20 Horror Comedies You Need to Watch

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Most horror movies are inherently ridiculous. They usually ask us to believe in things that aren’t possible, that flout the rules of reality, and to become so invested in these fictional worlds that we feel legitimate fear over what happens. Maybe that’s why I prefer horror movies that embrace that ridiculousness and intentionally try to make us laugh over ones that try to play it straight? (And maybe that’s why I edit a comedy section instead of, say, a movies section?) There’s a lot of room to move around on the horror comedy spectrum, sliding between laughs and scares, and these 20 movies show the full range of possibilities within the form. This is far from a comprehensive compendium of horror comedy, but if you’re looking for a horror movie with a bit of personality to it, you can’t go wrong with any of these films.

1. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, 1948

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By the end of the ‘40s, the classic Universal monster movie series was on its last legs. In the wake of WWII, the old monsters simply couldn’t hold up, so the studio instead turned to comedy with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein while simultaneously including their most iconic monster creations. The movie is significant for being the one and only time that Bela Lugosi ever returned to play the Dracula role in a second film after the 1931 Dracula, although he played a different vampire on several other occasions. He brings his magnetic presence back to the role while also introducing an unexpected sense of humor. The film is great fun, with reverence both for the classic monsters and the blockbusters they starred in while also injecting levity and classic Abbott and Costello wordplay/physical comedy. There’s plenty of madcap sequences of the pair opening and closing doors, running through hallways and suffering pratfalls. It’s a must-see for fans of classic cinema and is also a great Halloween movie for kids, presuming they can be convinced to watch something in black and white.—Jim Vorel

2. Young Frankenstein, 1974

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Routinely listed as one of the best comedies of all time and one of the 10 or so films I can quote almost entirely from memory, Young Frankenstein is a classic of the genre. At once a spoof of traditional Universal horror films and a loving tribute, Mel Brooks and his immensely talented cast have created a timeless film.—Mark Rabinowitz

3. An American Werewolf in London, 1981

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There’s gallows humor, then there’s the more direct approach of a-wolf-tearing-out-one’s-esophagus humor. John Landis’ other werewolf (non-King of Pop) entry is practically an overachiever in balancing its genuinely scary-as-hell moments with scenes of absurd levity. Rick Baker’s wolfen SFX also serves as evidence that David Cronenberg didn’t hold the monopoly on bodily horror during the ’80s, nor Industrial Light and Magic the monopoly on putting the fantastic on film.—Scott Wold

4. Pandemonium, 1982

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This obscurity might be permanently imprinted on your brain if you were young and impressionable and had HBO in the early 1980s. Years before Scary Movie, Pandemonium parodied both specific horror films and the genre as a whole. It fires out gags almost as relentlessly as a Zucker-Abraham-Zucker movie, and although they don’t land quite as often, there’s still some great work here from the always excellent Carol Kane. It also features a pre-fame Phil Hartman and Paul Reubens, for the Pee Wee completionists out there. I saw this before I had seen any actual horror films—hell, I saw this a half-dozen times before I had seen any horror films—so in a way it’s colored my entire history with the genre. It’s one of those movies that gets a little bit worse every year past the age of maybe seven, so if you didn’t see it in your youth the window has probably closed.—Garrett Martin

5. The Slumber Party Massacre, 1982

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The script for The Slumber Party Massacre originally envisioned the film as a satire of the burgeoning slasher genre, which was pumping out cheapo films at this point after the huge successes of Halloween in 1978 and Friday the 13th in 1980. It appears that no one told the film crew or actors about that whole “satire” thing, though, so what you get is a really goofy film with earnest attempts at delivering comedic material, and it just works. It feels like a teenage boy’s idea of “what would totally make Halloween way better,” and thus sets the film at a slumber party of nubile, oft-times naked young women. The killer is a beautifully silly pastiche of psycho killers—no known motivation, he’s just some “mass killer” who happens to escape from prison and then goes right back to his favorite pastime. Weapon of choice? An electric power drill, which seems completely impractical. The dopey characters make it something of an accidental horror comedy, but the laughs are real, provided you have any fondness at all for the classic era of slashers.—JV

6. Ghostbusters, 1984

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Ghostbusters was a simple concept: put some of the best comedians of the day in a live-action riff on the classic Disney short “Lonesome Ghosts,” but, y’know, kind of scary. Adults maybe didn’t shake at the sight of an as-yet-unnamed Slimer, or at Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis increasingly giving over to demonic possession, but when you’re a kid that is some legitimately horrific business. It warmly embraces the corniness inherent in the word “spooky,” evoking Saturday afternoon creature features and the Haunted Mansion while letting Bill Murray be as Bill Murray as he can possibly be.—GM

7. Gremlins, 1984

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You know those stories of kids who thought Gremlins was going to be a cute, funny movie about a cute, funny critter named Gizmo, and then lost their minds with terror while witnessing its true horror in the theater? Nice to meet you! Gremlins is violent and disgusting and even kind of mean-spirited at times, which is to say it’s a legitimate horror film. It’s also a lot of fun. It may not be as clever or funny as the amazing sequel, but it’s still funny, and more of a straight-up horror film. If you have kids today, maybe prepare them for what’s coming.—GM

8. Night of the Comet, 1984

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A forgotten little gem from the ‘80s, Night of the Comet can easily be dismissed as nothing more than a goof of a film. Those with an open mind, however, will find an intriguing example of a film that mixed genres before such a thing was readily acceptable. The story centers on two teenage Valley Girls who, after a comet passes right near the Earth and vaporizes billions in its wake, decide to take advantage of the end-of-the-world situation by having an epic shopping spree. On the way, however, they encounter zombies, the military and countless other “totally lame” detours. A hilarious send-up of ‘80s culture, Night of the Comet provides a thoroughly entertaining time capsule of the decade.—Mark Rozeman

9. Return of the Living Dead, 1985

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Return of the Living Dead, or simply ROTLD, is an important film on numerous fronts—important to the history of zombie movies, important in terms of “youth-focused” horror films, and important as a great horror comedy. Plenty, even most horror flicks before this one featured teenage protagonists/victims, but few feel like they really captured the zeitgeist of being a young person in that time period. ROTLD, on the other hand, simply feels like one of the most profoundly “teen ‘80s” films ever made. The kids are exaggerated archetypes, satirical depictions of nerds, punks, greasers, mall junkies and leather-studded badasses. The zombification, meanwhile, creates ghouls that are much different from George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead zombies—faster, smarter and far chattier. The film’s humor has a sick streak, a morbid delight in the comic ultraviolence necessary to even make a dent in the zombies. It delights in its juvenile nature and the celebration of youthful vitality (cut short). All that, and it’s got a ridiculously cheesy punk soundtrack that will make you laugh all on its own.—JV

10. House, 1986

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William Katt wasn’t just the guy from The Greatest American Hero when I was a kid; he was also the guy from House, a frightening movie full of violence, horrific images and two of America’s favorite ‘80s sitcom stars. George Wendt and Richard Moll moonlight from Cheers and Night Court, respectively, to add some comic relief to this haunted house story. Wendt’s basically playing just another shade of Norm, but Moll turns the weirdness always present in Bull Shannon into something genuinely threatening and terrifying. It’s perhaps forgotten today, but House was a cult hit at the time, and inspired a number of sequels.—GM

11. Little Shop of Horrors, 1986

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Rick Moranis shines as nerdy florist Seymour Krelborn, whose Venus Flytrap-esque plant Audrey II requires human blood to survive. The audience sees Krelborn juggle success with his own plant’s insatiable appetite, and we get some big laughs along the way with help from Steve Martin, Bill Murray and The Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs as Audrey II. Although the idea of a killer plant and some questionable language might raise a few eyebrows, the film’s light-hearted attitude and fantastic musical moments make Little Shop of Horrors a great selection for horror-seeking young people.—Tyler Kane

12. Evil Dead II, 1987

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It goes without saying that Evil Dead II is unforgettably bloody. It’s also ridiculously colorful. Sam Raimi doesn’t just use red blood here. There’s black blood, too, and blue blood, and even green blood, and it all comes in enough volume to fill an Olympic swimming pool past capacity. Few people have ever made arterial spray into art or frothing geysers of human viscera so hilarious the way Raimi has.—Andy Crump

13. Beetlejuice, 1988

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After a little vacation, Barbara and Adam Maitland find some uninvited guests in their homes. Okay, so maybe they died, and maybe their house was sold to some poor, unsuspecting (but equally annoying) couple. After some failed haunting attempts, the Maitlands make the mistake of hiring a “bio-exorcist” Betelgeuse (played perfectly by a never-more-revolting Michael Keaton) to fumigate the place of the living. As this situation tends to go, the hired gun gets out of control, and we’re left with Tim Burton’s wacky vision of a ghoul gone really bad. Its good humor and (sort of) likable antagonist make this one a film most of the family can enjoy.—Tyler Kane

14. Tremors, 1990

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Tremors has been a hell of a brand, with three sequels and a television series to its name, but the original 1990 film remains the best of the bunch. A wry throwback to ‘50s-era creature features, it seems like a movie that would have been made by American International Pictures and stuck on the second half of a Roger Corman double feature. Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon make a classic western duo as the cowboy-handymen who come into conflict with carnivorous, subterranean worms, but most of the scenes are really stolen by Michael Gross as deadly serious survivalist Burt Gummer, who becomes the main character and fan-favorite of the entire rest of the series thanks to his over-the-top performances. It’s about as amusing as you would expect from a film where fishing for giant worms with explosives is a major plot point.—JV

15. Dead Alive, 1992

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Admittedly the Peter Jackson/Sam Raimi school of splatter/comedy horror isn’t to everyone’s taste, but for those who can take it Dead Alive (also known as Braindead) offers the fullest expression of this niche genre. While its story is largely perfunctory and filled with clichés, every other aspect of the film is clearly a labor of love, particularly its increasingly gory deaths. Dead Alive is a zombie flick that just wants to have fun, and whether it’s in the form of a karate-trained priest or a zombie-killing lawnmower, the movie succeeds on its own demented terms. And for any guy with mommy issues, the true terror is seeing Lionel’s ultimate showdown with his overbearing mom.—Sean Gandert

16. Cabin Fever, 2002

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Cabin Fever is a darkly humorous story about a group of friends who head to an Evil Dead-style cabin in the woods and face not a slasher or demons, but a killer too small and invasive to avoid: A flesh-eating virus. It is, to describe in a single word: icky. People with phobias about communicable disease, especially in the wake of the Ebola panic, will find this movie especially horrifying, especially once peoples’ faces start falling off. Everyone else is likely to laugh at the plight of the largely unlikable teens suffering this fate, and their understandably hysterical reactions to it. There’s a lot to laugh at—the comic relief deputy, and especially the infamous and profoundly weird pancake kid. Of course, like most slashers, we ultimately want the villain to win. Even if the villain is a virus.—JV

17. Shaun of the Dead, 2004

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Although it’s best known for poking fun at the zombie genre, if you look past the dark humor and slapstick moments, Shaun of the Dead holds up to tradition amazingly well. We see brutal, gory scenes blended with laughs, especially when Shaun (to his own horror) takes out his first zombie by accident. And like George A. Romero’s highly respected catalog, the whole premise highlights (in the most exaggerated way possible) the zombie-like lifestyle some take on thanks to our own modern conveniences. As a comedy, Shaun of the Dead gets its biggest laughs from being self-aware, but it never lets that stand in the way of a few truly horrifying moments, and when you add in a depressingly real love story that also makes room for a lifelong friendship (shown perfectly by buddies Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), Shaun of the Dead is bound to stir up all kinds of emotions for any non-flesh eater with a heartbeat.—TK

18. Zombieland, 2009

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While we’re still disappointed some of Zombieland’s rules remain shrouded in mystery, the movie was hilarious and allowed us to vicariously live out our fantasies of killing zombies in a post-apocalyptic world and partying with Bill Murray in his house. Plus, it was the first movie to point out that when it comes to zombies, it’s more important to have good cardio than to be good with a shotgun.—SG

19. Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, 2010

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Let’s face it, hillbillies and their ilk have been getting the short end of the pitchfork in movies since the strains of banjo music faded in 1972’s Deliverance. And whether due to radiation (The Hills Have Eyes) or just good old determined inbreeding (Wrong Turn and so, so many films you’re better off not knowing about), the yokel-prone in film have really enjoyed slaughtering innocent families on vacation, travelers deficient in basic map usage skills, and, best of all, sexually active college students just looking for a good time. But fear not, members of Hillbillies for Inclusion, Consideration & Kindness in Screenplays (HICKS)—writer/director Eli Craig has your hairy, unloofahed back. His film, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, answers the simple question: What if those hillbillies are just socially awkward fellows sprucing up a vacation home and the young college kids in question are just prone to repeatedly jumping to incorrect, often fatal, conclusions? Think Final Destination meets the Darwin Awards.—Michael Burgin

20. What We Do in the Shadows, 2014

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Who knew that the undead fight over dirty dishes or primp before going out? It’s these types of little moments, paired with almost throwaway bits of dialogue, that turn the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows into a sublime comedy. As written, directed and starring Jemaine Clement, half of the comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, and Taika Waititi, writer and director of Boy, New Zealand’s highest-grossing film, the film not only tweaks the vampire genre by adding a number of mumblecore elements, but also pays a tongue-in-cheek homage to its history.—Christine N. Ziemba

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