The 10 Best Movie Corpse High Jinx

A few weeks ago, I read a story about two Denver men who pulled off a real life Weekend at Bernie’s. They visited their friend, found him dead, stuffed him in their car, and drove him around town for a night of chicanery. Making matters worse, they used the dead man’s credit cards to pay for the evening. Headline writers everywhere glommed on to Weekend at Bernie’s, and I can’t blame them. But they had many other options for films featuring corpse high jinx. 

Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
There’s a reason all of those headlines referenced this movie. It’s the King of Corpse High Jinx Mountain. It’s a whole movie about corpse high jinx, for crying out loud. Bernie Lomax earned this slot after being thrown off of a roof, dragged around a party, and taken waterskiing, amongst many other activities.

I guess there are worse fates than having drinks served directly on top of your antique trunk grave. But not many.

Rope (1948)
There aren’t many corpse activities quite as brazen as hiding it in plain sight at a dinner party. And yet, that’s exactly what happened in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. A pair of students attempt to devise the perfect murder, capped by hiding the body in an antique trunk that rests in the middle of the room at the party.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
Poor Melquiades Estrada was buried, then dug up, then hauled deep into the heart of Mexico… where nobody would claim his corpse. A large part of the charm here is Tommy Lee Jones’ deadpan expression (no pun intended) while having to perform the daunting task of burying his friend hundreds of miles away.

Clue (1985)
Colonel Mustard? Check. Professor Plum? Check. Mrs. Peacock? Check, and the same goes for all the rest from the board game of the same name, who all make an appearance in the film. The only thing I don’t remember from the board game is the part where you hide dead bodies from the cops and lug them around the mansion. That must have been in the deluxe version.

The Trouble with Harry (1955)
Harry Worp’s lifeless body is the impetus behind the whole movie, much like Bernie Lomax’s corpse. Several people fear that they inadvertently killed him. He’s buried, dug up, buried, dug up, hidden in a bathtub, and then buried again before it’s all said and done. For good measure, his body is discovered by a very young Jerry Mather, best known as the kid who played Beaver Cleaver.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
“Sometimes the dead can be more useful than the living.” So sayeth The Man with No Name, just as he’s staging a pair of corpses to make them look like they’re still alive. The ruse was used to incite a civil war between warring families, and it ultimately worked. Unfortunately for the corpses, they had to go through a second death.

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Aunt Edna passed away doing what she loved–napping after spiritedly yelling at the idiot who married her niece. That idiot, Clark Griswold, found a genius solution for handling her corpse. Namely, he strapped her to the roof of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and dumped her off on her son’s back porch in Phoenix.

Tideland (2005)
2005 was a vintage year for doing odd things with corpses in movies. In Terry Gilliam’s Tideland, Jeff Bridges takes his Lebowski character and warps it into a heroin-overdosed corpse. His daughter lives and plays around the lifeless body in her own fantasy world. Eventually, the corpse is stuffed via taxidermy.

Psycho (1960)
Only Alfred Hitchcock could be ghoulishly cool enough to place three movies on a top 10 list of corpse high jinx. I guess you could call Psycho the mother of all films featuring corpse shenanigans.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Take the heroin overdose of Tideland, the family-friendly vehicle from Vacation transporting a dead relative, mix them with pornographic  magazines and a  child’s beauty pageant, and you’ve got Little Miss Sunshine.


13 Comments

Filed under Humor, Movies

13 responses to “The 10 Best Movie Corpse High Jinx

  1. Hehehe great list. I saw Weekend at Bernie’s when I was a teenager and loved it. I had a really huge soft spot for 80s comedies back then – and I still do! Another good dead body movie scene that I’m surprised didn’t get a mention was the cleaning up Marvin scene in Pulp Fiction. “Did you see a sign outside that said ‘Dead N***er Storage?'” is one of my favourite lines from that film.

  2. Glad to see The Trouble with Harry mentioned on this list. I think it’s a nice underrated little gem from Hitchcock.

  3. Excellent list John! Hitch was a master at taking corpse and making them play nice parts in his films. Clue is one of my guilty pleasures…

  4. goregirl

    Thinking on your title from a horror perspective I must admit Nekromantik (1987) was the first thing that popped in my head. Describing the goings-on in Nekromantik as “high-jinx” seems wrong somehow. I remain on the fence about that movie. Your choices are great! I am a total sucker for VACATION! It was one of those films I seen multiple times at the theatre when i was a kid. Aunt Edna on the roof is one of comedies great moments in my opinion! Love Clue too…Madeline Kahn always makes me smile…and Tim Curry is just fantatic, always wondered why he didn’t become a huge star. Like I said, all good choices, but I am especially happy to see Tideland on the list. I remember Tideland getting completely slaughtered on Rotten Tomatoes when it was released. I even briefly considered not paying theatre price to see it. But Terry Gilliam is Terry Gilliam and I wasn’t going to give up a chance to see one of his wonderously, weird tales on the big screen. It isn’t my fave Gilliam by any means, but it was definitely worth the price of admission!

  5. Great list, John. Rope is one of my favorite Hitchcock films, so it’s nice to see it get some love. I’ll have to check out The Trouble With Harry soon — that’s one that I have heard very little about.

  6. Fantastic list! Didn’t know there were so many “corpse” movies.

  7. “Yea, though the Hindus speak of karma..”
    “CLARK!”

  8. What about the blow job in Clerks?

  9. rtm

    Weekend at Bernie’s is so quintessentially 80s that it’s actually quite timeless. Go figure!

    • It really is a movie right out of the 1980s. Two young kids on a beach act like a corpse is still alive, people wear garish stuff… that’s 80s movie material at its heart.

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