Sometimes, when the world seems too crazy to understand, it can pay to put on a ridiculous spoof comedy and just try to relax. The question is which genre to choose? Well, here’s a handy list of options for you, dear reader! Note that you may not like every film listed. Still, if you have any sense of humor at all, you’ll probably like at least some of these. Some are widely acclaimed classics, a few are cult hits or lesser known, but it’s all a matter of taste. Take your pick dear ones!
01. Fantasy / Adventure / Legendary Tale – Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
In the world of comedy, Monty Python were definitely one of the big dogs. Part of what made them successful was their fearlessness when it came to absurdity. At times they almost transcend comedy, representing their catchphrase, “And now for something completely different”. ‘They took chances, knowing not everyone would get it, and their irreverence changed comedy forever.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is an excellent satire of the legend of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail. What’s so great about it? Where does one even start? There are absurd lines about coconuts carried by birds, the Trojan Rabbit, the deadly Rabbit of Caerbannog, the Knights Who Say Ni, the Hand Grenade of Antioch, and so on. There are so many quotable lines and memorable scenes; it’s almost absurd in its own right. There are other great ‘Monty Python’ movies, but this one is still, well, the holy grail of them all!
02. Disaster Film – Airplane! (1980)
‘Airplane!’ is a comedic disaster-piece written and directed by David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams. By and large, ‘Airplane!’ follows the story of Robert Hays as Ted Striker, war veteran turned taxi driver, who is tasked with landing a commercial plane after the crew get severe food poisoning. The problem is, he is suffering from what we now call PTSD, and has a unique drinking problem. His performance anxiety is partly triggered by his ex, a flight attendant named Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty), who only recently broke up with him. That all sounds pretty serious, right? Well, it’s not. In fact, this movie is one of the zaniest ones you could ever hope to find!
Like ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’, this movie has so many classic gags and lines. For example, when “We have clearance, Clarence” is met with “Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?”. Then, of course, there’s Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen), who is tired of being called Shirley, and Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges), who has a seemingly endless list of addictions he’s recently kicked. Then you have Robert Stack as the straight-laced Captain Rex Kramer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Roger Murdock, and Barbara Billingsley as the unforgettable ‘Jive Lady’ (in a scene many would find too offensive today – which potentially makes it even funnier). ‘Airplane!’ was and remains a silly, outrageous comedy that does not hold back yet still has plenty of heart. Of course, you can always watch ‘Naked Gun’ for more Leslie Nielson-oriented comedy, too!
03. Rock Documentary – This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Get ready to crank it up to 11, because ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ is ready to rock your eardrums and eyeballs out of your skull! Actually, though, you can watch this film at a moderate volume and still thoroughly enjoy it. Rob Reiner’s directorial debut is still one of his greatest, and remains the best mockumentary/ rockumentary of all time. In fact, this film no doubt helped launch the careers of Christopher Guest (as guitarist Nigel Tufnel), Michael McKean (as singer David St. Hubbins), and Harry Shearer (as bassist Derek Smalls).
On tour to promote the band’s latest album, ‘Smell the Glove,’ there’s a real sense of the band’s history, and its pretension. Featuring hits like ‘Stonehenge,’ ‘Sex Farm,’ ‘Gimme Some Money,’ ‘Listen to the Flower People’ and ‘Hell Hole,’ This Is Spinal Tap will keep your toes a’tappin’ and your mouth a’laughin’. Also, it’s highly recommended that you see other movies starring Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, like ‘A Mighty Wind’ and ‘Best in Show’. This is Spinal Tap also features drummer Mick Shrimpton (R.J. Parnell) and keyboardist Viv Savage (David Kaff).
04. World War II Spy Movie – Top Secret! (1984)
How about another comedy from David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams? Sure, why not? While ‘Airplane!’ parodied disaster movies, the topic here is a little more specialized: WWII spy movies. In ‘Top Secret!,’ an American rock and roll singer, Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) becomes involved in an elaborate plot to rescue a scientist (Michael Gough) imprisoned in East Germany, after falling in love with his daughter Hillary (Lucy Gutteridge).
In many ways, this movie is a little riskier than ‘Airplane!’, because its story is a little more complex. Still, like that film, it delivers a lot of laughs, some unique and fascinating gags, and a heap of memorable scenes. Sure, it doesn’t have as many memorable lines and isn’t nearly as loved as ‘Airplane!’ or the ‘Naked Gun’ franchise, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Consider this a unique possibility. If nothing else, it features Val Kilmer in his film debut, before he gained a reputation as being tough to work with. Also, the Nick Rivers song ‘Skeet Shootin’ is funny as hell. Join the Resistance!
05. Sci-Fi Space Epic – Spaceballs (1987)
Could such a list exist without a single Mel Brooks film? Possibly, but it would be crap. Of all the Mel Brooks films, ‘Spaceballs’ is still my go-to selection. It’s such a fun movie, delivered with such childlike innocence that, frankly, I don’t see how someone couldn’t like it.’ Spaceballs’ features a Winnebago spaceship, a droid voiced by Joan Rivers, a half-man-half-dog named Barf (John Candy), and Rick Moranis as the ultimate spoof of Darth Vader. What in that could disappoint audience?
My favorite character? It’s a tossup between Barf and Yogurt (Mel Brooks). Of course, ‘Spaceballs’ wouldn’t be the same without Bill Pullman as Lone Starr, Daphne Zuniga as Princess Vespa, and Michael Winslow as the Radar Technician (where he employs his trademark voice sound effects). May the Schwartz be with you!
06. Hollywood Action Movie – Last Action Hero (1993)
Mustering a measly 36% Rotten Tomatoes score, you might think John McTiernan ‘Last Action Hero’ is garbage. Well, you’d be kind of right, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This spoof on the action movie genre is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best (and yes, I said one of, as in “there’s more than one good Arnold movie”). To help cope with a troubled world, a kid named Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien) often watches Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fictional “Jack Slater” action films. Weirdly, Danny’s projectionist pal, Nick (Robert Prosky), gives him a golden ticket owned by Harry Houdini that transports him into the film.
Is that ridiculous? Sure, but it gives ample opportunity to explore the huge plot holes in action films. We also get to meet a great villain named Benedict (Charles Dance), who ultimately threatens to release cinematic evil into the real world. Everything is deconstructed along the way, like car chases, catch phrases, and how the main star seems to only get flesh wounds. The movie has plenty of corny jokes, a healthy dose of imagination and some moments that are surprisingly poignant and bleak. In other words, ‘Last Action Hero’ doesn’t shy away from contrasting fiction from reality, which we need more examples of in this world. Other memorable performances include Tom Noonan as the Ripper, Frank McRae as Lieutenant Dekker, Ian McKellen as Death, and Danny DeVito as the voice of cartoon cat police detective, Whiskers.
07. James Bond Style Spy Movie – Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Mike Myers figures so prominently in ‘Austin Powers’, it’s easy to believe he directed the film. However, that would be Jay Roach. Still, even though some forget this, Mike Myers was a huge, huge star in the 1990s, yet remained oddly likable for most people. As Wayne Campbell he was already quotable, but Austin Powers substantially boosted his popularity. Though Myers has declined a little since his heyday, there’s nothing wrong with looking back at this spy spoof, remembering this iconic character and letting go of your modern tension. In fact, oddly enough, exposing modern tension is largely what this movie was about.
Austin was supposed to be a product of the 1960s – a more freewheeling, anything-goes, exploratory era. Of course, it’s all ridiculously contrasted with his being a spy, where he deals with far more uptight characters, like the sinister (yet silly) Dr. Evil. On that note, Dr. Evil is every bit as iconic as Powers himself, and memorable for great lines like, ‘When I was insolent, I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds’. Classic! This movie also stars Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, and Michael York. Credit also goes to Fabiana Udenio (as Alotta Fagina) and Paul Dillon as Patty O’Brien (who’s always defending his lucky charms!). Finally, do I need to state the obvious? Go ahead and watch the sequels, where you can see Verne Troyer as Mini-Me, and the incredible ‘Fat Bastard,’ and other crazy stuff.
08. Animal Documentary – Farce of the Penguins (2006)
To my knowledge, Bob Saget’s ‘Farce of the Penguins’ is the only penguin documentary spoof film. Is it any good? That depends on how you define good. Is it a fact-based documentary, like 2005 nature documentary ‘March of the Penguins’? Nope! In fact, it gets a lot of the very basic facts about penguins wrong. Nevertheless, if you want to hear Saget, Lewis Black, Tracy Morgan, Mo’Nique and many others tell dirty jokes as penguins, this film will be right up your alley.
Not all of the jokes are top-notch, mind you, but many of them are (if you’re into adult comedy, that is). ‘Farce of the Penguins’ is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Also, five of Saget’s ‘Full House’ co-stars voice offensive penguins in this movie, which makes it a quirky pop cultural artifact in its own right.
09. Comedy Biopic – Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
A box office flop with huge laughs and a cult following, ‘Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story’ definitely deserves recognition. A hilarious spoof of music biopics like ‘Walk the Line’ and ‘Ray,’ ‘Walk Hard’ stars John C. Reilly as Dewey, who is apparently one of contemporary music’s leading icons. The problem is, everywhere he goes he brings trouble with him. Much like the real Johnny Cash, Dewey deals with guilt over the death of his brother. Of course, he deals with it in some silly ways, including the obligatory sex and drugs. With his country-tinged rock and roll, there’s a sense of constantly going off the rails..but it’s Dewy Cox, man! He’s a legend!
In many ways, the film is also a parody of celebrity rehab and pretentious “birth-of-a-legend” tales. Also, John C. Reilly actually sings! In fact, the soundtrack was nominated for both a Grammy and a Golden Globe. In addition to Reilly, this fun comedy features Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Kristen Wiig, Raymond J. Barry, David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards, Matt Besser, Harold Ramis, Eddie Vedder, Jack White, The Temptations, Ghostface Killah, Jack Black and Jason Schwartzman, among others.
10. Hollywood Action Biopic – Tropic Thunder (2008)
Controversial? Check. Funny at the time? Check. Still funny now? Check again (at least for many). Ben Stiller’s ‘Tropic Thunder’ is proof that, not very long ago, a movie could come out, face some backlash, yet still survive and be considered a comedy classic. The joke of ‘Tropic Thunder’ is that some pretentious actors set out to re-enact a fake memoir of a soldier’s war experiences. However, they get stranded in a Vietnam jungle and must deal with the Flaming Dragon drug gang. Despite its controversies, ‘Tropic Thunder’ spends most of its time making fun of Hollywood, as opposed to solely ‘punching down’ (to use a trite expression).
Real comedy in fact will ‘punch’ in all directions (so to speak), while potentially having some heartfelt moments. At the end of the day, it’s also just a movie. It is not a wasted effort, either. It features a funny, top-notch cast: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte, Matthew McConaughey and Tom Cruise as the soulless studio exec, Les Grossman. My favorite critique is by Logan Hill of New York magazine, when he says Tom Cruise’s dance routine “..makes him look a little lost and almost pathetic-shucking and jiving, trying to appeal to the younger moviegoers who are abandoning him.” Of course, that’s the very point of the scene! I swear, some things just go right over a person’s head. Anyway, it’s a fun movie, and that’s a fun dance scene. ‘Tropic Thunder’ is funny enough and probably won’t hurt you too badly.