“Crime comedy” may seem like a broad, tired, oversaturated quasi-genre, and there are indeed tons of movies that loosely include both themes together – but not many movies feature genuine elements of crime and comedy; even fewer blend them together successfully. With the crime-com-leaning Tower Heist hitting theaters this week, we took a look back at the ones that got it right.
The masterpiece. Quentin Tarantino seamlessly mixed shocking violence and crime with his absurdist sense of humor. The result was a stunning mash-up that ushered in a necessarily new, mercifully fresh style of storytelling to the medium.
Arguably the most beloved Coen brothers film, Lebowski is often remembered for The Dude and its overall stoner-friendliness, but let’s not forget that the story actually revolves around crime. The Coens wouldn’t make just a stoner comedy, or anything one-dimensional.
Also arguably the most beloved Coen brothers film, Fargo offered mainstream moviegoers their first glimpse at the duo’s trademark non-replicable “formula”: violence laced with pitch-black comedy.
Beverly Hills Cop
As we all know, Eddie Murphy – co-lead of the aforementioned Tower Heist – was once associated with edgy, R-rated comedy, never more so than with the first Beverly Hills Cop, a borderline perfect marriage of crime and comedy. Don’t hold its ‘80s-ness against it.
More or less the one that started it all, The Sting clicked on every single cylinder, racking up awards and gigantic (at the time) box office returns. In his original 1973 review, Roger Ebert explains it best: “It’s good to get a crime movie more concerned with humor and character than with blood and gore; here’s one, as we say, for the whole family.”
Wes Anderson’s feature directorial debut is an underappreciated gem of offbeat cinema (though not by Martin Scorsese, who named it one of his favorite films of the ‘90s). With virtually no budget, Bottle Rocket relied on Anderson’s formidable knack for quirky, offbeat humor—and in this case, quirky, offbeat crime.
Swept Away notwithstanding, Guy Ritchie has made a living out of crime comedy, with 2000’s Snatch possibly being his greatest contribution. Moviegoers have debated its greatness, but no one can debate the fact that it's the most energetic movie of its kind.
The subgenre lives on! Martin McDonagh’s somewhat ignored crime-com is the latest addition to this list – and proof that the mash-up can still be executed amazingly well. The director’s next movie, the superbly titled Seven Psychopaths (also starring Colin Farrell) seems destined to be even better.