As with other animated comedies like The Simpsons and Family Guy, South Park is full of movie parodies. However, South Park doesn’t just parody movies willy nilly like those other shows. Trey Parker and Matt Stone will only throw in a movie parody if it serves the story, or if it helps to convey a satirical point they’re making.
They don’t just do non-sequitur gags based on movies for the sake of parody, like Seth MacFarlane’s shows do. As a result, South Park has spoofed less movies, but also delivered sharper, more focused, more rounded parodies. Here's a selection of the best.
The South Park episode “D-Yikes!” revolves around Ms. Garrison identifying as a lesbian and subsequently having her favorite bar threatened by Persian investors. What follows is a brilliant parody of 300.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone hilariously poked fun at Zack Snyder’s overly stylized visual style, complete with all the quick-cutting slow-motion sequences – except instead of Gerard Butler slaying a guy, this technique was used for scenes where people make coffee or punch in a phone number. The episode itself didn’t have a great plot and it doesn’t stand out as a classic, but its spoofing of 300 was incredibly on-target.
10 Stand and Deliver
“How do I reach these kids?” The Edward James Olmos drama Stand and Deliver was an obscure choice for a parody, but it was so hilarious and spot-on that ultimately, it didn’t matter if viewers were familiar with the source material or not. The sight of Cartman as a balding, middle-aged teacher tutoring inner city kids in the art of cheating is funny enough.
But if you are familiar with Stand and Deliver – specifically the way Olmos plays his character – then it’s even funnier. Plus, at the time the episode aired, cheating scandals were raging across America, so it also worked on the level of poignant satire.
Eric Cartman performed a monologue from Scarface at the school talent show in Season 9’s “Erection Day,” and in Season 14’s “Medicinal Fried Chicken,” he lived it. KFC was criminalized, so Cartman started sell the Colonel’s chicken on the street. Instead of two competing drug rings, Cartman found himself caught between Colonel Sanders and Jamie Oliver.
He began his Tony Montana-style rise and fall as a foot soldier for a larger criminal organization, but when he told the boss’ mom that he failed a test at school, he usurped him and took over the business. However, his greed got the better of him and his empire collapsed.
“I’m so...startled!” South Park’s two-part Cloverfield parody recreated the look of the movie perfectly. It had Randy running through the streets with a video camera, panting, desperately trying to capture the apocalyptic event going on around him. The difference is that instead of a frightening, otherworldly, Lovecraftian monster, the city was being attacked by giant guinea pigs.
Instead of being depicted solely through the use of found-footage, the episode occasionally cut to Randy pointing the camera at the ground and shaking it around. To be fair, based on the camera angles in these found-footage movies, if we actually saw the characters filming them, they’d probably look just as ridiculous.
7 The Silence of the Lambs
Anthony Hopkins managed to create a cinematic icon and win an Academy Award with less than half an hour of screen time in The Silence of the Lambs. His chilling portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the movie has inspired countless parodies.
South Park had its own take on the character, with a kid who was locked in juvie for T.P.-related crimes helping Officer Barbrady to solve the town’s latest case of T.P.-ing. Just like Lecter’s relationship with Clarice Starling, this boy’s interactions with Barbrady lead to tragic revelations about Barbrady’s childhood, while the prison guard tells him to stop doing “the scary voice.”
6 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
South Park’s parody of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is really a parody of both Deliverance and The Accused. After the boys see the latest Indy movie, with all its CGI monkeys and alien invaders, they make the bold claim that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have ruined Indiana Jones.
Throughout the episode, they try to get a lawyer to take the case and try to get the cops to convict the film-makers. Meanwhile, we see various scenarios in which Spielberg and Lucas pounce on an unsuspecting Indiana Jones. It’s incredibly dark, but also incredibly funny.
5 Night of the Living Dead
Trey Parker and Matt Stone tackled the homeless issue by turning them into hordes of Romero-style zombies who groan about chaaange instead of braaains. The episode was called “Night of the Living Homeless” and it was deceptively smart satire.
The residents of South Park become increasingly concerned about the growing homeless population, but their solutions all involve getting them out of the way, rather than helping them. The episode may be a hysterical take on the conventions of the zombie movie genre (“Sorry to take the easy way out!”), but these undertones highlight the public’s tragic indifference to the homeless.
Stan’s wishes not to “get sucked into Facebook” are utterly relatable to anyone who didn’t go wholeheartedly into the social media age. He doesn’t want people constantly pestering him to reply to their messages or accept their friend requests or poke them back. Tron was the perfect parody to satirize this.
Stan getting sucked into his computer was a metaphor for Facebook taking over his life, while his Facebook profile towering over him was a metaphor for how your digital self (which you curate on social media) is more important than your actual self these days. The animation from Disney’s sci-fi cult hit was recreated perfectly.
3 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
South Park’s take on The Lord of the Rings trilogy was pitch-perfect. The boys have rented the video and are now acting like characters from the movie. Randy and Sharon ask them to lend the video to Butters, only to discover they mixed up the tape with one they rented for themselves. So, the boys head off on a LOTR-style quest and find that a lot of their enemies want to get their hands on that tape.
The episode is called “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers,” which is a great play on words, and also a suitable title for the story: the boys see themselves as the Fellowship, and they return to the Two Towers, which is the name of the video store.
2 High School Musical
The aptly-titled episode “Elementary School Musical” deftly parodied the High School Musical craze, as the four boys struggle to grasp exactly why everyone thinks those movies are cool. The episode hilariously inverted the central conflict from the first High School Musical movie.
In the movie, Zac Efron’s character Troy just wanted to perform musical theater, but his dad wanted him to play basketball. In South Park, Bridon Gueermo just wants to play basketball, but his dad wants him to stick to musical theater. In the end, as the boys finally get on board with the fad, everyone else moves on.
1 The Shining
The best movie parodies in South Park use the style and tone of a movie to reflect something contemporary. For example, when Randy bought a Blockbuster Video location, the show used the iconography, classic moments, and tense musical score from Stanley Kubrick’s chilling horror opus The Shining to convey the fact that video rental places were becoming obsolete.
Instead of isolation imposed by the harsh winter weather (which caused Jack Torrance to go mad in the movie), Randy was driven mad by the isolation imposed by everyone using streaming services instead of renting movies. It made for a terrific Halloween episode.