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5 classic black comedies that made us laugh and cringe #TheDeathofStalin

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Ever had that feeling during a movie that you really shouldn't be laughing at something? It's a regular feature of black comedy and Armando Ianucci's glorious The Death of Stalin more than scratches that particular itch.

The story of the scramble for power in the wake of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death, the movie introduces us to a group of militants, politicians and charlatans all trying to gain the upper hand so they aren't bumped off as potential dissidents.

Such uncomfortable material doesn't immediately leap out as being funny but the genius is how Ianucci twists this very dark scenario into something farcical and hilarious, aided by an outstanding cast including Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs, Jeffrey Tambor and Steve Buscemi.

This got us thinking: what other movies had us laughing whilst we were also cringing? We've rounded up five favourites.


Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Ealing Studio veteran Alec Guinness goes above and beyond the call of duty in this acerbic study of British manners and class society. Guinness plays eight members of a wealthy family, all of whom are steadily bumped off by their scheming distant relative (Dennis Price) who wants the fortune for himself. Masquerading as young, old, man and woman, Guinness' sublime comic timing makes palatable the somewhat unnerving realisation that this is a comedy about murder.


Dr Strangelove (1964)

Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece is quite possibly the black comedy to end them all – after all, what subject matter is more terrifying than a nuclear holocaust? In the face of something of this magnitude, there really is little to do but laugh, and that's where Dr Strangelove comes up trumps with its gallery of brilliantly twisted characters embodied by the legendary Peter Sellers. Even so it's the unforgettable image of Slim Pickens riding the bomb down to Earth like a bucking bronco that best sums up the joy and horror of Kubrick's classic.


Heathers (1988)

Those of a certain vintage hold this coruscating Christian Slater/Winona Ryder movie close to their hearts. It's possibly the darkest of all eighties high school movies – unsurprising given the subject matter revolves around the elimination of an entire school clique in order so the main character can maintain her squeaky clean reputation. Slater and Ryder's memorable performances, psychotic yet charismatic, deranged yet charming, are the engine that drives the story.


Death at a Funeral (2007)

Veteran comedy helmer Frank Oz (he of Miss Piggy fame) turns that most hallowed of occasions, a burial, into an opportunity for a laugh riot in this pitch-black offering. An excellent cast including Matthew McFadyen, Peter Dinklage and Keeley Hawes preside over a funeral running wildly out of control, with hallucinogenic drugs leading to some truly jaw-dropping moments. It was remade (badly) by Hollywood in 2010.


Four Lions (2010)

A comedy about four home-grown jihadists? Never let it be said that master satirist Chris Morris is one to shy from a challenge. The former Brass Eye and Day Today guru presents us with a deliberately outrageous scenario, inviting us to laugh at upsetting material and yet, miraculously, is able to play the main quartet's quest for glory as both ludicrously funny and movingly human. 

Click here to book your tickets for The Death of Stalin and send us your favourite black comedies @Cineworld.


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