Peanut butter and jelly. Bogart and Bacall. Los Angeles and movies. Comedy and drama. Some things are just meant to go together.
There might not be great nicknames for all of these perfect pairings, there is for a certain type of movie — dramedy. The melding of comedy and drama film has been a staple of the industry for as long as Hollywood has been around.
This post is sponsored by ScreenCraft, whose 2018 Comedy Screenplay Contest is open for entries until June 1st.
But it’s a hard line to tow. Finding the perfect combination of laughter and sadness, joy and despair, light and heavy can be difficult, to say the least. These 12 films make it look easy.
1. 500 DAYS OF SUMMER (2009)
Like the narrator says in the beginning of this beloved indie film, “This is not a love story.” Exactly … it’s a dramedy. 500 Days of Summer captures the ups and downs of love — the meet-cute moment, the funny moments, the moments of despair, and even a musical scene complete with animated animals. This all too real movie about love somehow manages to be bittersweet and uplifting at the same time, as all dramedies should aspire to.
Best dramedic scene: When a frustrated Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) quits his job during a pitch meeting at the greeting card company where he works.
2. THE BIG SICK (2017)
Based on thereal life romance between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick landed on this list because of how it aptly uses comedy as a lens through which to go through a serious situation. Emily’s medical issue is not devalued because of the comedy, and the experience Kumail’s character has shows exactly how life can be both happy and sad in the same moment.
Best dramedic scene: It’s a tie. Either: the night that Emily’s parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) decide to attend Kumail’s stand-up show, or: the moment Kumail has with Emily’s father right after she wakes up.
3. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE (2011)
We all love a good ensemble movie. You know the kind — everyone is secretly connected, but you’re not sure how until right at the end. Crazy, Stupid, Love does what those other ensemble movies haven’t by infusing the comedic craziness with real emotion.
Best dramedic scene: When Hannah (Emma Stone) and Jacob (Ryan Gosling) arrive at her parent’s house, only to have Jacob realize that he’s been coaching her father (Steve Carell) at picking up women.
4. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006)
The dramedic gold found in The Devil Wears Prada exists because Andy’s situation is all-too-real. Who doesn’t understand the hilarity, and utter frustration, that comes with having a demanding boss?
Best dramedic scene: The unfortunate phone call between Andy (Anne Hathaway) and Emily (Emily Blunt), who is out running an errand for the indomitable Miranda Priestly (Meryl Sreep).
5. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)
The first of two Wes Anderson movies on this list, The Grand Budapest Hotel earns its spot because of the sheer ridiculousness of the plot. At times funny (when we hear of M. Gustave’s personality), and other times gravely serious (when we learn of M. Gustave’s fate), this film is Wes Anderson at his dramedic best.
Best dramedic scene: The chaos that ensues after Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum) reads Madame D.’s (Tilda Swinton) last will and testament.
6. THE HOLLARS (2016)
Dramedies often revolve around families, as tangled webs of blood relations are usually full of both intense drama and gut-busting comedy. The Hollars capitalizes on that, introducing the audience to a broken, yet beautiful family brought back together when the matriarch is hospitalized. It’s only made better by the fact that director John Krasinski chose to make his “Asian-Jim” counterpart from The Office (Randall Park) the doctor — providing an extra chuckle for fans of the show he starred in for nine years.
Best dramedic scene: How Sally (Margo Martindale) and Don (Richard Jenkins) respond when her doctor asks if she showed any symptoms before her hospitalization.
7. JUNO (2007)
Teen pregnancy might not be your first thought for a good dramedy, but Juno will prove that wrong. Somehow combining memorable characters, coming-of-age drama, hilarious one-liners, the idea of parenthood itself, and young love, this movie is the epitome of dramedic gold.
Best dramedic scene: When Juno (Ellen Page) breaks the pregnancy news to her family (J.K. Simmons; Allison Janney).
8. LADY BIRD (2017)
The dramedy category is rife with coming-of-age films because, by their very nature, the stories themselves feature both of the genre’s necessary ingredients. Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird strikes a chord because of the way it fearlessly combines comedy and drama into a bittersweet feeling that lasts for the entire movie.
Best dramedic scene: When Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) hurls herself out of a moving car upon finishing an audiobook and fighting with her mother (Laurie Metcalf).
9. ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (2015)
By the name of this film, you might not think it would be a shoe-in for the dramedy category (dying girls tend to feature more in sappy romances or horror flicks), but this story infuses enough laughs in between the tragedy for it to automatically garner a spot on this list. The amusing quirks are offset by the very real moments the main character, Greg, must deal with as his friend battles cancer.
Best dramedic scene: The advice Greg (Thomas Mann) gives Rachel (Olivia Cooke) about how to deal with other students when she doesn’t want to talk to them.
10. MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)
In true Wes Anderson fashion, Moonrise Kingdom features a perfectly adhered to color scheme, a troupe of actors, and both comedy and drama in its twisting plot. It’ll make you smile, it’ll make you frown, it’ll make you think … and it just might get you struck by lightning.
Best dramedic scene: The unlucky discovery of the two runaways, half-naked in a tent together. Bill Murray’s face seals the deal.
11. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012)
The comedy part of dramedy isn’t all about laugh-out-loud jokes. In the case of Silver Linings Playbook, it’s more in reference to the sweet moments in life or the ironic choices the characters make. For a movie-watching experience that will make you feel everything from grin-splitting elation to self-reflective melancholy, this one’s your go-to.
Best dramedic scene: Another tie. Either: when Pat (Bradley Cooper) reacts to reading the end of “A Farewell to Arms,” or: his disastrous first date with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).
12. THE WAY WAY BACK (2013)
Life may be a beach, but as Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) aptly notices, it’s not always a party. The Way Way Back is about how the worst summer of your life can also be the best, and it captures all the waves in between those extremes as well.
Best dramedic scene: A party at Water World that lasts all night and the early morning conversation between Duncan (Liam James) and Owen (Sam Rockwell).
Britton Perelman is a writer and storyteller based in Los Angeles, California. When not buried in a book or failing spectacularly at cooking herself a meal, she’s probably talking someone’s ear off about the last thing she watched. She loves vintage typewriters, the Cincinnati Reds, and her dog, Indy. Find more of her work on her website, or follow her on Instagram.