20 Great Satire Movies on American Life in Decline

7. Hollywood Shuffle (1987)

HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE, Robert Townsend, 1987, (c) Samuel Goldwyn

Bobby Taylor (Robert Townsend) is young African-American actor with big dreams of becoming a successful actor. He lives with his younger brother, mother and grandmother, in addition to having a beautiful girlfriend Lydia (Anne-Marie Johnson), all of which are supportive of his career choice.

Meanwhile, he under pressure from his boss and fellow co-workers at Winky Dinky Dog for absenteeism and not taking the job seriously. Bobby auditions for a coveted lead role in “Jive Time Jimmy’s Revenge”, a film about street gangs in the ghetto, a production written and directed by white people.

A competitive actor tries to discourage him by bringing to light that the only roles that they offer black actors are horrible stereotypes of slaves, thugs and/or pimps. Despite the promising response of his audition, he has a nightmare of being protested by NAACP and losing the respect of his loved ones, in addition to misrepresenting African-Americans.

Written, directed and produced by Robert Townsend (“Five Heartbeats”), “Hollywood Shuffle” is a semi-autobiographical feature about his early struggles in the industry.

It spoofs many genres of films and television programs, while delivering a positive message. Many of the cast members have multiple roles, due to the limited budget, which was funded entirely by credit cards, but would become a commercial success.


8. Pump Up The Volume (1990)

Pump Up the Volume

In a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, Mark Hunter (Christian Slater) is a loner and a new student in high school. His only outlet is assuming the alias of Happy Harry Hard-On and running a pirate radio station from the basement of his parents’ house. His fan-base consist predominantly of fellow teenagers, who have no idea of his identity and feel that he is their unsung hero who attacks the values of American culture along with their conservative community.

When a fellow student commits suicide, Harry/Mark deals with the problem head-on and encourages his listeners to do react in other manors, rather than take their own lives.

This triggers many students to let loose and thus raising concerns of parents and school officials. Nora (Samantha Mathis) who works in the library figures out who Mark’s alter ego is and confronts him to keep it up. However, the police and FCC are brought in to pull the plug, but not before Harry can make one last broadcast.

After a ten-year self-imposed retirement, Allan Moyle (“Times Square”) returns direct his own screenplay where the lead character was inspired by comedian Lenny Bruce and Holden Caulfield (from author J.D. Salinger’s book, “Catcher In The Rye”).

While it didn’t well at the box office, the reviews were positive and it received the award for Best Film at Seattle’s Golden Space Needle Festival. The soundtrack contains many classic tracks by Concrete Blonde, Pixies, Bad Brains with Henry Rollins, Peter Murphy and Sonic Youth.


9. Doom Generation (1995)

Doom Generation (1995)

After a night in an industrial music dance club, teenage lovers Amy Blue (Rose McGowan) and Jordan White (James Duval) save an attractive hustler Xavier “X” Red (Johnathon Schaech) from a beating by a Gang of Goons (played by the band Skinny Puppy). At a convenience store, Xavier accidentally kills the store’s owner.

Later, while in a hotel they learn that shop owner’s wife (Margaret Cho) killed her children and committed suicide. As they the trio continue on their aimless path, a bizarre love triangle forms and just everywhere they go, various people, from a fast food clerk (Parker Posey), a government agency and a group of Neo-Nazi Skinheads, all confuse Amy with somebody else, but are dead set on killing her.

Billed as “A Heterosexual Film” written and directed by Gregg Araki, it is the second film in his “Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy”; the other parts are “Totally Fucked Up (1993” and “Nowhere (1997)”.

There are many references to various goth/industrial songs, in addition to cameos by Perry Farrell, Heidi Fleiss, Christopher Knight, Amanda Bearse and more. Often compared to and over-shadowed by “Natural Born Killers”, the film received mixed reviews, but would become a Cult Classic.


10. Citizen Ruth (1996)

Citizen Ruth – 1996

A homeless spray-paint-fume-huffing addict named Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern) discovers that she is pregnant, but doesn’t have the means to deal with the responsibility. She has four children, all of which are in foster homes, because she constantly being arrested for public inebriation and is on the verge of facing felony charges and doing serious jail time.

The judge understands her situation and if she agrees to having an abortion, Ruth will be dealt with less harshly. Before long, she finds herself being at the center of political tug-of-war between pro-lifers and pro-choice tribes. All of whom go through great manipulative lengths to make their plights more prominent, while ignoring what is in Ruth’s best interests.

Inspired the story of Martina Greywind, a pregnant drug addict who lost six previous children to the state and was offered $10, 000 by a pro-life group to have the child. Alexander Payne (“Election”) directs a script by Jim Taylor that followed Greywind’s case fairly accurately.

The black comedy approaches the abortion debate from a humanistic stance and how both sides tend to lean toward fanaticism, while oblivious to the wishes of the individual. Its message of choice is still relevant in today’s political climate and should be revisited.


11. Mars Attacks! (1996)

Mars Attacks! (1996)

On a seemingly normal day, the US President (Jack Nicholson) has announced that Martian space-crafts have been seen circling the Earth. Around the country, people stay alert as the news unfolds. When the Martians land and announce their plans to colonize the world, all hell breaks loose.

Attempting to negotiate with the invaders, Congress is obliterated. A high commanding general calls for the use of nuclear warfare, but that is rendered unsuccessful after one attack. As the Martians invade Las Vegas, many people around the country seek stop the takeover by any means necessary.

A story inspired by 1950s Topps trading cards created by Len Brown, Tim Burton’s science fiction comedy is a satirical homage to “War of The Worlds” and “Invaders From Mars”.

A cast of well know faces, such as Danny Devito, Glenn Close, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jim Brown, Pam Grier, Tom Jones and many more. Drawing too many comparisons to “Independence Day (1995)”, in America, “Mars Attacks” was a box office bomb, but had achieved greater success in Europe.


12. Starship Troopers (1997)


Under a fascist futuristic society of the twenty-third century, teenagers are encouraged to join the military, which will earn them citizenship, opportunities that are denied to basic civilians. Best friends, Johnny (Casper Van Dien), Carmen (Denise Richards) and Carl (Neil Patrick Harris) enlist in the Federal Service, but are split up in different branches.

In Mobile Infantry, the strict Sargent Zim (Clancy Brown) leads Johnny and the new recruits. Carmen becomes a spaceship pilot, while Carl is a part of Military Intelligence. When an asteroid attack is launched by the Arachnids, a planet of killer bugs, it wipes out Buenos Aires, killing their families and millions more. War is declared and the grunts are sent into space to exterminate the enemies.

Starting out as a script called “Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine”, Edward Neumeier’s script received licensing rights for the use of “Starship Troopers”, a controversial 1959 science-fiction military epic with a political message about the use of nuclear weapons written by Robert A. Heinlein.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven (“RoboCop”) who along with Neumeier took a few liberties with the source material, much to the disdain of Heinlein’s admirers. The film is a dark satire, while simultaneously being an action packed intergalactic gore-fest with pretty faces.


13. Dogma (1999)


Two renegade angels, Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon), who have banished to Wisconsin, discover a spiritual loophole that will allow for them to return to Heaven. In New Jersey, Cardinal Glick (George Carlin) is rededicating his cathedral with an updated statue of Jesus, called the “Buddy Christ”.

Meanwhile, Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), is an abortion clinic worker who is questioning her devotion to the Catholic faith, is approached by the seraphim, Metatron (Alan Rickman), who places her on mission to prevent Bartleby and Loki from entering the church.

However, the task won’t be easy as the Angel of Death, Azrael (Jason Lee), along with his minions sent out to assassinate Bethany. Thankfully, she will have help from two stoner prophets and the thirteenth apostle.

Written and directed by Kevin Smith (“Clerks”), “Dogma” is a spiritual fantasy comedy with an ensemble cast with Jason Mewes, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock, along with cameos by Bud Cort, Janeane Garofalo and Alanis Morissette (as “God”).

Despite being a Catholic, Smith found himself under attack from various religious groups who deemed the film “blasphemous” and even received death threats. Regardless, it was box office hit and critics gave it favorable reviews.