The stakes of science fiction and fantasy stories are typically way higher than other genres. Not only are the lives of main characters often in question, but the survival of whole species and worlds can caught in the crossfire. That's what makes parodying scifi and fantasy so incredibly fun — filmmakers get to keep all the inherent high drama of these genres, and convert it into a never-ending joke machine. These are our favorite examples of this glorious tradition.
Spaceballs is so funny, you legitimately might die from laughter watching it. At the very least, you'll get a full abdominal workout from the non-stop giggle parade. While mostly a send-up of the Star Wars franchise, Mel Brooks threw a ton of clever riffs on Alien, Planet of the Apes, and even Arthurian legend into the pot. Rick Moranis dropkicks the bar for funny into outer space as Dark Helmet — even when he has no lines, his enormous headpiece is more than enough to keep any sane person entertained. Also, the movie features a sentient lump of pizza, voiced by Don DeLuise, who eats himself to death.
Fairy tale tropes are so ripe for parody, it's kind of astonishing that it took so long for one to show up. Indeed, when Shrek did hit theaters in 2001, it kickstarted an entire cinematic empire, with spinoffs aplenty. The movie cleverly embraces and subverts the genre, but underneath all the playful meta-fun, there is a huge dollop of heart. It will also forever be a great time capsule for late 90s pop hits.
Galaxy Quest is loving parody of Star Trek, a rumination on nerd fandom, and an exciting science fiction adventure in its own right. On every level, this movie unabashedly nails it. Having Sam Rockwell play a devoted Questerian — the movie's version of Trekkies — provides endless opportunity to point out the pros and comic cons (see what we did there?) of pop culture worship. We especially love when Guy berates the stars of the show for approaching adorable aliens, who turn out to be a bunch of violent, cannibalistic maniacs. "Didn't you guys ever watch the show?" he exclaims. Ah, the wisdom of fans.
Cabin in the Woods
Only Joss Whedon could devise a satire that begins as the ultimate horror parody, and ends as the ultimate scifi/fantasy parody. He has some sort of magic god-brain, clearly. It's difficult to talk about Cabin in the Woods without spoiling the twists upon twists built into it, but one thing is for certain: the cleanup on a merman is a nightmare.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Monty Python's parody of Arthurian legend is beyond iconic. Reciting quotes from it has become a universal linguistic shorthand for nerds. People who haven't even seen the movie have absorbed, by osmosis, jokes about the Knights who say Ni or the killer rabbit of Caerbannog. At almost 40 years old, Monty Python and the Holy Grail still blows every other fantasy parody out of the water (with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, of course).
What science fiction and fantasy parodies did we miss?