Making a movie residing in a specific genre of film can lead to some temptations to stick to tried and true methods. For a spy movie, odds are you’ll see a suave, James Bond-esque lead character battling an almost comically evil villain. Your run-of-the-mill action flick will typically be full of explosions, cheesy dialogue, and seemingly endless supplies of machine gun ammo. Every genre has its cliches, giving us plenty to work with for parodies.
Some out there tend to fall flat on their faces. The ill-advised Scary Movie sequels and Not Another Teen Movie come to mind among others, but on the other side of the fence we have films that managed to hit the nail right on the head. A truly great genre parody takes all those elements from its source, and manages to blow them out of proportion just enough to make us laugh. Go too big and it stops being funny. Go too small and nobody gets the joke. Finding that middle ground is never easy, but these particular movies did it to perfection.
1. Airplane! (1980)
While many see Airplane! as a hilarious parody on the slew of disaster movies that came out right around 1980, it was in fact lampooning just one film: 1975’s Zero Hour. Some of the scenes are even ripped right out of the original, but the fact remains that the Leslie Nielsen-led comedy touches on aspects of disaster flicks beautifully. You may recognize it yourself as that one movie your friends won’t stop quoting endlessly (and for good reason). It’s chock full of laughs that still hold up today, and is a must-see for anyone who considers themselves a true fan of classic comedy.
2. Blazing Saddles (1974)
Mel Brooks has never been a stranger to making people laugh, and is considered by many to be something of a comedy legend. With classics like Spaceballs, The Producers, and History of the World Part I under his belt, he’s had a long and storied career. His Western parody Blazing Saddles though may very well be his best work yet. Starring Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka) among others, it hits on pretty much every element of the Spaghetti Westerns of the ’60s and ’70s, culminating in an epic shootout that manages to both entertain audiences while also bringing them out of their chairs in fits of laughter.
3. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
If we can forget for a second that Mike Myers saw fit to create two patently terrible sequels, let’s look back on the movie that started it all, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. It came out just two years after Pierce Brosnan’s spell as James Bond in Goldeneye, and had plenty to draw from in terms of skewering the superspy genre. Myers took it on with all the expertise and hilarity you’d expect from the master of comedy moviemaking, making it all the more baffling that the rest of his career has been a series of anything but that approach. Even so, his inaugural secret agent spin-off is one for the books, even if it was tragically followed by sub-par efforts.
4. Hot Shots! (1991) / Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)
The 1980s were dominated by Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo franchise, with each movie proving to be more ridiculous (and more profitable) than the last. Heading into the ’90s, it was the perfect time to put the insanely improbable premise of the franchise on blast, and along came Jim Abraham. Abraham was directly responsible for Airplane! and The Naked Gun, making him the perfect candidate to recreate Rambo with Charlie Sheen running around the jungles of Vietnam with a machine gun and a trademark red headband.
5. Cabin in the Woods (2012)
While not directly meant to be a parody, Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods is a great example of a horror movie that simultaneously makes fun of the genre while still producing actual scares. Of course having Joss Whedon on board to co-write certainly didn’t hurt its chances, giving it that added comedic aspect that he infuses into so much of his work. Cabin in the Woods ended up a film that stands alone as an amazing movie while still subtly mocking cliches of the horror genre that have stood for far too long. It’s a must-watch for anyone who enjoys laughing and crying at the same time.