The 411 Movies Top 5 07.27.12: Week 332- Top 5 Best Sci-Fi Comedy Movies
Posted by Trevor Snyder on 07.27.2012
From Men in Black and Ghostbusters to Back to the Future, Men in Black and more, the 411 staff ranks their top 5 sci-fi comedies of all-time!
THE TOP 5 SCI-FI COMEDY MOVIES
5. Dark Star (1974)
John Carpenter's first movie is probably the weirdest thing the director has ever done. I'm going to assume that quite a bit of the weirdness is due to the presence of Dan O'Bannon, but Carpenter has shown in other movies that he has a weird sense of humor, too. There's the frozen guy the ship's crew talks to, the crew's pointless mission (blowing stuff up in deep space because... well, just because), the beach ball alien chase, the weirdness just goes on and on. If you don't have a weird sense of humor to begin with you probably won't "get it," but if you do I think you'll dig how the movie is meant to be supremely ridiculous. I haven't seen this movie in a while. I think I need to check it out again. You should, too.
4. Ghostbusters (1984)
Ghostbusters probably isn't considered a sci-fi movie by most people. I'd suspect that it's seen more as a horror-comedy. But when you look at where the Dr. Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler come from, you can make a good case that what they're engaged in is a science. It's pseudo science, sure, total bullshit, but it looks like they're engaged in real science. They measure and observe "ghosts," they can trap them in machines, they use various gizmos to detect ghosts, and, heck, before they started the Ghostbusters business they were university researchers. They're always looking for the simplest explanation, they use the scientific method, etc. It's all ridiculous, yes, but it looks like they're engaged in a legitimate scientific pursuit. Sometimes that's all you need to qualify.
3. Galaxy Quest (1999)
The washed up actors of an old, cheesy sc-fi show get caught up in a real life alien war in outer space. Some of the aliens, the "good guy" aliens, believe that the actors on the show are real space warriors and actually fought aliens and whatnot. The good guy aliens believe that the old Galaxy Quest show was real. Because they don't have much choice, the actors do their best and act their parts, terrified that they'll be found out and that they'll get everyone killed. Easily one of the best movie premises of all time. I'm shocked that no one ever tried to do this movie before 1999. Tim Allen gives one of his best performances, and Alan Rickman, with that ridiculous head appliance, is amazing. You really feel his hatred for the part that typecast him forever and then his triumph when he finally accepts it and kicks some big alien ass. A true classic.
2. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Director Ed Wood probably never intended for his sci-fi horror flick Plan 9 From Outer Space to be a comedy. He was trying to make an actual scary movie. But when you watch his movie and guffaw at its myriad mistakes, problems, and moments of stupidity, you wish that it was all meant to be this way. In the big scheme of things, Wood's intent doesn't matter. Plan 9 is a hoot, a ridiculous monstrosity that's genuinely funny. It doesn't ask you to laugh, but you laugh anyway. It doesn't force you to accept its premise, you just do it. You can't help it. It ended up brilliant.
1. Spaceballs (1987)
Directed by the great Mel Brooks, Spaceballs is the ultimate send up of the sci-fi movie genre. It takes on Star Wars, Star Trek, the Apes movies, among others, and is just devastatingly funny. Rick Moranis is transcendent as the villain Dark Helmet, and John Candy is nothing short of brilliant as Barf, a half-man/half-dog sort of alien that acts as the sidekick to Bill Pullman's Lone Starr. Every second of this movie is a classic, easily quotable ("Did you see anything? No, I didn't see you playing with your dolls again!"), and, in terms of sci-fi comedies, hasn't been surpassed. I seriously doubt it ever will.
"On this ship, you're to refer to me as 'idiot', not 'you captain'." Ha.
5. Mars Attacks (1996)
Originally, this spot belonged to Mel Brook's classic Spaceballs, but since Bryan gave that his #1 spot, I felt a little more free to slide in Tim Burton's underrated alien invasion opus. Based on a popular (but somewhat infamous) trading-card series, Mars Attacks eschewed the extreme graphic violence of its source material in favor of an intentionally tongue-in-cheek approach that allowed Burton to pay tribute to the corny sci-fi films he loved as a kid. It also allowed a massive all-star cast to ham it up to their heart's delight. Heck, Jack Nicholson gets to ham it up as two different characters? An underappreciated effort, and also a nice reminder that Burton's approach to comedy used to entail more than just slapping white make-up on Johnny Depp and telling him to act crazy.
4. Men in Black (1997)
The pairing of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones was one of those unexpected lightning-in-a-bottle moments – there was really no reason to expect them to be such a fantastic comedic duo, but once you saw them together in the film, there was no denying the chemistry. Couple that with an excellent premise just perfect for a sci-fi action comedy, not to mention excellent special FX featuring tons of unique and cool aliens, and you have a winner. At the time, I thought for sure this was the beginning of an unstoppable franchise. The disappointing Men in Black II sure put a stop to that thinking. Even though the fairly well-received third film might have brought back a little respect to the series, I still doubt we'll ever see another entry as near-flawless as the first film.
3. Sleeper (1973)
Whenever certain people (like me) say they prefer Woody Allen's older, "funnier" movies, you can bet this is one of the movies they're talking about. Allen's wacky take on sci-fi finds him cryogenically frozen for 200 years – woken in an America now under totalitarian rule, and recruited to help a rebellion take down the nation's leader. The film is right in line with Allen's other works of the time – a mixture of physical slapstick and witty verbal banter. But seeing everything filtered through the sci-fi setting gives the movie a very unique feel amongst Allen's other films, and helps create some hilarious classic sequences, such as Allen having to pretend to be a robot to escape detection.
2. Brazil (1985)
Terry Gilliam's Brazil plays like 1984 if…well, if it was directed by Terry Gilliam. I really can't think of a better analogy. Like 1984, it's the story of one man trapped in an overly-controlled, bureaucratic future society. As you would expect from Gilliam, the film is packed with amazing visuals, bringing this absurd world to life with amazing set design. It often plays almost like a silent film, as the action is visual enough to tell the story even if you have the film on mute. And yes, it would still even be funny that way, too.
1. Back to the Future (1985)
I think it might be easy for some to overlook Back to the Future when considering this category, as they tend to immediately think of films set in space, involving aliens, or regarding a futuristic society (as all the other films on my list entail). But time travel is certainly a sci-fi go-to, and even though most of the comedy in the movie is arguably more of the "fish out of water" variety, you still can't ignore the overall science-fiction conceit that propels the film's story. I could easily picture this same story made as a "straight" sci-fi film – it wouldn't feel out of place as a Twilight Zone episode, even. But the comedic talents and charm of the cast shine through, giving the movie a lighter edge and making it one of the most beloved and re-watchable comedy classics of all time.
Agree with our choices? Disagree? Be sure to share your thoughts and your own Top 5's below. And don't forget to include suggestions for future Top 5 columns...we're always looking for the next great list.