Over the past century, science fiction films have evolved from low-grade B movies to some of the most intriguing and popular movies in theaters.
While most of the acclaimed masterpieces of the science fiction genre tend to be exciting action movies like Star Wars or deep thought-provoking films like 2001 or Solaris, there are many other successful sub-genres such as horror and, the focus of this list, comedy. The range of comedy types in the science fiction setting is equally as diverse, ranging from funny adventures to goofball parodies and everything in between.
While science fiction comedies might not seem like a very defining genre to some, there is more to the concept than just placing a regular comedy in a science fiction setting. Like their serious counterparts, the comedies are just at inventive when it comes to developing amazing, futuristic scenarios.
They also address many social issues and how current trends of humans will affect the future. Most importantly to the success of the genre is how they weave these important themes in with clever and consistently funny jokes to create an exciting and interesting comedy classic.
10. The World’s End (Edgar Wright, 2013)
The third film in a quasi-trilogy by Simon Pegg, NIck Frost and Edgar Wright is as audacious and hilarious as the first two, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and similarly finds the actors fighting for their lives against unlikely enemies. The film starts out with middle-aged loser Gary, played by Pegg, gathering together his old school friends, who have since moved on with their lives.
The friends, played by Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan, agree to go with Gary on a massive pub crawl throughout their town’s twelve pubs, ending with the bar called The World’s End, a feat which the group tried in their younger days but were unable to complete.
The night starts out like an ordinary get together but soon turns south when Gary discovers that their town has been invaded and replaced by alien robots. After they discover that one of their own group has been replaced as well, the friends begin a violent mission to escape the town and stop the robot uprising.
The World’s End is, based on the team’s previous films, predictably hilarious, delivering endless laughs not only from physical humor but from very witty dialogue and plot.
Like the other two films in the so-called Cornetto Trilogy, named purely after an ice-cream treat featured in all three films, the movie does not strive to be an intellectual comedy but it manage to still comment on the nuances of society. Carried by brilliant performances by the leads and clever writing, The World’s End is a well paced and gut busting addition to the science-fiction genre.
9. Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon, 1985)
Due to the often quirky result of combining science fiction and comedy, the output can sometimes be unpopular but eventually hit a niche audience creating timeless cult classics. Like many others on this list, Re-Animator is one of those cult films. Based on a story by legendary writer H.P. Lovecraft, this film rides the line between science fiction and horror.
The story follows a brilliant but disturbed medical student Herbert West, played by Jeffrey Combs, who transfers to Miskatonic University after being kicked out of his school in Switzerland for performing unsavory experiments involving re-animation. He rooms with fellow medical student Dan Cain and soon convinces Dan of his brilliance when he brings his dead cat back to life.
Unfortunately when they bring forward the results, they get kicked out of school for their ridiculous stories. Now desperate, Dan and West have to drop to more drastic measures to prove themselves right, only leading to further, bloodier, conflict.
Re-Animator is unlike most of the other comedies on this list in that it doesn’t depend on funny characters or jokes. Instead it relies on the ridiculous campiness and dark comic violence of its outrageous scenarios to make you laugh. Besides some low grade effects, the film and cast does not give up the act, however, taking everything about the plot seriously, sort of like a self-aware B-movie.
While some of the subject matter and graphic content of Re-Animator could be considered offensive or off-putting to some, the black comedy atmosphere around the films take what might be disturbing and turn it into something hilarious instead.
8. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989)
One of the silliest entries on this list, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is one of the definitive sci-fi cult classics. The film stars Keanu Reeves, in his breakthrough role, and Alex Winter as two high school slackers, Ted Logan and Bill Preston, who don’t pay attention to school and only focus on their band “Wyld Stallyns.” As an important project for their history class approaches,
Ted’s dad gives him an ultimatum telling him that if Ted doesn’t pass the project, he will be sent to military school. Unbeknownst to Bill and Ted, 600 years in the future, humanity lives in peace and harmony due to the music of “Wyld Stallyns” so the committee of the future sends a representative, Rufus, played by George Carlin, to assist the two teens with their history project.
Instead of simply helping them study, Rufus brings the two on a trip through time in a futuristic phone booth to visit important historical figures and learn about them.
This film does not try to deliver some important message or preach about the future like some others on this list. In fact, Bill & Ted’s doesn’t have much of a point at all. That doesn’t stop it from being a delightfully simple and quirky film that is, more than anything, fun. The two clueless heroes spouting hilarious phrases and getting into antics throughout the centuries are sure to put a smile on the viewer.
Even goofier are the famous figures like Socrates and Napoleon who, when brought back to present day California, act like little kids in a park as they wreak havoc throughout the town. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure will not be everyone’s favorite, and its detractors can rightfully call it a stupid movie, but, as far as comedies go, there are few films that deliver this many harmless, brainless fun.
7. Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984)
While we’re on the topic of cult films, Alex Cox’s masterpiece is as quirky as they come and has become a legendary entry in the realm of late-night movies. Starting off with a bang, the film opens to a routine traffic stop of a Chevy Malibu, but when the officer opens the trunk, he sees a glowing substance and is immediately obliterated, leaving only his boots.
The film then picks up with the protagonist Otto, played by Emilio Estevez, a unemployed teen punk. Otto’s life is turned around when a mysterious stranger Bud, played by Harry Dean Stanton, offers him $25 to drive a car out of the neighborhood, starting him on the dangerous but fruitful life of being a repo man.
His new action-packed life is a huge change from his uneventful past but it soons take a weird turn when a girl he meets tells him about a Chevy Malibu with extraterrestrial life in its trunk that it emitting radiation. When a huge repo bounty is put on the car, all hell breaks loose as Otto has to battle against other repo teams, federal agents and even a crazy televangelist to secure the car.
After several car chases and thefts, the conflict climaxes with a standoff, culminating with a bizarrely poetic ending. Benefitting from a ludicrously plot and low budget that put expectations low, Repo Man is a consistently funny, unpredictable ride that also offers a critique on the unique times that were the 1980s.
6. Spaceballs (Mel Brooks, 1987)
Mel Brooks’s crass parody on the Star Wars series, while not his most clever work, is one of his most enduring works due to its basis in the wildly popular sci-fi franchise. The film duplicates nearly all of the main characters of Star Wars in a comic way and follows a loose rendition of the film’s plot, throwing in references to other sci-fi classics as well.
Leading this all-star comedy cast is Bill Pullman as Lone Starr who, along with his sidekick Barf, played by John Candy, tours the galaxy, working as a mercenary. They are hired to rescue Princess Vespa of Druida who is on the run from the fearsome Dark Helmet and his enormous ship, the Spaceball One.
Similarities between the famous series and this comedy continue as Lone Starr crash lands and is forced to stay with an old stranger, Yogurt, played by Brooks himself, who teaches him how to fight with lightsabers and use the “Schwartz.” As expected, the hero returns and destroys the enemy ship and saves the princess, but not before a hilarious, climactic duel with Dark Helmet, played brilliantly by Rick Moranis.
The film, filled with juvenile jokes and sight gags as well as clever riffs on Star Wars lore, such as “Pizza the Hut” instead of “Jabba the Hutt,” is one of the more lowbrow entries on this list but is still guaranteed to raise a few laughs. Although it will never reach the popularity of its parodied franchise, it will likely also not fade from memory as Star Wars continues to find fans in each new generation.