The best black comedy movies of every year of the 1980s
Who doesn’t love a good dark comedy? Believe it or not, the 1980s produced some of the most morbid, dark comedic features of all time. From horror to social satire to science fiction, the decade has been marked by cheeky, cheeky films that have pushed boundaries and divided critics.
These dark comedies tackle taboo subjects like death, depression and murder. Without skipping a moment, the hilarious scenes give way to devastating scenes in a uniquely 1980s way. It’s got big hair, big egos, and in some cases, big mugs full of gazpacho. There’s also tons of synth heavy background music to go along with all of the sarcasm and cynicism.
ten 1980: Motel Hell
Part satire, part comedy and part slasher, Motel Hell is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Pyscho for the 80s VHS generation. The film centers around Motel Hello, where owners and siblings Vincent and Ida Smith target passers-by who dare to spend the night in their inn.
It turns out that the special ingredient in Vincent’s smoked meats is human flesh. Putting on a pig’s head mask and wielding a chainsaw, Vincent stays busy searching for products for his famous roadside snack.
9 1981: An American werewolf in London
John Landis’s An American werewolf in London is a unique horror comedy. This film about two American backpackers with lycanthropy after crossing paths with a werewolf in the English countryside features some of the genre’s most groundbreaking special effects, making it the first horror film to win an Oscar.
David Naughton plays David Kessler, who is unleashed on the streets of London on the night of the full moon. The horrific graphic scenes of the film are ideally suited for tongue-in-cheek and sardonic jokes.
8 1982: The king of comedy
One of Martin Scorsese’s hidden gems, The king of comedy sees Robert De Niro show off his comedic skills with Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard. De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, an aspiring comedian obsessed with talk show host Jerry Langford, who is played by Lewis.
Pupkin dreams of appearing on the Langford show, and when it’s obvious that this dream won’t come true, he takes matters into his own hands by kidnapping Langford. The king of comedy features hilarious commentary on celebrity cult and media culture.
7 1983: Places of commerce
After An American werewolf in London, John Landis barred Stock markets. This dark social comedy stars Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd at their best; they play a con artist and a stock investor who both get caught up in a bizarre bet between two bored millionaires.
One percent decide on a social experiment: what happens when the characters of Murphy and Aykroyd switch places? The result is a hilarious race filled with many ideas about American capitalism.
6 1984: Repo Man
Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez share Alex Cox directorial debut screen Repo Man. The grungy sci-fi aesthetic meets the tropes of road trip comedy in this unique feature about a young punk who gets a job at a car repossession agency.
There are aliens, CIA plots, and all the paranoia that came with the last years of the atomic age. Even with its subversive themes and B-movie attributes, Repo Man was a critical success when it was released.
5 1985: Brazil
Terry gilliam’s Brazil is an epic, bureaucratic nightmare whose plot unfolds with comedic mastery. The film stars Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowry, a low-level civil servant who lives in a totalitarian society.
In order not to sink into total despair, Lowry maintains a complex fantasy world where he is a brave hero who saves beautiful women from death. Lowry has a chance to make his dream come true when he becomes involved in an underground resistance movement.
4 1986: Ruthless people
In Ruthless people, Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater play a couple who kidnap the wife of a callous businessman who beat them up. The villain, played by Danny DeVito, is actually thrilled to get rid of the woman he was about to kill before running off with his mistress – meaning he doesn’t have the intention to pay the ransom.
Bette Midler stars as DeVito’s character wife, who doesn’t like to be kidnapped. Ruthless people is the kind of hysterical caper that shows what people are going to do to each other when put in dire straits.
3 1987: Withnail and I
In the British gem under the radar Withnail and me, two unemployed actors try to make the most of it in the 1960s in London. Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann play the titular Withnail and I, aka Marwood, who share an apartment in the Camden Town neighborhood.
The duo meet up in the English countryside, where they spend a weekend with Uncle Monty de Withnail. What makes this film so hilarious is its stellar dialogue, existential ruminations, and scathing accusations against the creative class.
2 1988: Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown
Beloved Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar weaves a complex and multi-faceted story into Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown. This set feature employs slapstick humor, situational comedy, and histrionic play to tell a story about grief, chance, and consuming lots of gazpacho that may or may not be mixed with sleeping pills.
Carmen Maura plays the role of Pepa Marcos, an actress dubbed a breakup with her married boyfriend Ivan. Over the course of one night, Pepa is overwhelmed by one visitor after another, including a young Antonio Banderas.
1 1989: Heather
Michael lehmann Heather is the ultimate black teen satire on what happens when a psychopathic nihilist goes out with one of the popular girls at school. Winona Rider stars as Veronica Sawyer, whose life is turned upside down after meeting the new guy, Christian Slater’s character, JD
JD convinces Veronica to rally against the crowd, and some rebellious jokes turn violent after Veronica’s friend, Heather, is killed. From there, JD drives Veronica into Bonnie and Clyde’s territory; the results are explosive.
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