In celebration of the release of A Haunted House – a parody of recent found-footage films like Paranormal Activity and The Devil Inside – we’re counting down some of the best films the parody sub-genre has to offer. Although it has become harder and harder to find solid examples of parody talents like Mel Brooks, David Zucker, and Jim Abrahams, we still believe that the concept can work when done right.
However, it’s just as easy to deliver a parody that feels lazy and lacks any sort of comedic or satirical punch – just look at films like Disaster Movie, Epic Movie, and Date Movie.
Thankfully we have these Top 10 Parody Films to remind us just how good the sub-genre can be.(LISTED IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER.)
Top Secret! is at times subtle with its humor, and requires an attentive ear or eye, but it’s also filled with plenty of visual gags to ensure the audience is always smiling. If you’ve never seen Top Secret! we highly recommend it.
No doubt a challenge for any comedic actor, Myers was able to create two distinct, and memorable, personalities that helped sustain an entire film filled with endless gags and potty humor. Yes, the two Austin Powers sequels beat many of the first film’s jokes to death, but evaluated as a single film, the jokes in International Man of Mystery were pretty hilarious.
Tim Allen leads a cast that includes notable faces like Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Sam Rockwell, as they poke fun at many of the sci-fi character tropes from the jaded thespian to the fateful “red shirt.” However, when these TV has-beens find themselves in the midst of a real space conflict, the film brings things full circle by paying homage to the spirit of Star Trek, albeit with much better special effects.
And Wright didn’t stop genre-bending there, either: He went on to take jabs at action films with Hot Fuzz, which reunited the director with his Shaun stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. It’s tough to choose between the two, but we give the slight edge to Shaun of the Dead for catching us completely by surprise.
Granted, it takes some time to get going, but when Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced Fronkenstein) first meets Igor (pronounced Eye-Gor) the film grabs hold and never lets go. And like many of the movies on this list, Young Frankenstein works on so many levels beyond being a great parody. Also, Frau Blucher!
Sure, Naked Gun borrowed heavily from the lead of many of the films that preceded it, but most were ensemble affairs. Naked Gun, on the other hand, works because Nielsen is just so good. Though many will try, there will never be a comedic actor quite like Leslie Nielsen.
Yes, when viewed today, the humor of Abbott and Costello might not be as appealing, but there’s no mistaking the two had a knack for timing and physical comedy that is much harder to find these days. Certainly an oldie, but definitely still a “goodie.”
Though many of the films on this list poke fun at genres or subtly reference films or novels, Spaceballs takes George Lucas’ epic space adventure head on – but does so from a place of reverence. Now, had Mel Brooks made Spaceballs after Episodes 1 through 3 had been released, we might have been treated to a very different (read: meaner) film.
In terms of jokes-per-minute in the parody sub-genre, audiences would be hard-pressed to find a better film than Airplane! Directors Jim Abrahams and David Zucker went on to find great success in the genre – they are the team responsible for Naked Gun and Top Secret! – but it was Airplane! that really set the tone for their entire career, and arguably paved the way for the success of many of the modern films that appear on this list.
From the “don’t call me Shirley” line to Robert Hays’ never ending torrent of sweat, there are so many little details packed into Airplane! that even a second or third viewing might not reveal all it has to offer. Sometimes parodies like to let their jokes breath and give the audience time to adjust; Airplane! sought to keep them coming, rapid fire.
The comedic troupe Monty Python created some pretty memorable features in their day, but it’s typically Monty Python and the Holy Grail that stands out above the rest. Based loosely on the exploits of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, Holy Grail features so many iconic scenes – from the battle with the black knight to the ‘Holy Hand Grenade’ – that it’s hard not to endlessly quote the film after just one viewing.
More importantly, though, Holy Grail hearkens back to a time when comedy didn’t always need to be so broad, and could still appeal to a wide range of audiences in the process. And who hasn’t wished they could ride a fake horse clapping a pair of coconuts together?
Scary Movie – The Wayans brothers combined the R-rated, gross-out comedy with the parody genre and delivered one of the most successful films (financially) in the sub-genre.
Blazing Saddles/Robin Hood: Men in Tights – A case could be made for a list comprised entirely of Mel Brooks films, so holding these two out (especially Saddles) was more about variety than anything else.
What are some of your favorite parody films?
Follow me on Twitter @ANTaormina