We were profoundly unsurprised by the news that all-time 24-carat classic This Is Spinal Tap has been voted the funniest film of all time by Time Out London readers. But anyway, the news also got us thinking about other great mockumentaries — while Spinal Tap stands head and shoulders above its genre counterparts, there are still plenty of other hilarious faux documentaries to be seen. So in celebration of the glory that is Spinal Tap, here’s a selection of other thoroughly worthy mockumentaries — have we missed any?
Basically the hip-hop equivalent of This Is Spinal Tap, this movie is far better than its fairly lackluster trailer might suggest. As with rock ‘n’ roll, there’s plenty about hip-hop that’s hilarious in its own right, and Fear of a Black Hat does a fine job of capturing the absurd aspects of the genre and its associated culture. Crucially, the filmmakers clearly have a deep affection for the music they parody, and the humour is never mocking or mean-spirited. It’s just, y’know, funny.
Christopher Guest is the king of the mockumentary for a reason, and even though nothing he’s made after This Is Spinal Tap has quite rivaled the sustained genius of his masterpiece, he’s still been responsible for some pretty funny shit. This film lampoons dog shows and their strange denizens, both canine and human — and as with the world of music, the subject is inherently bizarre enough that the events depicted on film could conceivably be real. Which, of course, only makes it all the funnier.
This largely overlooked Australian film from a few years back tackles the strange world of dance — specifically, the curious phenomenon that leads parents to pack their little girls off to classes, wherein the girls are encouraged to contort themselves into strange shapes, smile grimly, and eat as little as possible. As with all the best satires, there’s a healthy slice of truth here — which makes the film as occasionally uncomfortable as it is funny.
How dare you make hand party over Pamela?!
If you ever wondered where the inspiration for Spinal Tap‘s whole rock ‘n’ roll mockumentary idea might have come from (apart from the general inherent hilarity of the music world, of course), then look no further than Beatles parody The Rutles, which pre-dated Spinal Tap by six years and was a fairly significant inspiration to Rob Reiner and Christopher Guest. It’s plenty funny in its own right, too — particularly the parodies of Beatles songs (including the titular “All You Need is Cash,” which is a biting, if affectionate, reinterpretation of multi-millionaire Lennon’s hippy-dippy group hug anthem).
More Christopher Guest hilarity. With A Mighty Wind, he turned his satirical attention to folk music — and while the film’s perhaps not as side-splittingly hilarious as Best in Show or Spinal Tap, it’s a fine piece of work in its own right, and proves that nearly three decades after Spinal Tap, Guest’s still got the touch.
Like Fear of a Black Hat, CB4 does a fine job of capturing the inherent silliness of gangsta rap culture — the bling, the bitches, the grandstanding, the fact that plenty of the allegedly down-wit-the-streets types who tout their hardass credentials are in fact big old pretenders. The film also benefits from the presence of a still-funny Chris Rock, who also co-wrote the excellent script, and some glorious songs (like the above “Sweat From My Balls”).
The ongoing Joaquín Phoenix publicity stunt that formed the lead-up to I’m Still Here rather overshadowed the film itself. This is a shame, because it was a strangely engaging piece of work. Apart from raising a host of entirely legitimate and interesting questions about celebrity and how much we believe what’s sold to us as “reality,” it was both bizarrely compelling and occasionally hilarious.
Because, y’know, this list didn’t already have enough Christopher Guest. So here’s one more!
A Belgian film with a plot that’s startlingly similar to Natural Born Killers (which it pre-dated by two years), Man Bites Dog traces the story of a film crew as they make a documentary about a serial killer. As the movie progresses, the line between documentation and participation by the film crew blurs and eventually disappears — predictably enough, it’s then that things go awfully wrong. The result is a (very) darkly comic satire on voyeurism, the role of the media and our collective appetite for violence.
This Is Spinal Tap
Yes, we’ve already given you ten great mockumentaries that aren’t Spinal Tap. But this list goes to 11!