Why use satire in films? Movies have been a prominent medium in propagating ideas and concepts. However, to make the film appeal to the masses and express itself in a coherent manner, directors resort to various methods of filmmaking. Satire is such a method. Satire presents global issues, human nature, tragedy and motives in a comedic fashion. They mock the system, toy with the characters and express their ideas with humour. Satires use simple, quirky conversations and simplify a complex notion. This helps to abstain from preaching to the audience and keep them entertained, and motivated. With all that said, here is the list of top satirical movies ever made. You can watch some of these best satire movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
Honourable Mentions: MASH (1970); ‘O Brother, where art thou?’ (2000); ‘The Player’ (1992); ‘American Beauty’ (1999); ‘American Psycho’ (2000); ‘Tropic Thunder’ (2008); ‘Hot Fuzz’ (2007); ‘Heathers’ (1988); ‘Sunset Blvd.’ (1950); ‘Bulworth’ (1998); ‘Birdman’ (2014); ‘The Truman Show’ (1998)
10. Office Space (1999)
‘Office Space’ is a satirical take on corporate jobs. It is filled with comedic elements and satirizes the plight of employees at the firm. Tired of the ingratitude and bland nature of the job where security is not certain, three co-workers decide to rise above the system and embezzle money from their company. They become rebellious but are not as smart as they think. The situations these characters get involved in make for an entertaining watch.
9. The Apartment (1960)
‘The Apartment’ tells the story of a lonely, singleton bachelor, C. C. Baxter who is exploited by superiors at his company who borrow his apartment for their own pleasures, regularly. Baxter is hard working and obliging, with an average job. His search for greater opportunities in his company puts in him a weak position with his superiors. However, when he does start falling for the witty elevator girl, it soon leads to certain complications where he finds out she is romantically involved with his boss. Billy Wilder captures the dilemma of a man who compromises many things for success in his life. These compromises lead to his loneliness and yearning to connect with people around him.
8. Borat (2006)
Borat is often claimed to be inaccurate and a controversial portrayal of Kazakhsthan. But underneath the drama lies a comic portrayal of how America’s culture is not as superior as it is perceived to be. The film is outright honest. Borat attempts to bend the idealistic image of America being a harbinger of democracy and justice using humour. The movie follows its protagonist, Borat, a journalist from a Kazakh village as he travels to New York for a documentary on USA. The film depicts the troubles faced by minorities and citizens of backward countries in the contemporary, “progressive” society.
7. The Graduate (1967)
The story of this cult classic revolves around three major characters and the complexity of their relations. The movie explores the fantasies of human beings to venture into sexual innuendos and connect with others. It uses satire to exaggerate the events while making the characters relatable and layered. The film was critically acclaimed and laid the foundations for the coming-of-age genre. It depicts the cravings of the heart amidst the pretentious upper class society.
6. Fight Club (1999)
Money and commodities run the world today. People’s lifestyles have evolved and have succumbed to a materialistic perspective. Jobs, bank balance, credit cards, real estate and rules frame a person. But what if that came crashing down in a day? David Fincher‘s cult classic attacks the commodity fetishism of people today and revolts against it by the use of his hallucinating protagonist who is motivated by anarchy and mayhem that will bring disorder to the corrupt system and bring the world back to socio-economic equilibrium. The underlying humour and absurdity is accentuated by the use of sub-plots and imperfect characters and their desires to come out of their pitiful lives.
5. Thank You for Smoking (2005)
Perhaps one of finest and lesser known satirical films on the list. The movie stands out with its unique and provocative content. The characters are quite fascinating and complicated. The plot is a take on the uniqueness of a person’s professional life. The movie revolves around Nick Naylor – the face of cigarette companies. While the world debates and battles against the ravages of cigarettes on human life and its influence on children, someone must represent the interest of the cigarette conglomerate. Hence, the movie presents the ironic and difficult life of that representative who must confront several environmentalists, politicians, common people, politicians and his own son too. He emphasizes on making smoking a choice, and not a compulsion or necessity.
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4. Modern Times (1936)
A classic by the pioneer of Satirical movies. The Charlie Chaplin school of cinema has given us some truly unforgettable classics. ‘Modern Times’ explores the industrial era and capitalism in a characteristically humorous way: how machines are taking over the man’s world; how men are enslaved to capitalists; how man is no longer the master of his mind — it presents the struggles of the lower classes and the horrors of unemployment and poverty. The underlying romance shows how two people came together in dire times to overcome the distress and try to regain their freedom.
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3. Network (1976)
It is amazing to see how this movie still holds its relevance 40 years on (even Aaron Sorkin agrees!). This film by Sidney Lumet is a take on the Television Network and how it sells propaganda, confines life to a box and disconnects human life from the real world. Peter Chayefsky’s script is dynamic and has eccentric and outrageous characters. The story begins with Howard Beale and follows him as he creates a mad, surrealistic world of his own and sells ideas to the people through a TV show. The media circus and cable network wars are prominent. The character’s desire to overcome their contemporaries gives a brutally honest image of the functioning of fame-hungry corporations.
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2. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
A war film with a difference; a Stanley Kubrick masterpiece that adds humour to war. Largely character and dialogue driven, this classic gives a social commentary on the frailty of human nature and the political scene during the cold war. A tension between the US and USSR originated due to decentralization of authority by an over-the-top general who orders an attack on Soviet territory. The straight forward portrayal of the characters doing their jobs, in the face of an absurd situation, brings out the humorous aspect of the whole war situation. Its relevance in the contemporary political scenario is stark and something only a visionary like Stanley Kubrick could have achieved.
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1. The Great Dictator (1940)
The excellence of Charlie Chaplin‘s films compels me to include a second movie of his in the list. Also, this is perhaps the most important film in the list, for it targeted the political scene in a war-torn, fascist society. The film satirizes Hitler and Nazism, in the time of WWII. The movie depicts the adversities faced by the Jewish community. It highlights racism and the greed of the leaders in power. Chaplin aimed to be as honest as possible and paints a frighteningly hilarious image of the world, showing how in war no one emerges victorious. The final speech on power, greed and the call for humanity is perhaps the greatest speech ever captured in cinema history.
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