The Greatest Form of Flattery

By Isaac H.

There’s a saying that “imitation is the greatest form of flattery”. This may not always be true, but it can be in many instances. Particularly in the case of film and television. There are many examples of imitations, re-creations, parodies, spoofs and homages that hold a place a higher place of honor in my heart than the more iconic originals they were based on. What follows is a list of movies that were made as spoofs, parodies or homages to other more serious films.

Spaceballs

Writer, director, producer and master comedian Mel Brooks has had a 40+ year career creating comedic parodies of popular Hollywood films. While most, if not all of them are hilarious in their own right, Spaceballs has garnered a particular cult following among science fiction nerds. The general plot involves a roguish deadbeat, his half canine sidekick, an intransigent princess and her robotic assistant pitted against an evil-but-bumbling civilization bent on stealing a planet’s air.  This goofball comedy spoofs the Star Wars movies, but does so in a meta way that also mocks Hollywood itself. Interestingly, the film was given the blessing of George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, with the understanding that no marketing material from the film would be made. The film itself even mocks this deal with a scene on merchandising. Even the special effects in Spaceballs were done by George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic studios.

Clue

There’s a scene in the movie ‘Beetlejuice‘ where the aforementioned demon is “interviewing” for the job of haunting the former house of a recently deceased ghost couple. In the scene, Beetlejuice mentions that, amongst his qualifications, he’s seen The Exorcist 167 times and it keeps getting funnier every single time he sees it. Clue is my ‘Exorcist.’ I can’t even imagine how many times I’ve seen this movie, but it is never not funny. The film itself is parody of the Agatha Christie story “And Then There Were None“. While that story (or at least it’s publication history) may not have aged so well, this comedy is as funny as the day it was released. The film was cleverly released in theaters with multiple endings that differed depending on where or when you saw it. Fortunately all endings were available on the VHS and later DVD releases.

Airplane!

Airplane! is one of the most well known movie parodies. The bawdy comedy takes scenes, lines and even characters from several airplane-focused movie, especially the 1957 disaster film Zero Hour! and the later, similar film Airport 1975. Each of these films are full of outdated but sadly still common film tropes, from the “troubled alpha male rising to the occasion” to the “everything that can go wrong does” event. Airplane!, while being somewhat dated, manages to send up each of these old tropes with equally extreme amounts of camp and raunch.

Black Dynamite

Growing up as a blerd during the tail end of the era of blaxploitation films, I feel obligated to bring up at least one example here. To be honest, there are so, so, so many films in that genre that qualify as spoofs, parodies and homages that I hate to just pick one. Blaxploitation films, also known as black exploitation films, were low budget R-rated movies primarily aimed at African American audiences. They were released to theaters from the late 1960s until around the mid 1980s. The movies ran the gamut from comedies to action to horror. Black Dynamite makes the list because (prepare to get meta again) it’s a modern parody of earlier action blaxploitation films, many of which were homages to more well known mainstream films. The overall story is about a war veteran and martial arts expert fighting drug dealers and uncovering a conspiracy. I can’t imagine the film making much sense to those completely unfamiliar with blaxploitation films, but those that are will find this film to be hilarious. From the funk-tastic music, hammy acting, the purposefully bad editing, the cheap sets and overdone action scenes, Black Dynamite does an amazing job capturing the genre. Fair warning though: the movie has a serious R-rating, for just about everything a movie can get that rating for. Triple stacking the meta, the film even has a spin-off animated series of the same name that aired on Cartoon Network. The animated version adds an element of social critique to the comedy and features much of the same actors for voice talent.

 

For a look at a few additional examples, have a look at the full list of examples offered.

The Greatest Form of Flattery

Are there any spoofs, homages or parodies that you enjoy as much or more than the originals? Let us know below.

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Comments

4 responses to “The Greatest Form of Flattery”

  1. Craig Burgess says:

    Great list! If you love blaxploitation films, I hope you’ve seen “Blacula.” It’s an early 70’s black Dracula spoof, and It’s so deliciously kitsch, it’s adorable. I also love “Airplane!” and think it’s the progenitor of a comic genre. Anyway, I’m into your vibe.

  2. Jennifer says:

    It’s not exactly a *good* movie, but I am extremely fond of George of the Jungle, which is obviously riffing on Tarzan.

    And can we count movies that are retellings of classic novels? Because IMO Clueless is the best Jane Austen movie ever made.

    • Isaac H says:

      Great recommendation! I remember George of the Jungle with Brendan Frazier. A lot of those 90’s movies can really hold a person by the nostalgia-feels. I’m still fond of the Pauly Shore movies Biodome and In the Army Now, even though they’re awful in every possible way. On Clueless, sadly I was in the dark for years unaware that it was a retelling of Emma. I just thought it was a coming of age 90’s movie (also a pretty good TV series).

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