The following list are classics, which are defined as movies you’d enjoy watching even when you wouldn’t enjoy watching a movie.
To qualify as a spoof, a movie must tease a genre of film and not just a single movie. Thus, Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and the other modern-day stinkers depend too much for their audience to be familiar with specific other movies, which themselves are usually poor.
Mockumentaries don’t qualify because they spoof an activity and not a style of film. Movies which are too self-contained also don’t make the cut: a spoof, after all, needs other films to tease.
- 10 Johnny Dangerously For fans of James Cagney-Humphrey Bogart-George Raft gangster flicks. It’s pleasant more than hilarious; a movie made when Michael Keaton, who plays Johnny, was still funny. You get to see Skipper, from Gilligan’s Island, as a cop! Truthfully, it makes the list only to make an even 10. “Ice-hole!”
- 9 Kung Pow! Enter the Fist This Kung-Fu theater parody edges out the skit in Kentucky Fried Movie, but only because the later was not feature-length. Steve Oedekerk, whose mere name is funny, is the guy behind those odd “Thumb” sketches. Oedekerk hilariously solved the dubbing problem of mismatching lips and dialogue by having the female lead intone “Wee-aaoooh, Wee-aaoooh!” whenever necessary, which somehow works. Most gags are visual, but an occasional cartoon voice make the best scenes. “I’ll take a pound of nuts”—“That’s a lot of nuts!” You just have to hear it.
- 8 High Anxiety The scene in which Dick Van Patton meets his death gives me the shivers: it’s too realistic. There is no better send-up of Alfred Hitchcock than in the shower scene: “Here’s your paper! Here’s your paper! Happy!? Happy now?!” Madeline Kahn is perfect as the daughter of the industrialist, a man who is wrongly imprisoned in an insane asylum. Mel Brooks sings!
- 7 Hot Shots! Part Deux The only sequel to make the list. Lloyd Bridges is back with a promotion to president who personally goes on a mission to battle Saddam Hussein. He gets the best lines: “Look like the upper hand is on the other foot, Saddam!”, “Every time I give an order, it gets screwed up! Appoint an ambassador, next thing you know, he leaves the country.”, “We’ll settle this the old navy way: first guy to die, loses.”, “How’s the speech coming, Mr. President?”—“This isn’t the speech. I’m practicing my ‘A’s. Does this look like an ‘A’ to you?”
- 6 Hot Shots! Lloyd Bridges steals the show as the loony Admiral in charge of the Top Guns. In one scene, he hits his head. “Are you all right, sir?”—“Of course I’m all right! Why, what have you heard?”. No better parody exists of the typical telegraphing of the impending death of an character than when a flier’s wife asks him to sign his insurance policy, right before he boards his plane. His pen is out of ink; and he has, in his pocket, evidence relevant to JFK’s assassination and a plan to stop global warming. His wife is made to witness his crash via a wall-sized mirror. “Your secondary targets are here and here: an accordion factory and a mime school.”
- 5 Young Frankenstein A movie so complete that it almost missed being a spoof. By that, I mean that it could nearly exist independently of any other movie. Nearly. What saves it is that the viewer still needs to have absorbed a healthy diet of classic monster pictures. Plus, there is the occasional goofiness which signals spoofiness. Marty Feldman as a “Fresh Dead” corpse, and the ridiculousness of “Abby Normal.” Gene Wilder is terrific, his best performance. The black and white photography and scene fades are just the thing. “Werewolf!”—“There wolf.” “Nice knockers!”
- 4 Top Secret! This Abraham-Zucker Brothers classic is the least well known. People might not have figured out how Nazis, communists, and the French resistance could operate simultaneously in present day East Germany. But the movie flows. “How is he? Well, let me know if there is any change in his condition.”—Hangs up.—“He is dead.” And who can ever forget the (socialist paradise) East German national anthem, sung by the Olympic women’s swim team? “Hail, hail East Germany / Land of fruit and grape / Land where you’ll regret / If you try to escape / No matter if you tunnel under or take a running jump at the wall / Forget it, the guards will kill you, if the electrified fence doesn’t first.”
- 3 Blazing Saddles Madeline Kahn nicely skewers Marlene Dietrich-type vamping. Gene Wilder is fantastic as always, and is nicely matched with Clevon Little. But the movie belongs to Harvey Korman, who is the ideal corrupt Wild West politician. “My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.”—“God darnit, Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore.” Just like our number one movie, it’s difficult to imagine a movie like this being made any more (I don’t dare quote some of the dialogue). “I think you fellas have had enough.”
- 2 The Naked Gun! From the Files of Police Squad The opening scene (after the credits) with OJ “I’d Search for Nicole’s Killer, But I’m In Jail” Simpson getting shot is still capable of inducing wheezing and gasping. This is Leslie Nielsen at his best. The look on his face after his own car, air bags bursting out the windows, its trunk aflame, speeding away, is perfection. “You want to take a dinghy?”—“No thanks. I took care of that at the press conference.”
- 1 Airplane! How can we be sure of its number-one status? Just quote. “Joey—do you like movies about gladiators?” (Can you imagine a movie getting away with this today? Has it been banned in Everybody’s-A-Pedophile-England yet?) “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.” “Surely you can’t be serious.”—“I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.” “Would you like something to read?”—“Do you have anything light?”—“How about this leaflet, Famous Jewish Sports Legends?” The jokes were new and fresh and came so fast the audience could never catch its breath. Strangely, the only player to have benefited from this movie was Nielsen, the genre’s unmatched master thespian.
Leading runner up, The Last Polka. Not a spoof, but close. John Candy on clarinet (my first instrument), Eugene Levy on accordion—the Schmenge brothers!—Rick Moranis sings “On the Road Again”, the other MacKenzie brother (Dave Thomas) impersonates an English narrator. A mockumentary that can’t hide a deep affection for the people it gently teases. Cabbage rolls and coffee—Mm, Mm, good!
Any Abbott and Costello Meet the Monster or Three Stooges monster short flick beats out any Scary Movie entry, and no horror parody beats Young Frankenstein. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery garners and Honourable Mention, especially for Mike Meyer’s Dr Evil persona, but the movie is just a little too self satisfied to make the cut. The Holy Grail doesn’t make the list because, while it does contain the occasional spoof of King Arthur-type movies, it’s just too weird.
Statistically, it appears any entry with an exclamation point in its title does well; hence, the presence of this punctuation mark in today’s title.