Sometimes, movies are so bad that they are actually enjoyable. All you need is the right friends at your side to help make fun of them. That is one of my personal favorite pastimes, and it was MST3K that showed me the way.
It is impossible to truly pick just five top episodes of this iconic show, but I’ll do my best. I think these are examples of definitive, classic episodes covering a span of different genres and seasons. For a more extensive list, Den of Geek has a nice top 100 that I am pretty much on board with.
I’ve been watching MST3K most of my life (and I do not fast forward through the skits like some people. Sinful!) Anyway, I am absolutely thrilled it has revived itself on Netflix, though admittedly I know it will never be the same. So before you catch the new series, be sure to check out these signature episodes first.
5) Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (321)
“What is Christmas?”
“It’s a Christian holiday ruined by commercialism.”
Just behold the title. How is not automatically funny? As far as pure LOL moments go, this one’s a winner. There’s a local indie theater here in Phoenix that plays this movie just about every year, without the commentary, because it’s funny either way. The plot is basically the people of Mars are worried their children are watching too much “Earth TV.” A sage warns the Martians that they need to allow their children freedom and fun, and of course, the ONLY way to do this is to kidnap Santa Claus so the kids can have… fun? Well, there’s only one way to find out!
4) Prince of Space (816)
“A monster of my own creation, he obeys my slightest command!”
“Yeah, like wander around aimlessly and gain weight.”
There has to be a classic sci-fi, garbage-bin-fire on the list simply as a matter of principle. Most top MST3K lists include Space Mutiny, but in the interest of offering an alternative, I propose Prince of Space which I think I might enjoy even more overall. A group of space men from the planet Krankor invades planet Earth, but just in the nick of time, a “superhero,” (the aforementioned Prince of Space), arrives to save the day. I think. It’s so poorly executed it’s hard to tell. Anyway, this Japanese dubbed sci-fi flick from 1959 is in fact so very Japanese circa 1959 that you can’t help but expect Godzilla to show up at any given moment.
3) Pod People (303)
“Trumpy, you can do stupid things!”
Pod People is one of the easiest bad films to explain as it is essentially a typical horror movie that was tweaked to include a kid and an alien to cash in on the success of E.T. Basically, a van full of 20-30 somethings experiences tragedy while camping, which forces them to find shelter at a house in the woods where a boy and his mother live and seek help. Unfortunately, the child has recently brought in an unknown creature whose only aim, for some reason, is to kill everyone. I still can’t decide who is creepier though, the alien Trumpy, or the soulless kid with the poorly dubbed, high voice who named him. The voice Joel and the bots give Trumpy still cracks me up even after multiple viewings. Pod People has nothing to do with pods, and barely people, but it’s an episode certainly not to be missed.
2) Mitchell (512)
“Cedar lattice works every time!”
This one is pure nostalgia as it was the very first episode I ever watched at the tender age of 12. It’s also nostalgic because it’s Joel’s last episode and Mike’s introductory one. Even though the 70s jokes went over my head back then, Mitchell was still hysterical. The fact that Joe Don Baker strikes anyone as leading man material is a joke in itself. The character is supposed to be this anti-hero cop busting drug cartels, but in reality, Mitchell is a drunken slob who sleeps with hookers, argues with children, and even has a hokey song written about him. “Our hero, ladies, and gentlemen!”
1) The Final Sacrifice (910)
“So Rowsdower, is that a stupid name or–”
And the answer is yes. Only in a crappy indie film from Canada can you have a lead character named Zap Rowsdower. Although I didn’t see this until my mid-twenties, I think it almost immediately stole my top spot and has remained there ever since. As in Mitchell, we are forced to follow some piggish guy around as the hero and, somehow, he’s even worse than Mitchell. Rowsdower does little more than driving around in his broken down truck, drinking beer and sporting a mullet. He also sweats, a lot. Eeegh… The Final Sacrifice is supposed to be a sci-fi fantasy, but other than showing the audience a few doodles that could have been drawn by the kid sitting next to you in 8th-grade math, there is next to nothing developing the fantasy world. Anyway, if you are new to MST3K it is a great introductory episode with plenty of “hockey hair” and guaranteed LOLs to go around.