Laughing in the Face of Terror: The Best Horror Comedies of the 21st Century

Taika Waititi as Viago in What We Do in the Shadows

While it gained prominence in the 1970s and 1980s with movies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Young Frankenstein, and The Evil Dead, the horror comedy genre has been around for far longer than that. Some might argue it started with the 1920 short film Haunted Spooks, but by the 1940s with films like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, horror comedy was an established film genre.

The horror comedy genre has changed a lot since the days of Abbott and Costello, especially in the 21st century. Like the horror genre itself, the movies have become more violent and grotesque while also using biting humor to comment on current feelings and events happening in our culture, like the mundane nature of everyday life or hot-button topics like race and sexual assault. But what makes a great horror comedy is how well they represent the horror and comedy genres. They don’t make fun of the subgenres and tropes of horror films but embrace them and they always make sure their movies are funny as hell.

Tim Story’s The Blackening is the latest horror comedy of the 21st century and while our review of the film was positive, it did not make this list. The films below define 21st-century horror comedies. They subvert horror tropes from all different genres, they all feature different types of filmmaking, and all received different critical and audience acclaim, with some being hits right out the gate and others gaining a cult following in the years following their release. But all of the films are funny in their own way and feature horror elements that solidify them as iconic horror comedies of the 21st century.

Bubba Ho-Tep (2003)

Bruce Campbell as Elvis Presley and Ossie Davis as John F. Kennedy in Bubba Ho-Tep
Bruce Campbell as Elvis Presley and Ossie Davis as John F. Kennedy in Bubba Ho-Tep.

Bubba Ho-Tep stars horror icon Bruce Campbell as Elvis Presley. Thought he died? According to the film, Elvis swapped lives with an Elvis impersonator and hid out for a while but was unable to come back before the death of the impersonator and now resides in a retirement home. If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, the film also stars Ozzie Davis who plays a fellow retiree who claims that he is John F. Kennedy. Yes, that John F. Kennedy. Still not sold? What if I told you they had to team up to stop an ancient mummy from sucking the souls out of the patrons of the nursing home?

Bubba Ho-Tep is a modern cult classic. A bizarre, awkwardly funny B-movie led by the best performance of Bruce Campbell’s career. It’s a very weird movie, but one that plays best at midnight with your favorite alcoholic beverage.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Nick Frost as Ed and Simon Pegg as Shaun in Shaun of the Dead
Nick Frost as Ed and Simon Pegg as Shaun in Shaun of the Dead

When you think of 21st-century horror-comedies, one of the first movies to pop into your head if not the very first movie, is Shaun of the Dead, Edgar Wright’s sophomore film and a calling card movie for his whole career.

Sean Penn and Nick Frost star as Shaun and Ed, best friends slowly going through their aimless everyday lives in London, where the most exciting part of their life is going to their favorite pub, The Winchester. Their boring lives are disrupted when a zombie apocalypse takes over the city.

Shaun of the Dead launched Edgar Wright onto the cinematic scene because of his hyper-stylized filmmaking techniques and his balance of humor, horror, and violence. Shaun of the Dead features some truly hilarious jokes and continuous bits (“You’ve got red on you.”) while also displaying scenes of horrific violence and gore. Wright’s ability to balance the tones of the film and write sympathetic characters that we are rooting for is what makes Shaun of the Dead a horror comedy classic.

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Megan Fox as Jennifer in Jennifer's Body
Megan Fox as Jennifer in Jennifer’s Body

Megan Fox gives the best performance of her career in Karen Kusama’s high school possession comedy. Fox plays Jennifer, a popular high school cheerleader who turns into a man-eating succubus when she is sacrificed to Satan by a local band in exchange for fame and fortune. Jennifer then preys on the boys of her high school and her town while her best friend Anita (Amanda Seyfried) tries to figure out what is wrong with her.

Jennifer’s Body is a pitch-black, devilishly fun horror comedy. Diablo Cody’s script (her follow-up to her Oscar-winning Juno) is genre-bending and biting and Kusama made a film far from a run-of-the-mill high school slasher and instead made a movie about female sexuality and female high school friendships with savage killings.

While it received lukewarm reviews and had a dismal box office upon its release in 2009, Jennifer’s Body has since seen a cult revival, hailing the film as a “feminist classic” while also gaining fans for its campiness.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)

Alan Tudyk as Tucker and Tyler Labine as Dale in Tucker and Dale vs Evil
Alan Tudyk as Tucker and Tyler Labine as Dale in Tucker and Dale vs Evil

Tucker and Dale vs Evil is an uproarious backwoods horror movie about the dangers of judging a book by its cover. Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are a pair of backwoods friends who just bought a vacation house in the middle of the woods. On their way to fix up their newly purchased home, they are mistaken for hillbilly murderers by a group of hard-partying college kids, which then leads to a series of bloody misunderstandings.

Eli Craig’s directorial debut takes the classic slasher plot of college kids partying in the woods only to be terrorized by the scary men who inhabit that area and flips it, having us rooting for these backwoods brothers and making the entitled, judgmental twentysomethings the villains. It’s hilarious watching the college kids’ plans go wrong, especially when Tucker and Dale are completely clueless about what is going on. And layered within all the blood and humor is a sweet day-night love story, and a fun movie about a couple of drinking buddies excited about their vacation home.

Fright Night (2011)

Colin Farrell as Jerry in Fright Night
Colin Farrell as Jerry in Fright Night

Fright Night is one of the rare remakes that is better than the original in nearly every way. Adapted from Tom Holland’s 1985 film, Fright Night looks at high schooler Charley (Anton Yelchin) who suspects his new neighbor (Colin Farrell) is a vampire who preys on their Las Vegas neighborhood and must stop him before he goes after his mom (Toni Collette) and girlfriend (Imogen Poots).

In a time when vampires were constantly being associated with melodramatic sparkling ones from Twilight, director Craig Gillespie showed that vampires can and forever will be sexy, blood-sucking monsters. That sexy, blood-sucking monster here is played to perfection by Farrell, whose charisma and movie stardom radiates off the screen. Fright Night is a real blast and one of the true surprises of 2011.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

Taika Waititi as Viago and Ben Frasham as Petyr in What We Do in the Shadows
Taika Waititi as Viago and Ben Frasham as Petyr in What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows takes two popular genres of the time (vampires and mockumentary) and gives us a vision of vampires we’ve never seen before; living and dealing with the mundane problems of the modern world. This group of vampires, all of whom are hundreds of years old, deal with everything from flatmate issues to being invited into a nightclub, all while trying to feast on unsuspecting victims in order to stay alive.

Taika Waititi, Jermain Clement, and some of Australia’s funniest actors came together and gave us one of the funniest and best horror comedies of the 2010s. The mockumentary style is used to perfection and the mostly-improvised dialog is hilarious and gets better on repeated viewings. The scenes of vampire violence are very funny and very bloody. What We Do in the Shadows is a creative, spooky comedy that has turned into an award-winning TV show.

Get Out (2017)

Christopher (Daniel Kaluuya) falls into a deep hypnotic state in GET OUT
Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out

Get Out follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young Black man who goes to visit his white girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) family for the weekend, where things take an unexpected and dark turn. It is a dark, twisted film featuring slick humor and social commentary about white America’s obsession with Black culture and the fears Black people have of rich white people.

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is one of the most impressive debuts I have ever seen. Peele’s writing and directing are spectacular and he gets sensational performances out of his cast, particularly by Kaluuya. What makes Get Out so good is its rewatchability. Every time I watch it, I get something new out of it, like noticing a subtle context clue or appreciating a new line of dialog. But every time I watch it, I always find it funny and eerie. Get Out is one of the defining movies of the 21st century.

Freaky (2020)

Vince Vaughn as The Butcher and Kathryn Newton as Millie in Freaky
Vince Vaughn as The Butcher and Kathryn Newton as Millie in Freaky

Writer/director Christopher Landon has quietly established himself as one of the go-to filmmakers for horror comedies, with his filmography being dominated by the genre. While he is the writer and director behind Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2 U, two films that could have easily made this list, my favorite film of his is Freaky, a film that could have easily become as successful and Happy Death Day films had it not been released during the pandemic.

Freaky is a body-swap-slasher movie that finds the Butcher (Vince Vaughn), the legendary serial killer in this suburban town, swapping bodies with Millie (Kathryn Newton), a sweet kid just trying to navigate high school after he tries and kills Millie with a cursed knife. After the bodies are switched, it becomes a race to get the bodies swapped back before the day ends before the personalities are stuck forever stuck and the Butcher’s body count continues to rise. Freaky features some fun and bloody slasher kills and the best Vince Vaughn performance in over a decade.

Several other great horror comedies—American Psycho, Zombieland, Cabin in the Woods, This is the End, and One Cut of the Dead—aren’t listed here, but I feel the films above best represent horror comedies of the 21st century. They showcase different horror genres like zombie, mummy, and possession, and are a mix of Oscar-winners, blockbusters, and cult classics. And, most importantly, they’re all creepy and funny as hell.

Written by Kevin Wozniak

Kevin is a film critic and writer from the suburbs of Chicago. He is a member of the Chicago Indie Critics, Online Film & Television Association, and Internet Film Critics Society. He usually writes movie reviews and lists of Film Obsessive.

You can find more of Kevin's work at

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