With recent hits like Everything Everywhere All at Once cleverly blending sci-fi and comedy, fans can’t help but look back on other movies that used the unlikely genre to make their jokes. The history of cinema is packed with hilarious comedies that pushed beyond the boundaries of Earth and used space as their setting.
Whether it was family-friendly classics like Wall-E or raunchy parody films like Spaceballs, space seems to be one of the funniest places for a movie to take place. Though plenty of comedies have traversed the final frontier, only the best have kept audiences laughing over and over again.
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Years before Star Wars would make the space opera popular again, Barbarella did so with a fair amount of humor. The film follows the titular character as she sets out across the galaxy to stop an evil scientist from using his death ray to unleash evil upon the universe.
Jane Fonda understood exactly what the movie was and delivered an appropriately hammy and fun performance. Hearkening back to the space opera serials of previous decades, Barbarella falls somewhere between parody and a legitimate attempt at sci-fi. Despite this, the movie is just cheesy enough to be hilarious.
Dark Star (1974)
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Shortly before John Carpenter would take his place among the best horror film directors of all time, he helmed his very own sci-fi satire that hilariously used space as its setting. Dark Star is the story of a crew of astronauts who are on a deep space mission that soon must do hilarious battle with an alien being.
Though the film’s minuscule budget and limitations make it a bit different from most other Carpenter films, it is nevertheless a clever satire of classic sci-fi tropes. Even though it is very funny, there is a claustrophobic energy that Carpenter would bring to later films, and he proved his worth as a director who could tell all sorts of compelling, original stories.
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Starring a young Ethan Hawke in one of his most underrated roles, Explorers had all the makings of an ’80s classic. The story concerns a B-movie-obsessed kid who has a dream involving spaceship blueprints, and along with an inventor friend, they eventually rocket themselves into another galaxy.
Kids making their own adventures were all the rage during the early days of the latchkey generation, and many fans believe Explorers deserves a spot alongside such films as The Goonies. While it is a laugh-a-minute movie, it also captures the wonder of space exploration and has a uniquely youthful perspective.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)
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Adapting Douglas Adams’ classic sci-fi comedy series was truly a daunting task, but The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sure pulled it off. Moments before Earth’s total destruction, a man is whisked off into space by a friend of his where he is brought along to help pen the newest edition of the eponymous book.
Rife with all of Adams’ unique style of humor, the movie bops from one absurd moment to the next with equal glee. From its one-off jokes to its silly narration, Hitchhiker’s gave the viewer an experience that almost rivaled the novels. Even if its humor is droll and niche, the film is perfect for the would-be space explorer with a funny bone.
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Usually ranked highly among Mel Brooks’ best movies, Spaceballs was poised and ready to parody the rise of a cynical sci-fi franchise. In a spot-on send-up to Star Wars, the film follows a space pilot who goes on an epic quest to save a princess from an evil empire.
Brooks is known as the master of the parody film, but he outdid himself with Spaceballs by not only doing his usual humor but also making fun in a more heady way. It would have been easy to simply parody the story elements of Star Wars, but the brilliant comedic mind also went for the aggressive marketing of the bigger franchise and made it a major part of the humor.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)
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Mystery Science Theater 3000 was one of the defining TV series of the 1990s, and when it came time to make a movie there was no need to mess with the formula. After being shot into space by evil Doctor Forrester, an average Joe is forced to watch horrible movies along with his robot companions.
With help from their distributor at Universal Studios, the movie within the movie riffed on the classic B-movie stinker This Island Earth. The film has all the referential comedy of the show, but the quicker pace actually makes it more accessible to new fans. Also, with a higher budget and more time, the host segments allowed fans to see more of the ship than ever before.
Starship Troopers (1997)
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Director Paul Verhoeven is no stranger to clever satire, and his biting commentary on the military-industrial complex in Starship Troopers was missed by many viewers. The film follows a group of young recruits who sign up to fight against bug-like aliens around the galaxy.
Like all of Paul Verhoeven’s best films, Starship Troopers contained pointed messaging about fascism and the role of foreign governments in colonialism. On its surface, it appears to be a cheesy action film, but that is where most of the comedy is derived from. The movie is also able to shock with regularity as it shifts from over-the-top humor to dark and violent imagery.
Galaxy Quest (1999)
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Star Wars wasn’t the only space franchise to get mercilessly lampooned, and Galaxy Quest took aim at Star Trek and its fans. The movie follows the washed-up cast of an old sci-fi TV show that is kidnapped and taken on an actual space adventure.
With its meta-humor and clever jokes, the movie was so much more than a simple parody of established sci-fi tropes. Poking fun at the fanbase as much as the product itself, the movie is relatable to fans of shows like Trek, but it is also just a silly and fun space adventure that anyone can enjoy.
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
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Though the MCU has flirted with humor since it began, Guardians of the Galaxy was the first time they completely surrendered to comedy. The film follows a rag-tag group of space criminals who must band together to stop a warrior from unleashing chaos into the universe.
Equal parts exciting and hilarious, Guardians helped to establish Marvel‘s unique brand of humor that has since become the norm. Without the most recognizable Marvel heroes, the movie can stand alone on its own merits and is generally recognized as one of the best films in the franchise.
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Pixar‘s films are known for their amazing ability to blend heart and humor with equal frequency, and Wall-E is perhaps their best outing ever. Left behind on a deserted Earth, a trash-collecting robot is brought along on an exciting space adventure that sees him help a generational ship return home.
Proving the power of physical comedy, most of the film’s best moments have almost no dialogue at all. While Wall-E is perfectly capable of making the audience laugh, it also pulls out all the stops in making the title character such a lovable protagonist.