Finding those great movie parodies in a sea of uninspired, derivative genre entries is becoming harder and harder as the bad far outweighs the good. Thankfully, Top 10 Films has found a few gems.
Any film buff knows that parodies are a dime a dozen. The whole genre has turned into a wasteland of cheap movies rushed through production in order to make a little money off another franchise’s success. Laced with cheesy special effects and shock value to make up for the lack of witty writing, the genre has become a mere shadow of what it once was.
There was a time where spoof movies were made by some of the most well respected comedy directors in the business. Not only that, but actors didn’t just star in them to jumpstart their career or to pay the bills between “real” gigs like many in the business do today. Huge stars like Leslie Nielsen, Gene Wilder, and Mike Myers made their careers out of playing some of the most beloved film characters of all time in parody films.
If you want to see some that are worthy of a comedy fan’s support, check out these classic spoofs.
10. Shaun of the Dead
Shaun is living in a world of zombies, but he’s more concerned about turning his life around, mending the relationship with his mum, and getting back together with his ex-girlfriend—you know, the important things when constantly being chased by the living dead.
It’s a parody of several zombie movies that obviously includes Dawn of the Dead, and Simon Pegg helped write and star in the film that went on to become a cult classic. It was even listed as #6 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “10 Best Zombie Movies,” beating out competitors such as another zom-com, 2008’s Zombieland.
9. Robin Hood Men in Tights
Mel Brooks had another hit with this 1993 comedy poking fun at the classic story of Robin Hood, played by Cary Elwes, and his merry men. The movie’s humour is only enhanced by the occasional sing-a-long and Brooks’ notorious style for breaking the fourth law by talking to the camera, even mentioning Blazing Saddles at one point.
The all-star cast included such names as Isaac Hayes, Amy Yasbeck, Roger Rees, and Richard Lewis. Hell, even Sir Patrick Stewart makes an appearance! The film also helped launch the career of comedian Dave Chappelle, who plays Robin Hood’s sidekick Ahchoo (Bless you!).
8. Austin Powers
The ’90s wouldn’t have been the same without the shag-tastic moves of Mr. Powers. Poking fun at the James Bond franchise and various other spy films, Austin Powers had all the makings of a fantastic spoof—witty dialogue, crazy antics, and jokes that you can’t help but laugh at. We may have successfully killed a few of the lines overusing them in conversations with friends—who didn’t run around saying “Frickin’ Freezing” and “Judo Chop!”—but they’re still funnier than ever when you hear Myers say them on the screen.
Austin Powers was also one of the few franchises that managed to have successful sequels. The second film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and third film, Austin Powers in Goldmember, both received positive reviews from audiences and critics. There are even rumours of a fourth film, although nothing has been put into production as of yet.
7. Scary Movie
The first one. Only.
Scary Movie came out right around the time that parody films started to take a turn for the worse, and, arguably, the franchise is partially to blame. The first movie mostly mirrored the storyline of the Scream franchise and was generally well-received. Unfortunately, the production company took the success of the first film and ran with it, releasing four more films. With each new addition, the movies received lower and lower scores from critics and audiences alike.
One good movie doesn’t make up for saturating the genre with four other bad ones. Although, we feel obligated to give them a pass on Scary Movie 3, but only out of respect for the appearance of Leslie Nielsen.
6. Young Frankenstein
Years after his reign as a mad scientist, Dr. Victor von Frankenstein’s grandson (Wilder) inherits his castle, only to continue his grandfather’s reanimation experiments.
Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks paired up together again to write this 1974 spoof of Mary Shelley’s gothic story of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. The boisterous style and over-the-top emotions of Wilder made him the perfect choice for the insane Dr. Frankenstein. The rest of the cast isn’t short on talent either, consisting of stars like Peter Boyle as the Monster, Marty Feldman as Igor, and Cloris Leachman as Frau Blücher.
The massive success of period musicals like Grease and Hairspray made them ripe for a spoof, and Cry-Baby delivered. The plot of the movie has been described as “a moodier ‘Grease’ with lots of laughs”.
Set in 1950s Baltimore, Cry-Baby, (Johnny Depp) is a bad boy known to drive girls crazy. And it’s not just through his looks or charm, because he has the ability to make himself shed a single tear at a moments notice. He ends up falling for Allison, (Amy Locane) a good girl from a noble family, who is just “so tired of being good.” Sound familiar?
Comedian, writer, and all-around film guru John Waters was the perfect choice to sit in the director’s chair for this one. He even went on to utilize his experience directing Cry-Baby to direct the successful 2007 remake of Hairspray.
4. Blazing Saddles
Hoping to make the frontier town of Rock Ridge unlivable in order to satisfy his own business ventures, State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) convinces the governor to appoint Bart (Cleavon Little) as the new sheriff. Hedley hopes that because Bart is black the townspeople will reject him, sending the town into chaos.
With the help of drunken gunslinger Jim (Gene Wilder), Bart works to win over the townspeople in this spoof on the classic Western.
It’s ludicrous. The whole thing is outrageous and somehow perfect at the same time. While we don’t condone animal violence (and of course it was fake), if you don’t laugh when Mongo knocks out a horse by punching it in the mouth, something might be wrong with you.
3. The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad & Airplane!
We’re going to have to give this spot to more than one of Leslie Nielsen’s films and say that The Naked Gun and Airplane! both deserve recognition. Both films were collaboratively written and directed by David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams, giving them a like-minded comedic style.
In the The Naked Gun, Nielsen plays an officer who is trying to stop an assassination on the Queen. In Airplane!, he plays a doctor who must cater to a plane full of sick passengers.
Nielsen’s character is similar in both films. He’s a deadpan, oblivious man put in charge of solving a serious situation. Of course, amidst his bumbling, he manages to help save the day. Nielsen’s comedic timing and ability to keep a straight face in even the most ridiculous of scenes is nothing short of impressive.
2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
On a hunt for the Holy Grail, King Arthur and his knights encounter many outrageous obstacles — all while on a very tight budget.
You can’t talk about parodies without mentioning this film by the troupe of British surreal comedians consisting of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. The combination of talent, writing, directing, and production (even on a low budget!) earned the film a 97% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and permanent spot in the film collections of all comedy fans.
Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his sidekick Barf (John Candy) are hired by King Roland, of the planet Druidia, to save his daughter, Vespa, who has been kidnapped by the evil race of Spaceballs. Spaceballs leader Lord Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) wants to use the princess as ransom to take all of Druidia’s air, and it’s up to Lone Starr and Barf to stop him.
While there have been dozens of parodies of Star Wars, none holds a candle to Spaceballs. It mixes in humour inspired by other space films such as Alien, Star Trek, and Planet of the Apes. Also, the way that Pullman, Candy, and Moranis complement one another’s comedy styles makes each joke funnier than the last. Pullman is drier and sarcastic, while Candy is bumbling and goofy. Moranis is the cherry on top, giving Lord Dark Helmet an overly sensitive, short-tempered personality to match his Napoleon complex. It’s a must see for any Star Wars fan or trekkie.