The best parody films of all time
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The best parody films of all time

Luca Fontana
23.7.2020
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook

Parodies such as «Date Movie» and «The Starving Games» have mostly ruined one of the most popular genre of the 1980s. Time to remember parody movies that are actually funny.

Movie parodies. The genre has progressively been flattened and ravaged over the past two decades. Their once magnificent reputation has long since been destroyed by disastrously unfunny failures.

«Meet the Spartans» for example. Or «The Starving Games» and «The Disaster Movie» (a disaster indeed). Utter garbage. Films without wit or situational awareness. Only cheap laughs and faecal humour directed at pubescent stoned teenagers with a case of beer by their side.

Shame.

But hold on. Sit back. Grab some popcorn. Here are the best parody films of all time. And this time, they're actually funny.

Number 5: Scary Movie

The 1980s. When teen slashers were born: scary movies. It all started with John Carpenter's 1978 classic Halloween. Followed by bangers such as «Friday The 13th», «A Nightmare on Elm Street» and «Prom Night». They all prey on primal childhood fears, the monster lurking under our bed. Or in the closet. In the creepy attic. They unleashed them on the youth with unimagined brutality – in the shape of a masked man with knives.

Teen horror. Perfect. At least until dozens of sequels also broke the genre. Then in 1996, we finally got a film which returned to the strengths of its role models and revived two genres at once: «Scream».

Why two genres? It provided the inspiration for «Scary Movie». It was the first really good parody in a long time, especially in regards to aping «Scream». However, it also birthed a new wave of sometimes less funny, sometimes complete trash attempts at parody. But «Scary Movie» itself is perfect. Parody and homage in one. A nostalgic trip through 80s clichés. Disrespectful, yet full of admiration.

And then the twist, obviously based on «The Usual Suspects»:

Yes, movie parodies were actually still clever back then.

Cinema release: July 7, 2000
Earnings: 278 million dollars

Number 4: Hot Shots!

Charlie Sheen wasn't always Charlie from «Two and a Half Men». He first garnered attention in 1987's «Wall Street». Four years later, he revealed his comedy chops: In the «Top Gun» parody «Hot Shots!» he plays Topper, a talented but nervously unstable fighter pilot who has to overcome his father's death in an airplane and prevent a mission from being sabotaged by evil weapons manufacturers.

I love this movie. Especially Charlie Sheen's seriousness in the face of surreal ridiculous humour. It's almost akin to Leslie Nielsen, «The Naked Gun» star. But by far the best parody is in reference to «Top Fun's» fetish for the military. «Hot Shots!» has handicap parking spaces for fighter pilots, pilots who do their weekly shopping in jets and pilots who still have perfect hair after their mission – thanks to curlers under their helmets.

And then there's Admiral Benson (Lloyd Bridges).

«Admiral Benson?» – «Really? That is my name too!»

In what scene doesn't he steal the show?

Cinema release: 31 July 1991
Earnings: $181.1 million.

Number 3: Airplane!

Could I even make this list without «Airplane!»? No. This isn't just a funny parody, but one of the funniest movies ever. The amount of gags they squeeze into every scene is ridiculous. And their accuracy is unsurpassed. A flop? Phah! Yeah, right.

It was directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, also known as the ZAZ Trio. For actor Leslie Nielsen, this movie was an international breakthrough after having played only serious roles for nearly two decades.

The scene in which the flight attendant asks Nielsen whether he's a doctor is ingenious. Nielsen, sitting there with a stethoscope on – for some reason – slowly answers: «Yes, that is correct.» Or when the flight attendant explains to Nielsen that passengers had a choice of meat or fish for dinner. Nielsen, dry as ever: «Oh yes, I remember. I had lasagna.»

Oh, one of my favourites: «Stop calling me Shirley.»

Cinema release: 27 June 1980
Box office results: 83.5 million dollars

Number 2: Spaceballs

In 1983, the last «Star Wars» film from the original trilogy came out. Four years later, Mel Brooks' «Spaceballs» successfully parodied the level of commerce and merchandising Star Wars had risen to, especially after «Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi».

What's the movie about? The planet of the Spaceballs is running out of air. Since you can't live on «Perri-Air» cans forever, President Skroob (Mel Brooks) decides to have Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) of the planet Druidia kidnapped by Lord Helmet (Rick Moranis) and Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner) to blackmail her father King Roland (Dick Van Patten). By doing so, Skroob wants to get the combination of numbers to the force field that protects the atmosphere of planet Druidia. That's why King Roland asks Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his buddy Barf the Mog (John Candy) – half man, half mutt – for help. Since Lone Starr has debts to the galactic villain Pizza the Hutt, he agrees.

So. If you're already wondering «What the…!?», just watch the whole movie. Things like Spaceball soldiers combing a desert planet with an actual comb – the order was to comb the desert for the princess – are quite normal. Oh, and a room full of assholes.

How did they come up with this stuff man?

Cinema release: 26 June 1987
Earnings: 38.1 million dollars

Number 1: The Naked Gun

A dry as bones Leslie Nielsen, quips so stupid that they're funny again and old-school slapstick: this is «The Naked Gun», a loving yet naughty homage to the noir detective films of the 1940s and 1950s.

The plot: Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) comes across industrial mogul Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalbán). The latter is planning an assassination attempt on British Queen Elizabeth II who's on a state visit. However, Drebin is so clumsy in his investigations that his superiors soon see him as the greater liability. But Drebin isn't discouraged and resolutely stays his course.

Just hearing the phrase «Lieutenant Frank Drebin, Police Squad» makes me chuckle. The entire situational comedy – hilarious. Like when Drebin wants to look through a microscope in the lab: «Hey, I can't see anything!» – «Use the open eye Frank» – «Ah yes, now I see something». Or when Frank and his partner Ed investigate the red light district: «I wonder what Savage is doing in a place like this.» – «Sex, Frank?» – «No, I'd rather not right now, Ed. We have too much work.»

But this is by far my favourite scene:

«Could you spot me a 20?»

Oh man.

Cinema release: December 2, 1988
Box office results: 78.8 million dollars


There are so many more parodies that should have made it onto the list. I'm counting on you to find them and write them in the comments below. A tip for a film that barely missed my Top 5: it involves green tights...

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I'm an outdoorsy guy and enjoy sports that push me to the limit – now that’s what I call comfort zone! But I'm also about curling up in an armchair with books about ugly intrigue and sinister kingkillers. Being an avid cinema-goer, I’ve been known to rave about film scores for hours on end. I’ve always wanted to say: «I am Groot.» 


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