Thanks to the abilities of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the label “spoof” has lost all respect in the cinematic world. Often identified as “two of the writers of Scary Movie” (both as a joke and warning notice), Friedberg and Seltzer created the spoof picture utilizing an arsenal of pop culture references, potty humor, and nonsequiturs. Keeping it classy was never the goal.
While their rampage through genre and cultural phenomena may never end, spoofing doesn’t have to live with guilt either. Plenty of directors have discovered out ways to parody the movie world and tell their own stories at the same time — it’s the movie-going audience that’s frightened to use the dreadeds-word.
Let’s suck it up and confront the truth: these ten flicks are hilarious, well-made spoofs through and through:
1. High Anxiety
Mel Brooks figured it out early: when life offers you meshuggenehs, make meshuggeneh-ade
The iconic comedian/writer/actor/director may not have been the first to parody movies, but he certainly was one of the pioneers. Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Young Frankenstein are among the best comedies of all time (even AFI thinks so), but his love letter to Alfred Hitchcock, High Anxiety, might be the height of his parody. Equal parts Spellbound and Vertigo, Brooks’s High Anxiety dabbles in all of the Hitchcock cliches while presenting a narrative all on its own – occasionally withsongs.
2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Monty Python is still relevant today because only a few comedians in the world could make “Le Morte d’Arthur” into a series of humorous routines. They use Arthurian legend as a pretext to dress people up in knight’s armor and tell coconut jokes, but as a whole, the British comedy troupe pokes fun at period epics that have been popular in movies since their inception. There are many similarities between the Holy Grail and Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (which appeared after Python’s comedy).
A successful parody of catastrophe movies may be found in Airplane! because the film itself is a disaster movie. Vampires Suck still hasn’t worked out how to land the Zucker Bros.’ hallmark sight gags and one-liners, which are sprinkled throughout Airplaneoverly !’s dramatic writing. Much like this film’s airplane.
4. This Is Spinal Tap
However, this one-off remains one of the funniest mock-docs ever made by Rob Reiner, who sowed the seed in Christopher Guest’s head that would characterize his career. Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, who still play as Spinal Tap today, were given other characters by Reiner, who drew inspiration from films like Gimmie Shelter and The Last Waltz. This film was recently included in the Library of Congress Film Registry — whether or not they were aware of its authenticity is uncertain.
5. The Naked Gun
The best way to get an audience for your criminal procedural show is to transform it into a movie.
With Naked Gun, a feature-length adaptation of their short-lived television series Police Squad, the Zucker Brothers have revived the spoof film genre once more. In Naked Gun, Lt. Frank Drebin is transformed into a character on par with Inspector Clouseau, making the film more than just a riff. Although Drebin’s no-nonsense narration and nasty demeanor are straight out of a hundred crime thrillers, he has absolutely no understanding what he’s doing in this case (and lovingly so). It was because of Leslie Nielsen’s dedication to Drebin’s craziness that we cried so many tears when he died last year.
6. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
A satire of the James Bond series, especially the more ludicrous ones, Austin Powers: Goldmember is an excellent film in its own right (read: Roger Moore). The Blofeld of James Bond and the Dr. Evil of Austin Powers. Austin Powers has Basil Exposition, while Bond has M. Alotta Fagina is a character in Austin Powers, while Octopussy is in Bond. However, even after 22 films, they still haven’t come up with an explanation on how to get James Bond to drink feces. Powers are an advantage.
7. Galaxy Quest
Cult reputation for Dean Parisot’s space adventure has been built on the fact that it is an unabashed love letter to all things Star Trek. Galaxian Quest disguises its spoofiness with a true mission to save an alien race from annihilation, allowing itself the flexibility to make fun of the franchise’s many eccentricities and “logic” while still allowing its cast of Trek-like characters to carry out the task. Captain Kirk was not a fan of Tim Allen’s portrayal, but hey, you can’t be perfect all the time.
8. Shaun of the Dead
Even while director Edgar Wright avoids labeling his films spoofs (for the same reason we’re afraid, of course), there is one simple distinction between Shaun of the Dead and Scary Movie: passion. When you look at Wright’s filmmaking, you can clearly see his passion for the horror genre flowing out of every shot. He gleans every laughable nugget from the zombie playbook and repurposes it for his own amusement. For two reasons: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have incredible timing, and we’ve seen these scenes before…just without the peppy Queen music.
Will Forte’s adrenaline-overdose MacGruber, a big-screen remake of an SNL comedy, had disappointing results (both financially and critically), but it’s one of the funniest action spoofs of recent years. Due to the slick direction and photography of filmmaker Jorma Taccone (of Lonely Island fame), MacGruber leaps from a mere parody of Macgyver to an actual Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster. Forte does his thing (sticking celery up his butt) and it all comes together and spoofs without explicitly drawing from its source material.
10. Your Highness
Compared to the legendary spoofs, Your Highness isn’t quite as crisp or quick-witted, but it’s a start. Director David Gordon Green and star Danny McBride (who also scripted the picture) set their normal foul-mouthed, man child characters in a world full of magic and monsters, following the story lines and letting their current perspectives do the talking instead of depending on their goofiness. How frequently are studios putting out movie reminiscent of ’80sfantasy putting out?