The month of January (as we’ve mentioned before) does not tend to give us the most high-quality new movie releases, and this year doesn’t look any more promising than usual. This week, for example, will bring to your local multiplex A Haunted House, a parody of — wait for it — haunted house movies (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, etc.) from co-writer/star Marlon Wayans, one of the originators of the Scary Movie franchise (which will itself take on Paranormal and whatever the hell else was moderately popular recently in this fall’s Scary Movie 5). Between that series, the unwatchable works of the Wayans family, and the Friedberg/Seltzer oeuvre, these are grim days indeed for the “spoof film,” the formerly distinguished comedy subgenre targeting cinematic styles and trends with goofy humor, slapstick spirit, and a willingness to do just about anything for a laugh. In light of what they have become, it’s easy to forget how many great spoof movies there were; as a reminder, we picked our ten favorites (and ranked them even!), so check them out and let us know if you agree after the jump.
10. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story BRAINCHILD OF: Director Jake Kasdan and his co-writer/co-producer, Judd Apatow TARGET: Musical biopics (particularly Walk the Line and Ray), particularly their on-the-nose expositional dialogue (“Goddamnit, this is a dark fucking period!”) BEST GAG: The cheerfully clueless foreshadowing of Dewey’s doomed little brother. “Today’s gonna be the best day ever!” Little Nate announces, on his way to getting cut in half. “Ain’t nothing horrible gonna happen today!” SEE ALSO: Walk Hard is the only post-1991 movie on our list, so yes, it hasn’t exactly been a golden age of parody flicks. But there are some laughs to be found in Not Another Teen Movie, High School High, and, yes, the original (but only the original!) Scary Movie.
9. Hot Shots! BRAINCHILD OF: Jim Abrahams, one-third of the team behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun, and their occasional collaborator Pat Proft (who also wrote Bachelor Party, Police Academy, Real Genuis, and several later, lesser Leslie Nielsen vehicles) TARGET: Top Gun, and several other ’80s action flicks BEST GAG: A send-up of the sexy-eating sequence from 9½ Weeks — with such unexpected foreplay food as fried eggs and bacon. SEE ALSO: The nearly-as-funny sequel Hot Shots, Part Deux!, which features a priceless moment in which star Charlie Sheen’s riverboat crosses paths with his father Martin’s, in the midst of an Apocalpyse Now reenactment. “Loved you in Wall Street!” they shout at each other.
8. The Kentucky Fried Movie BRAINCHILD OF: The so-called ZAZ team (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker), who wrote, and future Animal House/Blues Brothers director John Landis, who directed TARGET: Everything from TV commercials to movie trailers to news broadcasts to Bruce Lee flicks BEST GAG: The short bit above, an uproarious parody of commercials for household air fresheners. SEE ALSO: Ten years after Kentucky Fried Movie, director John Landis and several other filmmakers (including Gremlins helmer Joe Dante and Naked Gun producer Robert K. Weiss) teamed for the frequently funny Kentucky-style anthology spoof flick Amazon Women on the Moon. And three years before Kentucky, its style was established by the uneven but very funny The Groove Tube.
7. I’m Gonna Git You Sucka BRAINCHILD OF: Writer/director Keenan Ivory Wayans, who would later create In Living Color and direct several (lesser) films written by and starring his younger brothers TARGET: Blaxpoitation movies, particularly Super Fly and The Mack BEST GAG: The frequently sloppy technical work of these low-budget films gets plenty of skewering by Wayans — particularly when he brings in the mustachioed stunt double for the protagonist’s mother. SEE ALSO: Director Scott Sanders and star/co-writer Michael Jai White worked up their own affectionate parody of the blaxpoitation genre with 2009’s thin but funny Black Dynamite. And Wayans co-wrote Robert Townsend’s very clever examination of onscreen stereotypes, 1987’s Hollywood Shuffle.
6. Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid BRAINCHILD OF: Legendary director/co-writer Carl Reiner, co-writer/star Steve Martin, and co-writer George Gipe TARGET: Detective movies of the film noir era, in the Chandler/Hammett mold BEST GAG: Reiner, Martin, and Gipe didn’t just send up these black-and-white classics; they used clever re-stagings and editing tricks to insert scenes from those films into theirs, so that private dick Martin shares the screen with Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Veronica Lake, Ingrid Bergman, and (most memorably) Fred MacMurray, whose canoodling partner becomes not Barbara Stanwyk but Martin in drag. SEE ALSO: Reiner, Martin, and Gipe followed Dead Men with The Man with Two Brains, a very funny spoof of mad scientist pictures.
5. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! BRAINCHILD OF: Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker again, this time with all three writing and David Zucker directing. TARGET: Cop shows and movies of the 1970s and 1980s, from Dirty Harry to TJ Hooker BEST GAG: Ending their music-video style “getting to know you” romantic musical montage with the bottom-left on-screen credits familiar from music videos’ MTV airings. (See, back in the day, MTV showed music videos, and… oh, never mind.) SEE ALSO: Though markedly deteriorating in quality and laughs with each entry, there are still some funny bits in The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear and The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult. The film that ZAZ wrote and directed before The Naked Gun, Top Secret, is a wildly underrated parody of spy movies and Elvis musicals. Before that film, the trio collaborated on Police Squad! , the short-lived series that inspired Naked Gun; all six of its episodes are available on DVD. And, of course, there is Hot Fuzz, an equally inspired spoof of the slickly stylish cop movies of the ’90s and 2000s.
4. Blazing Saddles BRAINCHILD OF: Director Mel Brooks and an all-star writing team, including Andrew Bergman (who would later write The In-Laws, adapt Fletch, co-write Soapdish, and write and direct The Freshman), Norman Steinberg (Johnny Dangerously), Alan Uger, and the great Richard Pryor (whom Brooks wanted to cast in the lead) TARGET: Westerns (and Marlene Dietrich movies) BEST GAG: Everyone’s got their favorite, and we’ve always been partial to the spot-on skewering of that old oater standby, the meeting of concerned townfolk (“I’m particulary glad that these lovely children were here today to hear that speech. Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed a courage little seen in this day and age.”) But it’s probably the campfire scene. SEE ALSO: There are plenty of great Brooks spoofs — Silent Movie and his Hitchcock tribute High Anxiety are treats, and while his ‘80s efforts Spaceballs and History of the World, Part 1 are somewhat uneven, they’ve still got some very big laughs. And while Hugh Wilson’s Western parody Rustlers’ Rhapsody is, to put it mildly, no Blazing Saddles, it’s worth a look nonetheless.
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail BRAINCHILD OF: The titular troupe (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin) wrote and starred in this, their first original feature (it was preceded by And Now for Something Completely Different, a film drawn from their Flying Circus series); Gilliam and Jones shared directorial duties TARGET: Sword-and-sorcery epics, and the Arthurian legend BEST GAG: Exploring the fine line between undying bravery and disconnection with reality, via the Black Knight (“It’s just a flesh wound!”) SEE ALSO: The Python boys’ controversial and uproarious send-up of Biblical epics, The Life of Brian; their final film as a team, The Meaning of Life, a patchwork effort with inspired parodies of musical production numbers and Bergman’s Seventh Seal.
2. Young Frankenstein BRAINCHILD OF: Mel Brooks again, directing a script written with star Gene Wilder (who’d acted for Brooks in The Producers and Blazing Saddles) TARGET: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and other classic Universal monster movies BEST GAG: We’re gonna go ahead and divide this into two subcategories, so we don’t have to pick just one best bit. The best running gag is the horses whinnying in fright every time the name of Frau Blucher is invoked; best comic sequence would be the unveiling of Frankenstein’s (that’s FRONK-en-steen’s) monster as a “cultured, sophisticated, man about town” crooning — okay, groaning — “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” SEE ALSO: The inspired Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein merged comedy and the Universal monsters (with some of the original actors, even) clear back in 1948. And while Gene Wilder’s solo directorial efforts never quite matched his collaborations with Mel Brooks, his The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother and The World’s Greatest Lover are pretty good JV Brooks movies, with several of his old boss’ regulars (including Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, and Dom DeLuise) in tow.
1. Airplane! BRAINCHILD OF: Our old friends Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker — this time, all three writing and directing. TARGET: The all-star “disaster movies” of the 1970s, particularly the Airport series. BEST GAG: Oh boy. How could we just pick one? Fine, fine; if we had to choose just one, we’d have to go with Lloyd Bridges’ running “looks like I picked the wrong week to quit…” bit. Oh no, scratch that — Julie Haggerty’s indecent encounter with the auto pilot. No, forget those: the Saturday Night Fever parody. No, wait… SEE ALSO: Well, don’t see Airplane II: The Sequel, which brought back much of the cast but none of the filmmakers (it was written and directed by Grease 2 scribe Ken Finkelman). Instead, try The Big Bus, the lesser-known but very funny disaster movie spoof that actually beat Airplane! to the punch by four years.
Agree with our choices? Disagree? Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments!