I wanted to do a full ten item list on black comedies, but couldn’t find enough that I’d both 1. seen and 2. liked. So this list is split into two categories, five awesome black comedies and five romantic comedies that don’t suck. Pop up some Orville Redenbacher, grab the leopard print Snuggie and settle in for a marathon of funny stuff streaming all Jetsons-like from your computer.
5. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
From the play by Edward Albee, this is Elizabeth Taylor’s best role. Paired with long-time love interest Richard Burton, Taylor was on fire in this sharp, biting story about the darker side of human nature.
On a serene New England campus, emasculated professor George (Richard Burton) and his rancorous wife, Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), turn an evening of cocktails into an unrelenting onslaught of wrenching disclosures and bellowed epithets. Soon, the couple’s guests — junior professor Nick (George Segal) and his wife, Honey (Sandy Dennis) — get sucked into the vortex of the warring duo’s unbounded fury. Taylor nabbed an Oscar for her role.
4. Barton Fink (1991)
Adaptation pulled a lot of its charm from Barton Fink. Featuring a knockout cast of character actors, Barton Fink is a dark and twisty tale starring John Turturro, John Goodman, Frances McDormand and Steve Buscemi. It’s obviously a Coen movie, but one of the most fun and least appreciated of the Coen milieu.
Idealistic playwright Barton Fink (John Turturro) believes writing should reveal the hopes, dreams and tragedies of the common man. When Hollywood taps him to write a movie, Fink develops severe writer’s block and soon falls victim to a strange sequence of events. Unable to combine his deep-seated ethics with Tinseltown’s frivolity, the disillusioned and desperate Fink winds up involved in a murder investigation in this Oscar-nominated dramedy.
Cast: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, John Mahoney, Tony Shalhoub, Jon Polito, Steve Buscemi, David Warrilow, Richard Portnow, Christopher Murney, I.M. Hobson, Meagen Fay, Lance Davis, Harry Bugin, Frances McDormand, Barry Sonnenfeld
3. Bubba Ho Tep (2003)
This movie is probably not for everyone. If you love Bruce Campbell (and who doesn’t love Bruce Campbell?) you should probably watch Bubba Ho Tep just to say you’ve seen it. Describing it is almost impossible, but The Chin plays zombie! Elvis and it gets increasingly more bizarre from there.
In this black comedy, Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) is an elderly resident in an East Texas rest home who switched identities with an impersonator years before his “death” and missed his chance to switch himself back. When the King teams up with a fellow resident (Ossie Davis) who thinks he’s John F. Kennedy, the two old codgers prepare to battle an evil Egyptian entity that’s chosen their long-term care facility as its happy hunting grounds.
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout, Reggie Bannister, Bob Ivy, Larry Pennell, Edith Jefferson, Daniel Roebuck, Daniel Schweiger, Harrison Young, Linda Flammer, Cean Okada, Solange Morand, Karen Placencia
2. The Stepford Wives (2004)
This movie lacks the fun and camp of the original early 70’s movie, but it has a few legitimately funny moments. Critics hated this movie, and I think movie goers stayed away in record numbers as well, but there’s a lot to appreciate about Kidman and Broderick in these roles. Bette Middler and Christopher Walken have a great time chewing on the scenery and upstaging everyone else. There is substantial (albeit dated, now) fashion porn.
After moving to the beautiful suburb of Stepford with her husband (Matthew Broderick), career-driven Joanna (Nicole Kidman) begins to suspect something is radically wrong with the other wives, who are led by the perky and vacant Claire (Glenn Close). Are the husbands replacing these once-intelligent women with sexually compliant cyborg copies? Joanna’s new friends, Bobbie (Bette Midler) and Roger (Roger Bart), also think something’s off.
1. Big Trouble (2000)
I’ve seen this movie a couple of times and I still don’t totally know what happens. This does not reduce my enjoyment of the movie at all. Full of screwball twists and turns, a cast of dozens of people you’ll recognize, Tim Allen playing a douche in a polo shirt and some genuinely funny moments, this is a great movie for a Saturday afternoon.
Absurdities abound like ants at an outdoor picnic when a former journalist (Tim Allen) gets involved with a wealthy schemer (Stanley Tucci), a bored housewife (Rene Russo), Russian mobsters, doofus cops and a huge toad that spews hallucinogenic saliva. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and based on the best-seller by syndicated newspaper columnist Dave Barry, Big Trouble is a load of laughs.
Cast: Tim Allen, Rene Russo, Stanley Tucci, Tom Sizemore, Johnny Knoxville, Dennis Farina, Jack Kehler, Janeane Garofalo, Patrick Warburton, Ben Foster, Zooey Deschanel, Heavy D, Omar Epps, Jason Lee, Andy Richter, Michael McShane, DJ Qualls
Romantic Comedies that don’t Suck
5. In & Out (1997)
Smarter than it looks, Kevin Kline gives a fine performance in this offbeat comedy with a twist.
When dim-bulb actor Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon) wins an Oscar for playing a gay Marine, he outs his high school drama teacher, Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline), in his acceptance speech. It all comes as a surprise to Howard — not to mention to his long-suffering fiancÃ©e, Emily (Joan Cusack). With his wedding just days away and national media descending on his town, Howard’s under the gun to prove just how much of a man he is.
Cast: Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Tom Selleck, Matt Dillon, Debbie Reynolds, Wilford Brimley, Bob Newhart, Deborah Rush, Lewis J. Stadlen, Gregory Jbara, Shalom Harlow, Shawn Hatosy, Zak Orth, Lauren Ambrose, Alexandra Holden, Selma Blair, Glenn Close, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno
4. Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
The movie that made a million girls my age at the time turn lace tights into fingerless gloves. I love Madonna as much today as I did in ’85, and I don’t care how weird she gets.
Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) seeks vicarious thrills through other people’s personal ads. But via a jacket, amnesia and mistaken identity, Roberta comes to believe she’s Susan (Madonna), a wild Soho vamp wanted by the mob. Dez (Aidan Quinn) falls for “Susan” (Roberta); the real Susan has no idea she has a double; and Roberta’s husband, Jim (Mark Blum), is thrown for a loop. Director Susan Seidelman’s romantic comedy features tons of cameos.
Cast: Rosanna Arquette, Madonna, Aidan Quinn, Mark Blum, Laurie Metcalf, Robert Joy, Will Patton, Peter Maloney, John Turturro, Steven Wright, Anne Carlisle, Anna Levine, JosÃ© Angel Santana, Giancarlo Esposito, Richard Hell, Carol Leifer, Michael Badalucco
3. Valley Girl (1983)
The movie that launched Nicolas Cage into the world once and for all, it’s another underestimated gem in a sea of warm and fuzzy John Hughes movies.
A punk named Randy (Nicolas Cage) from the wrong side of the Hollywood Hills falls for Julie (Deborah Foreman), a mall-dwelling Valley Girl, and they begin a Romeo-and-Juliet-like romance — that is, until peer pressure gets to Julie and she cuts things off. But love-struck Randy refuses to give up on Julie. Will he convince her that they’re meant to be together? Martha Coolidge directs this satire on life in Southern California in the 1980s.
2. Desk Set (1957)
I can’t watch this movie too often. I want to be as classy as Kate someday. Today, with pumpkin cream cheese on my hoodie, this seems unlikely.
Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn) is a reference librarian whose tepid long-term relationship with television executive Mike Cutler (Gig Young) is fizzling. Enter Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy), a no-nonsense computer genius who’s created a new product named Miss Emmy to automate the work of Bunny and her co-workers. The two butt heads in the beginning, but soon their disdain for one another turns to romantic sparks.
1. Broadcast News (1987)
Have they made a decent romantic comedy in the 00’s? This entire list is full of old stuff. Doesn’t matter, Broadcast News is pretty timeless, as well as being hilarious.
In James L. Brooks’s Oscar-nominated romantic comedy, three ambitious workaholics are set loose in a network TV newsroom, where their professional and personal lives become hopelessly cross-wired. Anchorman Tom (William Hurt) is smooth, handsome and a bit dumb; Jane (Holly Hunter) is his driven, brilliant producer; and Aaron (Albert Brooks) is a seasoned, uncharismatic reporter who can’t stand Tom’s instant success on-camera or with Jane.