5 Parodies That Were Better Than What They Were Spoofing

Making fun of something and improving upon it at the same time is the ultimate double-dunk
5 Parodies That Were Better Than What They Were Spoofing

A funny thing can happen when filmmakers set out to make a hilarious homage to something they love — sometimes, the parody can turn out better than the thing it’s trying to imitate. Here are five times comedy makers set their sites on lampooning an old favorite, only to improve upon the original…

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Airplane! was not simply a spoof of the ultra-serious 1957 film Zero Hour! — it was practically a remake. Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams and David Zucker borrowed liberally from the drama about poisoned passengers on an airplane with no one to pilot it, using its structure as the bones of the updated comedy. It was so close, in fact, that the writers won a WGA Award for Best Adapted Comedy rather than as an original work. Airplane! would also get a Golden Globes Best Musical or Comedy nomination, accolades that Zero Hour! could never dream of. Time Magazine called the original a “bloopy inflation of a 1956 television show.

This Is Spinal Tap

Spinal Tap was such a dead-on parody of overly serious music documentaries like The Song Remains the Same that many viewers thought it was for real. “When Spinal Tap initially came out, everybody thought it was a real band,” says director Rob Reiner. “The reason it did go over everybodys head was that it was very close to home. The Led Zeppelin documentary that was one of the comedy’s inspirations was pummeled by critics for “perceived amateurish production and self-indulgent content,” qualities that Spinal Tap embraced to hilarious effect. 

I’m Gonna Git You Sucka

Here’s the thing — while Shaft was important for putting Black action heroes front and center (it’s archived in the National Film Registry, for Pete’s sake), it wasn’t necessarily goodGene Siskel said the movie “offers little more than a rousing opening fight and a chance to see (Richard) Roundtree glower while he models some fancy leather outfits.” Keenen Ivory Wayans’ I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, a movie that lampoons Shaft’s excesses, was a comedic improvement on the original, with the critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes praising the film’s “pure energetic silliness.” 


While action-adventure TV show MacGyver had its loyal fans, it didn’t exactly rack up the Emmy Awards every year (or even big ratings). But one of those loyal fans must have been Will Forte, who saw the inherent comic possibilities in a man who could defuse a nuclear device with a paper clip and chewing gum. That led to a number of sketch parodies on SNL, a TV series on Peacock and a feature film. The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes: “MacGruber is better than many SNL films — and better than it probably should be.”

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Musical biopics are weird — the lead actors often win awards, like Jamie Foxx for Ray or Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody — but the films themselves can be bloated messes. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story understands all that is stupid about movies that treat musicians like messiahs and gives them the satirical one-two punch. Rolling Stone’s list of the best comedies of the 21st century has Walk Hard at number six: “Jake Kasdan’s merciless takedown of the modern music-biopic formula remains the final parodic word on the subject.”

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