10 Great Comedies With Surprising Hidden Meanings
Scan through any list of movies with hidden meanings, and you’ll likely find that the term is almost exclusively applied to dramas. While some of the best hidden meanings usually come from movies in the more dramatic genres, there remain a handful of ambitious comedies that have used their laughs to deliver surprisingly deep messages.
Comedy has long been an effective medium of cultural commentary. While drama films force a more introspective treatment of these meanings, comedies often make their point through satirical means, allowing audiences to notice and laugh at a particular social message.
‘Sausage Party’ (2016)
Surface, the animated film for adults sausage party (realized by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan) is simply a deliberately inappropriate film about personified groceries. However, when you dig a little deeper, the comedy’s themes around organized religion kind of resemble an atheist manifesto.
The foodstuff’s belief in “The Great Beyond”, i.e. the earth outside the supermarket, is an allegory of heaven, but their eventual discovery of what is actually there (i.e. , certain death) opens a box of philosophical verses in discussions of religious belief systems. Inserting deeper meanings into an otherwise lewd cartoon is no mean feat, and audiences are treated to more than a few R-rated gags to boot.
“Groundhog Day” (1993)
Although there have been many deeper interpretations derived from the Bill Murray-Harold Ramis comedy about a man caught in a repetitive loop of the day, the main guideline of the discussions on groundhog day is religion. Some have interpreted the Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney (where the film is set) as a purgatory, in which protagonist Phil Connors (Murray) must undergo his own purification to decide his fate in the afterlife.
Elsewhere, the film has been read as a metaphor for the Jewish belief that good deeds beget more good deeds instead of landing you in a heavenly place. Fascinating, groundhog day also drew parallels with psychoanalysis, with many seeing Phil Connors’ repeated patterns of behavior as the kind of cycle professionals seeking to break.
“The Invention of Lying” (2009)
Set in a world where no one possesses the ability to lie, Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinsonit is The invention of lies is full of social commentary. While the film’s ostensible message is that lying is often necessary, from white lies to comforting ones, the comedy expands this into the realm of belief systems.
When protagonist Mark (Gervais) theorizes what happens in the afterlife and his unwitting friends take it for granted, the film touches on atheistic themes, seemingly undermining religion as a fabrication. This connection is so relatable that in designing “the man in the sky,” Mark writes his false philosophy on pizza boxes reminiscent of stone tablets.
“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988)
Since its storyline revolves around a much maligned cartoon community existing in a largely human world, Who Framed Roger Rabbit has been read as a metaphor for race relations. The animated characters are estranged from “Toontown”, estranged from the general community, and even victimized by bias from law enforcement.
Elsewhere, moviegoers discussed the film’s scrutiny of race and urbanism, given that Toontown is under threat of being seized by the mightiest Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd). by Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskin) the eventual acceptance of toon society and the toons receiving collective ownership of their land contribute to the film’s satisfying resolution.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)
On its surface, Victor Flemingit is The Wizard of Oz looks like a simple children’s fairy tale. However, in the years since its release, the film has been decoded by both scholars and moviegoers, with many citing Dorothy’s adventure as a parable of American politics. In this reading, Dorothy represents the ordinary citizen, who encounters various metaphorical substitutes for the 20th century political system, from the farmers of the Scarecrow to the industrial workers of the Tin Man.
Elsewhere, the film has been read as a religious allegory, with Yellow Brick Road representing the path to enlightenment, riddled with sinful temptations Dorothy must overcome en route to the “heaven” that is Emerald City.
‘9 to 5’ (1980)
The story of three disgruntled workers (Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlinand Dolly Parton) accidentally kidnapping their boss (Dabney Coleman) contains pointed commentary on workplace politics, sexual harassment, and gender inequality that still resonates today.
Making bold statements about corporate patriarchy while delivering dark, comedic laughs was no small feat when Colin Higgin‘ 9 to 5 premiered in 1980, and its message about underpaid and overworked women also caused a sensation at the box office, becoming the 20th highest-grossing comedy of all time.
‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004)
Whereas Edgar Wright’s parody of the zombie genre in Shaun of the dead can be enjoyed purely as a comedic game, some pundits have read the film as a critique of working-class exploitation. In this reading, the undead population represents those who constantly repeat the daily toil, their zombification being a metaphor for the numbing effect of their working conditions.
The eventual assimilation of zombies into mainstream society in ShaunThe universe of has been seen as a critique of the consumptive capacity of the working class, whose jobs range from mall workers to workers in the service industry. Overall, the film casts the working class as mere cogs in the more powerful upper-class machine.
“Office Space” (1999)
Offering a definitive take on the mundanity of office life, office space animated its satire through the protagonist Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingstone). More than unhappy with the mind-numbing nature of workplace bureaucracy, Peter adopts absenteeism as his work philosophy and later hatches a scheme to bug his company’s computer system and steal large sums of money.
office space draws interesting parallels with changes in work culture since its release. Peter’s disdain for office farms is reminiscent of new large-scale work policies like standing desks, while his generally jaded attitude is echoed in Silicon Valley culture.
“The Other Guys” (2010)
While his later work on films like The big court and Don’t look up more explicitly criticizes its respective targets (namely fiscal responsibility and climate change), the director Adam McKay brought humor about capitalism into his film, The other guys.
Aimed at corporate America, the action-comedy uses its unlikely central duo to humorously address how capitalism is dehumanizing the working class, commentary most evident when Will FerrellThe character of prostitutes herself to pay her school fees. Elsewhere in the other guys end credits, the film displays a range of infographics that speak directly to the billionaire Bernie Madoff and how the government is bailing out the banks.
‘The Big Lebowski’ (1998)
Although it never aspired to be anything more than weed-infused pleasure, The great Lebowski has almost absurdly spawned a range of religious readings. Most prominently, the Coen Brothers Classic worship has been seen as a reflection of Taoism, which holds that humans and animals should live in harmony with the universe, a philosophy certainly respected by The great Lebowskiit’s the guy.
Elsewhere, the two rival Lebowskis have been interpreted as representing two eras of American culture, from the free-spirited liberalism of the 70s to the responsibility-driven capitalism of the 80s. These readings were so influential that the film spawned his own religion, the so-called “Dudeism”.
KEEP READING: ‘Vice’ to ‘Anchorman’: Every Adam McKay Movie Ranked