5 Best Dark Comedy Movies Of The Past Five Years
If your sense of humor is a bit twisted, you'll love these films.
Who doesn’t love a good dark comedy? A lot of people, as it turns out. Bittersweet by nature, these films are made to push boundaries and tell uncomfortable truths, so they can be rather unsatisfying for people who seek movies as a means of escape. For those who want to dig deeper into reality and break from conventional ways of thinking, they are inspiring and sometimes even life affirming.
Filmmakers have been making dark comedies for a long time, but the advent of the internet and social media has given them a new edge. Never has the line been so clearly drawn between the truths that we know about ourselves and what we choose to show other people. These five recent films represent that concept in various ways and embody the true nature of the dark comedy genre; they’ll make you cringe, laugh, and then wonder if it’s okay that you’re laughing.
Look Who’s Back (2015)
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When Adolf Hitler (Oliver Masucci) mysteriously reappears in 2014 Berlin, he is bitter and confused at what his world has become. He laments the softening of German politics and accuses Chancellor Merkel of having “the charisma of a wet noodle”. Things turn around for him when he meets a young documentary filmmaker named Fabian Sawatzki (Fabian Busch). Fabian mistakes Hitler for an edgy comedian and begins filming him, inadvertently aiding his plan to recapture the hearts of the German people.
Set against a backdrop of cynicism and new wave racism, Look Who’s Back is as truthful as it is irreverently funny. It takes a brutally honest look at racial politics in Germany (and around the world), as well as the the social atmosphere that leads people to mistake Hitler’s sincerity for satire. Americans may recognize some political foreshadowing when he says, “In 1933, people were not fooled by propaganda. They elected a leader who openly disclosed his plans in great clarity. The Germans elected me.” Spooky.
Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is an aspiring songwriter who just can’t seem to find his artistic voice. When an alternative band with an unpronounceable name loses its keyboard player, he finds an opportunity to leave behind his dead end job and become a true musician. He immediately becomes entranced by Frank (Michael Fassbender), the band’s mysterious frontman who wears a giant papier-mâché head over his own at all times.
Frank explores the intersections between artistry, pretension, and mental illness, ultimately asking whether “real” art indulges our darkest urges or gives us temporary respite from them. The social media element is strong in this film, as it juxtaposes the image that Jon shows his followers with the uncertain reality he and his bandmates face. As a bonus, Frank offers a dreamy, moody soundtrack to keep viewers hooked long after watching.
The Lobster (2015)
Being single can be tough. The pressure to settle down or commit to the cult of single hood can feel like a life or death situation, and The Lobster shines a very literal light on this issue. Set in what viewers can assume is a dystopian future, the film follows David (Colin Farrell) through a world in which single adults are rounded up and sent to a hotel where they must find love within 45 days. If they fail, they will be transformed into the animal of their choice.
The comedy of this film lies in its strange sadness. It makes a mockery of the pain we put ourselves through to avoid being lonely while denying us a viable alternative. The anxious, stilted demeanor of the actors amplifies the awkwardness of contemporary courtship and questions the romantic rituals to which we’ve become accustomed. This film is a must see for fans of surreal movies, but maybe pick something different for date night.
Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his friends are geeks. They do well in school, play in a punk band, and obsess over 90s hip hop culture. The problem? They live in a tough neighborhood where death is often the punishment for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Amidst the fog of drugs, crime, and institutionalized racism, Malcolm dreams of going to Harvard and overcoming his circumstances, which he describes as “cliche”.
Malcolm’s aspirations come under fire when he inadvertently becomes involved in the neighborhood drug trade. With the help of his friends, he has to sell his way out without jeopardizing everything that he’s worked for. While many films begin with a similar premise, Dope addresses racial issues and stereotypes in a defiantly unique way. The real lesson of the film is that we can choose how to tell our own stories, even when it seems like they’ve already been written for us.
Obvious Child (2014)
After suffering a brutal breakup and losing her day job, stand-up comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) begins to lose control of her life. Her methods of coping include drinking, drunk dialing her ex, and bumming out her audience at the comedy club. When she meets Max (Jake Lacy), she sees an opportunity to drunkenly score a rebound. Her plan is dampened afterwards when she finds that she’s pregnant and wants to have an abortion.
Although the premise is admittedly a bit grim, Obvious Child has some surprisingly heartwarming moments. Jenny Slate is wonderfully charming as the crass but vulnerable Donna and Jake Lacy has that “aw, shucks” quality that makes his character complementary to hers. Anyone who’s ever wondered if it’s possible to make a romantic comedy about abortion should add this film to their list.