20. Bernie (2011)
Not all biopics have to follow the standard. Richard Linklater’s meta dark comedy Bernie tells the true story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a mortician in Texas, who befriends a wealthy, cold spirited widow named Majorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). The two are inseparable … until they are by death. Always one to shy away from the traditional, Linklater weaves in all sorts of testimonials to break things up, delivering something that’s more in line with Christopher Guest than, say, Ken Burns. Matthew McConaughey joins in the fun, too.
19. God Bless America (2011)
If you had told us back in the ’80’s that screaming comic Bobcat Goldthwait would go on to become a visionary filmmaker, we’d probably laugh harder. Of course, the second you see a fake baby shotgunned to death, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Goldwait directing God Bless America. This exceedingly dark entry is as coarse as his comedy. A twisted subversion on the Bonnie and Clyde tropes, this sendup of our own social anxieties toward reality television is equal parts hilarious and harrowing. Mostly hilarious, though.
18. The Nice Guys (2016)
The pairing we had no idea we wanted, but still can’t get enough of! With The Nice Guys, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling step out of their comfort zones with terrific comedic chops as two private investigators investigating the murder of an adult film star. Writer and director Shane Black flexes his buddy cop muscles, making us all yearn for the glory days of Riggs and Murtaugh. Knocking down one cop cliche after another, Black whimsically turns the overexposed genre on its head with ease, and never wastes an opportunity to shock us in the process.
17. The Hateful Eight (2015)
The Hateful Eight is another stunning submission into the cinema lexicon from Quentin Tarantino. This time around, we’re witness to the behavioral patterns unlikable ne’er-do-wells forced to co-exist under the unlikeliest circumstances. Tensions rise as the wintry, 19th century tale continues, Tarantino pitting one foe against another in his wooden echo chamber. Originally conceived as a stage play, The Hateful Eight works more like a wicked game of Guess Who? as you’re left to keep asking yourself, “Who should go next?”
16. The Square (2016)
Swedish auteur Ruben Östlund knows his way around the genre as this list will attest. The Square, his first entry here, follows a successful museum curator who develops trust issues after being pickpocketed and several other personal misfortunes. Consequently, he’s been tapped as the curator of a controversial new exhibit that just so happens to revolve around his rising anxieties. No doubt a divisive film, Östlund managed to nab an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film, proving even the Academy occasionally likes their comedy without sugar.
15. Seven Psychopaths (2012)
A struggling screenwriter (Colin Farrell) and his friends (Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken) find themselves in hot water after kidnapping the dog of a Los Angeles gangster (Woody Harrelson). On paper, that may read like a Saturday Night Live sketch, but this is Martin McDonagh we’re talking about here. As he’s proven time and time again, the playwright-turned-Oscar-nominated screenwriter has a knack for mining comedy out of severity. Seven Psychopaths is a testament to that, and arguably his most biting outing yet.
14. The Death of Stalin (2018)
The Death of Stalin is a film about power in a world, where everyone at the top has gone mad. As the title implies, the events take place following the ferocious dictator’s death, leaving his hungry Council of Ministers scrambling to maintain order as they also fight amongst themselves in a bid for succession. Despite its period setting, director Armando Iannucci’s whiplash screenplay (co-written alongside David Schneider and Ian Martin) speaks volumes at a time when our own chaotic political system distracts us from our day to day lives.
13. Sorry to Bother You (2018)
The ladder of success can be messy. If you’re good at what you do, there’s no ceiling, which can be dangerous depending on who’s at the top. This fate is explored in Sorry To Bother You, Boots Riley’s oft-bizarre and scathing indictment on new capitalism and the American workplace. Lakeith Stanfield is at the center of it all as a struggling telemarketer who strikes gold upon finding his “white voice.” This leads to promotions, more money, and then a stupid amount of stakes, the likes of which will change your feelings about horses.
12. The Overnight (2015)
Mystique is alluring. All too often we yearn to shed our responsibilities and simply explore. That’s the conceit of The Overnight. Directed by Patrick Brice, the film follows the unlikely misadventures of two Los Angeles couples, who spend time together amidst their children’s play date. Once the boys fall asleep, it’s time for the parents to head to the proverbial playground, and one couple has something much more salacious in mind. What follows is an exuberant and sexually charged exploration of what the grass is actually like on the other side.
11. The Lobster (2016)
“If you could come back as any animal, what would it be?” Yorgos Lanthimos mines that schoolyard daydream for the bleak dystopian setting of The Lobster. The film tasks Colin Farrell to find a mate within 45 days; otherwise, he’ll be turned into the animal of his choosing and cast out of society. He chooses a lobster. Why? Because they get to live for over 100 years. Fair enough. As that logline posits, nothing is predictable about Lanthimos’ rich commentary, warranting one curiously disarming and anxious journey.