All the ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Parodies, Ranked
Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, best described as a visual opera or “the one with the monolith,” is widely regarded as one of the most influential films in cinematic history. So, to no one’s surprise, this movie featuring artificial intelligence, actors dressed as apes and a giant floating space baby has been parodied ever since. To celebrate 2001’s 55th anniversary, we’ve decided to rank the best comedic spoofs of Kubrick’s magnum opus...
‘History of the World, Part I’
Mel Brooks’ 1981 comedy, which recently dropped a sequel series on Hulu, is a parody of the epic film genre at large. History of the World, Part I kicks off with a scene lampooning 2001: A Space Odyssey’s “Dawn of Man” opening sequence by playing Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” as a bunch of apes go ape shit. While Kubrick's original portrayal showed man’s propensity for violence, Brooks illustrated the blunt desire for ecstasy by swapping bones as weapons for bones of pleasure. The joke might be low-hanging fruit, but it’s also quite accurate.
In South Park’s Season Four episode, “Trapper Keeper,” an all-powerful A.I. gets reduced to a “Dawson’s Creek Trapper Keeper S 2000” that’ll one day destroy humanity, according to a cyborg named Bill Cosby for some reason. It’s all very Terminator, but when Cartman’s consciousness fuses with that of his A.I. Trapper Keeper and becomes a giant blob (it’s a lot), a conversation between Blob Cartman and Kyle directly mirrors the famous exchange between David Bowman and HAL 9000.
Given that Community is as much a show about spoofing pop culture as it is about a group of dysfunctional sitcom characters, it would’ve been bizarre if Dan Harmon’s super meta comedy didn’t mock the one where Kubrick shot ambiguity into the sun.
In the show’s Season Three premiere, “Biology 101,” Jeff (Joel McHale) gets pushed out of the study group for both getting kicked out of biology class and kicking Pierce (Chevy Chase) out of their group. When Jeff follows Ben Chang (Ken Jeong) through Greendale’s air vents only to get knocked out by monkey gas (it’s a whole thing), he hallucinates David’s final moments during Kubrick’s space saga. Jeff sees himself eating his own mobile phone before briefly turning into old man Pierce, lying in bed and pointing at the hovering study group desk he so desperately wants a seat at again.
Matt Groening’s long-running sitcom about America’s favorite TV family has referenced 2001 on multiple occasions. There’s the one where Homer trips while on a massage chair and sees himself warping through spacetime. There’s also the “Dawn of Man” parody that sees a Homer-like ape discovering the monolith, only to lean against it to take a nice, long nap. Meanwhile, the classic episode “Deep Space Homer” includes a gory parody in its “Itchy and Scratchy Show” segment, as well as Homer spoofing Kubrick’s docking scene while munching on potato chips.
’Everything Everywhere All at Once’
In this wild and wonderful Oscar-winning comedy, main character Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) finds herself in an alternate universe (one of many) where she and every other human has hot dog fingers. The bonkers sequence includes an origin clip that parodies “Dawn of Man” and has the murderous hominin kill another by slapping the bejeezus out of it with those unsettling sausage appendages.
Who can ever forget Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s amazing turns as daft male models with absolutely no idea of how computers work? The fact that they completely lose it a la “Dawn of Man” because they’ve apparently never heard of a power button is not just funny but also illustrates man’s general lack of patience when it comes to any computer issue.
The 1997 cult-classic comedy has a great spoof where Cher’s phone is shot in a way that makes it look like a giant monolith while Strauss’ famous tune plays. It works because, to Cher, the phone (which now looks like an ancient relic) is probably the most important thing in her house besides her closet.
’Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’
While Tim Burton’s remake of Roald Dahl’s famous novel was a disappointment, he did a pretty great 2001 parody that replaced the monolith with a giant bar of chocolate (but of course), as Willy Wonka transferred said chocolate via airwaves into a television set to become the monolith in Kubrick’s actual film. Just like the monolith changed everything in 2001, Wonka’s groundbreaking invention will most definitely awaken things lurking inside humanity. (Or just allow them to live the dream of slapping a Rob Schneider character.)
During Futurama’s fourth season, the show did an episode called “Love and Rocket.” A Valentine’s Day-themed episode, it featured much of 2001’s music as well as a wildly emotional version of HAL 9000, who can’t read lips and loses it when Bender breaks up with her.
There’s also been the “Out of Order” monolith sight gag in “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” and a string of other spoofs throughout the series, including the one in “The Sting” where Fry’s space coffin doubles as the monolith passageway.
The ’Barbie’ Trailer
Whether we’ll be seeing this actual sequence in the movie itself doesn’t really matter, as Greta Gerwig's upcoming Barbie movie had people pant-hooting like apes when its teaser trailer first dropped. It’s good, it’s subversive and it illustrates the “Dawn of Barbie” in a prehistoric world where little girls only had baby dolls to play with. The girl with the glasses who breaks one of her porcelain baby dolls in the wake of Barbie’s appearance is both delightful and unequivocally shatters the concept of how society has forever thought of and expected little girls to behave. Let’s hope the movie expands on everything that is this marvelous trailer.