A good comedy can make anyone’s day, with recent films of different varieties such as Minions: Rise Of Gru and Jackass Forever showing that these films continue to find audiences who want to laugh and have fun.
Not all comedies aim for just that, however, and there have been numerous films over the years that ended on a rather sour tone. Sometimes, this ends up working for the best and makes the film very memorable, but other times, it can completely hinder the film at its core.
10/10 American Graffiti
American Graffiti is a pioneer in teen comedies, showing a bunch of young high school graduates on their last day before college, set in 1962. It made a star of its cast and director, George Lucas, and is still remembered fondly. Some of that may be due to its ending, where it reveals that after the events of the movie, one character died in a car crash and another went missing in Vietnam.
While this may hurt the innocent mood of the film, it had to. Lucas wanted American Graffiti to be nostalgic but still grounded in reality. For many people of Lucas’s era, the early 60s were great because of their innocence. As they got older, they realized the world is not that innocent and the ending of American Graffiti shows that.
9/10 Chasing Amy
Chasing Amy is an example of a happy movie with a sad ending, as it is a film where no one gets what they want and all the personal relationships end up dissolving as a result. It has a very tender ending scene that would have felt out of place in other Kevin Smith films.
Smith wanted to do something different here and wanted to be seen as a more serious director. While this film is still a comedy at its soul, it is far different from what audiences were to expect from a Kevin Smith film at the time. 90s comedies were rarely this bleak, usually ending with an over the top happy ending.
8/10 Monty Python And The Holy Grail
One of the best examples of a film abruptly killing the mood, but doing it for the best would be Monty Python And The Holy Grail. When right before the big climactic fight, all of King Arthur’s men are arrested for killing a narrator earlier by modern policemen, completely stopping the movie right before it hit the climax.
There is a reason Monty Python is considered a comedy legend, and it is due to things like this. Many comedies have broken the fourth wall, but rarely ever do they use it to completely change the outcome of the film. It may have ruined the mood, but that just made it all the funnier.
7/10 Get Him To The Greek
Get Him To The Greek was acclaimed when it came out, but is not even close to as fondly remembered as Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Perhaps this is due to its out-of-place third act which includes uncomfortable jokes about sexual misconduct towards Jonah Hill and other out-of-character moments.
This is a funny movie for the most part, with Russell Brand at the peak of his comedic powers. But jokes of that nature never land and it makes this film feel, in a bad way, a whole lot dirtier than it should. That likely is why it is not put on the same level as other Judd Apatow comedies from that era.
6/10 The Last American Virgin
This film sure had an unexpected ending. What seemed to be a regular teen sex comedy where the nerdy guy gets the girl, The Last American Virgin ends with the girl going back to her ex, leaving the hero, Gary sad and defeated driving home alone. This was the ending to a sex comedy.
Other comedies of this genre were not exactly going for realism and were mostly just for laughs. Adding this gut punch to the end of the film gives The Last American Virgin some personality that other films of that era lack. It stands out in a good way, so even if it killed the mood, it made people remember the film to this day.
5/10 Marley And Me
Marley And Me is a cute and funny movie about a mischievous dog and his importance to his family. It ends with everyone crying as they witness the dog get sick and euthanized. While this happens in a lot of dog-related films, it is still never an easy thing to see, especially in a family comedy.
Again another example of a film that is more well remembered due to its sad ending, Marley And Me is based on a true story giving the ending some more merit. However, it is a film that feels like it could have had a happy ending. It did not, however, and showed the audience the pain of burying a man’s best friend.
4/10 Roman Holiday
Roman Holiday is considered a landmark romantic comedy, and it will satisfy anyone’s Italian wanderlust, however people who expect a happy Hollywood ending will be somewhat sad. The two lovers, played by icons Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, end with them just separating as they can not be together since Hepburn is a princess.
This goes against films like It Happened One Night, where the rich leading lady does end up with the newspaper writer. This gives an alternative to that film that shows the realities of social classes that Hollywood usually did not touch upon. Roman Holiday is a classic and considered a high mark on both lead’s filmographies.
3/10 Fever Pitch
Fever Pitch is about a man who has to choose between the Red Sox and Drew Barrymore, a nightmare for any New Englander to have to go through. While he was supposed to choose Barrymore, real life got in the way and the Red Sox won the world series for the first time in 86 years, forcing them to change the script so Jimmy Fallon can have his cake and eat it too.
Fallon was never supposed to completely abandon the Red Sox but he was supposed to grow up from his childhood obsession and move on with his life. The Red Sox did the unthinkable and winning something changed that, so Fallon got to join everyone else in their jubilant celebration.
2/10 Stand By Me
As heartwarming as any film, Stand By Me is a classic with a tear-jerking ending. Knowing that Chris got his act together and still died young is a tough pill to swallow and does not fit what many of these films do. However, it does add to the emotional depth of the film and makes it stand above films that have mimicked it since.
Perhaps this scene is more upsetting due to River Phoenix’s real-life fate. Stand By Me is more serious than other films on this list however, it is still an earnest comedy that tackles adolescence with charm and grace. Its sad ending makes the film memorable, but it does leave the audience heartbroken from the reality that just hit them.
While Monty Python was able to do an absurd ending, changing the tone and making it feel right, correctly, Grease did not do that. Danny and Sandy flying away made no sense then and does not now. It is an ending that feels forced and just like something they felt like doing.
Grease is not a film known for its realism anyway, but sometimes things like this do not need to happen. Many of these films benefited by changing the tone, however, Grease took an already over-the-top story, and much like another popular ’50s-based media from the 70s, jumped the shark.