The 10 Greatest Sci-Fi Film Comedies of All Time

by Bill Gibron

10 August 2011


5 - 1

#5 - Paul

The trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost had already proven their genre-busting mantle with the fantastic funny business of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. While their pal was off making the groundbreaking Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the side-splitting duo decided to tackle all things Comic-Con and geek, with a potty-mouthed spaceman thrown in for good measure. The results, helmed by Adventureland‘s Greg Mottola, offer a surprisingly sincere take on fandom, as well as a wonderful meta-stranger in a strange land motif for both earthlings and ET alike. A riotous road movie with a lot to say about sci-fi and its followers.

#4 - Back to the Future

Before he became enamored with all things motion capture (and as a result, mediocre), Robert Zemeckis was the next great popcorn moviemaker. He had already had success with his Beatles’ riff I Want to Hold Your Hand and then followed that up with the hilarious Used Cars and the action comedy Romancing the Stone. But few were prepared for the nutty nostalgia zip of this clever time travel comedy. It turned then TV star Michael J. Fox into a full-fledged box office draw and led to an extended mythos made up of sequels, cartoons, and theme park rides. Still, for many, the original movie is a milestone… and it is.

#3 - The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension

It’s a shame that the planned follow up - involving the notorious World Crime League—never came to fruition. With a cast that contained Peter Weller, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow, Clancy Brown, and Ellen Barkin in their pre-star prime and a storyline that just screams “multiple viewings,” this is the greatest unsung classic never to be given a chance by audiences. Those who’ve fallen under its weird, wicked spell have most of it memorized (“Laugh now, monkey boy!”) while the unconverted complain that they don’t see what’s so special. As a work of lunatic fringe fancy, it’s a major masterpiece.

#2 - Sleeper

Woody Allen’s catalog circa the early ‘70s will always supplant his later, more meandering efforts. Sure, several of the jokes here are so dated that it’s like watching an episode of Laugh-In, but the fact remains that this remains one of the comic auteur’s very best. The premise - about a revolution in a dictatorial future state and the unhappy, recently unfrozen health food store owner from 1973 suddenly swept up in all the intrigue - is that rare combination of intelligent humor and physical shtick that works together effortlessly. Allen is so good here, he easily draws comparisons to Chaplin and Keaton - and in post-modern comedy, that’s saying a lot!

#1 - Brazil

One of the foundational elements of successful science fiction is the notion of future shock - the dystopian society which reflects our own in ways that make us uncomfortable and concerned. For his follow-up to the excellent Time Bandits (itself, a potential nominee in this category), director Terry Gilliam decides to explore the competing ideas of individual freedom and bureaucratic conformity within a dark comic concept of the shape of things to come. From torture to tightly wound co-workers, interfering relatives to the unsettling notion that we are never really ‘alone, ’ the film continually finds ways to make us breathe easier, if only to then squeeze the noose around our notion of existence even tighter.

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