Mel Brooks redefined and absolutely dominated the movie parody genre, consistently toeing the line between silly fun and actual dreck. But even in his lesser works, Brooks clearly swings for the fences. His sheer level of creativity is undeniably impressive, even for those who usually find the spoof genre inaccessible.
It’s certainly been dead for a while now, despite such a strong start in the seventies. Films of Airplane’s caliber were eventually reduced to utter garbage like Disaster Movie. But Mel Brooks always brings innovation, and a distinct understanding of each target genre. Here’s how fans rated the best of his best on IMDb, ranging from Universal Monsters to the history of Earth.
10 Dracula: Dead And Loving It - 5.9
This was the final film Mel Brooks would direct, at least so far. It’s predominantly a spoof of the original 1931 Dracula, revisiting Brooks’ Young Frankenstein territory. That may have been a tough decision, since audiences would invariably compare the two. But it does star Leslie Nielsen, who’s probably been in more spoofs than anyone else. His run on The Naked Gun series was absolutely iconic. So, it’s a shame that the same can’t be said for this one. The gags just don’t have the same spark of ambition and ingenuity to be expected after such an illustrious career. It isn’t as terrible as some might believe, but it certainly isn’t up to par.
9 The Twelve Chairs - 6.5
This strange addition to Brooks’ filmography truly stands apart. It has some slapstick here and there, but the source material doesn’t really fit Brooks’ style. It’s certainly a comedy, but of a very different nature. The story involves a race to find family treasure hidden in one of twelve lost chairs. And no, it doesn’t involve Nicholas Cage, though he would be a terrific Brooks collaborator. Ultimately, this movie just won’t satisfy those seeking the Brooks brand. It’s more of a curiosity for anyone who is interested in Brooks’ earlier career. Still, the film certainly displays knowledge and clever reverence for a much older cinema.
8 Silent Movie - 6.7
Mel Brooks always proved himself uniquely attuned to satisfying slapstick. So, he was perhaps the only man qualified to make a silent movie for modern audiences. This film doesn’t have the heart that Chaplin or the greats achieved, but it doesn’t aim for that either. Actually, it has the most meta humor of any Brooks film, although it does come naturally to spoofs. Mel Brooks literally plays a director named Mel, trying to get a silent movie made. The cameos from actual celebrities are fun, the physical comedy generally works, and the self-awareness is addictive. Everything is lighthearted fare, which is cozy but missing the razor-sharp edge Brooks best excels at.
7 High Anxiety - 6.7
The Master of Suspense is certainly a genre of his own, with numerous iconic thrillers. And Brooks is slick enough to spoof each of Hitchcock’s most memorable scenes both tastefully and creatively. Fans of either director will be pleased, although it’s definitely more of a niche category than most of Brooks’ outings. This makes it more inaccessible, although sequences like the shower murder and bird “attack” should be obvious enough to most. The film is essentially a series of vignettes, running through Hitchcock’s greatest hits. This might be tedious to some. But it’s definitely a unique case of one auteur showing a blatant, clever understanding of another.
6 Robin Hood: Men In Tights - 6.7
There have been more Robin Hood movies than you might think. However, this one primarily prods at Prince of Thieves, with Cary Elwes in the titular role. He is a perfect fit, bringing all the same charisma from The Princess Bride. There’s a good balance of story, self-aware humor and slapstick. Certain recurring jokes like the perpetually shifting mole are only retread of earlier ideas, but most of them hit. Of course, there’s also a musical number, which is totally unexpected but delightfully strange. Also, keep a lookout for the early performance from Dave Chappelle, proving that Mel Brooks always had an eye for talent.
5 History Of The World: Part I - 6.9
It’s really rather odd that this film ended up with a higher rating than the others. Of course, fewer users actually rated this one than Robin Hood: Men in Tights, establishing its inferior popularity. This is Mel Brooks’ spoof of period piece movies, taking its title literally.
There’s certainly no story this time around, ironically enough. Similar to High Anxiety, it’s simply a series of vignettes. However, there isn’t quite as much creativity involving the target genre. In fact, the settings feel almost incidental. The gags are hit or miss, but when recurring jokes just feel redundant, it isn’t the same magic Brooks can usually conjure.
4 Spaceballs - 7.1
This spoof of Star Wars features an incredible ensemble cast, with Brooks’ signature juvenile but immensely creative comedy. Rick Moranis is an undeniable comedic genius, all on his own. Even his small stature makes for a terrific visual contrast to Darth Vader. A few of the jokes don’t quite land, and it can sometimes feel dated. But there’s plenty of style and ambition, with more than a few gems here. Just the meta gags are especially memorable, including stunt doubles, instant home video and a merchandising rant. The visual effects were actually decent for the time, and Star Wars knowledge isn’t even necessary, though it helps. Spaceballs is a classic in its own right, and probably his most accessible film.
3 The Producers - 7.6
Brooks’ first film, this established the sharp wit, tone and edgy imagination that coarse through his strongest accomplishments. The mere premise is brilliant, and Brooks selects yet another perfect cast. Gene Wilder was an absolute powerhouse actor, who could always make mania funny rather than irritating.
His complete breakdown about the blue blanket is hilarious, and could have easily been mishandled by anyone else. The dichotomy between his reserved tone and total craziness is astonishing, and he commands either display on a dime. Brooks’ writing is intelligent and bold, with the unforgettable “Springtime for Hitler”. It’s the most clever, effective mocking of Hitler since Chaplin.
2 Blazing Saddles - 7.7
This isn’t just a perfect Mel Brooks film, it’s simply one of the best comedies of all time. The same can be said for the next mention, but this one stands apart. It bluntly mocks racism in the purest, most unapologetic and risque manner possible. And if ever there were a genre to facilitate that, it’s certainly the American western. Just by setting the story in another time, it would be outrageous not to include callous racism and mistreatment. But Mel Brooks also plays an idiot governor, brutally encapsulating and bashing politicians. Every joke is gold, providing an equal share of thematic intelligence, hilarious slapstick, and clever asides. Of course, the entire endeavor is bolstered by an incredible cast, including Wilder once more.
1 Young Frankenstein - 8.0
There is very little praise left to offer this classic comedy, which completely transcends the spoof sub-genre. Even the smallest of jokes subvert expectations, and require no knowledge of Frankenstein movies. Igor’s shifting hump, neighing horses, and a memorable music routine are totally unexpected and clever. There’s also a juvenile but funny play on words here and there, like “there-wolf” and “Abby Normal”. Still, the movie certainly displays a clear understanding of Universal’s iconic monster, even spoofing the Blind Man from Bride of Frankenstein. Gene Hackman is a welcome surprise, there. Gene Wilder is brilliant as the titular character, but the supporting cast is equally memorable. Blind jokes are low-hanging fruit, and could easily go awry, but Brooks is talented enough to get away with it. That’s the trick to his entire career.