Chances are, you’ve spent part of this week thinking about your taxes. Friday is, after all, tax day 2016, when everyone has to ensure that they feel that strange mix of regret, bitterness, hope and relief as submitting their information to the Internal Revenue Service for another year (Did I get it in on time? I can’t believe I have to pay so much! Maybe I’ll get a rebate!), and unless you’re one of those wizards who managed to get everything done way ahead of time, you’ve almost certainly lost part of the last few days to making sure that everything is in the mail when it needs to be.
With that in mind, perhaps you’re feeling a little down about the whole thing. Maybe you need a reminder about why we do it — the power of the IRS, sure, but also the people behind the faceless facade of the organization? Here, then, are ten movies for you that tell you everything you need to know about taxes: why we pay them, what happens when people don’t, and just who is going through our intimate financial records after we mail them in. You’re welcome, America.
THE PRODUCERS (1968)
Although the IRS element of this movie only really comes into play towards the end of the movie, it’d be churlish to deny it a place on this list, considering the kind of creative accounting on show throughout the entire thing is demonstrative of the kind of mathematical mind one needs to survive the whole tax process. Plus, you know, it’s kind of a great movie.
THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980)
What could bring mainstream audiences around to the side of two former convicts who want to spread the gospel of rhythm and blues in a world that wanted punk and new wave? Why, a common foe, of course. Enter the IRS, who want to take money from nuns. For those who like movies with comedians raising money to pay back taxes, stay tuned.
HARRY’S WAR (1981)
What’s that? You’ve never heard of this truly obscure — it got a 2-week limited release in 1981, but that was it — movie in which a man declares war on the IRS after his aunt dies of a heart attack while being audited? I’m stunned. Even moreso when you consider that none other than David Ogden Stiers once claimed that it featured the favorite role of his entire career. (He played the director of the IRS.)
THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987)
As everyone knows by now, it wasn’t all the genuinely terrible things that brought Al Capone down from the throne of his criminal kingdom; it was tax evasion. Consider it a cautionary tale about the power of the IRS (and, you know, not being a crime lord, sure, whatever).
SAY ANYTHING… (1989)
As if you needed any more of a sign that Diane’s father (John Mahoney, years before he became known for being the dad in Frasier; for those playing along at home, yes, this means that Ione Skye is Kelsey Gammer’s half-sister) is a jerk in this classic 1980s romantic comedy, it’s that he falls under investigation from the IRS. Just like Al Capone. As soon as we learn that, we’re all about Lloyd’s dweebish attempts at pitching woo.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)
What is it that changes the life of banker Andy Dufresne in this beloved movie version of an obscure Stephen King story? Taxes, my friend. If it wasn’t for Andy helping out the prison captain with his inheritance tax, Tim Robbins’ role in proceedings would’ve been far smaller, and the movie much more depressing. See? Taxes can change people’s lives after all.
HAPPY GILMORE (1996)
Adam Sandler loves the classics, and the inciting event of this movie — only having 90 days to come up with almost $300,000 in back taxes that his Grandma owes — is definitely nothing new. Of course, that the problem is solved by golf, instead of the power of music, so it’s totally different from that other movie about back taxes by former Saturday Night Live stars.
STRANGER THAN FICTION (2006)
File under “The IRS just can’t get no respect,” what with Will Ferrell playing a man intended to be the most nondescript schlub in existence… which means, of course, that he works for the Internal Revenue Service. If there’s an upside, it’s that he doesn’t find true happiness by quitting his job in the movie; true happiness arrives in the form of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Ana.
THE TOURIST (2010)
Without meaning to give the twist in the tale away, it’s fair to say that this movie suggests that tax evasion is not only a costsaving way of life, but also one which could result in having Angelina Jolie as your lover — and making you so rich that you can afford to have plastic surgery to look like [NAME OF HANDSOME ACTOR WITHHELD TO SAVE SPOILERS]. On behalf of the law, I’d like to remind you that none of this is actually true, and if you try it, it won’t go well.
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (2010)
Pity poor Barry Speck, Steve Carrell’s so-called schmuck in this U.S. remake of a successful French comedy. An unsuspecting IRS agent drawn into a competition between rich jerks to bring losers to a meal for cheap amusement, it might be the only time in the next few weeks that you can find yourself hoping for the tax guys to win the day.