Dark comedies, also known as black comedy or satiric humor, can help bring a little light to suffering, death, old age, and many more generally taboo topics in comedy entertainment. The genre has been around for a while, but more recently it’s become more mainstream.
Netflix has hopped on board with a number of originals in the genre, like The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window and Dead to Me. Generally, these shows and movies follow themes like a character who is grieving a loss, or a character who is suffering in some way. The following shows/films fit the bill, and according to IMDb, they are worth the watch.
10 I Care A Lot (6.3)
Starring Rosamund Pike in one of her best movies, I Care a Lot follows a con artist who convinces the courts to grant her guardianship over elders who she puts in assisted living homes before stealing their money and selling their houses. It is a pitch-black comedy that will leave viewers wanting to see more of Pike commanding the attention of the room and delivering a stellar performance.
She embodies a character that viewers have to convince themselves is an antagonist, not a protagonist, despite what they want to believe. The plot is brilliant, and although deeply unsettling and depressing at times, it is fully worth the watch.
9 The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window (6.4)
Netflix’s most recent dark humor endeavor features the incredible acting of Kristen Bell. The Woman in the House starts its comical journey before it’s even viewed thanks to its awkwardly long title. Under the guise of a murder mystery from the perspective of a grieving woman with life-alerting phobias and addictions, this show is a sterical look at female-driven crime dramas in modern popular culture.
The series wonderfully balances the dark comedic moments with a real mystery, comments on what grief looks like, discusses mental health, and has great characters. The show based most of its satire off of the book and film The Woman in the Window and other books with similar titles. Stories built on formulas make the best parodies, and Bell, along with her colleagues, capitalized on that.
8 The House (6.9)
The House is a unique step in a different direction for Netflix. The film is entirely stop-motion and tells three very different stories across different worlds and characters, but all within the same house. The anthology film was produced for Netflix in 2022 and has so far received wonderful reviews.
One critic, Roger Moore calls the film “the most delightfully strange project Netflix has ever put its money behind.” The stories are intriguing and the dialogue hilarious, viewers may be confused at first by its odd style and the evolution of ‘people’ into ‘cats’ not unlike those in Fantastic Mr. Fox. The creepy undertones, yet the comforting tale of the history of the house make this movie worth it.
7 Living With Yourself (7.2)
In arguably one of Paul Rudd’s best roles, Living With Yourself is a dark comedy about a man who undergoes a procedure for a better life. Instead, he learns that he was actually replaced by a clone version of himself. This comedy points out the dark reality that people don’t love everything about themselves and that there is a lot that everyone hopes to improve on in their lives.
Ultimately, for every step they take in the right direction, they themselves get in the way, or in the case of Living With Yourself, a clone might get in the way. The show is highly entertaining and gives the protagonist the opportunity to see the world through a different/new set of eyes and give himself a second chance.
6 Uncut Gems (7.4)
Adam Sandler leads this film about a jeweler with a gambling problem living in New York City. Sandler received wide praise for his performance, with Entertainment Weekly saying he’s “never been better, really, balancing speedwalking inspiration and fast-talking salesmanship with sorrow and glee.” The perfect recipe for an A+ dark comedy.
He applies his expertise with cheesy rom-coms and one-liners to the dry-voiced, straight-faced hustler, Howard. The film itself is unique, but Sandler also gets an opportunity to show off his versatile acting skills. The film is exhilarating, pure chaos, but Hollywood’s favorite dorky megastar pulls out his best cards and puts on a convincing and wonderful performance.
5 Imposters (7.8)
Imposters tells the story of a con artist who manipulates her partners into falling in love with her and then steals all of their valuables right after the wedding. The show is incredibly smart, and many have taken it for granted through the years. It holds its own and is up there with other dark comedies on Netflix.
The show is incredibly dark and manages to twist a pretty mundane plot into something more complex. At first, it’s hard to tell who viewers should be rooting for, the edge-of-your-seat chase and the humor that finds its way into the cracks make it worth watching and worth questioning what the outcome should be.
4 Russian Doll (7.8)
Russian Doll is the latest acting masterpiece of Natasha Lyonne. She, along with Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler are the geniuses behind this dark comedy-drama about a woman who repeatedly dies and must relive the same inescapable party over and over again until she can figure out what went wrong.
The time loop she is stuck in is supported by the symbol of a Russian nesting doll, and a metaphor for the disillusionment that comes as people reach the peak of their 30s. The writers poke fun at the sense of an inescapable life that starts to loom over your head when you get that far into adulthood. The brilliant storytelling starts out following the classic formula of a dark comedy but eventually evolves into having even more layers.
3 Dead To Me (8)
Dead to Me stars Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini as two women who bond during therapy, grieving the loss of their husbands, or so one of them says. The show received very high praise, earning itself four Emmy nominations and two awards. The show was due to end in 2021, but the third and final season is slated for release this year due to delays in production.
The show uses a unique plotline and a love story about friendship to highlight the complexities of remorse, grief, and revenge. Liz Feldman, the show’s creator, uses Applegate and Cardellini to show the different ways in which grief can manifest itself, infusing their relationship with wit and dark candor. It is their on-screen chemistry and mutual grief that creates on-screen magic and maintains a balance between comic timing and raw emotion.
2 The End Of The F***ing World (8.1)
As is apparent with After Life, British writers and comedians really know how to work dark comedy. The same genius was applied to The End of the F***ing World, a show about two teenagers as they embark on an adventure to find a long-lost father and escape the police after a brutal murder. The show was praised for its writing, subject matter, and the performances of the two main actors.
Lincoln Michel of GQ Magazine calls it “the best dark comedy on Netflix.” The show does an incredible job balancing its disturbing aspects and subject matter with humor. From opening monologue to the end of season 2, The End of the F***ing World takes viewers into the minds of James and Alyssa and their inner dialogue proves to be dark and hilarious all at the same time.
1 After Life (8.5)
After Life is a British black comedy-drama and a surprising original release by Netflix. The entire show is created, written, produced, directed, and led by Ricky Gervais. Gervais is known for his satirical humor and he plays Tony Johnson, a man who recently lost his wife.
In response to his pain, he decides to act out. But, despite how hard he tries to make everyone’s lives around him miserable, they continue to pity him and help him through it. The show manages to turn the discomfort of being around someone who has lost a loved one, and make it something much more complex and, well, funny. Gervais manages to balance the dark humor surrounding his character, and still create a life-affirming experience.
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