Tropic Thunder (2008)
The Funny Death: The plan of director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) to shoot his latest movie guerrilla-style goes awry when he discovers the hard way that his chosen location is a landmine-filled war zone.
If It Had Been Played Straight: The film would be a standard-issue survivalist war flick, ie the genre that Ben Stiller's comedy is taking the piss out of.
Deadly Friend (1986)
The Funny Death: Samantha (Kristy Swanson), a dead girl brought back to life using experimental artificial intelligence that gives her super-strength, takes revenge on local harridan Elvira (Anne Ramsey) by throwing a basketball at her head at turbo-charged speed.
If It Had Been Played Straight: Had the moment ended with Elvira's head violently exploding off her shoulders, it would have passed. What tips the scene into comedic genius is that Elvira's twitching corpse continues to career around the room like a headless chicken.
The Godfather Part 3 (1990)
The Funny Death: Mary Corleone (Sofia Coppola) takes a bullet for reformed mob boss Michael (Al Pacino). It's deeply tragic… until Coppola tries to act. "Dad?" she whimpers, treating being fatally shot with the same tone of teenage disappointment as if she'd had her trust fund cut off.
If It Had Been Played Straight: Oh, it was meant to be. It's quite possible that this was the moment Coppola, junior discovered her knack for ironically detached humour.
The Funny Death: John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) gets the upper hand over the villainous Bennett (Vernon Wells) by impaling him on a steam pipe. Arnie's parting shot: "Let off some steam!
If It Had Been Played Straight: Like virtually every other Arnie action flick, we'd have been spared the flippant one-liner.
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
The Funny Deaths: Ken Pile (Michael Palin) has one job - to kill elderly witness Mrs Coady (Patricia Hayes). Yet in a series of bungled hits he succeeds only in wiping out her prized Yorkshire Terriers... until the stress takes its toll and gives the lady a heart attack.
If It Had Been Played Straight: No rigmarole, just a clean hit first time. Job done.
Out Of Sight (1998)
The Funny Death: Gangster's henchman White Boy Bob (Keith Loneker) has captured Jack Foley (George Clooney) but the fat-ass is so clumsy he slips on the step and blows his brains out.
If It Had Been Played Straight: Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) would arrive in time to take White Boy Bob out herself.
Street Trash (1987)
The Funny Death: A hapless hobo drinks a bottle of toxic wine still sitting on the toilet, and MELTS into the U-bend.
If It Had Been Played Straight: The director would lose the sight gag of a severed arm still clutching the chain, or the Grand Guignol shot of the mutated face bubbling back out of the loo.
The Funny Death: Lynn Peltzer (Frances Lee McCain) discovers her home has been invaded by Gremlins, so she fights back the way a good housewife should - with kitchen appliances, pureeing one in a blender and letting another explode in the microwave.
If It Had Been Played Straight: A lot of people worried that kids might not get the joke, with Roger Ebert observing, "as for the microwave scene, I had a queasy feeling that before long we'd be reading newspaper stories about kids who went home and tried the same thing with the family cat."
Big Trouble In Little China (1986)
The Funny Death: Evil henchman Thunder (Carter Wong) is so aghast at the death of his master that he commits suicide… by inflating into a human balloon until his innards burst out.
If It Had Been Played Straight: What's wrong with seppuku?
The Princess Bride (1987)
The Funny Death: The mysterious man in black challenges criminal Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) to a battle of wits - guess which of two chalices is poisoned. The catch: "they were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder."
If It Had Been Played Straight: Vizzini's ceaseless chatter as he tries to figure things out would be replaced with intense, Leone-style close-ups of furrowed brows and fidgety eyes.