Adjusted Score: 96663%
Critics Consensus: It's sometimes crude and tasteless, but Ruthless People wrings acid-soaked laughs out of its dark premise and gleefully misanthropic characters.
Synopsis: Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) hates his wife, Barbara (Bette Midler), so much that he wants her dead. He's ecstatic when... [More]

#12

In the Loop (2009)
94%

#12
Adjusted Score: 99598%
Critics Consensus: In the Loop is an uncommonly funny political satire that blends Dr. Strangelove with Spinal Tap for the Iraq war era.
Synopsis: During an interview, British Cabinet Minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) delivers an off-the-cuff remark that war in the Middle East... [More]
Directed By: Armando Iannucci

#11
Adjusted Score: 100074%
Critics Consensus: Led by a volcanic performance from Elizabeth Taylor, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a scathing adaptation of the Edward Albee play that serves as a brilliant calling card for debuting director Mike Nichols.
Synopsis: History professor George (Richard Burton) and his boozy wife, Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), return late one Saturday night from a cocktail... [More]
Directed By: Mike Nichols

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 108998%
Critics Consensus: The Death of Stalin finds director/co-writer Arnando Iannucci in riotous form, bringing his scabrous political humor to bear on a chapter in history with painfully timely parallels.
Synopsis: When tyrannical dictator Joseph Stalin dies in 1953, his parasitic cronies square off in a frantic power struggle to become... [More]
Directed By: Armando Iannucci

#9

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
97%

#9
Adjusted Score: 102038%
Critics Consensus: Charles Chaplin adds an undercurrent of malice to his comedic persona in Monsieur Verdoux, an unsettling satire that subverts the tramp's image to perversely amusing effect.
Synopsis: Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin) is a dapper Parisian family man who loses his job as a bank clerk. In order... [More]
Directed By: Charles Chaplin

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 100310%
Critics Consensus: A complex and timely satire with as much darkness as slapstick, Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be delicately balances humor and ethics.
Synopsis: Acting couple Joseph (Jack Benny) and Maria Tura (Carole Lombard) are managing a theatrical troupe when the Nazis invade Poland.... [More]
Directed By: Ernst Lubitsch

#7

Brazil (1985)
98%

#7
Adjusted Score: 100776%
Critics Consensus: Brazil, Terry Gilliam's visionary Orwellian fantasy, is an audacious dark comedy, filled with strange, imaginative visuals.
Synopsis: Low-level bureaucrat Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) escapes the monotony of his day-to-day life through a recurring daydream of himself as... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#6
Adjusted Score: 106024%
Critics Consensus: Stanley Kubrick's brilliant Cold War satire remains as funny and razor-sharp today as it was in 1964.
Synopsis: A film about what could happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button -- and it played the situation... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#5

Parasite (2019)
98%

#5
Adjusted Score: 127460%
Critics Consensus: An urgent, brilliantly layered look at timely social themes, Parasite finds writer-director Bong Joon Ho in near-total command of his craft.
Synopsis: Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan.... [More]
Directed By: Bong Joon-ho

#4

Multiple Maniacs (1970)
100%

#4
Adjusted Score: 101532%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Cavalcade of Perversion, a traveling freak-show, is a front for a band of psychotic kidnappers and murderers.... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#3

The Ladykillers (1955)
100%

#3
Adjusted Score: 102462%
Critics Consensus: The Ladykillers is a macabre slow-burn with quirky performances of even quirkier characters.
Synopsis: Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson) likes to report suspicious behavior to the police. Unaware of her reputation, the dapper thief Professor... [More]
Directed By: Alexander Mackendrick

#2

A New Leaf (1971)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 103271%
Critics Consensus: Elaine May is a comedic dynamo both behind and in front of the camera in this viciously funny screwball farce, with able support provided by Walter Matthau.
Synopsis: A spoiled and self-absorbed man who has squandered his inheritance, Henry Graham (Walter Matthau) is desperate to find a way... [More]
Directed By: Elaine May

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 104434%
Critics Consensus: Performed with chameleonic brio by Alec Guinness, Kind Hearts and Coronets is a triumphant farce.
Synopsis: When his mother eloped with an Italian opera singer, Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) was cut off from her aristocratic family.... [More]
Directed By: Robert Hamer

Choices this week were pretty thin, so we’ve only got a few movies to talk about, including three new releases and two noteworthy reissues. First, we’ve got Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest, a wilderness thriller starring Willem Dafoe, and a failed attempt at a quirky coming-of-age story. Then, we round things out with Blu-rays for an early Tom Cruise vehicle and a sexy cult classic. See below for the full list!



God Bless America

66%

Bobcat Goldthwait, the man once known for his manic energy and unique voice in both films and his stand-up act, has become something of a surprisingly decent filmmaker, as evidenced by the Certified Fresh 89% his last film, World’s Greatest Dad earned. God Bless America, in which a down-on-his-luck man (Joel Murray) takes it upon himself to gun down the worst pop culture offenders, starting with reality tv stars, unfortunately didn’t fare quite as well. While critics felt the film was a bit uneven, they still largely found it a strangely cathartic and darkly funny revenge fantasy, and it currently sits at 67% on the Tomatometer.



The Hunter

72%

Willem Dafoe takes another trek into the wilderness, but with fewer talking foxes. No, this time he plays a hunter named Martin who is sent to Tasmania by a mysterious company to find, track, and bring back biological evidence of a tiger thought to be long extinct. Posing as a scientist, Martin sets up in a remote cabin with a family whose father has gone missing, and the hunt begins. Critics say this is clearly Dafoe’s show, and he commits to the role with aplomb, but they also feel the story lacks a certain dramatic pull when he’s not tramping through the forest and suffers from a few predictable bits. At 68%, The Hunter isn’t quite the character-driven story it could have been, but should still satisfy those looking for a decent thrill.



Jesus Henry Christ

22%

You know that when a film sports a title that winks as hard as Jesus Henry Christ, it’s either got to be an exceedingly clever romp or a misguided failure, and if it’s a quirky, coming-of-age indie comedy, anything short of the former is inevitably deemed the latter. As evidenced by its 22% Tomatometer, JHC was certainly short of the former. The film tells the story of 10-year-old Henry (Jason Spevack), a “petri-dish” baby and rebellious young prodigy who decides to search for his biological father. Critics overall weren’t convinced by the film’s Wes Anderson-lite twee sentimentality, hoping director Dennis Lee would dig deeper into the familial issues at its heart. Unfortunately, even the presence of veterans like Toni Collette and Michael Sheen did little to help its cause.



Born on the Fourth of July – Blu-Ray

85%

Just a couple of weeks ago, our Total Recall focused on Tom Cruise’s best reviewed movies, and Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July took the #5 spot on a fairly impressive list. To coincide with the upcoming holiday this week and to celebrate its centennial anniversary (and, possibly, to highlight Oliver Stone, whose Savages opens this week), Universal is re-releasing the 1989 film on Blu-ray. Though the new edition doesn’t feature any new extras specific to the film, it does come with two standard 100th Anniversary features: “100 Years of Academy Award Winners” and “100 Years of Universal in the ’80s.” If you missed last year’s release, here’s a second chance to pick up this Oscar-winner.



Barbarella – Blu-Ray

74%

It’s a cheesy, unevenly paced, erotic sci-fi adventure based on a series of French “adult” comics, and it was both a critical and commercial failure upon its original theatrical release. But there’s something to be said about the campy joys of Barbarella, from its dated special effects to its shag carpet sets to its message of free love, as its cult following and current 74% Tomatometer indicate. Memorable not just for its opening sequence (Jane Fonda stripping in zero gravity) and for inspiring the names of at least two famous music acts (Duran Duran and Matmos), Barbarella gets a new Blu-ray release this week, and though there aren’t really any bonus features to speak of, fans may still get a kick out of seeing Jane Fonda ooze sex appeal in high definition.

This week at the movies, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp reteam to spoof the 1970s horror soap opera Dark Shadows, with help from Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, and Chloë Grace Moretz. What do the critics have to say?



Dark Shadows

35%

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have made plenty of witty, macabre pictures together. Unfortunately, critics say their latest, Dark Shadows, lacks their particular brand of black magic — despite moments of oddball inventiveness, the film suffers from jarring tonal shifts that prevent the story from resonating. Based on the 1970s soap opera, Dark Shadows stars Depp as Barnabas, a wealthy 18th century playboy who becomes a vampire after breaking a witch’s heart. After a long slumber, Barnabas awakes to find himself in the 1970s — and in the center of the squabbling family that now occupies his old mansion. The pundits say Dark Shadows looks fantastic, and Depp is enjoyable as always, but the movie never finds a consistent rhythm, mixing campy jokes and gothic spookiness with considerably less success than earlier Burton/Depp collaborations. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Depp’s best-reviewed movies.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Portrait of Wally, a documentary about the legal battle over a painting by the great Egon Schiele, is at 100 percent.
  • Sleepless Night, a French thriller about a dirty cop involved in a botched heist, is at 100 percent.
  • Under African Skies, a doc about a reunion between Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo for the 25th anniversary of their Graceland collaboration, is at 100 percent.
  • You Are Here, a sci-fi drama about a woman who collects documents and recordings of a secret parallel world, is at 100 percent.
  • The Chilean import Bonsái, a dramedy about a struggling writer looking for inspiration for his autobiographical novel, is at 93 percent.
  • Patience (After Sebald), a cinematic essay on the work of writer W.G. Sebald, is at 93 percent.
  • Nobody Else But You, an offbeat mystery about the investigation into the death of a Marilyn Monroe lookalike, is at 88 percent.
  • Hirokazu Koreeda‘s I Wish, aa drama about a boy who hopes for a miracle to reunite his divorced parents, is at 87 percent.
  • A Bag of Hammers, starring Jason Ritter and Rebecca Hall in a dramedy about a pair of con men who reconsider their ways when they mentor a 12-year-old boy, is at 67 percent.
  • The Road, a horror movie about the discovery of terrifying secrets in the search for missing teens, is at 67 percent.
  • God Bless America, a black comedy about a terminally ill man who reacts violently to what he sees as the stupidity of contemporary culture, is at 62 percent (check out director Bobcat Goldthwait’s Five Favorite Films here).
  • Small, Beautifully Moving Parts, a dramedy about a pregnant woman who makes an impulsive road trip to visit her estranged mother, is at 50 percent.
  • Where Do We Go Now?, a comedy about a Lebanese town divided along religious and gender lines, is at 47 percent.
  • Transit, starring Jim Caviezel in a thriller about a family on the run from ruthless killers after stumbling upon a stash of money, is at 43 percent.
  • Girl In Progress, starring Eva Mendes and Matthew Modine in a dramedy about a teenager who attempts to stake out a life independent from her preoccupied mother, is at 35 percent.
  • Tonight You’re Mine, a romantic comedy about two young rockers who are accidentally handcuffed to each other, is at 33 percent.
  • The Cup, starring Brendan Gleeson in a drama about a jockey overcoming adversity with the help of a veteran horse trainer, is at 29 percent.
  • Hick, starring Chloë Grace Moretz and Blake Lively in a drama about a pair of young hitchhikers who run into trouble on the open road, is at zero percent.
  • Comedian, actor, and filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait became a fixture on the stand-up comedy circuit in the ’80s and ’90s, developing an idiosyncratic persona that he parlayed into a string of movie roles and TV gigs. But rather than ride that schtick into the nostalgia sunset, Goldthwait turned his talents to filmmaking. His debut film, 1991’s Shakes the Clown — aka “the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies” — would become something of a cult classic (Martin Scorsese’s a fan), while 2009’s World’s Greatest Dad earned strong notices for its unique brand of black comedy and one of star Robin Williams’ finest performances in years.

    This week, Goldthwait returns with God Bless America, a delightful valentine to popular culture in which a disgruntled office drone (Joel Murray) and his teenage sidekick (Tara Lynne Barr) go on a cross-country killing spree designed to right the wrongs of contemporary bad manners, reality TV and other social ills (if you’re texting in a theater, fear for your worthless life.)

    We sat down for a chat with Goldthwait recently, and the first thing he did was send his camera crew on a break with a line from Albert Brooks’ Real Life — so right away we knew he was going to be great. Read through for more of his thoughts on the film and his career, but first, here are his Five Favorite Films.

    Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971; 85% Tomatometer)



    It’s hard to boil them down. I would say, well, Harold and Maude, obviously, because it seems like something… you know, when I saw Harold and Maude, I didn’t laugh; I was a boy and I just felt like a Starbelly Sneetch finding the other Starbelly Sneetches, you know. So that movie was a biggie, and still is. I’m thinking of movies that I go back and watch, ever time I see them.

    Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974; 94% Tomatometer)



    Young Frankenstein, you know… I think Young Frankenstein influenced me because it was a comedy but they really treated it like the James Whale Frankensteins. There’s a real sadness in that movie.

    They replicated the Universal horror look really faithfully.

    Yeah, and they used a lot of the same effects and stuff, yeah.

    Do you find when people do something serious and then set the comedy within it that it makes the comedy better?

    Yeah — and a story, you know? In a lot of comedies the story comes afterwards. They’ll cram in a “friends are the most important friends” or some bullsh-t.

    I find that with your stuff, like World’s Greatest Dad, they’re almost dramas — and the comedy evolves out of that.

    Yeah, and that’s the way I approach it. I kind of don’t even consider… I mean, I think of all of them as comedies, but I don’t concern myself with the jokes at all. It’s more about staying true to the world and the themes that we come up with.

    Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994; 91% Tomatometer)



    I’d say Ed Wood; the Ed Wood movie I really love a lot. I love the idea of — I think it’s a great movie — but I identify with this kook who makes movies because he has to, and works with his friends. I don’t think Ed Wood is the worst director: His movies are personal, and you can’t take your eyes off them. [Laughs.] You know what I mean? There are way worse film directors.

    I read where Tim Burton said something like the difference between himself and Ed Wood was that he was lucky — which is why that movie is so affectionate. It’s not a mockery.

    Oh no, no, not at all. It’s very kind and sweet, and warm. I love that movie.

    Polyester (John Waters, 1981; 88% Tomatometer)


    I don’t know which John Waters to pick. The go-to would be Pink Flamingos — that was another movie that was pivotal, when I discovered that — but I would pick Polyester out of his movies. I’ve got a big soft spot for John Waters, ’cause again, there’s a guy who’s doing things on his own terms, and I think people would find his topics shocking but he has a lot of kindness towards these people, these characters. I love him. I just saw him this weekend when I was in Maryland.

    You two should do a movie together.

    Well I’ll tell you, he’s been so supportive. He and Todd Solondz and myself met, and I was like, “Wow, this is a harmonic convergence. This is the Mount Rushmore of f-cked-up.” [Laughs.] My wife dubbed it the — you know how they had the Million Dollar Quartet, with Elvis and Carl Perkins and that? — well she dubbed it the Hundred Dollar Trio. [Laughs.]

    Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges, 1941; 100% Tomatometer)



    I would say Sullivan’s Travels would probably round out the five. That movie is kind of what I’m always wrestling with, you know — there’s the idea of, “Do I go out and entertain people [laughs], or do I go out and say something?” I love that movie. That’s just another movie that, you know, Preston Sturges movies — they’re not really set in the real world, or most of them aren’t set in any real world, but the characters are always very realistic; and then he has these great, oddball one-dimensional characters that show up. Clearly that’s something that’s kind of influenced me, ’cause I don’t think the world that my movies take place in, it’s not a real place. I always laugh at people who go, “Well, you know, they would have been caught” in [God Bless America] and I’m like, “It’s not real, man.” I don’t wanna have a scene where Harvey Keitel is in front of this big map of the United States going, “I gotta get inside their brains. I gotta figure out where they’re gonna strike next.”

    [Laughs.] Tommy Lee Jones ordering a search of every outhouse, farmhouse, henhouse…

    [Laughs.] Yeah, Tommy Lee Jones going: “Somebody! Get a patrol car to the Kardashians! I think I’ve figured it out!”

    You have to suspend some disbelief there.

    Yeah, yeah. And I think that maybe in this movie that works for people. We do a good job of hopefully suspending it by shooting a baby within the first 10 minutes. [Laughs.]

    [Laughs.] That was a very enjoyable moment.

    Well thanks, man.

    Next, Goldthwait talks God Bless America, avoiding nostalgia comedy, and revisiting Shakes the Clown.

     

    You were talking about the tension between entertaining people and having something to say. How did you approach God Bless America — which is entertaining, but moreover feels like it has something to say — with that in mind?

    You know, it’s funny. Last night I was really exhausted and I was sitting there looking at it — there was a screening — and it played well and people were laughing and people liked the movie, but I also know that I lost some of the people. And part of me was thinking, “Why do I do this? ” I mean, it would be so much easier to just make a comedy, you know? I would not have to rent in the Valley. [Laughs.] Why is it so important for me to connect with such a small group? You know, it’s not very lucrative. Robin Williams is one of my friends, he’s probably my best friend, and we always laugh and discuss how with his neuroses, you know, he’s looking for the world’s approval, and I’m just looking for a couple of misfits to say, “Hey, we like you.” [Laughs.] “Gabba gabba, we accept you.”

    [Laughs.] I like that you stuck up for him in the movie.

    Yeah, there’s a little shout out. ‘Cause all my friends show up in this movie. Like, Tom Kenny is a guy I’ve known since I was six years old and he’s Spongebob Squarepants; so he shows up, and we shoot and kill him. All my best friends show up — and most of them get killed. [Laughs.] I think I was gonna have him play Robin Williams. ‘Cause this movie, you know, is the only movie I’ve written that takes place in our time — as in right now — so he probably would have been backstage at American Superstar.

    And you’ve known Joel Murray since — well, you did One Crazy Summer together. Have you just been waiting for the right role to cast him in?

    No, it was more like I was watching him on Mad Men and my wife was like, “He’d be a good Frank.” And I was like, “Yeah.” I didn’t think he wanted to work together, because I tried to get him for one of my other movies, and his agent, I found out, wouldn’t give him the script, which was Sleeping Dogs Lie. His agent was like, “This is a horrible movie.”

    [Laughs.] That would have been a tough sell for agents to deal with.

    Yeah. Most of the screenplays I write have a really hard time getting to people; as a guy who makes movies, and it’s frustrating. Understandable, but it’s a little frustrating, because it’s like, even if you don’t like my movies — and my movies do have their detractors — the actors in the movies always do well. Nobody’s ever said anything bad about them. The actors don’t get bashed in the press; the actors always get good notices. So it’s like, if you’re really concerned about your actors, you know, they’re not gonna get rich or anything but they might get to go to Park City. [Laughs.]

    God Bless America concerns a guy who’s fed up with the degeneration of popular culture and social etiquette, but do you think there’ll be a time in, say, 20 or 30 years, when this era seems polite? Is it just a generational frustration?

    Yeah. [Laughs.] That’s what really worries me. You know, when Frank says “Eating rats and maggots on Survivor was shocking, and now it seems quaint.” I do wonder, Where are we gonna go? The pendulum always swings back and forth, but what I’m afraid of is that the pendulum has just been let go. [Laughs.] It’s like, we’re not getting to the end of the swing, it’s actually only starting. [Laughs.] That’s the thing that kind of terrifies me. It’s funny when you go back and watch Network, the things that he predicted are tame compared to what we really did become.

     

    Right. You’re talking about John Waters before, and as outré as Pink Flamingos still is, a lot of his bad taste sensibility has been assimilated into the mainstream over the years.

    Right, yeah. But I still find him subversive, because, truly, sincerity is the ultimate form of being subversive. [Laughs.]

    Talking about you doing — or not doing, as it were — comedy, do you get offers to bring out the old Bobcat persona?

    Oh, as a comedian, as an actor? A little bit, but I always say that I retired from acting at the same time that they stopped hiring me — so that worked out well. [Laughs.] But I do get offers, you know; I did make a decision, as a comedian, to kind of stop performing in that persona, ’cause I didn’t feel it working out anymore. And I know that cost me money, because if I was willing to go on the road as a nostalgia act I could make money, but I just couldn’t really feel good about it. I’m always polite when people want to talk to me about things they recognize me from or known me from — and I understand that, and I am polite — but I’m usually more interested in what I’ve just made, or what I’m trying to make, rather than what I did 25 years ago.

    I don’t know if this falls into the category of nostalgia, but Shakes the Clown is a favorite comedy of mine.

    Ah!

    A friend introduced me to it, and he got into it, I think, ’cause he read an interview where [record producer] Steve Albini was saying how much he loved it…

    Oh really? That’s funny. That’s really crazy. I didn’t know that [Albini] liked the movie. That’s really funny because as a comedian I toured with Nirvana, which is funny. I never remember talking to Kurt [Cobain] about Shakes — I don’t know if he ever saw it — but he knew a lot of my standup, which was great.

    He was a fan.

    Yeah. In fact, [Dave] Grohl — when I first met Kurt, he wasn’t even in the band — but Grohl, ’cause he used to live with Kurt, he was like, “I used to have to listen to that album all the time.” Which was my album. [Laughs.]

    Is Shakes a world you’d ever consider going back to?

    Oh, no. I don’t think I’d have the energy to do it. But I jokingly would always love to do, like, the idea would be an origins story of Binky and Shakes as teenagers, and do an angry teen movie with those two, you know, and how the rivalry was formed and stuff.[Laughs.]


    God Bless America opens in theaters this week and is available to watch through VOD.

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