8. Clifford (Paul Flaherty, 1994)
Easily, one of the strangest movies of the mid-1990s was the film Clifford. And no, this is not based off the book series about the big red dog. Instead, Clifford stars 40-year-old Martin Short as the titular character, a 10-year-old boy. Clifford is not your typical pre-teen; he is a cold-blooded and self-centered psychopath.
The film starts off in the year 2050, with a young man blowing up a gym after not making the basketball team. Clifford, an old priest who works at the school starts to tell the young terrorist about his youth. In a flashback, Clifford is travelling to Hawaii with his parents and as they are flying over California, Clifford realizes they are flying over a theme park he wants to go to. Of course, his parents don’t plan on taking him.
So when Clifford doesn’t get his way, he sneaks into the cockpit and turns off the engines. This causes them to land in Los Angeles and Clifford is pawned off on his uncle Martin (Charles Grodin), who is trying to prove to his girlfriend that he likes children. While staying with Martin, whenever Clifford doesn’t get his way, he does horrible things. For example, he calls in a bomb threat that gets Martin arrested in front of his girlfriend’s family and the stunt also gets him fired.
In the end, Martin nearly kills Clifford, and has the opportunity to just let him die. When he does save him, he tells him he’s an inhuman monster. Nothing says funny like seriously considering letting a 10-year-old family member die a violent death only to rescue him to tell him he wasn’t worth saving.
7. Death to Smoochy (Danny DeVito, 2002)
This infamous movie is about a children’s TV host named Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) who gets fired from his show after accepting bribes to put kids on his show. After losing his job, the genuinely innocent and naive Sheldon Mopes, aka Smoochy (Edward Norton) takes over his time slot. From there, Rainbow who is an amoral alcoholic, tries to ruin Smoochy’s life, all the while becoming more and more unhinged.
It is an incredibly funny premise, but the movie was just too mean and cynical for a lot of people’s taste. As a result, it is a notorious box office flop. Critics said that the world presented in the movie and the characters were just too dark that it made it uncomfortable to watch. Others, however, love how outrageous the movie is and it is now considered a cult classic.
6. God Bless America (Bobcat Goldthwait, 2011)
In the opening sequence of God Bless America, the “hero” of the story, Frank (Joel Murray), fantasizes about shooting a crying baby and splattering the blood on the mother while he laughs. Shortly after that fantasy, Frank suffers a series of unfortunate events; he gets fired and finds out he might be terminally ill.
At his breaking point, with nothing left to live for, Frank sets out to kill a bratty teenage reality star in a brutal fashion. After the murder, Frank meets Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a teenage girl who encourages him to go on a killing spree targeting rude people and awful celebrities.
The body count is so high and so gory that horror movies would be jealous. But that isn’t exactly what is mean-spirited about God Bless America. After all, a lot of people might find the movie to be quite cathartic. It is in the dialogue where the mean streak flairs up. It has a holier than thou attitude at times.
Writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait’s argument sometimes diverts into “things were better in my day” and “I hate” rants. The movie essentially browbeats the audience in a condescending way that lacks any subtlety. So, at times, it comes across as bitter and not exactly funny.
5. Observe and Report (Jody Hill, 2009)
When Seth Rogen was doing promotional interviews for the movie, he said that Observe and Report was the most messed up movie that he had been a part of; which is saying a lot. Rogen plays the character of Ronnie Barnhardt, a bipolar, power-tripping mall security guard who lives with his alcoholic mother.
If Ronnie is the hero of the movie, then the villain is the mall flasher, who is tormenting a woman named Brandi (Anna Faris) who Ronnie likes. Throughout the movie, our hero goes on to date-rape Brandi, viciously beat a group of drug dealers, goes on a cocaine binge where he beats up some skaters, and finally, of course, there is one of the bloodiest endings ever in the comedy genre.
The filmmakers said that they were inspired by the movie Taxi Driver, not exactly known for its comedy, and Ronnie is often compared to Travis Bickle. Needless to say, this movie is bleak and not for everyone.
4. In the Company of Men (Neil LaBute, 1997)
Director Neil LaBute is known for his rather aggressive mean-streak that runs through most of his movies, and it all started with his first feature In the Company of Men.
The film stars Aaron Eckert as a misogynistic man named Chad. He is out of town on business for six weeks with a co-worker named Howard (Matt Malloy) who is heartbroken after another relationship has failed. Angry at women, they decide to find the most innocent woman they can, date her and then break up with her at the same time, just to break her heart.
Using that dark and mean premise, the two men settle on Christine, who is a sweet, deaf woman that is self-conscious about her lack of hearing and spends most of her time alone.
The two men try to execute their plan, and without giving too much away, there is a reason that this movie is on a list about mean-spirited films and it has something to do with an adage about “nice guys.” Besides just the basic premise being cruel, the dialogue is also unabashedly mean. Chad has no problems bashing women, talking about people their back and mocking Christine for her deafness.
3. Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998)
Happiness stars an ensemble cast, and there are a number of odd and disturbing storylines. But the most controversial storyline revolves around Bill (Dylan Baker), who is a psychiatrist and a pedophile.
The film has a darkly relaxed attitude towards Bill raping two young boys. It is meant to be off-putting and it succeeds tremendously. This is just one example of the film’s mean-streak and as a result, it had problems finding an audience. For example, the Sundance Film Festival refused to screen it because they thought it was too “disagreeable.”
The film was so uncompromising that it nearly destroyed Solondz career, although it’s considered his best film. The original production company refused to release it, but it was released by New Line where it found a cult following.
2. Very Bad Things (Peter Berg, 1998)
Very Bad Things is about five friends that go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. During the evening, one of them accidentally kills a prostitute in their hotel room. Instead of calling the police, they decide the best thing to do is cut up the body and bury her in the desert. This plan, of course, leads to further complications and even more gory deaths.
While murder, even grotesque ones, can be funny in black comedies, but the deaths depicted in Very Bad Things are way too grisly and too real. Almost all of the characters lack any type of humanity and that makes it hard to connect with their plight. Roger Ebert said, “Its cynicism is the most unattractive thing about it – the assumption that an audience has no moral limits and will laugh at cruelty simply to feel hip.” In fact, he said if the movie was done as a drama, it would have been much better.
1. The Comedy (Rick Alverson, 2012)
Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, known for their polarizing brand of comedy, decided to make a comedy, called The Comedy, and it wasn’t funny. Basically, the film is about a man in his 30s, named Swanson (Heidecker), who grew up as a spoiled rich kid. Which could have been funny, but there is absolutely no plot or character development.
Instead, the character just drinks and hangs out with his friends. When he isn’t hanging out, he just goes around saying and doing mean things for 90 minutes. Swanson is an awful, passive aggressive and completely unlikable person and it makes the film an unpleasant experience for anyone watching it.
The unpleasantness in the film is obviously their goal, but what’s the point? Why would someone need to make a movie like that? It isn’t clever, artistic and it comes across as ultra-shallow. Some reviewers even said that the movie was so mean-spirited that it felt like the filmmakers were laughing at the audience, because they weren’t in on the joke.
So for making a movie that is meant to intentionally insult the audience, especially audiences that pay to see it, The Comedy is one of the meanest movies made in any genre.