12 Best Sci-Fi Parody Movies of All Time
Whether it’s breaking new ground in technical possibilities for filmmakers, using dystopian settings to explore real-world issues, or pondering on the ever-present question of what it means to be human, science fiction has long been an integral cinematic genre. Still, there is nothing in film so sacrosanct that it is impervious to parody, and sci-fi has been the target of some classic spoofs over the years.
From skewering sendups from comedy giants like Mel Brooks to affectionate satires from the likes of Tim Burton and John Carpenter, sci-fi parodies range from the adoring and playful to the utterly merciless. Regardless of which camp these films fall into, all of them have left audiences in hysterics and are now viewed among the funniest parody films of any genre.
1 ‘Galaxy Quest’ (1999)
Striking a perfect balance between playfully prodding at its source material and having an engaging story of its own, Galaxy Quest is one of the greatest parody films of any genre. It follows the cast of an old, B-grade sci-fi series who, at a convention, meet a small group of peaceful aliens who have mistaken their TV show for historical documentation and hope the actors can help them fight off a ruthless alien warlord.
The all-star cast perfectly embodies the has-been television stars who soon embrace the thrill of reprising their roles. Charming, funny, and sentimental to both the genre and its most dedicated fans, Galaxy Quest proved to be such a sci-fi hit that diehard “Trekkies” ranked it among the best Star Trek movies ever made.
2 ‘Spaceballs’ (1987)
Having successfully parodied Westerns with Blazing Saddles and the Universal Monsters movies with Young Frankenstein, comedy maestro Mel Brooks was in fine form by the time he got to science fiction in 1987. While it was a boldfaced spoof of the Star Wars movies, Spaceballs also poked fun at many other sci-fi sagas of the time.
The film follows a mercenary and his half-man, half-dog accomplice hired to rescue a kidnapped princess from the incompetent president of Planet Spaceball and his villainous aide, Dark Helmet (Rock Moranis). The ridiculous sci-fi comedy has steadily developed a cult following since its release and continues to find new fans today with its abundance of film references and irreverence.
3 ‘Mars Attacks!’ (1996)
A spoof of 1950s sci-fi B-movies, Mars Attacks! has become not only one of the greatest parody films and a loving homage to old Hollywood science fiction. Based on a set of trading cards from the 1960s, it follows several groups of survivors as aliens from Mars launch a full-scale invasion of Earth with an arsenal of hilariously horrific weaponry.
With an all-star cast and a willingness to lean into the genre’s campiness, Tim Burton’s comedy classic has become a celebrated cult classic. Its constant endeavor to be both completely absurd and wickedly fun have only won it more fans as the years have gone by.
4 ‘Idiocracy’ (2006)
A sci-fi spoof which had no reservations about satirising the devolution of society, Idiocracy is an underrated gem which has only gotten better and more cuttingly relevant since its release. It follows two completely average people who are selected to participate as subjects in a hibernation experiment which is forgotten about, leaving them in stasis for centuries.
When they finally awaken in the year 2505, they discover that society has diminished to the point that they are the most intelligent people around by a significant margin. From the mind of comedy showrunner Mike Judge, Idiocracy overcomes its flaws to be both a wonderful parody of dystopian sci-fi as well as a barbed satire of modern-day society.
5 ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ (1989)
Yet another iconic cult classic of sci-fi parodies, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure continues to endure as an infectiously likable dose of historical sci-fi adventuring. Bill (Alex Winters) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are struggling classmates who are visited by a time traveller who emphasises the importance of them passing their history exam in the context of humanity’s future.
Using a phone booth as a time machine, the boys venture through time to collect famous historical figures to help them pass their exam. As wholesome and goofy as its leading heroes, the film had a delightful time parodying sci-fi while never refusing to laugh at itself and its own penchant for immature silliness.
6 ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ (1975)
Fondly remembered and still celebrated for its infectious rock music and its hilarious comedy, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a true timeless classic. From the film’s catchy opening song “Science Fiction/Double Feature”, it makes it quite apparent that it’s also serving as an adoring parody of sci-fi film history.
Following a young and naïve couple on the road who head to a nearby mansion to inquire about using a telephone, the focus of the film soon turns to Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) and his fellows alien transvestites. While its science fiction elements don’t linger on the mind quite like its rollicking soundtrack, The Rocky Horror Picture Show still stands as a great send-up of sci-fi thrillers.
7 ‘Barbarella’ (1968)
Based on a series of erotic French comics, Barbarella follows a futuristic astronaut sent to find an evil scientist whose Positronic Ray could lead to mass destruction. Imbued with stunning set designs and a cartoonishly camp depiction of its racy source material, it became a cherished cult classic upon a 1977 re-release after flopping during its initial theatrical run.
Whether intentional or not, held within the film’s psychedelic insanity is a perfectly excessive parody of sci-fi adventure and a fascinating viewpoint into how sex was perceived in the mid-to-late 60s. Even with Jane Fonda’s iconic, wonderfully hammy portrayal of the titular heroine, Barbarella is entirely a product of its time, which makes news about a looming remake starring and produced by Sydney Sweeney rather surprising.
8 ‘The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension’ (1984)
Often shortened to Buckaroo Banzai, the 1984 sci-fi parody is one of the most wildly hypnotic parody movies ever made. A sensational man who thrives as a doctor, an adventurer, a pilot, and a rock star, Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) and his crime-fighting band combat an evil gang of inter-dimensional aliens.
While today it has a unique appeal for featuring so many Hollywood stars when they were fresh on the scene, upon release it relied on its chaotically fun lunacy to attract attention. While some critics think it stepped over the line on that front, the film has garnered a cult following of sci-fi lovers because of its eccentricity and its surprising mesh of several genres.
9 ‘They Live’ (1988)
Coming from the legendary horror mind of John Carpenter, They Live follows a drifter who discovers a pair of sunglasses that reveal the true nature of the world and learns the ruling class are aliens in disguise using mass media to control humanity. Appropriately dystopian, the sci-fi action film calls upon many tropes of science fiction storytelling to convey its satire more pointedly.
While its underlying message remains rather potent, its impact was arguably undersold by the film’s parody of sci-fi thrillers, action blockbusters, and even horror. Still, with such excessively over-the-top action sequences and hilariously cheesy dialogue, They Live is an underrated comedy gem and an essential film for all Carpenter fans.
10 ‘Paul’ (2011)
Starring geek culture legends Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Paul excelled as an irreverent sci-fi comedy which lovingly poked fun at many tropes of the genre. It follows two English friends venturing across the U.S. who get the science fiction experience of a lifetime when they discover and aide an offensive extra-terrestrial on the run from the government.
With a script penned by Pegg and Frost themselves, the film’s balance of comedy, action, and sci-fi referencing makes for an adventure which is, above all else, unashamedly fun. Its ensemble of American comic greats and its willingness to adoringly target Steven Spielberg’s genre influence made Paul an all-encompassing, good-spirited parody of sci-fi blockbusters.
11 ‘Dark Star’ (1974)
Through a gradually evolving production process, Dark Star became the feature film debut for John Carpenter. Taking aim at science fiction epics like 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is rife with the brand of dry wit and social satire that has underscored many of the director’s most renowned films.
Set in the 22nd century when humanity has begun to colonize interstellar space, it explores the misadventures of the crew of ‘Dark Star’, a scout ship tasked with finding and destroying “unstable planets” which could pose a threat to future colonization. Despite being a box office flop, it rose to prominence through the 1980s, achieving a cult standing among sci-fi lovers.
12 ‘Airplane II: The Sequel’ (1982)
Airplane is widely celebrated as being the greatest spoof movie ever made, leaning into its irreverent comedy and dry humor to perfection. While the sci-fi sequel didn’t fare quite as well, it’s lampooning of the genre holds some gags which are hilariously funny on face value.
Despite struggling with PTSD, Ted Striker (Robert Hays) returns to the cockpit to pilot America’s first commercial spacecraft, the Mayflower One. Set off course by a computer glitch and having to handle a bomb threat while navigating the ship through an asteroid belt, Airplane II: The Sequel reclaims the chaotic energy of its predecessor and skewers some sci-fi classics in the process.
NEXT: 10 Dystopian Sci-Fi Movies That Are Actually Very Funny
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